For millions of birds and watchers, Israel's Hula Valley is paradise
About 100 million bird watchers wander the globe with binoculars hanging round their necks, trying to add another rare specimen to their lists. Dan Elon is excited because a black-winged kite was sighted nesting in Israel - for the first time. The black-winged kite, a white bird with piercing red eyes and yellow legs, generally nests in the southern hemisphere, but apparently climate change has led it to nest here.
A Winter of Birds, the Hula Valley International Bird Festival, opens tomorrow and its events, centering on migrating birds, will continues for weeks. Elon, who heads the bird-watching center of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, says the festival's scientific conference will focus on the migrant birds' stopover sites. These are key areas or hot spots, Elon says, on their routes, and scientists invest much effort in understanding their tremendous significance as places where hundreds of millions of birds concentrate in high season, at the beginning of winter and summer.
Bird watchers point out several migration routes: Birds going from Western Europe to North America stop in Panama and Costa Rica. Birds flying from Western Europe to Africa stop in southern Spain. And those migrating from Eastern Europe, the Baltic states and even Scandinavia, stop in Israel. Statistics indicate more birds visit Israel than Spain. Smaller "refueling" stations may also be found in Cyprus and Malta.