Tuesday, December 30, 2008

green lichen and head lolling jay

Most lichens we find are whitish or shades of yellow so I was particularly fascinated to find this patch, one of several, of definite green lichen I hadn't noticed before, with slightly larger lobes than other lichens. Clearly this symbiont has a green algae component. This I found just to the north of the central trail under the pines. One of the rewards for dealing with litter, finding little woodland gems like this. Click on pic for slightly better view.

Damp day, Just after 4 p.m. just under 10 degrees C. (today's range: 8.2-12.5), 87% humidity, westerlies, just under 14 knots.. that's the speed the weather station gave but in the valley it was much lighter.

Gazelles: None seen today

Early afternoon some sun and the garden seemed quite active. Within a few minutes I'd heard house sparrows, jackdaws, hooded crows, white spectacled bulbuls and blackbird. There was a repeated light, low clucking call which I wanted to I.D. It was in the Bauhinia and seemed to be coming from a blackbird in there but I was not familiar with that particular call. That's the way it is with many birds. As well as their main song (with variants, 'tuning up', subsongs, training songs) there are usually at least half a dozen other calls for pretty much every species. Some are contact calls and others various alarm calls for different situations. Finding an unfamiliar call of a common bird often means I simply had not enountered it in that situation before, whatever it was! That call could mean, "I want to forage in this tree but you bulbuls are annoying me" . One can speculate! At any rate, sunbirds were keeping a low profile today but I did see laughing doves fly to the eaves of the garden next door and a short while later saw a few more pairs fly from crumb corner to the same garden. Seems they like the lush high cover that their cypresses, palm and other bushes provide. W
hite wagtail also heard from the house mid afternoon.

On the bank between valley road and the buildings we heard at least one foraging
graceful warbler in the scrub and low ground cover. We also watched a rather bedraggled Eurasian Jay that seemed a little ill. A few times we saw it loll it's head as if it were about to keel over. Sense of balance seemed compromised. I wondered if it had eaten something toxic. Even a little discarded chocolate can be poisonous to birds and their are much worse alternatives. I was all for sneaking up and grabbing it with a peace of cloth I found, and taking care of it at home and we started to do this but it 'revived' pretty quickly and flew off low a to land a few dozen metres away. Pity. A jay would be easy to feed at home, being omnivorous, but it was plain we weren't going to be able to get near enough to catch it.

Very sick and traumatized birds can accept human care and come to trust quite quickly but if they're still too full of health they will be very distrusting from the start as well as potentially vicious. Quite the opposite from many mammals. Also, a very sick bird that won't move is also often close to death and odds are high they won't make it at all. They hide sickness as long as they can. If they'll take help from us they're truly desperate. Wish I could have helped that jay, as well as got to know it a bit better!

The local Feral pigeons were active and aloft today, wheeling over the buildings in flock formation. Watching out for starlings now but none yet.
Great tits: calls around the bank ? Just after sunset, hooded crows making their way towards their mid east valley high tree roost.

East valley stream flowing today, probably rain run off together with pump- house overflow. (Vehicles parked there indicated maintenance work in progress). Water looked quite clean and judging by the amount of foliage which has sprouting up in the stream bed over the last three weeks, clearly effluent is not toxic, thank God!

Monday, December 29, 2008

More rain

Mon: Time of walk, shortly after 4 p.m. 10.4 degrees C (today's range: 8.2-11.75 degrees C)
Humidity: 84% winds WSW 7.8. Rain on and off today, especially in the evening. Thank God, every drop is needed.

Near east end of north valley a Eurasian sparrowhawk dived to the ground, apparently grabbed something, vanished in the ground cover briefly then took off and flew to the pines west of the path with 'undercarriage' down.. probably had something gripped in talons but not large. As we advanced we spooked it or another sparrowhawk from a pine and THAT spooked a small group of finches which circled over the valley a few times 'chipping' anxiously and gaining height. Couldn't tell what they were, maybe greenfinches. Eurasian jays about.

Hoopoe perched up on the eucalyptus again behind look out corner, not the same tree, not necessarily the same bird either as we know there's a whole family or two in that vicinity. It fanned it's crest on our approach. They always look so indignant when they do that. A very agreeable bird that can be identified so easily just in silhouette. Wonder where that kingfisher got to, if it's still around? We haven't heard it in days.

No sign of gazelle in north field or hillside. However, brief glimpse of one was noticed in the sapling field in east valley a little later, moving to west. Alone.. a buck? Limpy? Unfortunately we couldn't find it as we advanced. We searched for tracks in the sapling field but nothing definite but dog. Ground so soft hoofprints can collapse.

Hooded crows about. I lingered near the pumping station for a while, light was fading, Venus shining and dark clouds rolling in from the west. I hoped to hear the little owl up the hill but he didn't sound. A group of crows were acting suspiciously, several perched on a line over the pump-house hyrax colony, perhaps on the look-out for kits to grab. After a short while they abandoned that and decided to head off to roost, it was getting quickly cold and dark and numbers of others were steadily making their way to their roost in the high trees in east valley. We did hear another little owl somewhere down in north valley a few minutes later.. from off toward bat cave or farther west, up the valley.

Quiet day all in all, rain driving birds undercover.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

young hyraxes and other wildlife

Sun 4.15 p.m. temp. ~12.5 degrees C., (range today: 7-13 degrees C) ~50% humidity, winds southeasterly blowing up to 2 kt.

Another quiet day. Husband came home down one of the local 'snake paths', bricked paths between levels (this whole neighbourhood is built on a hillside) bordered by a variety of ornamental bushes and shrubs such as blue Phlox & Lantana camara, http://www.wildflowers.co.il/english/plant.asp?ID=176 as well as rosemary, lavender, lemon geranium and many others. These snake paths with their shrubberies are very good places for sunbirds, blackbirds, bulbuls and small jobs such as graceful warblers which he saw today, and often good romping grounds for hyraxes. They're also great for insect life especially butterflies, hummingbird hawkmoths and the like. There were plenty hyraxes there today around 4 p.m. , probably from the nearby pumphouse colony, including lots of young ones, busy in cypresses nibbling away.

In the garden, quite a few melodious calls of white spectacled bulbuls and the usual chipping of house sparrows.

In the valley we found no gazelle but did find their hoofprints in the soft earth near the eastern watercourse crossing. This is a natural path and would be the place they cross from their almond tree grazing to the pine grove and probably were made by that group yesterday if not since. Light purple crocuses still in bloom in many places.

A Syrian woodpecker called in the pine grove and various small jobs were active in the almonds and the pines but managed to elude good view. Probably chiffchaffs and other small insect eaters. Blackbird called around dusk as usual. A few hooded crows on their way home, jackdaws quiet today, must be foraging somewhere else. Feral pigeons keeping a low profile, one sitting on top of a solar boiler, wonder if that keeps it warm? Seems a favoured location, I've noticed pigeons squatting on those many times. Where do the laughing doves stay when they're not out foraging for crumbs? Eaves of local buildings including the nearby store, and local gardens probably. They stay paired over the winter though the pairs band together to make small flocks.

Little owl Athene noctua heard up south west of the pumping station at dusk, probably the famous one on that road up there.

Forgot to mention a Eurasian sparrowhawk, nice view, flying over yesterday, not high, a local.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

easterlies, gazelle

Sky didn't seem to make up it's mind today, sometimes clear, sometimes high altitude clouds.
Temp: range, just over 7 degrees C up to 10.5 degrees. Time of walk, just after 4 p.m. a little under 10 degrees, ~65% humidity, winds ENE, very light, up to 2.5 knots.

At about sunset a group of gazelle seen at the north east end of the gazelle field, by the almond trees, perhaps grazing or picking up fallen nuts or both. They milled to and fro for a while.. at first could only see three individuals then rather abruptly they turned east and headed for the water course and the bank below the fence at a light run and then they came out of the woodwork as it were.. typical, they can be so well hidden by their camouflage you don't know how many are out there till they get moving, and some could have been concealed by the dry stone wall or in the stream bed, but now there were clearly at least seven of them. Seemed something spooked them but I looked behind them to the west and saw no dogs, foxes, people or anything. Certainly not picked up by the wind since that was blowing in their faces at that time, unless it was something coming down off the hill.. I didn't check that direction. They headed back south east, probably they'd go behind the pines and orchard and head towards the small olive copse.

Husband heard sunbird earlier outside his office window, in the cape honeysuckle. There was also a blackbird somewhere in the garden late afternoon friday singing beautifully. Blackbird also heard 'chakking' in the woods at dusk as usual. House sparrows around buildings as usual. Flock of jackdaws heard numerous times as well as hooded crows. Syrian woodpecker near the rubble. No stonechats or black redstarts but not surprising since kids had been there a few minutes before and would have scared them off for a while. Great tit call in the pines near where central trail meets valley road.

This evening after 10 p.m. we heard a little owl somewhere down in north valley and later, about 10.40 p.m. clear long complex call of stone curlew from about the direction of the bat cave. Other calls, probably chiffchaff. Jays and pigeons keeping a low profile today.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Signs of snow

Flower of castor oil plant in the rain. A. Atwood, taken this afternoon in Talpiot. Click on pic to fill more of screen and get a better view of this peculiar spike of blue flowers.

It has been raining on and off a lot today, and in the morning and also again in the evening we glimpsed white in the rain, sleet or snow. It's certainly cold up in the clouds! Ground temps a bit warmer: Range: 5.5 - 7.7 degrees C.

Even so, I noticed quite a few garden flowers in bloom across the city including geraniums, rosemary, lavender, bougainvillea, blue phlox and others. The more interesting flower belonged to a native.. a stand of castor oil trees growing in the middle of Talpiot.

Birds noticed lately: Today, plenty town pigeons across the city, hooded crow in Talpiot, jackdaw flock vocal over buildings, house sparrows, laughing doves, several pairs just after midday at 'crumb corner' near the skip. Also calls of white wagtail, blackbird in the garden. Great tit heard in cover in town.

In the valley yesterday, *three* Eurasian sparrowhawks noticed over east end of north valley, stonechat at the bunker rubble but no black redstart though may be around. Eurasian jays about. Chiffchaff and graceful warblers about, Syrian woodpecker.

Some hyrax activity, one gazelle noticed yesterday running up by the bat cave. More clearing up of another large old barbecue site, we could tell the litter was old because of the condition of the plastic and in some cases it had actually been pulled underground. Earthworms will pull small stuff underground but these items seemed a bit large for them to manage and I wonder if the mole rats had been attempting to pull them under. This is one of the reasons we had not noticed this particular mess before.. the other, that at that place on the trail we are usually looking out over the north end of gazelle field and not back over that corner of wood. Still, we have our work cut out for us! We found a useful compromise between watching and cleaning up. Husband gathers recyclables usually plastic bottles. That takes only a few seconds to fill a bag, freeing him up for watching for wildlife while I spend a bit longer gathering the smaller items such as nosh packets, plates, cups etc. This way we miss minimum action.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

cyclamen on a rock with lichen

Numerous cyclamen found sprouting on the north facing slope of north valley. This one found a foothold halfway up a lichen covered boulder. We took several shots of different plants, one we added to last thursday's entry. Lighting conditions and camera settings were the same.. they varied greatly in colouring. Look how much darker this one is compared to the last!

Had some fun yesterday with son 'exploding' the largest patch of spitting cucumbers on the bank.. just the slightest poke with the fingers on the side can make it 'spit, quite a few times managing to aim it up at the face and/or all over the fingers a clear but weird smelling mucus like fluid, I don't know how they did that since they seemed to be normally pointing down .. something to film with high speed camera, they must flick up for a fraction of a second.

Amazingly some ragwort(Inula) STILL in flower, as well as the low broom and those sprays of those extremely tiny five petalled pink/white/yellow blooms yet to ID - those since July.

Today's range: 12-18.5 degrees C. At the time of our walk, just after 4 p.m. 16.9 degrees C, humidity 36%, winds very light and SSE, sky partly overcast.

Gazelle.. several noticed just after sunset between the north eastern most almond trees, moving to and fro and grazing, or perhaps taking fallen nuts. Hard to count in that light.. at least three, I think more and another one had moved off toward the east, possibly dipped down into a water course behind the cistern pine.

Hyrax. Active and chittering noisily in colony just below Shadiker (on north valley slopes)

Eurasian sparrowhawks : one flying south quite high over the east end of north valley in clear view, seems to be quite a regular path of return to roost. A little later as we approached the pumping station we noticed another raptor briefly glide south, probably another sparrowhawk or even could have been the same individual.

Great tits: scolding calls on north facing slopes, in pines, north valley.

Feral pigeons, heard cooing, and flock in flight over building. Laughing doves, some soft coos in the morning. Hooded crows.. again the crows have been foraging up on the hill crest to the north and head to east valley and hoodie hill towards roosting time. Blackbirds chakking towards sunset in the pines as usual, just by the pistaccio orchard, regular one there.
overhead earlier in the day

Yesterday we took son to look out corner hoping to catch the kingfisher. No sound of him then, nor today but a hoopoe was sitting up on top of a eucalyptus quite beautifully silhouetted. They are resident in Israel and so can be seen in winter though they are not as obvious as they are in spring and summer when their numbers are probably swelled by summer visitors and young. In the eucalyptus grove husband and son also noticed a bird flitting up from canopy and down again. I missed it but from description fitted spotted flycatcher.. we had observed at least one in that area last season.

Musical calls of white spectacled bulbuls in the garden earlier, as well as the usual house sparrows.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lowest humidity this year

leaves of cyclamen. (A.Atwood)

Temp: range 10-16 degrees C, during our walk (4.15 p.m. and on) 15 degrees, winds easterly/south easterly 4-6 knots and humidity down to 15%, as low as I remember it all year!

Pic taken of the mustard leaves to add to last entry. On our way down into north valley by a rock noticed the beautiful heart shaped variegated leaves of cyclamen almost full size.

This morning husband noticed a house sparrow repeatedly harassing and buzzing an undersize white wagtail that was foraging on the ground not far from another wagtail. Both these birds heard in the garden and beyond.

We watched a falcon circle over north valley from the tall buildings and back.. using wingbeats rather than gliding. Probably a common kestrel but we only saw it in silhouette against the sky.

Gazelle grazing up at the skyline to the north. Flock of at least 60 crows, mostly jackdaws, some hooded crows, took off from the hills and milled about a short while over north valley before heading off south to roost. Some hyrax activity in the colony just below the end of Shadiker St. 3 adults scampering off at our approach.

Blackbird 'chak chaks' from near the Pistaccio orchard. White breasted kingfisher called loudly up in the eucalyptus somewhere. So 'The King' is still around and giving us his dusk time 'laughter'.

Calls in the pines, prob. chiffchaff.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

First mustard

We found some wild mustard, one of the Cruciferae, growing up by the edge of the neighbourhood. Sinapis alba has an earlier start to its growing season than Sinapis arvensis and seems more like the pics. My book (Azaria Alon) claims S. arvensis doesn't start till Feb while S. alba already starts in December. The online site I use http://www.wildflowers.co.il/english/ claims S arvensis starts in December but S. alba already starts in November. Taking into account the altitude and delicate look I stay with S. alba and I don't have adequate pics of rest of the foliage for reference. We took this pic of the flowers today and mean to get some leaf shots soon.

Another early starter to the year! Meanwhile lovely small pink Dianthus continues to bloom along the walk to the quarry, not in great numbers but noticeable in the scrub here and there.

Garden: some musical calls of white spectacled bulbuls heard as well as house sparrows, distant jackdaws, tzeeet of a blackbird about 4 p.m. (quite regular) , white wagtails from the street, and a graceful warbler, Prinia gracilis, not far away.

Husband heard chukar partridges from somewhere down in north valley about 8 a.m.

Wednesday: 8.5-14 degrees C. Just after 4 p.m. 12.8 degrees, 39% humidity, winds ESE though barely, quite still which was very convenient for flower photography!

4 gazelle today. Two across north valley, just below the pine hangar half way up the hill. They continued along the trail toward the east at a gentle pace, stopping to graze. Looking at the hillside now just below the skyline there's a definite hue of pale green on the ground, plenty new grazing for the gazelle growing with the rains. I decided to take a trail I hadn't tried before.. one that winds up towards the south from the north valley trail. I was hoping to come into the territory of that elusive robin and maybe get a sighting but no luck on that.. we did however surprise two more gazelle which had been grazing amongst the pines. They headed down towards north valley, mother and young also?

Hooded crows and jackdaws up on the hillslopes to the north, foraging and calling. Eurasian jays heard making a noise somewhere.. various calls in the pines and cypress from birds well hidden in the foliage, probably chiffchaffs and others.

That trail led up to the back of Roscoe and might be fruitful to revisit, for kestrels, robins and possibly warblers. Doves very low profile today, haven't heard a peep from them, indeed pretty quiet all round. Where are greenfinches, great tits and such?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The partridge convention U.F.O. experience

The small grove of olives near the fence and road where we saw an adult male gazelle today. The larger trees in the back/middle are something else but most are olives. The security fences are barely visible behind it, just in front of the road, the lights above illuminate the Ramallah bypass road and up above that is part of the town of Hizmeh. Click on pic for larger view.

Monday's range: 10 to just over 15 degrees C, just after 4 p.m. 12.9 degrees, 81% humidity, Westerly winds, very light.
Tuesday' range: 9-14 degrees C, ~4.15 p.m. : 12.8 degrees, 50% humidity, NNW almost still

Gazelles: 7. Today we saw six gazelle running down east field, down from windsurfer hill toward the small olive grove, seemed to be in two groups of three each, loosely associated, females and well grown young. When I viewed one of the groups by the olives there was an adult male that must have been amongst the olives before and came out to 'greet' them as they arrived. Gazelle greetings seem very low profile affairs, there could be grunts we can't hear but generally they seem to content to merely come in view/scent range of each other and acknowledge just by merely looking unless a male actually wants to sniff a tail and follow.. not the case today. They continued down towards north field. When we arrived in the cistern area we saw two in gazelle field heading into the north valley pines which could have been the first amongst those six to arrive.
hyrax: Several active about the cypress slum area today.
dogs: feral dogs barking down near the fence to the east last night.

White wagtail
: Heard over buildings both days
European robin: heard typical tick tick calls up slope yesterday in north valley but in deep scrub, no sightings.

House sparrows:round buildings as usual.
laughing doves: 3 perched up on top of a street light by our road, just outside our house.
Hooded crows: over near quarry yesterday, group 50+ milling about above before going to roost, Today group 20+ around top of windsurfer hill.
Jackdaws: heard over to east today
Eurasian Jays: lots of calls heard in middle of east valley today
Feral pigeons: flock aloft today above buildings just up a level from our street,
Greenfinches: today and yesterday in pines? not good glimpses. Chaffinches today though, 'pink' calls and glimpses esp. about middle of east valley.
Blackbirds: chak chakking in pines about dusk as usual.
Common kestrel heard up by some tall buildings just south of north valley.

Chukars: Neatest experience today was coming back along valley road just as dark was falling, past an open patch which had burned last late spring, suddenly there was a dramatic whirring sound like a small helicopter and a nice size flock of at least 20 chukar partridges erupted from the ground right by us and took off low over the trees towards the north east. I could imagine how U.F.O. enthusiasts would have interpreted the event... 'it hovered above the ground right by us for just a moment with a peculiar swirl of alien engines, then headed over the trees away from us at an astonishing speed... phenomenal acceleration of such a large body, at least 30 feet across, that was clearly partially cloaked in some kind of camouflage shield!'
Partridge family convention... Does make me wonder how many natural events have been misinterpreted.

This morning husband heard whistles of Tristram's grackle/starling somewhere to the east. A while since we've heard those and notable that they're still around in winter as they tend to be mostly nomadic around the country in spring. Well, since that family bred in the quarry in spring and we hear them now we might be able to say a few are resident unless different individuals come and go.

One last observation forgot to mention before- yellow flowers in the bed of the water course, which I first took for some late Inula turned out to be the earliest savyon, Senecio vernalis! I did not realize their season began in December (it does, I checked my book) but this is the first of the 'spring' flowers.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Rainy days

Inula viscosa (ragwort type plant) in seed.

More rain over the last couple of days, thank God! Forest cool and damp. Today's range: About 10.5 -14.2 degrees C. Time of our walk: 12.5 degrees, humidity ~ 80% and rising rapidly, wind, W/WSW, ~4.7 knots.

Sunbird calling in the Bauhinia tree, Blackbird calling 'tzeeet' in the garden, white breasted bulbuls musical calls in the garden. Jackdaws, house sparrows and white wagtails also heard. Laughing doves and feral pigeons are also around but keeping quiet.

At the bunker a handsome male stonechat was busy hawking for flying insects from the rebars yesterday, not sure if he had company, didn't see a black redstart about. Woods have been rather quiet.. Eurasian jays and Syrian woodpeckers are about though relatively quiet and hooded crows pass over as usual. Great tits and graceful warblers are also about but also very quiet this time of year. The Rapoports reported owl sightings by their kids up by the cottages (farther up the hill from us) but not sure which at this point.. another Little Owl territory by Chofetz Chaim, or Long Eared? Must speak to the observer.

Our walk was brief today due to increasing rain but we did manage to clean up one area I had wanted to do and we got a nice shot of some of the ragwort type plant (Inula viscosa) that now has almost all gone to seed though a few individual plants here and there still bear yellow flowers. Those low broom type flowers still produce a constant modest flow of nice yellow pea like blooms by the road side but nothing else blooming, though some pink three spotted dianthus were still hanging on last week up north valley. Spitting cucumbers are thriving on the bank at the beginning of valley road, and foliage of numerous other plants developing all the time.

Full moon at perigee now (closest approach to earth) , though of course one can't tell with the naked eye if it's any larger. It did make for a nice walk all the way down to the bunker late at night, the pines casting moon shadows on the silvery grey path.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Easterlies blow again

Today the weather has reverted to mostly light easterly winds most of the day with totally clear skies, temperatures dropped to 7 to just over 13 degrees C range. About 12.5 degrees during our walk. 7 degrees is the usual minimum in Jerusalem though it does occasionally drop lower.
Humidity just over 50%

House sparrow calls in the garden, jackdaws and hooded crows also heard from inside, white wagtails and feral pigeons also about the tops of the buildings. A few white spectacled bulbul calls in the garden as well as some blackbird tzeets , latter also chakking in the woods at dusk as usual. (in pines near the kingfisher's haunts .. there's one there that seems actually confused by the kingfisher..it will respond to the kingfisher's call with chaks of its own. Does it think it's ansering to some mega blackbird?

Nice view of a small gazelle herd, nine individuals perhaps more, no adult males noticed so they'd be females and juveniles, making its way east at a good pace over the north of gazelle field to the main easterly water course at which point they dipped out of sight. They re-emerged near the large pine behind the cistern and made their way up toward the fence and behind the pine plantation. Some time later we spotted them emerging behind the orchard, making their way south to the olive trees or windsurfer hill.

Pair of stonechats hawking for flying insects at the far end of the rubble again shortly before sunset, probably the same pair we've seen before. Nice to see how regular they are, and today a beautiful male black redstart put in an appearance, hunting not far from them.

That white breasted kingfisher is such a tease! Shortly after sunset, after scanning the eucalyptus for it, we headed south along the lower valley trail by the pistaccio orchard and no sooner had we pretty much given up on a sighting we heard it cackle stridently like a mad witch from the eucs, now on the other side of a stand of pines. Again it had eluded our view. Of course it wasn't doing it on purpose but it was funny... especially the way the call sounds so much like a laugh! I don't mind if we don't see it, hearing it is enough for a record but I always enjoy a glimpse of this gorgeous bird.

More cleaning up. Next stage in the city's development of this park MUST be garbage containers, especially by the usual BBQing sites, sadly some cannot be trusted to take their disposables home. My love for a clean environment sometimes encounters my disinclination to be some stranger's post facto maid! I remember to wash my hands well after! The city or Keren Kayemet (Jewish National Fund) have been maintaining the saplings and did put up new direction signs in the spring, always heart warming signs of attention in our direction. As their budget allows...
Stuff we find (usually soft drink bottles, plastic plates and cups, discarded cigarette cartons and plastic bags) we take up to the garbage containers by the pumping station or all the way up into the neighbourhood. If the bottles are relatively new and in good condition we put them in the cage for recycling.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Definite chill in the air

New growth always good to see and it's popping up everywhere. This rosette of interesting leaves was trying to establish itself in the middle of the north valley trail, rather optimistic of it since it seemed squashed flat but plants don't quit easily.

Quite a bit of rain yesterday, thank God, for many reasons! Today there was a definite nip in the air when we headed out. Temp range today ~ 9.5-13.2 degrees C and ~12 degrees when we headed out. Winds were light and north north westerly and humidity rising past the 60% mark.

Gazelles: none today.
Family of feral dogs crossed before us on lower valley path, headed up the hill, following an old shepherd's path. I speculated that dog packs might have been the original trail blazers on their regular tours of their territory and that later animals and man might have actually used and helped establish such tracks.. those, gazelles and other such animals that follow routes.
White wagtails: calls around the neighbourhood, seeking flies on rooftops.
House sparrows: Calls in the gardens much of the day.
laughing doves: quiet lately but have been using our bird table by the willow tree, I put table scraps out there, breadcrumbs with their sesame seeds, chopped leftover noodles and such.
Hooded crows: Calling before dawn, a few seen flying home though further west, over the buildings.
Jackdaws: Brief call
Feral pigeons: local flocks wheeling around above the buildings just after 4 p.m.
Blackbirds: One in song in the cape honeysuckle late afternoon. 'chak chak' in woods at dusk.
Sunbirds: Song in the Bauhinia mid afternoon
White spectacled bulbuls: some musical calls heard in the garden late afternoon. They haven't been by lately as much as they used to, so always good to hear them.

A couple of glimpses of Eurasian sparrowhawks, two or one seen twice but I suspect a pair, over east end of north valley and heading to east valley.
White breasted kingfisher: making a ruckus just after sunset again, somewhere in the eucalyptus behind (to the south of) look-out corner, stayed out of sight though, and light bad
Eurasian Jays: Glimpsed in the woods.
Stone curlews: some calls heard at dusk from somewhere down east end of north valley, first I've heard in a while.
Various brief high pitched calls hidden in foliage in the woods, probably chiffchaffs, redstarts, robins and such.

Monday, December 8, 2008

tree climbing hyraxes and other stuff


Temperatures have fallen a little since last week, winds more westerly, humidity higher.

: Today, three heading up towards the north west from north gazelle field, past the bat cave. none adult males around sunset.
hyrax: yesterday very much activity at the cypress slum colony, whole families out foraging, scores out. As we approached from the top of the bank several exited a garden .. they are known to enter gardens and strip fruit trees when they can. We were amazed to see one quite well grown individual had made it pretty much to the top of a skinny cypress on the bank, at least 30 feet high. He was perched up there look across at us, then started to clamber down as we came closer.

(Speaking to neighbour Simone Alexander.. she noticed long eared owl lately on her street, close to ours, same level. same behaviour as our sighting, waiting on a line. She also noticed it occasionally diving into the trees where sparrows were roosting and actually grabbing birds. She thinks there is a pair at work. )

white wagtail: heard and often seen quite regularly over the last week.
European robin: elusive ticking up on the south slope north valley but no confirmed sightings.
stonechat: hawking for flies by the bunker rubble, several sightings over the last few days.. one nice male today and at least one other bird around.
House sparrows: Calls around houses.
laughing doves: some coos around dawn.
Hooded crows: individuals seen winging their way to roost towards sunset over last few days.
Jackdaws: Calls heard over to east and in the neighbourhood a few times over last few days
Eurasian Jays: a few sightings between trees in the pines.
Blackbirds: 'tzeet' alarm call in or close to the garden late afternoon. Chak chak alarm calls in the woods.
Collared doves: a few brief sightings in the pines in the valley
Graceful warblers,Syrian woodpeckers:some calls. Sunbird not since late last week.

Fire vandalism in the south end of the woods on Shabbat, at least three conflagrations, one quite large with some tree damage. Surprising since the woods have been so moist. Fire trucks responded.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Moon, Venus & Jupiter

Venus is visible just up and to the left of the moon, Jupiter higher and a little to the right. This of course, doesn't do them justice, we'd need a tripod and a bit of time exposure for that. Venus was glowing bright as a magnesium flare, Jupiter quite strong too, the moon's shine was mellow by contrast. I have a theory that the star with crescent moon symbol used by the Ottomans is really Venus as they are often visible close to each other in the sky for astronomical reasons.

13-20.5 degrees C, ~17.5 degrees C just after 4 p.m. time of walk.. also then: humidity just 33%, wind W/WSW up to 3.5 kt max.. very mild, no need for jackets.

north valley trail today.

Gazelles, hyrax: none noticed today. Feral dogs, barking. Bats, fluttering at about mid/low canopy level over the trail after 5 p.m.

Little Owl, Athene noctua, calls from high up somewhere around the first quarry, the one just south of the trail before the buildings.

white wagtail: heard from street, son saw a couple of groups at school, was surprised to see that degree of association. Traveling and foraging as families?
European robin?: tic tics up the slope just south of the trail.
stonechat: (?)a couple of birds hawking, flying in and out of view in scrub on a ridge near the quarries. Just silhouetted but from behaviour, place etc probably them.
Blackbird: some alarm calls, some beautiful song at about 5 p.m. (dusk)
House sparrows:calls. Sunbirds: calls, brief song in Bauhinia outside window mid afternoon,

Hooded crows: calls, Eurasian Jays: seen betw. trees and calls, Chukar partridges: brief calls in north valley. black redstart, calls? Graceful warblers:some calls.

Yesterday we heard the white breasted kingfisher again from look out corner region somewhere. Also feral pigeons, jays, stonechats, hooded crows, white wagtails, blackbirds

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Saturday report

White wagtail: front view- Ruthie Schueler

Rain on and off last couple of days, especially at night, though didn't hear any thunder. 9.5-15 degrees C, ~12 when we headed down for a walk. ~67% humidity, winds W/NW, very light, up to 6 kt.

White wagtail
: It does seem more have arrived lately, I've been hearing them many times from my room over the last couple of days. There have been a few showers and husband noticed up to half a dozen foraging in the street on friday.
black redstart: looked like a young male foraging on the ground and between the boulders just down from the pumping station.

White breasted kingfisher was around look-out corner again today about sunset. Though we could hear exactly where it was.. up in the eucapyptus, it stayed out of sight. We were approaching from lower valley trail and by the time we reached the pistaccio orchard he was 'laughing' his head off. Sounded like he was just on the other side of the eucs. That 'sik' call has an almost ventrioloquial quality, sounds as if it's coming from several metres away from the laugh almost every time. Made me wonder if a second bird wasn't doing that. When we rounded look-out corner the kingfisher had headed back south over the stream.
House sparrows:around gardens and building as usual. Feral pigeons, on top and between buildings as usual.
Hooded crows: heading south from foraging in the hills north towards sunset, generally as singles/very loose flock
Jackdaws: A flock calling and flying south to roost over Hizmeh, towards hoodie hill and Pisgat Zeev.
Kestrel: flying over east valley just south of pumping station, circling, gaining height. watching.
Blackbirds: heard in the garden on friday, in the woods chakking towards sunset on saturday
Graceful warblers: Heard calling from the house late afternoon, either in the gardens or nearby.
Great tits:Heard calling from the trees on the bank between valley road and houses.. (mostly aussie acacia)
While I was watching that young black redstart male by the pumping station husband noticed a Buteo (long legged) up over hoodie hill, brief, the crows started mobbing it of course, then it flew down and out of view.

Vegetation is flourishing in the stream bed, fresh green shoots of grasses, milk thistle leaves and all kinds of other growth thrusting up everywhere. That spitting cucumber has definitely spread at the beginning of valley road and that short broom like plant with dark leaves by valley road is still putting out flowers. Ragwort still going.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Handsome little winter jobs busy at the bunker.

13-21.5 degrees C. Just after 4 pm, time of walk, 17 degrees and falling. Humidity 60% and rising. winds westerly, 5-8 knots.

white wagtails: heard over buildings.
stonechat: A pair hawking for flying insects at the edges of the bunker rubble in close proximity, using the rebars for perches. I found it interesting that the pair bond holds for the winter months and in their winter range. It certainly affords protection against predators such as sparrowhawks when these birds are out in the open so much and the male is so obvious and strongly coloured.. to have others of his kind to give the alarm is a definite advantage.. mutual benefit.

black redstart: Also on the alert for small prey on bunker rebars. He was on the watch out near the stonechat pair but after a short while took up a new post a few metres away.. perhaps their aerial forays every few seconds were interfering with his own hunting.
House sparrows:around gardens and buildings as usual. Feral pigeons on tops of buildings as usual.
Hooded crows: a few individuals returning south to roost towards sunset.
Eurasian jays: glimpsed between pines

Blackbirds: 'chak chak' alarms in the pines. Didn't notice in the garden today.

Collared doves: a pair visited the cistern while we were watching the birds by the bunker ruins.

Gazelles: none seen today. Pregnant feral cat noticed.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

crab spider and other stuff

I found this wicked looking crab spider on a charred branch just by the northern watercourse. They're called crab spiders because they resemble and walk sideways like crabs. Usually I find them on flowers and often coloured in camouflage but this was two or three times bigger than those I usually see, though still small, just under 1 cm. from side to side.

Gazelles: 3 in north valley, on the south facing slope between the valley trees and the little pine grove half way up the slope, One without visible horns part walking, part running... then a female apparently followed by an adult male. Seemed the first waited for the other two to catch up, then all three continued walking up the hill towards the ridge.
hyrax: some long shrill calls from colony on the north facing slopes of north valley, below the buildings.
feral dogs: some barking from somewhere in north valley

White wagtails: heard quite a few calls from the street over the afternoon.
House sparrows:calling in gardens as usual, feral pigeons on rooftops as usual, on Elias, male strutting and turning
sunbird, various calls from the Bauhinia tree and garden in general, almost song.

Eurasian sparrowhawk, seen in flight, at least two about in north valley. common kestrel flew over.

laughing doves: keeping a very low profile, glimpse?. Jackdaws, graceful warblers, bulbuls also quiet
Hooded crows: some calls from the hills.
Eurasian Jays: glimpsed in between pines.

Blackbirds: in the garden mid afternoon again, various alarm calls. Singing in pines north facing slope toward 5 p.m.
Chukars: husband heard calls in north valley. Chiffchaff calls?
Collared doves: glimpsed, Syrian woodpeckers: calls, seen in flight between pines.

Plenty purple crocus noticed, still some Dianthus out we saw earlier in the week. ragwort flowers still out.

Temp range: 16-22.5 degrees C, 19 and falling during our walk.. shortly after 4 p.m. Humidity ~ 55%, winds W/WSW 5-7 knots

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

lurking kingfisher finally makes an appearance

This is one of Ruthie Schueler's photographs of this bird, the light was too poor for ours.

About sunset we (finally!) noticed a white breasted kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis perched in prominent view on an upper curve of a eucalyptus branch above 'look- out corner'. (This branch appears diseased and is arched over) Finally! It was calling a high, sharp 'sik' note, which I had not noticed before, and then went into its kookaburra like laughing call. After a minute or so it headed into the east valley pines, and we could hear it every few minutes, each 'laugh' preceded by a 'sik' call or two.

Otherwise, a very quiet day.. 'chak chak' alarm calls of blackbirds in the woods, hooded crows passing over to roost, Syrian woodpecker call, Eurasian jays about, house sparrows, feral pigeons about the street. Eurasian Sparrowhawk glimpsed?

temperature range for today 14-21 degrees C, at just after 4 p.m. ~20%, winds easterly, almost still, humidity falling all day to about 20-22 % during our walk. Plenty small high altitude clouds

Monday, November 24, 2008

Long legged buzzard and others

Nice shot perching by Jan Sevcik. If I find a shot comparable to the beautiful view I had, I'll post it but you can also see it in a guide.. adult intermediate morph. In the past I've only had a view of these Buteos from underneath as they were soaring high but great to see view of the top of the bird in flight for a change

Nicest sighting of the day was a rather dramatic and brilliant view of a long legged buzzard, Buteo rufinus, low over north valley. For the previous few minutes we'd heard quite a bit of bird excitement.. chukar partridges clucking repeatedly from somewhere on the hillside to our north, not high up, and Eurasian jays screeching behind us in the pines up the slopes to the south. The latter was explained by a brief view of a smaller raptor, from what we could make out from a glimpse, a Eurasian sparrowhawk. Then the buzzard flew into view and I had a really nice view of his almost russet brown back and wing coverts as he glided down the valley barely at canopy level, quite magnificent. He was immediately pursued by a smaller bird which I didn't get a great view of as it was so fast and happened over a matter of seconds at a tricky angle for ID but seemed to be yet another sparrowhawk.

Garden today:
House sparrows, sunbird calling in the Bauhinia early afternoon but no song. A blackbird showed up just after 3 p.m. and sang a short while, also 'chak chak' and 'tzeet calls'. White wagtails heard from the street and also heard and seen flying to roof at the beginning of our walk. Have more recently arrived? Does seem that way based on the increase in calls I've been hearing over the past few days. .

Hooded crows: flying south to roost. Jackdaws heard : Feral pigeons, flock on top of building by lower Elias today
white spectacled bulbuls: some calls end of Shadiker

Weather: 13.5 -19.5 degrees C. During our walk, 18 falling to 17. Humidity, just under 30% and rising, ESE 1-2 kt.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Brief Sunday report

~17 degrees C at ~ 4 p.m. humidity ~36%, wind SW and under 2 kt

Quiet generally.
active in the Bauhinia in the garden mid afternoon as were house sparrows, jackdaws heard from the house, white wagtail out in the street somewhere, feral pigeons on tops of buildings as usual, particularly a higher one just south west of us that is usually the hangout for a whole flock. They were ranged up around the roof rail.

In the forest, plenty Eurasian jays foraging, blackbirds active and calling, a little song towards sunset. Chiffchaff calls in the eucalyptus grove. Other calls in the pines, probably both redstarts and chiffchaffs and perhaps other small insect eating stuff hiding in the canopy. Jackdaw calls off east.

Husband walked over hoodie hill from pisgat ze'ev, met me at the bunker, saw a gazelle with short horns on his way down, running south from near the olive grove. He also saw chukar partridges up on hoodie (windsurfer ) hill... a group of four and a group of about eight, though they may have been part of the same covey from their proximity, just scattered in two parts.
A few score hooded crows up on the hill.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saturday report: feral dog family and bat

Temp range: 11.75-16 degrees C. At time of walk, shortly after 4 p.m. ~13.5 degrees C, humidity ~70%, winds SW/WSW 7-10 kt

No gazelle. Family of feral dogs coming from east end of north valley approaching sunset, dad led the group, handsome and dingo coloured, bitch, white with brown patches, clearly lactating came second, puppy, only one also white with brown patches, well fed and puppy-eager, followed after her. The male led them to central trail then headed west towards the neighbourhood. We watched a small bat in flight between cistern pine and eucalyptus grove at about 4.55 p.m. (just after sunset)

Quiet day in terms of birds.

Eurasian jays in the pines as usual, Hooded crows, a few individuals returning south to roost, one to the eucalyptus just after dark. Jackdaws heard over to the east.

Feral pigeons on tops of the buildings as usual. Laughing dove heard cooing in the garden friday about midday, first one I've heard cooing there in a while though we did have that one over on the other side of the buildings (over back porch) a few days ago. Collared dove seen flying in the large pine by the cistern.

Blackbird heard in the garden again, some calls in the pines and a snatch of song around sunset. Sunbird ticcing heard and glimpsed in the cape honeysuckle, some flowers left in there but pretty much finished, but also provides cover and insects. White wagtail heard from street both today and yesterday, and calls in the valley. (passing over to roost?) Chiffchaff calls in the pines? Sadly still no black redstart at the rubble.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thursday report, gazelle, praying mantis

Temperatures fell since yesterday.. range14 to 18.5 degrees C , at the time of our walk, shortly after 4 p.m. between 15 and 16. Winds bringing in cumulus from the west, 8-10 kt though, as we could see higher at cloud level, WSW/W/NW.

Gazelles: 5 altogether today: Two, making their way from east field, lower hill slopes to the west up north valley, in front of bat cave and on into shelter of the pines. For a brief while on the open hillside looked like one was nursing.
Third seen in east valley on the level with the watercourse deep under the pines. Final two crossed the sapling field and made their way towards the pumping station.

Black redstarts.. hard to see because in silhouette but looked like two birds using one of the pylons north gazelle field, and quite high.. never saw them use such a high point for forage.. could have been a male territorial interaction.

Eurasian Jays: about the woods as usual, seen between trees though quiet.
Blackbird: In the garden again early afternoon, various alarm calls.
White spectacled bulbuls: Various calls down in north valley.
Sunbirds: calling in the garden early afternoon.
House sparrows: Gardens as usual. White wagtail, in the street yesterday morning, forgot to mention.

Loads of lily type leaves sprouting up everywhere... operation litter clean up is still underway, spitting cucumber almost done, or maybe not, still some flowers opening. Ragwort most flowers are fluffy seedheads but not all done yet. More crocuses. My son found a tiny praying mantis today, big as my thumbnail. He describes it as 'peanut butterish' in colour with a green stripe on the back.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wednesday round up, bats in November

temp range today: 17.5 -23.5 degrees C . Time of our walk: 21 degrees +, winds WSW ~ 6kt though they had been easterlies all morning, turned about midday. Humidity in the low 50s %

: 6 moving to and fro along the watercourse on the east edge of gazelle field around sunset. Females and young from what we could make out. Grass sprouting there.
hyrax: some calls screech type.

bats seen from the cistern and a couple of places along lower valley trail as we walked south towards the pumping station, dusk. Mid november! Temps very mild though.

House sparrows: Already gathering in their roosts at about 4.15 p.m. when we headed out
Hooded crows: loose flock heading south towards sunset, perched on tops cypress north valley.. already thinking about staking out next season's territories?
Jackdaws: some calls from up on the north ridge where they were still foraging.
Jays: A few glimpsed between the pines.

Blackbirds: alarm calls and some song in the garden mid afternoon.
Sunbirds: excited calls in the Bauhinia early afternoon.
Graceful warblers: some calls.
white spectacled Bulbuls: calls down in north valley.
Other calls heard in the pines, chiffchaffs and redstarts?

Continuing clean-up- one way to recycle plastic bags.. we use them to collect litter in the forest and dispose of it properly. Plastic bottles we collect separately and put in the cage for recycling. Clean hands thoroughly afterwards! Not a lot of litter but sadly some folk don't bother taking their BBQ litter home and their are no garbage collection facilities in the park yet.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Monday report: gazelle group, little owl, other stuff

Gazelles: 7, moving east behind and past the almonds end of 'gazelle fields', four moved on behind the large pine by the cistern, three vanished.. I suspect they went down into the water channel there or concealed by the old dry stone walls. Then one seen making its way back west.

hyrax: plenty active and scampering about in the colony just below the end of Shadiker, top of path leading down into north valley, one jumped down from a low cypress bough on our approach. It's a giveaway when we see the bough abruptly swing up in recoil.

fox crossed valley road right behind us last night, again coming down the bank and continuing down into the pines. We just caught sight of it in peripheral vision when we stopped to check out something by the roadside.

No luck with that kingfisher today but we did hear a
Little Owl Athene noctua calling just west and up from the pumping station.. possibly the locally famous one that lives in on a bluff up there which we photographed some months back, about that area.

white wagtail flying over, up north valley.
Black redstart calls eucalyptus grove area (?) but no sightings
House sparrows: houses and gardens as usual.
Hooded crows: calling over north ridge, a few dozen I think. As the other day, a group settling back into eucalyptus by lower valley trail. So they are using that roost.
Jackdaws: sizeable flock (100+)scavenging top of the hill to the north, 50+ birds headed south at sunset, calling.
Eurasian Jays: active in the pines as usual, occasionally glimpsed.
Greenfinches: come calls near look out corner
Blackbirds: One in the garden mid afternoon, 'tzeet' & 'chak chak' calls and a little song.
Collared doves: pair on a line over new pines east end north valley
Sunbirds: some song and activity in the Bauhinia outside my window early afternoon. This latest batch of cape honeysuckle flowers in the entrance are spent now, orange petals on the ground so they need new source of nectar.
white spectacled bulbuls: some calls

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Lilies growing out of mole rat mounds and other miscellanea

you can also see how charred the earth is just under the surface where the sprouts emerge. That was from the fire.. and can also be seen in the hue of the earth beyond the mound.

Today's range 13.5 -20 degrees C, time of walk, not long after 4 p.m. 17 degrees and falling.
Wind NW to W though had been easterlies most of the day and was just changing about then and picking up from 1-2 kt to about 5kt.. i.e. very similar to yesterday. Humidity rising quickly from about 35% to 60% plus over the next two hours or so.

Gazelles: none noticed today. hyrax: calls heard?. feral dogs: some barking.

I was amused to see a bunch of lily type sprouts poking out of a mole rat mound and wondered if perhaps mole rats had stored a bunch of bulbs in a cavity just under the ground there and forgotten about them. These are probably going to turn out to be asphodel and there were plenty more sprouting all over the open charred area just north of central trail and west of gazelle field, some others also growing out of mole rat mounds.

A lot of fresh stuff is sprouting up now in many places, charred and uncharred, both grass and dicots. Also good to see plenty green sprouting along the bed of the stream, which indicates the effluent is not toxic to quite a few local plants. More crocuses seen, the ragwort still persists and the spitting cucumbers by north end of valley road still going strong, making new pods all the time.

Approaching dusk we headed south along the lower valley trail and then heard the white breasted kingfisher call stridently again from the direction of gazelle fields or woods round about. I wanted to see if I could catch a glimpse while it was still just barely light enough. From its calls it had flown into the eucalyptus grove but when I heard it again it had retreated farther back beyond the cistern and towards the almond trees, unless there is more than one about. At that point the light was fading fast. I did hear some stonechats from that direction but no luck on the kingfisher.. but two days in a row is promising for a third...

Immature black redstart on a bare acacia busy foraging just like a spotted flycatcher where we'd seen it before a few days ago.. flying up and hawking though not so fancy in the air as a flycatcher and grey very smooth, almost like a blackstart. Another one by the rubble but left on our arrival, calls in the eucalyptus grove, no good sightings.
House sparrows: around the house as usual. laughing doves: cooing from the back porch roof area late morning
Hooded crows: ~30 flew down quietly from hoodie hill and settled in eucalyptus by the lower valley trail. We wondered if this was usual roosting area or if something had disturbed their roost around the hill because we hadn't noticed a group like this settle back into the woods after night.
Eurasian Jays: some calls, relatively low profile today.
Feral pigeons: some flying between buildings as usual.
Blackbirds: some alarm calls in woods just west of gazelle field, and also about the garden mid afternoon. Song from same woods at about 4.45 p.m
Syrian woodpeckers: some calls. white spectacled bulbuls :some calls.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Saturday brief report

Gazelles: 1 adult male spotted behind (east of) the pistaccio orchard, making its way south towards the east field/cypress copse

Bird of the day was what sounded like a white breasted (Smyrna) kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis calling loudly in the middle of the woods not long after sunset, by the watercourse not far south of central trail, though we didn't get a glimpse of it.

House sparrows:around houses as usual
Hooded crows: passing over, also quite a few around hoodie hill
Jackdaws: flock of something over 100 birds flying from our neighbourhood (from west) towards hoodie hill ~4.30 pm
Eurasian Jays: some calls in the pine woods
Feral pigeons: about tops of buildings as usual.
Blackbirds: song ~ 5 p.m in the pine woods

Sunbirds: 1.15 p.m. full song and visible in the Bauhinia outside my window on friday. We waited on saturday for him to show up, see if he'd do it again on schedule. He didn't but five minutes later we heard one not far off doing his squeaky toy alarm call.
Graceful warblers:some strident calls
Syrian woodpeckers: some calls
white spectacled Bulbuls: various calls by the neighbourhood and also in the pistaccio orchard
Great tits:seen by the road

fox glimpsed at about 10.30 p.m .crossing valley road and heading into the pines. eyes looked back, reflected orange of nearest lights, must have been foraging on the bank, not far from the lowest buildings.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mismatched sparring partners

This pic shows how hard it can be to pick gazelle out in the landscape especially if they're standing still, and these were relatively close! One individual ringed on the left. A close packed group on the right in the ellipse. How many can you make out in the group? Look how much the white underbelly and tail blends into the limestone. The focus isn't good but when they're farther back on the hillside this is about the level of info you get. Helps when they move!

~12-17 degrees C today, time of our walk ~ 14 falling to ~13, humidity 85% rising to 90%, wind 8-14. W, WSW Plenty cumulus drifting in from the west, some rain on and off, thunder in the morning.

Marked rise in general bird activity today compared to yesterday.

Gazelles: At least 9
gazelles in the gazelle field today shortly before sunset, strung out by the far dry stone wall, but moving to and fro- with their clever patterning, you blink, you lose count and have to start systematically over again.
Soon saw two in lively
head butting action and soon saw one was adult male and the other was a young male with horns less than half the size of the other! My first thought was, ' aww, pick on a boy your own size!' till I continued watching and saw what was really happening. A minute or so later a young male trotted after the adult male and somehow nudged it into a fresh interaction. The young male was initiating the sparring! Its instincts urged it to headbut and he naturally sought a worthy opponent, lessons from the master! The adult was happy to oblige for a few seconds. The interaction was very brief.. it does make me wonder if the young males incur any damage from these risky encounters and if the adult keeps it deliberately toned down compared to a more serious rutting battle. There was a distinct group of four, the adult and three others in the group, and at least three of them were sparring with each other. After a while they reverted to grazing and several made their way back west to the shelter of the pines.

hyrax: one on a dirt mound by valley road, at the head of a trail down to north valley, shaggy tan job on sentry duty
feral dogs: barks, across east valley from the pumping station, low on hoodie hill.

white wagtails:
out on/over the street, could hear from the house. Also passing over the orchard to the south later in small flocks and calling, no doubt on their way back to roosts in town.
a few seen on tops of cypresses just down from valley road.
House sparrows
: chirruping in their roost next door as usual. Were calling after bedtime again last night but we didn't find any owls.
Hooded crows: some up on hoodie (windsurfer) hill, loose flock of 14 returning south from forage ~ 4.30 p.m.
Jackdaws: flock of at least 100 up on south west slopes of hoodie hill
Eurasian Jays: here and there about the pinewoods as usual. Some calls.
Feral pigeons: in flight between buildings as usual.
Blackbirds: 1 in song (and plain view from this chair ) in Bauhinia tree outside window mid afternoon, + 'chak's and 'tzeet' . alarm calls in pines as usual after sunset
Sunbirds: 1 in song in Bauhinia at ~ 1.15 p.m and again mid afternoon, 'accompanying' the blackbird
white spectacled Bulbuls: a few musical calls, some harsh chak calls in the garden mid afternoon.
Hoopoe, flew from cistern area to eucalyptus behind 'look out corner'
Other insect eating birds about, redstarts, warblers and such judging by all the calls I was hearing , but keeping out of sight in pines and other foliage.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Chukars, gazelles and late bats

Another gorgeous image from Ruthie Schueler.. this time the chukar partridge, Alectoris chukar, the most abundant 'gamebird' in the valley. Their fussy sounding 'chuk chuk chuk' is a fairly common sound on our walks and we're almost guaranteed to at least hear them in north valley.

Temps today 16 -22 degrees C. 21 dropping to 20 during the course of our walk. winds very light and south easterly, as we could see from patchy high cumulus drifting over the face of the moon, though barely inconveniently for us, it was probably slowing down the returning crows a bit.

Today we walked to the quarry, reaching the place around sunset. (5 p.m. ) We weren't much bothered by the time since the moon was almost full and its light replaced the fast fading daylight adequately to mark our trail, and the whiteness of the limestone helps a lot!

The quarry itself was its usual desolate surreal self, sans Tristram's grackle, not a feather or a whistle was noticed today. Either they were already roosting and unwilling to respond to my whistles (as they always had pretty reliably) or they had already moved on. Plenty ragwort getting up my nose and clumps of tree tobacco, the odd call of graceful warbler and hyrax but no grackles.

Gazelles: 7 at least. First we saw a group of six, mainly young ones.. some immature males based on the horns, making their way west along the south facing slope middle of north valley, just below the pine copse on the hillside there. At some point a couple at least changed their minds and started heading back east. Abruptly an adult buck emerged from cover and started chasing one up the hillside to the east. They ran to and fro for a couple of minutes, then the buck returned to the pine copse.
hyrax: barks and alarm screams heard around the quarry

bats: at least three seen along the trail on the way back, between 5 and 5.30 p.m. (dusk) this late in the year! 11 November. Well it certainly is a mild evening and there are moths about.

House sparrows
:gardens as usual. Hooded crows: flying slowly home to roost in a very loose flock from hill foraging grounds north.
Eurasian Jays: plenty calls and individuals between trees

: two small coveys near the quarry, startled me as much as I startled them! First broke out from a gully leading down the to valley on approach to the quarry, other was up on the hillside on the north facing slope. Each only about six individuals.. smaller broods this year, (because of the fires?) or just predator attrition?
Stone curlews: Heard briefly from over towards bat cave and perhaps glimpsed.
Sunbirds: One broke into frenetic song at about 1 p.m. just outside my window today.. they do make me think of a robin on too much caffeine. couldn't see him, he was hidden by the leaves.
Graceful warblers:calls in the quarry area.
Blackbirds, beautiful song in the pines by the trail on our return walk, at about 5.05 p.m. already dusk.
Falcons.. a couple about, over north valley and to the buildings, common kestrels probably
Small insectivorous bird working in upper canopy of an acacia. Didn't see much detail but best guess from that view is chiffchaff.

Syrian woodpeckers, Bulbuls,
Great tits, jackdaws, wagtails, doves, greenfinches all quiet today:

addendum: Little owl Athene noctua seen same evening, 10.35 p.m. perched on top of an 6 m pole by the north part of valley road. Heard it call 'kuw!' a few times.. then flew off down into north valley. Husband later heard it call from the house.

Today (wednesday) wind had turned, rain much of the day, cumulus from the west.