Birds of a feather flock to new Jerusalem Bird Observatory
A new renovation for a Jerusalem institution is for the birds, but not in the bad way. Israel has long been known as a bird-watcher's paradise, sitting at the crossroads of three continents and along the migration route of hundreds of millions of birds. Since the mid-'90s, a square acre of untouched land smack in the middle of the city, wedged between the Knesset and Supreme Court, has been set aside for birding enthusiasts, with visitors from all over the world coming to the Jerusalem Bird Observatory to catch glimpses of the hundreds of species that pass through or make their homes in the Jerusalem.
Last month, a new visitors center was opened, which not only gives local and visiting birders a shiny new home to learn about and observe birds, but also gives something back to both the feathered flocks and Mother Nature. The newly dedicated Guttman Visitors Center (pictured, with Mayor Nir Barkat behind the podium) has been built in a completely unique, environmentally friendly way, JBO Director Amir Balaban (pictured with bird) explains to GoJerusalem.com. Some walls of the center were built out of recycled plastic, bottle caps and contain over 70 types of nesting boxes for birds and bats. Among the birds living in the nesting box are the easily-spotted Sparrow and the slightly more rare Hoopoe, which recently became Israel's national bird.
Other walls were built of local rock, to provide habitats for other types of local life, even if they don't have wings, like reptiles and insects. Balaban says the walls were designed to mimic the natural world. For example, the northern wall has much more vegetation, since in the Mediterranean, north-facing structures usually draw more moisture and humidity.
But the centerpiece of the new center is the living roof, which has been planted with over 700 Mediterranean vegetation specimens and thousands of local seeds, and is watered using only captured rainwater. The roof was planted in October, and is already in full bloom.
"This roof is an example of how biopersity can be encouraged in a developing city, adding to the quality of life by retaining runoff water, filtering aerial pollution, decreasing heat islands in the city and adding seasonal color all year round," Balaban says.
The visitors' center also features a gallery of photographs from American-Israeli nature photographer Gail Rubin, who was murdered by terrorists in 1978 near Kibbutz Maagan Michael during the Coastal Road Massacre as she was photographing rare birds. The exhibit includes some of her more famous pictures from the book Psalmist with a Camera" among other works. The new space will also include research facilities for the JBO, which rings 200 birds daily for tracking.
With everything the JBO brings together, it's hard to categorize the center. "It's a new bird in Jerusalem that combines research, wildlife and art in one place," Balaban suggests. "It's a nature center, it enables people to enjoy wildlife in a variety of ways and also helps preserve the natural heritage of the capital."
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