written by Zvika Gasner Koheleth 10-November-2019, edited 02-November-2020, 29-March-2021; photography by Angela Hechtfisch
“Agamon Hahula” birds observatory history
The Agamon Hahula is Israel’s #1 bird’s observatory location and it is worldwide known for this. It is located in the north part of Israel, about 45 minutes extended drive from the northern city of Tiberias and only 15 minutes drive shy of Israel East-Northern city of Kiryat-Shmona, that is positioned on the border of Lebanon and in closer proximity to the Golan Heights with its famous Hermon mount, that is covered with snow during some parts of the winter.
The history of the Agamon Hahula dates back to the early 30’s of the last century where it has been bought, and an attempt to habituate it for agriculture purposes was made in the early years of the 50’s. At that time it was Israeli 1st and biggest Zionism project. Hahula was in its natural state part as a huge swam and part of pond. The land was NOT in use and was full of mosquitoes which contracted the local community in the area with malaria. The project objective was to dry the swam and to use the land for agriculture. BUT the idea fell short of being realistic and the results went far away from what was expected. The turf, which called “Kabul”, was dry and unsuitable for planting and caught fire pretty easily. The former swam ground was unstable and kept sinking making it impossible for any structured satiability. The Jordan river which gained some of its water origins from the Hahaula pond received unclear and unfiltered water which resulted in contaminating the Sea of Galilee) the Kineret in Hebrew), which dating back then Israel biggest and most important water drinking reservoir for the whole country. So they reexamine the issue and decided in the early 90’s to re-flush the region, and gave the Agamon Hahula part of its state before. Agamon, which literally mean in Hebrew a “small lake”, much smaller than its original size, was now back again with water and the wild life returned to flourish.
“Agamon hahula” nowadays
The birds that fly back and forth from Europe to Africa twice a year in the spring and the autumn, most of them from eastern European countries such as Russia or Poland, above the African-Syrian platitude break find the location of the Agamon Hahula a perfect in-between resting and regrouping point. It is estimated that in the bird season migration approximately 500 million items visits the Agamon Hahula; some stay the entire winter BUT most migrate to Africa via Egypt. For uptodate Cranes observing number map at NABU (Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union) click here. The issue of birds feeding from the field crops and causing a huge finacial damage to the farmers (which used to be a major problem before the Agamon was re-flushed) was now being solved by artificially feds by the farmers with corn or Humus grains( cheek peas) which they prefer the most. Finally, the farmers and the birds were happy. Also, entry tickets to the Agamon hahula now include a “Crane tax” of 5 Israeli shekels to sponsor the birds feeding project.
Once arriving to the Agamon there are several ways to fully experience it: Walking, cycling or golf carting. It is a circular park of 8.5 km. extra fees for carting or cycling with time limit of 75 minutes will arise subject to the particular number of peoples involve. We suggest walking it for best enjoyment. The outdoor nature is beautiful and relaxing at the same time and patience practice for bird’s observing is required. Also, safari wagon tours are mostly recommended. Those safari carried tractors are mostly fond by the birds, when hearing the tractors the birds think it is time for reshuffling the ground and therefore food such a worms and insects are potentially accessible. This causes the birds NOT escape the safari wagon and a close encounter from zero distance appear. Different types of safari tours are possible, depending on the time of the day, BUT mostly recommended is the photographer tour which last for entire 2 hours in the “early birds” hours. Fees for photographer tour will be 130 Shekels for a person, and “regular” tours that last about an hour cost between 60-80 shekels, depending on the timing of the day. Beside extra activities expenses a sum of 35 / 21 shekels per person (adult / under 18) entry fees must be added. The months between November till December are the highest season for birds migration, and the cold hours of the day of any season, NOT later than 9 a.m. is the high time ideal for maximum Ariel activity of bird flying.
A new visitor center was opened in November2019 and supposed to include variety of hi tech activities and multimedia recreational about bird’s migration in particular and Agamon Hahaula history in general. Since March 2020 due to Corona restriction the facility is closed.
“Agamon HaHula” bird safari tour
So we gave it a 2 weeks break to recollect and then we went back to “Agamon-HaHula” Before sunrise photographer tour. We woke up at 2 a.m. heading on road #6 North and got there by 04:45, 15 minutes shy of the tour starting schedule. Alternatively, you may combine an overnight at the city of “Tiberias” and have a 40 minutes’ drive onwards north on road #90. Around 15 enthusiastic photographers awaited already on the safari wagon pulled by a farm tractor. For me, a city boy, a “Ramat-Gan” town native, It has been one of life’s greatest connection to nature in general and birds in particular. It is literally breath taking experience. The migrate birds were so physically close, a merely touch of a hand distance, and many of them by thousands took off their fly above our heads, making a strong sounds of cry. Even though the weather was a bit chilly my excitement lead me to forget the temperature, which started to warm up only an hour later at sunrise (at 06:10 a.m.). The different kind of birds, including Kingfisher, ibis, House sparrow, Hoplopterus spinosum and Pelecanus were in huge loud groups singing and chanting there existence out.
But the biggest stars of “Agamon-HaHula” are NO doubly the Cranes which pay a visit once arriving all the way from eastern Europe in huge magnificent numbers. In the last 20 years they’ve been kept fed manually by the Israeli K”KL organization together with the local farmers association, which was funded by a 5 shekels levy on the visitors. For some unclear misunderstand between these 2 organizations, since 2019 the crane are NOT being fed. Therefore, the cranes tries to get their food from the farmer’s fields, which retaliate by trying to keep the burds out by scarring them with loud noise guns and siren. I fail to understand why these organization do NOT put the birds in center realizing they are the center of the “Agamon-Hahaula” , without which there’s NO real justification for any tourist existence.
The cost for the safari Birds wagon tour is 130 Israeli shekels per person. The best time of the year is between middle November till the end of December. Do NOT forget to dress warm. For more details see Galili Tourism.
“Vicker” birds observatory
“Vicker birds observatory” is a large shaded terrace towering over the “Hasharon water reservoir”, at the “Emek Hefer’ region, Only 20 km. south of Caesera and the same distance from Binyamina. Israel is a center spot for birds that fly over from cold winter Europe to the warmer conditions in Africa, a thousand kilometers flight routine since ever since.
The reservoir, which has a volume of 1 million cubic meters, absorbs the floodwater from the “Alexander river”, and serves as a reservoir and even to fill additional reservoirs. It is Beautiful with lawn and flowers attracting butterflies and Insects. The birds observatory has 2 view position, with 200 meter distance apart. The main terrace is the western side . Two ways are accessible, one by car (use “Waze” App) but the more interesting is by 2.5 km. walk in the open nature, which makes the experience more challenging. When we arrive on early November, we identified more than 500 pelicans in the reservoir, as a thousand details of a large cormorant lying in the northern bank.
“Agamon Hefer” birds observatory
The “Viker birds observatory” has now a “new” brother called the “Agamon Hefer”, a natural bird observatory park, that is located only 5 km. from it. Also, since the birds fish catching activity is mostly when the air is still cold, visiting the two spots earlier than 10 o’clock in the morning is highly recommended.
“Rosh Hatzipor” birds observatory Tel Aviv
The bird observatory center at “Rosh Tzipor” (Bird head in Hebrew) Park is located in “Yehoshua Park” (Also called “Hayarkon Park”)in the heart of Tel Aviv, at the confluence of the “Ayalon” and the “Yarkon” streams, and covers about 32 dunams of trees and greenery. Visitors to the site can follow the birds without disturbing their rest through the observation cabin houses built at the site. 3 paths lead to a large and accessible observation booth, made of wood, built at the water level. Each pavilion can accommodate 50 people and is equipped with windows, some of which are adapted to the height of children and others to the height of adults. Compared to all the other bird’s observatory locations mentioned above it is the smallest BUT extremely organized and well kept and with close distance from any spot in Tel Aviv.
This artificial nature park covers about 15 dunams in water; There is a lake with a small island in the center, water canals, an area of moist meadow, and a part that simulates a swam. The variety of habitats is designed to provide the necessary conditions for a wide variety of bird species.
There are also certain outdoor activities in “(Ganey) Yehoshua Park” in general and in the Birds observatory, in particular, all year round that you can keep track of its schedule in this link.