Yoav Perlman grew up in Israel, one of the best places in the world to witness and study bird migration. Yoav started birding at the tender age of nine, and started working professionally for BirdLife Israel when he was a teenager. He is now the Scientific Director of this organisation. Four years of living in the UK, studying for his PhD in conservation ecology, have upped his international expertise and networking, and now he is one of the more prominent birders in Europe and his detailed knowledge of bird identification is often put to the test. He started guiding for bird clubs when he was very young and this progressed to leading tours to various destinations around the globe. Yoav has always been motivated to show people birds and interpret fascinating wildlife phenomena and this passion has led him to dedicate a few months every year to leading tours for Rockjumper and we are very proud to welcome Yoav to our team.
What got you into birding?
My brother. He had started birding a couple of years before I did, and as an annoying young brother I tagged along and joined him wherever he went. My brother is still in the business, as co-director of the Jerusalem Bird Observatory. Since I started birding, as a kid, I was fascinated by the power of migration, and by the rich avian diversity found in every corner in Israel, even inside my hometown, Jerusalem. From a very young age I was super interested in identification, and started searching for and finding rarities when I was 12. Since I was a teenager, I took birding up a level, and started working as a guide and in surveys. I very soon understood that’s what I want to do when I grow up. Luckily, I still work in the profession I love so much, and it gives me pleasure.
What attracted you to a career in tourism?
I started guiding in bird clubs and then tours when I was very young. It always excited me to show people new and fascinating wildlife phenomena. It also allowed me to appreciate again common but beautiful birds that, as a rarity hunter, one tends to ignore. After living in the UK, I opened to the world even more, and I am very happy to join the Rockjumper family.
Do you have any other hobbies?
Well, I live, eat, drink and dream birds. I have three young children and a dog, which leaves little time for hobbies. However, I enjoy cycling, hiking (with bins around my neck) and good food.
Are you a keen bird photographer?
Yes, I am. You will always find me with my big camera on my shoulder, even when I’m tour leading. As a conservationist, I appreciate the importance of a good photo. And if it’s mine – even better! I am an ‘opportunistic’ photographer: I don’t sit in hides for days on end. I’d rather walk or drive around and photograph what I encounter. I have good field skills so I manage to get decent photos I think. I especially enjoy photographing rarities and identification challenges.
Are you a lister?
I am very keen on my Israeli list. Before leaving to the UK I was in the top three, but dropped down a few places while I was away. Now it’s time to catch up! Apart from that, I keep a Western Palearctic list, but I am not that keen on it. I’d rather spend my birding holidays outside of the Western Palearctic, where I can get some proper birding done. When I lived in the UK, I did twitch a bit but not massively, only birds that really caught my attention. I don’t really keep a world list. I try to record all my birds on eBird, and that allows me to track how many birds I have seen. I am really interested in taxonomy and identification, so I guess listing is part of the game.
What are your strengths as a tour leader?
I am a very passionate tour leader, and take it very seriously to make sure that all my participants get to see the birds. I work hard on tours! I am pretty good at spotting birds, and try not to fail with target species. I think that tour participants like me. I try to make sure that also after the birding day is done, all my participants are happy and are well-attended. Because of my varied experience and background in conservation, professional birding and academic research, I think I can engage in an interesting conversation.
Learn more about Yoav here: http://www.yoavperlman.com/