Photo Credit: CarmelH1 / Wikimedia
Cranes in the Hula Valley on their return to Israel at winter's end, Feb. 6, 2010

It’s that time of year again, when tens of thousands of beautiful, graceful cranes make a stop at Hula Lake in northern Israel on their migration journey.

(video: Inbar Shlomit Rubin)


On Tuesday morning, 25,500 of the lovely birds were counted upon their arrival at the lake as thousands of human travelers came to watch.

According to KKL-JNF, the migration is already I full swing, with flocks arriving from Europe in the north and departing southward to Africa daily.

More than 100,000 cranes pass through Israel each year on their migration; of those, some 40,000 decide to stay in Israel to spend the winter.

Last year, more than 6,000 of the cranes and at least 500 pelicans died due to a tragic outbreak of avian flu.

This year the cranes have lucked out and appear to be healthy and strong as they rest and tank up for the long journey ahead.

By the end of November, an estimated 50,000 pelicans will also have passed through Israel from on their migration to the wintering grounds in Africa. Unlike cranes, pelicans stay just a short period at Hula Lake before flying to the Sinai Desert and then down the Nile to reach their winter ponds.

For the past 12 years, the Israel Nature & Parks Authority, the JNF Agamon Ha’Hula, farmers of the Hula Valley, the Upper Galilee Regional Council and various government ministries have been working together on The Crane Project at Hula Lake.

The project combines strict protection of the agricultural fields surrounding the lake during the winter months, allowing the cranes to feed in the fields during the autumn months.

When winter arrives, the cranes are provided with food to reduce the damage done to the agricultural fields by the cranes foraging for food.

This year, pelicans will be provided with appetizing fish in ponds located in the Sharon region, diverting the birds from commercial fish ponds in the Hula Valley that have closed. They will also be able to fish for themselves in Hula Lake — but their meals won’t be provided by humans this time around.

According to Keren Kayemet L’Israel (KKL-JNF), the Israel Nature and Parks Authority will make a decision by mid-December about feeding the cranes this year.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.