It's that time of year again, time to look back at what I have been up to in the past year. 2022 was a funny year: It was the first year I didn't go for a Big year challenge - you may remember that in 2020 and 2021 I went for the challenge in full blast (also in 2019 I did a partial Big Year). It was sometimes challenging not to run for every bird, and then came the realisation - 'Hey! I'm not doing a Big Year! How fun is that!'. In 2022 I moved in a different, slightly slower pace, from a birding point of view at least. This was my first full year on the new job as director of BirdLife Israel. Life is very busy now, but not busy enough to stop me from birding. I still bird and eBird daily - my eBird birding streak in now over four years long (1468 today). In this summary I will cover my birding and wildlife highlights of the year, in a thematic manner.
Birding in Israel
My birding year was very enjoyable. Thanks to my work style, and geographic distribution of projects and sites, I was able to bird quite much around the country. Unless something dramatic happens until Saturday night, this year I saw 363 species in Israel. This places me at #3 on the national eBird scoreboard, after Igal Siman Tov (currently 393) and Avner Rinot (390), who both went full blast on their Big Year challenges. Here's a comparative table of my annual totals in recent years:
In 2022 I submitted 590 eBird Israel checklists to date (at least two more will be added until the end of the year), and uploaded to eBird 460 photos, 30 sound recordings and 45 videos. I am quite happy with my 2022 totals, they reflect my strong motivation to go outdoors every day and enjoy the best birding Israel can offer, without running for each and every species. For example, I didn't go for stuff like Goldcrest and Yellowhammer that require long-distance trips specifically for them. I also didn't twitch each and every good birds. I enjoyed high capacity, high quality birding, without the extra pressure of a Big Year. I enjoyed finding my own birds - some of my better finds this year included Little Bunting, Oriental Turtle-Dove, Ruddy Shelduck, Olive-backed Pipit. It was a good year! I kept going quite hard all year, only in summer I slowed down a bit, because of trips to the UK and Kenya (see below). These are my monthly eBird totals:
In 2022 I added three species to my Israel life list, that stands now on approximately 482 (depends on which taxonomy is used): Manx Shearwater in Eilat on May 6th, Yellow-throated Sparrow in the Golan Heights on June 27th, and African Crake in Eilat on December 5th. The discovery of a breeding population of Yellow-throated Sparrow was one of the most amazing birding moments of the year - check my account on our website.
Here are some of my favourite photos of 2022, depicting special birding moments:
Birding events during the year included the two Big Days, on May 14th and October 8th (check the eBird trip reports here
) - both Big Days were exciting and fantastic bird-filled days with our traditional team of Jonathan and Re'a, joined by Piki on October.
Western Yellow Wagtails, Chiffchaffs, Lesser Whitethroat and Crested Lark in Arava Valley, March
Too close encounter with Oriental Honey-Buzzard, Eilat, April
Champions of the Flyway group photo at North Beach, with Jonathan
In 2022 I continued to do fieldwork, despite taking on more managerial roles. In spring I participated in the breeding bird survey of the sandy regions of the Negev. We found many cool breeding birds there, but my favourite image came from a group of exhausted migrants, European Bee-eaters
, resting in the middle of the desert:
In September I organised a team to tag European Turtle-Doves and track them; sadly all four bird went missing after leaving Israel. Before leaving we learned a lot about their daily movements and habitat use - check their dedicated blog here
With restoration becoming one of the main activities of BirdLife Israel and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, I spent more time this year at our pilot projects in Kfar Ruppin and Ma'agan Michael. At Kfar Ruppin, our restored wetland continues to be great, and has become a regional hotspot
Bonelli's Eagle over the reservoir
With less travelling and more office work, I resorted more to local birding. I birded my very local patches, those that I walk to from home, on foot 137 mornings this year. Bamba and me enjoyed it very much. I didn't have any great rarities this year, but enjoyed a nice selection of birds.
Siberian Stonechat, one of two birds that overwintered, March
European Goldfinch, April
Within a radius of 10 km from home I birded my local sites as much as possible. Hulda Reservoir continues to be a favourite. Piki and I have a Saturday morning tradition to bird there together - we went there together 21 times in 2022, and saw 167 species.
After two years of COVID-related travel deficiency, in 2022 I finally boarded a plane and travelled overseas. The first trip was to a family holiday to the UK in June (check my trip report here
). My plan worked, everything clicked together, and I was in the right place at the right time to connect with the majestic Black-browed Albatross at RSPB Bempton Cliffs. Heartstopping views of an awesome bird at a breathtaking reserve, shared with some of my favourite humans in the world - simply perfect.
In September I travelled again to the UK, to attend the 100 years celebrations of BirdLife International and Global Council. It was an excellent trip but I saw no noteworthy birds.
The second trip was to Kenya in July. I travelled there with my son Noam, and with my boss and friend Dan Alon and his son, Noam too. We spent 11 days on the ground in Kenya, visiting Mt. Kenya, Samburu, Nakuru, Masai Mara, Naivasha and Hell's Gate. It was a wonderful trip, in which we were fully immersed in nature, experiencing some of the most extreme wildlife spectacles of the world. We saw 313 bird species (check our trip report here
), and many mammals (didn't count mammals, sorry), which was great.
Baisa Oryx in Samburu NP
Lake Nakuru, Lesser Flamingoes
White Rhinos and Red-billed Oxpecker
Black-and White Colobus
Masai Mara - Eland, Common Zebra, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Lappet-faced Vulture
Just a few Wildebeest
Rueppell's and White-backed Vultures
Black Heron and African Spoonbill
Hell's Gate NP
Summary and thanks
My deep love and appreciation goes to my family - my wife Adva and kids Uri, Noam and Libby, for not giving up on me yet another year. Bamba, my loyal companion, still happy to go out, albeit a bit slower. As always, the best birding moments were with friends - thank you all - Jonathan, Re'a, Piki, Rony, Meidad, Nadav, Dan, Amir, Barak, Mark, Yotam, Avner, and many others that I forgot. Thanks to Swarovski Optik for providing me with the best optics in the world. Thank you to my supporters and followers in Israel and worldwide - without your support it would have been much less fun.
I wish you all a great 2023, full of great birding experiences and a bit less turmoil, please. Happy New Year!