Nicky Blackburn
November 30, 2009, Updated September 13, 2012

At this time of year Israel’s skyways are full of birds, as an estimated half a billion birds from 300 different species migrate through the country from Europe and Asia on route to their wintering sites in Africa.

Huge columns of white, grey and black cranes can be spotted swirling across the country, alongside pelicans, egrets, storks, eagles, swallows, and cormorants.

The birds fly thousands of kilometres both spring and fall through the Great Rift Valley – an exhausting and dangerous journey made increasingly more treacherous by urban and industrial developments that are encroaching on the birds’ traditional resting spots.

This is one of the most important flyways for migratory birds in the world, and in Israel, there are two locations of worldwide importance for bird watching.

The first is the Hula Valley in the Galilee, where the Hula Valley Park and Nature Reserve is home to one of the largest concentrations of cranes in the world. Earlier this year, BBC Wildlife Magazine recognized the Hula Valley reserve as one of the world’s outstanding sites for nature observation.

The second is in Eilat, on Israel’s southernmost tip, where birds refuel and rest after their exhausting flight across the desert.

You don’t have to be a bird watcher to be moved by the incredible sight of thousands of birds rising suddenly up into the air, or by seeing thousands of birds congregating next to pools and reservoirs.

Find out more in the photos below. Click on a thumbnail to see a larger version of the image.

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