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Birding The Valleys Of Dreams – Bring On 2021!

  • Fri 27th Nov, 2020

For those of us with a passion for exploring beautiful, diverse landscapes beyond our shores, this year has been a year of cancellations and frustrations, and at the top of my personal list was our YCN Birding The Valleys Of Dreams November adventure to Northern Israel – a trip that, I'm quietly confident enough to say, would've blown our clients minds with the sheer quality and quantity of incredible birdlife on offer (let alone the landscapes, history, hospitality and other wildlife....). But, in the grand scheme of things, what's a twelve month delay on a trip of a lifetime?

Black-shouldered Kites - now a guaranteed raptor in the area © Mark PearsonBlack-shouldered Kites - now a guaranteed raptor in the area © Mark Pearson

As we all finally emerge from our staccato hibernation and the perpetual uncertainties of 2020, we can, at last, look forward to unique birding adventures once again – and where better to start than the promised land? It may seem like a long way off, but with recent, game-changing developments, we can now legitimately get excited about next autumn's breathtaking bonanza of birds in a land of unique cultural, historical and aesthetic bounty.

Great Spotted Eagle is one of many large birds of prey that give amazing views © Mark PearsonGreat Spotted Eagle is one of many large birds of prey that give amazing views © Mark Pearson

I've been very fortunate to travel to, and study the wildlife of, this incredibly bird-rich, stunningly beautiful, extraordinarily diverse area of the Middle East in recent years, forging many great friendships with the best of Israel's birders and conservationists. While staying at the wonderful Jordan Valley Birding Centre in November last year – idyllic surroundings, exceptional hospitality, warm winter sun and the kind of birding (within walking distance) that an English birder's winter dreams are made of – the sheckel finally dropped: what a place to bring an exclusive YCN tour!

Among the many kingfishers present, White-throated can be ridiculously tame....© Mark PearsonAmong the many kingfishers present, White-throated can be ridiculously tame....© Mark Pearson

Stepping out of your room, greeted with coffee, pastries and big smiles courtesy of Sheli and her team, the only problem is the birds – before you've even yawned a 'shalom', you're already distracted by eagles and storks overhead, Bluethroats and shrikes by your door, and the overwhelming sense that this is going to be another unforgettable day's birding.

Storks, egrets, herons and Armenian Gulls asking to be photographed....© Mark PearsonStorks, egrets, herons and Armenian Gulls asking to be photographed....© Mark Pearson

So it was a given that we'd choose the JVBC as one of our main bases for our forthcoming YCN Birding The Valleys Of Dreams November adventure (now booking for 2021). We could easily spend the whole week at the JVBC, located as it is in easy reach of many breathtaking birding locations. Kfar Ruppin - the kibbutz on which it nestles in the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley – is just a ridiculous all-you-can-see / -photograph buffet of waterbirds, raptors and more; right next to the accommodation, the kibbutz fish-ponds team with waders, storks, herons, ibises, terns and gulls, with skies full of soaring birds, reedbeds and scrub full of local specialities, and farmland hosting pipits, larks and wagtails that would make any European birder weep....

... while the Pelican show is only a few minutes away © Mark Pearson... while the Pelican show is only a few minutes away © Mark Pearson

… but with unmissable sites a little further afield, it would be unforgivable not to make the most of this incredible region. The northern valleys of Israel are amazing at any time of year, but really come into their own in the late autumn and early winter – later autumn migrants are still passing through (and using the valleys as pit-stops), winter visitors have pretty much all arrived (and there's a lot of them), and resident species are are in situ and often easier to find.

'Hard to find' species like Dead Sea Sparrows just outside your door at the JVBC.... © Mark Pearson'Hard to find' species like Dead Sea Sparrows just outside your door at the JVBC.... © Mark Pearson

Those close connections with the team at BirdLife Israel will really come into their own on this trip, with our group receiving the red-carpet treatment throughout our adventure. We've been granted exclusive access to, and bespoke guiding at, all the key sites, including: The Hula Valley, with its tens of thousands of Cranes (we'll witness their morning flight at point-blank range), amazing diversity of raptors (from Black-winged Kites to Pallid Harriers and various eagles), and multitudes of waterbirds across flooded meadows and lakes, all against the backdrop of breautiful mountains on both sides; the dramatic canyons of the Golan Heights, for Griffon Vultures, Bonelli's Eagles, Black (Cinereous) Vultures, Little Swifts, Finch's Wheatear and the rare Long-billed Pipit, and multitudes of finches and larks;

Pygmy Cormorants, always singing the same tune....© Mark PearsonPygmy Cormorants, always singing the same tune....© Mark Pearson

The aforementioned Jordan Valley Birding Centre, with everything from Dead Sea Sparrows and Desert Finches to Pallas's Gulls, Pygmy Cormorants, Clamorous Reed Warblers, Penduline Tits, Oriental Skylarks, as well as too many raptors and waterbirds to mention..... and did I mention the famous and iconic birding sites of Mount Gilboa, Yizre'el Valley, the Maagan Michael wetlands? Another time I guess.....

Bluethroats are not shy in the northern valleys! © Mark PearsonBluethroats are not shy in the northern valleys! © Mark Pearson

I've been fortunate to travel to, and go birding at, a great many wonderful places across the world, and I can honestly say this is one of the very best – perhaps the best -  I've ever experienced. Not only is the birding easy, relaxed and ridiculously bountiful, but the landscapes and habitats are stunning and the hospitality is outstanding. Add to that the special access and treatment we'll get, and well, it really is the trip of a lifetime.

Mark James Pearson YCN Wildlife and Birding Guide

To see the tour page and download a full itinerary, CLICK HERE 

To confirm your expression of interest, email Richard at richard.baines@yorkshirecoastnature.co.uk