International Bird observatory Conference in Eilat

It is not just a bird’s ability to fly that inspires us; it is the bird’s ability to leave the home that was once so good to it, although not any more, to migrate to another home, new and inviting that awaits them elsewhere. How is it to migrate? The journey can be very long, exciting, insightful, adventurous, challenging, dangerous, enriching, with new worlds to discover and unexpected encounters. Determination. Persistence. Courage. Wisdom. Mutual help. Efficiency. Blind optimism with eyes wide open – believing the long journey will carry it to wonderful unknown places. Its survival depends upon this belief. It is pure clean optimism.

This March was special in Eilat. We hosted the International Bird Observatories Conference alongside with the annual Spring Migration Festival, the Champions of the Flyway “birders Olympics” and the Arts and Nature community event. However, there is one title to these entire events – we made people see birds and habitats clearer.

The Champions of the Flyway raised a record sum for one Birdlife partner, over 75,000$ for conservation of Vultures in Kenya by Nature Kenya through the ZEISS NABU team.

The Vulture’s problem got global scale awareness campaign that made people see that solving their problem is not in the sky, or as we often say, the sky is not the limit, it’s a habitat.

The Spring Migration Festival, held annually down here in Eilat, attracted more groups and individual birders than ever; from all over the world who wished to watch the wonder of migration in Eilat and at the same time supported our efforts to keep it safe. Just before the opening of the International Bird Observatories Conference, we held the World Migratory Bird Day – a communal event to create awareness to the hazardous impact of plastic pollution on sea birds.

We showed the problem, possible solutions and got 200 children and adults, super excited to collect plastic and other waste to save marine wildlife between the birds’ sanctuary and the Red Sea beach.

At the beach, 25 divers emerged from the bottom of the sea with tens of Kilograms of plastic waste they collected underwater. We rescued the crabs and fish that made this garbage their home, put them back in the sea and sorted the waste for recycling.

In the afternoon, we were all ready for the big event of the year when more than 150 participants, from 33 different countries attended the International Bird Observatories Conference held here in Eilat. Bird observatories are all about community based nature conservation. It is here that we protect birds by talking to people, make them appreciate, love and want to protect birds. Birds are everywhere but people usually overlook them. A bird observatory is where we open their eyes and hearts to the wonder of birds and their epic journeys.

It's a hub for research, monitoring, education, eco-tourism and communal work with only one goal – protecting birds and their habitats.

It is once in a lifetime that most of the people who run the world’s bird observatories come here to share knowledge, experiences, success and setbacks and to create new collaborations. Living in our “bubbles” we often feel lonely, fighting ever more powerful investors or authorities who do not respect the need of birds for safety, made our “family gathering” even more exciting. We closed the conference at the Eilat bird sanctuary with an Israeli Palestinian joint workshop and a festive dinner. The local volunteers made a special dance show and demonstrated the power of community to nature conservation. It was a success. Once again, ZEISS was leading conservation and made things visible. We now see birds clearly, understand them and hold hands together to protect them. It is crystal clear, just like my new ZEISS Victory Harpia spotting scope.

Noam Weiss

Director of the International Birding & Research Center, Eilat