Sunday, August 31, 2008

weekend round up, Eucalyptus in bloom.

Eucalyptus is blooming by the dry stream path- and this attracts a lot of bees as well as sunbirds. Tricky pic, just a cellphone, doesn't have much of a macro feature but just about gives the general idea - taken this afternoon. Hopefully we'll get a new camera soon to replace the one that was stolen!

What else is blooming? Still some ragwort and the low broom like plants, pretty much all right now. All of them yellow.

- 9 seen today on western slopes of windsurfer hill, just a little up from the tree line.. could have been more around the slope out of view.. mostly adult females, perhaps two or three young and an adult buck that was following one of the females. Another individual noticed in north gazelle field shortly after, not one of those, grazing near the almond trees.

hyrax - active and vocal lately especially the pump house colony.

Bee-eaters- they've gone off again somewhere else last few days, Turtle doves, also silent
Hobbies, heard on and off, and nice view of one flying high over bipass road area.

House sparrows: some calls in the gardens
laughing doves: around the street, foraging as usual
Hooded crows: heard and seen foraging on the fields, and up on the hill tops.
Jackdaws: flock of 70 + foraging on various parts of windsurfer hill today, and between here and Hizmeh, active and vocal, also heard calling in the neighbourhood on and off.
Jays: active and vocal in small groups and singly in the forests, foraging, squabbling, fussing.
Feral pigeons: roof tops as usual
Greenfinches: small flocks flitting between the pines, some calls.
Blackbirds: alarm calls towards dusk, otherwise keeping a low profile.
Collared doves: quiet, a few up on the lines over north gazelle fields.
Stone curlews: much quieter, occasional calls.
Sunbirds: daily active and usually song in the Bauhinia by the window, also heard in valley.
Graceful warblers: calls, vocal, active especially by valley road.
Syrian woodpeckers: calls here and there, flying between trees
White spectacled Bulbuls: calls in woods especially near pumping station.
Great tits: some calls in pines just east of valley road. ,

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wadi Qelt walk

This pic was of a larger crab we found last time we came to Wadi Qelt

Temps between 30 -34 degrees C until about 4 p.m. Necessary to keep a cool head, literally, and drink plenty! Humidity rose steadily through the afternoon as usual.

Today we had a special summer hike down the beautiful Wadi Qelt, also known as Na'hal Prat (or Na'hal Porat), a lush canyon oasis which winds down from Jerusalem all the way to Jericho. We only covered a small fraction of a distance, making our way at a leisurely pace, sometimes through the water, sometimes along the trails by the side- about two hours downstream, two hours back. There was so much lush vegetation, chiefly giant reed and various herbs smelling of mint and other fragrances. The only two flowering plants out at this season bore tall purple spikes of many delicate flowers, probably mint family, some kind of loosestrife profuse all along the route, and occasional taller white spikes of Urginea maritima (below)

Insect life abounded, many dragonflies and mayflies in red, blue and green, some with wingspots. Some mayflies clasping others, a 'claim' to mating. There were also quite a few large locusts around which the boys said bit quite painfully, the frequent buzz of common oriental hornets and what I call 'ninja' hornets, big black jobs here and there. One of them I saw vanish into a tube of cut giant reed, no doubt it had a nest in there. None of us got stung, we did nothing to provoke them! There were also plenty butterflies down there, various whites, small orange, blues, satyrids, using the purple spikes for nectar.

In the water were numerous small fish. We stopped at a pool and let them 'doctor' our feet.. just letting them nibble at the dead skin, a funny feeling! We feel their tiny mouths bumping 'nudge nudge' against our skin. They seemed to really like my ankles. In these desert waters amazingly crabs and frogs coexist in the same ecosystem. Other kids were catching frogs and I handled a small crab briefly before we let it go. Pincers not strong enough to break skin but did nip Moshe's pinky!

Birds included numerous Tristram's grackles, whistling and moving about the mid level canyon faces in small groups, also small flocks of rock doves, totally wild 'brothers' of town pigeons, white spectacled bulbuls called and foraged in the giant reeds and sunbirds and graceful warblers were also heard. Chukar partridges were heard here and there way up the slopes. A hirundine with pale underparts and grey brown wings was quite common, flying about hawking for insects between the canyon walls. Checking the book later I came to the conclusion it was most likely the rock martin (pale crag martin) Ptyonoprogne fuligula
Other passerines foraging in capers and other vegetation high up the cliff faces but frustratingly hard to make out. Something had a gorgeous melodious call/song snatch, one of the wheatears most probably. There were also kingfishers about which we heard cackle loudly a few times and briefly glimpsed now and again, didn't get a good view but I think white breasted kingfisher, Halcyon smyrnensis

Unfortunately our better camera was stolen recently so we had to make do with a cellphone camera to capture this spike of Urginea maritima, a kind of lily, standing at least 4 feet.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Interesting observations

Saturday late afternoon: 20-28 degrees C today, winds westerly 10-16 kt.

Three dark falcons over windsurfer hill, quite high, up and down. Hobbies most probably. One of them dive bombed a hooded crow! We don't remember seeing this behaviour from falcons before. We saw at least two separate attacks, not sure if by same individual. Presence of three birds does indicate successful breeding season, if one is young from this year.

Heard ring necked parakeet from inside some time early afternoon. At about 6.30 p.m. three parakeets flying together over the neighbourhood, calling. A little later one flew very fast towards Pisgat Zeev.

great tit calls from pines. Plenty calls & sightings of Eurasian jays, calls of Syrian woodpeckers, hoopoe, by trail, sunbird in the garden, squeak alarm call, heard in eucalyptus along dry stream trail too lately, graceful warbler heard. Collared doves, feral pigeons, laughing doves all in expected places, house sparrows in garden but still relatively few compared to earlier in the season

Friday, August 22, 2008

Weekly round up

It's been quite warm lately, maximum temperatures just over 30 degrees C, early afternoon, birdlife quiet, wind conditions pretty much as they've been all month. Bird life on the whole quiet

Gazelles: A couple spotted lately in the woods just east of the valley road at about 10.30 am, one grazing alone a few days ago northern slopes, well grown female I think, fresh scat by tree line between woods and east field and brief glimpse of individual running into there a couple of days ago, couldn't tell if male /female

hyrax: plenty activity on and off cypress slum and pump house colonies, shrill alarm calls.

Bee-eaters: Flock of 40+ in the eucalyptus by the dry stream trail, east valley yesterday. Haven't seen or heard them in days! Eucalyptus flowers starting to bloom so bee activity rising there.
Turtle doves silent
Hobbies: a few sightings of singles over last few days.. one day at least 3 in the vicinity, two in flight, one calling from trees, indicates successful breeding in the area this year? They definitely didn't use the nest they used last year (in the eucalyptus by the orchard). My suspicion from their movements is that they used a pine somewhere in the middle of north valley, though I also suspect use of a tree near the central ruins in east valley - though that could have been a sparrowhawk instead. Not enough info.
House sparrows: calls, some activity
laughing doves: some coos, several pairs foraging in and by our street for crumbs on pavement.
Hooded crows: heard and some seen.
Jackdaws:heard on and off during the week
Eurasian Jays: raucous calls and plenty singles seen throughout the woods through the week
Feral pigeons: plenty activity round the tops of the buildings in neighbourhood as usual
Greenfinches: some twittering calls and movements of small groups between pines
Blackbirds: some chack chack alarm calls and glimpses
Chukars: distinct chuckles
Collared doves:not cooing this week but pairs seen in flight between trees
Stone curlews:some calls north fields but intensity down
Sunbirds:one male singing quite regularly in Bauhinia in garden noon, early afternoon, plus alarm calls in cape honeysuckle and elsewhere
Graceful warblers: some calls
Syrian woodpeckers:some calls and sighted
Bulbuls: some calls but like many others keeping a low profile: heat and moulting season.
Great tits: some calls in the pines
Eurasian Sparrowhawk: sighting of large individual, female? top canopy level, trees on slopes just east of east valley trail, plus husband saw brief glimpse raptor fly into a flock of sparrows today, most probably another SH.

None of the high pitched chiming cicadas we heard so much last year but several times towards sunset a lower pitched chhhhh chhhhh chhhhh which definitely sounded more
cicada like than cricket like, from middle of Mir forest, cricket calls as usual as well as more black millipedes and a small blue butterfly this week near tree line just up east of dry stream trail, latest I've seen.. possibly responding to the re-bloom of some Podonosma? Not much else about in bloom, though some broom like low flowers still out.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

East valley stroll

Today's range: 23-32 degrees C,
late afternoon ~27 degrees (~7 p.m.) 45-50% humidity, W/WNW
light breeze, just 2-6 knots.

Around the houses: some house sparrows heard, laughing dove coos, feral pigeons jackdaws and hooded crows heard, sunbird in the Bauhinia outside my window, singing quite extensively lately though NO other bird singing in this season at all. (A couple of brief chimes that almost sounded like a great tit song but so brief couldn't be sure.. and out of season, no others)

Along valley road dozens of hyrax active esp. the forest side of the road, lots of babies.. larger ones climbing up into the lower branches of the cypresses as they like to do.

Calls of syrian woodpeckers in the pines, great tit calls, collared dove pair, some collared dove coos lately too. Eurasian jays active about, husband glimpsed a hoopoe, we both got nice views of a hobby (a falcon) flying over woods just north of central trail, talons down.. something small in talons? Could have got a small bird or something, stone curlews heard calling from northern edges of the woods as dark fell. Pair of blackbirds seen flying over woods near sapling field. Chukar partridge heard cistern area. Graceful warbler calls.

Three gazelle seen over in east field, two making their way east toward fence, another one there apparently waiting for them.. headed in direction of the olive grove.

Flock of at least 20 hooded crows 'windsurfing' yesterday above upper western slopes of windsurfer hill, as they like to do when conditions are right, hence the name...
I believe there's a strange psittacine in the woods just south of the pumping station. Two days we've heard it now, lately. At first I took it for a ring necked parakeet but calls more singular and lower pitched. Caught a very brief glimpse on a lower bough.. (Eurasian) jay size, dark, green in there.. definitely not ring neck look. Some markings around the eye.. escaped Amazon?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

'Hyrax path'

parent and young.. taken today by Akiva

Range ~21-29.5 degrees C today. At 7 p.m. 25 degrees and falling fast. Humidity 70%, wind pretty much westerly, ~ 8kt

Today we headed south again, turning south just past the pumping station, over the bridge.

I forgot to mention we've been hearing bee-eaters from the house past few days and today no exception, saw a flock of at least 30 over towards gazelle field.

We noticed many jackdaws take off from the sides of the hillside to the north, over 80 headed to our 'hood, some of those wheeled off and headed up towards Pisgat Ze'ev. Another 50 at least headed towards Hizmeh, all probably going off to roost after a day's forage on the hills. We saw a falcon flying over the hillside and up the valley in the direction of the quarry, a hobby?

After a few minutes we came across a trail we'd never seen before (since we don't normally go in that direction and the park authority has been developing here within the last year)- a winding path leading up through the pine and cypress to the east and marked 'shvil shafan hasela' שביל שפן הסלע
in English, 'hyrax path' . New! Of course we had to take it. It wound up the hillside between steps of limestone though we didn't notice one single hyrax, haha! (We did find them by the pumping station and at the top of that hill where the trail left the outer suburban road toward windsurfer hill. )

The path emerged onto the open hillside and to an area planted with saplings. We did notice a family of chukar partridges, maybe half a dozen, making their way up from boulder to boulder, single file, parents with well grown young in juvenile plumage. We finally gained the outer edges of Pisgat Ze'ev there, a neighbourhood of red roofed villas. From there we decided to strike north towards 'Windsurfer hill', cross over that and down to the valley but we'd have to make tracks because it was almost sunset.

We disturbed another family of chukar near the hilltop, at least 7 in that party. Heading down the hill, watching our footing due to many treacherous small stones on the surface, we spotted three well grown gazelle running swiftly cross country just east of us and shortly after that another one heading towards the pistaccio orchard. (4 gazelle in all today)

We reached look-out corner at almost 8 p.m. , light was fading fast and some stone curlew calls came to us from the north. Husband saw a bat. (We can't stop here, it's bat country!). The moon was up in a clear sky and just gibbous, which did not give the silvery light of full moon but a dim washed out muddy brown light which was just sufficient to make our way through central trail and up to valley road as dark fell.

Podonosma blooming blue and yellow bells again by a wall edge of 'hood, some fennel blooming right down in the dry watercourse, still plenty of that yellow low broom like plant out even though half the leaves dried out, but otherwise flowers pretty much done, though a white caper bud noticed.

Brief report

Not a whole lot to report lately.. it being moulting season and most birds keeping a low profile, looking rather messy and being quiet, none in song any more. Moulting takes its toll.

We did head south past the pumping station for a change yesterday, moving parallel to the dry stream bed.. saw a gazelle mother and young under the pines and cypress, moving away from us up to the west, farthest south we've seen them though we can reasonably assume they go all the way up to the sapling covered slopes by Pisgat Zeev, there's still plenty forage in that direction, and we know from the droppings they go as far as the slopes below Neve Yaakov pool.

Heard chukar partridges somewhere in the valley, a kestrel up hill slopes to west, some strange short parrot like calls in the eucalyptus , ring necked parakeets? Didn't actually glimpse them. Eurasian jays, many looking quite messy.

House sparrows not so much in the gardens any more.. now they're done breeding they don't need the buildings so much and are roving about in small flocks, foraging. I did hear them a little early morning but nothing like the din of just a few weeks ago. Sunbirds in Bauhinia tree lately, squeak calls and some song. Bulbuls also ranging farther to forage.. harder now so much is dry. Laughing doves still heard cooing from time to time and Jackdaws heard in the 'hood this morning. Hooded crow calls and seen flying up and down valley in singles, or in flock up on the hill. Just heard a caw now as I write! Blackbirds also quiet, some low chacking yesterday at dusk.

Hyrax by contrast very active and about, climbing into cypress, lots of young, saw two mating on a boulder, heard them first, repeated high pitched calls, also found a (second) dead individual a few days ago on valley road last thursday.. (not far from where we found the other) another fight or traffic accident? Hornets swarming the orifices/injuries, we didn't touch it then but that evening I kicked it under an aromatic bush and wedged it in, hoping to retrieve its skeleton at some future date. A day later it was gone, possibly taken by fox.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Wednesday Catch-up

19-30.5 degrees C, at about 7 p.m. : 24 degrees C, 70% humidity, 8 kt W/NW

We took short cut down into north valley and headed slowly north west though wasn't time to get to the quarry before sun down. We just took our time and noted birds and gazelle.

7 Gazelle today- 1 female up on skyline to north, then 4 up on north slopes below the upper pine grove, one well grown and three 'teens'. None with visible horns. Later two crossed the path and headed north, 1 with clear thin horns, one significantly smaller, sproinged to catch up. Sproinging makes some sort of sense in this rocky country, it's an easier pace to manage than coordinating a run over this terrain. Most humans would not be able to run on it that fast without turning an ankle and to manage it with tiny delicate hoofs is impressive adaptation.

Also saw gazelle on skyline yesterday, buck.

hyrax: High pitched chitter heard from colony just down from the end of Shadiker St. (upper north facing slopes )

Bee-eaters: Flock Heard over middle of north valley
Hobby: Flew over lower north valley.

Tristram's grackle calls from somewhere up on the south facing slopes
2 Eurasian Sparrowhawks gliding swiftly down over centre of north valley.. to east, pine canopy level.
Hoopoe foraging on the north valley path.
House sparrows: Moving in small flocks, foraging side of north valley, Hardly in garden at all lately.
Hooded crows: calls, singles seen, foraging up on hill
Eurasian Jays: Spotted here and there in pines, foraging, some vocal
Feral pigeons: Small groups/singles in flight towards neighbourhood buildings.
Greenfinches: heard briefly in pines, they've been relatively quiet lately, after singing season.
Stone curlews: Quite vocal just beyond northern edge of north valley trees, brief sightings in flight, one over centre
Sunbirds: in Bauhinia tree esp. yesterday
Graceful warblers: calling from north facing valley slopes, answering from eucalyptus patch valley floor
Syrian woodpeckers: calling in pines
White spectacled Bulbuls: Calls, both musical and hoarse chukking call from upper north facing slopes
Great tits: Some calls in the pines,

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Sunday report and the mysterious bundles

There are a number of these bundles of dry sticks about 10 feet (+/- couple of feet) across scattered on the west facing hillside just east of the lower valley path. How did they form? I wondered if the shepherds had been keeping them as stockpiles for campfires and husband theorized they might have gathered naturally as rain brings dried wood down the hillside. We also had a few rather less serious theories about porcupines thinking they're beavers and activities of gnomes....

Today we walked south along valley road, around the loop over the bridge, north along the lower valley path and then struck north east along a shepherd's path toward the open hill, looking out for 'Limpy' the injured buck.

Temp range: 19-30 degrees C, at 7 p.m. it was down to 25 degrees, skies totally clear, humidity 60% and rising, winds westerly to northwesterly 6-8 kt.

Gazelles: No sign of 'Limpy' today but did see small herd of 7, probably the same herd we saw yesterday in the north field. Today they were in the east field making their way gradually south, almost in single file, not far from the security fence. They were females and pretty well grown young, at least one young of this year, led by (probably the alpha) female, had very slender horns, hard to see unless against just the right kind of background. This was about 7.45 p.m. light quickly failing by then. Saw another gazelle down in the pines on the way back just down below the turn of valley road to the south.. didn't get good view if buck but didn't appear to be limping at all.

hyrax: Quite a few adults active around the rocks just down from the pumping station/edge of sapling field.

Bee-eaters: heard, and seen around look-out corner area, though not in swarm.

Hooded crows: about, flying over valley in singles, flock, not large, up on windsurfer hill.
Jackdaws: heard calling, Eurasian Jays: Spotted amongst pines, foraging, relatively quiet today.
blackbirds alarm calls heard, glimpsed.
stone curlews: calls from north end of gazelle field and also from the east end of pistaccio orchard,
Syrian woodpeckers: A number of calls heard throughout pine woods.
White spectacled Bulbuls: Musical calls heard in eucalyptus south end of sapling field.
laughing doves:cooing around houses. Sunbird 'squeak' call from Bauhinia though not the frantic repeated squeak that signals cat, this was more of a contact call I think. Sparrows gone off foraging grass seeds? very quiet lately. Husband saw ring necked parakeet 7.45 am in flight, a little higher up in the residential neighbourhood,

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Brief Saturday Report

Todays' range: ~20.5-30 degrees C, at 7 p.m. time of walk, 26 degrees, humidity 55%, wind W/WNW, 8 kt and falling

Gazelles: 7 grazing just beyond the acacias north west end of gazelle field, moving east, (wind to their backs) all pretty much fully grown, perhaps one younger, no adult bucks.
hyrax:Much activity by pumping station including many young

Bee-eaters: flock heard, (Also heard near house on friday afternoon )Turtle doves: not noticed
Hobbies: 1 high over east field area, hooded crow tried rather half heartedly to mob it but the falcon dipped easily out of range, hoodie gave up, the hobby climbed and glided on the currents, holding position impressively.

House sparrows: relatively quiet lately, laughing doves: some cooing around the garden
Hooded crows:some about. calls heard
Jackdaws: heard, they're back in the 'hood from nearness of calls to house.
Eurasian Jays: Calling and seen in many places in the woods
Greenfinches: alarm call heard in eucalyptus by orchard
Blackbirds: foraging and chack chack alarm calls
Collared doves: some cooing along east valley trail
Stone curlews: much vocalisation esp from direction of secret valley and just beyond trees north valley around dusk.
Sunbirds: repeated cat alarm call in cape honeysuckle in afternoon.
Graceful warblers: vocal late afternoon
Syrian woodpeckers: Calls here and there throughout the pine woods.
Bulbuls: hoarse 'chuck chuck' calls heard from acacias on the bank up from valley road and in pines opposite.

Last night found
scorpion on valley road, thick pincers, dark, as wells as very busy ants, (they're working overtime lately bringing in grass seeds), large black millipedes and a cricket

Friday, August 1, 2008

Dark Fox puts in an appearance

Shows tree damage throughout lowest branches of the pines just west of gazelle field. Ground underneath is also charred but now covered with fallen needles. Many of the pistaccio orchard trees also have dead leaves in the lower branches. No whole tree was damaged, it was localized to parts immediately over the ground and took a few weeks to become totally apparent as the dried leaves died.

Thurs: The dark fox appeared today strolling through the eucalyptus grove just south east of gazelle field. His markings seemed a touch lighter than those I noticed in the new pine grove but could just be the lighting. At any rate, still that large dark flank marking, not like the more evenly marked individual we saw pouncing in the middle of gazelle field (right between the two observations). Is one the male and one the female sharing a territory?

Female gazelle making her way up the hill slopes from north end of gazelle field, spotted her coming toward field from north valley.

Activity of small birds along the lower part of north valley dry watercourse where it crosses north part of gazelle field. Members of the wheatear family we'd seen there before. One very nice young male black eared wheatear apparently. Falcon gliding high over bipass road, probably hobby, hooded crows about, small groups, singly, jackdaws too? Graceful warbler calls

Much Bee-eater activity in the pines just west of gazelle field. Scores hawk for flies esp. over the dry north valley watercourse and use the lines and the trees as perches and roost.
Some stone curlew calls and sightings. Turtle dove heard cooing. Much Syrian woodpecker activity and calls. A few bats about at dusk esp. along central trail and have also been seen lately around valley road.

Fri: Sunbird and laughing doves in the garden.