Palestinian and Israeli birdwatching

This video is called Birds of the Middle East.

In Lebanon, there is not only sometimes war, but also birdwatching.

This is also true more to the south.

Translated from Rypke Zeilmaker in Dutch daily NRC, paper edition, 16 June 2007:

On a surface, smaller than the Netherlands, over 530 bird species have been counted, over 100 reptile species, and a hundred mammal species, including hyenas, wolves and gazelle. …

Israel is also world-famous as a bird migration highway, where every year about half a billion birds fly to and from Africa. …

A morning in Eilat and surroundings brings tawny eagles, short-toed eagles, and hundreds of steppe buzzards circling around the chocolate-brown Eilat mountains. Also Barbary falcons, and, very rare, the Sinai rosefinch.

On a trip by night to the Dead Sea we see the rarest bird of the Middle East, the Nubian nightjar.

This species occurs only in a minefield near the Jordan border. With the help of a big torch, we can see the ghostly moth hunter. …

I leave the Eilat festival to visit Imad Atrash, director of the Palestine Wildlife Society.

He invites me to the Palestinian bird festival in Jericho on the West Bank.

Also, there is the start of the first Palestinian nature reserve on the West Bank. …

“Welcome to the oldest and lowest city in the world”, Atrash says while opening the door of his car. “Now, you will be able to see how we enjoy nature here. Usually, the media mention us only in articles about violence”.

Differently from Eilat, on the West Bank I will not see a battalion of birdwatchers with telescopes, Atrash says beforehand. “The Israeli army does not allow us to use binoculars for watching bird migration”, he says. “They see that as espionage. So, we cannot always recognize species while counting migratory birds”.

Barn owls in Israel-Jordan border region: here.

Palestine: The environmental impact of Israel’s military occupation: here.

For years south Jordan River was closed military zone. Local wildlife only benefited, but will this continue?

Israeli Air Force Fighter Pilots Dodge Migrating Storks: here.

Reducing conflict between Israel’s air force and migratory birds – podcast: here.

Israel Hopes To Attract Flocks Of Bird Watching Tourists By Building New Ornithological Centers: here.

Palestinian under 19 football team not admitted to Britain: here.

Steppe eagle tracked from Abu Dhabi to Kazakhstan via Yemen: here.

Today’s Animal Oddity is the griffon vulture that was detained by officials in Saudi Arabia as an Israeli spy. I know this sounds like something out of the Onion or SNL, but it seems to be true: here.

35 thoughts on “Palestinian and Israeli birdwatching

  1. Sep 17, 2007 20:27 | Updated Sep 18, 2007 0:02

    Man-made Eilat reefs ‘planted’ with coral

    Talkbacks for this article: 2

    Ben-Gurion University experts have started “planting” corals on artificial reefs off the coast of Eilat to lure divers away from fragile natural reefs that have been unintentionally damaged due to excessive underwater visits there.

    The project, taking place from Monday until Friday this week, is being led by Dr. Nadav Shashar of BGU’s BA program for marine biology and biotechnology in Eilat, with cooperation from Prof. Zvi Abramsky of BGU’s life sciences department, Dr. Arik Diamant from the National Center for Marine Agriculture and student Omer Pollack. Teenagers are helping by diving and planting corals after school.

    They say that the artificial reefs – templates composed of concrete and metal produced in attractive-looking shapes – will serve as a breeding ground for a wide variety of coral species. Called the “Tamar Reef,” the underground coral planting ground will be visited by many divers looking to view the colorful animal life.

    “The research challenge in establishing an artificial reef is great and occupies scientists from universities around Israel and the world,” says Shashar. “It is an ecological challenge in which the researcher must plan in advance the elements of the reef’s ecological system and then ensure that an independent ‘society’ of coral can survive and thrive. This is part of the innovative concept of preserving nature based on active effort carried out in areas whose coral has been damaged.”

    The planning of artificial reefs and of ways to actively preserve them also constitute an important teaching tool for understanding the ecology of coral reefs, he added.

    The templates were set down on on the Red Sea bed by the National Nature and Parks Authority last April. Since then, the area has been populated by fish and invertebrates and has attracted divers. It has also captured the interest of the world press and foreign researchers.

    Since it takes years for natural reefs to be settled by coral, the BGU researchers set up a coral “nursery” to grow the young creatures under optimal conditions to spur more rapid growth. These corals are now being planted according to an exact plan to turn the concrete and metal structures into active and vital reefs. Shashar said his team learned a lot about how to initiate and promote coral growth from Jewish National Fund experts in reforestation.

    The project, run jointly by academia and the nature authority, is funded by the US State Department’s USAID-MERC and the Whitely Foundation in the UK as part of an Israeli-Jordanian cooperative effort.


    Rare bird is sighted in Jerusalem
    Published: November 5, 2007

    Flying north for its annual fall return to the colder regions of the northern hemisphere, an eyebrowed thrush took a wrong turn and found itself in Jerusalem at 6 am on Sunday.

    The thrush was identified at the Jerusalem Bird Observatory of the Society for the Preservation of Nature in Israel’s Urban Wildlife Site by head ringer Shay Agmon.

    “This is a mega-rarity,” said Amir Balaban, co-director of the observatory, which is located near the Knesset in Givat Ram.

    It was the second time an eyebrowed thrush (turdus obscurus) had been seen in Israel. The first sighting was in Eilat in 1996, and Balaban doubted the bird would be seen in Israel again in his lifetime.

    The eyebrowed thrush is not an endangered species in its preferred cold habitats. It is commonly found in the Indian subcontinent, East Asia, Siberia and the taiga (coniferous forests) of the far north, but is rare in the Middle East, Western Europe and the United States.

    “It probably joined local song thrushes when it got lost,” said Balaban.

    Song thrushes are common winter birds in Israel. Though similar, song thrushes are a “duller version” of the eyebrowed thrush, which is “known for its bluish-gray back and chest, lemon-colored lower mandible, smooth ochre-chestnut upper chest and belly and its trademark beautiful white eyebrow,” Balaban said.

    Netted at the observatory’s Bird Monitoring Station, the thrush was trapped, banded, measured, weighed and promptly released. The eyebrowed thrush will face many dangers on its journey, including “feral cats of the Middle East, hunters and lots of uncontrolled pesticides.”

    “We crossed our fingers and hope for its safe return,” said Balaban. “It will have to be a very lucky bird.”

    Aside from being a thrill for Israel’s birders, 25 of whom “jumped out of bed at the Rare Bird Alert” sent out Sunday morning, the eyebrowed thrush’s presence signals success on the part of the Society for the Preservation of Nature.

    “The appearance of rare birds is an important indicator of [the] quality of an urban wildlife site,” said Balaban. “It proves that if we preserve important bird areas in the city, they will be used by both common birds and rare ones.”


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  6. Imad Atrash has been Executive Director of the Palestine Wildlife Society since the BirdLife Partner was founded in 1999. He previously served on the Global Council from 2004-2008. He is a member of the West Asian regional council of the IUCN, and his extensive experience includes developing environmental education programmes for communities and schools in Palestine, and promoting eco-tourism in the Arab World.


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