Israel is geographically placed in birdwatchers heaven. Sitting on the The Rift Valley running from Syria and Mozambique, Israel is not only poised for earthquake it is also a bridge between Europe and Africa for the millions of birds that use the warm air funnel to reach their winter or summer destinations. Every spring around April/May and every Autumn around October/November the skies are full of migrating birds. There are areas that these birds stop for a rest, in the North in the Hula valley and in the South in the Arava and Eilat. The hundreds of cranes, storks, cormorants and pelicans can also be spotted at any point between North and South.
Last week I visited the Hula valley to see who had dropped in for a pit stop.
Even if you are not a birdwatcher (which I don’t think I am), you can’t fail to be
impressed by the sheer numbers of giant birds swarming and swooping in to the drained marshlands of the Hula Valley to eat and rest before they continue their journey south for the winter. Hula Valley became a sanctuary for the migrating birds only around 10 years ago, before that the birds had been coming since the beginning of time, only these days the birds are fed (to keep them away from the crops), tracked and protected, it is also a visitors dream; where you can bike, walk or electric cart the flat paths around the shallow lakes, spotting the coypu in the waterways and the kingfishers hovering, all under a sky resonating with the calls of a thousand birds.
On our visit it was cranes that were settling down for the night, a couple of weeks ago it was the pelicans and before that the storks. There are in fact more than 230 species of birds that fly over Israel during migration seasons, some stay longer than others – rather like myself.
On my very first trip to Israel way back in ’98 I visited the Hula valley and saw storks and pelicans, I visited the Golan and saw the vultures and eagles and we also took our hire car off-roading when we spotted flamingoes in the salt pools outside Eilat. And no, I am not a birdwatcher, I don’t own a pair of binoculars but I must admit the more I see the more I am amazed by not only the birds themselves but the marvel of nature: The ability of the migrating many to know where to go, when; where to stop and when to rest and to keep doing it again and again, year in year out, for all those thousands of exhausting miles.