Nestled a short distance north from the Sea of Galilee is the Hula Valley, Israel’s premier bird watching region, which has gained global recognition in recent years drawing visitors and researchers from all over the world. Known as the notorious “malaria swamp” during the early years of the 1900’s, the valley was drained by Jewish pioneers (at great human cost) who claimed and replenished it, creating a lush and fertile valley. The newly developed nature reserve and research center is so popular globally that some have named it “the world’s eighth wonder” with more than 500 million migrating birds passing through Israel each year on their way from Europe and northern Asia to Africa. This incredible wave of flying creatures features more than 500 observable bird species, with new species discovered almost every year.
These species include Eagles, Sparrowhawks, White Storks, Black Storks, Spotted Eagles, Great White Pelicans, Cranes, Hume’s Tawny Owl and a whole lot more. Most of these birds leave Europe in the autumn on their way to Africa, making the long journey back in the spring. For some species, nearly their entire global population moves through Israel during the migration season and huge numbers of birds can be seen overhead. A muster (group) of no fewer than 8,700 storks was spotted flying over the Beit She’an Valley, the largest muster of this species ever seen anywhere. These storks are attracted to the commercial fishponds in the Valley.
Where do these 500 million birds feed? Though the region has undergone deep changes due to Israel’s development activities during the last 100 years involving new roads, industry, new construction and shrinking natural water sources, new and rich food sources have also appeared. Many fishponds, rich agriculture and multiple waste-disposal sites serve the migrating population as “modern day refueling stops” from the north of Israel to Eilat in the south. Naturally, with 500 million beaks to feed, the demand creates frequent conflicts with Israeli fish and crop farmers, and, in order to solve this predicament, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority operates special reservoirs overfilled with fish and specialty grown crop fields to attract Pelicans (and other water fowl) away from commercial fishponds.
There is also a human miracle taking place right alongside the ecological, biological and migratory one. Not only are thousands of birdwatchers arriving to Israel at this time of year to observe and study the phenomenon, this unparalleled bird migration also creates collaboration and cooperation between birdwatchers and agencies in Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, “rising above” the divisions and conflicts that have typified the Middle East for so long.
German journalist and photographer Thomas Krumenacker, a leading birdwatcher and researcher, concluded that the presence of these birds in Israel indicates the quality of the local ecology. If the birds arrive in such numbers, he argues, then a complete food chain is active, confirming the presence of an entire healthy ecological system. One more indication from natural science pointing to the miraculous restoration and healing of the land of Israel during this profound chapter of biblical history.
Join us in Israel for a trip of a lifetime and see for yourself the miracle of the Hula Valley.
God bless you,