Steppe eagle

Eilat is one of the most important spots for migratory birds in the world. The only overland bridge between Europe, Asia and Africa is also a bottle-neck that serves hundreds of millions of migratory birds. Moreover, these birds in Eilat, are preparing themselves for the most challenging task of crossing the foodless and hostile Saharan desert. Eilat area that used to be a large and rich saltmarsh that consisted the last "fueling station" before the desert for these birds, suffered human development that left nothing of this important habitat. Moreover, one of the busiest Raptor migration routes in world passes above Eilat that serves as a land bridge that allows soaring birds to cross safely into Africa.

We are conducting a large scale monitoring program to be able to identify trends in migratory populations of common and rare species and to understand the importance of Eilat and the sites around it in southern Arava for these migratory birds.

The Method

Our Raptor count team in action.  Photo by: Doug Goschfeld We conduct 3 different surveys:

  1. Raptor migration survey – that counts the passing migratory soaring birds in 2 stations in the Eilat Mountains. The main focus of this survey is to monitor the population of the rare Steppe Eagle that was reported to be declining sharply in the last decade. A large portion of the world population of these Eagles pass in Eilat between the 1/2 and the 15/5.
    3 observers share the occupancy of the 2 counting stations.
  2. Monitoring of important stop-over sites for migratory birds (Passerines, waders and waterfowl) in Eilat and southern Arava –the main important stop-over sites that represent all important habitats are surveyed by an experiences bird-watcher 2 times a week to gather information about the diversity of birds in each site and to identify hazards and opportunities for improvements in these sites for the migratory birds. The survey starts on the 15/2 and ends 0n the 20/5.
  3. Ringing birds at Eilat's bird's sanctuary - monitors the physical conditions of the migratory birds now for 25 years giving us data that can reveal long term trends in birds populations and migration.

The volunteers and their conditions of living

The volunteers for the Eilat birds monitoring program must be trained and experienced bird-watchers or certified bird ringers that can work long hours in field conditions.

Days of work begin at first light for 5 hours and then 3 more hours in the afternoon (Raptors count team works 07:30-15:30). The volunteers work 6 days a week but can take additional days off for seeing the country when work allows.

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

We provide food products that we buy with the volunteers, but they have to prepare it themselves.

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