Saturday, March 17, 2012

Revitalization of a drained swamp--the Hula

On a cold and rainy day last week our tour guide took us to the Agamon Hula Ornithology (Bird Watching) and Nature Park.
It lies in the Great Rift Valley and is north of the Sea of Galilee.

At the big Visitor Center were some of the quiet modes of transportation permitted in this special nature reserve, like this family bicycle complete with a baby seat in the middle.

Our group of 37 would go in a safari wagon, seen here from the back.
The man on the tractor doubles as driver and guide.
At sensitive places he whispers into the microphone.

It had been raining a lot and we had to ford this flooded spot on the track.

A few rays of sunlight broke through and painted the distant hills of Naftali a bright green.

And created a rainbow too!

We sighted our first birds up over the papyrus.

A flock of small birds looked so pretty against the dark background of clouds and mountains.

Finally we came to the Crane Observatory where the standing cranes made a nice reflection for Weekend Reflections and Camera-Critters.
Go ahead, enlarge the photo, enjoy!

Our safari wagon sat quietly for a while, but when we inched forward, the cranes knew their limit and took off.
It was exhilarating to see and hear these big birds fly right past us!
Twice a year 500 million (!) waterfowl, birds of prey, and song birds from 400 species fly over this area on their great migration between Europe and Africa.
As the brochures says, "The crane is the king of the Hula. In the autumn more than 100,000 cranes fly over the Hula Valley and a quarter of them winter here and fill it with their cheerful uproar."
In the pre-State years many pioneers in this region got malaria from what was seen as "the malaria-ridden swamps of the Hula" and in the 1950 the Jewish National Fund/Keren Kayemet drained the lake.
Back then, projects like this were seen as part of the great Zionist endeavor of "redeeming the land." (See a good explanation here.)
However, the mistake of tampering with nature in the Hula Valley soon became apparent as newly dried underground peat deposits ignited into smoldering fires that defied all extinguishers' efforts and rendered much of the area unsuitable for cultivation.
And phosphates and nitrates in the earth were washed into the Sea of Galilee, polluting its water.
So the JNF/KKL went back and reflooded part of the valley in 1995 and annexed it to an existing nature reserve.

This is what some Israelis sarcastically call "redeeming the land from the redeemers."
For more details see Wikipedia and/or the Hula Reserve page.
The park that you see in my photos even has a Facebook page called Agamon Hula.
More about my 4-day guided tour in the North in the coming days.


Pat said...

So do they now do mosquito abatement in the Hula Valley? It's a gorgeous nature park. I love the shot of the cranes and their reflections and of the birds in flight.

Tatjana Parkacheva said...

Very interesting post.

Regards and best wishes

Pat said...

What a wonderful place to go birding! Great shots.

Kay said...

This was so very interesting, Dina! It must have been such a fabulous feeling to see those big, beautiful birds take off. What a wonderful experience!

Anonymous said...

oh wonderful piece of earth that is. thank you for this journey very much. please have a good sunday ahead.

Hels said...

My grandmother lived in Palestine before the state, and so I grew up on stories about pioneering, draining the Hula swamps, fighting off malaria and building a healthy young population. I don't think I even knew what malaria was or whether the Hula was in central Tel Aviv. But I knew it was a Great Thing :)

Needless to say my favourite novel EVER was The Blue Mountain, written by Meir Shalev.

VP said...

A very interesting history lesson and some nice pictures. I have seen that kind of 'bike' in Berlin...

irinapictures said...

Great post, thank you for the info and amazing photos!

Tania said...

Must have been a fantastic experience. Lovely bird photos!!

crystal said...

Interesting what a difference a definition can make - from swamp to wetlands :)

Neat photos of the birds!

Anonymous said...

your photos are incredibly beautiful...thank you so much for sharing Dina!

Hilda said...

Fascinating story about the reserve. Looks and sounds like a wonderful tour.

Sara at Come Away With Me said...

Shalom Dina. Welcome back.

All those magnificent birds. I've seen a show on TV about them, some of it filmed from above the birds...hundreds, thousands of them, as they are migrating over Israel. Such beauty!

Rob Siemann said...

Next stop Eilat... I remember this poster which has been hanging inside the Eilat tourist office, birds on the beach. Not funny in English, but it was in half german, half something else. Instead of Voegel am Strand, which would be correct, it actually said Voegeln am Strand, on the beach. Very popular poster amongst german-speaking tourists... And yeah, been doing a lot of bird watching in Eilat, but not up north. On my list of things to do.

Unknown said...

The number of cranes is amazing! They are such fantastic birds.

Katney said...

I've seen pictures of similar bicycles used on the Google campus to conference while traveling between buildings. I thought they were a joke, but maybe not.

Do you know what kind of cranes? I saw some of what I think are cranes recently and posted a picture of them hoping for an identification.

Dina said...

Katney, I think our cranes are Grus grus, the common gray crane.
Please see