Today we are going to look at migrating birds, specifically pelicans. We will visit several places at Emek Hefer including Viker Lookout and Agamon Hefer. Let’s begin!

Pelican Migration

Bird Migration
Bird Migration Routes

The common pelican weights 8 – 11 kg and has a wingspan of 2.5 – 3 meters. That makes them the largest migrating bird that crosses Israel. Moreover, if you have been following my blog for a while, then you know that Israel is a good place for bird lovers. That is because Israel lies on the migration path of many birds (you can read more about bird migration at Bird Ringing at Ein Afek). Around 40,000 of pelicans fly over Israel twice a year, in Spring and Autumn.

Emek Hefer

Hefer Valley Regional Council is a regional council in the Sharon plain in central Israel. Big parts of this council are dedicated to agriculture. And farmers understood many years ago that millions of migrating birds could hurt agriculture. For example, a pelican eats 1 kg of fish a day. And a squadron of five thousand pelicans eats 5 tons of fish per day.

As a result, they created feeding places for birds. This form of “tax,” is beneficial for both sides. Birds know where they can find food, and other fields and fish tanks remain not affected. Moreover, if the feeding place becomes a touristic attraction, then the tourists pay for the food (win-win situation). For example, when you enter Agamon ha Hula, you pay several NIS for the cranes’ project. The money goes to buy corn for hundreds of thousands migrating cranes.

Map of the area:

There are two main pelican feeding places in Israel. The first one is at Agamon ha Hula, and the second one is at Viker Lookout.

Viker Lookout

Viker Lookout (named after Viker family that donated the money) is a hidden lookout point at Emek Hefer. It is one of the best places in Israel to watch pelican migration. And I found out about it only several years ago through social media. Since then, I visited this area several times, and now I am going to share my findings.

Free entrance. Well actually, there is no entrance. There are several dirt roads passing through the area. And this leads me to the next question.

How To Get There

I wrote a hidden lookout point because during my first visit, there were no clear instructions on how to get there. And even today, when you enter Viker lookout into Waze, it will almost lead you there. You will end up at the beginning of a dirt road (end of road #5711). You need to continue on the dirt road till you reach a three-way junction. On the T intersection, you should turn left, and after about 1 km you will see the lookout to your right. See map above.

Visiting Viker Lookout

My first visit was in the middle of October 2017. We arrived around 9:30 am, quite late but there were still many pelicans.

Viker lookout point at Emek Hefer and Alexander stream:Pelican migration at Emek Hefer

As you can see, there is no big parking lot. Thus, people park cars along the roads. Therefore if you arrive late, there is a big chance there will be no nearby parking. Moreover, most pelicans that stay here for the night will also leave. Therefore, I suggest coming early.

Viker lookout:
Pelican migration at Emek Hefer

If you come during migration peak, then after climbing to the lookout you will see thousands of pelicans.
Pelican migration at Emek Hefer

Many of them were already leaving on their way to Africa.
Pelican migration at Emek Hefer

And many people enjoyed the view:
Pelican migration at Emek Hefer

Of course, there are many photographers 🙂
Pelican migration at Emek Hefer

There is a viewpoint on the other side of a pool. And what I found during all my visits, is that on the other side you will be closer to the pelicans. You can either walk there or drive there.
Pelican migration at Emek Hefer

The view from the other side:

The other side there is fully covered with a fence, with half a dozen holes, that you can photograph through.
Pelican migration at Emek Hefer

The second visit of 2017 was at the beginning of November. And there were much fewer pelicans. As you can see, there are about the same number of cormorants as pelicans.
Pelican migration at Emek Hefer

Another shot from the other side:
Pelican migration at Emek Hefer

I have visited on 13 of October 2018, and there we quite many pelicans. But it was not the peak.Pelican migration at Emek Hefer, Israel

Mid October seems like the best time to visit, but this can be affected by climate and other factors. Therefore I suggest to follow relevant channels on social media, to know the exact dates.

Note: I took all the photos above with Tamron 200-500 mm on Nikon D610.

Agamon Hefer

Agamon Hefer is located not far from Viker Lookout (see map at the beginning of this post). And on one of the occasions, we drove there after visiting Viker lookout.

Agamon Hefer is also located close to Alexander river and gets water from it. Here is a map of the area:Agamon Hefer

This place is also free, and there is plenty of parking nearby.

Agamon Hefer was opened in recent years and it is similar to Agamon ha Hula. Meaning, the muddy ground was turned into shallow pools. And dedicated walking trails were created along those ponds.
Here are the birds you might find at Agamon Hefer.
Birds in IsraelBirds in Israel

Along the trail, there are several lookouts.Agamon Hefer

One of the trails:Agamon Hefer

High viewpoint with Hedera power station at the background:Agamon Hefer

Unfortunately, though we saw many pelicans at Viker lookout, we did not see any here. There could be several reasons for it. First of all, this is a new place, and it might take time till birds will stay here. Also, we were there later during the day. But, I guess the main reason is the people. At Viker, there is a fence around the pool. Here there is none. And though the signs ask people to stay on the trails, many walked along the water. Some released their dogs, and of course, this scared away all birds.Agamon Hefer

But, at more distant places, there were birds. Moreover, I saw many Kingfishers there.Agamon Hefer

Not sure why Agamon Hefer is so popular, but there were many people there. Thus, if you are planning a visit, and want to see wildlife, come early.

Paper reed growing in the swamp:Paper reed growing in Israeli swamp

Agamon Hefer is not a big place. And slowly walking the round route took us an hour.

Softshell Turtles At Alexander River

On another occasion, we decided to visit another nearby attraction. At the same Alexander River, next to Turtle Bridge you can find softshell turtles (see map at the top of this post).
soft-shell turtles at Nahal Alexander

It is the only place in Israel, that I am familiar with, where you can find these turtles.
soft-shell turtles at Nahal Alexander

They might look small, but they are quite big. The softshell turtles can reach 1m in length 50kg weight. The origins of the softshell turtles are in the sweet water lakes of East Africa. It is a carnivore that feeds on a diet of worms, fishes, and other small water animals.
soft-shell turtles at Nahal Alexander

As you can see all my photos of the turtles are as they swim in the water. That is because we arrived after visiting the pelicans, it was late and already hot.

If you want to see them outside, arrive early as they are warming up under the sun.
soft-shell turtles at Nahal Alexander
Entrance to the turtle bridge is also free.

Summary

Viker lookout is one of the best places in Israel to watch pelican migration. And it is free. The only downside is the road. Or actually, the lack of road. My tip would be not to wash the car before visiting. Because of the dirt roads, you will need to wash it after your visit.

Moreover, you can combine Viker Lookout with a visit to Agamon Hefer or Softshell Turtles for a nice half day experience.

 

Have you ever been to Viker lookout? And what about Agamon Hefer? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

That’s all for today, and I’ll see you in future travels!

Stay Tuned!

 

To find more about animals in Israel visit birds category and animals category.

Did not find what you were looking for? Hit me up at hi@israel-in-photos.com, and I will do my best to answer your questions.

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