Sunday, May 11, 2008

Feeding the chicks

Above: the peculiar white orchid like flowers of Ballotia

Forgot to mention, great spotted cuckoo call from east valley yesterday.

Sky pretty much clear. Temp range today: 12-23 degrees C. At about 6.15 p.m. when we headed out it was just under 20 degrees. Humidity 43%, winds WNW 6-8 kt. Winds easterly latter part of morning and early afternoon.

House sparrows active in the garden as usual and several pairs of laughing doves on the line over 'breadcrumb corner' on our street. Jackdaws and hooded crows heard from the house as well as white spectacled bulbuls and sunbirds in the cape honeysuckle hedge by our entrance.

Husband told me that common swifts were very active over the road and even the garden this morning about 7.30 a.m. about a dozen of them swooping down to catch flies quite low. There were also plenty about on our walk over east valley and gazelle field. We heard bee-eaters somewhere up in the north valley or hillside but they didn't interfere with the swifts.

Two falcons flying together, ascending over Hizmeh, fanning tails to help with flight. Couldn't tell if kestrels or hobbies from that distance.

Graceful warblers vocal and active, as were blackbirds. Brief call of Syrian woodpecker near eucalyptus grove. Turtle dove coos in eucalyptus by the orchard and in the pines over the bunker rubble where a number of greenfinches were singing very energetically, probably because more than one male is holding territory over a small area. Communal nesting behaviour here? Some great tit calls heard. Hoopoe noticed flying from look-out corner area to pine grove east of the cistern and that or another flying across north end of gazelle field where the almonds are, towards the north valley pines. As it crossed over, heard grating call like that of a shrike, probably was another masked shrike because, though the hoopoe was about that place at the time we heard the call, I have not found a record of hoopoes making such a call. Collared doves active and vocal, coos, flight calls and a pair foraging on the burnt part of east valley. Single ring necked parakeet call from east valley. Chukar calls? Not sure.

Along valley road Eurasian jay seen feeding a juvenile pretty much its own size and already fully feathered, soliciting noisily for food. Five jays in the same cypress tree, no doubt same family. Feeding bird had raised crest, fed bird raised part of the time also. Loud calls of a number of nestlings/fledgelings heard along east valley path area. Hyrax out, active and foraging at the pumphouse colony.

At about 7.05, pretty much the same time we heard bee-eaters over to the north west, we also heard shrill call of stone curlews and had yet another sighting of one in flight, wheeling around and landing by some boulders north end of gazelle field.. similar to yesterday's observation but did not land in the same place, not necessarily, but possibly, the same bird or nest site.

That interesting plant with the fuzzy large round leaves and bright yellow buds by the pumping station is still not flowering. Husband suspects its just waiting for the next hot spell and he's probably right. These things are often exquisitely timed, could be the kind of insects that pollinate it aren't out and about till the temperature is optimum for them. About this time last year we heard the cracks of pine cones opening. Today they were heard again though not as intensely as that hot day last year. It's likely they're 'timed' to crack open about this time every year but how fast it happens also depends on the temperature, and at the moment we're in a cooler spell.

We found this pretty blue job on top of the hill to the north last thursday. I haven't managed to ID it yet but I'm pretty sure it's one of the borages, (similar to purple gromwell, Lithospermum) The leaves are very hairy, well adapted for moisture retention. As husband was photographing it a swallow flew right over his head!

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