Friday, January 19, 2018

Helping to put cranes "to bed" in the Upper Galilee להשכוב את העגורים בגליל עליון

Saturday afternoon at 4 Inbar drove us down the Golan to the Galil Elyon (Upper Galilee) to the Hula Valley area to meet up with her husband Danny..  The area for centuries has been a stopping point for migrating birds from Europe to Africa and Asia.    At the main reserve, tourists can rent bikes or carts and go around the lake area.

 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.
 But they were not in a planted area.
Then we saw larger groups. But it still was a bit  too early to encourage them to move with lasers as they might not go to the lake area but rather to another field.  The cranes below are in a planted field with a portable irrigation sprinkler behind them.

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.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A morning traveling on the northern Golan

The next morning, our hostess Inbar took us to some less well-known spots on the northern Golan.

First we stopped just outside Merom Golan at a statue in memory of Eli Cohen, probably Israel's most famous spy whose work in Syria was very helpful in the 1967 war. (Click on his name to read his story.)  The statue is of his wife, Nadia Cohen and their three children, looking out toward Syria and waiting for her husband to return.  (His body was never returned to Israel.)  The statue was made in 2015, probably on the 50th anniversary of his death.

Our next stop was a short distance away at the overlook into Syria and the UN peacekeeping mission headquarters.  I've been there at least four times in the past 15 years and have seen the site upgraded. The outlook has been recently named for Ronen Gilboa, a member of Kibbutz Ein Zivan who died in 2014 at age 52, a man who loved the Golan and was full of spirit.
In the left background, you can see the UN headquarters and in the foreground the new Avital Volcanic Park, which opened in April, 2013.   It was built on an abandoned basalt quarry and is the result of the efforts of a geologist who worked in the area.  It now is funded by the Golan Regional Council, the Tourism Ministry, and a non profit volcanic quarry group.

  Eruptions of Mt Avital, which has been dormant for over 100,000 years, are what caused the Golan Heights' formation and also what spewed basalt rock over the area.    The park is a paleomagnetic site, which means that that the basalt rocks have changed the Earth's magnetic field over time.  When compasses are near rocks, they seem to go crazy.
 Below is a good photo explanation of what one can see from the view point.

There usually is a Druze fruit vendor at this place, and today the gentleman also was helpful in explaining the sites in the distance to us.

We then walked around the volcanic park and saw the models of the region in early times and in modern times as well as models of how the volcano worked and the descriptions of the layers of rocks.  Most of the  explanations were in Hebrew, Arabic, and English.

 Below you can see the site we walked through.  In the middle of the picture, right center, is the observation point we were at previously, and behind that is what is left of Mt. Avital, now  a military base.

Before the most recent eruptions on the right and after on the left

Inbar pointing at Merom Golan, her home

A model of an eruption with a recording in Hebrew

Eruption of "bombs"

A "bomb" inside a rock

Nava pointing to a drop in a wall

Different kinds of rocks found in the area

Examples oflocal rocks including  tuff and bread toast on the right

So many colors in the layers of rock

There was also a walk toward Syria along a path of basalt rocks, but we didn't have time for it.  Near the path there was an amphitheater but it has not been used since the war in Syria worsened.

We then visited three ancient springs turned into pools off the beaten track.  Ayin or Ein in the construct state means "spring."  And the first was Ein Mokesh.   An article in Haaretz by Moshe Gilad on May 31, 2017 entitled "The Forgotten Syrian Secrets of the Golan Heights:  From old minefields to pools for Syrian officers, the vestiges of the former sovereigns of the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights are everywhere, if you know where to look."  Ein Mokesh was one of them, and it means "Mine spring" as it was surrounded by unexploded landmines.

It was originally build by the Circassians who came to this region from in the 19th century, sent by the Turks who ruled the area, as a buffer with the Beduins.  The Turks converted them from Christianity to Islam.  During the 1967 Six-Day war, they fled to Syria and later most to Europe and the US.  Some Circassians live in Israel, mainly in Kfar Kanna and Rehaniya.  They were excellent craftsmen and built this beautiful, deep circular pool.

 Inbar has gone down the steps and says the water is very cold, but refreshing on a hot summer day.  Her kids have told her that they often jumped in.
The next spring we went to is called by the locals עין (אין) איך לצאת, a play on works --either the spring of (no) way to leave or no way to leave. The water level is quite low right now.

This spring was converted by Syrian officers into a pool.  You can see that it isn't as well built as the one above. 
Some visitors have poured goldfish into the pool and many have thrived.  The local nature authorities are not pleased as sit chances the natural form of the pool.  The fish came to the surface to greet us.

Our next stop, it turned out,  was a pool that had recently been capped because of the danger of collapse.  
On our way to our next stop, we passed by a number of Wind Turbines. The Golan is very windy and these turbines produce a lot of electricity.  The power grid wants to put up several on the hills by Merom Golan, but the community is objecting, in part because of the loud noises (which we heard as we approached the turbines below) and the light that is emitted.

And our final stop was a Syrian officers pool that had been updated in memory of a young man while traveling on the Golan, a place he loved.

 In Memory of Raizel Nagar who was killed on Jan. 7, 2005.

There were more places to visit, but we were out of time, so we headed back to Inbar's for lunch before heading out to the Hula valley in the upper Galil to join Inbar's husband has he helps put the visiting cranes to sleep!