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.

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