November 22, 2016

Birds Know No Borders

“Make sure you’re there for sunset.”

That’s what we were told as we made our way to the Agamon Nature Reserve in the Hula Valley.

Fall and spring are prime time for viewing the incredible bird migration that passes through Israel.  Some 500 million birds pass through Israel from Europe and Asia to Africa and back again in the spring.

Of these plentiful visitors, 100,000 are Eurasian cranes. There are so many coming for R&R in the Hula Valley, this is one of the world’s largest concentration of cranes.  It’s one thing to read the statistics and quite another to actually be there.

We eagerly stood in line to get our binoculars and soon headed off in our golf cart, following the trail signs. It was 4pm. The trail wound through lush treed areas and past marshy pools.

Our first sighting!  We pulled over to  observe a white pelican hanging out, taking in the last rays of sun. 

We saw fat yet famished furry creatures called nutria (or coypu), the Israeli form of a beaver. 

Spur-winged plovers, with their striking black and white tuxedo like markings, busied themselves on the shore. The Mallard Ducks seems headless, obsessively nibbling on underwater dinner, displaying only their fluffy rears.  We saw turtles playing Yertle, claiming a mini fiefdom of mud poking from the middle of the lake. Just being, well,  turtles.

Catching a burst of blue, we focused our binoculars on a tree and saw two kingfishers with flashy turquoise wings staring back at us.

We heard some rustling and saw two wild boar in the bushes across the water. (Close enough to see but enough distance to feel secure!)

It was quickly becoming dark and we heard honking sounds from above. 

The cranes. 

They were flying in formation and coming in quickly from all directions. They filled the skies with their calls, circling the lake and pulling out their long legs to make a perfect landing in the very crowded water. 

Like ballet slippers brushing the stage, they barely made a ripple on the lake. (If only I could park my car so effortlessly.) The cranes sailed to a sweet sleeping spot by the rushes and tucked in their wings for the night.

We had heard a guide explain that the cranes prefer to roost in water as the temperature at night is warmer than the air.

As we looked up a second time, we saw the sky almost blackened against the orange-streaked clouds as the sun set behind the mountains. 

The birds continued to come. We pointed up and shouted. “Here.” “And here.” Our necks strained as we tried to spot one flock. And then another. We snapped photos and video, yet this did not capture the power and concentration of these majestic birds.

They are on a huge trip from Europe heading all the way to Africa and are enjoying a well-deserved break to rest and feed. The Hula has become one popular bed and breakfast for birds. I quickly concluded that if I were a crane, I would just stay put paddling around these warm tropical marshes. Nice digs!

We were in awe; at a juncture when nature is so overwhelmingly majestic, words are not sufficient. Get a piece of the beauty and the intensity of sound on this Hula Valley video of our visit.

This powerful moment may have lasted just 10 minutes. And then it was dark. And quiet. And our golf cart was overdue!

We zipped back in darkness, not knowing where our cart’s headlights were. The park was so tranquil and serene after the incredible bed-time ritual of these birds.

I wish them all a safe trip to Africa, but know that dangers await these migrating birds. There are collisions with aircraft and poisonings caused by agriculture.

Yet is comes as not surprise that Israel is taking this to heart and finding solutions. One ornithologist, Dr. Yossi Leshem, has devised ways to reduce the deaths of these birds. He has studied the migratory patterns up close and has helped reduce air collisions with birds by 90 per cent. He has set up radar systems that are in constant contact with the IDF air force.

He is also developing cooperation with our neighbours so that they too can protect this incredible natural phenomenon. You will be inspired as you watch the two videos about his progress. 

His work is of utmost importance because, unlike the political world, birds know no borders. If only we could all learn this, we too could soar!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments are always welcome.