Wildlife Sanctuaries: It’s not the size that counts

When most people hear the term wildlife sanctuary the vision that comes to mind is miles of pristine wilderness, untouched by human influence. While there are many such places, and they are an important part of the conservation process, smaller localized sanctuaries are equally important.

Near my apartment in Israel is the Jerusalem Bird Observatory. The JBO catches, bands, and records the data of over 20,000 birds annually. The observatory is run entirely by volunteers in the middle of Jerusalem (an urban area). It is actually located between the Israeli Supreme Court and Legislative buildings. Did I mention the JBO is approximately one acre in size? This is a prime example of what can be done with a relatively small plot of land.

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A look at the small pond at the JBO.

The JBO staff built a pond, planted native plants and trees, and each year the number of birds that stopover on their flight to Africa increases. The area is also home to a healthy population of resident birds, porcupines, hedgehogs, turtles, frogs, lizards and numerous invertebrates.

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A not so great photo of a Kingfisher with a frog he just snatched from the pond at the JBO.

With a little bit of planning you can turn your own backyard into a wildlife sanctuary. Even if your yard has a wall around it, you can still create a haven for birds and butterflies.

November 15, 2009   Posted in: Israel, Wildlife  No Comments

Jerusalem By Night: A Walk on the Wild Side

Although not known for having a night life like Tel Aviv, when the sun goes down there are some places worth visiting in Jerusalem. Two of my personal favorites are the Wohl Rose Garden and the Jerusalem Bird Observatory. Both are nestled between the Knesset (Israel’s legislative body) and Supreme Court buildings. While walking through the dimly lit gardens, the observant will find softball-sized entities ambling about.  These are the quarry of our nocturnal hunt.

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The hedgehogs wander about in their nightly pursuit of bugs to eat, protected from most predators by their armor of quills. The feral cats that reside in the garden often watch them hungrily, but know better than to tempt fate. They can be hard to see in the darkest areas, so be sure not to step on one (especially if you don’t own shoes). I have found them to be quite passive, and other than the obvious obstacle their spines create, I have had no misfortune when I have handled them. (Note:  like any wild animal, this is NOT a good idea, and I don’t recommend you handle any animal you come across. You can get bitten, scratched, pick up any number of diseases, etc. Do so at your own risk.) Most of the time they simply fall back on their natural (and effective) defense of curling into a ball. Their undersides are quite soft and velvety, and although you rarely see their faces (mostly they are either waddling around with their noses to the ground finding insects to eat, or curled into a ball) they are quite cute. As evidenced below.

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Some general information about the hedgehogs:

They range in size from 6-12 inches and 3 to 5 lbs. A single hedgehog can eat up to 7 ounces of bugs in one night, making them a desirable species for farmers and gardeners to have around. Baby hedgehogs are born with spines, but they don’t protrude from the skin until after they are born.

November 2, 2009   Posted in: Israel, Wildlife  No Comments