Tuesday, December 7, 2010
A new Galilee festival for the birds
By RON FRIEDMAN
First annual int'l ornithological festival seeks to attract bird, nature lovers from across the country, world in aim to maintain natural habitats.
Starting December 16 the Galilee will be hosting its first annual international ornithological festival.
The result of a joint effort and a million-shekel investment by all of Israel’s nature protection organizations and Galilee promoting bodies, the new festival seeks to attract bird and nature lovers from across the country and the world in an aim to maintain the birds’ natural habitats.
“Israel in general is a great place for bird watchers and ornithologists, but the Galilee and the Galilee in the winter in particular, is a jackpot for bird enthusiasts,” said Dan Alon, director of the Israel Ornithological Center and the festival’s organizer. “Israel is located at geographical bridge between three continents – Europe, Asia and Africa, which makes it a ‘bottleneck’ into which hundreds of migrant species converge. Luckily for us, many of the varieties of birds choose to stay in the Galilee in the winter, the environmental conditions turning it into a perfect hotel for birds.
“As director of the Israel Ornithological Center, my main job is protecting the natural habitats of birds and ensuring that they return to Israel year after year. In order to do that we have to make sure that protecting the birds’ habitat remains economical for landowners in the Galilee. One way of doing that is using the bird’s presence to draw in tourists,” said Alon. “The festival, which will run until January 8, is aimed at the general public, not just professional or die-hard ornithologists. By offering a wide range of activities and tours, all focused on bird watching, we hope to attract a large number of people so that the landowners and decision makers in the Galilee realize that keeping the habitats available to birds pays dividends.”
According to Alon, there is money to be made in birds. He cites the Lake Hula bird sanctuary as a perfect example of a tourism industry drawing in 350,000 people a year, which is based on birds. He said that the success can be repeated in places like the Hula nature reserve and Ein Afek.
What makes the festival international according to Alon is the presence of international journalists who write for the academic and general public ornithological publications.
“We hope that if this year’s festival is successful, their coverage of it will cause more people to come from abroad,” said Alon.
Among the special activities offered during the festival are sunrise tours at Hula Lake, visits to the eagle reserve in Gamla nature reservation and bird watching cruises on the Kinneret.
For those who want to stay overnight, there are special packages available at the Society for Protection of Nature in Israel’s hostels in the Galilee.