Black-shouldered Kite copyright Mark Pearson
Black-shouldered Kite copyright Mark Pearson
Black-shouldered Kite copyright Mark Pearson

Birding in the Valley of Dreams
Tuesday 05 – Wednesday 13 December 2023

Birding in the Valley of Dreams Tuesday 05 – Wednesday 13 December 2023

Northern Israel is an incredible place for early winter birds and wildlife. People are often amazed at how small Israel really is. Less than 500 kilometres tip to toe and only 70 at its widest, this ancient land boasts an amazing combination of history, culture and of course nature. Despite its small size, Israel is blessed with breath-taking landscapes and natural habitats, pristine deserts, stunning valleys, abundant wildlife and plentiful natural beauty. Because of its unrivalled position connecting the continents of Europe, Asia and Africa, Israel is not only a crucial migration corridor for hundreds of species, but also hosts many African, Asian and Mediterranean species at the limits of their range.

Expect an enviable mix of species from various continents, overlapping with each other in a unique and hugely varied environment.

The tour will be co-led by Yorkshire Coast Nature's Mark Pearson and an expert guide from BirdLife Israel (part of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel – SPNI). The SPNI is the largest environmental NGO is Israel and works tirelessly to conserve birds and their habitats in Israel and beyond. Our long-standing, close relationships with our friends at BirdLife Israel allow us to enjoy the very best options with the very best co-guides available. It's important to note that all proceeds from the trip will go directly into nature conservation, so you will not only enjoy an amazing birding holiday, you will also be taking an active role in saving the birds and wildlife you see. Our program includes all the famous winter birding sites in the North of the country, as well as some best-kept secrets, and cultural and historic sites; this is Israel, after all!

Tour Leader: Mark Pearson  Yorkshire Coast Nature

 

Mark Pearson 

 

Mark is an obsessive Yorkshire coast birder and naturalist whose roles include wildlife guide, ecologist, speaker, writer and educator.

He is well known as a passionate, exceptional communicator, whether in the field with YCN clients, in the classroom with schoolkids, in lecture theatres, on television screens, on radio airwaves or via the written word.

“We need more people like Mark – passionate, engaging, knowledgeable leaders in their field” - Chris Packham, Bioblitz Special

He grew up on Flamborough Head, where the seeds were quickly sown – the family home became a bird hospital, complete with Puffins taking over the bathtub! - and he's been studying and advocating the wildlife of the area ever since.

He is regularly asked to share his knowledge and enthusiasm on TV and radio, and this has included co-presenting features with both Simon King and Chris Packham (on the BBC's Springwatch and Autumnwatch), with Michaela Strachan (Springwatch at Easter), with Chris for his recent Bioblitz campaign, and as a lead presenter of an episode of the BBC's flagship Natural World series. His appearances on radio, nationally and internationally, are numerous.

“Who better could have I asked to help guide me?” - Simon King, live on BBC Autumnwatch

He is fortunate to have travelled world in his pursuit of birds and wildlife, with many memorable adventures across the globe in his notebooks; he is particularly fond of South and East Asia, Scandinavia and North America. He has managed various conservation and engagement projects in many different settings, from urban London (including the award-winning Cockney Sparrow Project) to rural Yorkshire, and his ecological fieldwork has taken him across the country from the Outer Hebrides to Kentish coast.

Mark is in demand as a communications expert, with many successful past and present projects involving Birdlife International, Birdlife Israel, Champions of the Flyway, RSPB, several British Bird Observatories and many others. He also has a BSc (Hons) in Environmental Science and an HND in Ornithology.

Mark's nature writing has been a constant feature in the UK media over recent years. His regular pieces in Birdwatch magazine and Birdguides are well known, as are his many articles for the RSPB, Birdwatching magazine, British Birds and various others. Recent book commissions include writing sections for the bestselling Lost In London and Birding Frontiers – Challenge Series books.

“Nobody knows the birds and wildlife [of the area] quite like Mark” - Michaela Strachan on BBC Springwatch

Mark is often invited to give talks and lectures for a wide variety of organisations, from local RSPB & bird groups to camera clubs, NGOs and universities. He has recently been asked to give talks at the Birdfair (five years in a row and counting!), Spurn Migration Festival (several times) and the International Bird Observatories Conference among many others.

9 days
London - Kfar Ryuppin - Kibbutz Kalia - Jerusalem Bird Observatory - London

Contact a
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020 8901 7320 Enquiry
Itinerary View Map
Soaring above the clouds a view from the airplane window

Day 1 :

Departure London Heathrow by BA165 at 07:50. Arrive Ben Gurion airport at 14:35.

After meeting our guide at Ben-Gurion airport, we will head North along the Mediterranean coast towards the region of Ma'agan Michael. We will spend the morning exploring the area and getting acquainted with the more common species. This area is dominated by fish ponds that stretch alongside the beautiful beach. It won’t be long before we see our first Western Marsh Harriers and Greater Spotted Eagles. It will be hard to ignore the many White-breasted and Pied Kingfishers, White Pelicans, Great Egrets, Black and White Storks, Eurasian Spoonbills and Glossy Ibises, as well as many shorebird species, at close quarters. In the early afternoon we will drive northeast to the legendary Hula Valley, arriving in time for dinner and a wrap up of the day's adventures. Overnight at Gonen Cottages. D

Gonan Cottages accomodation for the Israel Birding Holiday

Day 2 :

After breakfast we will head up to the Golan Heights in the direction of Gamla. The impressive canyon and its surroundings are home to several pairs of Griffon Vultures. Besides the vultures we will look for the resident pair of Bonelli's Eagles, and in most winters, one or two Black (Cinereous) Vultures are present. The area also hosts Little Swifts and large concentrations of finches, as well as Woodlarks, Zitting Cisticolas and Blue Rock Thrushes, and with a little luck we should find Finch's Wheatear and the rare Long-billed Pipit.
After lunch we'll descend back to the Hula Valley and visit the world famous Hula Valley Nature Reserve. The reserve is the oldest protected area in the country and is part of the historic Hula Lake. Dominated by large Papyrus reed beds and flooded meadow habitats, towards evening large numbers of raptors (including many harriers of various species) congregate here to roost. Overnight at Gonen Cottages. B, L, D

Common Cranes copyright Mark Pearson

Day 3 : To Kfar Ryuppin

A very early departure for our exclusive sunrise date with the Cranes at the Hula Valley Agmon Park. The park is of international importance for wintering Cranes with up to 40,000 spending the winter here. We will join a special tour in the Tractor-towed mobile hide, and get very up close and personal with the Cranes - a truly magical experience! Following the mobile hide trip we will head back to tour hotel for breakfast and check out, after which we will return to the park, spending most of the day there.

This area is a magical refuge for tens of thousands of waterbirds and birds of prey. We will spend the day leisurely exploring the vast fields, flooded areas and canals. This is the peak time of year for birds of prey such as Greater Spotted and Eastern Imperial Eagles, White-tailed Eagles, Merlins, Peregrines, Pallid, Marsh and Hen Harriers, Long-legged Buzzards and a healthy population the elegant Black-winged Kite. In the afternoon we will start heading south along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, arriving in Kfar Ruppin in time for dinner at the wonderful Jordan Valley Birding Centre, our base for the next three nights. B, L, D

Egrets and Herons copyright Mark Pearson

Day 4 : Kfar Ryuppin

Our day begins with a pre-breakfast stroll around the grounds and perimeter of Kibbutz Kfar Ruppin. The scrubby areas around the kibbutz are great for some of the more elusive specialities such as Dead Sea Sparrow, Desert Finch and more. It will be hard to miss the low flyovers of egrets, storks, raptors and Pygmy and Great Cormorants. Following breakfast, we will head out to explore the bird-rich Bet Shean Valley. This low-lying, arid area is dominated by agricultural fields and fishponds. The valley is one of the most impressive places for birding in Israel (and that's saying something!), hosting many thousands of wintering species including large numbers of Black Storks, White Pelicans, gulls (including Pallas's and Armenian), various herons, many wader species and plentiful birds of prey. Birding heaven!

Many rare and localised passerines are also found here and we will keep an eye (and an ear) open for Citrine Wagtails, Clamorous Reed Warblers, Dead Sea and Spanish Sparrows, Penduline Tits, Oriental Skylarks and more. Raptors will also play a major role and we should expect Black and Black-winged Kites, buzzards, Greater Spotted Eagles, Harriers, falcons and more. After a full day in the field, we will head back for a delicious home-cooked dinner and daily summary at the Jordan Valley Birding Centre Lodge, which is where we will spend the night. B, L, D

White-throated Kingfisher copyright Mark Pearson

Day 5 : Kfar Ryuppin

Following breakfast, we will drive the short distance to the Gilboa mountain range. The mountains are dominated by high Mediterranean vegetation and conifer woodland, and our targets here will be mountainous species like Blue Rock Thrush, Long-billed Pipit and Finsch's Wheatear. This area is also home to a healthy population of Mountain Gazelles, a beautiful and globally-threatened antelope.

After exploring Mt. Gilboa, we will descend to the Yizre'el Valley and explore some more fishponds and reservoirs, where we can expect a wide range of waders, gulls and songbirds. In the evening we will set out on a night drive in the Kfar Ruppin area, searching for owls and nocturnal mammals such as Indian Porcupine, Golden Jackal, Wild Boar and more. Overnight at the Jordan Valley Birding Centre. B, L, D

Black Stork copyright Mark Pearson

Day 6 : To Kibbutz Kalia

Following breakfast we will head out for another tour of the fishponds and fields of Tirat Zvi at the southern part of the Bet Shean Valley. Here too we should expect huge numbers of waterfowl, gulls, storks, pelicans and birds of prey. After checking out at the lodge we will start driving south along the Jordan Valley, where the lush landscape will soon change and become drier and more desert-like. We will stop at several key spots along the way on our way to the Northern Dead Sea area. We will then spend some time birding the fields and date plantations near Kibbutz Kalia, our base for the next couple of nights. B, L, D

Great Spotted Eagle copyright Mark Pearson

Day 7 : Kibbutz Kalia

We will start the day with a pre-breakfast walk through a small and picturesque Wadi near the Kibbutz, keeping our eyes open for desert species such as Arabian Green Bee-eater, Tristram's Starling, Fan-tailed Raven and more. After a home-cooked breakfast at the Kibbutz we will head south along the Dead Sea, visiting several beautiful sites in the Judean desert including a breathtaking look-out over the Dead Sea, and we'll explore a remote Wadi which is home to many interesting species such as Sand Partridge, Striolated Bunting, White-crowned Wheatear, Desert Lark, Arabian Babbler and more. We will scrutinise the bushes for wintering Cyprus Warbler and with luck we may also find Streaked Scrub Warbler and Sinai Rosefinch. In the evening we will visit nearby date plantations in search of the enigmatic Pallid Scops Owl. Overnight at Kalia. B, L, D

Bluethroat copyright Mark Pearsonc

Day 8 : Jerusalem Bird Observatory

Our last day in Israel will begin with a visit to the famous Jerusalem Bird Observatory (JBO). This is one of our most important birding centers in Israel and the only one on the world on parliament grounds! We will visit the ringing station, observe birds in the hand and learn about the incredible work being done here to unite communites and inspire a passion for nature. Following our visit to the JBO we will head west to the Judean plains and search for the endangered White-headed Duck which winters in Israel. After our relaxed session on the plains, we'll drive the short distance to Ben Gurion airport. Overnight stay. B, L, D

Aircraft in the sky Airbus British Airways

Day 9 : Departure for London

Morning at leisure. Early afternoon transfer to airport for your return flight home. Departure Ben Gurion airport by British Airways BA164 at 16:25. Arrival Heathrow at 19:45. B

Itinerary map

Prices

Price per person
(Double/Twin share)
Single room supplement
£4,534.00 £528.00
Cost includes:
  • International flights in economy class on British Airways. Supplement costs for World Traveller Plus & club class are available on request.
  • Accommodation with private facilities as mentioned in the itinerary.
  • Half-board at hotel (buffet breakfast and 3-course evening meal with wine), and a delicious picnic lunch in the field on day 3.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Service of an experienced tour leader from UK (Mark Pearson) and a local bird watching expert guide.
  • All transfers and sightseeing arrangements.
  • Entry fee to monuments and places of interest.
  • Full ATOL & ABTA Bonding.
  • Airline failure Insurance.
Cost does not include:
  • Any expenses of a personal nature like laundry, telephone calls and beverages.
  • Tips and gratuities.
  • Travel Insurance*

Numbers; strictly limited to 8 clients (first-come-first-serve) to ensure a high guide to guest ratio.

Suitability; For everyone from beginners to experinced birders and wildlife enthusiasts

* Travel Insurance
It is essential to have adequate insurance in place before your departure. This should be appropriate for your age, health and destination you are visiting.
• Make sure it includes comprehensive medical and repatriation cover.
• Make sure it provides cover for your whole trip (whether one day or over a year).
• Make sure it covers you for all activities.
• Disclose pre-existing medical conditions.
• Take your policy number and the 24-hour emergency contact numbers with you.

If you have any doubts about your cover, check with your insurer.
For a competitive quotation please visit https://www.indusexperiences.co.uk/insurance/

020 8901 7320
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