Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Toads and other delights

One of the toads my son caught in the cistern. Isn't he cute?

Some kind of bush cricket type photoed on thistle this morning A.Atwood.

Temp. range today was up to 23-31 degrees C. At about 6.30 p.m. when we went down it was down to just under 28 degrees C, humidity just 15%, wind just under 2 kt WNW

Up to 3 Buteo aloft over gazelle field and surrounding land, couldn't tell which, possibly long legged buzzards we had last summer. In the morning husband noticed a hooded crow harassing two of them over gazelle field.

Two hobbies up there over look-out corner near sunset, gliding and circling. Swifts and bee-eaters not about today as far as we noticed. Turtle doves also quiet when we were down and also during husband's morning visit. Perhaps the numbers of people picnicking in the bottom of the valley has made some of the birds timid. We did hear singing male greenfinches and collared doves.

Jackdaws and hooded crows heard and seen around. Graceful warblers heard. Blackbirds in song, This morning about 9 a.m. husband noticed a pair of hoopoes in the pine by the cistern, a great spotted cuckoo, and a chukar partridge in the area.

No gazelle noticed today but we did not spend a long time scanning the northern hillside. Plenty marbled whites on the wing as well as a satyrid.

The smaller cistern pool had a lot of filamentous algae in it and quite a population of toads, looked like Bufo viridis we'd seen on the roads earlier in spring. They dropped in the leftover rainwater to breed, no doubt, but there's no way they or their offspring will be able to escape from there once they're grown. It will be a death trap by late summer, too dried out to supply their minimum moisture. Unlike frogs, toads prefer to stay on land outside the breeding season. Our 12 year old son joined us and was able to reach down and 'rescue' three by hand.. we put them in the grass away from the cistern on the assumption that if they had already succeeded in breeding they would not wish to return. Plenty food for them everywhere. The cistern also had quite a population of water boatmen (bugs) and wasps and quite a few hornets dropped by to get moisture. These hornets were large brown jobs with yellow tails, Vespa orientalis. Some red dragonflies also seen today.

So many of the locals went down there to view the toads and make barbecues we hoped the local doves and others would succeed in getting a drink! That cistern is very important for them in the summer.

The milk thistles have already pretty much gone to seed. There are many large umbellifers out now, probably Daucus carota (related to carrots.), and common mallow are growing up, about to bud. Flower buds are also appearing on the pomegranate trees.

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