Birds fly at sunrise Birds fly at sunrise Mountains provide a beautiful backdrop for the lake at sunrise. (Photo: maxmacs / Shutterstock)

Israel's Hula Valley is an avian paradise

This scenic nature reserve hosts millions of birds each season.

Nestled perfectly between two majestic mountain ranges, Hula Valley offers a wetland paradise for several species of plants and animals — but undoubtedly the most abundant visitors are birds. The perfect stopover for birds migrating south to Africa, Hula Valley features vast fields, groves and waterways.

Cranes in the skyCranes fill the sky during the migration season. (Photo: Marcus Frieze/Flickr)

Hundreds of millions of birds travel through the valley in autumn and spring, and thousands will stay through the off-season as well. Some simply use the area as a place to rest; others court, mate and nest there. Cranes, storks, cormorants and other water birds mingle among eagles, finches and other native birds of Israel.

Close view of cranesCranes mingle on a misty morning in Hula Valley. (Photo: Yuval Shoshan/Flickr)

The most widely known (and notorious) visitors are the cranes. They arrive at the valley during late fall to perform their courtship dances, and often stay through the winter. In order to deter the cranes from harming local agriculture endeavors, the Agamon Hula Ornithology and Nature Park staff set out corn and other feed.

Tractor tourThe tractor tour goes straight through the fields — but the grey cranes are used to it. (Photo: Meaghan O'Neill/Flickr)

Tractors venture into the fields to feed the cranes (appeasing their humongous appetite for local peanut crops), enabling visitors to get up close and personal with these creatures. Normally, cranes might shy away from humans — but they don't seem to mind when it means it's lunch time.

Tree at the lakeIn the evening, the lake is smooth as glass. (Photo: Or Hiltch/Flickr)

The valley was once home to a vast wetland, which, along with Hula Lake, was drained in the 1950s. After observing the effects of the drainage, officials allowed the valley to flood once again, naming the body of water Lake Agmon, and have since worked hard to restore the ecosystem.

Path in the groveA path runs through the valley's grove. (Photo: Or Hiltch/Flickr)

The park offers several miles of trails, suitable for walking as well as biking, through fruit groves and fields. A "floating bridge" and various observation points reach out into the lake and ponds for a unique glimpse of the wetland wildlife.

Kingfisher bird A kingfisher rests on a branch at Hula Lake. (Photo: Vadim Gokhberg/Shutterstock)

Having more than 400 species of birds stopping by during the year offers a special advantage to ecologists and ornithologists. To help track individuals and bird populations, the park operates a ringing center where they band birds. Placed strategically in the middle of the reserve, the station was also designed to blend in with its natural environment. On the park's "Bird Island Tour," visitors can see the station for themselves, get up close with certain birds, and even help release them back into the wild.

Common Tern feeds chicksA common tern feeds its chicks on a nest built upon Hula Lake. (Photo: Vladimir Kogan Michael/Shutterstock)

The research conducted at the ringing station helps officials to gauge how bird populations are increasing or decreasing, locate and learn more about nests, and manage water levels and grass heights. Information collected so far has allowed the park staff to create a nesting wall for bee-eater birds, where they can study the colorful birds up-close.

Cranes flying at sunriseCranes fly over the Hula Lake Reserve during sunrise. (Photo: maxmacs/Shutterstock)

One of the most special experiences at the reserve is their sunrise tour, "Awaking with the Birds," which provides unbeatable birdwatching and photography opportunities — complete with coffee and cake. Alternatively, night owls can join the "Wise Night Owl" tour to observe nocturnal animals like barn animals and fruit bats. Topped off with a campfire and stargazing, it's clear that this nature reserve does its best to connect visitors with the spectacular natural landscapes surrounding them.

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