23/03/2014 - 04/04/2014 - The IOC Birdwatching Festivals

.The IOC Birdwatching Festivals – where birding meets conservation


.In the past years the Israel Ornithological Center has developed a strong and viable birding tourism scheme

Our international Bird Festivals are an on-going success, hosting dozens of birders every year from all over the world, raising good funds that fuel necessary field work.

The money raised from our Eco tourism projects, birding festivals and tours is diverted directly towards conservation work and significant projects for the benefit of Israel’s birds. 

The IOC International Bird Festivals are the anchor of our birding tourism activities and provide our monitoring department the funds needed to run multi-year surveys and achieve more than ever for the benefit of the birds of Israel.


The Eilat Birds Festival – The Jewel of the WP Crown

The Eilat Birds Festival is organized by the Israel Ornithological Center of the SPNI and has become one of the most significant international events in the WP birding scene.


The festival is a weeklong event that includes day and night birding tours to all the best sites in southern Israel, many bird related activities, presentations, talks and more.

The festival guides are the best guides in the country with intimate knowledge of the terrain and where to find the birds, and with great people skills.

The Eilat Birds Festival is now well established and known among birders circles, 2014 marks our 8th year. The Hula Valley Birds Festival is quickly making a name for itself and with 3 successful festivals behind us it is playing a significant role in bringing birders back to Northern Israel.


Testimonies from the 7th Eilat Birds Festival – March 2013


Another great festival week is behind us, marking the start to an excellent spring migration season. 

The 7th Eilat Festival took place on the 13-20 March and over 200 birders, photographers and nature lovers from 11 nationalities took part in festival activities.

These included daily tours to the best sites in Southern Israel including the Dead Sea and the Negev, and incredible night tours amply named “Rambo Nights” where we aim (and succeeded) in seeing both the critically endangered Nubian Nightjars and the enigmatic Hume’s Tawny Owl in one night. 


Every evening of the week visiting birders enjoyed a casual Birders Pub where daily summaries and expert presentations took place and drew a nice crowd.

Over 200 Species of birds were seen during the festival week, but it is not just the sheer numbers of birds present.

The festival program is designed in a way that visitors get the most out their visit and experience the scenery, food and adventure that is birding in Israel.



Notable birds seen during the week included quality vagrants like Black Bush Robin, White-tailed Lapwing, Citrine Wagtails and more and the local specialties really played along, like this remarkable day roosting Pharaoh’s Eagle Owl that sat patiently as over 100 birders watched it in excitement one afternoon”


Selected day notes as compiled by festival tour leaders:


Yoav Perlman 15/3/13 – “A magical taste of Nizzana”

Nizzana is a magical spot but quite far from Eilat so an early departure is required. We left Eilat at 04:00 and still arrived at Nizzana a bit late, and started seeing birds immediately.

It took me about 10 seconds to locate a dancing male Macqueen’s Bustard, and the next hour was truly magical - so many birds that the tour participants didn't know what to look at first.


We had at the same spot two hilarious dancing bustards, four Cream-colored Coursers attacked by a superb male Pallid Harrier, Asian Desert Warbler, and Pin-tailed and Black-bellied Sandgrouse. Overhead good migration started off - many raptors including Steppe, Lesser Spotted, Booted and Short-toed Eagles, Egyptian Vulture and Alpine, Pallid and Common Swifts went overhead”

Jonathan Meyrav and Yoav Perlman -16/3/13 – “The morning of the Black beauties”

We started bright and early, upon heading north it was evident that at last the weather had changes and there was a dramatic increase of birds on the ground. 

We started off early at KM76 and the place was just packed with migrants - dominant species were 400 Short-toed larks, 50 each of Northern and Isabelline Wheatears, 30 Tawny Pipits, and 30 Cretzschmar's Buntings. Goodies included two Asian Desert Warblers, 6-7 Bimaculated Larks, Desert Wheatear, 5 Spotted Sandgrouse, Rueppell's Warbler and more. There were huge numbers of Painted Ladies on every bush, and all the birds were having a feast on the butterflies.

After a truly enjoyable session we headed south to Yotvata. Upon arrival Jonathan received a call from 2 Finnish birder friends who had just found a Black Bush Robin at Neot Smadar.

We packed up the vehicle and shot up there of course. By the time we arrived the Finns had amazingly found another Black Bush Robin! Wow, we located both birds quickly and enjoyed good prolonged views of both. These are not only highly coveted WP vagrants but amazing birds to watch, not little brown jobs that skulk in the shrub.

We headed south to Eilat with a group of happy campers, what a great dynamic day, like it should be in Eilat!

Yoav Perlman and Jonathan Meyrav – Rambo!

We led two night tours during the week and the difference between the 2 was incredible. The first was led by Yoav and Meidad and following a fantastic birding day at the Dead Sea that included specialties like Striolated Bunting, Dead Sea Sparrow and incredible views of Nubian Nightjars, the guys headed to a wadi in the Judean Desert where we obtained a permit to search for Hume's Owls.


It was actually super difficult - tough walk in the dark, long search, diminishing adrenalin levels, but eventually persistence and perseverance paid off, and we had breathtaking views of a male Hume's Owl - wow. The group returned to Eilat almost 20 hours after leaving, exhausted but very satisfied, Rambo night indeed!

The next tour was a different story, we left Eilat in the afternoon and twitched the fantastic Day roosting Pharaoh’s Eagle Owl found earlier, and after some light birding that included similar species to yesterday we started off with Hume’s Owls at a different location.

Yoav and Jonathan kept the groups at “military silence” and within minutes we had managed to see not one but a pair of Hume’s Owls, calling, interacting and even fooling around!

Awesome stuff. The Nubian Nightjars performed equally well at Neot Hakikar and the group was back in Eilat at 22:00, again the wonderful dynamics of birding Southern Israel in the spring. 


For more information log on to: www.eilatbirdsfestival.com  


The Hula Valley Bird Festival – Migration at the Valley of dreams


Northern Israel owes its avian richness to its unique geography and topography. Here European habitats meet African type habitats with many plant and animal species found here at their southern or northern limits of global distribution.

The jewel of the crown is the Hula Valley.


The Hula Valley is one of the most important stopover and wintering sites for southbound migrants through the Great Rift Valley. It is here that complete populations of birds stop to “refuel” before reaching the desert strip to the south.

 The region serves as a migration flyway for thousands of Common Cranes, White Pelicans, Ducks, Waders and Passerines every year. Over 300 species are seen here annually including some of the rarest European birds of prey.

Species like Greater Spotted and Eastern Imperial Eagles, Pallid Harrier, Long-legged Buzzard and more winter in the valley and can be easily found with patience.


The Hula Valley Bird Festival

The Hula Valley Bird Festival is an initiative of the Israel Ornithological Center and offers a full week of birds and nature in the beautiful backdrop of the Hula Valley.

Festival visitors can choose from a full Birdwatching program of the highest level, presentations, exhibitions and more.

Following exciting birding during the day, every evening of the week a feature presentation will take place.

The festival is based at an excellent Hotel in the heart of the Hula Valley and all festival packages are on a half board basis.  

The birds and wildlife are the real stars of the show.

Over 200 species were logged during previous festivals including great birds like:

Saker, E. Imperial, Bonneli’s, White-tailed, lesser and Greater Spotted Eagles, Long billed Pipit, Namaqua Dove, Black Francolin, Dead Sea Sparrows, Crimson Winged Finch, Sombre Tit, White-headed and Ferruginous Ducks, Pygmy Cormorantsand many more.



A full program of birding tours is offered during the week.

Tours include short tours to the Agamon and Hula Reserve sites, and several longer tours to the best birding destinations in the Galilee, like the Bet Shean Valley, Mt Hermon and the Golan Heights and more. All tours are led by the best guides in Israel.


We remind you that the IOC International Bird Festivals are the anchor of our birding tourism activities and provide our monitoring department the funds needed to run multi-year surveys and achieve more than ever for the benefit of the birds of Israel.




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