Friday, February 27, 2009

Gray Cranes and the Hula Valley

Every once in a while, we humans learn what we have done wrong and fix our mistakes. Here is one example of that: Farmers and cranes are learning to coexist in the Hula Valley Nature Reserve. (1) J. Issacson, writing for Arutz Travel notes that
A unique beautiful park was recently opened in the Hula Valley...A combined effort of farmers, the Jewish National Fund, and nature conservationsts, the Hula Valley's newly reclaimed swamplands are now home to over 13,000 cranes from Siberia (Sia's note: recent surveys now put the number closer to 20,000)...In addition to feeding the cranes here, the Hula Valley has been reflooded - in effect to return the area to the swamp lands they once were. Now, an area that was until recently dry land, has ponds and streams. Ducks and geese are among the new inhabitants of the new park.

The battle to save both agricultural land, and to encourage migrating birds to winter in Israel, was achieved in a creative and cooperative effort. And we have gained a wonderful new park with lakes, waterways, a bird lookout tower, bicycle paths, and wonderful winged guests!
Crane Festivals:

If you live in the U.S
and want to see cranes closer to home, try the Festival of Cranes in the
Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. It takes place in November. Or visit one of the other crane festivals in Oregon, California and Arizona.

Crane Art, Jewelry and Gifts at the International Crane Foundation

Parents might enjoy the charming crane growth chart by artist Janet Flynn.
Many of her cards and prints are available through the International Crane Foundation. The ICF gift shop also offers crane art, jewelry, books, cards and gifts for sale. Check out their website and learn about the work they are doing to save cranes worldwide.



(1) A bit of history:

For thousands of years ...

...the Hula Valley was an important resting place for birds migrating from Europe to Africa and back. Tens of thousands of birds found refuge in the pond and swamps. In addition, many species of rare fish and plants lived here, creating a wonderland of flora and fauna.

Immediately following the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948, the government decided to drain the swamps and pond - which covered more than 15 thousand acres at the time - and convert them into agricultural fields. The task of draining the Hula Valley began in 1951. Scientists and nature lovers in Israel waged a vigorous battle to conserve at least part of the original landscape and eventually the government agreed to set aside 800 acres of the pond for a nature reserve. Officially declared in 1964, the Hula Valley Nature Reserve was the first nature reserve in Israel. Sadly, several species of flora and fauna have nonetheless disappeared from the Hula landscape.

Tens of thousand of birds, including cranes, storks, pelicans, cormorants, and several types of herons, make their homes in the reserve, enjoying life in the pond and the swamps. More than 200 species of water fowl flock to the reserve. The reserve - and indeed the entire Hula Valley - is blessed with abundant food supplies for these avian visitors The reserve is also a haven for rare water plants such as the lovely yellow iris. Buffalo were placed in selected parts of the reserve because their grazing helps preserve the open meadow.

The staff of the Hula Nature Reserve is involved in an effort to return certain bird species (such as the white-tailed eagle) to this area.

The reserve has lovely walking trails, including a "floating bridge" over the swamp, and special lookout points where visitors can observe the birds. The main path in the reserve is suitable for wheelchairs.

In the spring of 1994, another stage in the campaign to restore the Hula Valley was completed: the flooding of 250 acres of wasteland, located approximately two kilometers north of the Hula Nature Reserve. Because the wasteland had already sunk below its original level, it in any case flooded during every rainy winter. The intentional flooding of the wasteland improved the quality of the water in the Sea of Galilee. Now the water "rests" in the Hula Valley, giving the organic materials time to sink, whereas previously these substances flowed into the Sea of Galilee, polluting the water.

Art: Flying Crane

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