Champions of the Flyway!

Friday, December 27, 2019

Northern Israel, Winter 2019 - At The Lodge (1)

Male Bluethroat, on the path just outside my room at the JVBC
As mentioned, for the first week of my stay in Northern Israel (which sadly came to an end a couple of weeks ago) I was based at the idyllic Jordan Valley Birding Center & Lodge. Working with Sheli and her team, and enjoying the relaxed, warm and friendly atmosphere so ably nurtured by them was a unique pleasure, and I've no hesitation in heartily recommending this little corner of paradise to anyone with a pair of binoculars, a camera and / or any kind of interest in birds and nature - whether absolute beginner, expert or anywhere inbetween.

The entrance to the JVBC lodge - in full flower in the middle of winter, attracting plenty of birds...
The JVBC itself nestles within Kibbutz Kfar Ruppin, a few km from the small town of Beit She'an, all set in the fertile Israeli countryside of the Jordan Valley, an area wonderfully diverse in habitat and wildlife. The Center comprises state-of-the-art conference and interpretation facilities, bird- and wildlife-filled grounds, and the lodge - a perfect place to stay and use as a base for exploring the bounty on offer both on the doorstep and further afield.

.... including this stupidly tame Clamorous Reed Warbler
Staying at the lodge hits that ideal balance: relaxed, comfortable and informal and with a real feeling of being out in the countryside, but with all the perks required - spotless rooms with free fast wifi, hot power-showers and privacy, opening out onto a central garden and communal area, and just a few steps from the lounge and dining room.

This equally tame Great Grey Shrike set up a winter territory that incorporated the lodge grounds...
Wandering around the lodge provides plenty of quality birding before you've even thought about walking, driving and exploring a little further; all the photos in this post were taken within a stone's throw of my door, and if there wasn't so much else to enjoy, I could easily have wiled away a whole week voluntarily confined to the lodge and its grounds.

... including the central communal area (Hi Sheli!)
And with fantastic choice of personalised, expert-led tours on offer - in-house bird-guide Tuvia is the man in-the-know for the area, whether you're chasing specific species, looking for a holistic experience, or both - you don't even need to lay hands on a steering wheel (bicycle handlebars are another option however).

Hoopoes are a ubiquitous presence around the lodge and kibbutz....
The following few posts (and the last couple) will hopefully provide a photo- / bird-heavy flavour of why the JVBC is the perfect place to use as a base for a mind-blowing winter birding and wildlife experience; whether as part of a longer trip, or as the axis for a range of within-striking-distance unique birding adventures.

.... as are Dead Sea Sparrows, which require almost zero effort to find (this one on the fence just outside the lodge entrance)
I really could've spent a week in the immediate surrounds, incorporating the lodge and grounds, the famous and bird-crammed fishponds, the surrounding fields and scrub, and the wetlands by the Jordanian border (all this within a few minutes of my room), but with places like the Hula Valley and Ma'agan Michael within range, I had to prioritise....

This Little Owl wasn't quite so easy to find, however, with impressive camouflage against the date palms... 
... but all in good time, with plenty of ammunition on the memory cards from the JVBC and immediate area to use first.

.... and an equally impressive 'false-face' when looking the other way.....
For more info and all contact details, visit the JVBC website here.

.... eventually proving a little more co-operative (if characteristically pissed-off-looking)
Among plenty of mammal species, Egyptian Mongoose are present around the JVBC 
Rock Agamas are constant and comedy companions wherever and whenever the sun shines