Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Some pleasing observations

Developing grapes on a vine (gefen) and flowering myrtle (hadassim) in a local garden. We photograph them since they are both native species.

6.12 p.m. 22.3 degrees C.(Today's range 12.5- 24),humidity 40%, wind NNW just over 6 kt

Rock hyraxes in the colony just below buildings north facing slope north valley. Two adults fighting, one repeatedly bit flank of another near front leg. Ouch! The latter ran away, got the point. Probably had strayed into territory of another 'household'. Two mothers with kits nursing on large flattish boulders a few metres apart. They like nursing in the open, usually four or five darker furred kits arranged all around and latching on. When one mother moved off to the side all her babies followed her, eager for another drink.

Adult buck gazelle noticed on the opposite slope of north valley. I don't think the same buck as the one that keeps territory in north gazelle field, this one seems a little smaller and though horns well grown, not quite as long. He was moving in and out of a charred area under the pines, looking for grazing

Tristram's grackle whistle heard in north valley as well as chukar partridge, plenty collared doves cooing and flight calling, turtle doves, Syrian woodpecker. Hobby flying up the valley to NW. Most exciting sighting was a long legged buzzard Buteo rufinus rising from a bluff to the north. A second buzzard rose from the same location, then 5 hooded crows got up to harass them but were they just perching or were they attempting to breed there? The bluff was below the Wall and they'd get slight disturbance from military patrols but no-one else up there. They do breed in such locations and in this part of the country. Female masked shrike noticed in an acacia not far from the dry watercourse. Not far off a bird singing beautifully- a few repeated similar notes terminating with a strident trill. The glimpses we had of it looked like they might be a masked shrike but I'm unfamiliar with its song though we know the call. Need to confirm.

As we returned to look-out corner area at about sunset a group of bee-eaters was swooping busily right above the eucalyptuses and the greenfinches were singing enthusiastically. A falcon flew overhead northward. Eurasian jays foraging on the pathway and a small flock of hoodies already foraging on the -still smoking- freshly charred ground.

Husband has theory and, thinking about it, I'm inclined to agree that most of the fires aren't maliciously set at all. Just too random and sporadic for a pyromaniac. Some may have been caused by carelessly tossed cigarettes (though we haven't found any yet) but today there were several fires in widely dispersed locations and no sign at all of those teenagers. It is possible for brush fires to begin spontaneously and it's a known phenomenon though the mechanism isn't always clear. A piece of glass can act as a magnifying glass though we haven't noticed any (we clear away much litter we find) but there are other possibilities such as heat generated by decomposing wood (known cause of such fires), perhaps also friction in dried grasses in the wind and, though there are no electrical storms right now (last rain was last friday for just about half an hour in the morning) there may be micro electrical discharges due to charge build-up, dust etc. At any rate it's interesting most of the fires start in the late afternoon when heat has had time to build up through the day from direct sunlight and other effects. They also occur pretty much every year about this time of year.

Today new fires sprang up in the east valley and also under the new pine grove at east end of north valley. (all areas of accumulated organic debris) . A tongue was spreading through the grass 'upstream' and the flames were too high for the local boys to stamp out. (Odd flames were flickering in small patches way after dark, probably from pine cones.) Later at about sunset another sprang up way up the slope to the north west. That's when husband began to suspect they were natural.. we'd just been in that direction and no-one around up there!

In an older charred patch (3 or 4 weeks ) in north valley the widespread aromatic scrub was beginning to recover (below), new green springing up from the bases in many places, and another unfamiliar plant with longish simple shape leaves also shooting up again. Lots of mole rat activity as usual!

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