Big thank you from

The miracle of the birdman

by Paul Cormacain

RESPECT OTHER RECREATIONAL USERS - Behave responsibly. Where possible warn others of your approach and slow down or stop if necessary. Irresponsible behaviour could lead to you and your activity being banned from the area in the future.

LISBURN man John Scott would have frequently sampled the delights of the Quoile and would have trod in the footsteps of John de Courcey on his bird-watching trips.

So I went to the Quoile last week to sample its glories. But last month John went further afield, ending up in Israel.

John is involved with Earthwatch, and thought he would go abroad as an Earthwatch volunteer. He felt he owed it to himself and the people yet to come that he should do his bit to help improve the earth.

That may sound a bit presumptuous and arrogant, but John did not want to improve on Nature. Rather he wanted to right some wrongs that we may have inflicted on the earth.

He had a wonderful time living on a former rubbish dump for two weeks!

The location was Eilat, a town in southern Israel. The dump, well, the town authorities were convinced that the dump could be put to good use by handing it over to a local birdman. The last birdman I heard of was in jail, And he got a film made about it.

This birdman is mildly fanatical, for after he got the dump he persuaded the local builders to dump their excavation dirt on his dump. Then he planted local trees, which grew and thrived. Can you see this dump yet?

Then this fanatic put in an irrigation system, and this system re-cycled the town's sewage. Can you smell it yet?

Did you know that the most effective way of sewage disposal can be exposing the sewage to a natural action, and if you go to Castle Espie you will know what I mean.

There the output from the toilets go through a sally rod area, and out the other end comes lovely pure water. I know, for I have drunk it.

So then this fanatic created lagoons. So we have woods and water and lagoons, and folk have forgotten the dump.

Do you like this fanatic? Do you like his great vision, and do you think that if you had the foresight you would die of embarrassment before you accomplished the project?

John met this fanatic, Reuven Yosef, who explained his dream.


The dump is now a reserve and is flourishing. It provides an opportunity for rest, food and water for the millions of migratory birds which move through that Dart of the world in spring and autumn each year.

The Israelites used to eat quail when they were starving in the desert, now they are visiting hospitality on all the birds passing through.

Two of the more prominent types of bird seen were eagles. The steppe eagle, slightly smaller than (our) golden eagle, may be uncommon on dry bushy plains, or steppes, but some turned up at the dump.

An even smaller eagle turned up. It was the booted eagle, quoted as uncommon, but with a range west to :he Iberian Peninsula, but never seen here

Not seen here is the bluethroat, but many turned up on migration at Eilat. That must have been a lovely tight. Also from Russia were little stints, a common breeding bird on the Arctic tundra, and regularly teen here in the winter.

Even more spectacular were the pied kingfishers seen by John, and from my records this bird has not been seen in Europe.

So it was a delightful visit, with many interesting birds to be seen. The visit has a serious side, and Earthwatch is looking for volunteers to do more work in different parts of the world.

A financial input is required, and anyone wanting to find out more could contact Earthwatch Europe, at

57 Woodstock Road, Oxford, OX2 6HJ. The phone number from here is 018 6531 8831.

Coming Events

Saturday 11 November - At Florence Court, join a Woodland Leaf Walk at 2.30. More from National Trust on 028 9751 0721.

13 November - RSPB dates. At Antrim it's Bird Camouflage by Ivor McDonald. At Bangor, Florida is the flavour with Tom Ennis. Call RSPB on 028 9049 1547

Wednesday 15 November - Arctic Odyssey by Mervyn Guthrie in Ulster Museum, at 7.30, an Ornithologists' Club event, details from 028 9263 9254

Monday 20 November to 3 December - Tree Week. (Should that not be fortnight?) Your local Country Park call tell you what is happening locally.

Thursday 16 November - Never let it be said we don't cater for all tastes, because if you are interested in Moon Watching Rabbits, the time is 7.30. Call 028 9187 4146

20th November - Clive Mellon of the RSPB will talk on Farmland Birds in Coleraine. Contact John Clarke 07803 427424

Saturday 25 November - Does a Walk in the Winter Mournes appeal? If so be there at loam for a 14km dander. Where? Ask Mourne Trust on 028 4372 4059. Orienteering in Omagh. Find out more from 07020 963986.

Sunday 26 November - A River Bann Ramble at 2pm. Ask Lough Neagh Discovery Centre for details on 028 3822 2205.
Orienteering at Gortin Forest at 2pm. Again contact 07020 963986.

Monday 27 November - Lisburn RSPB, phone 028 9267 4381, hosting 'One for Sorrow', by Ivor McDonald, in Friends Meeting House, Lisburn at 7.30.

The Ulster Society for the Protection of the Countryside has a series of talks in November, about which more can be discovered by phoning Queens on 028 9027 3323. Wednesday 15 - Nendrum Tidal Mill, Wednesday 22 - Titanic History and Culture, Wednesday 29 - Ireland's Islands.

Ulster Star