Thursday, January 31, 2008

Snow in Jerusalem

East Valley and Mir Forest.. taken about 9 a.m. Arab town of Hizmeh on opposite hilltop

Tuesday night shortly before the clouds opened seriously we took a walk down valley road.. about 10.10 p.m. spotted two gazelle barely visible in the shadows of the pines just down from the road a few dozen metres.

Tuesday night and Wednesday night snow fell over the neighbourhood, a little more heavily on wednesday night. Part of the time this was rain, sleet or hail and with thunder, but there was enough snow to leave up to four inches in the garden. We're only barely a quarter of the way up the eastern slopes of the hill on which our neighbourhood stands. Closer to the top of the hill the snow was at least eight inches deep.

Thursday: Range 0-4 degrees C

~4.30 p.m. ~3.5 degrees C, 77% humidity, wind W 6.1 kt
By the time we went out much of the snow was already melted and the stream in the valley was rushing with meltwater. There were still patches at higher elevations and partially shaded areas in the flat little 'meadows' by the stream. Many people and children have been walking and playing in the valley much of the day enjoying the snow on the ground and admiring the rushing brook and the little waterfall since we only have a snowfall once every several years.

The presence of people would keep the gazelle away and I'm eager to see that they survived. Rock hyrax were busy by valley road climbing into the lower branches of cypress trees and nibbling away. It's much easier for them than for the gazelle as they can huddle in their family groups under the boulders.

We did hear Syrian woodpecker and blackbird alarm calls as well as numerous black redstart 'seeps'. Small bands of chaffinches were roaming around, alighting on tops of cypresses. Feral pigeons were lined up back on the roof rails and house sparrows were heard. Yesterday a great tit was singing briefly in the garden in the early afternoon.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Before the storm

Green toad, Bufo viridis (wikipedia)

One evening late last week on our evening walk I found a toad on valley road not far before the turn south. Since one way of identifying toads is by the shape of the pupil and colour of the iris I picked him up and brought him to a part of the road well enough lit by a streetlamp to see. It just sat in my hand quite passively and patiently. The pupils were definitely horizontal, making it Common green toad Bufo viridis rather than the much less common Pelobates syriacus (which has vertical cat like pupils).
Then I placed it on the north valley forest verge near where it seemed to be heading. After that I wiped my hands well with a tissue and washed them well when I got home! Toad's skin secretions are not the most pleasant though nothing was obvious, it just felt damp. Hey I'm the kind of person who actually finds toads cute.

Monday Jan 28th Range today: 4-9 degrees C
Heard from the house: In the garden, house sparrows, white spectacled bulbuls, hooded crows, jackdaws.
4.30 p.m. 8.6 degrees C, 76% SSW 16.5 kt
Black redstart male foraging on cypress slum area. No hyraxes out and about today. More asphodels blooming but none yet in good enough condition to photograph. Brief Eurasian jay in the woods.
Numerous feral pigeons perched up on various roof rails. Couple of flocks of feral pigeons aloft. Flock of about 32 hooded crows between Pisgat Zeev and windsurfer hill.

Tuesday Jan 29th Today's range 0.6 degrees C,
Heard from the house during the afternoon: House sparrow, bulbuls, hooded crow, blackbird and brief laughing dove coo

A little after 4 p.m. temp 4.7, wind SW low to gusting hard pretty much all early afternoon, humidity 78%
Feral pigeons have abandoned their usual roof rail perches and are taking cover somewhere else out of view.
There was just time to take a brief walk down valley road before the clouds began to open. Whitish grey masses arriving at speed bringing thunder and expectation of snow according to all the forecasts.

The hour or so just before a storm can be quite productive in terms of birds.. quite often smaller stuff is busy with last minute foraging and flocks arrive and settle on the winds preceding the storm.

A new one for the patch! Seen earlier this season further north and at other times elsewhere in Jerusalem but actually the first time I remember seeing them in the neighbourhood.. a flock of up to 100 European starlings Sturnus vulgaris, the flock surging and weaving through the air over Pisgat Zeev like an amoeba in the winds. Several smaller groups followed over the next few minutes There were also several small bands of finches moving about, one I saw perched on top of a cypress was a female chaffinch but quite a few others in flight heading south low over the canopy.
Right now I hear rain gusting down with occasional thunder and a white spectacled bulbul making its melodious dusk calls.

It's almost 5 p.m. and getting dim, just heard some white wagtail calls outside and now it's really chucking down. We're all waiting for it to turn silent...

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The seven 'dwarfs'

Today's range 6-9 degrees C

From the house: house sparrows, white spectacled bulbuls, orange tufted sunbird squeaky calls, greenfinch twitters in the garden, jackdaws briefly, laughing dove coo.

~ 4.30 p.m. 6.5 degrees C, humidity 86%, NW 7 kt
Heading down into the valley, great tits in the pines, calls of black redstarts. It was already getting quite dim when we were out, much already returned to roost. We did see some hooded crows on their way. Some blackbirds heard in song or alarm calls.

Our nicest treat was a whole troupe of gazelles under the pines just north of the saplings field. Seven of them, most with itsy bitsy thin horns, no more than 4 inches at most I'd guess, perhaps one or two with larger horns up ahead) and most did not seem quite full grown. The largest led them across the creek and creek trail (not flowing, merely damp with the tiniest trickle) and then on up the slope to the east, the wooded lower slopes of 'windsurfer hill'. They had apparently been grazing in the lush grassy flat area just west of the stream They went pretty much in single file up the slope at a leisurely place and stopped a little short of the tree line to graze in a grassy area on the slopes. This is the largest group we've seen together in a long time.

Our next treat was the call of stone curlews as the valley became dark, at least two individuals answering each other. Not the longer warbling we heard from them back in the breeding season but just a couple of carrying clear notes each call.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

New Year of the Trees

Tu BiShvat, (15th of the Hebrew month of Shvat) New Year of the Trees is this week, (Tuesday) and the beginning of spring in Israel. We celebrate by eating a variety of fruits on that day, in particular fruits of the region such as dried figs, dates and raisins. Days are getting longer, birds are singing, sap stirs in the trees. Today I really felt it, the air was wonderfully pleasant.
Almond trees not yet in bloom here, any day now, we're watching out for them.

Temperature range was 3-11 degrees C, 9 degrees C at about 4 p.m. Humidity 68% and rising, wind SSE 4.3 kt.

Not far from the stream in east valley we found an asphodel (Asphodelus microcarpus) starting to bloom. This is a common member of the lily family, and their bunches of long leaves are all over the forest now. Their flowers are streaked lilac and white and borne on tall spikes. We want to wait till we find nicer specimens for a photograph.. they'll be blooming from now till April.

From the house I heard house sparrows, hooded crows and laughing doves cooing. From about 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. I visited with my friend and neighbour Shoshanna who lives pretty much around the corner and has a very nicely planted private garden. She reported a sunbird nest in one of the trees and there were plenty house sparrows and laughing doves around, as well as feral pigeons up high on nearby buildings, some males busy bowing, pacing and cooing. Several flocks of feral pigeons passed overhead, jackdaws heard briefly and great tit singing not far off. The family has a great interest in the local fauna so we happily discussed sightings of blackbirds and hoopoes and other birds for a while.

Heard white spectacled bulbul on the way home. Headed down to the valley a little after 4 p.m. with husband as usual - male black redstart on the bunker rubble. Graceful warblers heard calling, some greenfinch twittering, blackbird chakking alarm and presently just around dusk a blackbird sang in one of the acacias on the bank between valley road and the buildings.

Tracks of gazelle on the trail just to the west of the stream through the middle of east valley pines where plenty asphodel growing. Looked towards the olive grove and there was an adult male gazelle standing and gazing back at us. Presently he turned and alternated walking and light running towards the olives.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Egret flying visit

cattle egret in flight (wikipedia gallery)

Range today 3-7 degrees C.
Last night much cloud cover but little more rain fell, a little disappointing because almost snow conditions. Stream flow already barely a trickle, some of that flowing under the streambed and then emerging again at look-out corner.

Heard from the garden and around: House sparrows, blackbird (alarm call), white spectacled bulbuls, hooded crows and some insistent sqeaky sunbird calls.

Today at about 4.25 p.m. when we set out: Temp. 8.7 degrees C, humidity 79% and rising, wind SW 15.7 kt.
Feral pigeons up on the roof edge and roof rail as usual.
Black redstarts very active today, one on bank seen on our shortcut down, seemed to be an immature male from his colouring, darker than a female on top, brownish, almost reddish brown chest. At the bunker ruins adult male active, others around calling.
Today 'Blackjack' was 'sharing' the rubble with his distant cousin the European robin again, and yet again taking blackjack's favourite rebar perch. That must rankle! Black redstarts also active and foraging over gazelle field. Stonechats and graceful warblers also heard in the field.
Several Eurasian jays seen flying over north gazelle field.
No gazelles again today but plenty fresh tracks along central trail.
Bird of the day was an egret flying over gazelle field from about NE to south just over the level of the tree canopy, came flying right over the pine behind the cistern. From what I could tell from underneath in the brief time we saw it, seemed to be a cattle egret though little and great egrets also occur in this country.

This is only my second record of a cattle egret on my patch. Last we saw (very early spring about a year ago) was foraging on the southern slopes of north valley not far below the buildings. Unlike most other herons they're known to feed in dryer grassy areas away from water and look for grasshoppers and other invertebrates. In season there's a regular large breeding colony of them on an island in the lake at the Biblical zoo about 5 miles south of us.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Catch-up to Tuesday

This stream makes its way down (west to east) through the middle of Mir Forest and joins the main east valley stream just south of the bridge by the pumping station. Taken late afternoon today.

Mon Jan 21st

Walk rained out. From the house heard hooded crows, house sparrows, jackdaws, white spectacled bulbuls, sunbird calls, laughing dove coo

Tues Jan 22nd. Range today: 3-7 degrees C

From the house: house sparrows, hooded crows, a laughing dove coo

5.16 p.m. shortly after return: 3.2 degrees C, humidity 97%, wind SSE 9.6 kt
Several streams flowing vigorously. On the negative side, the water was a little sudsy, probably from run off from the pumping station and urban drains. I am concerned that some of the chemical gunk in the suds may be the cause of the eucalyptus sickness though of course it could be something else, can't jump to conclusions.
On the plus side several signs have been put up in the forest for drivers. Indicates that the Keren Kayemet (Jewish Agency) are taking a little more interest in the Mir Forest. Good because those saplings planted last year need attention.

Almost rained out today.. raining for most of mid afternoon, softened to drizzle by 4 p.m and almost nothing shortly after. Cold though but I was wearing two sweaters and a jacket and my fingers adapted quickly.

Great tits heard in pines, female chaffinch spotted on top of a cypress. Hooded crows returning from forage, feral pigeon hunkered on top of a solar boiler, might be a little warm on top of that:) There's often just enough sun to provide hot water by solar power part of the week in winter. Just a couple of hours in the morning helps.

By look-out corner, husband spotted Eurasian sparrowhawk returning to eucalyptuses from gazelle field area, graceful warblers heard in gazelle field, black redstart heard around rubble but not spotted. Blackbird 'chack' calls in the woods.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

18th, 19th Jan Friday, Saturday

Creek trail facing south-ish, approaching the sapling field. Sunset

Heard on Friday from the house: house sparrows, white spectacled bulbuls, hooded crows and jackdaws.

Saturday 19th Jan
3-11 degrees C . ~4.30 p.m. 10.5 degrees C, humidity: ~27.5%, wind: ESE still
Skies quite clear, a few high altitude clouds.
Garden: House sparrows, Senegal dove/laughing dove cooing
Valley Road after 4 p.m. Rock hyrax quite active today, a few adults browsing on scrub on forest side of valley road. Up by pumping station a number of individuals moving over the boulders up high on the slope to the west. Several young. Interestingly, significantly lighter coloured fur on these winter born youngsters we saw in the summer of the same size. Summer youngsters seem to have a deep chocolate covered fur but these, just as small, had lighter greyish brown colouration like the adults.
Like the feral dogs it looks like these mammals also want to breed in the winter, perhaps taking advantage of the rainy season food opportunities.
The feral dog pack was heard over to the east barking somewhere by the security fence.
Feral pigeons were also in the mood to breed. I watched a male follow a female from balcony ledge to balcony ledge, going into his bowing and pacing routine the moment she seemed to be giving him the time of day. She did not seem to be interested though, and moved on.
Great tits singing near pumping station, two individuals or one with two songs (quite common in great tits). At dusk, just after 5 p.m. blackbird song heard from down in pines just north of the turn in valley road.
White spectacled bulbuls also active on the bank.. two in an acacia, flew up to another acacia by the buildings.. much vocalization in there. From the sound of it that tree was probably already occupied by a foraging bulbul pear.
Three male greenfinches noticed on top of a cypress just east of valley road.
White wagtails heard.
Falcon flew from hill to west across the valley and toward windsurfer hill, probably kestrel. As it approached the flock of hooded crows rose up from the hill, though that might have been coincidence as soon before husband had noticed people making their way up the tree so probably had nothing to do with the falcon. The crows were heading out in various directions, at least 75 birds. At least 30 birds joined them from the north in the course of the time we were there.
Look out corner quite quiet, no sign of gazelles, no sound of black redstart but a sharp tzip started up in the corner eucalyptus. Soon after a graceful warbler called from the scrub below and bird in the euc answered, from the location sounded likely same bird so it seems that call is another one of the graceful warbler repertoire. It seems that most birds have at least half a dozen calls apart from their song, and learning their variations can take quite some time and attention. Sometimes for fun we imagine the content of their dialogue. Perhaps this one went something like:
'alarm alarm humans with black tube objects!'
'nah it's those two dorks who always come down here!'
'oh yeah, didn't recognize them from this angle..'
Syrian woodpecker heard calling repeatedly in eucalyptus grove area.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

New Bird for the Patch

Common Snipe (Wikipedia)

Heard from the house: house sparrows, Jackdaws, white spectacled bulbuls.
Feral pigeons on the roof rails as per usual.

Range today 4-13 degrees C, about 4.20 p.m. 7.8 degrees C, humidity 19% , wind SE 1.7 kt
high altitude wispy long clouds today and yesterday. View over the Jordan valley quite clear today and yesterday due to general low humidity.

While walking down central trail husband pointed out an interesting shape under the pines a little over fifty feet from the path.

At first it just appeared to be a reddish brown and white rock though this one looked a lot softer and fluffier than the average rock and, incongruously, had a very long slender bill. My first impression was 'snipe!' (Gallinago sp) It was so fluffed against the cold I could not make out any barring or striping at all, it stood quite still, front facing us. As I inched towards it presently it got up and walked away quite hastily behind the little ridge it had been standing on and seconds after husband saw a bird in flight from there which had quite narrow swept back wings.. much more like a snipe than a woodcock. Frustrating I could not make out more fine detail.

It did seem about as large as a woodcock and the crown was somewhat peaked like one but there was really nothing close to it to get a good sense of size so I could be wrong. Woodcocks (Scolopax rusticola) are quite likely to occur here, especially alone in such a habitat whereas I might have expected snipes to be in company and more in the open. Both commonly winter in Israel. I have seen snipes in winter here before, a few on the hillsides of Bayit Vegan in South Jerusalem years ago. However the wing shape husband noticed was much more snipe than woodcock. At any rate, one of the Scolopacidae, that much was easy to decide!

It's amazing how often pine-cones and leaves and rocks turn out to be birds and vice versa! I don't mind a hundred false alarms on suspicious rocks if a few of them turn out to be something like this. Either bird is a new one for our patch, though I would like to be sure!

'Blackjack' (male Black redstart) was busy flicking and hunting on the far rebars of the bunker ruins again. Shortly after we had a beautiful view of Cap'n Jack (Eurasian Sparrowhawk) sweeping through the eucalyptus grove and landing in an upper eucalyptus branch by look-out corner.

Blackbirds chacking at one another from both sides of the southward turn in valley road towards dusk

No show on gazelles today.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Monday to Wednesday

Wet season growth: Much of the bank between valley road and the buildings, and the open ground around the bunker rubble and similar areas are springy green with a profuse growth of tiny to medium sized wild plants. This was taken a few days ago by valley road approaching the pumping station.

Wednesday 16th Jan
~ 4 p.m. 9.5 degrees C, humidity 17%, wind ENE almost zero
Heard from the house (garden and street) House sparrows, white spectacled bulbuls, hooded crows jackdaws and white wagtail call.

Neighbour and friend, Anna, joined us today for a walk so I was hoping for some good bird representation! Anna did find some quite fresh tracks of the feral dog pack and a gazelle in the soft earth along central trail. However, birds were low profile, probably because of the almost zero wind, though we did hear repeated alarm calls of what I believe to be a chiffchaff in the eucalyptuses behind look-out corner, and some chaffinch calls up there a little later. Black redstart calls were heard but only briefly glimpsed. No birds on the bunker rubble today and none visible in gazelle field though we did hear a brief graceful warbler phrase.

Husband briefly glimpsed Eurasian sparrowhawk in eucalyptus grove area and probably the long eared owl approaching owl glade but tantalizingly teasing glimpses. Male blackbird making a pre roost fuss by central trail on the way back. A couple of hooded crows in flight over gazelle field, heading TO northern foraging grounds.. no fly by return today interestingly.

We were happy though since Anna spotted an adult male gazelle running from north east of north gazelle field, behind pine grove and on through north of east field to rest and graze under the olive grove near the security fence.
We were also very happy to see the feral white puppy my son had found yesterday in the possession of a group of local lads who seemed to be caring for her well. She seemed to recognize me!

Tuesday 15 Jan
Range 1-8 degrees C, just after 4 p.m. 6.8 degrees C, humidity 19% (Jordan rift valley quite visible today) Wind SE and very light, skies clear
From garden: House sparrows, white spectacled bulbul, hooded crows
In street: Feral pigeons perched on roof rail
On bank down to valley road: graceful warbler call.
Around pines by bunker ruin: greenfinches, great tits vocal. Also chaffinches and black redstart calls (?)
Pack of feral dogs down there, 5, two dhole brown colour, the other three patchy white. One of those looked like the exile we saw some weeks ago, evidently integrated back into the pack and if anything it seemed the browns were out of favour today. One of them chased away briefly over by the gazelle grazing place, we saw him making his way back partly accompanied by the other brown.
My sons wanted to adopt a feral puppy they found (dense white furred female, love at first sight) but for many reasons we cannot take another feral pup: She had to stay in the forest. Some decisions can be really tough to make. While they were down there they saw an adult male gazelle.

Monday 14 Jan
Range 0-7 degrees C . Just after 4 p.m 4.3 degrees C humidity 31% wind SSE still, skies clear
Heard from house: Hooded crows, house sparrows, white spectacled bulbuls
feral pigeons on roof rail of an apartment building
stonechat: On rebar on bank on the way down to valley road and foraging in the area.
white wagtail? by school, heard?
Syrian woodpeckers quite active and vocal from east end of north valley and in east valley
Blackbird.. alarm call but no song.
weekend evening.. 30 plus jackdaws flew to Pisgat Zeev, two in aerial battle to the side along the way. They settled on TV aerials on summit.. most warm air there rising from buildings? Quite a number of crows already assembled there

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Thurs-Sunday Jan 10-13

This shows the course of the stream through part of east valley and how grassy the area has become over the rainy season. Taken 10th December, midwinter, coldest time of our year.

A few days ago at night both husband and I independently heard stone curlew call from the valley

Thurs: Range 1-9 degrees C. ~ 4 p.m. 7.3 degrees C. Humidity 79% and rising. Wind NNW 3.5kt

House sparrows, white spectacled bulbuls, great tits, blackbirds, hooded crows, jackdaws, feral pigeons, eurasian jay.

Sat: 3 white wagtails running around foraging on an empty (primary ) school playground just down from us. Also hooded crows, jackdaws, white spectacled bulbuls, blackbirds, graceful warblers.

Sun: Range: minus 1-7 . I've never seen figures so low for here.

roof rail top of buildings: row of feral pigeons as usual, a laughing dove.

Heard from the house: house sparrows, white spectacled bulbuls, hooded crows.

Just after 4 p.m. 5.3 degrees C, humidity 47% wind ENE 2.6 kt, sky totally clear.
Going down shortcut to valley road, saw female (or immature) black redstart, and stonechat perching on the ends of some metal posts left down there. Graceful warbler foraging and calling in the scrub.

Syrian woodpecker calls from east valley woods towards pumping station.

At the bunker ruin a european robin heard tic ticking then noticed in nice clear view sitting on blackjack's favourite rebar perch, flicked and then dived down out of view for forage. 'Blackjack' (male black redstart) noticed on a boulder off to the side, perhaps feeling a touch peeved that his favourite spot had been temporarily commandeered by his fiery chested relative. Another stonechat on an old thistle head just beyond the bunker ruins. They have such similar niches I wonder about the competition. Is there any? Are robins unfazed by it and just overlap territories with them where they wish? So it seems. I have not yet heard one defend a winter territory by singing on my patch as I did in Afula, other places in Israel or in the U.K.

Blackbird in song about 5 p.m. near pumping station.
Otherwise quiet and cold, no sign of any gazelles today. Husband noticed a white wagtail running about in the street this morning.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

European robin

European robin (Erithacus rubecula) , courtesy of Ruti Schueler.

Heard from the house: Hooded crows, jackdaws, sunbird, white spectacled bulbuls, white wagtails.

Temp range: 7-10 degrees C. 4.20 p.m. 8.2 degrees C, 91%, wind ENE 1.7 kt

Shortly after we left we saw about 20 hooded crows in a broad rather scattered flock heading south to roost from foraging for the day.

A few acacias on the bank between the buildings and valley road were hopping with small bird activity including white spectacled bulbuls, blackbirds, great tits, I'm not sure what else but was delighted to get a nice view of a European robin perched on a twig facing valley road. Happy to see they weren't totally driven out of their niche by all the black redstarts and other insect eaters but are definitely around.

Kestrel seen flying over the valley and heading up to the top of the hill to the west.
Glimpse of a Eurasian sparrowhawk over valley road.
A row of feral pigeons in a high sheltered groove in a partially contructed building.
A pair of collared doves on top of a cypress tree on the bank near the pumping station.
Blackbird song in the pines in east valley toward dusk.
4 feral dogs running into the trees of north valley, seemed to be another pack quarrel.

The bank itself is spongy and green with a very low but dense, profuse growth of small leaves of several kinds of wild herbs, not grasses though the alluvial ground along the banks of the stream are almost glowing green with grass right now. The stream itself has only the tiniest trickle of water at the moment with many small pools along its course. Yesterday a little more flow and the previous night was audible from valley road.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The old cisterns by gazelle field, now full.

Mon 7th Jan:

blackbird song at dawn barely light, it was in the Bauhinia or the willow. Near.
Also heard from indoors, from garden and street:
house sparrows, hooded crows, jackdaws, white wagtails, laughing doves (cooing, full but quiet), white spectacled bulbuls.
Temp range 5-11 degrees C. ~4.30 p.m. 8 degrees C and falling. Humidity 80% and rising. Wind WSW 11 + kt

hooded crows seemed very interested in something on the bank between valley road and the buildings. One alighted in a cypress tree there, another on a post at the top. One flew down briefly and seemed to be trying to get something, fluttering, almost hovering, but appeared to give up and retreat to the tree. Looking, we noticed two pretty feral cats of a variety common here.. black/grey mackerel striped upper body, pure white underbody. They rubbed their glands against the scrub and played a little, then both retreated up the slope, looking back. We went to the boulders under the cypress to see if there was, as we strongly suspected, a den of kittens there. The crows were still watching and both cats paused at the top of the bank and watched us. They seemed too young to have their own kittens. Older siblings or just precocious? At any rate the jumble of boulders around those cypresses was too extensive for us to search with the fading light and other things to see, we decided to leave them in peace.

Tues 8th Jan:

Temp range 7-12 degrees C. Just after 4 p.m. 8.7 degrees C, humidity 99%, wind westerly 6+ kt

From the house:
House sparrows, white spectacled bulbuls, sunbird, great tit, hooded crows, a brief twitter, sounded like a greenfinch. Two fighting sunbirds flying fast and with agitated twittering from the buildings over the bank and valley road to the pines. Territorial dispute no doubt. Row of feral pigeons hunched the length of a roof rail, a laughing dove not far away.

gazelle grazing in the east valley pines just north of the saplings field, several hundred metres south of gazelle field. They bounded toward the east, across the valley trail and up the hill slope to the east. They appeared to be young individuals though pretty much fully grown.

The stream has a light trickle of water, which was handy since my boots were getting quite caked with reddish mud, and the trail at the bottom of the valley was heavy, humid and laden with the aroma of eucalyptus and pine. Who needs a humidifier, anyone with chest complaints should just take that walk there a few times a day, it wasn't too cold to be beneficial at that time.

We heard black redstarts but 'Blackjack' was not around the rubble, perhaps had already retired for the day.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Flowers and Birds

flower (Senecio or similar), one of the composites, blooming on one of our shortcuts down to valley road. Taken this afternoon just after 4 p.m.

Range today 5-12 degrees C. When we went out it was just under 8 degrees C and falling and already nipping at my fingers! No rain now though. Winds WNW 7.8 kt, humidity 66% & rising.

Blackbird in full and beautiful song in our garden early afternoon and in the north valley about 5 p.m.

Gazelle field. Gazelles no show though I did noticed some hooftracks. Black redstart on a treestump looking hunched and cold, another on the bunker rubble. Stonechat noticed in the scrub just by the rubble. Graceful warblers heard calling. A couple of Eurasian jays in the top of the pine by the cistern, flew over to north valley pines, soon after were screeching and fussing about something over there. 4.45 p.m. adult Eurasian sparrowhawk flew over the length of gazelle field fromthe north, winging it for the east valley pines probably to roost, nice view! Great tits calling in the pines.

House sparrows and white spectacled bulbuls heard in the garden as usual, feral pigeons and laughing doves hunched in rows on roof railings. Hooded crows heard calling on and off all day and seen returning from northern forage singly and in small groups approaching sunset.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Thurs-Sat Jan 3-5

Thurs 3 Jan:

House sparrows, Feral pigeons, white spectacled bulbuls, sunbird, hooded crows, jackdaws, sparrowhawk, blackbird, black redstarts, stonechats, great tits, graceful warbler. Husband also saw a Tristram's starling on top of a building by the main road in our neighbourhood. He mentioned he'd also heard one a few days ago, their clear whistle is hard to miss.

Fri 4th Jan: garden: House sparrows, White spectacled bulbuls, Senegal doves cooing, sunbirds quite vocal in the garden, great tits quite vocal, white wagtail along the street

Raining friday night and most of saturday morning. Late afternoon walk the sky was partly cloudy with cumulus, gloriously lit by the falling sun and birds were out and about to use the opportunity for forage.

Sat 5th Jan:

Range 5-11 degrees C. ~ 4 p.m. ~9 degrees C. Humidity: 75-80%, wind: west, 10 kt falling

Valley road was alive and hopping with great tits, white spectacled bulbuls, blackbirds, graceful warblers. Stonechats and black redstarts heard and hooded crows returning singly from forage in the north. Jackdaws heard. A pair of Eurasian jays lurking quietly in an acacia by valley road. A falcon of some kind flew across the valley to the west and a little later a hoopoe! First we've seen in a while. Hoopoes are resident in Israel but they must have been keeping a very low profile, I was wondering if there had been a local short distance migration so good to see that they're still about. This one was flying quite high over the valley westward to our neighbourhood, bill and awkward seeming wide wings quite obvious in flight.
Rock Hyrax active, foraging and on sentry duty and alarm shriek heard.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Pigeons vs Sparrowhawk

part of north valley looking north west. A Ram on the hill top.

Weather: range 6-12 degrees C. ~ 4 p.m. ~10.5 degrees C, humidity >70% and rising,
wind SW ~8kt, partially cloudy.

Neat observation my husband made today (Wednesday 2nd Jan) just coming onto our street. An adult Eurasian sparrowhawk passing over was seen off by the local feral pigeons! A group of 10 or so pigeons got up from the rooftops and started harrying the sparrowhawk. As it moved away from them toward east valley, two more groups of pigeons, a dozen birds and about another ten birds from further rooftops joined the fray till the sparrowhawk headed to the pines.

Black redstart active foraging at the bunker ruins today and yesterday. Perches on the blocks of concrete and dives down into the scrub like a shrike though with a little more deft wing action. Stonechats and black redstarts foraging in gazelle field, stonechat also seen on the edge of valley road as we came down a shortcut. Blackbirds chakking toward dusk in the pines. Syrian woodpecker call near the pumping station.

A group of chaffinches in the tops of cypresses and pines at the centre trail crossroads.

Heard from the house- much house sparrow activity early afternoon as well as Hooded crow and Jackdaw calls. White wagtail heard from the street and white spectacled bulbuls and laughing doves vocal in the garden, latter cooing.

I noticed a 'savyon' in bloom yesterday. It's a small relative of a dandelion that grows here. One of the local pet donkeys seems to like me! I was busy watching out for stonechats and black redstarts in gazelle field when suddenly felt rough fur on one side.. he'd walked right into me, though gently. Two boys were riding their donkeys but this one headed to us, no doubt sensing people who love animals. I petted his head briefly, such beautiful large lashed eyes they have.