Early pioneers drained much of the swamp area for agriculture and to get rid of the mosquitoes carrying malaria, but it hasn't been the best area for farming. Since the 1960s much of the area has been returned to nature and more and more birds stop in this important place along the Syria- African Rift Valley. Amazingly, over 500 million birds fly over Israel on this route, many of them stopping here. The Hula Nature Reserve was the first national park established by Israel in 1964.
One of Danny's favorite jobs is helping to "put to bed" the migrating cranes in the area close to sunset. We went with him in his jeep, off the normal tourist path, to watch him work.
Many of the birds stop over in the Hula reserve, but others rest just a bit north of there where there is swampland as well as farm land. If the cranes roost on the farmland, they often damage the crops. Also if they rest there, they can be attacked by local predators. So Danny and several others go out just before sunset and hunt in jeeps for the cranes that are resting in the farmlands that are being cultivated. When they see them, they use a special laser and point it at the birds, who then fly away toward a swamp or lake area.
First we saw small groups of cranes.
Danny checked his watch and in a few minutes he began aiming his laser at the birds. The laser cost 9000 shekels, or a bit over $2600 US.
Below is a video of the birds flying. I hope you can see it as it was difficult to figure out how to load it. If you cannot, let me know and I will email it to you. It really is amazing!!
When we drove back to the car, we saw birds roosting for the night on a tree branch in the lake.
And we saw several otters swimming across the pond.
Since many of the birds winter over at the Hula for 4-5 months, they need to be fed daily or they will eat the crops. They farmers are supposed to feed them corn daily in a special feeding area, but some skimp on the amounts. They are fed in the morning and then smaller amounts through the day at the same spot. As a result, 85% of the cranes stay away from the agricultural fields.
It truly was a wonderful experience to see these beautiful birds in flight.