Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Wild about the Zoo

Cattle egret on nest A.Atwood CC

Spur winged plover - wikipedia

Temps 25-34 degrees C, humidity ~6%, winds E/SE 0-4 kt. Skies pretty clear.

Today we took the two youngest to the Tisch Zoological gardens in the south of the city, about 6 miles south of where we live.
Given the heat we made sure to drink plenty and keep our headwear wet, a good protection we've found against heat exhaustion.

Now, much as we enjoyed the new exhibits and could go on about them at length, this blog is about the wildlife of the city and not about collections. Anyone interested in this excellent zoo can go to I love the place, and we go there once or twice a year almost every year for years.. there are always changes and new exhibits.

I also go for the wildlife that visits the zoo, and there's always plenty of that. Wild birds especially are keen to take advantage of the habitats a zoo provides and I'm sure I've only seen a tiny fraction of its wild visitors.

For example, the large colony of cattle egrets Bubulcus ibis that nest yearly in the trees by the lake and on its islands are all totally wild but are quite used to people by now and seem quite comfortable raising their youngsters right over the heads of vacationers taking pictures of the black swans, crowned cranes and other water bird exhibits there. The whole colony gets rather odiferous in the heat!

We were also enchanted to see a parent spur winged plover Vanellus spinosus guarding her chicks in the flamingo enclosure. The long legged little chicks with their camouflaged backs and cute little eye stripes, ran here and there, experimentally pecking at anything in the grass while mom was kept busy chasing away egrets and moorhens that wondered near, lunging at them quite aggressively, head lowered, till they backed off. She didn't seem to care about all the flamingos standing around though, it was as if she didn't take them quite seriously! They were all busy preening and 'cronking' gently and weren't really much of a threat. Because of the heat both the cormorants and pelicans were vibrating their throat sacks. The Pelicans, though wild in Israel, were part of the collection and the cormorants are nesting side by side with the egrets.

Spur winged plovers are probably the most common member of its family in the country and are called siksak in Hebrew, based on their call. I've seen them all over Israel from farmland to hippopotamus enclosure, and of course quite a few were hanging around the Savannah habitat lake not far from the rhinos and the collection's 'handsome' marabou storks. Meanwhile scores of common swifts swooped over the little lake, many dipping down to drink, the occasional swallow amongst them.

Naturally house sparrows and feral doves took full advantage of the food and nesting opportunities all around the zoo, while laughing doves cooed and courted everywhere. Turtle doves cooed in the carob trees on the east facing slopes of the valley. Sunbirds and spectacled bulbuls made full use of all the ornamental trees while chukar partridges skulked a little farther off, under the oaks up the slopes off the beaten paths. We saw and heard all these. Hooded crows and Eurasian jays were also about, specializing in tourist food litter.

(Turdus merula) song was heard in many places and many were noticed foraging on the ground, no doubt looking for delectable morsels for nestlings. One interesting passerine I haven't seen in ages hopped out onto the grass, a rufous bush chat, Cercotrichas galactotes, with her red tail cocked high in the air.. clearly making for the stream issuing from 'Moshe's rock' for a drink. She was timid though, and at first a foraging blackbird chased her back to the shelter of the thicket. I waited and presently she emerged again, making her way over the stream with timid, cautious hops. Birds are always wary approaching water.. they have an instinct that they are especially vulnerable when slaking their thirst.

All in all we had a great visit, and even spotted a Buteo from the taxi, over Pisgat Zeev on the way home!

1 comment:

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