Thursday, May 8, 2008

Snapdragons and Mystery Crop ID

Above : Wild snapdragon Antirrhinum majus , by watercourse east edge gazelle field

The 'mystery crop' revealed: a purple variety of Jerusalem sage. (Phlomis )  both pics: A. Atwood CC
Temps today: 10.5-20.5 degrees C, still ~19.5 degrees when we headed out at 5.20 p.m. Humidity was just 36% , wind was westerly, ~12 kt. We left early

Today we headed north east along the dry watercourse, then skirting the first hill to the north round its east end near the fence, finally reaching the lower end of the hidden olive grove. There were about a dozen fig trees also not far from the fence, some of the fruits already turning purple. From there we climbed the next hill to its crest to get a really great view over the bipass road across to Adam, and beyond that, the desert hills and the Jordan rift valley just visible through the haze in the distance and 1100 m below.

Flower of the day was a small but glorious stand of snapdragon, Antirrhinum majus growing by the eastern watercourse in gazelle field. Usually wild flowers are smaller and daintier than the garden cultivars but these gorgeous purple pink blooms were considerably bigger, standing something over a foot tall.. we really have to measure them next time. They are native to the Galilean hills farther north and introduced by man in these hills some time back.

The other plant mystery was the ID of the field growing up the slope east from the olive grove, (clearly visible in the landscape shot two entries ago). Our visit today revealed flowers and showed that these are another Phlomis! They're not the same species as the bright yellow jobs we photographed by the north valley watercourse but have smaller, partly purple blooms. Why would a whole field be planted with this variety of Jerusalem sage? They don't have the same fragrance as regular sage but probably do have some local culinary value and are drought resistant. The only other theory we had is that the field was originally used for something else and these took over, except that I didn't find another wild Phlomis quite like it.. there is another purple one.. (P. pungens) but its flower is a deeper purple than these.

Birds today: A gorgeous adult masked shrike on the security fence where the watercourse turns north east and exits, a juvenile shrike farther along where there was also a beautiful male black eared wheatear in full song. A female wheatear up the slope on a boulder, no doubt near her nest. Others heard about.The tumbled rocks and shrubs up on top of the hill is prime (crested?) lark real estate and we noticed several in the area, one female flew on top of a line, alarm calling and scolding at us. Chukar partridge up on top of the hill by the wall, swallows about, as well as common swifts. Bee-eaters heard. Great tit in song.

In the woods, blackbirds, (song about sunset), graceful warbler, great spotted cuckoo, turtle dove (cooing softly about sunset), collared dove, plenty activity. Jackdaws and Hooded crows busy foraging on hillslopes hear and there. Eurasian jays about, stone curlews vocal towards dusk.

In the garden, plenty sunbird activity in the cape honeysuckle as well as the usual white spectacled bulbuls, crowd of house sparrows especially noisy in the dark before the dawn.

I can't believe I almost forgot! We had good sightings of several gazelle on those hillsides, saw very nice sproinging, as if they have springs in their hooves. Amazingly fleet footed on rough country where we could only move slowly. Five individuals, unless we saw one twice. At least one adult male but views towards sun made horns hard to make out. One east end of hills had tiny horns and one we saw in J sage field appeared to have no horns.


baseem said...

vere nice ..

thank ..

baseem said...

good .....

verey nice


baseem said...

verey nice ..

thank ..