Hula Valley Nature Reserve
Posted by Avital Pinnick on September 1, 2010
Continuing the theme of what I did during my summer vacation…
We visited the Hula Valley nature reserve three times, on the hottest days of the year. It was steamy!
Israel is situated in the flight migration path of many species of birds, including cranes. Tens of thousands of cranes pass over the region every year (unfortunately our vacation was didn’t coincide with the height of the crane migration, so I don’t have any photos). The Hula valley was originally a mosquito-infested swamp. It was drained in the 1950s and turned into rich agricultural land. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, we now know that this was an ecological disaster, but at the time, when so many were dying from malaria, it was a reasonable option. Huge machines dug canals to drain the water into the Kinneret. (For additional info, see Wikipedia and Jewish Virtual Library.) Vineyards and fruit orchards were planted.
In the 1990s the Hula Restoration Project was founded; a small lake called Agmon was created in 1994. It is part of the Hula Nature Reserve and is a rich breeding ground for water birds, catfish, turtles, and other wildlife.
Our first excursion was a night wildlife tour. We rode in a wagon pulled by a tractor while a guide shone a powerful light into the marsh and bushes and gave a running commentary. Since the light was very low, I’ve only posted a photo of a family of martens, but we also saw water buffalo, a lynx, two chameleons, a crab, jackal, and lots of birds. I recommend the tour if you have older children.
The following morning we rented bicycles and cycled around the lake. The area is perfectly flat and there are paths for walkers, cyclists, and golf carts. The entire route is about 8 km. Despite the heat, there were plenty of critters to photograph.
These dragonflies are a brilliant red and very difficult to photograph because they dart all over the place.
The following day we went to the southern entrance of the nature reserve. I recommend the 40 minute audio-visual presentation. Watching a bird migration film through 3D glasses while the seats move is not a common experience. After the film and displays, we walked through the steamy swamp on the boardwalk. I took photos of the bird blind, herons, and turtles. This photo of the lake has the Golan Heights in the background. It was a very hazy day.
The heron was quite a distance away but it stayed still long enough for me to switch lenses. I took this photo with a 250mm lens.
Just playing with my new 10-22mm lens. 🙂 But it is a very long bird blind.
I like a turtle with a sense of humour.