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The following is a list of some key birding sites in Northern Israel. All of these sites will be visited by the festival tours.
The Hula Valley – Agamon Hula and the Hula Nature Reserve
The world famous Hula Valley is a real paradise for birds and wildlife, and as such is a must for all nature lovers.
The rich fertile valley supports a huge variety of habitats from foothill Savannah, fishpond complexes, vast fields and impressive wetlands.
The Hula Valley is the natural center of events for our festival, and holds some of the best Birdwatching in Northern Israel. Therefore the weekly birding program takes in all of the Hula Valley sites in a unique and thorough way.
Agamon Hula: The Agamon Hula Park was founded and is managed by the JNF. The Agamon is an impressive park that offers ample Birdwatching opportunities in a comfortable atmosphere with fully equipped infrastructure.
The IOC operates an important Ringing Station on site and visiting birders can choose to bird the area using bicycles, electric golf carts or join the world famous Mobile-hide tour that is a truly a unique experience. Several observation lookouts are also open to the public.
During the winter months around 30,000 Common Cranes roam the valley and congregate at designated and carefully managed feeding areas in order to reduce crop damage. The sights and sounds of these impressive birds and the surroundings is what make the Hula Valley so magical. The Agamon supports over 250 species of birds including large waterfowl concentrations and excellent opportunities for viewing raptors such as Greater Spotted and Eastern Imperial eagles.
Festival visitors can choose to join a daily guided birding tour to explore the various sites or independently explore the area through one of the options listed above.
The Hula Nature Reserve: Israel's first official nature reserve and one of the most scenic and unique.
The Hula Nature Reserve is maintained by the NNPA and offers visitors a taste of the past. The reserve hosts impressive Papyrus (Paper Reed) beds and other important natural habitats for birds and wildlife. The reserve includes a series of trails, a board walk over the marsh and several observation lookout points. The Reserve is home to over 200 species of birds including local specialties like Marbled Teal and Clamorous Reed Warbler and holds large numbers of Pelicans, Cranes and Raptors during the winter.
The festival tours will visit the Reserve daily.
Mount Hermon and surroundings
With peaks of over 2200 meters above sea level, Mount Hermon is the highest point in Israel. The Hermon is part of the massive Irano- Turanian mountain range and as such boasts impressive scenery, flora, fauna and unique habitats.
Seventeen species breed nowhere else in the country and many of these can still be seen in Nov. such as Sombre Tit, Rock Bunting, Crimson-winged Finch, Syrian Serin, Syrian, Black Redstart, Rock Nuthatch, Shore Lark and Rock Thrush to name a few.
A bit lower down, the slopes surrounding the picturesque Druze village of Majdal Shams hold large numbers of seed-eaters and other Passerines in early winter and birding the orchards and plantations is a rewarding experience.
Golan Heights and the Gamla Nature Reserve
The Golan is actually a broad plateau characterized by rugged volcanic terrain and is green and lush in the fall and winter.
The Gamla Nature Reserve that is maintained by the NNPA consists of an impressive canyon and waterfall and a large area of pristine natural Garrigue and Savannah habitat. The area holds large numbers of birds of prey such as Griffon Vulture, Long-legged and Common buzzards and more.
Impressive flocks of Finches and Buntings can be found everywhere in the Golan. Some of the local specialties that can be found here in the winter include small numbers of Fire-fronted Serins and Pine Buntings.
Of the residents, Rock Bunting, Long-billed Pipits, Blue Rock Thrush and Rock Sparrows are all possible.
The Sea of Galilee and Mount Arbel National Park and Nature Reserve
The Sea of Galilee needs no introduction. The lake is world famous from a religious point of view and is quickly being discovered as a world class Birdwatching site of crucial importance. The lake’s many bays and beaches are important feeding areas for large numbers of Gulls, Terns and Waders in the winter and large numbers of Diving Ducks and Grebes can be found on the open water. A few hundred Pygmy Cormorants are regularly seen here and species like Black Francolin, Indian Silverbill, Chukar and Dead-Sea Sparrow are common.
The Ravines surrounding the lake hold many interesting species and some of these can be seen at the beautiful and impressive Mount Arbel.
The Arbel National Park and Nature Reserve, run by the NNPA, is considered by many as the most scenic spot in Northern Israel. The massive cliffs of the Arbel overlook the Sea of Galilee and the lush meadow like habitat harbors interesting species in the winter. This is the most reliable spot in Israel for the rare Wallcreeper but it is far from guaranteed. More reliable species include Blue Rock Thrush, Long-billed Pipit, Eurasian Crag Martin, Rock Sparrow and Little Swift.
Beit Shean Valley, Yizre'el Valley and Mount Gilboa
The low lying Beit Shean and Yizre'el Valleys are characterized by huge fish pond complexes and reservoirs and large expanses of agricultural fields. In late fall and winter the area holds large concentrations of birds of an impressive variety. In addition to the hundreds of Black Storks, Egrets, Spoonbills and waders the valley holds impressive numbers of Pallas's Gulls. Local species include White breasted and Pied Kingfishers, which are abundant, and Black Francolin, Dead Sea Sparrow and Clamorous Reed Warblers.
Over looking the Valleys is Mount Gilboa.
This dramatic ridge is largely undisturbed and is home to good numbers of Mountain Gazelles, Rock Hyrax and other mammals. Long-billed Pipits and Fincsh's Wheatear are found here in winter as well as Southern Grey Shrike, Long-legged Buzzard and more.
The Carmel Coast – Ma'agan Michael and En Afek Nature Reserve
The Northern Mediterranean coast holds some excellent birding sites like Ma'agan Michael and Ma'ayan Zvi Fishponds as well as some of the most beautiful and wild segments of beach in Israel. The IOC runs the new and successful Birds and Wetlands Center and Ringing Station at Ma'agan Michael. This new Birdwatching Center deals with coastal bird conservation, research and education.
The fishponds and canals around Ma'agan Michael hold large concentrations of wintering White Pelicans, Black Storks, Great White Egrets, Armenian Gulls, Terns, Ducks and waders. Good numbers of Citrine Wagtails winter here every year and are easy to see.
Further north up the coast, in the Acre
Valley lays the En Afek Nature Reserve. Operated and managed by the
NNPA, the reserve is the last remaining segment of the Na'aman
Wetlands. The reserve has a scenic boardwalk right over the water offering
excellent Birdwatching and photographic opportunities. Large numbers of
Cormorants, Pelicans, Ibis, Ducks and Waders are present in the winter
months and the extensive reed beds hold Penduline Tits, Moustached and
Cetti's Warblers and more.