Every year, great, teeming flocks descend upon Israel to briefly take in the scenery before using it as a springboard to more northern climes. No, not busloads of birthright Israel travelers – these flocks are migratory birds, which fly across Israel in two great yearly migrations from Africa to Europe and back again. Jerusalem, from March until May and from August until November, is thick with birds, apparently undeterred by the great abundance of buildings and increasingly limited green space.
All a budding ornithologist needs to do to take part is head to the Jerusalem Bird Observatory, an acre of prime real estate nestled between the Knesset and the Supreme Court. A sylvan enclave abutting the similarly verdant, if carefully manicured, Wohl Rose Garden, the observatory was made possible by a gracious government decision to leave a small, unadulterated green space to which birds could flock during their odysseys, to the benefit of all Jerusalemites.
The Observatory tags birds to keep track of species and numbers, and more than 120 different varieties of avians have used its trees as a stopover. Visitors to the Observatory watch the birds from an enclosed wooden structure so as not to disturb them, and in early 2010, the visitors' center was renovated and re-dedicated, giving local and visiting birders a shiny new home from which to observe. The site often hosts special events – check with its website for an updated list – and bird-watching is possible 24 hours a day.
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