Saturday, April 5, 2008


European cuckoo: Monte M. Taylor

Two birds were rivals for the unofficial award of 'bird of the day'.

First.. I was delighted to see the first hobby of the season. These falcons are migratory, breeding here and wintering in Africa.

I had wondered if the excited sounds I'd heard on thursday might indicate they're back and today, as we walked along the trail path a falcon flew over us, and headed off toward gazelle field. We heard quite a few excited calls, over the east end of north valley and again near the central trail crossroads later.

As we emerged by look-out corner a rather dramatic chase approached us, low over gazelle field. The bird ahead twisted and turned almost acrobatically , then gained height, flying over my head and just clearing the top of the eucalyptus behind me. At that point I had it in my glasses view and, though the general shape was somewhat similar to a falcon it was clearly something different.. the bill was pointed ahead and not curved down.. and first thing that came to mind quite strongly was cuckoo!

I did not get a good view of the second bird, and though husband thought they were both the same species it all happened so fast he could not be certain. Was it one cuckoo after another for territorial or mating reasons, or a falcon chasing a cuckoo? A hobby's back would look a lot darker but he didn't see the back well, and I was busy following the first bird w the binocs.

As we were discussing this and wondering if it was the great spotteds back we heard a loud and clear 'UH-OO!' from somewhere back over the dry streambed, probably less than 100 yards or less in that direction. He called several times and we were struck by how loud and clear the call was. We looked at each other and laughed. It was classic! Clearly European cuckoo, Cuculus canorus, and the first we've seen and heard in our patch. Wonderful! Shortly afterwards I detected a quick movement over the central path..and a minute or so later the cuckoo was calling over on that side in the new pines.

As well as these two marvelous birds we also heard stone curlew, bee-eaters, greenfinches, chukar partridges (latter up on the slope east and south of the bridge), collared doves, blackbirds, graceful warblers.

By the houses, sunbird, white spectacled bulbuls, house sparrows, jackdaws.

Eurasian jays, hooded crows about as usual.

A buck gazelle sighted up on the skyline of the hills to the north, probably one of the bachelor herd, though I didn't see the others around him. After reporting a few details of the local gazelle population to naturalist and JBO administrator, Amir Balaban, he told me that a breeding buck gazelle will not leave its territory.

The one we've seen around the end of gazelle field probably holds territory there as well as in east field, though we should look out for any subtle differences in horns and colouring to work out if more than one gazelle is holding a territory at the moment and how large the territory/territories are. We've seen a buck coming all the way up to the top of valley road and it's important to try to figure out if its the same individual.

We spotted a shaggy big blonde (well matured) hyrax doing sentry duty on a boulder just to the east side of valley road.

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