The Uniqueness of Israel
Birdwatching in Jerusalem
While spending some of your gap year in Jerusalem there are probably many things that you will have on your bucket list, such as visiting the Old City and the Kotel. However, something that you may not have thought of, but which is certainly worthwhile, is spending some time birdwatching at the Nili and David Jerusalem Bird Observatory.
Located between the Knesset and the Supreme Court, you will be able to see a thrilling range of birds at almost any time of year. There are normally between 20 to 40 species located at the Observatory, and it attracts a huge number of migrating and wintering birds such as wrynecks, collared flycatchers, masked and red-backed shrikes, thrush nightingales, European robins, hawfinches and bramblings.
If you are in Jerusalem between March and the end of May then you can visit the Ariel Wiseman Ringing Station to watch bird banding. The birds are weighed and rings are attached to one of their feet so that bird centres across the world can track them. Each year the Observatory places rings on around 10,000 birds, an impressive feat considering its small size. There are also a number of Israeli birds that have built nests at the Observatory including Palestine sunbirds, spectacled bulbuls, and Israel’s national bird, the hoopoe. You may also catch a glimpse of the endangered Lesser Kestrels that can be seen nesting in springtime in nearby Musrara and many Short-toed eagles and Little Owls that can be found in the hills surrounding the city.
It is not just birds that you will see at the Observatory, it is also home to plants and small animals such as snakes, turtles, porcupines, hedgehogs and bats. You can visit the bird observation area at any time as it is open 24/7, and the observatory also organises night hikes, nature films, group tours, nature crats, photography workshops, birdwatching workshops and far more.
The Observatory also engages in conservation work, both planting trees and working to help conserve endangered species.
Israel is a major destination for birdwatchers (also known as twitchers) thanks to the huge number of birds that pass through on migratory paths. There are major bird watching centres across the country, from the Golan Heights right down to Eilat. At any time of year, there is an incredible range of species to see, including some very rare birds.
To give you an idea, in the desert regions you may catch a glimpse of Macqueen’s Bustard, Spotted, Black-bellied, Crowned and Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse, Western Reef Heron, White-eyed Gull, Nubian Nightjar, the enigmatic Hume’s Tawny Owl, Namaqua Dove, 3 species of Wheatears, Blackstart, Streaked Scrub Warbler, Desert, bar-tailed and Hoopoe Larks, Arabian Warbler, Desert and Trumpeter finch and many more.
It is understandable if you have never given birdwatching much consideration in the past, but while on your gap year in Israel you should do your best to take advantage of all that the country has to offer, and spending some time watching its wildlife is definitely an experience you will enjoy.