Counting Birds in Israel

From the Jerusalem Post:

Volunteering for the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel’s annual survey of migrating birds in Israel’s skies is not for the novice bird-watcher. First, the watcher has to spot the flecks hundreds of meters up in the air, then identify them and then estimate their numbers – all while the birds are flying overhead at around 50 km per hour.
For experienced bird-watchers, like Nico Noondhof and Erwin Booij – who flew here from the Netherlands especially to volunteer for the survey – it is a chance to see flocks of eagles and pelicans that simply do not grace the skies of any other country in such numbers.
“It’s amazing,” Noondhof told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday, in a field near Nahalal in the Jezreel Valley. Outfitted with his own equipment – telescope, binoculars and camping chair – Noondhof has been counting birds of prey and pelicans for hours on end daily.
Noondhof has traveled widely to watch birds, throughout Europe and Asia and the Middle East, “but it cannot compare to Israel during the migrating season.”
In the few hours during which the Post joined the survey line, 700-800 eagles flew by and about 2,200 pelicans winged their way south in one giant flock.
On Tuesday, survey project coordinator Jonathan Meyrav was constantly on the phone to his contact in the air force, warning him of impending flocks. The birds are tracked from the Hula Valley in the North down through the Jezreel Valley. The air force plans its take-offs and landings from the nearby base as best it can in light of Meyrav’s reports.
At one point, the planes didn’t take off at all as the pelicans flew by. At another, they took off the other way to avoid the birds. And at still another point, they took off into the birds’ flight paths but then banked sharply away, to train in another area of sky.
Israel is in a unique position to observe bird migrations, as it is a way station between Europe and Asia and Africa. Over 500,000 birds traverse its length each season.
It is the only place in the world to see so many birds of prey, like the greater spotted eagle, the lesser spotted eagle, the kite and others, as well as pelicans flying over, Dan Alon, who coordinates all of SPNI’s birding centers explained.

The complete article is here.

Birds near Jordan River north of Sea of Galilee, tb032807101

Birds above Jordan River north of the Sea of Galilee

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