Hula Valley Nature Reserve, Spring 2011
Posted by Avital Pinnick on April 20, 2011
My husband and I went north to the Hula Valley Lake a couple weeks ago. It’s an amazing place for photographing birds and flowers. Spring is a great time to watch birds on migration, although we were a bit late for most of the birds. In the 1950s, the Hula area was infested with malaria-bearing mosquitoes and was drained to create agricultural land. With 20-20 hindsight, it is generally agreed that this was not a good thing, to put it mildly. Although the area is still the fruit basket of Israel, sections are gradually being returned to a more natural eco-system. You can read a detailed history of the Hula Valley development here. Wikipedia has a brief article on the Hula region.
There are two nature reserves. Since our time was limited and we don’t own a car, we went to the Agmon Lake reserve for four hours. It is open from 10 a.m. until sundown, rain or shine, although a guide told me that if the weather is unusually stormy, they do close the park. If it’s raining lightly, the park is open. It’s a very good time to view birds because they behave quite differently from the way they do during hot, muggy summer weather, splashing around in puddles. This part of the nature reserve has no admission charge, although they put out containers for collecting donations to save the cranes. You can rent binoculars and borrow laminated bird guides.
The lake is fairly small. You can walk around the lake or rent a bicycle or electric golf cart (requires a driver’s license). We rented a bicycle cart for three, because it provides a lot more space for carrying bags.
However, you can rent this bicycle for six, if you’re a very energetic peddler!
The first stop is the wetlands area, with ducks and water plants.
At this time of year there are lots of cranes. I took these photos when some of them flew directly overhead.
This pied kingfisher caught my eye because it looked like a little helicopter. It hovers over water and dives to capture its prey.
Lapwings are abundant but they’re not easy to get close to. I photographed this one with a 250mm lens just as it turned towards me, with the catch-light glinting on its eye. That was a lucky shot because normally these birds aren’t very photogenic. I have tons of boring lapwing photos.
The European Bee-eaters arrived a week before our trip. They’re beautiful birds and not easy to photograph because they move quickly and stay very far from people. I photographed these birds on a bare tree and had to crop quite a bit because they were on the other side of a stream.
Cattle egrets (herons) in flight. Normally they have long curved necks, but they tuck them in when they’re flying.
Crested lark standing on the edge of the road. They’re completely brown, which makes them very hard to photograph against the plants. Good camouflage!
And of course we have to include the mandatory flower photos….
Bee on a mustard flower.
Holy Thistle, also called milk thistle.