Sunday, June 22, 2008

Boys in the Cave

Pea family member similar to broom in bloom all over now, grows on soft, hairy leaved shrub which grows barely a foot high

Today's range: Just over 23-30 degrees C. Just after 6.20 p.m. temp ~26.5 degrees C. Winds WNW ~10.5 kt, humidity 28%, skies clear.

Acquired a contour map from the S.P.N.I. for some facts and figures about the area.
Top of 'windsurfer hill' (imm. east of east valley) 671 m, top of north ridge by A- ram 705 m
Gazelle field: (lowest point on my patch) betw 550 and 560 m above Med. Sea level, but this water will drain an additional ~300 m to Jericho.
East valley itself is marked as Wadi el kifa (Arabic, not sure of vowelization) or Eyn Prat/Porat (Hebrew) . North valley is unmarked. Both flow down to Wadi Qelt/Nahal Prat also called Wadi Para.

Today both our younger sons, Avremi (age 10) and Moshe (age 12) came with us to the bat cave, equipped with lights to see deep into the cave's recesses.

Straight away we noticed scurrying of various cave invertebrates. Husband was reasonably sure he saw cockroaches before they scuttled for cover as well as a curious little fellow that looks like some kind of terrestrial isopod crustacean but one I've never seen before, not anything so round and flat. It looked like a grey coat button, round and flat, carapace covered most of the front, back third or so with visible segments. Mostly grey but edge all around (but for head) was darker with light coloured spots. 1 cm diameter at least, sons claimed some they saw were double that, they were all sizes. Upside down numerous legs.. if they're like other isopods I've seen, 14 is a likely number. By the time I decided I wanted one to bring home and photo they'd all scuttled for cover. I've been searching round the net and found nothing quite like it. Another time. Moshe said he's seen that kind in many caves in the area. Unlike crabs and like other terrestrial isopods they can walk forwards.

Avremi discovered a dog's skull which we brought home and cleaned. It would be that of a nice size feral dog, hard to say how long it had been there, just a few months probably based on cobwebby gunk in nasal cavity and under the skull. Length 20 cm, height 8 cm (average), width 9.5 cm (relatively narrow compared to average for domestic dogs)
Upper canine tooth length 2.5 cm, width just over 1 cm. Upper carnassial tooth 2 cm along jaw line. Lower jaw missing.
Did it get sick and crawl into that cave to die? Who knows. Other bones around as well as a couple of short porcupine quills.

Feral dog skull found by Avremi. Bottle cap placed to elevate teeth a little.

Birds: Great tits calling near the cave, 2 hoopoes flew right over us toward the south, heard making a low scratching like call. I also heard a very thin high pitched whistle which also seemed to come from the hoopoes. Plenty bee-eaters were also aloft, at least 20 quite high over gazelle field and slopes of the hill. Plenty stone curlews around in flight back and forth , landing at various spots on the hillside above and below us, calling. Turtle doves calling in the pines, some collared doves, feral pigeons about in flight, Syrian woodpeckers heard often, blackbird song, graceful warblers, some greenfinches. Sunbird by the dry watercourse trail, approx same place we heard one there yesterday, not far from that old porcupine den.

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