The Kibbutz Lotan Nature and Bird Reserve
Kibbutz Lotan can be found in the stunning Arava 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 Africa, Asia and Europe.
Twice a year, due to the unique location of the Arava Valley and the phenomena of thermal rising created from the desert floor, 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 long.
In the not too distant past, Eilat provided food, water and shelter for migrant birds. In recent years, rapid growth and human development in and around Eilat has severely affected their habitat. In 1996, the members of Kibbutz Lotan decided to build a small reserve. The selected site had been dry, sandy, barren desert landscape.
Today, the Lotan Nature and Bird Reserve (LNBR) has transformed into a lush sanctuary for the millions of transient birds that pass through the Arava Valley each year. It is now an area where migrating birds can safely stop on their long journeys to refuel, drink, frolic and rest. The LNBR has developed to be a beautiful haven for birds and other wild animals.
Visitors can enjoy the wild life with the help of several camouflaged and shaded hides built the Lotan way. There are five distinct habitats within the reserve, including:
The Alfalfa Field, which is home to many insects and is a magnet for migrating passerines.
The Stony Desert with the large drinking pool that brings in larger birds as well as open landscape birds such as larks and wheatears.
The Reedy Pool located in the central hide, with its lush vegetation and share, the Reedy Pool 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, which takes up a considerable part of the reserve, is home to many native species of birds, reptiles and mammals
Little green bee-eater (Merops orientalis)
Spur-winged plover (Vanellus spinosus)
Laughing dove (Streptopelia senegalensis)
Pale crag martin (Hirundo fuligula)
Yellow-vented bulbul (Pycnonotus xanthopygos)
Crested lark (Galerida cristata)
White-crowned black wheatear (Oenanthe leucopyga)
Blackstart (Cercomela melanura)
Arabian babbler (Turdoides squamiceps)
Palestine sunbird (Nectarinia osea)
Brown-necked raven (Corvus ruficollis)
An abundance of migrants in the Lotan region during the Spring and Fall seasons, led by Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca), Blackcap (S. atricapilla) and Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita), ensure a constant supply of good birding.
Other migratory birds that may be seen include:
Quail (Coturnix coturnix)
Hoopoe (Upupa epops)
Wryneck (Jynx torquilla)
Tawny pipit (Anthus campestris)
Red-throated pipit (A. cervinus)
Yellow wagtail (Motacilla flava -- many races)
Rufous bush robin (Cercotrichas galactotes)
Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos)
Thrush nightingale (L. luscinia)
Black-eared wheatear (Oenanthe hispanica)
Isabelline wheatear (O. isabellina)
Rock thrush (Monticola saxatilis)
Blue rock thrush (M. solitarius)
Great reed warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus)
Savi’s warbler (Locustella luscinioides)
Ruppell’s warbler (Sylvia rueppelli)
Collared flycatcher (Ficedula albicollis)
Semi-collared flycatcher (F. semitorquata)
Golden oriole (Oriolus oriolus)
Red-backed shrike (Lanius collurio) and other shrikes
Spanish sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis)
Ortolan bunting (Emberiza hortulana)
Cretzschmar’s bunting (E. caesia)
All of these can be regarded as common migrants on Lotan, although numbers are subject to annual fluctuations.
Permaculture (permanent culture) principles have guided the construction of the reserve right from its inception. Every object in the environment has the potential to become a resource. Tall trees, the stony desert, bamboo and the reeds provide resting places for birds. The pond, alfalfa field and ground cover all provide water for the birds, while insects attracted to the plants and to their seeds provide food for the birds. In addition to food, shelter and moisture, alfalfa also enriches the soil. Trees also provide food, perches, windbreak and shade.
Made from a combination of waste materials (tires, cardboard, aluminum 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 to practice.