Photographing Wildlife in Tel Aviv

A couple of weeks ago Australian wildlife and travel photographer Margaret Weiss (website: and I went to the “Rosh Tsipor” bird-watching center to photograph birds. Tel Aviv with all its parks has got quite some wildlife. The Rosh Tsipor bird-watching center is located in the Hayarkon park in Tel Aviv right next to the neighboring city of Ramat Gan.

Pied kingfisher (male) – click to enlarge

We got there at 7 in the morning and hoped to catch some bird action at the small lake. The eastern lookout (there are several around the lake) offered the best spot and light. Kingfishers and other birds love to use the tree trunk that stands in the water next to the lookout. This morning a pied kingfisher modeled for us.

Kingfishers are amazing birds. There are many subspecies who often don’t feed on fish (alone), but the pied kingfisher does like fresh sashimi. Perched on a tree trunk above the water, it waits for a fish to swim by and in the blink of an eye dives and catches its lunch.

Pied kingfisher (female) hovering over the water (and a bee captured in-flight)

Unfortunately that day there wasn’t much “action” at the lake. A heron, some mallards, an Egyptian goose and the kingfisher mentioned before. We moved on. I noticed a Palestine sunbird as it was hoping from one branch to another on a nearby tree. These are small but very fast birds that feed on insects and nectar.

Palestine sunbird (male)

I was really lucky to catch it as it just took off. Even at a shutter speed of 1/3200s I had to use some artificial magic (Topaz sharpen) to get a crisp image. It’s not perfect, but better than nothing. Next time I’ll try 1/4000s, or perhaps 1/8000s. I guess I need some more practice to get the perfect shot.

Palestine sunbird (male) as it takes off

We walked to another lookout over the lake, just in time to watch a group of jackals that had gathered on the other side of the lake. Until a couple of years ago I had often heard jackals howling in the night, but never saw one. About 3 or 4 years ago I photographed one in the Golan Heights, at a distance of perhaps100m / 300ft. It was at dawn just as the sun came up. He immediately spotted me and disappeared.

Golden jackal

Things have changed a lot. Now that my family and I are living next to the Hayarkon park, we can hear the jackals in our neighborhood every night. Their howling is unmistakable. Last year this time a did a lot of walking in the park and frequently met jackals. They seemed to have gotten used to us humans.

But this encounter at the bird-watching center was a real treat. That day the jackals really put up a show for us (well, I guess unintended). First there was some wrangling between males. Those teeth look mighty scary. Luckily these animals look for smaller prey (and don’t quarrel with us over their females).

Golden jackals

The antagonists continued to bare their teeth, but no blood was spilled.

Golden jackals baring their teeth

Probably my Nikon’s loud shutter sound caught the attention of the animals as they started to look right at me.

Golden jackals
Golden jackal gazing at me

As an Egyptian goose swam nearby one of the jackals, the latter started to get his hopes high. Would that be his lunch? The jackal tried his best to catch the goose by surprise, but the goose wasn’t too impressed and calmly continued its course.

Egyptian goose and golden jackal

Eventually the jackals disappeared into the bamboo thickets. Across the water a grey heron prepared itself and took off into the sky.

Grey heron

As we left the bird-watching center and strolled through the park, a white-throated kingfisher drew our attention. I often see this bird in our backyard as it perches on a wire looking for insects, reptiles and other small animals on the ground. Every once in a while it dives right down to the ground to catch its prey. Here in the park it was perched on a tree.

White-throated kingfisher

The white-throated kingfisher is a colorful bird with an impressive red bill, bright blue back, wings and tail, and chestnut color for the head, shoulders and lower belly. Like other kingfishers, they are very quick in the air.

Although we missed out on many other species that can be found in that park, we both were able to capture some nice wildlife shots, just minutes away from the diamond exchange, the tech park in Ramat Hachayal, and central Tel Aviv.

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