By Guest Blogger Wendy Gibbons
Trumpeter Finches, and White Storks.
As we continued our trip exploring the dynamic cultural, historical, and political life of one of the world’s most fascinating countries, we enjoyed many new experiences, from an archaeological dig to the Western Wall and a night-time boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. Birding on the side was a nice distraction during bus rides and bathroom breaks, and I did my best to point out the more colorful species. A Eurasian Hoopoe flashed among the rocks as the bus roared through a desert rock-cut. We saw Spur-winged Lapwings prancing in a park in Tel Aviv, Rose-ringed Parakeets carousing in palm trees, and a Eurasian Jay haunting a picnic ground.
The Galilee and Jordan River area gave us a couple of more relaxed days, and I offered optional morning bird walks for a small group of 4-5 students. We meandered along the wetland, ogling easy-to-spot showstoppers such as Grey Herons, Purple Herons, Little Egrets, and Pygmy Cormorants (below, left). We even managed to snag some Whiskered Terns (below, middle), Common Moorhen, and a Graceful Prinia. Several students had already spotted the snazzy turquoise and copper White-Throated Kingfishers as they zoomed noisily above the hotel and the kids enjoyed trying to take pictures.
After the Galilee, we spent a day at Gamla Nature Preserve hiking out to the waterfall in the rain. No binocs were needed here to view the half-dozen or so Eurasian Griffon Vultures (above, right) with their 2.5-meter wingspans cruising mightily a few meters away from us off the cliffs and over the ancient valley with its Byzantine ruins.
While sheltering in place at home during the pandemic definitely puts a crimp in our birding lives, nothing stops us from fantasizing about (and perhaps even preparing for) future birding trips. If you have time, take a look at Israel (see links below). The cornucopia of cultural experiences there is paralleled by an amazing array of biological diversity.
Birding in Israel, The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel
The World of Birds and Bird Watching in Israel
Wendy Gibbons is a Bay Area science teacher at Kehillah Jewish High School.
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