The graceful warbler (pashosh) could be the national bird if Blich High School students represent an accurate sample of public opinion. During mock elections on Wednesday at the high school, which has accurately predicted prime ministers in the past, the graceful warbler came in first with about 25 percent of the 1,500 votes. The hoopoe came in a close second with 22% of the vote, while the lesser kestrel came in third with 11%. The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) organized the event, as well as the real elections, as part of the 60th anniversary celebrations for Israel. The gala event at the high school began with a simulated Hyde Park-like speakers' corner, where 10 students got up on their soapboxes to lobby for their bird against the other nine finalists. Circulating among the crowd were Education Minister Yuli Tamir and Environmental Protection Minister Gideon Ezra. "The colorful and moving activities here at Blich reflect the great involvement of the students and are a unique lesson in citizenship and nature. The fascinating process that the students underwent, closely guided by SPNI, places the need to protect the environment, and the opportunity for every student to influence the environment in which they live, front and center," Tamir said. SPNI ornithologists spent the last three months educating the students. According to SPNI's Dr. Yossi Leshem and Dan Alon, the initiators of the project, choosing a national bird raises public awareness of Israel's birds and helps protect them. The list of 10 finalists was chosen on Hanukka by 1,000 ornithologists and nature lovers. The finalists are: the hoopoe, the yellow tufted sunbird (a.k.a., Palestine sunbird), the barn owl, the lesser kestrel, the yellow vented bulbul, the griffin vulture, the European goldfinch, the spur-winged plover, the graceful warbler and the white-breasted kingfisher. The public may vote for their favorite at SPNI's Web site: www.teva.org.il/leumit. The winner will be announced over Pessah.