Welcome to WingSearch2020. This is the first in a series of personal insights into the work of people who have a passion for conservation. Today we focus on Yoav Perlman who spent 4 years living in Norwich whilst working on his PhD at the UEA. I stumbled upon Yoav’s blog whilst setting up my own and was at once captivated by the extraordinary work he was doing in his native Israel. I admit to also being quite envious of his PhD work with great bustards in Spain. Over to Yoav to summarise what he does and his thoughts on conservation…….
I’m a Lifelong birder, I work for BirdLife partner in Israel, where I am science director. I work in the interface between science, conservation and public. I write, edit, photograph and lead tours. I am married with three kids. I lived in Norwich, UK for four years, where I did my PhD at University of East Anglia.
What event triggered your interest in the natural world?
My family – my parents both developed my love for the outdoors since early age. My elder brother, Gidon, joined a youth birding club before me, and I followed him there at the age of 9.
Give a sketch of a typical day in your life
My work is very dynamic and flexible. I work in an annual cycle, in which during spring and summer I spend more time doing fieldwork. In other parts of the year I devote more time to writing – reports, grant proposals etc. Now it’s fieldwork season. This year, I coordinate and work in a big project in the Negev. I spend many days there now, collecting bird data. In any case, I go birding every day. Especially since I joined eBird’s ‘Checklist a day challenge‘ in 2019, I have not missed a day of birding.
You undertake much bird survey work throughout Israel and are also something of a twitcher. You have also produced very informative identification guides on gulls. What would you say is the most rewarding element of the work you do?
I am lucky to work in the field. My work takes me to some of the remotest parts of the country, where I sometimes connect with Israel’s rarest and most sensitive breeding species. I feel I am in a unique position in which I can affect the state of Israel’s birds and their habitats.
Wildlife of the Negev: Southern Grey Shrike, Nubian Ibex and Brown-necked Raven
What do you consider the greatest challenges facing wildlife today?
Too many humans over too small area. This affects everything – habitat loss and degradation, climate change, biodiversity loss.
What do you consider to be your greatest success?
In 2009-2011 I initiated and coordinated several large-scale mapping projects of desert birds. Using the data collected, several new large nature reserves were declared, now protecting some extremely sensitive habitats.
What would you consider to be your deepest regret?
Back in 2001, I was hired by a government agency to develop a plan to eradicate Common Myna in Israel, then at the first steps of colonisation. I wrote a fantastic report, but it was never implemented. Now, Common Myna is abundant nationwide, and there is evidence that they are causing damage to native species.
What advice would you give to a budding naturalist?
There are many ways to become a naturalist. Some of the best naturalists I know are not professionals. Some are in academia. Some, like myself, work for NGO’s. Others work for government agencies. Explore, take advice, try, make mistakes and learn, and find your own way.
What advice would you give your 16-year-old self?
Skip more school and do more birding. Seriously, I started recording birds in my notebooks at a very young age. However, only since about 2007 I started recording ALL species. Before that I recorded only a selective list of birds I found interesting or outstanding. I wish I recorded all species (AKA Full Checklist) since the start.
If you could be anywhere in the world at this moment where would it be and why?
Eilat. Nothing compares to bird migration there. Currently, because of COVID-19 Eilat is closed and I am missing bird migration there badly.
Migration over Eilat and the Negev: Honey Buzzards, Booted Eagle and White Storks
What is your favourite or most admired animal and why?
In recent years I started to pay more attention to big cats. They are supreme animals, and spending intimate time with them is quite incredible.
What are your hobbies/interests outside of wildlife?
I do sport, and read a lot. But honestly, between family, work and birding, there is little time for hobbies.
What is your favourite musical artist/work?
I listen to various artists, mainly classic rock. Neil Young, Foo Fighters, The Pixies, a few others.
What makes you happy?
My family, and birding.
What makes you sad?
Witnessing habitats destruction.
Name 3 things on your ‘bucket list’
What would you most like to accomplish and/or be remembered for?
First comprehensive, evidence-based State of the Birds report for Israel.
Thank you Yoav. Good luck with your survey work this season and with that State of the Birds report which would be a marvellous resource.