Monday, March 10, 2008

Seek one treasure, find another.

Jerusalem, Israel.

Weather changed 180%! Temperature range dropped to 12.8-23.8 degrees C. winds have varied widely throughout the day from 0-18 kt increasing in the afternoon, bringing moisture laden air from the WNW. Humidity was 100% and we could feel droplets alighting on our skin as we walked, the cloud base was below the level of A Ram.

Another new bit of wildlife I forgot to mention.. several times in the last week we've been hearing geckoes calling, a loud 'tok tok' from boulders and buildings. These 'velcro footed' lizards seem to like to hunt their insect prey around window and door frames.

Chiffchaff sang again about 6 a.m. in the garden, house sparrows, white spectacled bulbuls, sunbirds and cooing laughing doves also around.

Feral pigeons on top of buildings and hooded crows roving the area as usual.

First call we noticed heading down one of our shortcuts to valley road, were intermittant sharp, piercing parrot like calls from the pines and cypress. Husband mentioned that our teenage son's friend had lost his African Grey so of course we wanted to check if this could be it. I'm not so familiar with African Grey calls but have kept budgerigars, cockatiels and lovebirds and this bird did not sound quite like any of those.

We circled and watched for some time till I finally got a sighting. Sadly not our young friend's bird but a feral ring necked parakeet! (aka rose ringed parakeet) Psittacula krameri, out in clear view most of the way up a cypress. I haven't seen this bird in the area for many months so was delighted to see it again and so close to human habitation. These birds have established many populations throughout the country and are seen and heard even in built up areas. In Jerusalem I've seen them in the eucalyptus in the bottom on the valley in previous years, also at Gan Sacher across town and once right in the centre of the city at Mamilla Park.

The next treasure I wanted to find was cyclamens. While looking up other plants yesterday I noticed that cyclamen should already be in bloom. We have found these in abundance in Jerusalem Forest a few miles south west of here but I had not noticed any in our valley at all yet. I sought in the shade of the pines where I expected them and instead came across not one but two species of orchid!

The first was a kind of purple orchid, each flower covered with tiny spots. Probably one of the Orchis genus. However close by I found numerous blooms of one of the Ophrys orchids, a type I'd only ever seen in photos in books and online but had not found for myself till this day, so I was naturally thrilled. These are often called fly or bee orchids because the bloom resembles a fake insect and fools other insects to visit the flower. It was not the same species as any in Azaria's guide but we managed to get a fairly decent shot of one of them, shown below.

No comments: