Bird-watching…… Why Israel?
Today in Israel you can find 91 resident species, 121 regularly migrating species, and more than 200 winter or summer residents -- an amazing number and variety for so small an area. Israel is located on the main migration route of the birds of Europe and Western Asia as they travel to and from Africa. For millions of years migrating birds have followed the line of the Jordan Valley to the Great Rift Valley using the warm air thermals to help them cover the distance between Europe and Africa. At times in the migration season -- an amazing spectacle that includes over flights of 500 million birds -- Israel hosts an estimated 85% of the world's stork population! Birds stop for several days' rest in the Galilee among the thriving kibbutz fishponds and farms along the Jordan River before continuing south across the Negev to Eilat.During migration season (spring & late autumn) the skies are so thick with birds that they even pose a major hazard to military and commercial flights in the area. Watching the huge flocks of the soaring birds in migration is truly an experience one has to see to believe.
Bird-watching in spring
The spring is considered by many as the best time to visit Israel, and for good reason – hundreds of millions of birds pass through in the course of the great migration and offer us a unique experience. Generally, the best birding during the season as regards to the migration occurs in the southern parts of the country and along the Rift Valley.The season starts in February, peaks between mid March to mid May, and ends in June. However, the best time to see Israel’s spring migration occurs between mid March to mid May during which time the variety of species, and sheer numbers, are exceptional at any scale. The passing decreases from mid-May on and June tends to be the quietest month of the year.
It is indeed a dynamic and intriguing season, and since the diversity of species changes from day to day, one must pay attention to the timing of the visit, especially if you are interested in a particular species (or set of species).
Bird-watching in late autumn and winter
Although Israel has a reputation as a major spring and autumn flyway of migrating birds, it is also an important wintering ground for thousands of birds. The season extends between November-February. While November still gets the rearguard of the autumn migration, and especially some scarce migrants with an eastern aroma, it also marks the arrival of mass numbers of wintering birds, especially water birds, cranes and raptors. More than 30,000 Cranes are counted annually in the Hula Valley; with about half of them will remaining for the winter. The best time for bird watching and to explore nature during winter is between the months of November till March. Also we offer Hikes to enjoy the landscape, floods and birds in winter in the Galilee, Golan and Hula.
Birding at the southern parts of Israel is quite different than elsewhere in the country. The cool winter temperatures provide ideal conditions for desert birding throughout the day.
We at Tailor Made Tours suggest visiting Israel at the end of March and the beginning of April for a first time birding visit. All Tailor Made Tours Bird-Watching tours are equipped with telescopes, giving a new and enjoyable point of view. We can also arrange tours to enjoy flowers as they blossom in autumn and spring (October till December; March till June).
Tailor Made Tours Bird-watching itinerary:
Day 1 – Arrival
Upon arrival in Israel, you will be met by a Tailor Made Tours Israel representative and transferred to your Tel Aviv hotel for overnight.
Day 2 – Tel Aviv
Start your tour today with an orientation tour of Tel Aviv, the largest and most vibrant city in Israel. See the old city of Jaffa with its art galleries, the Habima Theater, Dizengof Street and the campus of Tel Aviv University. Visit the Museum of the Diaspora and learn the "Jewish Story" in a very unique way. On to the new Palmach Museum to see, hear, and feel what it meant to be a youngster fighting for Israel's independence. Continue to Independence Hall where David Ben Gurion announced the establishment of the State of Israel. Return to your hotel for overnight.
Day 3- Tiberias
Depart Tel Aviv and drive along the Mediterranean Coast to the ancient city of Caesarea, once the Roman capital of ancient Israel. Visit the theater and the aqueduct. Continue to Mt. Carmel and the city of Haifa. Enjoy the panoramic views of the largest port in Israel. On to Acco for a visit to the Knights' Halls, one of the most beautiful remains of the Crusade period; and the prison where Jewish fighters were hanged during the British Mandate period. Drive north to Rosh Hanikra. Take the cable car down to the grotto and see one of Israel's most unusual natural phenomena. Drive to the Hula Valley for:Bird watching Tour #1Northern Israel: Hula Valley. Nestled between the Galilee and the Golan Heights, along the Rift Valley, north of the Sea of Galilee, this long and narrow depression, along with its numerous fish-farms and reservoirs, provides exceptional winter-birding opportunities, especially for raptors and wetland birds.
Overnight, and dinner in Kibbutz hotel
Day 4 – Golan Heights
Drive to Safed, ancient center for the study and practice of Kabbala. Visit the ancient synagogues and art galleries. Drive to Tel Hai and visit the site where Yoseph Trumpeldor lived and where he died in 1921, inspiring one of Israel's greatest modern legends. Continue to the Golan Heights and visit the Israeli/Syrian border. Continue - Bird watching Tour #2 Northern Israel:Golan Heights & MT. Hermon. The height (500-2200 m above sea level) and location of this area at Israel's north-easternmost corner create unique birding opportunities with some excellent Western Palearctic specialties.
Drive to Katzrin, the only city in the Golan Heights, with its famous winery, Golan Wines. Return to Tiberias for overnight.
Day 5 – Beit Shean
Drive to Beth Shean, one of Israel's, and the world’s, most ancient cities. In its 7,000 year history the Egyptian, Roman and Byzantine empires have laid claim to the site, attracted by abundant water, fertile soil and the location of an important east-west crossroads. Visit the ruins of the largest Roman city being excavated today.Bird watching Tour #3: Beit Shean Valley(inc. Kfar Rupin and Mt Gilboa) at the intersection of the Rift and the Northern Valleys, lies one of the most interesting birding areas of Israel. Its location along the major migratory flyways and on the border between the Mediterranean and desert climate zones makes this location an extraordinary place for migrants as well as both African and Asian vagrants. The Beit Shean Valley is one of the best places to see the autumn migration and wintering birds in the country. With literally tens of thousands of wetland birds spending the winter in the many fishponds and reservoirs scattered around the valley. Continue along the Jordan Valley to the Dead Sea. Visit Qumran and Ein Gedi Springs. Take advantage of some free time to experience the therapeutic and invigorating Dead Sea mineral treatments offered at the hotel spa and overnight.
Day 6 - DEAD SEA
Drive to Masada, ascend by cable car to the fortress which was the last stronghold of the Jewish Zealots in their war against the Romans. Visit the excavations, Herod’s Palaces, the synagogue and bathhouse, enjoy the breathtaking view of the Roman camps and the Dead Sea. Descend for a “float” in the salty waters of the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth. Return to your hotel for a free afternoon to relax and enjoy the beauty of the Dead Sea. Overnight at your hotel.
Day 7 - WESTERN NEGEV
Drive through the Arava Valley to the southern region of Israel. Bird watching Tour #4: Western Negev - Nitzana and Urim area. A short, but worthwhile, detour from the main road between Central and Southern Israel will bring you to the vast plateaus of the Western Negev. Nizana andUrim are some of the most fantastic winter birding places in the Western Palearctic and absolutely a must! Thousands of birds spend the winter season in this area.Stop at Kibbutz Yotvta and try some of Israel's most delicious dairy products. Then visit theTimna Valley and climb on King Solomon's Pillars. Arrive in Eilat, one of Israel's most well known resorts, for overnight.
Day 8 – EILAT
Visit the Underwater Observatory and see the wonderful flora and fauna of the Red Sea. Bird watching Tour #5:Eilat and Sothern Arava. This tour focuses on the southern end of the country. Eilat and the southern Arava host rare and scarce eastern and Middle-eastern species. Enjoy this tour as part of a winter vacation in Eilat.Enjoy scuba diving or just relax at the hotel pool.Overnight at hotel
Day 9 – SDE BOKER
Drive through the spectacular Ramon Crater (Israel's Grand Canyon). Arrive at Sde Boker and visit Ben Gurion's house and tomb. Bird watching Tour #6:Central Negev - Sde Boker, Mitzpe Ramon & Yeruham reservoir. Birding in this area can be extremely rewarding if you are looking for desert specialties. The birding areas of the Central Negev lie about an hour and half drive from Eilat and can be easily incorporated in your route between Southern and Central Israel. The central Negev is by all means an impressive place. The deep canyons, the steep cliffs and the unique geological structures of the famous craters are homes for breeding raptors. Sde Boker area is also one of the best places in Israel to look for mammalian predators. The Mizpe Ramon area is an excellent place for late autumn migrants such as Redstarts.
Then climb the Judean Hills and arrive in Jerusalem for overnight.
Day 10 – JERUSALEM
Drive to the Mt. of Olives and enjoy the panoramic view of the most beautiful city in the world. Drive to Mt Zion and visit David's Tomb. Start a walking tour in the Jewish Quarter visiting the Burnt House and the Herodian Quarter. Then, on to the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism. Then enjoy a special visit to the Davidson Center to see the new multi-media presentation about Jerusalem during the days of Jesus. Continue to the Wall Excavations, also known as the Rabbinical Tunnels. Then visit the "Temple Steps", a unique archaeological area with the original steps that led to the entrance of the Temple 2,000 years ago. Walk to the Citadel and visit the new Museum of the History of Jerusalem. From there you will be driven to Ammunition Hill for a visit to the bunkers that the Israeli Army conquered to liberate the city in 1967. Return to your hotel for overnight.
Day 11 – JERUSALEM
Drive to the J.F.K. Memorial. Continue to the Hadassah Hospital for a visit to the Hospital and its famous Chagall Windows. Continue to Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. Drive to Mt. Herzl for a visit to the Military Cemetery as well as the tombs of Theodore Herzl, Golda Meir, and Itzhak Rabin. Then visit the Israel Museum to see the Shrine of the Book and the exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Return to the hotel for overnight.
Day 12- RETURN FLIGHT BACK HOME
You will be transferred to the airport for your departure flight.
Tailor Made Tours offer a variety of tours, from 3 to 12 days to capture the essence of Israel's magnificent birding opportunities. You may take this tour as suggested above, or combine any of the above and use our suggestions as a platform to build your own special bird watching tour. We encourage you to contact us at any point for help and consult in planning your birding trip in Israel.