Wintering with the Birds

Wintering with the Birds

Although tourists may be avoiding Israel,
birds are flocking to these shores in unprecedented numbers. Our fine-feathered
friends consider Israel an ideal spot to spend the winter. Israel is along
the major migration routes between Africa and Eurasia, with millions of birds
making the trip twice a year. All this variety comes in a small package:
the drive from north to south takes less than a day and the trip from west
to east under two hours. The most rewarding areas for birdwatching
are up north around the Hula Valley, Mount Hermon and Golan Heights, the
southern desert areas around Eilat and the shores of the Dead Sea. During
the big migrations anywhere in Israel can be a good birding spot. Even in
Jerusalem, a birdwatcher can find many species and the Jerusalem Bird Observatory
has birding walks every Monday afternoon with an English-speaking guide.

For waterfowl in northern Israel, visit
the Kinneret and the Hula Valley. These sites are popular with overwintering
birds from Eurasia. Organized birdwatching tours are available within the
Hula Valley Wetlands Nature Reserve.

The Gamla nature reserve in the southern
Golan is well-known for its population of Griffon vultures, and is an excellent
place for seeing these birds up close. The Beit Shean region is a good place
to see an interesting mixture of native and migrating birds, many attracted
by the fish ponds and fields of the surrounding agricultural villages and
kibbutzim. For some semi-tropical or desert birds, this is the northernmost
extent of their range.

Eilat, Israel’s southernmost city,
is probably the best known place for birdwatching in Israel. Situated on
the only land bridge between Africa and Asia, Eilat is a major rest stop for
birds migrating between Africa and Eurasia, as it is the first substantial
oasis after crossing the Sinai Desert.

This article is based on information
kindly provided by Leiah Elbaum.

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