Pelicans, cranes, vultures, and hundreds of other fowl are arriving in Israel these days. Over the next few weeks, engage in a variety of spectacular bird watching and other activities around the Galilee.

By City Mouse Online and Shelly Elazaer | Nov.22, 2012

Every winter thousands of birds arrive in Israel. Most only stop to rest and continue on their southward migration, but many stay. In honor of the occasion, the international birding festival A Winter of Birds will be held from November 23 through December 12 at assorted nature reserves. There are many ways to demonstrate your bird love and engage with like-minded avian enthusiasts. Among the events planned are a professional conference on cranes, a crane race, birding cruise, historical tours in the Lake Kinneret region, hikes around prime birding sites, dramatized tours, twilight tours, sunrise tours, an event at Lake Baruch, a conference for tour promoters, a poetry night on the subject of birds, and more.

Opening and closing events

The opening and closing events of the festival will take place at the Ein Afek Nature Reserve on Saturday, December 1 and Saturday, December 15. There will be a musical show, “Tzlilim Mesaprim,” and participatory bird ringing. Everyone is invited to come and enjoy the water landscapes, walk among the plants, and cross wooden bridges that wind among the water pools, get acquainted up close with the phenomenon of migration and the methods of capturing birds, and get introduced to the nature reserve through guided tours that focus on the water’s importance to the animal and plant life.

Where: Ein Afek Nature Reserve

When: Saturday, December 1; Saturday, December 15

Not just for the birds

As part of the festival, Yossi Ashbol’s exhibition, “Wild Land” is on display at the Museum of Photography in Tel Hai, presenting new photographs alongside earlier ones. Most of the photographs in the show were taken at Agamon Hula in the past few years as part of a personal project to document the reviving wildlife there, with the help of Jewish National Fund employees and Agamon Hula’s management. Ashbol’s photographs document the lifestyles and daily activity of a range of wild animals – the life and death cycles of predator and prey. The migration phenomenon of large fowl such as pelicans and cranes is shown in blow-ups that take up a good part of the display.

Where: Open Museum of Photography, Tel Hai

When: November 11 through December 23

Further information: 04-681-6702

Welcoming Shabbat opposite the Gilead Mountains

At Makor Hahasida, the international birdwatching center in Kibbutz Kfar Ruppin, there will be a short afternoon walking tour to view the impressive landscape of Geon Hayarden and the Gilead mountains, accompanied by festive candle lighting and local refreshments, stories about the place, the border of peace with Jordan, and the kibbutz’s renewal.

Where: Makor Hahasida

When: Fridays at 3 P.M. Tours depart Saturdays at 10:30 A.M.

On eagles’ wings at Gamla Nature Reserve

Visitors to the Gamla Nature Reserve will find a wonderful combination of nature and remnants from the past. The reserve has a unique, world-class concentration of birds of prey, some of them rare, as well as an architectural structure of the earliest known synagogue in the world. This month there will be special guided sessions explaining the personal story of the reserve’s vultures and the adventures they endured to stay on the reserve’s cliffs.

Where: Gamla Nature Reserve

When: Fridays and Saturdays at 10 A.M., 12 P.M., 2 P.M.

Cost: Park admission fee

Photographed birds

The in-house birdwatchers of the Ein Afek Nature Reserve, who spent years capturing the rich and wondrous world of birding at Ein Afek on camera, present an array of photographs that taken on the reserve. The exhibition opening includes a lecture by the photographers. The exhibition itself will be open for the duration of the festival.

Where: Ein Afek Nature Reserve

When: Friday, November 30 at 11:30 A.M.

Registration and further information: 04-877-9992

Birds at Twilight

A twilight tour of the Ein Afek Nature Reserve will show visitors the spectacular sights of sleeping Cattle Egrets, Little Egrets, and cormorants on the tamarisk and willow trees in the heart of the big lake. In addition, there will be a sunset tour among the water pools and swamp paths.

Where: Ein Afek Nature Reserve

When: Fridays, 2:30-5 P.M

Registration and further information: 04-877-9992

Bird celebration at Agamon Hula Tourism Park

Upon the cranes’ arrival from the cold climes, visitors will welcome them on a guided walking tour among the peat lands, the planted allotments in the lake, and the bird observatories built by the Jewish National Fund. The guide will recount the story of how the swamps were drained and later re-flooded, and also about cranes and other birds. The tour lasts about three hours.

Where: Agamon Hula

When: Friday and Saturday, November 30 and December 1, December 7 and 8, December 14 and 15, at 10 A.M. (Saturdays only) and 1 P.M.

Cost: NIS 10 per person. Includes taking part in the project to feed the cranes.

Registration and further information: 1-800-350-550

In constant migration: the crane race

The crane race, scheduled to take place at Agamon Hula, is designed to increase awareness about bird preservation in general and of cranes in particular. Profits from the race (if it yields any) will go toward the crane project at Agamon Hula. There will be three heats: 10 kilometers, five kilometers, and two kilometers. A closing awards ceremony will be held at 10 A.M.

Where: Hula Nature Reserve

When: Friday, November 30, starting at 8:30 A.M.

Cost: Payment is through the Web site

Registration and information: *3639

Tours, bird watching, and crafts at Snir Stream

Hands-on activity that includes a tour to a bird observatory where visitors can bird watch from a concealed spot overlooking the reservoir and engage in some fun arts and crafts workshops for making birds and mobiles out of natural materials.

Where: Snir Stream Nature Reserve

When: Saturday, December 8 and 12

Further information and payment: *3639

Bees vs. bee-eaters

As part of the Winter of Birds festival there will be a photography exhibition at the silk and honey farm Dvorat Ha’Tavor featuring pictures of bee-eaters by professional and amateur bird photographers. Sometimes your enemy is so gorgeous that you have a hard time being angry with him. That is how it is between the beekeepers and bee-eaters. The bee-eater is a bird that feeds on flying insects, primarily from the bee family. A flock of bee-eaters can do serious damage to a beehive, but beekeepers would never harm the bee-eaters, mainly out of great appreciation for their beauty.

Where: Dvorat Ha’Tavor, Moshav Shadmot Dvora

When: November 27 through December 18

Further information: 04-676-9598