Saturday, June 21, 2008

Midsummer observations

Today we had great pleasure exploring the hillside just east of the dry watercourse path where we'd found the porcupine den a couple of years back. Here 'steps' of limestone ascend the hill, all shaded by pine and cypress and all of it gave me the feel of a coral reef- a 'coral reef' over 700 m above sea level but no matter, it was a mini ecosystem and both husband and son recognized the comparison with enthusiasm.

Our son wanted to show my husband, and visit a pit in the limestone to see if it led to deeper caves, and to see if we needed ropes or any other tackle for safe exploration. Turned out we didn't, he could negotiate it easily without any equipment and was somewhat disappointed but still optimistic that other caves might yield more, a fox den or explorable passages.

We couldn't exactly float over the lichen covered rocks, gravity and air compelled us to walk the little trails made by gazelle, porcupine and goat, but this did not impede our delight at all. The lichens themselves were white, yellow and salmon colour and each shelf was festooned with Podonosma and other vegetation. Every crack was stuffed with large snails and an assortment of other invertebrates. One crack was occupied by a beautifully camouflaged gecko which squeaked at us. I emphasized to Moshe that we should never disturb wildlife from its chosen place just because we want to see it better, even though that can be very tempting at times.

Moshe heard a rustle in a young cypress and was startled when a large Agama lizard jumped out! These iguana like lizards could bite but rarely do. As with snakes, a strike is because they are more afraid of us than vice versa, and given the choice, discretion is always the better part of valour from their point of view. He also found a Lacerta laevis, (I assume, or similar), under a rock, a common lizard with dark upper parts, side stripes and beautiful blue/green underparts in the male.

The doves were quiet today but bee-eaters were active and vocal, perching on a dead tree at the other end of the eucalyptus grove. I bet they were after flying ants again, just as about this time last year. Moshe got a great view with the field glasses, best he'd had and was delighted to see that they really are as gorgeous as those he's only seen in photographs till now. Greenfinches active in the pines by the bunker rubble but not as much song as before. Syrian woodpeckers and stone curlews were also active and vocal and chukar partridges were busy clucking up on the hillside just south east of the bridge at about sunset, a regular place for them.

Plenty hyrax activity including lots of kits up by the pumping station at sunset. Some gazelle droppings up on the slopes near the porcupine den, not totally fresh, maybe a couple of days old already. Forgot to mention Moshe also found some interesting spoor up on the north ridge on thursday alongside a ridge of rocks.. like a dog's but smaller pieces, could have been the dark fox's.

Hooded crows about as usual, a flock of jackdaws was also heard chakking over to the east, blackbirds were heard intermittently in song and we heard a sunbird calling up near the porcupine den. That surprised me- I'd love to know how they get enough nectar there. Podonosma and aromatic Israeli thyme (which seems to positively glow blue from the ground approaching sunset), were in plentiful bloom right there and we know they use globe thistle, not far distant. There's also a relative of broom in bright yellow flower everywhere right now, but lower and hairier leaved than the broom growing back in spring.

White spectacled bulbul, house sparrows, feral pigeons and laughing doves active around the buildings as usual from dawn.

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