The birding and nature childrens’ club of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel's is hosted by the Botanical Garden and Zoological Garden

Written and photographed: Anat Gal, the group's guide and an animal assisted therapist
The birding club of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel has been operating in the Gush Dan area for many years. Last year a new group was begun, for very young birders – aged 8-10. The declared aim of the group is simple: to let the children go out; to disconnect them from the computer and telephone screens and connect them instead to nature and especially to birds. In search of an age-appropriate structure for the activity and programs we began a collaboration with Tel Aviv University. As part of this cooperation, some of the group's meetings are held in the Botanical Garden and in the Zoological Garden.

In September we had our first visit to the Botanical Garden, in which we encountered several habitats: desert vegetation, tangled thicket, local sea squills, and unique cacti from all over the world… Each time we arrived at one of the Garden's crossroads we took a different path, leading to wonderful experiences. Everything was in bloom and many mosquitos and insects were buzzing around the flowers, trying – successfully – to taste them, and us too. Despite the annoying stings and bites, the abundance of insects is a wonderful treat for the small birds that pass here during their migration to Africa. A spotted flycatcher, a collard flycatcher, several willow warblers, and a young red-backed shrike were the main insect-eating birds that celebrated in front of us between the blossoming salt cedars and acacia trees. Between bites they stopped for a quick shower in the stream. In addition, we were lucky to observe in the Botanical Garden a marsh frog, a Lebanon lizard, and a group of researchers who were investigating one of the trees, where a chameleon had found refuge among its leaves.

In October we visited the Zoological Garden, where we were given a very special tour by the administrative director of the Garden, Dr. Ron Elazari-Volcani. Ron explained to us about the importance of the Garden and the research that is carried out here. We were invited to a personal and close encounter with some of the animals. We visited the breeding colony of the white-eyed gull, an endangered species, and we learned about the global importance of this colony. When we entered the enclosure some of the gulls and ibises were a little scared at first and moved away from us. After few minutes, however, in which we remained motionless and silent, three almost-adult chicks came to us and "asked" for food. The kids put on gloves and happily and gently fed the chicks with small pieces of fish.
Our next stop was to visit the smallest owls in Israel: the Eurasian scops owl and the pallid scops owl. The challenge was to find five owls. Their height (about 20 cm) and their perfect camouflage made it difficult to discern them among the tree branches in the yard, but the sharp-eyed kids succeeded to find them all. We were lucky to have such a close look at such small and secretive owls.
We continued to walk along the Zoological Garden paths, accompanied by peacocks, swans, storks, and ducks. We arrived at a very large enclosure and "someone" inside invited us to enter. We found the door and our "host" arrived to welcome us with greetings. The minute we sat down, he also sat – on our shoulders! It was Henry – a tailless bulbul that had grown up in a human home. We enjoyed his company throughout our visit to the new thicket aviary.

We finished our visit to the Zoological Garden near the new exhibit of the white-tailed sea-eagles, very large and impressive birds of prey. It is hoped that the pair will breed and its future offspring will be reintroduced back into nature. We wish them success in their important goal.

Sounds fun? You are welcome to join our group!
For further details and registration: 052-4773977, hug.tzaparut@gmail.com

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