Monday, December 31, 2007

North Valley Walk

Fine day today, sky filled with high altitude streamer clouds, beautiful.

Range 6-13 degrees C, ~4 p.m. 12.2 degrees C. Humidity just 29%, winds south easterly, light.

We headed down into north valley for a change down a steep trail which leads from the north easterly tip of the neighbourhood. I always enjoy that walk, the valley bed is open and wild, just a few acacias line the stream bed and the piping of black redstarts filled the place though the birds themselves managed to stay out of view.

A small pack of five feral dogs were sniffing along in single file along the far bank when suddenly they got into some kind of quarrel. Perhaps pickings were slim and the leader less tolerant but there was clearly an encounter and much pitiful yelping by the losing dog which presently broke away and came running towards us. He crossed our path, heading under the pines and west, with the sandy coloured pack leader in hot pursuit for a few hundred yards, till he was sure the loser had got the message. The latter stopped and looked back but he knew he was in exile, at least temporarily. Two more dogs came along the trail from the east and headed up toward the first group, taking their time. We stopped to admire a boy's shaggy little dark donkey, a popular pet for some local boys.

Husband noticed a Eurasian sparrowhawk disappear under the pines after a brief glide up the valley and crows, both hooded crows and jackdaws were busy foraging on the upper slopes of the hill to the north. 25 or so headed south toward windsurfer hill but the rest of the group decided to settle again and forage a little more. As the light grew a little dimmer some 35 crows lifted up and headed south, followed by at least 15 stragglers over the next few minutes.

An adult buck gazelle was seen running across north gazelle field, presently disappearing behind the pines across the valley, heading north west. A Syrian woodpecker heard calling, stonechat in gazelle field on a tall weed and graceful warbler calling. Blackbird alarm

Garden and around buildings: House sparrows, Great tit in full song, white spectacled bulbuls, a senegal dove perched on top of our building, numbers of feral pigeons on other buildings.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

A common broom like flower out right now. Taken this afternoon.

Fri/Sat update Dec 28,29

Today was pretty quiet. House: House sparrows, white spectacled bulbul, sunbird;
The sunbird was perched on the wrought iron gates of the french windows where there are often a few cobwebs. Husband thought he was after spiders or spider webs. Sunbirds use spider webs extensively in their nest building but it would be a pretty keen bird to be already building now.

in and around the valley, feral pigeons, Hooded crows, black redstarts, blackbirds, Syrian woodpeckers, graceful warblers. Senegal doves, jackdaws, white wagtails also around.

Sun Dec 30
Range 4-12 degrees C, very light south easterlies, humidity just 41%
From the house during the day heard house sparrows, white spectacled bulbuls, jackdaws, brief sunbird, brief white wagtail and cooing up to 4 notes of laughing dove close by.
Heading down shortcut to valley road heard full blackbird song and brief great tit song.

Hooded crows headed back to windsurfer hill in dribs and drabs, small groups. Husband had noticed they were pretty spread out in foraging on the hillslopes to the north, and, as yesterday, the returned as they had foraged, not as large flocks for a change.

Female (or immature) black redstart on prominent perch of acacia tree for a while. Graceful warbler called up there towards the pumping station. We heard the trilling alarm call of rock hyrax and saw a big old blonde job doing sentry duty on a boulder way up the slope. They have to watch out for feral cats and dogs on that slope all the time.

Too many kids around look-out corner today to go down there, they'd have scared away most of the stuff, which is why we contented ourselves with valley road, usually quite rich especially around the pumping station. By the time we got there the dusk cold was really nipping at my fingers.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


27 th December 9-17 degrees C, ~4 p.m. 13.2 degrees C and falling. Humidity 39% and rising.
Wind ESE and very light.

Birds heard from house during the day: House sparrows, hooded crows, white spectacled bulbul, white wagtail, jackdaws, brief great tit.

Laughing dove, Feral pigeons up on roofs, graceful warbler heard

Great tit scolding at us in acacia and on fence (repeated 'see crrr!') on our shortcut down from buildings to valley road. Looks like he's already ear marked that area as his territory.

Eurasian Jay in lower acacia. Called and flew into east valley pines but otherwise jays silent today.

Rock hyrax active on the hillside west of valley road near the pumping station. Stonechat on rocks and scrub around there, foraging.

Falcon flew from windsurfer hill across valley to top of hill to west, probably common kestrel as they traditionally use the buildings up there.

Linnet perched on top of cypress just by valley road. It was pretty much in silhouette when we first saw him so had to climb up the bank to the west to get it against Hizmeh hill and make out any colouration. Roving band of finches, probably chaffinches or linnets.

We made our way down a short cut to the stream (now not flowing but damp) and to some ruins in the middle of east valley woods. Heard a black redstart call in the vicinity but he was keeping out of view in lower canopy. He probably uses those ruins as foraging grounds and was anxious to return to them. He fell silent when a raptor appeared from the south, flying just below canopy level, from what we could make out, an adult Eurasian sparrowhawk. A minute or so later the redstart was piping again.

By that time the light was getting dim and we reconnected with central trail near the glade, met up with a group of boys heading home. I couldn't resist sharing with them news of the long eared owl that lived there:)

It's funny that in Hebrew there is traditionally no one word for 'owl' but separate names are given to different kinds. Barn owl is 'tinshemet', the scops owl group, 'sa'ir' , little owl is 'cos' , tawny owl group is 'lilit', long and short eared (or rather ear-tufted) owls are called 'yanshuf' and an eagle owl is an 'o'ach' . Quite a few of these names also traditionally belonged to demonic spirits!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Frisky Gazelles

Cape honeysuckle over our entrance way, flower much loved by the sunbirds for their nectar. Photo taken this morning.

Dec 24th, mon.
6-13 degrees C, ~4 p.m. ~10 degrees C; humidity: 65% plus and rising; wind: west ~7 kt for a few hours in the late afternoon, early evening, but light easterlies most of the rest of the day.
Group of 4 gazelle in valley same place as yesterday, entering the dry stone wall enclosed fields area by the pylon then they spread out to graze under and around the almond trees. Stonechats on the scrub and black redstart on one of the dry stone walls near them, made a delightful panorama over there, we just didn't have a zoom powerful enough to capture that.
25 crows made a fly by again from northern foraging grounds to windsurfer hill. I've been hearing jackdaws and hooded crows for most of the day from my room, as well as house sparrows, white spectacled bulbuls and a sunbird sounding anxious in the garden.
Eurasian jays also busy and about foraging in the valley and have been noticed in the garden areas of the neighbourhood though quiet today. Syrian woodpeckers very quiet lately and no sign of the collared doves. They may have moved down to the Jordan valley when the nights got colder, we noticed a LOT already down there on our last trip north a few weeks ago.
Blackbirds , some calling around dusk. A Eurasian sparrowhawk flew over gazelle field area from north to south, probably to roost.

Dec 25th, tues.
Range: 7-14 degrees C, ~4 p.m. 10.7 degrees C and falling, humidity 66.6% and rising, wind WNW 4.3 kt
Tues: Heard in full song:great tit, garden mid aft, Blackbird, pinewoods. Also seen and/or heard: stonechats, black redstarts, hooded crows, jackdaws, Eurasian Jays, White spectacled bulbuls, house sparrows, sparrowhawk, graceful warblers, feral pigeons, sunbird in our garden
We walked down to the short concrete pilings where the stream approaches the security fence. Nice walk, plenty mole rat activity down there. Stonechats by the pilings. Strange low owl like calls from the rocks across the stream but light too dim to make out anything there esp something camouflaged as an owl.

Dec 26th Wed
Range 7-14 degrees C, ~4 p.m. 11.9 degrees C, humidity 58% and rising, wind ESE and quite still.
From garden: House sparrows, great tit, bulbuls, white wagtail, jackdaws, hooded crows, laughing dove coos.

Frisky gazelle! Male chasing female from hillside just north of east end of north valley all the way across the north end of gazelle field to behind the cistern. At that point seemed each in turn became aware of our presence. They paused briefly then continued their chase back across the field again to the woods. They were not the only ones in a frisky mood, two hornless gazelles also had a little chase across north field a few minutes later.

The security fence was hopping with stonechats today, using the barbed wire both levels and scrub for look out perches. A smallish/medium sized raptor passed over us to the east, flapping vigorously since the air was so still. Probably a kestrel but we got no more than a silhouette back view. Black redstart on his favourite arched rebar in the bunker ruins again. Others around, one calling insistently from the eucalyptus grove.

Eurasian Jay flew over field but generally woods quite quiet today, not even a blackbird 'chack' or woodpecker call.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Long Eared Owl

Sat: Garden: House sparrows, white spectacled bulbul, laughing dove coos, also around betw garden and valley: graceful warblers, black redstarts, stonechats.

Most dramatic incident today was the sight of a Eurasian sparrowhawk flying from the east woods toward the pine plantation just east of the cistern, with a sizeable bird in its talons, almost two thirds its own size it seemed and quite heavy as the hawk was barely clearing the ground by ten, fifteen feet carrying it on its way. From feathers we found on the ground near the edge of gazelle field and a few more under the pines at the plantation it was difficult to tell what the prey had been.. they seemed to be breast feathers. They were white at the base, grey in the middle and soft dark brown in the upper third. Hen blackbird at a guess.

Gazelle hoof tracks on the central trail.

Sunday update:

range 7-13 degrees C, 4.30 p.m. 9 degrees C, humidity 55% and rising, wind SE, light

4 gazelle north fields about sunset, by the foot of the pylon and just beyond the last wall. They moved as a group toward the shade of the pines of north valley

Most exciting sighting of the day was a plausible though brief long eared owl sighting toward dusk, flying between pines. We first heard an excited male blackbird put up an alarm. Then the much larger brown/grey bird flew silently to the middle of a young pine toward the edge of a glade by central path. This is not the first time we'd had glimpses of an owl like bird in this region but always so brief. The light was so dim at this point we could not make it out well in the pine tree. As we approached the bird departed and flew to another pine, clattering against branches a little on its departure but otherwise flight was silent We tried to follow decided we didn't want to molest the bird and light was almost gone.

The valley is perfect habitat for long eared owls here and I'd long suspected there had to be some in there somewhere but we have yet to get a decent sighting.

Also s
een and/or heard, Hooded crows (fly by of 25 returning from foraging north of here to windsurfer hill), house sparrows, white spectacled bulbuls, senegal doves, black redstarts, graceful warblers, stonechats, jackdaws.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Overcast days and puppies

Tues Dec 18
9-14 degrees C, ~ 4 p.m. 11 degrees C, Humidity: 70% and rising, Wind, WNW 6-8 kt
Monday wildlife update: Orange tufted sunbird in full song in the Bauhinia outside my window again.
Also seen and/or heard. Blackbirds, Hooded crows (20 fly by from northern foraging grounds to windsurfer hill), white wagtails, house sparrows, jackdaws, Eurasian jays, black redstarts, stonechats, (gazelle field and up slope by valley road), spectacled bulbul, laughing dove, some light cooing, once up to 4 notes, graceful warblers, (garden and gazelle field), Syrian woodpecker calls, House sparrows, feral pigeons.
Feral dog pack checking out a camp some boys made behind look-out corner. They had two puppies with them, each no more than two months old. On the way back we startled two more puppies from a den on forest side of valley road, husband had impression they were a little more developed than the two with the pack.

Wednesday wildlife update:
range 7-13 degrees C, westerlies most of the day, mostly clouded.

In the garden: Orange tufted sunbird, House sparrows, white spectacled bulbuls, great tit, graceful warbler close to dusk
Within earshot also Hooded crows, Jackdaws.

overcast with intermittant rain and some thunder
range 6-10 degrees C, ~4 p.m. 9 degrees C, humidity ~70% and rising, wind SE veering to S, 4-8 kt (yes and bringing rain, unusual, rain usually arrives from west. )

Most birds keeping a low profile, relatively quiet. House sparrows and white spectacled bulbul heard in the garden and hooded crows from farther off. Black redstart at the bunker ruins on rebars, calls of more around the woods. Eurasian jays busy foraging but quiet, greenfinch group foraging, quite vocal. Great tit calls. Graceful warbler calls. Gazelle show! Hornless grown individual grazing by large tree in the dry walled fields

Monday, December 17, 2007

Porcupines, gazelles, birds.

Sat dec 15
Gazelle, 1 hornless grazing in the north walled fields, their favourite area
great tit, bulbuls, house sparrows, laughing dove, blackbird, hooded crows, feral pigeons, jackdaws, white wagtails, syrian woodpeckers, chaffinch black redstart, Eurasian Jay.
Sun Dec 16
range: 9-15 degrees C. 4 p.m. 11 degrees C, humidity ~87% and rising, west, veering SW and NW, ~6kt
2 gazelle grazing behind the cistern. (water is high in it now, they could probably reach it though I 'm not sure if it's good enough for them to drink yet)
Freshly shed black and white Indian porcupine quill on the stream trail. I was pleased to have this find since it confirms they are still around. My son found a den not far from there but since we hadn't seen quills near it in some time we thought they'd abandonned that hole.
(I was a little careless putting it in my pocket and the tip drew blood! Ouch, sharp!)
Garden: great tit, white spectacled bulbul, house sparrows, laughing dove light coo, white wagtail nearby, probably foraging on street and nearby rooftops
Wood and field: blackbirds, hooded crows, graceful warblers, Eurasian jay, stonechat, black redstart
raining by nightfall
Mon Dec 17
Range: 8-14 degrees C ~4.30 p.m. 12 degrees C, humidity 75% and rising, wind W and light.
Sunbird in song in Bauhinia tree about midday. Blackbird in song in east part of north valley woods.
Also seen/heard, Hooded crows, house sparrows, jackdaws, black redstarts, chiffchaff (?)
Late start, I had a nap.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Daily summaries

Tuesday Dec 11
Since it's vacation time, children playing in the valley so the gazelles are keeping out of the way, probably off west up the north valley.
Orange tufted sunbird and blackbird in *song* in the garden. Also vocal: white spectacled bulbuls, house sparrows in the garden.
Hooded crows, jackdaws in street and valley, chiffchaff call by central trail, greenfinch call, eucalyptus grove. Eurasian Jay, woods. .
White wagtail foraging on rooftop of neighbouring school, black redstart by bunker ruins, and stonechats on scrub, gazelle field.

Wednesday Dec 12
Range 11-21 degrees C, 4 p.m. ~ 16 degrees C and falling, humidity: just under 30%, wind SE, almost still.
Wednesday local wildlife update: Hanukah vacation, children playing in the valley so the gazelles are keeping out of the way, probably off west up the north valley.
Vocal in the garden: Orange tufted sunbird, blackbird, (just thin 'tzeeet call) , white spectacled bulbuls, house sparrows, laughing dove (a little light cooing early afternoon). Also heard and/or seen: Hooded crows, jackdaws, white wagtail, syrian woodpecker, graceful warblers.

(laughing dove=Palm dove=Senegal dove.
Streptopelia senegalensis

Thursday Dec 13,
Range: 8-16 degrees C, 4 p.m. ~14 degrees C, humidity: 60%, wind WSW ~8 kt
Children playing in the valley so the gazelles are keeping out of the way, probably off west up the north valley.
Vocal in the garden: singing: Orange tufted sunbird in the Bauhinia, great tit, Calling somewhere near: white spectacled bulbuls, house sparrows, laughing dove (a little light cooing).
Singing by valley road: blackbird. There's a regular in an acacia by our shortcut from the buildings to valley road.
Also heard and/or seen: Hooded crows, feral pigeons, jackdaws, white wagtail, syrian woodpecker, graceful warblers, roving bands of finches, probably chaffinches but didn't get a clear view. black redstart & Eurasian Jay calls. Predusk crow flyby northern foraging grounds to windsurfer hill, 24 hooded crows.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sunday, Monday summaries

Sunday rather overcast, today much more sun.

Sunday, well grown hornless gazelle grazing under the favourite tree not long before dusk. Presently she moved off to the north valley woods.

Both days: Great tits singing in the garden . Orange tufted sunbirds, white spectacled bulbuls, house sparrows vocal. White wagtails heard calling. Jackdaws and Hooded crows heard, and noticed flying from their northern foraging grounds back to roost. Feral pigeons and senegal doves around as usual though keeping quite a low profile today, no coos.

Blackbirds heard in the woods, syrian woodpeckers and Eurasian jays a little vocal.

Black redstarts heard calling in the pines, yesterday individual noticed briefly on the bunker ruins. Stonechat by the gazelle's tree on the scrub.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Gazelle chase

Friday: Yesterday overcast and some drizzle on and off all day, slightly misty and chill.

Range 6-12 degrees C, today, assortment of cumulus clouds. . Wind in the southwest most of today, varying but averaging about 16 kt.

In brief, pressed for time but want to get this down while it's fresh in my mind: I may come back and edit later:

At least 3 gazelle in the valley. About 2.30 p.m. watched adult male run after hornless adult from the pine grove to the east end of north gazelle valley. Shortly after there were two hornless gazelle grazing in the north east end of those fields.

Garden: Plenty house sparrows, sunbird calls, white spectacled bulbul, hooded crows
also heard.

Valley: Plenty black redstarts heard and quite a few seen. Regular at bunker ruins but at least two or three other individuals within earshot. They seem to be holding winter territories the way European robins do.

Small greenfinch groups seen and heard. Chaffinch call? Syrian woodpeckers and Eurasian jays heard. Kestrel over north valley, flying up against the wind from somewhere east, then heading towards the buildings in our neighbourhood. Graceful warblers, great tits, Jackdaws heard and a few pairs of senegal doves at the corner shops plaza.

Rain on and off especially friday night which is always great for the aquifers, especially nice when it rains at such convenent times:) Just a trickle on the ground coming down into east valley in friday night. Makes me wonder if water is getting drained off somewhere else.

Saturday afternoon, pretty much the same birds as yesterday but for 'Cap'n Jack' (Eurasian) Sparrowhawk giving us a nice flyover from north east of gazelle field to east. valley trees. Blackbirds singing - in garden and another at east end of north valley woods. Great tits also heard singing in the gardens.

We rigged a bird table in the garden between the Bauhinia and the willow and perfect line of sight from the chair in which I sit now through the window.. can zoom with binocs' minimum focal length from here. Putting out food already while we work on adding features.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

#Gazelle and winter birds

Well it looks like the gazelle aren't going to be abandonning their favourite tree after all:) I recently replaced the photo of the tree in the entry a few posts ago since that image was a little blurred. Today a fine full grown hornless individual was grazing in that little patch, and not directly under the tree. Clearly there is still vegetation worth their return though it wasn't very obvious at all from our visit. Now it's rainy season, grasses crop up everywhere at any time and we have to mind our feet not to step on all the crocuses! Gazelle tracks on the path past the cistern and some large dog tracks too.

Pines along central trail were full of redstart calls but they were as elusive as ever. They change position constantly in the trees even if you do catch sight of one, tricky to get a fix on them and wise on their part with a sparrowhawk around. European redstarts are common passage migrants in the fall but that should have pretty much tapered off now.. unless any decided to overwinter.. possible but rare and I'd like sightings of those.. pretty much all the redstarts we're seeing and hearing will be black redstarts.

Nice crow fly-by going on 4.30. First a flock of 40, mostly jackdaws with a few hooded crows mixed in coming from about NNE and heading to windsurfer hill. A few minutes later a nice size flock, I think all jackdaws, at least 100 individuals also returning from foraging in the hills to the north flew right over us as we walked down valley road.

In the woods, some white spectacled bulbul, blackbirds, syrian woodpeckers. Gazelle field: stonechat call and graceful warblers. Around the buildings and gardens, house sparrows, senegal doves (cooing softly early afternoon), great tits, (some song early afternoon), feral pigeons and white wagtails, latter over valley road.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

More rain and four gazelles.

Yesterday afternoon noticed several small roaming bands of finches in the treetops, some identified as chaffinches and one linnet, Carduelis cannabina, (though a poor view, part silhouetted) first I've noticed this season. If there's one there are undoubtedly more around. Black redstart at the bunker ruins as usual. Hooded crows and Jackdaws up on windsurfer hill. Eurasian Jays and Syrian woodpeckers and Graceful warblers about.

last night at about 10.10 p.m. noticed a single gazelle under the pines just east and down from valley road maybe 50 yards.

It was raining most of last night with some thunder and lightning but stream had already ceased flowing when we reached it.

Sunday: 9-17 degrees C

Headed out at about 4.10 p.m. , almost 15 degrees C, ~90% humidity with north westerlies blowing up to 14.8 knots though didn't feel that breeze in the bottom of the valley.

Saw four quite well grown gazelle moving together under the pines just north of the middle of central trail, the one in the fore and the one in the rear both had short thin horns, not noticed on the other two. Nice sighting and worth putting in an entry just for them and the one we saw last night.

A number of redstarts calling from the pines but they're amazingly good at staying out of view! We tried in vain to find even one of them but they can hide amongst the pine needles and the pitch of their calls makes them hard to locate accurately. I'm sure that's the idea! We heard the sparrowhawk call from the direction of eucalyptus grove.

The black redstart had already left the bunker ruins for the day apparently and was flitting about in the eucalyptus behind look-out corner, calling. A bird was tic ticking over at the edge of the old orchard near the creek trail.. sounded robin like but from that distance hard to be 100% sure since sunbirds have a similar tic tic call and we know they have a territory right there. Still, that call said 'robin' to me.

Blackbirds chacked from the woods, their usual chatter before roost.

From the house today I heard a number of birds active in the gardens: House sparrows, sunbirds, bulbuls and from farther off, white wagtail, Jackdaws and hooded crows.