Challenge #14 COVID-19 STYLE ~ Bees and Birds in Qatar


To keep our posts relevant we have updated the June theme and challenges to reflect the current situation. 
The original challenge is below.

Read the blog post on the June 2020 Theme ~ HOLIDAYS COVID-19 STYLE

Image by John Thompson: Hoopoe

To keep our posts relevant we have updated the June theme and challenges to reflect the current situation.
The original Challenge is below.


This month our goal is to identify realistic opportunities for everyone to become consciously present; to think more, relate more and open up to the wonders of Jurassic Park in our backyards in Qatar; to create impact in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with concrete daily actions to enjoy and protect biodiversity, the theme of this year’s World Environment Day on June 5. 

The first challenge is all about our flying friends, bees and birds. These two species are critical to life on earth because they help keep ecosystems in balance and, therefore, us humans and all other species alive. 

Birds benefit the planet in many ways by acting as “ecosystem service providers,” from pollination to seed dispersal for reforestation, to keep humans and the planet healthy. Beside all that, birds are beautiful. Their songs can be sweet and enchanting and birdwatching is therapeutic and, for some, a nearly spiritual pastime.

The Arabian peninsula and the tiny country of Qatar lie midway along the longest bird migration highway (12,000 km), the Great Asia-Africa flyway, one of eight major bird migration routes in the world used by 3 billion birds. Yes, that’s 3 billion birds on the move twice a year. Around 59 species breed in Qatar and seek food, water, shelter and places to raise their young. 

Over 315 bird species have been recorded in Qatar, including 15 globally endangered species, like the Eastern Imperial and the Greater Spotted Eagle. The majority, about 260 bird species, are temporary visitors during migration, including, among others, the colorful European Bee-eater and the European Hoopoe with its striking orange and black-striped crest. 

There are also a great number of resident birds in Qatar that stay year-round. Most common in urban areas are the White-eared Bulbul with its happy chatter, the Eurasian Collared Dove, easily identified by the black collar on the back of its neck and its loud syllabic coo-cooo-coo call, and the Laughing Dove, with its bubbly cooing call that sounds like laughter. In sunlight, the Laughing Dove shows a pretty blue-bronze pink and grey pattern on the plumage. 

The Common Myna, hopping awkwardly on the ground and perching everywhere, is quite entertaining, though loud and annoying. It imitates other sounds with its whistles, squawks, and clicks. 

Quail and flamingos are also year-round residents in Qatar, even though it is harder to discover them in urban areas. 

And if you find a colony of wild bees near your house, consider yourself very lucky. What wonder! That is truly Jurassic Park in your backyard!!! That’s more than any of us could wish for – to watch nature! In Doha! Without leaving your house! 

Bees are the great pollinators of the planet. Without them, we humans would have less food to eat and other species would have less habitat for survival. Bee pollination is vital in maintaining biodiversity and ecological balance so the health of the worldwide bee population is extremely important. Unfortunately, the world’s bee population is on the decline due to habitat loss, pesticides, disease and climate and environmental factors. It is critical to protect bees, for the health of the whole earth.  You can start helping bees in your own backyard following the tips in this challenge!    

We frequently see wild bees building their hives around Qatar. The bees are non-aggressive. As they are wild bees (not apiary or honey bees) they do not produce honey for harvesting. They collect nectar to feed themselves, while pollinating plants. The bees come, build a hive and move on in 3 to 6 months. What remains is the decorative beehive sculpture in a tree or garden. 

If the beehive is in a place where it poses no harm, that is, where you and family are not bothered or frightened by the bees, please watch and enjoy them. Do not remove the hive, as long as nobody is affected. The long-term benefits (educational and pure fascination) of observing the wonders of nature from the convenience of your home will most likely outweigh the ‘inconvenience’ of limited access to a space we don’t use anyway during the hot summer.  Please leave the bees in peace. 

If, however, you need to remove the hive, please use a hose and water to deter the bees and make them move on without hurting them or make a bonfire as they don’t like smoke. Under all circumstances, please avoid the use of toxic chemicals and prevent exposing the bees to any more environmental poison and pollutants that already threaten their existence. 

All bees and birds need water during the heat of the summer to cool down. Setting up a few bird baths around your backyard, front yard, balcony or even window sill will invite visitors and fill your day with joy as the birds bathe and drink and enjoy the water. 

To enjoy Jurassic Park in your Backyard and to protect biodiversity, get started with these tips:

  • Set up bird baths to provide water for bees and birds and watch birds take a bath!
  • Build a birdhouse to provide shelter for birds to raise their young.
  • Avoid all toxic chemicals in your garden, including weed and insect killing chemicals. Instead, allow the bees and birds to find nutritious and organic snacks in your untreated plants and flowers. 
  • Keep a few flowering outdoor plants for food and nectar for bees and birds, like plumeria, lantana, and zinnia with colorful flowers throughout steamy summers. 
  • Plant a tree (neem, delonix regia, sidra) to provide cooling shade and foliage for bees and birds to nest in.  
  • Start bird watching as a new hobby. Bird watching is easy, fun, and affordable. All you need is a pair of binoculars, a notebook, a bird field guide to help identify birds, and curiosity for the wonders of the natural world around you. Bird watching is a great way to practice patience, silence and stillness. The reward, in addition to inner peace, is new knowledge and a greater appreciation for bird life and biodiversity.

A simple code of conduct for bird watching includes: 

  • Never harass birds, their nests or their habitat. 
  • Move slowly and quietly to observe birds in their natural state and behavior, not disturbing them. 
  • If watching on private farms or land, always ask for permission and, as a courtesy, announce your arrival and departure. 
  • When combining bird watching with a picnic, always pick up after yourself; take only pictures and leave nothing but footprints.
  • Enjoy the birds and protect them. Do not kill, shoot, or trap birds or other animals. 

Resources


Challenge #14 ~ Take Direct Flights

Read the blog post on the June Theme ~ HOLIDAYS

Vacation! Hurray! Let’s go! The mountains and beaches are calling! It’s too bad that the only way to travel out of Qatar is by airplane. Airplanes are a major source of carbon emissions, at least until 100% waste-based or algae-based biofuel or electric planes are a commercial reality.

We can do things to reduce our impact while traveling by air. Even though direct flights are expensive, skip the extra take-off and landing to reduce your flight emissions. Airplanes emit the most emissions at take-off and landing, so taking direct flights significantly reduces emissions associated with air travel.

Planes use the most fuel, and produce the most harmful emissions, during takeoff. On short flights, as much as 25 percent of the total fuel consumed is used at this time.

Worldwatch Institute

As a bonus, flying direct is an investment in your health and sanity. Consider this –  the more stops there are on your flight and the longer you are in an airplane, the more things can go wrong, the more stiff-boned, dehydrated, and stressed you get. Subsequently, the less relaxed you are, and the longer is the recovery time before you can actually enjoy yourself on vacation.

Sustainable air travel does not necessarily have to remain a myth. It may not be perfect yet, but it is possible to make strides in the right direction. Flying direct is just one such option, through which we can make a difference to our carbon footprint. Happy holidays, everyone!

Sources

  1. Norton, Travis M., Aircraft Greenhouse Gas Emissions during the Landing and Takeoff Cycle at Bay Area Airports, May 2014. Master’s Projects and Capstones
  2. NASA Ames Research Center, Fuel Consumption and Emissions from Airport Taxi Operations, September 2010
  3. The New York Times, Flying Is Bad for the Planet. You Can Help Make It Better, July 2017