At least 500 million birds pass through Israel's skies twice a year during the migration season. In the fall, they make their way south to Africa and in the spring they return to Europe to mate and reproduce. Israel is located on a central migratory path, attracting both professional and amateur birders, photographers and experts from all over the world to see the natural wonder.
Bird watching and the institution of birding have grown out of the exciting migration phenomenon, the understanding that the birds are a global asset and that mankind is responsible for preserving it for the next generation.
Israel has become a "birding superpower" and an entire recreation culture has been born of the love of the birds, nurturing bird appreciation among both locals and tourists.
Bird lovers visiting Israel enjoy a variety of events and activities. Scattered along the migration route are several main bird watching sites, starting with Lake Hula in the Upper Galilee, through the Beit Shean Valley's Kfar Rupin, Jerusalem and the Arava desert north of the Red Sea port city of Eilat.
These centers include telescopes and conduct guided tours. The most important of Israel's several bird research centers is Tel Aviv University's International Center for the Study of Bird Migration at Latrun, which uses radar to track the birds, and updates the birds’ movements on the center's website.
The biannual event has become the focal point for a large number of activities and special events that take place in many places in Israel during the migration period, promoting bird watching as one of Israel's popular tourism sectors.
One can hike in the birds' tracks, enjoy guided tours of the habitats, hear lectures on ornithology, watch documentaries on migration, attend bird photography workshops in nature, and actually ring birds for research purposes.
In the Israeli fall and spring, one only has to raise one's eyes skyward to see the crowds and formations crossing the region. With horizons full of flocks, it is well worth while to stop at the popular birding sites and nature reserves to see the birds landing and seeking food, rest and a place for the night. The birds attract dozens and even hundreds of birders, binoculars in hand, watching the greatest show in town. Join the experience and learn about the cranes, storks, falcons, eagles, wagtails and pelicans and 300 more birds that visit Israel every year.
The photos are courtesy of JNF Photo Archive