After my trip to Tel Aviv a few weeks prior, I had to make the journey once again to complete some exams before applying to university. With the tests in the morning, I had the previous day to travel and sight-see – which I did! Getting off the southbound train at the Tel Aviv University stop I visited the Rabin Centre, but this post isn’t about that. Because this trip was book-ended by visits to historically-oriented places, I am relating my travels slightly out of order. So, after the Rabin Centre I took a meandering bus all the way back to Reading, a bus depot across the Yarkon River from the Tel Aviv Port, up against the Mediterranean Sea. I was embarking on a nice hike from one end of Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park to the other, in Ramat Gan where I was to be spending the night.
Somewhat comparable to New York City’s Central Park, the Yarkon Park is Tel Aviv’s greenbelt and attracts a healthy amount of both people and wildlife. And so I started walking the trail, passing a rowing club and noticing all sorts of birds all over the place almost immediately. Due to the large number of bird species, and their relative acceptance of human presence, the Yarkon Park has become one of Israel’s best places for birdwatching and bird photography. At any given moment I could turn 360° and see at least five species around me, be them in the air, on the ground or in the water. At first I saw common birds seen all over Israel such as hooded crows and mynas, an invasive species from India, but then I spotted a spur-winged lapwing and a grey heron.
Moving along, I saw a hoopoe (Israel’s national bird) pecking about in the grass and a whole flock of monk parakeets causing a disturbance on the other side of the path – I got a video of it HERE. I stuck to the trail on the northern side of the river (which is actually part of the Israel National Trail), passing gardens and sports facilities, and, even with the myriad of people and their dogs and/or bicycles, there was still a healthy amount of wildlife mostly undisturbed.
Ever-accompanied by the shrieking of the ring-necked parakeets high up in the date and willow trees, I then witnessed something really cool. I spotted a white-throated kingfisher perched on a fence of sorts a ways away (I even had to use digital zoom). Suddenly, he dropped into the grass and came up with something in his beak. I can’t tell what it is but I watched him eat it and he seemed to like it. Throughout the day I merited to see all three of Israel’s kingfishers, each oddly in a different scientific family – the white-throated, pied and common kingfishers.
One thing that’s photographically cool about the Yarkon Park is the stark contrast between the idyllic riverbanks lined with robust trees and then the ultra urban background with Tel Aviv’s skyscrapers appearing over the treeline.
I continued to beat the pavement with my shoes, watching the herons and egrets wading calmly through the murky green shallows while the pied kingfisher hovers ten-twenty feet over the water’s surface, plunging in to catch an unwary fish. To help us humans enjoy the nature in ease and comfort, the park has benches and wooden platforms intermittently along the water’s edge – it’s a rather nice touch. It’s absolutely marvelous having this convenient window into nature’s circle of life, just feast your eyes om this photo of a night heron with its prey:
Before long I was passing the fork where the Ayalon stream and Yarkon River meet, the train and vehicular traffic thundering along on the large bridge overhead. I wrote all about the source of the Yarkon River and its initial tributary streams in my post about the Yarkon National Park – the Ayalon is the last of these to join the decantation into the sea. Continuing along the banks of the Yarkon, I then came across a small zoo with axis deer, emu, ostrich and several other birds and mammals. Just around the corner from the zoo and a closed aviary, I found one of Israel’s greatest birdwatching sites: Sheva Tachanot (or Seven Mills). The daylight was beginning to fade, and as it had been a rather overcast day, the poor lighting made photography rather difficult, no matter how hard I tried. Despite all that, I was amazed at just how close one can get to the many types of birds frequenting the old Ottoman flour mill ruins with its pools and lush overgrowth. A talented Tel Avivian photographer by the name of Tamar Ron graciously offered me the use of her photos to properly display the beautiful birds of Seven Mills, of which you see on either ends of this paragraph.
As night began to fall I found myself tracking a few jackal cubs that were frolicking not far from the trail. Having migrated from the hills of the Shomron several years ago, jackals are now a permanent fixture of the Yarkon Park – and especially at Seven Mills, where jackals can even be seen during normal daylight hours. As I crept up to the jackal cubs I heard a bone-chilling growl in the bushes mere metres behind me which sent shivers down my spine and adrenaline pumping through my veins. With that untimely distraction, the young jackals made their escape and so I continued on, sadly jackal-less, with my hike of the Yarkon.
Nightfall shrouded the tall trees and I could occasionally hear or see jackals in the distance as I walked, and shortly thereafter I think I heard the calls of a tree frog. The path kept going and going, often poorly lit with cyclists whizzing by almost dangerously.
I passed the Meymadion water park and then the Ramat Gan Stadium before reaching the Maccabiah Bridge. A name born from tragedy, the current bridge’s predecessor had a deadly collapse in 1997 – four Australian athletes were killed and another sixty injured.
Thankfully, the bridge took me safely across the Yarkon River where I made a bee-line for the Ayalon Mall. There I had a rather filling falafel and headed to my host’s place in Ramat Gan for a good night’s sleep in preparation for the following day’s exams.