Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Fawn's debut

Mole rat (Spalax) Uriah Yaniv. Unlike moles these are rodents but are blind and burrow like moles though far more vegetarian in their habits. Their heaps are not as neat as those of moles and are wider and flatter.

Nice rise in temps today: range ~19.5-31 degrees C. When we headed out at about 6.20 p.m. temps were down to ~24 degrees, humidity ~55%, winds westerly 4-10 kt.

We headed down a rough trail and cross country into north valley and noticed on the way a good deal of ragweed growing, the leaves already quite lush and rank smelling and some starting to bloom- which would explain a sharp rise in allergic reactions amongst susceptible people we know. Yellow Jerusalem sage was still blooming a little. We watched a very nice masked shrike (Lanius nubicus) in an acacia near the watercourse, heard a great spotted cuckoo call from somewhere in the pines and cypress across the valley, no doubt in contact with its companion, busy trying to con more crows.

As soon as we had any view of gazelle field I raised my glasses to look and was delighted to see an adult female already in my sights! Convenient, and sweet, when it works that way after many times scanning hillside with weary eyes and not finding any. Following her a few paces behind was a much smaller one and the first young of the season. It was hard to know the age for certain, could already be a few months, no new born but this year's baby! This explains the general scattering and lack of sightings of the old larger groups- females with young were probably living quite furtive lives. A medium sized gazelle joined them shortly after, a "teenage" child of the same mother or a random youngster of the larger herd? Hard to know for sure but they grazed peaceably together. We didn't notice the youngster nursing but it no doubt still does as we've seen larger ones nurse last year.

A few swifts and bee-eaters hunted for bugs over gazelle field, collared doves, jays, Syrian woodpeckers, hooded crows, turtle doves, graceful warbler, blackbirds all heard/seen and active.
Great tit fledgeling calls heard from somewhere in the pines of the north end of east valley.

I wanted to check the recovery of the land after the fire on the 6th. In a limited couple of places quite a bit of grass was starting to grow back, fresh leaves of milk thistle were starting to surge from the ground and in one charred patch at the south end of the damaged ground were many fresh mole-rat excavations. This latter we'd also seen in a charred stretch in north valley. The rest of the ground showed nothing yet but black earth and dead leaves.

At the ruins in the centre of east valley a yellow ornamental tree was in glorious bloom- clusters of long trumpet shaped yellow flowers and broad greyish spearhead shaped leaves. Some very nice desert spike Eremostachys grew alongside. A raptor was calling in the trees somewhere nearby but did not show itself though we suspected it was a sparrowhawk from the call. A turtle dove cooed on a line nearby, pumping its neck enthusiastically.

Around the buildings: white spectacled bulbul started up before dawn as usual, feral pigeons, house sparrows, jackdaws also heard from farther off. Sunbirds no doubt active but I didn't make observations of them today.

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