Last week I took my sisters on a short trip to the Hula Valley Nature Reserve, located between the Naftali Mountains, the Golan Heights, Lebanon and the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). Having already been to the other Hula Valley park, called Agamon Hula, I figured it would be nice to see the official national park. With my last Hula blog post being about the crane migration, as linked previously, this post will be focused more on life in the marsh year-round. We arrived at the park where I renewed my extremely cheap soldier’s year pass and set up for a little picnic looking at the wetlands.
Deciding to first visit the Oforia visitors centre and then walk the trail, we sat down for a 3D video in English about the Hula Valley and the bi-annual bird migration. With all sorts of sensory additives to the video (including jabs in the back, gusts of cold air and a simulated rat in the aisles hitting everyone’s legs), the 3D film was a hit. Because we chose the English version we had to wait to see the diorama presentations of stuffed birds and mammals in the Hebrew-only section of the visitors centre.
We then hit the trail and stopped almost immediately to watch the large catfish swimming beneath the bridge. Very similar to the marsh at Ein Afeq between Akko and Haifa, I already knew what to expect in the fauna department but there were a few surprises such as the white-throated kingfisher with its dazzling blue back. Within a few minutes we spotted water buffalo way out in the marsh, looking content in the cool waters.
Walking along the water, watching coots, ducks, water buffalo, kingfishers, turtles, catfish and more in their natural habitat, we shortly arrived at the wooden observation tower. Up top we looked out the slit and watched the birds down below, the coots, cormorants and pelicans. I even spotted a kingfisher hover and dive into the water after its prey. Now, despite the fact that some 500 million birds make their way from Europe/Asia to Africa this time of year, we saw just a handful of migratory birds. When we visited Agamon Hula on November 23rd 2011 we saw thousands of common cranes as well as hundreds of other migratory birds. It was a bit odd seeing the marsh so empty.
Leaving the observation tower we continued on the loop trail and walked a section of bridge through some very strange marsh vegetation, or as one sister said “Dr Seuss plants”. Bright green, large, round tufted balls of plant – surely something to be seen in a Dr Seuss book.
We then approached the floating bridge which looks out to the larger body of water in the reserve, where we watched pelicans paddle around, the neighbouring Golan in the background.
From the moment we entered the covered floating bridge, I immediately thought it looked like some sort of wooden space ship corridor. If you click on this picture, a screenshot from the sci-fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, I think you’ll agree.
After the floating bridge we looped back round and passed many, many turtles and this nutria eating its way through the marsh. Despite being an alien species, nutrias add quite a nice visual touch to Israeli wetlands.
Finished with the trail we headed back and left the park, happy to spend the day in such a beautiful and photogenic place but slightly disappointed not to see the bird migration in person. Perhaps next time…