Bird Banding in the Israeli North: Agmon Hula
|The mist nets are set before dawn.|
ALL PHOTOS BY JONATHAN SCHECHTER
Northern Israel is rich in birdwatching sites and is of great importance to hundreds of thousands of wintering birds and migrants. The Agmon Hula Ornithology (Bird Watching) and Nature Park in the heart of the Hula Valley is one of those places. Mountains of Lebanon are to the west. Syria to the northeast. Snow-capped Mt Hermon rises magestically to the north at the edge of the Upper Galilee. Agmon Hula is critically located in the center of the Afro-Syrian Rift making it one of the most significant bird migration routes in the world. During every migration season over 500 million birds from more than 400 species migrate in the skies over this area. Thousands of those birds remain at Agmon Hula during winter. Others nest at Agmon Hula during their breeding season. The park has taken on international importance to the scientific community and is a highly significant and prominent center for eco-tourism in Israel and a model for cooperation between nature, tourism and agriculture. Visitors can tour the park on bicycles, peddle carts, or on guided tours in a Safari Wagon.
During my visit I made special arrangements with a staffer to be on site before dawn to witness a bird banding operation. In Israel, bird banding is known as 'ringing', named for the small ID ring placed around a leg. Information gathered when they are recaptured or found anywhere in the world provides valuable scientific information on habitat needs, avian health, changing weather patterns and gives humans a bird's eye view into the health of the planet we call Earth. On the day I observed, one bird bore a tag showing it had been ringed in Lebanon. Information was recorded and the Lebanese bird took flight to continue on its journey.
Four words sum it best:
Birds Know No Borders
|The proper size ring is selected for this black cap, a common species.|
|Nets are checked every twenty minutes or sooner.|
|Common Kingfisher, seconds before release.|
|European Bee Eater - one of the most colorful birds of the day.|
|A reed warbler visiting from Lebanon displays its homeland ring.|
|Sedge warbler having just been weighed, is about to be released.|
|Golan Heights are the backdrop for this ringing station.|
|Masked shrike smiling at the camera.|
|Israeli adults attend an interpretive program on the science of ringing.|