Champions of the Flyway!

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Israel, spring '23 - days thirteen and fourteen

White Storks and raptors in the Hula Valley
European Bee-eater, Susita

Day thirteen (2nd April) - our last (full) day in Israel - was another warm and sunny day, ideal for our trip into the hills and mountains of the far north. Nadav, with his unrivalled local knowledge and connections throughout local communities, gave us a series of dropped pins and recommendations for the day, all of which worked out perfectly.
... and photographing Bee-eaters there
Sardinian Warbler, Susita
The drive around and then up overlooking the Sea of Galilee and the landscapes to the west was a beautiful start (supplemented by a breakfast stop at an open air cafe in a small village above its glittering waters); onwards up the hairpin bends into the most vibrant, lush, wildflower-strewn slopes you could imagine, and a long session at the (mostly) Roman, earthquake-destroyed, recently excavated city of Susita (aka Hippos).
Views of Susita, and great habitat for many species, including Blue Rock Thrush and Bee-eater
A fascinating, active archeological site up in the Golan Heights on a ridge and plateau up in the hills, we spent a happy couple of hours among the Roman ruins, columns strewn as the earthquake left them, exquisite mosaics underfoot, and birds everywhere.
Israeli/Levant Fan-footed Gecko - an area endemic
We meandered north further into the beautiful Golan Heights, making stops whenever and wherever (including killer falafel at an out-of-the-way joint in a druze border town - thanks Nadav!), and just soaking up the vibrant beauty of the area, before making it most of the way up Mount Hermon for mid-afternoon.
The upper slopes of Mount Hermon

Then, it was back down into the valley, for an amazing evening session - and an even more amazing morning session on our last day (fourteen, 3rd April) - around the hotspots of the Hula, with Nadav. We toured all the best birding spots and were treated to multitudes of birds (and species) - 

One or two Cranes and a Greater Spotted Eagle in the Hula valley
- from thousands of Cranes, Storks and Kites, masses of waterbirds (including many Pygmy Cormorants, Glossy Ibises & Marbled Ducks), multitudes of herons (including Squaccos, Purples, Night-herons), kingfishers, Black Francolins.....
... and one or two White Storks
... Lesser Kestrels, lots of warblers, Yellow Wagtails, Red-throated and Tree Pipits, Nightingales, various hirundines, Pallid Harrier, lots of waders... in fact, too much to mention; birds just everywhere, and usually up close in perfect light. What a place. 
Quick plug - all these areas in the Hula will feature heavily within our Birding the Valleys of Dreams tour in December, when it's even more bird-filled!.... check it out here if you fancy a mind-blowing winter break: YCN Northern Israel Dec 2023 

More European Bee-eaters - but never too many

A fitting climax to a truly wonderful trip. Thanks to everyone who made it so special - I'll post about the Homo sapiens highlights in due course ;-)
One of two Demoiselle Cranes at the front of a flock at Agamon
More Storks and raptors in the Hula
Marbled Duck (above) and Glossy Ibis (below)
White-throated Kingfisher (above), Marbled Ducks (below)
Squacco Heron (above), Pygmy Cormorant (below)