Sunday, March 19, 2017

Hodgepodge 141/365 - Birds

White-throated kingfisher
We spent the morning at the premier birding site in Israel, Agamon Hula: a moderate-sized lake surrounded by fields in the flat Jordan River rift valley. The first thing we saw—and heard (they're noisy!)—was dozens, if not hundreds, of common cranes (Grus grus) taking flight. We also saw many (silent) white storks (Ciconia ciconia). These big migrating birds circle and swoop, riding thermals, heading north—ultimately to Europe, where they will nest. I've seen the cranes as far north as central Norway, though I believe this flyway will take the birds from the southern Arabian Peninsula up into Russia. At Agamon Hula we also saw avocets, various kinds of ducks, buzzards, glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinellus), spoonbills, egrets, and one white-throated kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis), which thrilled me no end.

Yesterday we visited Gamla, just east of the Sea of Galilee, which is home to the endangered griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus). That is a sad story of competition between human farmers and wolves, with the vultures as the by-kill in a poisoning war. The birds' population is dropping rapidly as a result. As one farmer said, the conservationists will need to choose: either wolves or vultures. The conservationists want to continue trying to keep both populations alive. They currently are engaged in captive breeding programs but are reluctant to take the ultimate step of removing all the vultures from the wild, as was done with the California condors, among other populations.

Griffon vulture at Gamla
We got very lucky and saw many griffon and the more common Egyptian vultures (Neophron percnopterus) flying along the cliffs where they should, by all rights, be nesting at the moment. But this year has proved a bust for breeding here. They were far away, and it's difficult to appreciate the magnificent beauty of these birds with their eight-foot wing span from afar. But it was thrilling to see them in flight, at the very least. A privilege. I do hope they survive.

And not to forget the half dozen or dozen peafowl that are wandering around the grounds at the Gonen Kibbutz hotel, screaming at random intervals. I did run into one cock rattling his feathers magnificently at a hen, who was paying him no mind at all. Poor guy. But maybe she relented after she'd gotten her fill of grubs and bugs.

The one bird I really want to see here in Israel is the national bird, the hoopoe. Apparently the group that went walking along the Yarkon River in Tel Aviv on our first full day saw them. But I haven't seen any yet. I'd better! But for now . . . patience, patience. A hoopoe my way will come.

1 comment:

  1. Birding! How fun. I recently heard it's now the hipster thing to do. Love the kingfisher image!