In the not too distant past, Eilat has provided food, water and shelter for migrant birds. In recent years, rapidly growing human development in and around Eilat has severely affected their habitat. In 1996, the members of Kibbutz Lotan decided to build a small reserve to the south of their dairy barn. The site had been dry, sandy, barren terrain, except during occasional floods. Now, there is a small pond, young trees, and an alfalfa patch. Elsewhere, green plants have begun to cover the desert floor. It is now an area in which migrating birds can safely stop on their long journeys to refuel, drink, and rest. It is already a beautiful haven for birds and other wild animals, which visitors can enjoy seeing them with the help of blinds and camouflaged entranceways. Click here for a checklist of birds-275 in all recorded in the immediate vicinity of Lotan. The reserve is also a favorite venue for desert mammals, although they are hard to see during the day. The paw-prints tell the story, with Wolf, Hyena, Common Fox, Golden Jackal, and Nubian Ibex coming in. From time to time, you can see snake and lizard tracks as well, in addition to beetle tracks. Spring 2000 was the first season for the reserve to host a ringing Station. We ringed 3800 birds, from 84 species!There are five distinct habitats within the reserve:
- The alfalfa field holds many insects, and is a magnet for migrating passerines.
- The stony desert area with the large drinking pool brings in larger birds as well as open landscape birds such as larks and wheatears.
- The reedy pool at the central hide, with its lush vegetation and shade, attracts birds that are more secretive.
- The tall trees, both alive and dead, provide perches for raptors as well as other birds.
- The scrub desert takes up a considerable part of the reserve, and is home to many native species of birds, reptiles and mammals.
The Arava Valley
The Arava is a stunning valley located between the many-hued Edom Mountains to the East and the steep limestone cliffs dropping from the southern Negev plateau to the West. The area contains a unique ecosystem consisting of plants and animals from Europe, Asia and Africa.
The Arava’s strategic location and the massive air currents produced by thermals rising from the desert floor act as a funnel. Twice a year, hundreds of millions of migratory birds utilize the Arava flyway for making the long journey between Eurasia and Africa. In addition, numerous species of tropical, desert and introduced birds live in the valley all year round.
Permaculture and the Bird reserve
Permaculture (permanent agriculture) principles have guided the construction of the reserve right from its inception. Every object in the environment has the potential to become a resource. Elements of a constructed environment are in greatest harmony when several elements support each function, when each element serves multiple functions, and when the elements support each other.
Tall trees, the stony desert, bamboo and the poles that support the trees provide resting places for birds. The pond, the moisture held in the alfalfa field and in the ground cover, all provide water for the birds, while insects attracted to the plants and to their seeds provide food the birds.
In addition to food, shelter and moisture, the cut alfalfa also enriches the soil. Trees provide food and perches, and also slow the wind and provide shade. The stony desert provides resting places and cover for insects, which constitute food for the birds.
Made from a combination of waste materials (tires, cardboard, aluminium cans, plastic bottles), agricultural by-products (date fronds), and local, desert materials (sand and clay), observation shelters in the reserve are a good example of permaculture principles put into practice.
You Can Help!
The Bird reserve has been made possible through grants and generous donations from people like you. As the reserve becomes more established and hosts more visitors, its needs for maintenance and additional facilities increase. You can help with a financial donation for resources such as irrigation and trees. Your kind donations will go towards planting trees, irrigation pipes, operating our ringing station and other research and maintenance requirements. Remember, even the smallest contribution makes a difference.