Saturday, February 23, 2008

First Swift

Common swift, Apus apus

Jerusalem, Israel
First swift Apus apus of the season seen today at about 4.45 p.m. 23 Feb. A lone individual over north valley. (silent, probably because he had no mates around to scream with)
The graceful archer's bow wing shape was most welcome! I'd just been saying to husband a second before that they should show up ANY time now and he simply said 'up there'. I love it when that happens. These birds winter in Africa and usually return about now.

Temperatures very mild today, 9.5 to 17 degrees C, clear skies for the most part. Winds light and pretty much easterly all day, humidity mostly under 25%. Temps just coming down from peak when we went out for our walk.

First thing I heard today shortly after dawn apart from distant hooded crows was the strident squeaky toy call of a sunbird in the Bauhinia outside my window. Later around noon male sunbird launched into a long and elaborate song in there, trying to pack in more notes per minute than Mozart. He was definitely in good spirits after surviving being almost frozen last week.

House sparrows, jackdaws, feral pigeons and laughing doves also around, some light coos of the latter. White spectacled bulbuls also quite vocal today.

In the woods great tits very vocal and some Eurasian jays seen about and active. Much high pitched peeping in the woods by elusive redstarts, not one black redstart let us see it today but they were there in force as were graceful warblers and a brief greenfinch twitter. Others, such as woodpeckers, robins and stonechats, silent. Very nice view of a fine adult Eurasian sparrowhawk returning from direction of NE gazelle field toward east valley.

Adult male gazelle grazing over at the foot of the pylons, north gazelle field, he made his way to field in the NE end of the field not far behind the cistern and grazed there for a while. Our sons found 2 agama lizards and a brownish yellow scorpion.

S.W. England, Denbury farm.

Camera is back on the feeders by the path and the 'tit tag team' present in force. Both friday lunchtime and today at about 4.30 p.m. there were plenty blue tits and great tits with a coal tit darting in whenever it could. Today, probably one of my favourites, a long tailed tit was also about. It seems these birds use their tails to change direction in midflight, I noticed some quite elegant manoevres around the feeder.

On friday midday a great spotted woodpecker and for the first time a male blackbird was on the left feeder. These are softbills and in the past I've only seen the female on that feeder though robins visit frequently as did one today a few times. A couple of chaffinches and greenfinches also visited as well as a male house sparrow. Blue tits seem to be the least shy as they returned to the feeder seconds after a boy with his two gorgeous German shepherds walked by, encouraging the other birds to follow.

Meanwhile at James Reserve, California it's still morning over there and already lively. Most of the snow under the feeder has gone though it seems it has snowed again very lightly since, farther off snow still blankets the ground. James (33 degrees N) is similar latitude to Jerusalem (31 degrees N) and actually lower altitude by a couple of hundred metres but the area is much more exposed being on the side of the San Jacinta range as opposed to Mir tucked in a valley as up here.

2 nice glossy American crows came by as well as a pair of mourning doves, using both the feeder, the water bowl and checking out the ground under the feeder for dropped food. Of course the usual purple finches and mountain tits have been coming in and out as well as a pygmy nuthatch and a pair of very handsome band tailed pigeons. A gang of 6 Steller's jays came by, it's amazing there's any of the fat block left after that, they seem to love it as well as everything else the feeding tray has to offer.

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