Sunday, September 28, 2008

Nightjar, chukars, grackles and others

16.5-23.5 degrees C, time of walk (about 5.30 p.m.) just under 21 degrees and falling, humidity: ~70% and rising, wind westerly/north westerly 5-10 kt

Today we headed up north valley towards the quarry.

Bird of the day was a nightjar, (European, Caprimulgus europaeus
Best sighting I ever had! We were making our way down a trail from the end of the buildings down into the valley when we surprised the bird from a rock along the way. It flew with remarkable silence and stealth and landed very obligingly atop another boulder under the pines by the path. We tried to get shots. (one cropped above, just about discernible) Not the best, we don't have the zoom lens for it yet, but through binoculars the bird was beautiful, like a huge moth or strip of tree bark and very clear. This bird was probably on its way south to Africa and stopped over for a refuel.

No gazelles spotted. Falcon calls heard many times but did not come into view. We looked out for the little owl on approach to the quarry but were unable to find him. We did startle a covey of chukar partridges, or rather they startled me! In the entrance to the first, smaller excavation just south of the path and east of the quarry buildings. Perhaps eight birds or more, a few took off noisily and headed across the valley north east, the others scattered silently south east, a much shorter distance. Seemed organized, the louder birds (probably including the parents) distracting us while the others took cover with more stealth. Clever.

We were happy to find Tristram's grackles at the quarry still, first appearing at the old buildings, then flying down to the rocks to the north of the path, near the quarry rim and calling. One fanned its wings down, showing the orange patch in clear display, probably from excitement. Four were in view and whistle calls of a fifth, (perhaps also a sixth) came to us from across the larger quarry.

On the way we heard a number of great tits in the acacias by the watercourse as well as warblers which managed to hide well in the foliage. From the calls sounds like we already have chiffchaffs here (Phylloscopus collybita) but very possibly other stuff. Collared doves about, briefly sighted, graceful warblers, white spectacled bulbuls very vocal, (those, sunbirds and house sparrows also heard in the garden)

Eurasian jays about the pines as usual, hooded crows and jackdaws at the top of the hill,

I haven't discovered what flower this is yet but it was blooming in many places along the path to the quarry. I'm calling it 'yellow star' for the time being. Yet another yellow one, seems the colour of the season. At first I took it for ragwort which are still in bloom in many places but did a double take because it really is quite different.. leaves much shorter and slightly succulent and petals narrower.

Berries of hawthorn (Crataegus )

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