Monday, 25 May 2015

The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Trumpeters

We had a pretty wet winter here in the desert, with regular rainfall all the way into April. Everywhere was green with many flowers and grasses blooming. These wet winters always seem to be followed by a boom in breeding bird numbers. which is pretty obvious when you think about it more food equals more birds. the question is though when you have large numbers of birds spread over a very large area how do you get to ring them. Answer put your nets around a cistern. The Negev Desert has a number of these cisterns dotted around. they were built by the Nabateans, who were masters in the art of water collection. Rain water was channelled into these purposefully built cisterns were it remained over the long dry summer months and enabled  there camel caravans to pass through the most unhospitable regions of the desert. The Nabateans are long gone but there expertise remains to the benefit of the birds and other wildlife. Birds whose diet is rich in grains and seeds need water daily hence the importance of these cisterns to them and to us if we wish to ring them.

Hill Sparrow (Carpospiza brachydactyla)

Male Trumpeter finch (Bucanetes githagineus)

Nabatean Cistern

Monday, 18 May 2015

Week 1: Cute Birds Terrific Project.

My first day in my new job at the Yoracham Hoopoe Ecology Centre, saw me meet up with Yoav Motri, who is in charge of an amazing project. Bird boxes have been set up on agricultural land to encourage barn Owls and Kestrels to nest in them. The birds will then hunt rodents that feed in the fields adjacent to the boxes. having the birds as pest control agents means that farmers drastically reduce the amount of pesticide they use. A win win situation for all except the rodents! there are currently around 3000 nest boxes in Israel, with more in Palestine and Jordan. Recently Taiwan joined the project as well.
 As Barn Owls and Kestrels truly know no boundaries, they not only solve economic problems, but are also bringing peoples together. Something that is very much needed in the Middle East. For more info there was an article in the Guardian newspaper a few years back

it was also a ringing tick for me a although i'd handled many barn Owls before i had never actually ringed one

Barn owl chicks  photo courtesy of  Hoopoe Ecology Centre

As Rightly Pointed out to me (thanks Yoav) this project has been co-ordinated for many years by Proffesor Yossi Leshem, the Society For Protection of Nature In Israel, Tel Aviv University and The Ministry for Agriculture.