Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bridging Rainbow

Castor oil bush Ricinus communis A.Atwood. The most drastic and nastiest solution to certain ailments.

Temps today were 12-17 degrees C, cool, moist and breezy. By the time we headed out on our walk , had already fallen to ~13 degrees and later, well after dark, fell to 10.
Humidity was about 67% but visibility across the rift valley was good, limestone on the upper Jordanian escarpment gleamed in the late afternoon sun like snow. We could even just make out two distant cooling towers of what appeared to be a power plant by a sizeable town on the Jordanian plateau, at least 20 miles off to the north west.

A gorgeous cloud formation arched across the sky from the northern ridge, quite dense and marbled, lit beneath and with visible downward grey streamers as if it were raining though no rain fell where we were, it was just north west of us but it did create a rainbow which arched from the Jewish settlement of Adam across to the Arab town of Hizmeh. We couldn't help but find this natural bridge beautiful and poetic.

Bird life was not tremendously varied today, but interesting. In the gardens we heard white spectacled bulbuls, sunbirds, house sparrows and laughing doves as usual. Feral pigeons and jackdaws were round about their business and in the woods great tits, Syrian woodpeckers, collared doves, graceful warblers and blackbirds were vocal and active. Greenfinches were particularly active, even excited, in the pines by the bunker rubble. There was much song twittering and flying back and forth.

The most interesting bird sighting of the day was a conflict between a hooded crow and a Eurasian sparrowhawk above the new pines, east end of north valley. We saw that the sparrowhawk, by virtue of its superior aerial skill, managed to stay above the attacking hooded crow, thus protecting itself from the worst blows by bill and feet. We were pleased to see that the presence of the hobbies in the area has not caused the sparrowhawk there to abandon its territory. No doubt the encounter we saw between 'Cap'n Jack' and a local breeding crow is one of many occurring there right now, since, unlike the Buteos that are just passing through, the sparrowhawk hunts that section all the time.

Many rock hyrax were out and active today, down just east of valley road. Several of them appeared to be quite young, perhaps a couple of months but probably already weaned, born earlier in the spring.

We took a short cut up the bank on a less used trail which required a little more climbing but rewarded us with a row of castor oil bushes Ricinus communis at the top that I hadn't noticed before. We also noticed that the capers are beginning to bloom and some rather interesting looking plants, Ballotia, are starting to produce white flowers. We decided to wait for more flowers before photographing them.

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