During the autum migration, millions of birds fly from Europe and Russia to the warmer southern hemisphere. The Hula Valley  is an important resting place and even wintering  ground for thousands of birds.
Together with Terry and Carol we joined the hundreds of Israelis who came to see this wonderful spectacle. Early Friday morning we choose bicyles among a range of  fun vehicles from Mark at Fun B'Ofan (050-7700772 / 04-6904060) and proceeded to cycle around the Agamon, that part of the Hula that was reflooded  about 10 years ago, and is now a nature reserve. In addition to birdwatching at the blinds and lookout points we stopped to hear fascinating explanations from the bird ringers in the field. In the morning we saw over 1,000 pelicans in the lake.

Although we thought that we would be back at our zimmer (B&B) at Yesod Hama'ala within an hour or two, we stayed much longer and only the thought of missing out on a delicious breakfast spurred us to leave the lake and return to Yesod Hama'ala. Yesod Hama'ala was the first settlement to be built in the Hula Valley, in 1883, but the malarial swamps prevented further settlement for a further 50 years. The papyrus is an important plant in the wetlands.

Below Terry is seen riding past one of the open water channels that help drain the lake and also help keep it wet as necessary, while Carol and I stop again to look at some birds. The Hula was a malarial swamp and many people died of malaria in the pre-State period. With the introduction of DDT in 1945, malaria was eradicated. One of the early national projects of the young State of Israel was to drain the swamps in the 1950's. This was done by digging a series of  channels  to draw the water westward and then detonating the 'plug' of volcanic material that prevented the water from flowing down to the Sea of Galilee. The hope was that this enormous area would result in much fertile agricultural land. The dried peat proved problematic: underground fires smouldered for months at a time and the dried peat would crack and sink. The increase in nitrates from fertilizers caused algae blooms and other problems in the Sea of Galilee. In 1994 the Agamon was created by reflooding part of the Hula. One of the best results was the return of many birds.

Late afternoon is an enchanting time. The pelicans had moved south but we saw thousands of Cranes (Agurim) landing in the Agamon for the night.We believe we saw all 20,000 cranes that evening, some flying in families and others in clouds.We also saw many cormorants, flamingos, herons, egrets, songbirds,a variety of ducks, water buffalo and water rats (nutriot)

The following morning we went on a hike near the Lebanese border. As we walked down Nahal Gush Halav we saw many Arab families spreading plastic sheets to catch the olives. They will later take the olives to an olive press.  Below Carol, Terry and I discuss the route as we stand in the dry riverbed of Nahal Dishon.

A long haul uphill brought us back to the Christian Arab town of Jish/Gush Halav and we were happy to sit for the camera and rest our weary legs. A great end to a great weekend.

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