Our ringing station is bursting with migratory birds - and it is only mid-February! In a usual year we would not normally start ringing daily before the 1st of March and only do some a small amount of sample ringing, but this year is different.
Euan Ferguson, who spent last autumn ringing here, came back on the 16th of February and since then we have been ringing over 100 birds daily, the diversity and colors are just fantastic. Carmen, our Spanish ringer who was on her way here with Turkish airlines, has been stuck under heavy snow in Istanbul for 3 days and no doubt curses every airline company employee as she knows what she is missing here. It is only the very beginning of spring migration, so it should only get better from here!
We are planning to move the ringing station to the public side of the bird sanctuary, so soon you can be a part of it too.
If you are reading this in Europe you will be very familiar by now with all the wintering birds around you, but change is on its the way.
It’s increasingly visible down here in Eilat, and it looks like an exciting spring is on its way. This season seems to have kicked off with high energy early on.
The sky above the newly renovated lake at the bird sanctuary is full of hundreds of Barn Swallows, House Martins, Sand Martins and Pallid Swifts. In the reeds, the calls of Sedge and Reed Warblers (tens of each) bring back the familiar sounds of migration, and hundreds of Chiffchaffs are already fluttering high above the vegetation, catching flying insects attracted to the early bloom.
Some early arrivals noted were Little Swift, Lesser and Common Whitethroats, Eastern Orphean Warblers, and the raptor watch points report days with hundreds of Steppe Eagles, and some early Imperial and Short-toed Eagles too.
This year we will be focusing on surveying migration and developing services for visiting birders. After more than 20 years we have resumed the raptor migration survey. From the 1st of February we have had 2 watch points located in the Eilat Mountains. In order to be able to compare it to past data we opened the 2 good old raptor count station in "Low Mountain" just above town and "High Mountain at Mt. Yehoram.
Every day, an hour after sunrise till sunset, we have 2 birders counting every raptor they see migrating towards Europe and Asia. Our main focus is on the Steppe Eagles, which are reported to be declining in their breeding range due to habitat destruction, hunting, poisoning and nest thefts. In the past some 3 million raptors were counted here, so we are all very excited to repeat this important work. In the Arava valley we are also conducting a migration survey that will count migratory birds along the main birding sites in Eilat and southern Arava. The ringing station continues its long term monitoring of physical conditions of the migratory birds.
Along with the research and nature conservation efforts, we are trying to improve the services for the visiting birders. The Eilat Bird Sanctuary’s habitats have been improved and a new hide has been built. Anita Lake (fresh water) has been widened and the water is now much shallower and more inviting for Waders, Herons, Gulls and Passerines.
Our office is now also operating as an information center for birders, both gathering information and happily giving it out, helping birders locate their desired species. The entrance is free.
If you are in our neighborhood and feel like giving a hand with the survey, just message us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would appreciate it very much.