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.

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