Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Back to the Bat Cave

The 'Bat cave' partly lit by the late afternoon sun. Pale Ballotia grows before the cave and Podonosma like eyebrows.

This maidenhair fern (Adantium capillus-veneris) was growing in the back of the cave, about 20 feet in at least. The back is lit by the camera flash. The cave mouth faces south, allowing enough sunlight to penetrate to the back for growth.

Range today: 10-just over 20 degrees C, Just over 15 degrees C when we headed out a short time after 6 p.m. Humidity was 69% and rising, winds WNW just over 18 kt.

Today I decided we should go back to the 'bat cave' to get photos of the maidenhair fern. We called it that because the first time I put my head in there a small bat flew around it a couple of times and then flew out- perhaps it had been hibernating in there, we haven't seen it since. It lies just to the east of the cypresses and pines on the north bank of north valley. There are many other little caves in the area, it being a limestone region. The largest one we know of is up near the top of 'Windsurfer Hill' . This one appears to have the beginning of a passage way in the back and possibly goes way back into the hill if some sediment and accumulated debris is removed. The mouth of the cave is ringed with Ballotia and the strange yellow rimmed, blue bells of Podonosma.

I wanted to check out an unfamiliar plant near the pumping station which is beginning to bud yellow blooms. (turned out they were still not out yet). On the way we kept a watch out for birds. We had a nice view of a great spotted cuckoo which called and flew from somewhere in the north valley into the new pine grove at the east end of the south bank of that valley, no doubt prospecting for crow's nests. Hooded crows were intent on guarding their nesting territories, including the air space above them and particularly from raptors. Several Buteo types were flying about quite low, some alighting on the taller trees from the eucalyptus grove and along the eastern slopes of the east valley, and causing quite a bit of upset amongst the raptors. We watched one of them take off somewhat heavily, the gusty westerlies were not so easy to fly across today, though once aloft they were able to ride them with more ease.

My favourite bird today was a masked shrike Lanius nubicus that we found in the Pistaccio orchard right by the path. Husband saw it first and I knew it was a shrike as soon as it called. When I had it in my binocular field we confirmed its ID. I've always liked this character, he looks like a little magpie with ginger trimmings and a bandit mask. Very handsome.

Other birds today included all the doves.. Feral pigeons and laughing doves around the buildings, plenty collared doves and turtle dove cooing in the eucalyptus by the orchard. Bee-eaters were heard, blackbirds were busy and vocal as were greenfinches, graceful warblers, white spectacled bulbuls, Eurasian Jays and jackdaws. Bulbuls and sunbirds active in the garden.. sunbirds especially about that cape honeysuckle (Tecomaria capensis) and more alarm calls heard, probably a cat alert again. Swifts were heard over valley road as we returned home about sunset but no hyrax out today as far as we saw. Gazelles also not about, (btw some spoor found in the bed of secret valley while we were up there)

My boys went out this evening to watch the Independence Day fireworks and came back with ... a hedgehog! (cradled in his upturned teashirt) These are quite common though not so often seen because they trundle around after dark after slugs and worms. They're not worried about being quiet since their spines give very nice protection. I had the boys put him in the garden where I'm sure he'll find adequate food and our dog will not dare to bite him, and I could hear him just a minute ago foraging under the Bauhinia.

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