Friday, November 30, 2007

Tits chiming, and gazelles eat nuts?

No gazelle show for some days and now we suspect we know the reason why. Nuts! The gazelle weren't going after the grazing under those trees, (rather sparse in itself) but after fallen sweet almonds! We checked under their favourite tree and though we found a few hoof tracks in the soft earth, particularly on the way into the water channel in the foreground, they could have been days old. Not a single nut was left and no more in the tree. The scraggly tree to the right of the largest tree is a hawthorn or some close relative but we think all the other three are almonds. I hope this won't mean they'll desert gazelle field for the rest of the winter but we'll just have to look harder for them!

Meanwhile: Black redstart at the bunker ruins on wednesday, just calls since then. Graceful warbler in gazelle field, Jays, Blackbirds, Syrian woodpeckers, white spectacled bulbuls in the woods. Jackdaws and hooded crows up on the hill and around and the usual house sparrows and bulbuls heard in the garden. Ticking of a robin down by the dry stream. Night singing insects were already chiming before 5 p.m. in gazelle field.

Now, friday midday, I can hear a graceful warbler in the garden, (they pretty much take the ecological niche of wrens in the U.K.) and not long ago heard the chiming of at least two great tits in full song again. I don't remember them singing at this time of year last year but this is the point and value of keeping this log, to keep a record of behaviour from year to year so we can compare the years. The Bauhinia is still in full leaf which is beautiful but obscures visibility!

Nov 30 -12-21 degrees C

Gazelle! It's Friday, just after 3 p.m. (18.2 degrees C, humidity just 29% and rising, winds easterly and very light)

We saw adult male in the pinewoods a little north of central trail just strolling along.

Black redstart was at the bunker ruins, chaffinches calling in the pines there, Jays, Jackdaws, Hooded crows, Syrian woodpeckers about and great tits about. Heard nice blackbird song on the way back, in the trees on the north end of the bank between the neighbourhood and valley road.

No fewer than 7 pairs of Senegal doves at our end of the street. They congregate near the corner store and 'breadcrumb corner' across the road from the store.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Unseasonal song

26th Nov: Range 9-16. Wind veered to easterlies about 7 a.m. which blew gently all day.

27th Nov: Range 12-19 ~ 4 p.m. 16 degrees C, humidity 30% and climbing, easterlies and south easterlies all day, up to 5 kt in the morning, no more than 2kt in afternoon.

Plenty hyrax activity along valley road.

Most notable on Monday were several Great tits Parus major in full enthusiastic song! One in the garden for some time midday, and another two in lively in song dual apparently at the east edge of the neighbourhood at the top of the bank sloping down to valley road. They took their singing to the top of the building and were really chiming at one another from post and roof rail.

Great tits basically pick two or three clear strident notes and repeat them a bunch of times, simple recognizable theme, many variations. One of them had a note choice I'd never heard before, more complex and varied in style than your average great tit song which threw me at first because I thought it might be something else until I saw him. Could be a young male just experimenting but if so, he already had it down!

There are plenty acacia trees and other foliage on that bank, much loved by bulbuls, graceful warblers, tits, other small birds and hyrax. We also noticed a wild mouse foraging on the bank in the late afternoon light, which then popped into a hole there. He popped out for another brief excursion and then became shy and decided to stay 'indoors' a while to our disappointment.

Today (Tues) we heard plenty great tit calls in the pines but no repeat of yesterday's performance though the garden great tit did sing for a few minutes about midday.

Toward dusk, though, we did hear some tentative blackbird song over in the north east end of north valley, again, could have been a young male just trying out his voice. Plenty blackbird settling down 'chack chacks' as usual.

Apart from the songsters, Nice male stonechat on that bank today, further south toward the pumping station, calling repeatedly, black redstart same general area yesterday. Redstart calls along the creek path today but bird was elusive. Absent from bunker but I think we just got there too late and he'd already gone to roost.

At least 150 crows up on windsurfer hill today, assorted jackdaws and hooded crows. Jays seemed to have settled down lately, not as noisy as they were not so long ago but still seen here and there changing trees. Occasional Syrian woodpecker calls.

Yesterday falcon headed over west from windsurfer hill, and up the hill to the west.. based on the direction - toward the tall buildings in the neighbourhood - we guess it was probably one of the local kestrels.

Today we saw a sparrowhawk fly over the orchard from the south and land in a tall eucalyptus, probably settling to roost as the light was fading fast by then and the little 'cell phone' crickets were already out and chiming.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


Friday: (about 3 p.m, sunny) By the saplings field, several chiffchaffs foraging in a pine by the north edge of the field. These are called alvit 'horef in modern Hebrew. Alvit = leaf warbler, from the Hebrew aleh, leaf, and 'horef = winter since these pretty yellowish insect eaters like to overwinter here. I noticed one black redstart on a rock in the open part of the field and activity of at least two other birds not far away, likely another couple of redstarts. Nice male Stonechat up the slope in the scrub to the west side of valley road.

The weekend felt considerably cooler and damper.

Today: (Saturday) Range 8-16 degrees C, ~4 p.m. 13.5 degrees C, Humidity 55%, wind ENE, still to barely 1.5 knots. Lovely high altitude mackerel cloud formations.

Coo of feral pigeon heard, at least 5 pairs of Senegal doves and a hooded crow where breadcrumbs are put out by our road.

Hooded crow and jackdaws up on windsurfer hill.

We headed north along the trail past the cistern and came across a number of delicate lightpurple crocuses just blooming out in the open, they looked quite recently emerge from the softy rusty coloured soil. Checking a guide later at home I narrowed it down to two likely species. We hope to return with a camera tomorrow. These crocuses bloom here from October to December.

Today.. a Tristram's grackle flew over us to the east as we walked down valley road. Blackbirds and bulbuls calling as we came back in the dusk along central trail.

Hyrax alarm calls heard.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


White Breasted Kingfisher (copyright Ruth Schueler)


Everything changes after a good rain. The air along the creek path was heavy with eucalyptus oil aroma, the earth was soft and sticky, the stream had already stopped flowing but had many little pools along its length and qualified as 'The damp creek' rather than 'the dry creek' . Redstarts called throughout the woods and small bands of finches roved the canopies though visible only in silhouette and flight.

From the house, Senegal doves could be heard cooing softly, bulbuls and sunbirds also quite vocal though latter not singing today.

Evidence of the force of last night's water was found where the stream intersects central path on the way to look-out corner. The scrap metal merchants had left a fridge, temporarily we hope, when they loaded up that abandonned vehicle. I assume there was not enough room on their truck for both. Some kids ( I assume) had shoved the fridge down the bank onto the stream bed and now it was lodged about 40 feet downstream! The current must have caught on the door and shoved it along last night. Now it's more accessible to the scrap metal guys again but if they don't come back for it soon it will be well on its way to Wadi Qelt! I couldn't help seeing the humour in it:

"this is the fridge's five year mission, to boldly go down to Jericho to cool the Jordan valley"

In addition, a huge bite of earth had been taken out of the side of the bank in one place. Perhaps kids hadn't pushed it down after all, perhaps the erosion had caused it to tumble down in the previous rain.

First thing we heard walking along the valley road toward the pumping station was a harsh repeating call that I first thought might be a ring necked parakeet until it flew up into clear view on a post. "What?!" It was a white breasted kingfisher! Halcyon smyrnensis and the first I've ever seen in the valley. I have seen them in other locations around Israel, a wild one was haunting the crocodile habitat at the Ramat Gan zoo, they were regulars on the kibbutz I lived at near Tel Aviv for a year and a half about 25 years ago, one of the first birds Keti Levi showed me. I have also seen them across Jerusalem perched in the trees by the little lake at the Wohl Rose Gardens near the Knesset. This is the first time I've ever seen one in our neighbourhood so I was very pleased. Frogs and toads are on the move because of the rains and these would attract these magnificent birds, almost a foot in length.

We admired him for a few minutes, each time taking high vantage points, very convenient for viewing, till he finally flew off out of view to the south.

No gazelle today but we did their find hoof marks in the softened ground on the path right by the orchard.

We also heard blackbird, graceful warbler, Syrian woodpecker.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Minor earthquakes

Forget to write up Tuesday's sightings last night, I must have been tired! Happily well rested now.

(20th Nov) range 11-15 degrees C, 13.2 degrees C at about 4 p.m. wore sweater but still felt a little cool, didn't bother with a jacket because I didn't believe rain was imminent. Cumulus filled half the sky and seemed mildly threatening, tossing down a few drops, but didn't rain in earnest till about 8 p.m. 3rd rain this fall. Humidity at time of walk, 68%, wind 5kt and westerly.

A couple of minor earthquakes today (Tues) but so small I didn't perceive them consciously, though they had been on my mind, one of those 'we must be overdue for an earthquake' thoughts that probably meant I had perceived them subconsciously. That has happened to me every time I've 'missed' an earthquake. I do clearly remember perceiving a couple of them some years back - one made my closet doors rattle a bit and another I remember thinking that some huge truck must be unloading a very large number of boulders down the road, that's how it sounded.

We're in an earthquake zone since we're so close to the great rift valley system which starts in Syria and forks south like lightning all the way down to the Olduvai gorge. Usually not a problem if the buildings are close to the bedrock (as most are in Jerusalem) but disastrous if buildings are built on accumulated Tel rubble, then everything shakes down as has happened Tzfat (Safed) in 1837 and to a lesser extent in the Nablus area in 1927.
We expect earthquakes every few years though usually just 2-6 on the Richter scale.

From indoors through my window heard house sparrows, bulbuls, senegal dove, a sunbird in full song in the Bauhinia and playing peekaboo amongst the leaves.. (the tree is still fully green ) Managed to get a glimpse of malachite iridescence from time to time.

Two hornless gazelle in the pinewoods, a few score yards north of the central trail, 'Snowcap' , the one with the white forehead and another one. They were there again and still together on our way back though they'd moved a few hundred yards in their wanderings.

Some hyrax calls. Many redstart calls in the woods though tantalizingly hidden by the foliage. At one point we were hearing them from both sides of the path and husband said "there are at least two here unless one of them just 'orbed'..." . "You've been watching too much 'Charmed' !" I joked. Black redstart not seen by bunker ruins today. The usual jay activity, graceful warbler calls. Watched a white wagtail, looked like one of this year's birds from its markings, foraging on the ground just off to the side of our street before we descended to valley road.

A nice size hawk flew from the east and settled somewhere in the north valley woods, brownish and barred, longish tail, looked too big for sparrowhawk. Goshawk is possible though not common.

A couple of times heard what sounded like European robin alarm calls but no sightings. Some greenfinch twitters, blackbird pre-dusk fuss as usual,

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sunday and more easterlies

Range, 14-22 degrees C,

About 4 p.m. 18.4 degrees C, humidity 54%, wind 4.3 kt SE

Mostly clear, scattered high altitude clouds. More overcast at about 10 p.m.

~ 70 crows seen flying from Hizmeh hill to windsurfer hill. Later, shortly before sunset ~90 jackdaws joined them from the west. Hooded crows up there. hard to tell how many.

House sparrows in the garden as well as a 'tzeet' from a blackbird somewhere. Earlier heard tic tic, sounded like European robin but somewhat muffled. Sunbirds and bulbuls about. White wagtail heard from the street.

Along Valley road.. plenty hyrax activity. Couple of feral dogs by a path winding up the hill west, near the pumping station, barked at us but they were just resting on the ground. Feral pigeons and Senegal doves active. Great tits vocal in the pines as well as Eurasian jays and some Syrian woodpeckers. Sparrowhawk call to south, then saw it winging quite low over rooftops of Pisgat Ze'ev neighbourhood though it didn't put up the feral pigeons perched in some numbers on the rooftops up there. They probably felt too large game to be threatened.

Small finches about, calls, sounded like chaffinches but got no clear sightings. Other small passerines up there but didn't manage to find them in falling light and all the foliage, and hubby was eager to get to look-out corner for the gazelles so we didn't tarry. Frustrating though because I've been hearing a few unfamiliar calls in the woods lately. Some whistles I believe to be European redstarts but there are others. Blackbirds heard clearly though. Black redstart on the bunker ruins as usual. No sight or call of stonechats today.

Beautiful full grown hornless gazelle I take to be female standing at the edge of north valley forest. Seemed she was contemplating coming out to the favourite grazing spot, or perhaps had just come from there. Presently she turned and headed back into the shade of the pines. No others seen today.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Thurs to Sat

Range: 15-22 degrees C, ~ 4 p.m. 19.9 degrees C. Humidity 41%, wind westerly 8.7 kt.
Gazelles: no show, but pair on Sat , see ahead.
hyrax: plenty activity around cypress slum, numbers various ages scampering over the road from there to dens on east side of road.
No really young darker young pups though some relatively small, a few months old already.
White wagtails: Heard in the street
Redstarts:1 flew from field by saplings into the pines. calls
Black redstart on bunker ruins.
Stonechats: Calls in gazelle field.
House sparrows: Gardens as usual, Feral pigeons: roof rail of buildings.
Hooded crows: Flock up on windsurfer hill, windsurfing, later joined by jackdaws, at least 80 birds total.
Eurasian Jays: Several seen in the pinewoods, relatively quiet
Greenfinches: Some twitters in pines near look-out corner
Blackbirds: alarm calls in the woods, Great tits: calls in pine woods.

Harsh quickly repetitive call down near dry creek bridge. Sounded familiar but couldn't quite place it...
Nice sound collection. Rose ringed parakeet aka Ring necked parakeet, Psittacula krameri. We had several sightings along dry creek trail eucalyptus last year, no positive this year but this call matches.
Husband heard Tristram's grackle whistle up in higher part of neighbourhood.
Friday Nov 16. 15-22 degrees C, 2.30 p.m. 20.8 degrees C, humidity 48%, wind very low, NNW
Gazelles: no show
reptiles: agama lizard sunning on the bunker ruins.
White wagtails: calls (and on sat)
Redstarts: one flew up from field by saplings into pines
Black redstart at the bunker ruins, stump by pomegranate tree, branch of pine behind the cistern. Didn't see two at one time so couldn't verify not same individual moving around.
Stonechats: nice view of male on scrub by dry stone wall toward west end of gazelle field.
House sparrows, Bulbuls: gardens, Senegal doves: around buildings
Hooded crows: calls and around windsurfer hill
Eurasian Jays: several foraging around woods and fields.
Feral pigeons: building roof rails
Greenfinches: twittering in pines by bunker ruins
Sunbirds: one calling and singing in the Bauhinia in the garden.
Syrian woodpeckers: calls, Great tits: calls woods, around look-out corner.
Saturday Nov 17 Range 15-23 degrees C, ~21 degrees at ~4 pm.
Wind veered from easterlies to westerly shortly after 4 p.m. and humidity soared from about 25% to 80% within the hour.
Wind speed increased from very light to 6 kt then 8kt at the same time as temperatures began to fall. Change is usually not that dramatic.
It was charming to see adult buck gazelle and an apparently fully grown hornless adult grazing peaceably at the sweet spot in gazelle fields, the largest single tree by the dry stone walls, both beautifully marked. She may be his alpha queen. The buck stood at attention from time to time - doing sentry duty apparently. He seems more cautious than the others, perhaps because he spends more time off on his own. After some time he walked off but the other stayed.

At least 100 crows visible up on windsurfer hill, both hooded crows and jackdaws, more hoodies on the ground. I'd estimate at least double that in the area.
Clear Tristram's Grackle whistles just beyond eucalyptus grove, to east and north, at least two individuals from directions heard, but none sighted.
Black redstart by the bunker ruins again, calling and flicking. Possible Stone curlew call.. not sure. haven't heard them in a while and this sounded a little different.
Chaffinch call.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Trip north

In brief, I'm tired now but I want to get the information down while it's still fresh in my mind. I may come back and edit this later. Son had his basic training graduation ceremony today, we travelled to the Galilee to attend and visit him.

This means first driving down to Jericho - that's +800 m to -300 m , elevation change of 1100 metres in about 20 minutes! I usually yawn frequently along the way, sometimes hear my ears crackle. Then it's about a three hour drive north, and north west.

The Jordan rift valley was lovely and warm though hard to spot birds from a moving vehicle we did see a couple of ravens near Jericho, probably brown necked raven Corvus ruficollis, and several falcons, most probably kestrels, Falco tinnunculus, hunting over the road edges.

At a service station we noticed bulbul, sunbird and white wagtail, and of course house sparrows. Plenty doves were seen along the valley, both feral, collared doves Streptopelia decaocto and a few senegal doves.

Things really started getting interesting approaching Beit Shean where a flock of large birds was seen rising and circling from the ground.. all black kites, Milvus migrans about 30 of them together. Some nice size milling flocks of gulls were also about over the fields and fishponds or reservoirs, couldn't tell what they were since we were both in motion but could tell many of this years' immatures amongst them. Most probably Black headed gulls, Larus ridibundus Some white storks Ciconia ciconia were also about rising up on a tight thermal, interesting to see those still here so late in the season but conditions favourable for them. Hard to tell how many, trees in the way.

Due to time constraints and the wishes of our other passengers (son's friends and eldest daughter) we could only stop briefly, not nearly enough to satisfy me of course but gave me the above sightings.

At the base, not far out from Afula in the lower Galilee, and set in pleasant rural uplands I had a little time to scout around before the parades etcetera began. Some chaffiches were about, interestingly hawking for flies, not quite as deftly as flycatchers but making a game try. More interesting were numbers of European starlings Sturnus vulgaris that were gliding to and fro above and appeared to be hawking for flying insects bee-eater style. I didn't know they did this and have never noticed them doing it before. There were also plenty doves about and the occasional late swallow Hirundo rustica up there. I also heard at least two, perhaps three European robins, plenty tic tic sounds and a few bars of sweet song broke out as the late afternoon turned into evening but my tired eyes failed to get any good sightings of them.

The rest was all as you'd expect boys lined up in green standing at attention and brass band music rendering old Naomi Shemer songs that bring tears of nostalgia to my eyes. Those evocative old melodies reminds me of my first days in the country as a kibbutz volunteer, the same age as my eldest daughter is today. We sat under carob trees and by other lush greenery and watched the sun set over the lovely peaceful Galilean hillsides, robin singing a few sad strains, starlings gliding overhead and just hoping and praying that the peace we see here and now can prevail everywhere and that there will be no call for an army's force.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

4 gazelle

12 Nov: Range today: 15-18 degrees C

~ 4 p.m. just over 15 degrees, humidity: 46% and rising, wind very light and easterly, skies clear.
Gazelles: no show today ( but sighting on tuesday, see below)
Feral dogs: barks

Redstarts: European, calls east valley? Male black redstart on rebar of bunker ruins, flew off into eucalyptus grove
Stonechats: couple up in scrub by security fence east side of gazelle field, tail flicking like anything but not calling, and a bulbul not far off.
No robin calls or sightings :(
House sparrows: gardens.
Senegal doves: some little coos in the garden, 1 seen on rail near buildings.
Hooded crows: individuals returning to windsurfer hill, flock just south of Hizmeh with jackdaws.
Jackdaws: 70 plus returning to windsurfer hill from some foraging somewhere NNW. Another 10 joined them later, then saw flock by Hizmeh, first merged with hoodie flock, then the two kinds of crow separated into their own flocks which was a really neat effect to see.
Eurasian Jays, graceful warblers, syrian woodpeckers: calls.
Feral pigeons: Top rails of buildings.
Blackbirds: High 'tzeet' calls from garden, (hubby saw one on the lawn yesterday), several 'chakking' in forest at dusk
Collared doves: Sound of them changing perches up in the pines by the bunker but stayed quiet.
Bulbuls: Calls garden. It's come to my attention that there are actually three species of bulbuls called Yellow vented bulbuls. The other two are in east Africa and south east Asia. Spectacled bulbul is also a name given to one of the others. Our Pycnonotus xanthopygos is the only one that has both names apparently! White spectacled bulbul is the name often preferred but I use yellow- vented to differentiate it from the closest other bulbul, P. barbatus, found in Egypt. That has neither spectacles nor yellow vent but the latter is the more obvious feature.
13 Nov: 12-18 degrees C, 4 p.m. ~15.5 degrees C, humidity 58%, wind NNW 4.3 kt
Gazelles: Finally a sighting after missing them for a few days! Group of 4 grazing in the middle of gazelle field by the stone walls and single trees. Shortly after, they sproinged to the pine trees, delightful to watch. They look like they have spring loaded hooves when they move like that. At least two of them had short horns. I'm guessing they were a group of young adults, peers.
White wagtails: some heard
Redstarts: 'Blackjack' on the bunker ruins (male black redstart)
One on a rail back of a building where we took our short cut down to valley road. From its jizz and situation I first took it to be a robin so was very surprised when I got a good view and saw it was a redstart. It wasn't calling. It was interesting seeing one so close to habitation. It looked like an immature bird and seemed too brown to be a black redstart but did have thin white wing markings, and obvious rust on the tail.

Stonechats, robins, senegals: no sight or sound
House sparrows: Vocal in the gardens esp. toward 4 p.m.
Hooded crows: 13, then about 40 returning to windsurfer hill from foraging in the NNW
Jackdaws, jays, Graceful warblers, Syrian woodpeckers: calls
Blackbirds: 'tzeet' and 'chak' calls in the woods approaching dusk
Sunbirds: Some calls from the garden
: some calls
Bulbuls: Vocal in the garden and up on security fence east end of gazelle field where stonechats have been.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Robins and Rain

Range: 12-17 degrees C,

~4 p.m. 16.3 degrees C, humidity 67% and rising, wind SW 7 kt.

About midday sunbird singing beautifully in the Bauhinia right outside my window again:)

Bulbuls vocal, Hooded crow first bird heard today, not sure when, between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. House sparrows very vocal about 4 p.m. as usual.

Set out just after four.. sky mostly overcast with ragged cumulus but the ones coming in were looking more serious, undersides dark grey and crimsonish in the late afternoon light.

Soon it was drizzling but there was plenty life in one relatively young pine tree by the valley road and I wouldn't tear myself away till I'd seen as much as possible in it because of the call I was hearing. It was a clear and familiar 'tic!, tic!' which meant European robin! (Erithacus rubecula)

American robins are more closely related to our blackbirds (Turdus merula), similar in size and 'jizz', European robins are smaller and much more closely resemble chats and redstarts in their perky, flicky jizz, and bubble over in character, cheeky and bold !

Robins are two a penny in the U.K. When I took my eldest daughter to South Wales (this time of year, some years ago) she was amazed at how many robins we were seeing out in the open, busy on almost every hedge. Here they're only winter visitors and that gives them extra specialness to me. Perhaps there's a bit of nostalgia there for me too:) As regular readers will know, I've been waiting for that first robin of the season for weeks, and I didn't care that my nose, sweater and hat were getting wet. My field glasses first found a beautiful tiny Philloscopus warbler (most probably Chiffchaff, P. collybita) foraging in the upper twigs, olive green and pale yellow with clear eye stripe, a nice sighting but that wasn't what was 'ticking'. More frantic searching.. a great tit busy foraging in the middle of the pine, being very quiet about it. Suddenly, after a few more minutes there it was! It flew down to a clump of vegetation at the edge of valley road and I had my glimpse, flicking and perky on the ground, brown and the tiniest hint of orangey red, he had his back to me, and then he was off again, back up into another pine.

Ahhh! Another search of the dense branches yielded three more enchanting Philloscopus
warblers busy foraging and now calling in a squeaky whistle to other warblers in another pine across valley road. Husband noticed them flitting to and fro across the road and guessed there must have been at least half a dozen of the little jobs in the immediate area

The robin darted across the road, behind some ragwort and into the low branches of a pine there and then frustratingly the ticking ceased and we searched in vain for any movement, now there were scores of trees to search. We did hear redstart whistles from the pines as well as some quite vocal graceful warblers.

As I searched, I tried to reassure husband, who was constantly glancing up at the grey ominous clouds, that it was only raining 'a bit' LOL

A widely straggled flock of at least twenty hooded crows were returning to roost from forage in the north and we heard a jackdaw as we headed into the buildings. Some Eurasian Jays were also noisy in the forest.

Now of course I won't feel fully satisfied till I see a decent view of the whole bird but today it's a 'rain check' since shortly after that the rain really started coming down and we had to find the quickest shortcut back from valley road to the back of the buildings. As we hurried through the rain I couldn't resist quipping to husband, 'now you know why there are so many robins in England!'

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Black redstarts popping up all over

Nov 8: Thursday: Range 13-19 degrees C,
4 p.m. (beginning of walk) 15.8 degrees C,
humidity 65% and rising, wind NNW 1.7 kt
Almost clear skies, a few high altitude clouds. Those cumulus clouds of yesterday didn't drop much, just a couple of episodes of light drizzle, didn't make the records.

Feral pigeon, Jackdaw, Greenfinch, Graceful warbler, Syrian woodpecker. Hyrax
alarm calls.

Nov 9: Friday: Range 14:20 degrees C
3.20 (right after walk) 17.5 degrees C and falling
humidity 65% and rising, wind WSW 6.1 kt
Mystery bird solved.. seen again and much closer on the field by the saplings, possible to see red in the tail. Female (or possibly immature) black redstart.
Another redstart seen further north, over in the burnt glade west of the dry creek path approaching the old orchard , another female or immature- but because of strong back lighting, hard to make out if European or Black redstart. It flew into acacia and then into pines which is more European redstart type choice. Not sure, one or 'tother.
Garden: Yellow vented Bulbul calls, quite vocal today, and sunbirds busy in the cape honeysuckle which is still blooming.
(Ragwort at least half converted to seed-heads by now)
White wagtail heard midday from the street.
Great tit calls from the pines from valley road, jackdaw calls, graceful warbler calls and a family foraging together in vegetation between the saplings and dry creek. Eurasian Jay calls.
Nov 10: Mostly clear, some small clouds of varied altitude and type. Range: 13-19 degrees C, still no more rain.
Shortly after 4 p.m. temp ~16 degrees C and falling, humidity ~65%, wind NW ~ 4kt.
Imm. or female black redstart again on rocks in field by the saplings, seen further away again, red on tail hardly discernible. Clear Stonechat calls heard up the scrubby slope to west of the approach to the pumping station. Must have dived for cover. hubby directed me to one bird he noticed up there, turned out to be yet another black redstart! Light now fading and didn't manage to actually see any chats. Hyraxes quite active up there.
Nice Crow flyby toward sunset.. spread out flock of some 80 jackdaws returning from foraging in the north to windsurfer hill area, soon after joined by another 20 coming from our neighbourhood and some minutes later another just under 40 from the north, as well as stragglers and also small groups of hooded crows. At least 20 hoodies, probably more, were already up there, doing, guess what? Their usual windsurfing and winddiving games.
Bird of prey seen briefly dipping down into the woods toward look-out corner though hard to tell exactly where it swooped down, we saw from behind, could have been the sparrowhawk or a falcon.

No robins yet:(
Heard and glimpsed Great tit, Graceful warbler, Syrian woodpecker, White wagtail (flying over), chaffinches.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Kite passage

Normal weather has resumed apparently, 4 p.m. and the temperature was a cool 16.4 degrees C, nice cumulus rolling in from the west like the Black Pearl and at a fair clip, over 18 kt according to the weather station and back up to 78% and rising. Range 14-20 degrees C.

Right after we started off down valley road we saw them, three black kites gliding in a tight circle together cresting the hill to the north. They continued over the east valley, heading slowly south, circling each other as they went. They were flying crosswind so had to circle to 'tack' their way south.

The kites encountered resistance pretty soon, a few local hooded crows started to harry them but as they passed windsurfer hill an angry mob of up to 80 crows, both jackdaws and hoodies, boiled up from the hill cawing and flying at the much larger birds. The kites dodged them easily but were turned around, they headed east a little way, then circled back north and got themselves in position over the valley for another pass. It was not easy work.

Some local boys, curious as ever about my binoculars requested a turn and I showed them the kites and explained a little about them.

The second time through one of them made it almost out of sight to the south, dodging crows quite expertly but the other two were dithering just short of level with windsurfer hill and seemed reluctant to move on, the winds were blowing them toward the hill and they didn't seem to want to run the gauntlet again.

That kite way out in front turned around and flew all the way back, not wanting to abandon his companions.

The three set off up the valley again. Suddenly there was a fourth kite! I have no idea where that one came from, must have seen them from the other side of Hizmeh and decided to pool 'kite power' or perhaps the others managed to 'recruit' him on their diversion east, or perhaps he just caught up to them from the north. This time the group was successful, amazingly four kites seemed to intimidate the crows significantly more than three and the mobbing this time was far less. The four made it past 'windsurfer hill territory' and on to the south. Yay! The crows went back to their usual games, mock fighting in flight a little amongst themselves and the inevitable windsurfing.

By the time all that was over it was too dim to go down to gazelle field or watch for anything else but I felt quite satisfied:)

Bulbul calls, housesparrows usual late afternoon chatter, sunbird calls, son saw white wagtails, graceful warbler calls, blackbird 'chacks', Eurasian Jay calls, hyrax alarm chitters. No sign of that black tailed bird near the saplings but heard black redstart type call in the area. By calls and bird group movements seemed to be chaffinches around but didn't get a good sighting.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

4th, 5th, 6th November

Sun: Range 18-26 degrees C, 4 p.m. 24 degrees, humidity ~30%, wind NW about 5 kt though most of morning and some of evening wind veered to SW and dropped.

Sunday and Monday:

Gazelles: No show either day
hyrax: mature sentry on rock by valley road watching us sunday.. alarm calls heard
dogs: some barking by the fence especially night but feral pack not sighted
White wagtails: heard from street sunday late morning.
Chaffinches: Seen both days: Sun, male and female top of cypress, Mon, female top of eucalyptus and small bands.
Redstarts: Black redstart sun on ruins, mon on thistle head closer to west edge of field, this individual looked greyer, probably immature
Stonechats: Nice male on scrub at gazelle's favourite spot on sun, brief call on monday from scrub north of cistern. .
House sparrows: Interesting sighting on sunday, male house sparrow on a wire at the edge of the neighbourhood practising flycatching, launching, chasing insects in flight and landing back same spot. I did a double take, to make sure it wasn't a flycatcher. Tribute to the amazing success of these birds, their versatility.
Senegal doves: Some cooing by neighbourhood on sunday.
Hooded crows: Flocking on windsurfer hill on monday with jackdaws and flight of small groups in various directions.
Eurasian Jays: Active and vocal, foraging in forest and fields as usual.
Feral pigeons: Small flocks and individuals on and between rooftops as usual.
Blackbirds: Dusk 'chack chack' as usual all three days
Collared doves: On security fence and up on high wire north gazelle field
Sunbirds: Heard in gardens
Graceful warblers: Heard in gazelle field and valley road, mon. & sun.
Syrian woodpeckers: Calls heard d both days
Bulbuls: Gardens both days, group down by dry creek heard dusk monday, up on security fence tuesday where stonechats hang out but no sign of them.
Great tits: Calls by valley road
Tues Nov 6: Another day of warmth, dryness and SW/S/SE winds, 10 kt at about 4 p.m. Range 17-30 ! degrees C, Humidity as low as 16%, very dry for up here and now.
Temp. at 4 p.m. almost 27 degrees C, I didn't need my sweater! As far as birds concerned, very quiet and no gazelles or reptiles, though hyraxes heard.
One mystery bird in the little stony field by the saplings (between the dry creek and valley road near the pumping station). This is the field that was used by that family of black eared wheatears back in spring, Bob's family if anyone remembers them.
This little chap was standing on a boulder, flicking just like a black redstart but its tail was black, no sign of red and most of the body was greyish. I tried to edge round to get a view of the front but it disappeared soon after. Only two birds that matched it were blackstart, (see entry for visit to Eyn Geddi back in summer) and (first winter) white throated thrush Irania which is rare and unlikely. It didn't seem to have the jizz of a blackstart from those I remember but I've never seen them up here, birds out of context can throw one off - unless of course it was an immature (first winter) black redstart and tail not fully developed.
Chukar partridges heard not far from pumping station.
Graceful warblers calling in gazelle field till dusk, they must like these conditions!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Agamas sunbathing

Friday: 2.30 p.m. temps: mid 20 degrees C, lovely fanning high altitude clouds over most of the sky, as if fanning out from a point in the south east, could mean rain bearing clouds within a day or two, hopefully, though today's temps have taken a little upswing for the month.

Several agama lizards out basking in the sun on south or east side of large boulders, head usually directed toward top, a couple on the bunker ruins, each at least a foot long.
Black redstart: 1, on a stump by a dry stone wall not far from the bunker ruins.. bobbing, flicking and calling. Was he scared off by a jay and all the agamas or was he just checking out another part of his range?
House sparrows: Busy around houses as usual, now getting very noisy and active as early as 4 p.m. (and on saturday)
Senegal doves: Several foraging around valley road, slope between the road and the buildings
Hooded crows: Jackdaws: several calling and flying over, friday and saturday.
Eurasian Jays: busy foraging in woods and field,
Feral pigeons: Several around.
Sunbirds: One singing beautifully 1.30 p.m. in the Bauhinia just outside my window, a much higher perch than his 'sapphireness' used to choose and this one had strong malachite tints. Different male or just changed his habits? Colours can look different from different angles on these iridescent birds. Another active in the eucalyptuses near look-out corner
Graceful warblers: Calling and active, they definitely seem to prefer to be more active in the hotter hours of the day though calls heard later on Sat. also.
Syrian woodpeckers: calls fri and sat.
Yellow vented Bulbuls: Plenty calls, vocal in gardens especially, and on sat.
Great tits: Plenty calls in the pines off valley road today.

Saturday: 17-26 degrees C,
4 p.m. :21.5 degrees C, humidity: just ~45%, W,WNW, 7kt

- 1 grazing in that favourite spot under the largest tree amongst the dry stone walls, mid 'gazelle field' . Still no sign of the group, I search hill sides for them every day. I suspect they're just a bit further off to north west.
Chaffinches: call from north valley pines
Stonechats: Two visible in the scrub between small pomegranate and the cistern, plenty calls toward sunset.
Greenfinches: Plenty twitterings in pines and eucalyptus approaching sunset, haven't heard those in some days.
Blackbirds: 'chak chak' alarm call at dusk

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Two more returnees

Gazelles: No show today

First return was quite expected, in fact I'd mentioned to husband while walking along the valley road that we should look out for chaffinches. I did spot a small band of small finch like birds flying from the pumping station area north over valley road, looked like finches in flight but hard to ID in silhouette. We turned the loop connection to the dry stream trail and husband noticed small jobs active in the pines, cypress and acacias on the south side of the path. It was a female chaffinch! Fringilla coelebs Nice view. First definite sighting of the season. I saw her fly off a few minutes later and she had company.. I glimpsed her roving partners heading off with her.

The other interesting small bird in the same trees, was quite obvious by its rust red tail but I wanted it to sit still for a moment to get a proper sighting. It was busy hawking flying insects between the trees. Presently it settled in good view for a short while- a very nice female ( or immature) European Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)
close 'cousin' of Blackjack, the black redstart that has resumed haunting the bunker ruins.
White wagtails: Heard around look-out corner? Brief and unconfirmed but third day in a row such a call heard there. Could also be one of the other wagtails.

Black Redstart: 'Blackjack' present again in the ruins, only one today, flicking and whistling possessively. I assume the other male was chased off. Of course I have no way of knowing if the winner of this little territorial conflict was the original bird we saw, not without colour ringing them, but 'king of the ruins' gets honorary title of 'Blackjack'. I don't know if they would share, they seem quite territorial.

Stonechats: The light was fading fast as we headed north into the moorish part of the north east gazelle field but we did confirm the continued presence of stonechats. One called from up by the fence and within a fraction of a second it was answered by another from the scrub near the easternmost almond tree and by another from another part of the scrub. They are no doubt claiming and asserting rights over their little winter territories too. None were in view as far as I could tell but light was too dim. I scan likely places with field glasses and husband eyeballs for movement, which seems to be a good system.

Nice size Eurasian Sparrowhawk: flying 'upstream' south along the east valley just above canopy level, no doubt hawking for possibilities.
Falcon, harried away from 'windsurfer hill' by hooded crows. I could tell the flock was excited and they were drifting west over where we were by the pumping station. The falcon wheeled around easily out of their way, then decided to beat it over the hill crest to the west. Probably a kestrel but couldn't make out much in almost silhouette.

House sparrows: Active as usual in the gardens.
Senegal doves: A brief coo mid afternoon and an individual seen in flight on the street.
Hooded crows: 50 or so up on windsurfer hill. Just after sunset a wide flock of some 40 or so Jackdaws returning from foraging somewhere on hills to the north. They headed for windsurfer hill, immediately raising a clamour from the hooded crows. All of them were interacting like mad over the next few minutes. The larger hoodies probably didn't want their distant cousins barging onto 'their' hill.
Jays: Numerous individuals in field and woods vocalising and foraging as usual.
Feral pigeons: Some seen around buildings as usual
Greenfinches, chukars, collared doves, stone curlews, graceful warblers, : silent or absent
Blackbirds: A pair seen foraging in the dry stream bed
Sunbirds: Calls in the garden. Also calls from a central pinewood territory.
Syrian woodpeckers: Calls
Bulbuls: Plenty calls in the garden
Great tits: Calls from the pine woods off valley road and the vegetation and acacias up the slope between valley road and the buildings.

Wed 31 Oct

Wednesday 31 Oct

Mostly clear skies, some high altitude clouds but last night half filled with cumulus but didn't drop any more rain yet. Today's temp range: 14-23 degrees C

~4 p.m. 21.3 degrees C, 3.5 kt NNW, humidity 61% and rising.

Gazelles 2 today: Individual without horns at the eastern edge of the north valley woods looking into the field where a handsome adult buck gazelle stood, by the largest of the scattered trees amongst the dry stone walls. The buck was looking back and had clearly seen her.. presently he ran over to join her and the two frisked about under the trees briefly. He then moved north, breaking into a little run now and again. Looked like she wanted to go to the sweet grazing spot by the dry stone walls and soon reemerged and made her way over there.
It was almost as if the buck was being a chivalrous gentleman and saying, 'I'm done there, go take your turn!' or more likely he was just being sociable.

Hyrax: Alarm call by the pumping station
Sunbirds: singing and calling in the garden very prettily.
House sparrows: active approaching sunset in the cypresses next to us as usual
Hooded crows: Several returning south to roost, very spread out
Jackdaws: about 80 flocking above Hizmeh, wheeling around for some minutes before settling to roost
Eurasian Jays: Usual activity of generally individual birds scattered over woods and fields
Feral pigeons: Around buildings especially along the little walls/fences guarding the flat roofs , of course I don't use binos to watch these because of the privacy issue.
Blackbirds: 'Chack chack' calls in the pinewoods
Graceful warblers: Some calls along valley road
Syrian woodpeckers: Some calls heard from the pine woods
Yellow vented Bulbuls: Gardens as usual and a group of 3 up on the fence where stonechats were. No stonechat calls or sightings today. No more white wagtails seen or heard for sure anywhere today. (husband travelled to west side of town (office) and back and saw none. He works from home mostly but when he goes in he can report from other urban and suburban areas of Jerusalem.