Israel's Good Name

North Tel Aviv Coast II

In Central Israel, Israel on March 4, 2018 at 7:22 AM

Since our first birding trip to the North Tel Aviv Coast back in October last year, my friend Adam and I had planned to revisit the coastline again, but this time heading north towards Herziliya. Being that it’s still the tail-end of winter, and not the spring migration, we weren’t sure what we’d see in terms of birds, but it’s always worth a shot. To take advantage of the morning activity, we left at first light, taking buses to Tel Aviv and then up the coast to Glilot Junction, where we got off and walked towards the open stretches of land that were waking up from the chilly night.

Early morning light (photo Adam Ota)

The morning started off with a handful of juvenile gulls flying in from the sea, but we weren’t able to identify them successfully. Merging from the paved road to one of many dirt trails that crisscross the open land, we began to scour the area around us for interesting birds. We saw tons of the regulars, such as stonechats, sunbirds and more, but nothing exciting for the first twenty minutes or so. At last we spotted a small flock of Spanish sparrows, which always excite me.

Chiffchaff (photo Adam Ota)

Another twenty minutes of scouring, whilst walking slowly northward, until we saw our next fun bird: a male blackcap. Moments later a Sardinian warbler made an appearance, and then a male common kestrel. Turning east to examine a row of tall eucalyptus trees, we came across extensive caterpillar webs, covered with innumerable drops of dew.

Dewy webs

Entering the shade of the eucalyptus we found nothing but hooded crows — a lot of hooded crows, watching us with a collective suspicious eye. Swinging ever northeasterly, we watched a chiffchaff flit about in a bush, and then something surprising happened. I was casually looking over a flat area when a large bird emerged from the verdancy. At first I thought it must be a crow, and then I saw it was a common buzzard, so I got Adam’s attention and together we watched it fly off.

Adam in action

Deciding to start heading for the coastline, we walked along a trail and spotted a flock of cormorants flying over the Mediterranean. Seeing even this common aquatic bird filled us with hope that we’d see something interesting. When we reached the cliff overlook the beach, a common tern flew by, challenging us to photograph it while it dove in and out of the surf hunting tiny fish. This was my first time seeing a common tern, so I did my very best to capture a decent record shot.

Common tern in flight

Several more common terns joined in on the fun, and we were reluctant to keep walking. Unfortunately, it was a Friday and I intended on traveling up north to Ma’alot for Shabbat, so time was an issue. We pushed onward, heading for Tel Michal just outside the Herziliya marina. Nearly immediately we were greeted by a trio of kestrels and a few crows who thought it necessary to harass the poor kestrels. A blanket of yellow wildflowers paved the way for a small vernal pool, complete with a sign explaining the importance of these pools to the ecosystem.

Tel Michal’s vernal pool

While we were distracted by the pool, peering in to see if we could find anything curious, we noticed a long stone wall atop the nearby ridge, complete with a path leading up. Needless to say, we made a beeline for this old structure, which we identified as a Roman fortress shortly thereafter with the aid of a sign. A large stone building complete with a tower, constructed on the rough kurkar ridge, served the purpose of watchpost by day and lighthouse by night. From the Roman coins found on-site, the fortress was active during the first half of the 1st Century CE, shortly before the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. To date, this has been the only Roman fortress to be found on the coast.

Approaching the Roman fortress

We entered the fortress, examining what there was to be seen, and enjoying the view of the open land to the east and the marina to the west. After visiting, I read a short publication on the 1977 excavation of Tel Michal and learned that they had discovered a hoard of Ptolemaic coins, dating from the successions after the reign of Alexander the Great, as well as a grim Persian period burial featuring a child inside a ceramic jar.

Roman fortress and the modern-day marina

Overall, the tel saw occupation starting in the Middle Bronze Age, continuing into the Iron Age until being repopulated in the Persian period. Then began the Classical times, the Hellenistic and Roman period, ending off with the site being used as a military observation post during the Early Arab period.

View to the northeast

After spending a good twenty minutes or so in the fortress ruins we made our way back down the hill and headed for the closest bus stop to be taken back to civilisation as they call it, planning to go on more adventures as soon as possible.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: