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...

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