Protecting the Birds

Thanks to your support SPNI's Israel Ornithological Center has won many battles to protect bird habitats and keep Israel's skies hazard free for the birds. 

We protected the vultures in the Golan!

Together with you we submitted 4,500 objections to the establishment of a wind turbine farm on Mt. Peres in order to protect the vultures from a death sentence.

Following the widespread public opposition we led, the wind turbine farm on Mt. Peres in the Golan Heights will be established only after preparation of an operating regime designed to achieve zero impact on vultures including endangered Egyptian vultures, and after monitoring for at least a year to examine the ability of the operating regime to meet these targets and prevent harm to birds of prey.

Thanks to the widespread public opposition, the investigator’s report proposes to implement an operating regime, as part of the plan, in order to meet the target of zero impact on vultures. We call on the National Infrastructure Committee (NIC) to set up compulsory mechanisms to ensure implementation of the operating regime, to indeed achieve zero impact on these species, and that the wind turbine farm will not lead to extinction of the vultures in the Golan. If this indeed happens in practice and zero impact on birds of prey is achieved, then in this specific case, in this particular farm a way will be found to use wind turbines to reduce emission of air pollutants and greenhouse gases, while protecting birds in this region.

Counting Wild Birds in Private Yards

Together with you, we counted thousands of birds this year. This activity took place, this year, for the 13th time in Israel, from 26/1/2018 to 10/2/2018. The counting was carried out by SPNI’s Israel Ornithological Center, The Israeli Center for Yardbirds and thousands of bird lovers who participated in this important project.

Using the data obtained from the annual bird count we can learn about changes and trends in the bird populations. Thus, for example, we learn about the spread of invasive birds in Israel (birds that were brought to Israel, escaped and reproduced naturally) such as the myna, the rose-ringed parakeet and the monk parakeet (link to the yardbirds poster), and study whether, and to what extent, these species affect native species. We compare known processes from studies conducted around the world (such as the dwindling house sparrow population in England) with processes occurring in Israel. Each year the number of reporters increases. As well as reports from amateur and professional birders, we were also happy to receive reports from educational institutions and the general public. The counters make a meaningful contribution to the development of citizen science in Israel and nature conservation. We work to increase the reliability of the reports in different ways – both via the technological system and via meticulous, manual sorting by an expert– to prevent reports of outstanding birds that are unexpected in the particular season of the year or in the environment where the count was conducted.

How Many Reports?

In 2018, 1,736 report forms were submitted – similar to the number of reports in 2017 – despite shortening the counting period from 22 to 16 days. 722 forms were from preschools and educational institutions, and comprise 41% of all reports. The reports were submitted by 870 different participants, including 405 preschools and educational institutions. This year saw increased participation by Arab-speaking educational institutions, comprising about 40% of all preschools and schools. From around the country we received reports on 71,200 individual birds from 105 different species.

And the bottom line – what did we find?

The hooded crow is the most common bird in Israel, as observed in recent years. The five birds that were observed the most times are also the most common birds in residential areas due to the high food availability and their ability to adapt to changing environments. All five species were also at the top of the list of common species last year, in more or less the same order, indicating on one hand the relative stability of the system and on the other hand the reliability of the data, due to the statistical power of multiple observations.

Surveying and Conserving in Eilat and the Arava

In February, the first survey of its kind was conducted in the south of Israel, and from now on we intend to conduct it annually. About half a million migratory birds pass through Israel during the spring. The surveyors are excited, almost as much as the birds; they cross fingers for them and wish them success in their exhausting journey. While monitoring the migratory birds the surveyors become their ‘first responders, and when necessary – will be the first to send the warning signal.

Lesser Kestrel Survey for 2018

In 2018, monitoring of lesser kestrel breeding was conducted by a professional ornithologist in collaboration with local residents, as part of an attempt to understand the potential of citizen science that maintains a partnership between citizens and scientists, at different stages of data collection and analysis.

In the next few years, we intend to expand the involvement of local residents and their contribution to research on the lesser kestrel population breeding in the communities of the Megiddo and Alona regional councils and the activities required to protect the population.

The results of the 2018 survey reveal that there has been no change in population size. In 2018, 286 nests were documented in comparison with 293 (±5) pairs during the years 2000-2014; however, the population is dynamic. Changes were recorded in the number of breeding pairs within settlements, with a significant decrease in the number of breeding pairs in some settlement and in a significant increase in others. These results indicate a metapopulation structure in Ramot Menashe, where individuals move and alternate with each other frequently among the different locations. In the next few years we will try to study this question in partnership with the local residents and educational frameworks.

A ‘Nature Defense Force’ for the Birds

As part of the Nature Defense Force initiative, a joint project between SPNI and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in collaboration with INPA, a number of very impressive projects were carried out to protect birds, including the project to rehabilitate the common swift population within the grounds of HaKirya and Sarona. The common swift is a small bird that lives in flocks and feeds on insects. It spends most of its life in flight and breeds in Israel in the spring, in wall crevices or under roof cornices. Modern buildings are not suitable for the nest shape required for the swift’s unique mode of flight. Therefore many swifts who come to cities do not find a suitable place to breed. As part of this project, the soldiers installed unique nesting boxes constructed from ammunition cases, within the grounds of HaKirya in Tel Aviv. These boxes allow the swift to leave the nest opening in a way that is tailored to its mode of flight.

Within the framework of the project to protect birds of prey in the Nachshonim region, soldiers created breeding areas for the lesser kestrel; an educational explanatory activity including observations and bird ringing takes place here to raise awareness and sensitivity of soldiers in the IDF towards conservation of nature and birds.

In the last twenty years we have witnessed a decrease of about 90% in the number of sandgrouses in the Negev. One of the reasons for this sharp decline is polluted wastewater that many of the sandgrouses drink regularly. As part of the project to save the sandgrouse population in the Shivta region, soldiers work to improve the state of the sandgrouse population by providing the sandgrouses with clean water as well as raising awareness about protecting them in the unit’s firing range.

The Migration Champions Break Records

The 2018 Migration Champions Competition of SPNI’s Ornithological Center and the largest ornithological organization in the world, BIRDLIFE, took place in March. This is the largest birding competition in the world, in which 200 professional and amateur birders from Israel and around the world compete with each other to see who can identify the most species of birds within a given area (in the Negev, Arava and Eilat), within 24 hours.

In first place was an international team of young birders (comprising an English birder, a birder from Zimbabwe and two birders from South Africa), with 186 species, a new competition record.

In second place was the “Small Debts” group, comprising Israeli young adults, with 183 species, and in third place, a group of Israelis and Palestinians headed by Noam Weiss, a senior birder [A1] at SPNI, with 181 species.

All of the money raised for the competition, the highest amount ever, about 100 thousand dollars, will be dedicated to the campaign against illegal hunting in Serbia and Croatia, the Adriatic immigration route.

Birding Activities

SPNI’s Ornithological Center continues educating the young generation of birders. As in previous years, we held birding activities this year for children and teenagers. The activities take place in different regions, under the guidance of adult birders with experience in both ornithology and nature in general. During vacations, young birders from around the country gather together and set out to watch spectacular birds! Haven’t joined us yet? You’re welcome to join in!

Collaboration with 'Salt of the Earth'

This collaboration between SPNI and Salt of the Earth included a campaign on both television and digital media.

The salt pools of Salt of the Earth at Atlit and Eilat are used as a site of rest and refuge for water birds during their migration – this is why the Ornithological Center has worked together with Salt of the Earth over the years on projects related to the salt pools.

Therefore, Salt of the Earth chose to include SPNI in a campaign produced to emphasize the contribution of the salt pools to the water birds.

Next year we will continue working to improve the state of birds in Israel with an emphasis on endangered species, by promoting active management to protect endangered species, preventing establishment of wind turbines, mapping key areas for birds, publicizing the ‘Red Book’ and raising public awareness.

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