Thursday, July 31, 2008

Limping buck is still getting by

Range: ~18.5-28 degrees C. At almost 7 p.m. temp was ~23.5 degrees C, humidity ~75% winds westerly 8-10 knots.

Lame buck gazelle noticed in the pines just north of the sapling field. He seems to have something wrong with both back legs, they're skewed to the right though he is able to move quite quickly on them, able to run away from us at some speed. Lower back injury causing some degree of paralysis? Seems left back leg hardly makes contact with the ground and both appear to be kicking abnormally to the right. Strange. However, he can move, he can graze and he can no doubt defend himself with those horns against feral dogs if he must.

From all our observations looks like he 'owns' the territory on each side of the dry water trail from the sapling field to the orchard. I believe another, healthy, buck owns the patch just north of that, (gazelle field and around)

Jays very vocal, quarreling in the pines, Syrian woodpeckers vocal, active. Flock of hooded crows active. Graceful warbler calls, Falcon fly over quite high, hobby from what we can see. Bee-eaters and stone curlews north gazelle field as usual. Hoopoe over field.

Feral pigeons, laughing doves, house sparrows, sunbird singing in the Bauhinia early afternoon.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Juicy fresh figs

An attractive plant we found just up the bank near the beginning of valley road, had managed to sprout out of relatively freshly overturned earth. Looks like a kind of borage, like a white forget-me-not with slightly larger blooms.

Range today 18.5-~27 degrees C. When we headed out- about 23 degrees and falling, humidity ~75% and rising, wind 9-12kt and westerly.

We decided to head over north ridge to the vale on the other side as I expected we could get some ripe figs from the trees over there. Timing was good, there were enough ripe figs for dessert for all the family. Mmm! Nothing is quite as rapturous in the mouth as fresh sweet figs from the tree. We said the blessing 'borei pri ha-etz' ( blessed be-who created the fruit of the tree) and 'shehechianu.. (blessed be.. who has sustained us to this day) ' for the first fruit of that kind of the season tasted.

There were some almond trees there too, their green fuzzy outer pods bursting and the nuts almost falling out. The many olive trees were loaded with fruit, still apparently developing. Quite a few of the figs were already split and would be attacked by flies or birds pretty much immediately.

One gazelle noticed- looked like full grown female and heading up the hill, big one, wondered if she was pregnant, though this time of year? Several piles of fresh gazelle dropping various parts of the hill, and two fox bolts over on the north east slopes, one surprisingly narrow, but typical in appearance.

As far as birds were concerned: quite a few larks heard and seen on the hill top there, probably crested lark (Galerida cristata) , hoopoes about, quite a few bee-eaters scattered over their favourite hunting grounds there though no coherent swarms today. (Lots of ants active today we noticed, gathering grass seed heads, the bee-eaters could be after these) , stone curlews vocal especially around dusk. Blackbirds (alarm, not song) and graceful warblers heard, collared dove about. Some hooded crows foraging on the field. Scattered foraging Eurasian jays.

Garden and street: house sparrows, sunbird (in Bauhinia, very vocal early afternoon), lots of laughing doves at their feeding station, feral pigeons.

Plenty grasshoppers active also, Moshe kept finding them!

No need to leave the house to find wildlife! This beauty almost ran onto my hand as I took a pillowcase from the shelf in the boys' room. Looks like one of the wolf spiders and is just about 5 cm in span.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Limping buck

We found these sprays of interesting looking white berries on the bank immediately west of valley road.

Today's range: 17.5 - 26 degrees C, when we went out: ~23 degrees, humidity ~75%, winds westerly to WSW ~8 kt. Some small cumulus clouds blowing in yesterday about dusk, almost felt like rain but was just the humidity rolling up the hills from the west.

adult male sighted up the slope just east of the east valley path, amongst the pines and cypress. Seemed something wrong with back right leg, was limping, kicking it repeatedly to the right.. If same buck we saw a few weeks back in the orchard kicking just that way then seems to have same leg injury since but managing to get by. We didn't press him, we headed up the hill up the shepherd trail till we reached the bare hillside, then down a rough causeway to the orchard but he was already far ahead and lost sight of him.

Hobby sighted heading fast to south beyond the pumping station, disappeared into the trees.
Hoopoe sighted on the way down to the orchard. Repeated sunbird calls in eucalyptus by the orchard. Some turtle dove coos. Some collared dove activity. Syrian woodpeckers vocal. Ring necked parakeet heard central east valley area. Hooded crows flying over singly. Eurasian jays vocal and active throughout woods.

Graceful warblers vocal along valley road. Blackbird chack chack alarms. Stone curlews calling from north gazelle field. Bee-eater flock heard and seen active over there too.

Feral pigeons, house sparrows, jackdaw and white spectacled bulbuls around buildings.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Pouncing fox

Pic of fox from wiki, not here, you can tell, grass is way too green! Front end is more russet than our fox though hind end similar. You can't see the white tail tip on this.

Red and black bug, a common plant bug that really seems to like the leaf litter in one corner of the steps to our house, lots down there!

A delicate tiny flowered plant in bloom right now I need to ID. - found along valley road and our street .

Gazelles, dogs, reptiles: none found today
hyrax: active and vocal on hillslopes west of pumping station

Nicest sighting today, pouncing
fox. Husband spotted it, about the middle of gazelle field. Red fox though not russet at all, more brownish/grey tones. Not the dark fox though. One wonders how many variations there are! crouched very still for a couple of minutes, then went into three delightful cat like pounces, each at a different angle, twisting around each leap. After the last, it went down from view, probably into the watercourse by the old fields there. It emerged a few minutes later 'upstream' by the largest almond, appeared to sniff at the trunk, then headed toward the north valley pines.

Bee-eaters: scores active north west gazelle field. (as also yesterday) Moved up in a high swarm to south around sunset.
Turtle doves: not heard
Hobbies: one gliding just above canopy down east valley, towards north,

House sparrows: garden as usual laughing doves heard cooing:
Hooded crows: a few windsurfing off south west upper slopes of 'windsurfer hill'
Jackdaws: vocal flock heading south, 70,80 ish over east field
Eurasian Jays: squabbling vocal, active in many parts of the pine forest
Feral pigeons: Between buildings, singles over valley
Greenfinches: Some calls by the orchard and larger pines
Blackbirds: no singing last couple of days but alarm calls, chackchack and tzeet and seen foraging
Collared doves: some coos heard near cistern
Stone curlews: calls north end of gazelle field
Sunbirds:garden, top of acacia near pumping station.
Syrian woodpeckers: active and vocal
Bulbuls: quite active and vocal, sound like family groups about, bank and east valley
Great tits: some calls in pines up to east of valley path.

Yesterday: similar plus a couple of
hoopoes on the path by the pistaccio orchard.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

More on the Shell Saga, and local birds.

Encrusted end of the shell obscures some of the difference betw. Conus and Conomurex. As you see, from this angle the opening is quite wide, much wider than it is in a Conus. We have an empty Conus from Eilat, looking at it now the differences become clearer. I will have to put in a photo of that for comparison later. The occupant had retired quite deeply inside, no doubt to avoid the sun. He will soon be returned to the sea.

Prof. Bella Galil, an expert on our coastal fauna, was kind enough to respond to my enquiry and readily IDd the mollusc as Conomurex persicus, also known as the Persian conch. She told me this was one of at least 300 different species that had reached the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal (at least I got that right!) and had established itself very successfully along the western shores of Israel. From the dark colour of the toothed radula we can surmise it was a male.

A beautiful photograph can be seen at
I was quite surprised it wasn't a Conus, though in many ways the shells are similar. The whorl end in Conomurex is more peaked and developed (with some variation) whereas Conus is flatter, but take a look at the end of the shell we found on the beach, above. The encrustation obscured this difference a great deal. Of course I certainly defer to Prof Belil's experience and expertise in her field, she seems familiar with this one!

We were relieved that by replacing it in the water we would not endanger future paddlers. However, our alert still stands. If Conomurex can make it up the Suez and establish itself, so can Conus!

What was happening down in Eyn Porat today? Scores of Bee-eaters up where they were yesterday, north west end of gazelle field, and then moved over east to hunt over the whole field. Hoopoe seen flying into the acacia back there, stone curlews heard calling. Syrian woodpeckers also heard. Flock of about 70 jackdaws foraging on the ground far north end of the field/lower hill slopes, possibly picking around gazelle droppings for bugs as they do with goats.

Several gazelle spotted up on the skyline hilltop to the north, appearing and disappearing quite tantalizingly in ones and twos.

Sunbird singing in the Bauhinia tree today.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Nothing particularly new down in Eyn Porat today (species noted below) so I thought I'd share another couple of pics from the Tel Aviv outing. I sent the cone shell pic and pertinent info to some local oceanography profs. to hear their comments. They might be very interested since its almost definitely an invader from the Red Sea via the Suez. We also sent warnings to some neighbourhood lists to let people know NOT to handle such shells on any of our beaches.

Typical encrustation of life on the pier rocks. The largest conical shells are limpets, the spotted snail like shells next to them are some kind of periwinkle or similar.. haven't found which genus online- both molluscs(mollusks) - both spellings are valid. Up one periwinkle from the central limpet and slightly to the right is a barnacle, you can see it's 'trapdoor' on the top of its little round shell. Though barnacle shells look a lot like those of molluscs they're actually very tiny crustaceans, like teeny shrimps with a home. There also seems to be some kind of marine yellow algae.

This cute li'l crab was found by some youngsters at the end of a short rocky pier. It's perched on Moshe's very water wrinkled finger.

Today's range: 22.5-31 degrees C, ~ 28 when we went out, ~50% humidity and rising. Winds mostly westerly 7-12 knots most of the afternoon.

We went down to the beginning part of the north valley trail today. Lots of bee-eaters around, scores, hard to determine, they were everywhere particularly in the north west end of gazelle field which they seem to favour these days.

Stone curlews also gave us a number of sightings, flying to and fro about the same area and beyond the bat cave toward the secret valley, and very vocal.

Hoopoes seen, Syrian woodpeckers, turtle doves, collared doves heard and seen. Graceful warblers and chukar partridge heard.

Gazelle crossed central trail from the south, continued on to the north valley path, ran across, traversed the flat area by the north watercourse(planted with eucalyptus and acacia) and headed for the pines just north. Parent and young. parent had very thin horns, probably a female. The adult females of this species are supposed to have very thin horns though we often seem to see individuals with no horns at all. If visibility is at all hampered, (camouflage, late afternoon lighting) they may well have very thin horns that are just not visible. The second time I sighted this one today I could not see the horns at all though first time and final time I could see them clearly. They're nowhere near as developed as those of an adult buck but appear just as very fine sticks between the ears.

Laughing doves, feral pigeons around the buildings as usual, single hoodie in flight.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hyrax aggression and Caper berries

Plenty hyrax were active today near the pumping station, including a lot of the dark coloured youngsters. This one we photographed allowed us to approach within about eight feet and take numerous pics, it was quite unconcerned, and between fixing us with its beady eyes, looked around for something to nibble.

We noticed it appeared to have an almost bald patch (dark area) toward the front of the right flank with what appeared to be a thin white scar. We wondered if this was due to a fighting injury or perhaps to an encounter with heavy duty wire. We've noticed lately quite a few adults with rumpled flanks and when they have territorial encounters they tend to bite in the hind flank. Could that dead one we saw actually have died from such an aggressive encounter? Checking articles on line I found answer to be yes, fights can be fatal. Because population density is so high now it's no surprise there are so many signs of fighting. Amazingly female hyraxes have as much if not more testosterone than males, tend to be more dominant in the colony and are actually more likely to fight.

No gazelle sighted today.

Birds about: Hooded crows, feral pigeons, laughing doves (cooing in the garden), house sparrows, white spectacled bulbuls (repetitive hoarse calls on the bank), sunbirds (in eucalyptus near the pistaccio orchard), a bunch of finches up there too but could not make them out but in silhouette, forked tails, that I could tell. More goldfinches? Didn't sound like greenfinches, sharper calls. Turtle dove coos, stone curlew calls, bee-eater quite large flocksomewhere north west gazelle field area. Syrian woodpecker (male) on a LINE over the middle of east valley pines. first time I've seen one perched for so long, he seemed quite settled there, wiped his bill a few times, looked around, groomed. Farther down was a turtle dove.. also collared doves around, some cooing. Graceful warblers calls. Eurasian jays about.

Night walks lately: another cricket seen, many heard as usual, the usual black millipedes, prolific throughout the summer, many up to around 15 cm (Moshe picked up a nice long one by the bat cave and this one actually nipped him with its mouthparts though not strongly.. he said that had never happened before), another scorpion, thinner tail, much broader pincer base, very dark but not black.

The fruit of the caper Capparis spinosa is pretty much ripe now. These are edible and often pickled though are not as popular as the buds. Look out for those nasty yellow spines, very sharp! . Most of the flowers are spent though there are still a few late flowers around. Mullein flowers also almost spent though Israeli thyme is still blooming cheerfully blue in many places. Grass where the gazelle usually graze is very dried out now and yellowish, but the gazelle may also be using the occasional more green shrub here and there. Tough grazing now.

Monday, July 21, 2008

North trail stroll

Spitting cucumber seed pods, almost ready to fire. At least one already had, was already small, hard and shriveled, reminded me of a corpus luteum!

Range today in Jerusalem: 21-33 degrees C, time of our walk: ~28 and falling. Humidity: ~45% and rising, winds westerly, 6-9 kt.

Took shortcut down to north valley, connecting with the dirt road that leads round to the quarry. Soon saw a small group of gazelle, a nice adult buck and two others, one with very thin horns and another not fully grown. The buck was some distance from the other two but not far away. Then the buck emerged into the sunlight between the eucalyptus by the watercourse and the pine and cypress beyond and gave us a gorgeous view for a while. (Moshe had to express his admiration 'his horns are so *curvey*!!') We wondered if this might be the same trio we'd seen in the Pistaccio orchard a few days ago. Some time later I spotted a group of six grazing and making their way slowly up the hillside from the north end of gazelle field. Looks like now the mothers and new young are all joining up again.

Husband spotted mammal up on the skyline, I looked up and saw the dark fox, nice and clear. I saw what I think was it on the skyline for a fraction of a second then it went down and I picked it up again farther down, nice view, could see dark edges of his ears and his long bushy tail his patches blended into the hillside perfectly. He looked so dark and rangy I wondered if he could possibly have any jackal in him but as far as I've seen foxes cannot hybridize w jackals. I gave binocs to Moshe to see, but though he saw it move with naked eye it must have gone between/behind rocks because it was already out of view. I figured it probably went for cover in upper part of secret valley, was unable to find it again when I got binocs back.

The most stone curlew I've seen at once.. two flew from lower end of north valley watercourse over to the hillslopes to north, followed by group of TEN more. From the calls there were still more individuals down to the south east, somewhere over by the young pine grove east end of north valley. Later more calls between the two groups, seemed to be calling and answering. They were quite active around sunset.

Syrian woodpeckers, seen and heard calling, hoopoe seen in that pine grove just around dusk, collared doves heard, chukar partridge heard somewhere to north west along north valley just after sunset and Tristram's grackle also heard from that direction when we first went down there, blackbird alarm calls heard. Bee-eaters over north end of gazelle field, hard to tell how many, dozens, using lines, some landed, some in flight. Great tits calling.

Flocks of jackdaw and hooded crows foraging north end of gazelle field/lower slopes, just up from the pylons, at least 70 of each.

In the last few days also seen and heard in the valley: greenfinches, turtle doves, graceful warblers. Sunbirds in garden and various places in the forest, house sparrows, feral pigeons and laughing doves around the houses,

This spider made its home in a tube of web in one of the aromatic bushes. Moshe enticed it up by tossing an old berry at its web. The spider ran up and caught the berry neatly. (you can zoom a bit further by clicking on the pic till it fills your screen)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Outing to Tel Aviv beach

Lol, look at those eyes! Hermit crab in a cone shell. Well, umm, nope, after reviewing pics of the proboscis and stinging radula of cone shell mollusc we have come to the stunning realization that this is a live cone shell and we both came very close to being stung though were able to move fingers niftily out of the way of the stinger WHOA!!

remains of a Rhipolema nomadica, side view, one of about a dozen we found washed up. This jellyfish migrates up the Suez from the Red Sea and plagues beaches on the eastern Med.

Tired now, Thursday great day on beach (Tel Aviv) with the boys, Moshe and Avremi aged 12 and 10. Writing now while it's fresh in my mind, will fill in more details later if I think of anything else appropriate to record. Temp: ~30 degrees C, winds light and westerly, humidity, low/moderate

Bird life: sparse by the beach except for town pigeons which scavenged everywhere and a couple of males demonstrated their dominance when they were about by showing off the to females and squabbling over scraps a little. No gulls at all. A few hooded crows on and between tops of high rise buildings, occasionally vocal, some house sparrows, singles, foraging on the rocky areas. Town pigeons think they own Tel Aviv, the tall buildings are an artificial canyon system for them and they made themselves obvious as soon as we rolled into town, showing off their flight speed and such.

Beach life was at first sparse but as we looked along the edge of the waves we found quite a few cockle shells, some light coloured mussels and various simple spiral types. The rocks were more fertile as usual and there we found limpets, barnacles and many tiny periwinkle types, I forget which but very small, mostly dark with ranks of small white spots and pointed spires. We also found quite a few washed up dead jellyfish. Rhopilema nomadica, a species that has come into the Mediterranean from the Indian Sea via the Suez canal. These have become something of a plague on our beaches in June/July especially, and sometimes beaches are closed completely because of invasions. As it was we took shots of a number of stranded individuals and were able to touch them (though NOT on the tentacles)- they look like soft jelly but are hard as rubber. Both boys were stung when in the water, said if felt like a red hot needle, and sting left a red patch a few inches across with a welt in the centre.

Another invader from the Indian ocean was the nicest specimen we found, in effect, a double specimen. Hermit crabs use the old shells of a wide variety of molluscs for their homes. Husband found one living in a cone shell of all things. There is a cone shell native to the Med. but this one was at least twice the size of Conus mediterraneus, we guessed it might be a race of Conus fumigatus from it's beautiful light colouring, originally a native of the Red Sea. Given that cone shells are often quite venomous I asked husband, 'you DID know what kind of shell it was before you picked it up, right?', 'yes , he said, but I was very careful!' Men! Well, there was nothing to fear, apart from reaching out a long elegant claw and trying, unsuccesfully, to nip me a few times. the hermit crab stayed pretty much indoors...

except that it was NOT as I had previously thought, an unusual variant of hermit crab but the original mollusc LOL

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Gazelle action

oday's range: 21.5-29.5 degrees C. When we went out at about 6.40 p.m. just under 26.Humidity ~63% again, winds WNW.

I was scanning the far end of north field when Moshe called our attention. Beautiful! 3 gazelles, probably a family. Adult male was running after a female in the Pistaccio orchard. It was really amazing to watch, they ran from the direction of the north end of east field and into the orchard, ran across its length a number of times. Following not many paces behind (and just 20 feet from Moshe at one point) was a well grown young, about three quarters the size of the buck. That one did not run the whole time but sproinged beautifully like an impala for whole sections of its transit. Then the female, still hotly pursued by the buck, ran through the eucalyptus behind look-out point, leaped the dry stream bed about fifty feet from us, and continued across central trail and into the pines beyond, just to the west of gazelle field.

What else was around today?: Flock of hooded crows foraging on the hillside far north end of gazelle field. Plenty bee-eaters, mostly north end of gazelle field, calling incessantly and perching low or skimming over the field between acacias and cistern. Stone curlew calling now and again from just beyond the bee-eaters, Calls of Syrian woodpeckers, small group of greenfinches flying between trees, collared doves seen but they and turtle doves quiet today. Blackbirds, song and some alarm calls. Quite a few sunbird calls in various places, central trail crossroads and other spots in the forest. Seems the young males of this year are already old enough to make territorial issues with their dads. Graceful warblers also active and vocal. Moshe is proving a quick apprentice with all the different calls, knows how to identify most of the usual birds already by sound.

Plenty hyrax active along valley road. White spectacled bulbuls heard there too.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A cricket and a lizard

A cricket (~4 cm long) we found on the valley road sun night, second one we've found within last few days. Note long antennae, (unlike grasshoppers which have very short antennae), and 'horn' tail. This sat quietly for a while, then became agitated and bit my son quite sharply on the palm of his hand when he was carrying it home to photograph, but didn't make him drop it. Just left a little pink mark.

Range: Temp at about 6.40 p.m. ~25.5 degrees C, humidity 63%. I was definitely ready for a shower on return! Wind WNW, not sure of wind speed, seems the station's anemometer broke yesterday in a strong gust.

This morning husband was at Neve Yaakov mercaz, shopping centre of neighbourhood, saw 5 Tristram's grackles moving as group to top of building there. Could this be the family from the quarry, come up to forage? Possible.

Today (Monday) Moshe came with us to the valley. We were delighted to see plenty bee-eaters today also, scores, hard to determine how many, they were quite scattered and many settling on the ground or just above on low scrubs and tree branches. A group settled on the path by the cistern, probably eating ants. Yesterday we saw about 150 birds over the eucalyptus grove and pistaccio orchard area.

Gazelles: Yesterday saw one hornless (or very small thin horns) in the pines just north of central trail, ran back towards gazelle field on sensing us. Today we saw one back west end of gazelle field, lower hill slopes.
hyrax: Plenty active around cypress slum colony. We searched for the carcass in vain, probably a fox took it.
dogs: feral dogs heard, a group of four seen a few days back, forgot to mention.
reptiles: Moshe found a small striped lizard by the saplings, looks like Lacerta laevis.

Just remember you're looking at the lizard, not Moshe's manicure;)

This we photographed right there in the field and released it about where it was found.

Turtle doves
, heard cooing along the dry creek trail.
Hobby: 1 seen flying north low over the valley at about sunset
House sparrows: laughing doves, cooing morning, both around street. Feral pigeons on the buildings and flock of them over Hizmeh. Hooded crows: foraging in small flock on ground, north gazelle field.
Eurasian Jays: Quite a number scattered, busy and active, woods and fields. Greenfinches: twittering, singing, pine woods.
: some song in various places. One has territory around the fig tree end of Shadiker.
Chukars: plenty chuckling up the hill just east of the bridge, sounded like a whole covey up there.
Collared doves: Cooing and flight calls, and active. Stone curlews: calling north gazelle field and tracks by the orchard.
: Calls along the dry creek trail. In the garden. We saw two, one in what looked like a threat display in the Bauhinia, fluttering wings like agitated butterfly while calling, warning other off its territory?
Graceful warblers: Plenty calls, Syrian woodpeckers: calls and active, Bulbuls: calls by valley road.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Quick update

Sat July 12th

Today's range: 20-30 degrees C. , winds mainly westerly. Humidity range 25% (midday)-75% (night)

Amazing cloud of bee-eaters over gazelle field about sunset.. just beautiful! At least 100 individuals hawking right over us (we were sitting at the bunker), and later as we headed back along central trail another 20 or so flew to join them from the west or south. The new flock merged with the larger, seemed welcome. Earlier I'd noticed quite a few of them on the ground at the far end of eucalyptus grove, all facing south, and pecking at the ground, maybe for ants.

Quite a few hoopoes seen today flying to and fro across the field. (Last thursday we noticed SEVEN hoopoes on the ground, beginning of the path that leads to north valley, ) probably a family group

2 gazelles, mother and young, north end of gazelle field, just beyond the acacia.

In area also collared doves, turtle doves cooing, greenfinches betw. the pines, Eurasian jays about, sunbird from somewhere near the bunker too. (sunbird also heard in the garden last few days) Some chukar calls, blackbird song and quite a few stone curlew sightings over hillslopes to north, to and fro.

My son caught a small gecko running up the hallway last night, he showed it to me. Had a bluish tinge underneath, had never heard of that on a gecko before. It was otherwise pale but for dark eyes.

Senegal doves and house sparrows around the houses as usual. Plenty hyrax active about sunset.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

North valley Upper pine grove

The upper pine grove, northern slopes of the north valley. A little under 700 m elevation. Provides shelter above the valley for the gazelle, they clearly come up here judging by trails, droppings, sightings.

Tues: Gazelles
: 4 well grown without horns in far north east corner of gazelle field, grazing on old charred patch.

Bee-eaters: Hawking in group of at least 20 especially over Pistaccio orchard and around.
Turtle doves: heard cooing, Hobbies: chasing something psittacine.. a ring necked? Tail was shortish but could be in moult. Hoopoes seen.

Hooded crows: about, and foraging upper north gazelle field
Jays: Numerous scattered and about, woods, field, foraging.
Feral pigeons: small flock returning to neighbourhood from the north,
Greenfinches: small groups moving about between trees by look-out corner
Blackbirds: quite a few vocal and singing, Collared doves, Stone curlew calls:
Graceful warblers, heard: Syrian woodpeckers & Great tits heard:

House sparrows, laughing doves: street, Sunbirds, heard in the garden

That night a bigger scorpion on valley road, 4cm from head to beginning of tail, tail itself 3-4 cm long, curled over, pincers a bit heavier and each at least 3 cm long. Very dark and legs darker than the one we photographed. A little later we found a pale cricket, back legs crouched high, very long extremely slender antennae hardly visible.

Wed: Temp range ~20-30.5 at about 6.30 p.m. ~27 degrees C. humidity 36%, wind WNW ~9kt

As we were descending into north valley we heard a cacophony of hyraxes, many 'schshhhiu!' sounds, over and over across the hillside. All the sentries were calling the alarm and all other hyraxes were quickly under cover amongst the boulders. We soon saw the trouble. 5 feral dogs had shown up down below. As soon as they arrived at the edge of the colony there was nothing at all to be seen but rocks.. by then all the sentries had also gone down. The dogs stared around for a while, then headed back down to the quarry path, disappointed.

We headed up to the grove of pine trees on the northern slopes of north valley. Truly enchanting up there, great chunks and shelves of limestone with interspersed trees in the late afternoon sun. Lovely!

Gazelles: Several about, 2 handsome bucks with fine horns broke out below us and ran along a trail toward the west, barely 50 feet ahead and below. They looped down to the path to the quarry and then headed up the opposite slope. Their speed and stamina on those treacherous slopes never ceases to amaze me. Several more individuals seen, two more at a gallop eastward down the trail.

Bee-eaters: heard. Hobbies: heard and seen briefly circling over north valley
Hooded crows: about, Eurasian Jays: Numerous active and about.
Greenfinches: heard. Blackbirds: a number about, active and vocal, some song.
Chukars: heard in north valley, Collared doves: heard cooing, some flight calls
Sunbirds: calls in garden, Graceful warblers, Syrian woodpeckers, bulbuls : active and vocal

House sparrows, laughing doves: street

Monday, July 7, 2008

Millipede footprints and Miscellaneous News

These little 'train-tracks' in the sand are actually the footprints of a millipede! A double row of lots of tiny prints. They cross the tracks of a bird which passed by earlier, wandering from top right to lower left. Probably one of the doves- they looked too small for the chukar partridge.

: Today, 2 in east field, adult females? heading up windsurfer hill at a run. Fresh droppings in the pistaccio orchard. Yesterday adult female grazing in the olive orchard by east field. Saturday, adult male on skyline to north.

Hyrax: Lots have been active last few days towards sunset by valley road, including young. One killed, seem to be bites or wounds of some kind on flank but why didn't dog or whatever take it away, did the others gang up and drive it off? At any rate ants, flies, hornets and hooded crows were taking an interest in it. First time we've ever found a dead one. Could have been hit by a vehicle but what would account for the wounds, crows?

Plenty bee-eater activity over gazelle field and eucalyptus grove, at least 40 in flock yesterday. Today they were mostly up north end of gazelle field.

Hoopoes about especially track to north valley. Stone curlews very vocal and active north gazelle field and some sighted.

Today turtle doves heard cooing, also collared doves around and vocal including flight calls lately.

hooded crows (about and windsurfing as usual), jackdaws (to east, no doubt following goats again), blackbirds (some song about sunset), great tits (scolding calls about look-out corner and Pistaccio orchard), greenfinches (large pines by bunker), Eurasian jays (everywhere, and drinking from cistern), Syrian woodpeckers, (calls and spotted between trees),

No swifts this week in our area but a few were seen neighbourhood centre mid last week (beginning of July)

Sunbird in the garden esp. Bauhinia tree today, haven't heard them in a while since cape honeysuckle blooms over (and new family of cats in there) House sparrow, laughing doves, (around buildings). Geckoes heard frequently at night and occasionally spotted, crickets. from sunset and on.

Not sure which scorpion this is, in the book looks most like Androctonus crassicauda or another of that genus. It was carrying a dead centipede on its back. We caught this a couple of hours ago live, photographed it and returned it, with the greatest care because it is dangerous. Body almost 2.5 cm long, tail about as much again.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Boys' trip to the quarry

Not a pretty picture but rather a cool place.. could be used in a movie set I always imagined. Pigeons, grackles and falcons use the tall constructs to the left, feral dogs and chukar partridges use the buildings in the middle distance. Well, they all use all of it to some degree. Stone curlews, graceful warblers, wheatears and other small birds use the vegetation and hillside roundabout. As evidenced by all the tracks we find, gazelle regularly wander through. The actual quarried pits are not in view, they are far right back and offscreen front left, used for quarrying masonry. Skyline upper right is The Wall - as far north west as we go up this valley. On the other side is A Ram, P.A. land.

Today's range: 17.5-30 degrees C. When we set out at ~ 5.30 p.m. the temp. had fallen to ~25.7 degrees, humidity 60%, winds NW 6-8 kt

We headed up north valley toward the quarry. We had quite a few gazelle sightings, each small mixed groups between the pine trees on the opposite (south facing) slopes. Hard to be exactly sure how many individuals as the groups may have combined while out of view. We figure at least about a dozen, probably more. One female with apparently very well grown young, one group which consisted of two well grown males, though not quite alpha size together with two hornless, another group with two hornless and one with tiny horns, and others, at one point five together. Later on the way back a running gazelle spooked a covey of at least 8 chukars.

(Yesterday we noticed an adult male gazelle in the Pistaccio orchard, over at the south end. He was kicking the ground in a repeated manner that looked a little strange, as if he was trying to get his leg clear of a wire or something though I didn't see anything on him. He he continued to the cypress by east field and we lost sight of him. Perhaps he was kicking at the ground. We've noticed when we've found piles of droppings used as territory markings that they're always on a bare patch.. this sets off the pile more vividly. I 'd assumed the gazelle just sought out a bare patch but he could kick it bare with his hooves .)

Collared doves, some cooing and quite active. Syrian woodpecker calls. Sunbird family active calling and foraging by the trail just where we came down the hill. White spectacled bulbul
Tristram's grackles still haunt the quarry, at least three seen at once but seemed more about, going to and fro. One pair (as last time) came to fly about the quarry buildings, and, as last time, it was the female that was the more vocal, whistling repeatedly. The male joined her presently and both flew up to the highest construction in the quarry, looking down at us. For some reason I found myself unable to whistle with any strength today but I taught Moshe the three note whistle and the pair showed up, as last time, shortly after he did this- probably curiosity. They flew to and fro from the quarry where the others were.

At one point while they were on a pile of dirty by the side of the quarry pit four feral dogs burst out from the building across the main dirt road and effectively scared the grackles. I don't think that was their object though, I think they wanted to reach the trail to the northern slopes before we reached the buildings, the cowards! They prefer to keep away from people and seemed they'd been using the old buildings as a den. They weren't the same four we'd seen by the almonds the other day. Two of them had a lot of black, as well as some white and brown, another was patched brown and white and the other, rather smallish, was all russet brown. Typical feral dog markings and all with the Spitz/Canaani tail curled over the back and heads a bit like a border collie. They looked in good shape, stood up on the higher ground and barked down at us, suddenly complacent.

There were also a few falcons around but we didn't get very good views. Graceful warblers heard calling, wheatears about the rocks and a number of stone curlews flew over and gave us great views. Chukar partridges heard along north valley and husband spotted three fly across the road on our way back. He also found the Little owl after I'd searched fruitlessly over the rocky area where he'd been before, husband found it on a series of limestone steps a little farther 'downstream' , facing us. There he was, sitting on a ledge bathed in the late afternoon sun. Lots of Tree Tobacco growing near the entrance to the quarry, now bearing fruit and smelling rank.

Blackbirds heard in song on the way back, some alarm calls heard from them earlier as well as plenty active great tits. On the trail to the quarry a lot of dog and gazelle prints as well as chukar. Jackdaws heard from up by a herd of goats high up on the hillside.

Lots of feral pigeons active around the quarry buildings. Hooded crows about, flying to and fro and foraging on the slopes to the north.
Around buildings: House sparrows, laughing doves, hoopoe over our road earlier.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Musical mystery chirp

Range: 21-30 degrees C. At about 6.30 p.m. it was just down to about 27.7 degrees C, humidity 44%, winds westerly, just over 6 kt

European goldfinch, wikipedia. Isn't he cute!:)

Today's 'bird of the day' was a total delight. We were watching the gazelle field from the bunker rubble when we both heard a sharp musical chirp every now and again from above that sounded unfamiliar. I had to find it! There were as usual some greenfinches up there but this did not sound like any greenfinch I'd heard before. I thought perhaps it might be a young male just starting to practice adult twittering. Whatever it was, was flitting between the trees, from the top of the three huge bunker pines to the nearest eucalyptus in the grove and back. Husband located an individual and gave directions, which is tricky in a huge and very fractal pine, but fortunately I managed to follow and found the bird and it was showing itself very nicely.. it was a European goldfinch! Carduelis carduelis. I got the impression from the calls that there was more than one bird up there but not visible at once, they generally travel in small groups and that pine is very dense.

This little beauty is one of my favourite birds for a number of reasons. They range over much of Europe including Great Britain as well as parts of north Africa and central Asia so they are familiar to me from bird walks back in England and Wales though I haven't seen them for quite a while here. I did see a group years ago in this neighbourhood and a few individuals at the Jerusalem Bird Observatory a couple of years back, but I missed them. I also used to have a pet goldfinch back in England between '72 and '74 which eventually escaped. I called him Dandy and gave him the freedom to fly about my room- he used to roost on my window pelmet and only return to his cage for food. He sang beautifully, especially when there was some white noise, like a vacuum cleaner going, and he seemed to have a lot more spirit than any canary I'd ever had. I wondered if on some level I'd recognized that call which had made me want to find the bird or whether it was just that it was so distinct and unfamiliar. I had not consciously remembered it and I think this was a contact call that I'm not sure if I ever heard Dandy even use. It's been too long!

There were also great tits around and calling, Syrian woodpeckers and graceful warblers calling, stone curlews very vocal in the north end of gazelle field where two gazelle, both apparently fully grown females were grazing placidly. A number of Eurasian jays were foraging in wood and field and occasionally screeching. We enjoyed a 'swarm' of bee-eaters right over us for a while, almost fifty individuals but hard to count them when they criss cross confusingly like that. We noticed a couple of hoopoes, one from the bunker area and another at the crossroads on centre trail. White spectacled bulbuls also heard by valley road.

It's good to see the charred areas are gradually being absorbed as it were, by actions of ants, mole rats, coverings of pine needles, sproutings of many new shoots and patches of grass here and there. I noticed that the area immediately around the crossroads was all untouched, which was nice to see.

A small group of hooded crows was 'busy' windsurfing up above the slopes of 'windsurfer hill', riding on the waves where the westerlies brush up against the hillside. This never bores them! We also heard blackbird alarm calls of various types, Saw collared doves flying around but both collared and turtle doves were quiet. Laughing doves and house sparrows active around the buildings and feral pigeons also seen going over. Saw a flock of small birds rise from the gazelle field and head into the north valley pines.. seemed like sparrows, didn't see any green on them. This was about the time of year we saw sparrows foraging on gazelle field last year, though more to the fore then, but last year the fore part was not charred. These were foraging farther back.