volunteering at the IBRCE

Eilat Birding Center 09/07/2017 00:00


Eilat's spring raptor migration count - A call for volunteers


In complete silence, almost unnoticed by life on the ground, brief flashes of shadow tell the story of one of the most spectacular wonders of nature – raptor migration in Eilat. Millions of raptors from 35 different species, who make their epic journey from Sub Saharan Africa to Europe and Asia, are funneled by the large bodies of water and seasonal wind conditions to the flyway over the Eilat Mountains. Our staff watches this spectacle from the steep mountainous ridges and counts. Sometimes it feels like you are almost flowing with the river of birds that surrounds you - above, at eye level and sometimes deep below in the dry desert canyons.




Steppe Eagle - March 2015 - Eilat


It's not only interesting work, it's important work. The Eilat bottleneck is an opportunity to monitor world trends in populations of many species of raptors, some of which are endangered. It's here that most of the world population of the rare Steppe Eagle and the elusive Levant Sparrowhawks pass through a 10 Km narrow corridor joined by hundreds of thousands of Steppe and Honey Buzzards. Especially now, when raptor counts are conducted also in other bottlenecks along the Mediterranean, we have a chance to have a better understanding  of the status, trends and biology of these important bird species.


The count


The count of raptor migration takes place between the 1/2 and the 10/4 (in some years we continue until the 15/5) and our main target species are the endangered Steppe Eagle and the relatively common Steppe Buzzard. In the last years the count of these species proved to be statistically effective, while counting Levant Sparrowhawks and Honey Buzzards probably requires different methods and efforts that we might adopt in the future.




Counting at High Mountain                        Levant Sparrowhawks! 


The count is conducted by a detailed protocol that defines 2 count stations (Low and High Mountain) that are open 30 minutes past sunrise and closes 30 minutes before sunset; 2 counters at each station, and data is collected through the app. Trektellen, very much like in every raptor count conducted in parallel sites on the Mediterranean or Batumi.

A count day might be very challenging and rewarding with tens of thousands of raptors passing just everywhere, but can also end up with long hours of staring at empty skies in difficult conditions of wind and heat. A day without passage is also a good and important data.


Some results from last years



We have conducted the survey for the last three years after long years without a count. The data is still too thin to jump into conclusions but compared to past counts some basic trends are already visible. We can probably see a decline, not a catastrophe, in Steppe Eagles and Steppe Buzzards but nothing statistically significant yet. In the last three years, the average annual count was of 15,350 Steppe Eagles and 358,000 Steppe Buzzards. Our best ever two days were the 2-3/5/2015, when the team counted almost 500,000 Honey Buzzards and 11,000 Levant Sparrowhawks. 36 Species of soaring birds were recorded.









For the raptor count, we are looking for trained raptor counters or bird watchers, who are capable of identifying every raptor of the Western Palearctic region and are able to locate and count the raptors even if they are far and high. Our counters must have high motivation and dedication to bird conservation as the count hours are long, the weather can be warm and the work is hard.

Good social skills are required but getting drunk is not appreciated.

Driving license and an age over 24 are an advantage.

Ringing experience or license can help too as the counters often come and help at the ringing station at the Bird Sanctuary too.

Minimal stay is 1.5 months but it's best to come for the whole survey. If you want to come for a shorter period, do contact us too. If you wish to stay longer and continue helping with our raptor breeding survey or at the bird sanctuary, you will be welcomed.

European Voluntary Service scholarships might be available for volunteers who stay mora than 3 months.







Work is up to 6 days a week and work day can be as long as 10 hours. You can take days off quite frequently but it is advised to go and see the country (or its birds…) before or after the survey.

You will be lodged in basic shared furnished flats that we hire and have there all basic facilities that are needed such as shower, beds, closets, tables, washing machine and equipped kitchen. Every team has a rental car that serves them for work and after work hours (driving is form the age of 24 only).

We provide food products that we buy with the volunteers, but you will have to prepare it yourselves. We do not buy any kind of drinks and food supply is modest but sufficient.

The volunteers are asked to get to Eilat and make travel insurance themselves.

During work the staff of Eilat's birdwatching center will guide you how to do the work right. After work hours and on holidays we try to do cultural and social events for the volunteers and we try to take you out to see the country with us as long as it is possible and does not harm work.




Steppe Buzzards




Please get to know our work at eilatbirds.com/en, read our "Birds of Eilat" blog or visit our "Eilat Birding Center – IBRCE" Facebook page.

Than you can contact me at noamw@spni.org.il or ibrce.office@gmail.com

See you in Eilat and have an exciting day!







land marks