The squills are already flowering on the side of the road, and the scent of the earth, which is longing for the first rains, is wafting in the wind. The pomegranate trees are bending under the weight of their fruit as the last fruits of summer are picked. These days of forgiveness bring new beginnings, grace and magic.
The north winds bring the first storks as they rush to warmer countries. In giant flocks, they whirl with the warm winds in silent flight, in wondrous disarray, onward to faraway Africa. Towards evening the storks will descend for a rest at the Hula Lake, maybe also for supper in the fields of the Hula Valley, and at nightfall they will gather on the towering eucalyptus trees to spend the night, whispering, tapping their beaks, good night.
More than half a billion birds leave their homes in the northern lands and take off on the brave flight south. The importance of Israel for these millions of birds, particularly the Hula Lake, is crucial. Later on their journey, they will be crossing many deserts - Sinai, the deserts of Egypt and the Sahara, and facing many days without food or water. The Hula Lake is like a fueling station of vital importance for the success of their migration. The migrating birds stop at the Hula to replenish the fat reserves in their body (fuel), which will serve them during the hard days and will help them survive the arduous journey.
Most birds migrate at night, and all that attests to their arrival in our vicinity are the cries and the song from the grasses and the trees. A flash of turquoise discloses the kingfisher, a quick running in the grass is none other than the yellow wagtail. At sunrise the lake is full of new guests, the sad wailing of the Eurasian curlew, the plovers congregating in the shallows looking for grub, spoonbills and ibis fishing for food from the floor of the lake with their fancy beaks, and the grey herons, very quietly waiting to ambush their prey, motionless and with infinite patience, until they stretch out their long necks and quickly swallow the fish whole.
Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
Swimming leisurely in their midst are all kinds of ducks, some of them autumn visitors, like the garganey, and others that will be staying for the winter, like the teals, the northern shovelers, the mallards, and the coots, which look like ducks, in their flocks of dozens, running on the surface of the water at any sign of danger.
In the sky, in flocks of thousands, European honey-buzzards, black kites and other birds of prey are gliding, ascending and descending on the wind currents, stopping to dine on rodents in the fields and helping the farmers eliminate those pests. Marsh harriers are practicing their flight patterns above the dense vegetation, and ospreys are diving impressively in the water and fishing with great skill. As the days get colder, the great eagles will be arriving—the greater spotted eagles and the magnificent imperial eagles, the long legged buzzards and the great white-tailed eagles. The Hula Lake is one of the only places in the world where so many eagles of so many species can be seen.
Now it is time for the largest birds, the pelicans, hundreds and thousands of them, arriving from the Danube estuary and landing on the water of the Hula Lake. The pelican is the largest bird that migrates this way, and its wingspan can reach up to three meters. The common pelican is an endangered species all over the world, and all of them migrate through Israel.
At the same time, there is another migration, almost in secret, almost unknown. Tens of thousands of butterflies are arriving at the Hula from faraway Africa. African Monarchs color the Hula bright orange, flitting between the aquatic plants dripping with sweet nectar, eager to lay their eggs on the host plants and return to warmer lands as the days get colder. The Monarchs can be seen mainly in the botanical garden for marsh plants and hydrophytes.
Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
It starts with a call, one call from far away. Everyone quickly looks up at the sky to see the first cranes. Another call, and another, and by now you cannot miss the vast flocks, family by family, returning with their new young. The party has begun! The cranes, those royal and splendid birds, are arriving from Russia and Finland, from distant tundra regions. Most will be proceeding to Africa to spend the winter in Ethiopia or Sudan, but more than 30,000 will be staying here with us for the winter. Cranes are famous for their loud cries and for being monogamous (having lifelong mates). They stay with their young for a long period of time, almost a year, and some people claim that each large flock is actually an extended family. This behavior has made the crane symbolize faithfulness, longevity and health in many cultures.
The sun is setting behind the mountains of the Galilee, and from all reaches of the valley, the cranes, tens of thousands of them, gather to spend the night at the Hula Lake. With their loud cries and their majestic flight against the colors of the sunset, this is one of the most enchanting and extraordinary spectacles in the world.
The Hula Lake staff invites you to experience the magic of unblemished nature and many diverse attractions. There are various bicycles and electric carts available for touring the site, guided tours in the mystery wagon and special sunrise and sunset excursions for photographers and the general public. Hula Lake was developed and is maintained thanks to the support of friends of KKL-JNF worldwide, among them: Canada, Australia, Germany and Switzerland.