And so the race was run …
Following a 4.5-hour drive from Tel Aviv, I arrived in Eilat in the early hours of Sunday morning, 26th March. This left just two days to connect with my team mates, Dawn Balmer and Mark Pearson and spend two days scouting and strategising before embarking upon the 24-hour bird race around southern Israel on Tuesday 28th. Not enough time …
In previous years, the Birdwatch-BirdGuides Roadrunners have elected to leave base camp – the Agamim Hotel in Eilat – around 02.30 hours and head to the furthest points north of the designated playing field (Nizzana and/or Yeruham Lake) for first light. This allowed time to ‘collect’ owls en route. We always ended up with 130 something species. This year we did it differently and started later, at 05.00, birding locally within 25 km of Eilat before heading north to arrive at Yeruham Lake just before dusk.
It was tight. We left KM20 salt-pans 1.5 hours later than planned, arriving at Yeruham a little too late for daytime species but managed to get Great White Egret, Cetti’s Warbler, Stone Curlew and Purple Swamphen before night fell. After dark, a calling Long-eared Owl was the last bird of the day before three attempts at Scops Owl went unfulfilled and we arrived back at the Agamim at midnight.
Our total for the day was 140 species – well short of the winning team, the Arctic Redpolls from Finland with a massive 181 species! More importantly, however, was the amount of money we raised through sponsorship and donations. Out of the 34 teams competing we came 3rd with a very respectable £4300 and, along with Dawn and Mark, I would like to express my gratitude and say a huge ‘thank you’ to all of you who contributed.
The overall result in terms of money raised by the event was in the region of $63,000, which will be going to Doğa Derneği to tackle the illegal killing of birds in Turkey.
The event is going from strength to strength annually and will, over the years, undoubtedly make a difference to conservation of migrant birds in the Mediterranean. Once again, many thanks to all of you who contributed to this worthy cause.