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.

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