Thursday, February 21, 2008

Back over the hill

Jerusalem, Israel

Gorgeous day today, mild (7 -14 degrees C) and totally clear skies. Winds light and in the east in the afternoon. House sparrows and jackdaws heard from the house. We had to deal with the chore of taking a trip to the next neighbourhood to sign some bank documents and make clothes purchases for the boys. Happily the compensation is walking back NW cross-country over windsurfer hill, east field and Mir Forest.

We saw plenty laughing doves & feral pigeons on the way through the built- up areas (mainly residential 5-10 storey apt. buildings) and my 12 yr old son was excited to see a falcon fly right over him when he went off for a walk - along the main street there. He saw the light underparts and swept back wings and recognized it as clearly a raptor but he also described a very dark face mask not found on the most likely falcon of the area (kestrel, Falco tinnunculus). This leaves hobby and peregrine falcon as the next likely possibilities (which he didn't know) and it does seem very early in the season for hobbies to be back already. White wagtails around.
Still no swifts.

Heading over the hill we saw a nice group of gazelle in east field, 9 individuals, no sign of an adult male. One of them seemed definitely heavy in the abdomen. They moved on down to graze near the olive grove.

Apart from putting up the usual flock of 50 + hooded crows we didn't see much as light was already fading by then. A small flock of ~20 blackbird sized brownish grey birds took off from the open scrub lower south east side of the hill, frustratingly we didn't get much detail on them but short tail and no obviously long bill or any other clear features, but some quite melodious high pitched contact calls unlike those of fieldfares. Always frustrating not to get enough info for an ID but that's how it can go. Redwing? Seemed too plump.. hard to tell.

were singing in the pines as we made our way back home via central trail and shortly after our arrival home, already dark, some very nice stone curlew calls came to our ears from somewhere down in the valley.

At Denbury farm, Somerset, England:
Late morning their time.. the camera was on a pair of feeders next to a tree branch today and guess what was intently pecking seed after seed? A hen pheasant, comfortably perched (a lot more comfortably than she was yesterday!) on a narrow branch. She was joined by another hen a few minutes later. Great tits, chaffinches, coal tit, blue tits, house sparrows and a robin also seen.

Meanwhile, at James Reserve in California
American crow, purple finches, mountain chickadees, steller's jay, oregon junco so far today. It's late morning there now and temperature just above freezing, air somewhat misty and a fresh fall of snow on the ground. A gang of three jays are using the feeder.

signing off on this one for the day, if anything else shows up at James, I'll report it tomorrow.

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