Israel's Good Name

Agamon Rishon LeZion

In Central Israel, Israel on December 12, 2021 at 8:07 AM

In mid-October, after a flurry of birding trips to the field of Givat HaShlosha and Nachal Rabah, I decided to change the pace a bit and to explore some rich wetlands not too far away from where I live. Incidentally, there were a few choice birds that I had previously seen reported on eBird, and since I was keen to snatch up a few potential “lifers”, I rose in the predawn hours and arrived at my destination – the artificial lake just outside of Rishon LeZion – not long after sunrise.

Early morning at Agamon Rishon LeZion

Early morning at Agamon Rishon LeZion

I had been to a nearby Lake Nakik in the summer of 2019, when Adam and I explored the neighbouring dunes for the first time (see HERE), but somehow the Agamon had slipped through our fingers. My expedition began at the eastern banks where I used my binoculars to scan the lengths of the shorelines around me, finding an expected assortment of egrets, herons and shorebirds. Kingfishers and barn swallows zipped back and forth over the placid lake, completing the serene scene with their controlled flights.

Grainy photo of the African swamphen (right)

Grainy photo of the African swamphen (right)

My first exciting find came when I scanned the reeds a bit more carefully, and then noticed a bird that was bigger and more colourful than a common moorhen – it was an African swamphen! This was my first “lifer” of the day, and in retrospect I could confirm that there was a second one tucked back a bit further, and thus more obscured by the thick reeds. When it got a little brighter out, I was able to discern more species of waders in the muddy shallow section to the south, as well as a reed warbler that appeared in the reeds beside me.

Picturesque views from the deck

Picturesque views from the deck

Eager to see more of the small lake, and from different angles, I continued on my semi-circuit, walking past the FlyBox building where an intriguing, if pricey, weightless flying experience can be had. The trail took me through a small overgrown area and I emerged at the northern side of the lake, where the observation decks have been installed. The sun was still coming up through the dense cloud cover as I took in my new view, seeing more herons and egrets fishing in the shallows.

Grainy photo of the whiskered tern in flight

Grainy photo of the whiskered tern in flight

Another “lifer” appeared in the form of a whiskered tern – a graceful white acrobat skimming over the water’s surface in search of small fish to catch. The tranquility of the lake scene with the muted early morning colours filled me with inner peace, and I sat there basking in the moment. When I had moved on down to the deck, sitting in the western lookout, large raindrops started falling out of the sky. I sheltered my camera and enjoyed the light shower, feeling refreshed from my first rains of the season.

One of the more unusual bird sightings I've ever had

One of the more unusual bird sightings I’ve ever had

The rains brought out the birds, interestingly enough, and I watched a particularly plucky sedge warbler bounce about in search of food. A bluethroat and some white wagtails joined in on the fun, racing about in between the raindrops. When the rain ended I went back to the first lookout in hopes of finding a little bittern, which was actually waiting for me at the base of the structure – our encounter catching both of us off guard. Reflexes kicked in, I tried snapping some pictures while it tried escaping through the thick reeds. The sun eventually broke through the clouds and I decided it was time to head to work, but not without telling others of my relaxing, yet exciting, visit.

Revisiting the lake (photo Adam Ota)

Revisiting the lake (photo Adam Ota)

Sure enough, the following week I revisited the lake, but this time with company: Bracha, Adam and his girlfriend Vered. We retraced the steps that I had taken days before, seeing largely the same selection of birdy friends, minus the elusive swamphen. This time we popped into the large mall complex at the northern side of the lake to grab an iced coffee, and had a picnic as well.

Picnic at the lakeside (photo Adam Ota)

Picnic at the lakeside (photo Adam Ota)

We feasted on cheesy pastas and rich French toast that Adam cooked on his portable burner – more exciting culinarily than my previous tour. Such a delightful place to visit, and relatively easy to get to with public transportation, that I foresee more visits in the future.

  1. No low carbs for you folks I see. Well you’re young.
    What is the Arava like during the spring and fall migrations? Have you ever purposely stationed yourself in this area and waited for different species? Perhaps the coast is better for the smaller birds since more water sources are available. October should be migration time along this flyway but you didn’t mention it as a goal in this outing. What are some of your experiences viewing birds during migration season? I would think not all species travel in flocks since birds are so diverse in their behavior. One of my goals was to visit during the autumn season to observe and record the event. I would still like to find out more about Israel’s flyway and migration events.
    I witnessed one season (unplanned, and surprising) along the Mississippi Flyway in Minnesota. It was five days of concentrated flocks along this water course. It was the most impressive animal event of my life. I was a security guard after hours for a gravel and concrete complex so I had little to do but watch this amazing spectacle. Billions of birds.

    • Hey Alex, glad you liked the post! The Arava is a great flyway during the migrations, unfortunately I’ve never been able to see it properly–yet. Most times I watch for raptor migration in the middle of the country area, where the coastal region and mountains meet. Smaller birds are more varied, as they don’t rely as much on thermals, so I don’t actively look for migrants. You should have a look at my birding blog, here:
      When you mention seeing migration in Minnesota, were these waterfowl or other birds?

      • Thanks for the reply. I’ll check out your other blog. As for the Mississippi Flyway migration, they seemed to be other birds instead of ducks or Canadian Geese which form their distinct V patterns. There were probably some waterfowl included but these were smaller birds in huge noisy flocks. They formed and looked like black clouds of thousands of birds all making contact calls. There were many of these distinct clouds of birds. they weren’t as orderly either as geese or ducks. It was just before dusk that I observed them and they may have roosted soon afterward. It was a migration though since after 5 days they were gone.

      • Interesting, perhaps they were shorebirds/waders although it’s a guessing game at this point. Sounded exciting, that’s for sure.

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