Posts of 2016

Noam Wiess 30/12/2016 00:00

Desert bloom - birding boom

 

5.2.16

 

Following heavy rains last October the desert is in full bloom.

The ever dry brown desert streams are screaming with bright reds, blues, yellows, whites and greens like a beautiful Van Gogh painting. You have to be a resident of this desert to understand the strength of this moment. Usually here we see colours other than yellows and browns only in pictures.

 

 

 

 

It is all very much alive and swarms with the movement of bees and birds. Our ground-coloured birds, and the desert-adapted black and white Wheatears look completely misplaced in this ocean of colour, but who cares when it is so beautiful. It is one of those moments when you forget your worries and enjoy it.

 

 

 

For the birder in us that refuses to merge with beauty and still needs to classify nature, it is also a small heaven. On a short 4 hour excursion with our new Raptor Watch team, freshly arrived from the Netherlands, we saw 7 species of Wheatear and lots of other birds in just 2 locations. Km 68 was teeming with White-crowned, Mourning and Hooded Wheatears, Desert warblers, Trumpeter Finches and Little Green Bee-eaters but the crown went to the rare Kurdish Wheatear that was found here about a week ago and still showing well.

 

Km 94 had mainly Desert and Isabelline Wheatears, Desert and Spectacled Warblers, Southern Grey Shrikes and an extremely rare Basalt Wheatear which has been here for over 2 weeks now.

 

It is a very rare taxa that was originally described as a morph of the Mourning Wheatear but is now getting recognition as a full species that breeds only on the Syrian and Jordanian slopes of Jabel Druze - an old volcano in a remote desert. The wintering range is unknown, and population size might be well below 1,000 birds.

 

 

 

When the bloom of colour fades, and flowers turn to seeds, it will be the time for the seed eaters: the Larks and Sandgrouse. A birders life is full of excitement.

Join the thrill with the upcoming Spring Migration Festival. It is going to be pure fun.

 

 

 

Life on the High Mountain

 

24.2.16

 

"High Mountain" Eilat is one of the most exciting birding sites of Israel.

Between giant limestone rock formations and black granite mountains, with the red sea just visible above the narrow canyons, our best Raptors migration observation point is located. This place can see more than a million Raptors every spring, passing in total silence, flying effortless, climbing columns of hot air that takes them as high as 2,000 meters above the boiling ground and gliding down against the constant northern wind.

 

 

 

 

Here and at the "Low mountain" station, Jelle Aalders, Guus Jenniskens, and Maarten Sluijter from the Netherlands share the time and document every visible Raptor passing above the region. The survey, conducted by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and the IBRCE, counts every Raptor but our main focus and concern are the Steppe Eagles.

 

The Steppe Eagle is probably one of the most threatened Raptors of Asia and Europe. With nests located on the ground in the Asian steppe it loses fledglings to dogs and to humans who steal them and grow them in captivity and with the powerlines crisscrossing the vast plains that electrocute scores of them their population is reported to be declining drastically.

During the 90's more than 60,000 were counted here. Last year we recorded just fewer than 15,000 Eagles, trying to repeat the same methods and effort used back then.

 

 

This survey is no doubt important and the sight of Eagles magnificent, but for me one of the funniest attractions of the survey is to watch the desert wildlife react to a human who just sits in the middle of their habitat. The first to react are the curious Wheatears. White - crowned and Hooded Wheatears come ridiculously close as if they try to glance at the daily summaries, hoping on telescopes and chairs.

 

 

The Desert larks come usually for the water in the Humus bowl (not too clean) that the observers leave, Scrub warblers and Blackstarts hop and look for the shade under the chair and every few days the Nubian Ibex pack comes to say hi.

I think the best way to describe it is "all eyes on us". The observed observer.  With time, encounters turn to relationships and in the end of the survey, goodbye.

 

There are some human interactions in the observation point too. Very talk active birders, too curious travelers, Bored army troops and even once two beautiful women coming to sunbath and have a look at the telescope with loud music in the background (now, I'm quite sure it actually happened, even if the memory is a bit blared, what do you say Doug?), but about all that, probably in some other blog.

 

 

 

 

Horror in Eilat

 

24.4.16

 

Fear is now everywhere.

Every movement is calculated with danger around every corner. Singing is performed only by the bravest ones, fearing they will give away their position. Even simple everyday actions like going to drink from the lake or moving between the trees feels like taking part in "Mission impossible 6" or "Almost Dead 2". It seems like there is no safe place anymore. It's because of the bandits from the Balkans… the Levant Sparrowhawks.

 

 

 

 

They are now coming from the south. In giant gangs they flew across the Sahara desert and they are very hungry. Flying very high in the warm desert air they recognize the patchwork of green and fertile land that is Eilat. Their visit is calculated to perfection as it is now full of blackcaps, swallows, yellow wagtails, bee-eaters and waders, too exhausted to fly away. Add to this the newly fledged Doves and Sparrows and they have a free buffet for the taking.

From the ground they are invisible, just mere white specks of death. When you do see them, it's far too late, already closing in fast at 200 km per hour towards their chosen victim.

 

Last evening was one of the bloodiest. 3,800 Levant Sparrowhawks showed up from nowhere into the bird sanctuary in Eilat and the surrounding date plantations. The Bulbuls were the first to give hysteric alerts but it was far too late. Waders went into trees and the young Bulbuls were called back to their nest but the Levant's and horror were already everywhere you looked.

Hawks were cutting the air above and below the trees grabbing every bird in sight. It only took a minute or two. A deathly silence replaced the terrible sound of screaming birds. When the police arrived, only feathers were still hovering everywhere in the air to tell the story of migrants that will never make it home and fledglings that will stay young forever in our hearts. Until the next flock of them, Eilat is safe.

 

 

Our next nightmare chapter is about wind farms that are now planned down here near the bird sanctuary, the sewage pools and KM 20 saltpans. Do we have any chance against these bird choppers? Only time will tell. "Almost Dead 3" coming soon to your screens.

Noam Weiss, Eilat

 

 

What kind of May? Crazy!

 

26.5.16

 

Spring 2016 was unique. Migration was fairly sleepy in the hotspots where we usually go birding, but the blooming desert gave a temporary home for millions of migrants. This is what Eilat is all about. When the desert acts like a desert, the salt marshes and wetlands of the bird sanctuary or the circular fields of Yotvata are practically the only stopover sites where birds can find abundant food.  

 

Autumn rain and again some mild spring rains have made the deserts around Eilat, and mainly south of Eilat look like a lawn, dotted with blooms of flowers and trees. So the huge migration that we usually see here was noted by radar as mainly flyby birds and the ringing station that usually gets birds in poor condition, following the challenging crossing of the Sahara desert, got fat and heavy birds.

As an obsessive data collector it was a great spring that showed something different, but my volunteers, made of keen birdwatchers, where not fully satisfied.

That is until May came.

 

 

 

As in every other May, the usual rarities were all around, even if in small numbers. Rosy Starlings, Olive tree and Upcher’s Warblers, Black headed Buntings,  Broad billed sandpipers and Long tailed Skuas were all quite common.

But on the evening of the  7th of May Mega rarities just started falling from the sky. Erik Dinder and Pierre-André Crochet, visiting birders from France, amazed us with a Crab Plover walking on the north beach (5TH Israeli record). Some of us made it on time to see it flying away and some did not.  

 

 

The migration of birders that came to twitch the Plover had to settle for a Paddyfield warbler that was ringed at the IBRCE by Anders and Heidi (11th Israeli record). On the same afternoon Doug and Ben got a Swinhoe's Storm Petrel on the South Beach while all the birders were waiting in vain at the North Beach (6th record)…

 

and the next morning Joachim had his moment of fame with a young Bateleur migrating with Honey Buzzards at the High Mountain raptor count station. And on the 20th Shachar Shalev located one of the rarest and most beautiful birds one can see here - 2 adult Red billed Tropicbirds, storming north beach for a few minutes and gone again forever.

 

This spring has been good to me.

I had a fantastic group of volunteers and each one of them had their moment of fame. Together we managed to do a lot for nature conservation and fought evils that do not care about a bird's right to migrate safely.  At the same time, our bird sanctuary keeps getting more and more attractive for humans and birds.

Noam

 

 

 

 

 

Who is the Bird of Eilat?

 

21.6.16

 

 

Everybody knows that Eilat is a very special place. It's remote and beautiful, surrounded by fantastic nature treasures such as the marine life, desert and bird migration, and the people who live here have their own unique character.

So we wanted the people of Eilat to explore their specialness and at the same time connect them to their birds. The Environmental education municipal unit called it "place making" and I called it getting the birds in to the hearts of the people. I guess it was both.

 

Our basic assumption was that the uniqness of Eilat - The extreme climate, remoteness and outstanding landscape creates a special character for both humans and birds, which adapt to the habitat.

So we chose 10 flagship bird species that seemed to have identity issues. The Sunbird was the energetic tiny that originated in Eilat but did it bigtime across the country, The Blackstart that looks grey and shy but has a built in colorful character, the Little Green Bee eater - the most beautiful bird in town who acts like one, The Rosefinch - connected to the desert ground, Brown Booby - Tropical storm at sea that no one can ignore (it's a bird, just Google it!)  and the Flamingo - a pink glassed ever optimistic bird.

 

2 months of bird madness struck town. Every school took a day to discover it’s birdy identity, the local radio non stop pumped campaigns for birds and interviewed every possible person about his chosen bird, and sighs were put in town and work places. Our guides, dressed with the competing birds costumes went through town and lobbied people to take a vote. The town was in a total birdy madness.

 

 

 

Last week we all gathered in the Eilat bird sanctuary. School kids, teachers, families and even the municipal council moved her monthly meeting to a festive one down here and the mayor announced the White-eyed Gull as the official bird of Eilat. It got 5,670 of the 15,769 votes.

Eilat chose our calmest bird that can only live in quite sea water and our Red sea endemic that never left town - local patriotism in its best.

 

 

The event was nothing less than touching and exciting. The school kids played and guided the visitors, and the guides of SPNI, NPA and El Arzi quizzed and excited the children with the bird costumes and games.

It felt like the whole town was at the bird sanctuary, boots or hearts, from the mayor and his council to my favorite checkout girl at the supermarket. A Flamingo and curious Caspian Terns showed up too and we all enjoyed the best celebration in town for a long time, in 45 degrees centigrade, but who cares. It's our party.

 

 

Thanks to all the 'dream come true' makers – Municipality of Eilat environmental education unit, Society for the protection of Nature in Israel, National Parks Authority and the religious field school – El Arzi.

Noam Weiss

IBRCE

 

 

 

Birdwatching Center for kids - Eilat

 

17.7.16

 

As adults, we don't always know how kids experience things. We see them excited from a bird ringed at the ringing station and released, listen to the guides who describe it’s migration - a tiny sophisticated creature who can overcome giant challenges  (just like kids), but when it comes to real birdwatching activity - the bird is too small or too far and the telescope becomes the attraction, rather than the birds.

 

The kids of Yeelim School in Eilat were the first to realize that if the ringing station is closed and the guides are not there and the birds are far,it's boring here. So they dragged their science teacher Annie and decided together to do something about it - to make the Eilat bird sanctuary the first birdwatching center for kids.

It took them no longer than 30 seconds to convince us and Orna, the school's principal and they set of for their "Project based learning" plan that included all the fifth grade pupils and most of their teachers.

 

 

 

 

The kids knew exactly what they were after in the sanctuary - games, fun booklets, photo opportunities for "selfie" and "eye level" information for kids.

They wanted to adjust the sanctuary to speak the language of kids and to make them feel at home. So we met the kids, teachers and IBRCE crew a few times in school and a few in the sanctuary. In the end of the process to kids knew everything about bird migration and we had learnt that being a father or remembering childhood time was not enough for the job. We just had no idea… We had to really listen to have the change done.  

With the help of their teachers, parents and artist they managed to grab to the project, learning and doing was on.

 

 

3 weeks ago we reached the final stage and the birds sanctuary changed its face. A giant tree with bird icons and signs saying "welcome" in every possible language is now welcoming the birds and kids so they feel at home, 2 flamingo paintings now allow kids to put their head in it and be photographed, and a fantastic new bench, decorated with Little Green Bee-eaters that the kids saw on their last visit to the sanctuary, now gives the perfect photo opportunity for the kids with their grandparents, who prefers things slow and easy.

 

Games were embedded in the view - treasure hunt, table games on the picnic tables and booklets with all kind of bird fun. Cinema class made a cute film that encourages birding activities and craft class made a model of the park that serves the kids better than the maps we give.

 

 

 

So the kids invited their families and the rest of Eilat to see what they did. The kids guided quizzed and played with their siblings, parents and kids they don't know, happy proud with their new yellow "staff" T shirts of the bird sanctuary. The supporting mayor and the rest of the other grownups were just a background noise. The bird sanctuary belongs to the kids, and it's not going to change.

Understanding kid's needs in a place like ours is no work for adults. Our faded childhood memories and what we think we understand from our own kids are probably the wrong resources for this kind of job. The kids share our passion of nature conservation and are equally charmed by the birds. We just have to listen to them, respect them, trust them, and let them show us the way.

 

 

 

 

 

Return of the Nubian Nightjar

20.7.16

 

 

The Nubian Nightjar is one of Israel’s rarest breeding birds.

Until the late 1980’s it was found breeding in suitable saltmarsh habitat along the Rift Valley, from Eilat in the south to Bet Shean valley in the north. The local subspecies, tamaricis, is specific to unique Tamarix and Suedea saltmarsh.

In recent decades, agricultural development expanded rapidly along the Rift Valley in Israel, following the development of advanced water technologies that utilized underground water reserves. Saltmarsh habitat depends on high levels of underground water, so it is clear why saltmarshes were favoured for agricultural development.

 

 

 

 

All saltmarshes but one, Sdom saltmarsh south of the Dead Sea, were converted to cultivation during the 1990’s and 2000’s. The once-flourishing saltmarshes of Eilat, Yotvata, Hazeva and many more were lost to tomatoes and peppers. With the disappearance of the saltmarsh, the Nubian Nightjar lost almost all of its habitat in Israel, and currently is regarded as Critically Endangered in Israel.

 

In the late 1990’s little was known about the ecology of this enigmatic night bird, and in his 1996 book ‘The Birds of Israel’, Hadoram Shirihai estimated their population size at three or four pairs only, all at Sdom saltmarsh. However, with developed knowledge and improved field methods, it was established that the population size at Sdom saltmarsh is about 60 pairs. It is extremely difficult to find nests of Nubian Nightjars, but throughout the spring males are very vocal. Data collected from tagged individuals showed that they sing very close the core of their territory. Therefore, number of singing males is used as a proxy for number of breeding pairs.

 

 

The conservation status of Sdom saltmarsh, Israel’s stronghold of Nubian Nightjar, is worrying. Already 80% of the saltmarsh had been lost to construction of huge evaporation ponds for mineral production, and for cultivated land of the two communities there - Neot Hakikar and Ein Tamar. With increasing populations of these communities, and changes in global markets, the need for more cultivated land increases, and the remaining habitat in Sdom is threatened with further development.

Over the last decade or so, the Israeli Ornithological Centre has been leading a conservation effort, in collaboration with the local authority, local communities and Nature and Parks Authority, to protect the remaining saltmarsh. It is a long and arduous process, but it is likely that almost all the remaining habitat will become protected under statutory regulations in the near future.

 

Away from Sdom saltmarsh there have been some recent developments.

Intensive searches in the 2000’s found only a couple of pairs away from Sdom, also in the southern Dead Sea region. However, in recent years, with the rehabilitation and protection of some small patches of saltmarsh, Nubian Nightjars have started a welcome come-back process to other sites along the Rift Valley. In Hazeva area in the northern Arava, several pairs have recently colonized, and it is estimated that up to 10 pairs breed there, in small pockets of remaining habitat.

After decades of absence, recently Nubian Nightjars have been refound in two more regions. In summer 2016 breeding was documented in the northern Dead Sea region - possibly a handful of pairs in two sites.

 

 

 

 

One of the more dramatic events happened near Eilat.

The Eilat saltmarsh is long gone and with it a variety of breeding and migratory birds was lost, including the iconic Nubian Nightjars that used to roam the wet and densely vegetated habitat.

 

In the last few months the IBRCE team attempted to restore a small saltmarsh in Eilat area. Very soon the team realized that drip irrigation of saltmarsh vegetation did not create the hoped-for change. The irrigation method was changed to local flooding with saline water, similar to natural conditions.

The change was evident in few months only: millions of insects followed by squadrons of insectivorous bats, Spanish Sparrows breeding in the bushes, and Painted Saw-scaled Viper whispering lurking under the vegetation.

 

 

 

 

Since the 18/06/16 two, probably adult Nubian Nightjars, are regularly seen in our small restored saltmarsh. We can't be sure if they breed here and if they are going to stay permanently, but they look happy with their new home and are seen foraging and heard calling their sweet ‘kaw-kaw!’ call every evening. We are so pleased that careful habitat restoration brought almost instant results - nature rules!

 

Now we hope that Nubian Nightjars will return to more sites that they had been lost from, and Sdom saltmarsh receives adequate protection. Perhaps in the future Nubian Nightjar can be downlisted from Critically Endangered – wishful thinking, but that’s what conservation is all about, isn’t it?

 

 

 

 

It must be stressed that near Eilat the Nubian Nightjars have settled for the time being in an extremely sensitive site that is off-limits to independent visitors. The site holds an exceptionally dense population of the venomous Painted Saw-scaled Vipers . IBRCE will start operating guided tours to view the nightjars if they stay there till spring, and in due time will publish terms and conditions for these sensitive tours. In any case, it is forbidden to enter the site without IBRCE staff.

 

 

Walking on the water

 

19.9.16

 

 

 

Deep Sea bird monitoring pays off - Wilson's and Swinhoe's Storm Petrels in Eilat!

 

 

Sea Watching is not for everyone. Sitting day after day, scanning the empty sea nonstop, just hoping for a glimpse of a small black bird that you probably won't be able to identify anyway. But this is how I spent my teenage summer vacations, down in Eilat, every summer, on the beach. Praying for 10 seconds with the "walker on the water" - The Wilson's Storm Petrel, which was seen there when I was just becoming a birder. It was hard and got even harder, because a day after I left to go back to school, Avner Rotschild (whom I spent with all those summers with) got his 10 seconds with a black bird at sea.

It was too dark and too far, however which probably left him even more frustrated. It always bugged me. Maybe if I found it 5 seconds earlier, we would have had it.

 

The desire never really left me; so 30 years later, I went to the marine biologists of the Interuniversity Institute (they have a boat available), and I convinced them that marine biology also includes little black birds that fly above the water.

We developed an official protocol and started the "deep sea bird monitoring" research project far off shore, where only these creatures fly. My secretary respects me enough (she knows I'm weird) to prepare some crushed fish guts and freeze them, so we were all set.

The first 2 sessions felt just like my childhood - empty and meaningless, but full of hope for something better. A few dolphins made the marine biologist quite excited, but they were kind of gray.

 

 

 

 

And then on the 3rd session it happened, a dark bird flew in rapidly along the boat - A Swinhoe's Storm Petrel, and then slowed down to show me who he was. A few seconds later another bird crossed our path, but it had a patch of white, dragging very long legs behind - a demon, or was it it? A Wilson's Storm Petrel was just walking on the water in front of my salty eyes, like out of a movie I had seen a million times in my mind.

For 30 minutes it stayed in view, I almost want to count the seconds! 30 minutes observation of a bird usually leaves you complacent with a bird, but not this one. I don't remember much of what happened after. We got to shore somehow, and the spokesman of SPNI called every journalist he knows and it was all over the news. An Antarctic bird had made it to Eilat. Birders were calling and asking for the location, but I only remembered the moments with the walker. We have quite the history of things walking on water here, but this was the real thing, at least for me. My dream bird was here and I even got to photograph it.

 

What's next? The IBRCE and the IUI will continue with the deep sea monitoring program. Who knows what might show up next!

This Wilson's Storm Petrel is the second ever observation in Israel and Eilat, and the Swinhoe's Storm Petrel is the sixth.

 

 

 

The Rolling Stones

 

17.11.16

 

Water is the force of life in the desert, but it only comes as a torrential flood once every few years.  Flowers bloom and trees become green again, sometimes after years of lying dormant with just a few leaves, and seeds suddenly disperse.

The desert kids run barefoot and celebrate the rare event, and schools days are canceled. But it can also get violent and dangerous. The empty streambeds start rushing with water, which carries tree trunks, large pieces of trash, and anything else that was in the water's path. Maybe the most memorable sight is the rolling stones, sometimes rocks, which make it dangerous to be caught in the middle of a stream.

 

It all began with thunderstorms that lighted the desert skies, most of night. An hour before sunrise the deluge began. I drove as fast as I could through streams of rolling stones to check how the bird sanctuary was doing.  Eilat's bird sanctuary is located, next to the Arava stream, which collects water from a huge area (most of Eilat and the Edom mountains). We have a 7 meter wide dike that separates us from the water's fury. It looked fine. The stream was full of slow moving water and the skies got clearer every minute. So we collected some very wet birds that couldn't fly, used our home hair dryer on them, released them back and went bird monitoring, until I heard the terrible rush of water and the sounds of things collapsing.

 

 

 

 

The water seemed to have waited somewhere and arrived all at once. Our bridge was blown away downstream and the water level rose fast. Tree trunks, shards of metal, and remains of another bridge from somewhere upstream were crushed into pieces by the rage of water, and carried downstream. Then our dike started to collapse, a meter every few minutes, huge pieces of soil and rocks were easily taken by the water. We just stood there helpless, watching everything we worked for being on the verge of destruction.

 

 

 

 

Thankfully it finally stopped. of the 7 meter-wide dike, the last meter was still there to hold the dropping water level. We were saved. A few weeks of work would be needed to fix the dike and the bridge, but the heart of the sanctuary was saved.

 

 

 

 

We are now 3 weeks after the big flood. The tractors are still working on the reconstruction of our dikes, but deep in the desert something amazing is happening. In spite of the fact that we are in November, White-crowned Wheatears and Blackstarts have started to nest, taking advantage of the expected bloom and the abundance of food in the coming months.

 

 

 

 

In the Red Canyon area yesterday, it appeared as if the first Wheatear's chicks have hatched, as small food items were being carried into a small crack in the colorful sandstone. In a survey I conducted in the dry years of 2006-2009 I observed these wheatears dropping in numbers sharply by almost 75% but still did not attempt to breed. This year they will probably try to have at least 3 broods to cover the gaps.

 

It's so amazing, Just 3 powerful hours of rain, mud, and rolling stones, and everything will be so different.

 

 

 

Business Unusual - An update from Eilat

 

22.11.16

 

Even if bird migration follows steady rules and the same species come at the same times of year, I have never seen a migration season that was like another and the challenges to save birds change form. It has been an unusual autumn in Europe with lots of Siberian vagrants making their way deep into the west.

 

 

 

 

Eilat got just a glimpse of it with a few Yellow-browed Warblers here and there, Little Buntings at the bird sanctuary and in Yotvata. On the common bird front we have had a great autumn for the Bluethroats who flooded the bird sanctuary and in the last few days Steppe Eagles have passed in the hundreds. We are still waiting for more.

 

Gone with the Wind?

We have very good news on the conservation front. The wind farm, planned by EDF from France, between the saltpans, the sewage reservoir and the bird sanctuary, had a setback when we managed to get the local authorities to object to a wind measuring pylon.

 

Following this, the kibbutz that the wind turbines were planned to be erected on, which was a partner in the wind farm, has changed its mind as a result of continuous work with the community and a lot of help from within. If the decision will be able to overcome the potential threats, lawsuits, and generous offers, this hazardous project, that was a major threat to migratory birds here, will be gone with the wind.

 

 

A Squirrel Tale

Eilat is located deep in an extreme desert. Squirrels are unheard of here.

In the last few months we spotted fruits that were eaten by a large rodent, but we don't have rats and the Cape Hares have larger teeth. We left the mystery unsolved, thinking it might have been young Hares. It wasn't.

 

A few weeks ago we first saw it. It was the cutest creature ever in the sanctuary - a squirrel. It was not a huge surprise as the list of pets that people just leave behind in the sanctuary, thinking they will get good life here includes turtles of all kinds, all kinds of tropical birds and we even spotted a bright green snake that we have no idea what it was.

Some we just leave, some we collect and give to the small local zoos, or just take home. But a squirrel is nothing you expect to see here.

 

Some investigations got the bigger picture - it was seen by farmers in the nearby date plantation from August! It moved over large distances, surviving the boiling summer with days well over 45 degrees. We were trying to identify it looking at pictures from Africa, Europe, and America but nothing seemed to fit.

Only yesterday, when we had our first really good look at him we realized it was a Persian Squirrel, the same species that lives in northern Jordan and was known to inhabit an auk forest on Mount Hermon before they reached an extension. The best theory is probably of a squirrel from the Jordanian population that was caught, transported, and raised as a pet in Aqaba, made its way from its new family and crossed the border to Eilat. The Jordanians will run their own investigation the check this possibility.

 

 

 

 

So, what do we do with it? The National Parks authority wants him captured. Squirrels are known to be one of the worst kinds of invasive species, predating birds and their nests and chasing away local communities of rodents. Easier said than done, however. The bird sanctuary is packed with food and it seems to be moving from one area to another and disappears for long periods, so I guess it is here to stay, at least for a while.

It's a male, so until an even cuter she squirrel makes it here, we are safe.

 

 

The closest it gets to flying - BirdLife Mediterranean

 

14.12.16

 

"They are not gonna survive, unless we get a little crazy", Claire Thompson, 2016.

"They" are of course the birds, and the crazy people are obviously us - 25 people, from all around the Mediterranean Sea that devoted their lives and careers to nature and bird conservation.  

 

We came from very different places: From Portugal and Syria, Greece and Egypt, Macedonia and Israel as well as many other countries. At home, we are the weirdoes. We all go to court to fight for the safety of flight for the tiny creatures in their flyways, we are all meeting decision makers to convince them that without the birds we are doomed, We all fight illegal killing of birds in the front against irresponsible hunters, careless farmers or ignorant traders and we are all trying our best to plant the love for birds in every heart we can find, whether it’s school kids or the neighbor next door.  

 

 

We don't mind to get some dirt, mud from the field or accusations being the enemy of development and economic growth. As long as the birds keep moving in their flyways, nest in their clean habitats or just have a safe rest somewhere, we are fine with it all.

So we gathered all in Zagreb under the wings of Claire Thompson, our beloved Mediterranean project coordinator and BIOM , the local Birdlife partner  (Thank you for your fantastic Croatian hospitality) to see what we have achieved until now, to learn from each other's challenges and successes and to try and plan for the future. We discussed how we can intensify our struggle against illegal killing of birds, especially in migration bottle necks; improve our abilities to have a fruitful dialogue or a vocal strife with energy sector investors loaded with funds, lawyers and influence and how to grow awareness and love to birds among our most precious asset - the public.

 

 

 

 

We had set some priorities - activities, countries and sites for the near future, coordinated actions in the national and regional levels and learnt how to use the tools that BirdLife secretariat had created for us and with us – the sensitivity map for soaring birds in regard to energy infrastructure, the numerous useful guidelines and manuals and the extranet. It was all so very important and it felt great to be a part of it.

 

But it was not the work we had done there alone that was achieved. It was first and foremost a friends meeting. We became new and old friends, who are just like us – crazy and passionate for the birds, and crazy and passionate for love for nature. We are still rare, but the crowds will follow.

So BirdLife Mediterranean, you are my best friends.  

Being with you these 4 days was the closest it gets to flying for me. Thank you all so much for your open hearts and love for birds and see you all again, somewhere on the flyway.

 

(Written with mindfulness)

 

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