Saturday, November 29, 2008

Saturday report

White wagtail: front view- Ruthie Schueler

Rain on and off last couple of days, especially at night, though didn't hear any thunder. 9.5-15 degrees C, ~12 when we headed down for a walk. ~67% humidity, winds W/NW, very light, up to 6 kt.

White wagtail
: It does seem more have arrived lately, I've been hearing them many times from my room over the last couple of days. There have been a few showers and husband noticed up to half a dozen foraging in the street on friday.
black redstart: looked like a young male foraging on the ground and between the boulders just down from the pumping station.

White breasted kingfisher was around look-out corner again today about sunset. Though we could hear exactly where it was.. up in the eucapyptus, it stayed out of sight. We were approaching from lower valley trail and by the time we reached the pistaccio orchard he was 'laughing' his head off. Sounded like he was just on the other side of the eucs. That 'sik' call has an almost ventrioloquial quality, sounds as if it's coming from several metres away from the laugh almost every time. Made me wonder if a second bird wasn't doing that. When we rounded look-out corner the kingfisher had headed back south over the stream.
House sparrows:around gardens and building as usual. Feral pigeons, on top and between buildings as usual.
Hooded crows: heading south from foraging in the hills north towards sunset, generally as singles/very loose flock
Jackdaws: A flock calling and flying south to roost over Hizmeh, towards hoodie hill and Pisgat Zeev.
Kestrel: flying over east valley just south of pumping station, circling, gaining height. watching.
Blackbirds: heard in the garden on friday, in the woods chakking towards sunset on saturday
Graceful warblers: Heard calling from the house late afternoon, either in the gardens or nearby.
Great tits:Heard calling from the trees on the bank between valley road and houses.. (mostly aussie acacia)
While I was watching that young black redstart male by the pumping station husband noticed a Buteo (long legged) up over hoodie hill, brief, the crows started mobbing it of course, then it flew down and out of view.

Vegetation is flourishing in the stream bed, fresh green shoots of grasses, milk thistle leaves and all kinds of other growth thrusting up everywhere. That spitting cucumber has definitely spread at the beginning of valley road and that short broom like plant with dark leaves by valley road is still putting out flowers. Ragwort still going.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Handsome little winter jobs busy at the bunker.

13-21.5 degrees C. Just after 4 pm, time of walk, 17 degrees and falling. Humidity 60% and rising. winds westerly, 5-8 knots.

white wagtails: heard over buildings.
stonechat: A pair hawking for flying insects at the edges of the bunker rubble in close proximity, using the rebars for perches. I found it interesting that the pair bond holds for the winter months and in their winter range. It certainly affords protection against predators such as sparrowhawks when these birds are out in the open so much and the male is so obvious and strongly coloured.. to have others of his kind to give the alarm is a definite advantage.. mutual benefit.

black redstart: Also on the alert for small prey on bunker rebars. He was on the watch out near the stonechat pair but after a short while took up a new post a few metres away.. perhaps their aerial forays every few seconds were interfering with his own hunting.
House sparrows:around gardens and buildings as usual. Feral pigeons on tops of buildings as usual.
Hooded crows: a few individuals returning south to roost towards sunset.
Eurasian jays: glimpsed between pines

Blackbirds: 'chak chak' alarms in the pines. Didn't notice in the garden today.

Collared doves: a pair visited the cistern while we were watching the birds by the bunker ruins.

Gazelles: none seen today. Pregnant feral cat noticed.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

crab spider and other stuff

I found this wicked looking crab spider on a charred branch just by the northern watercourse. They're called crab spiders because they resemble and walk sideways like crabs. Usually I find them on flowers and often coloured in camouflage but this was two or three times bigger than those I usually see, though still small, just under 1 cm. from side to side.

Gazelles: 3 in north valley, on the south facing slope between the valley trees and the little pine grove half way up the slope, One without visible horns part walking, part running... then a female apparently followed by an adult male. Seemed the first waited for the other two to catch up, then all three continued walking up the hill towards the ridge.
hyrax: some long shrill calls from colony on the north facing slopes of north valley, below the buildings.
feral dogs: some barking from somewhere in north valley

White wagtails: heard quite a few calls from the street over the afternoon.
House sparrows:calling in gardens as usual, feral pigeons on rooftops as usual, on Elias, male strutting and turning
sunbird, various calls from the Bauhinia tree and garden in general, almost song.

Eurasian sparrowhawk, seen in flight, at least two about in north valley. common kestrel flew over.

laughing doves: keeping a very low profile, glimpse?. Jackdaws, graceful warblers, bulbuls also quiet
Hooded crows: some calls from the hills.
Eurasian Jays: glimpsed in between pines.

Blackbirds: in the garden mid afternoon again, various alarm calls. Singing in pines north facing slope toward 5 p.m.
Chukars: husband heard calls in north valley. Chiffchaff calls?
Collared doves: glimpsed, Syrian woodpeckers: calls, seen in flight between pines.

Plenty purple crocus noticed, still some Dianthus out we saw earlier in the week. ragwort flowers still out.

Temp range: 16-22.5 degrees C, 19 and falling during our walk.. shortly after 4 p.m. Humidity ~ 55%, winds W/WSW 5-7 knots

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

lurking kingfisher finally makes an appearance

This is one of Ruthie Schueler's photographs of this bird, the light was too poor for ours.

About sunset we (finally!) noticed a white breasted kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis perched in prominent view on an upper curve of a eucalyptus branch above 'look- out corner'. (This branch appears diseased and is arched over) Finally! It was calling a high, sharp 'sik' note, which I had not noticed before, and then went into its kookaburra like laughing call. After a minute or so it headed into the east valley pines, and we could hear it every few minutes, each 'laugh' preceded by a 'sik' call or two.

Otherwise, a very quiet day.. 'chak chak' alarm calls of blackbirds in the woods, hooded crows passing over to roost, Syrian woodpecker call, Eurasian jays about, house sparrows, feral pigeons about the street. Eurasian Sparrowhawk glimpsed?

temperature range for today 14-21 degrees C, at just after 4 p.m. ~20%, winds easterly, almost still, humidity falling all day to about 20-22 % during our walk. Plenty small high altitude clouds

Monday, November 24, 2008

Long legged buzzard and others

Nice shot perching by Jan Sevcik. If I find a shot comparable to the beautiful view I had, I'll post it but you can also see it in a guide.. adult intermediate morph. In the past I've only had a view of these Buteos from underneath as they were soaring high but great to see view of the top of the bird in flight for a change

Nicest sighting of the day was a rather dramatic and brilliant view of a long legged buzzard, Buteo rufinus, low over north valley. For the previous few minutes we'd heard quite a bit of bird excitement.. chukar partridges clucking repeatedly from somewhere on the hillside to our north, not high up, and Eurasian jays screeching behind us in the pines up the slopes to the south. The latter was explained by a brief view of a smaller raptor, from what we could make out from a glimpse, a Eurasian sparrowhawk. Then the buzzard flew into view and I had a really nice view of his almost russet brown back and wing coverts as he glided down the valley barely at canopy level, quite magnificent. He was immediately pursued by a smaller bird which I didn't get a great view of as it was so fast and happened over a matter of seconds at a tricky angle for ID but seemed to be yet another sparrowhawk.

Garden today:
House sparrows, sunbird calling in the Bauhinia early afternoon but no song. A blackbird showed up just after 3 p.m. and sang a short while, also 'chak chak' and 'tzeet calls'. White wagtails heard from the street and also heard and seen flying to roof at the beginning of our walk. Have more recently arrived? Does seem that way based on the increase in calls I've been hearing over the past few days. .

Hooded crows: flying south to roost. Jackdaws heard : Feral pigeons, flock on top of building by lower Elias today
white spectacled bulbuls: some calls end of Shadiker

Weather: 13.5 -19.5 degrees C. During our walk, 18 falling to 17. Humidity, just under 30% and rising, ESE 1-2 kt.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Brief Sunday report

~17 degrees C at ~ 4 p.m. humidity ~36%, wind SW and under 2 kt

Quiet generally.
active in the Bauhinia in the garden mid afternoon as were house sparrows, jackdaws heard from the house, white wagtail out in the street somewhere, feral pigeons on tops of buildings as usual, particularly a higher one just south west of us that is usually the hangout for a whole flock. They were ranged up around the roof rail.

In the forest, plenty Eurasian jays foraging, blackbirds active and calling, a little song towards sunset. Chiffchaff calls in the eucalyptus grove. Other calls in the pines, probably both redstarts and chiffchaffs and perhaps other small insect eating stuff hiding in the canopy. Jackdaw calls off east.

Husband walked over hoodie hill from pisgat ze'ev, met me at the bunker, saw a gazelle with short horns on his way down, running south from near the olive grove. He also saw chukar partridges up on hoodie (windsurfer ) hill... a group of four and a group of about eight, though they may have been part of the same covey from their proximity, just scattered in two parts.
A few score hooded crows up on the hill.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saturday report: feral dog family and bat

Temp range: 11.75-16 degrees C. At time of walk, shortly after 4 p.m. ~13.5 degrees C, humidity ~70%, winds SW/WSW 7-10 kt

No gazelle. Family of feral dogs coming from east end of north valley approaching sunset, dad led the group, handsome and dingo coloured, bitch, white with brown patches, clearly lactating came second, puppy, only one also white with brown patches, well fed and puppy-eager, followed after her. The male led them to central trail then headed west towards the neighbourhood. We watched a small bat in flight between cistern pine and eucalyptus grove at about 4.55 p.m. (just after sunset)

Quiet day in terms of birds.

Eurasian jays in the pines as usual, Hooded crows, a few individuals returning south to roost, one to the eucalyptus just after dark. Jackdaws heard over to the east.

Feral pigeons on tops of the buildings as usual. Laughing dove heard cooing in the garden friday about midday, first one I've heard cooing there in a while though we did have that one over on the other side of the buildings (over back porch) a few days ago. Collared dove seen flying in the large pine by the cistern.

Blackbird heard in the garden again, some calls in the pines and a snatch of song around sunset. Sunbird ticcing heard and glimpsed in the cape honeysuckle, some flowers left in there but pretty much finished, but also provides cover and insects. White wagtail heard from street both today and yesterday, and calls in the valley. (passing over to roost?) Chiffchaff calls in the pines? Sadly still no black redstart at the rubble.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thursday report, gazelle, praying mantis

Temperatures fell since yesterday.. range14 to 18.5 degrees C , at the time of our walk, shortly after 4 p.m. between 15 and 16. Winds bringing in cumulus from the west, 8-10 kt though, as we could see higher at cloud level, WSW/W/NW.

Gazelles: 5 altogether today: Two, making their way from east field, lower hill slopes to the west up north valley, in front of bat cave and on into shelter of the pines. For a brief while on the open hillside looked like one was nursing.
Third seen in east valley on the level with the watercourse deep under the pines. Final two crossed the sapling field and made their way towards the pumping station.

Black redstarts.. hard to see because in silhouette but looked like two birds using one of the pylons north gazelle field, and quite high.. never saw them use such a high point for forage.. could have been a male territorial interaction.

Eurasian Jays: about the woods as usual, seen between trees though quiet.
Blackbird: In the garden again early afternoon, various alarm calls.
White spectacled bulbuls: Various calls down in north valley.
Sunbirds: calling in the garden early afternoon.
House sparrows: Gardens as usual. White wagtail, in the street yesterday morning, forgot to mention.

Loads of lily type leaves sprouting up everywhere... operation litter clean up is still underway, spitting cucumber almost done, or maybe not, still some flowers opening. Ragwort most flowers are fluffy seedheads but not all done yet. More crocuses. My son found a tiny praying mantis today, big as my thumbnail. He describes it as 'peanut butterish' in colour with a green stripe on the back.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wednesday round up, bats in November

temp range today: 17.5 -23.5 degrees C . Time of our walk: 21 degrees +, winds WSW ~ 6kt though they had been easterlies all morning, turned about midday. Humidity in the low 50s %

: 6 moving to and fro along the watercourse on the east edge of gazelle field around sunset. Females and young from what we could make out. Grass sprouting there.
hyrax: some calls screech type.

bats seen from the cistern and a couple of places along lower valley trail as we walked south towards the pumping station, dusk. Mid november! Temps very mild though.

House sparrows: Already gathering in their roosts at about 4.15 p.m. when we headed out
Hooded crows: loose flock heading south towards sunset, perched on tops cypress north valley.. already thinking about staking out next season's territories?
Jackdaws: some calls from up on the north ridge where they were still foraging.
Jays: A few glimpsed between the pines.

Blackbirds: alarm calls and some song in the garden mid afternoon.
Sunbirds: excited calls in the Bauhinia early afternoon.
Graceful warblers: some calls.
white spectacled Bulbuls: calls down in north valley.
Other calls heard in the pines, chiffchaffs and redstarts?

Continuing clean-up- one way to recycle plastic bags.. we use them to collect litter in the forest and dispose of it properly. Plastic bottles we collect separately and put in the cage for recycling. Clean hands thoroughly afterwards! Not a lot of litter but sadly some folk don't bother taking their BBQ litter home and their are no garbage collection facilities in the park yet.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Monday report: gazelle group, little owl, other stuff

Gazelles: 7, moving east behind and past the almonds end of 'gazelle fields', four moved on behind the large pine by the cistern, three vanished.. I suspect they went down into the water channel there or concealed by the old dry stone walls. Then one seen making its way back west.

hyrax: plenty active and scampering about in the colony just below the end of Shadiker, top of path leading down into north valley, one jumped down from a low cypress bough on our approach. It's a giveaway when we see the bough abruptly swing up in recoil.

fox crossed valley road right behind us last night, again coming down the bank and continuing down into the pines. We just caught sight of it in peripheral vision when we stopped to check out something by the roadside.

No luck with that kingfisher today but we did hear a
Little Owl Athene noctua calling just west and up from the pumping station.. possibly the locally famous one that lives in on a bluff up there which we photographed some months back, about that area.

white wagtail flying over, up north valley.
Black redstart calls eucalyptus grove area (?) but no sightings
House sparrows: houses and gardens as usual.
Hooded crows: calling over north ridge, a few dozen I think. As the other day, a group settling back into eucalyptus by lower valley trail. So they are using that roost.
Jackdaws: sizeable flock (100+)scavenging top of the hill to the north, 50+ birds headed south at sunset, calling.
Eurasian Jays: active in the pines as usual, occasionally glimpsed.
Greenfinches: come calls near look out corner
Blackbirds: One in the garden mid afternoon, 'tzeet' & 'chak chak' calls and a little song.
Collared doves: pair on a line over new pines east end north valley
Sunbirds: some song and activity in the Bauhinia outside my window early afternoon. This latest batch of cape honeysuckle flowers in the entrance are spent now, orange petals on the ground so they need new source of nectar.
white spectacled bulbuls: some calls

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Lilies growing out of mole rat mounds and other miscellanea

you can also see how charred the earth is just under the surface where the sprouts emerge. That was from the fire.. and can also be seen in the hue of the earth beyond the mound.

Today's range 13.5 -20 degrees C, time of walk, not long after 4 p.m. 17 degrees and falling.
Wind NW to W though had been easterlies most of the day and was just changing about then and picking up from 1-2 kt to about 5kt.. i.e. very similar to yesterday. Humidity rising quickly from about 35% to 60% plus over the next two hours or so.

Gazelles: none noticed today. hyrax: calls heard?. feral dogs: some barking.

I was amused to see a bunch of lily type sprouts poking out of a mole rat mound and wondered if perhaps mole rats had stored a bunch of bulbs in a cavity just under the ground there and forgotten about them. These are probably going to turn out to be asphodel and there were plenty more sprouting all over the open charred area just north of central trail and west of gazelle field, some others also growing out of mole rat mounds.

A lot of fresh stuff is sprouting up now in many places, charred and uncharred, both grass and dicots. Also good to see plenty green sprouting along the bed of the stream, which indicates the effluent is not toxic to quite a few local plants. More crocuses seen, the ragwort still persists and the spitting cucumbers by north end of valley road still going strong, making new pods all the time.

Approaching dusk we headed south along the lower valley trail and then heard the white breasted kingfisher call stridently again from the direction of gazelle fields or woods round about. I wanted to see if I could catch a glimpse while it was still just barely light enough. From its calls it had flown into the eucalyptus grove but when I heard it again it had retreated farther back beyond the cistern and towards the almond trees, unless there is more than one about. At that point the light was fading fast. I did hear some stonechats from that direction but no luck on the kingfisher.. but two days in a row is promising for a third...

Immature black redstart on a bare acacia busy foraging just like a spotted flycatcher where we'd seen it before a few days ago.. flying up and hawking though not so fancy in the air as a flycatcher and grey very smooth, almost like a blackstart. Another one by the rubble but left on our arrival, calls in the eucalyptus grove, no good sightings.
House sparrows: around the house as usual. laughing doves: cooing from the back porch roof area late morning
Hooded crows: ~30 flew down quietly from hoodie hill and settled in eucalyptus by the lower valley trail. We wondered if this was usual roosting area or if something had disturbed their roost around the hill because we hadn't noticed a group like this settle back into the woods after night.
Eurasian Jays: some calls, relatively low profile today.
Feral pigeons: some flying between buildings as usual.
Blackbirds: some alarm calls in woods just west of gazelle field, and also about the garden mid afternoon. Song from same woods at about 4.45 p.m
Syrian woodpeckers: some calls. white spectacled bulbuls :some calls.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Saturday brief report

Gazelles: 1 adult male spotted behind (east of) the pistaccio orchard, making its way south towards the east field/cypress copse

Bird of the day was what sounded like a white breasted (Smyrna) kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis calling loudly in the middle of the woods not long after sunset, by the watercourse not far south of central trail, though we didn't get a glimpse of it.

House sparrows:around houses as usual
Hooded crows: passing over, also quite a few around hoodie hill
Jackdaws: flock of something over 100 birds flying from our neighbourhood (from west) towards hoodie hill ~4.30 pm
Eurasian Jays: some calls in the pine woods
Feral pigeons: about tops of buildings as usual.
Blackbirds: song ~ 5 p.m in the pine woods

Sunbirds: 1.15 p.m. full song and visible in the Bauhinia outside my window on friday. We waited on saturday for him to show up, see if he'd do it again on schedule. He didn't but five minutes later we heard one not far off doing his squeaky toy alarm call.
Graceful warblers:some strident calls
Syrian woodpeckers: some calls
white spectacled Bulbuls: various calls by the neighbourhood and also in the pistaccio orchard
Great tits:seen by the road

fox glimpsed at about 10.30 p.m .crossing valley road and heading into the pines. eyes looked back, reflected orange of nearest lights, must have been foraging on the bank, not far from the lowest buildings.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mismatched sparring partners

This pic shows how hard it can be to pick gazelle out in the landscape especially if they're standing still, and these were relatively close! One individual ringed on the left. A close packed group on the right in the ellipse. How many can you make out in the group? Look how much the white underbelly and tail blends into the limestone. The focus isn't good but when they're farther back on the hillside this is about the level of info you get. Helps when they move!

~12-17 degrees C today, time of our walk ~ 14 falling to ~13, humidity 85% rising to 90%, wind 8-14. W, WSW Plenty cumulus drifting in from the west, some rain on and off, thunder in the morning.

Marked rise in general bird activity today compared to yesterday.

Gazelles: At least 9
gazelles in the gazelle field today shortly before sunset, strung out by the far dry stone wall, but moving to and fro- with their clever patterning, you blink, you lose count and have to start systematically over again.
Soon saw two in lively
head butting action and soon saw one was adult male and the other was a young male with horns less than half the size of the other! My first thought was, ' aww, pick on a boy your own size!' till I continued watching and saw what was really happening. A minute or so later a young male trotted after the adult male and somehow nudged it into a fresh interaction. The young male was initiating the sparring! Its instincts urged it to headbut and he naturally sought a worthy opponent, lessons from the master! The adult was happy to oblige for a few seconds. The interaction was very brief.. it does make me wonder if the young males incur any damage from these risky encounters and if the adult keeps it deliberately toned down compared to a more serious rutting battle. There was a distinct group of four, the adult and three others in the group, and at least three of them were sparring with each other. After a while they reverted to grazing and several made their way back west to the shelter of the pines.

hyrax: one on a dirt mound by valley road, at the head of a trail down to north valley, shaggy tan job on sentry duty
feral dogs: barks, across east valley from the pumping station, low on hoodie hill.

white wagtails:
out on/over the street, could hear from the house. Also passing over the orchard to the south later in small flocks and calling, no doubt on their way back to roosts in town.
a few seen on tops of cypresses just down from valley road.
House sparrows
: chirruping in their roost next door as usual. Were calling after bedtime again last night but we didn't find any owls.
Hooded crows: some up on hoodie (windsurfer) hill, loose flock of 14 returning south from forage ~ 4.30 p.m.
Jackdaws: flock of at least 100 up on south west slopes of hoodie hill
Eurasian Jays: here and there about the pinewoods as usual. Some calls.
Feral pigeons: in flight between buildings as usual.
Blackbirds: 1 in song (and plain view from this chair ) in Bauhinia tree outside window mid afternoon, + 'chak's and 'tzeet' . alarm calls in pines as usual after sunset
Sunbirds: 1 in song in Bauhinia at ~ 1.15 p.m and again mid afternoon, 'accompanying' the blackbird
white spectacled Bulbuls: a few musical calls, some harsh chak calls in the garden mid afternoon.
Hoopoe, flew from cistern area to eucalyptus behind 'look out corner'
Other insect eating birds about, redstarts, warblers and such judging by all the calls I was hearing , but keeping out of sight in pines and other foliage.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Chukars, gazelles and late bats

Another gorgeous image from Ruthie Schueler.. this time the chukar partridge, Alectoris chukar, the most abundant 'gamebird' in the valley. Their fussy sounding 'chuk chuk chuk' is a fairly common sound on our walks and we're almost guaranteed to at least hear them in north valley.

Temps today 16 -22 degrees C. 21 dropping to 20 during the course of our walk. winds very light and south easterly, as we could see from patchy high cumulus drifting over the face of the moon, though barely inconveniently for us, it was probably slowing down the returning crows a bit.

Today we walked to the quarry, reaching the place around sunset. (5 p.m. ) We weren't much bothered by the time since the moon was almost full and its light replaced the fast fading daylight adequately to mark our trail, and the whiteness of the limestone helps a lot!

The quarry itself was its usual desolate surreal self, sans Tristram's grackle, not a feather or a whistle was noticed today. Either they were already roosting and unwilling to respond to my whistles (as they always had pretty reliably) or they had already moved on. Plenty ragwort getting up my nose and clumps of tree tobacco, the odd call of graceful warbler and hyrax but no grackles.

Gazelles: 7 at least. First we saw a group of six, mainly young ones.. some immature males based on the horns, making their way west along the south facing slope middle of north valley, just below the pine copse on the hillside there. At some point a couple at least changed their minds and started heading back east. Abruptly an adult buck emerged from cover and started chasing one up the hillside to the east. They ran to and fro for a couple of minutes, then the buck returned to the pine copse.
hyrax: barks and alarm screams heard around the quarry

bats: at least three seen along the trail on the way back, between 5 and 5.30 p.m. (dusk) this late in the year! 11 November. Well it certainly is a mild evening and there are moths about.

House sparrows
:gardens as usual. Hooded crows: flying slowly home to roost in a very loose flock from hill foraging grounds north.
Eurasian Jays: plenty calls and individuals between trees

: two small coveys near the quarry, startled me as much as I startled them! First broke out from a gully leading down the to valley on approach to the quarry, other was up on the hillside on the north facing slope. Each only about six individuals.. smaller broods this year, (because of the fires?) or just predator attrition?
Stone curlews: Heard briefly from over towards bat cave and perhaps glimpsed.
Sunbirds: One broke into frenetic song at about 1 p.m. just outside my window today.. they do make me think of a robin on too much caffeine. couldn't see him, he was hidden by the leaves.
Graceful warblers:calls in the quarry area.
Blackbirds, beautiful song in the pines by the trail on our return walk, at about 5.05 p.m. already dusk.
Falcons.. a couple about, over north valley and to the buildings, common kestrels probably
Small insectivorous bird working in upper canopy of an acacia. Didn't see much detail but best guess from that view is chiffchaff.

Syrian woodpeckers, Bulbuls,
Great tits, jackdaws, wagtails, doves, greenfinches all quiet today:

addendum: Little owl Athene noctua seen same evening, 10.35 p.m. perched on top of an 6 m pole by the north part of valley road. Heard it call 'kuw!' a few times.. then flew off down into north valley. Husband later heard it call from the house.

Today (wednesday) wind had turned, rain much of the day, cumulus from the west.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Stroll to the bat cave

Young gazelle.. one of the south Jerusalem population. Ruthie Schueler.

Stroll to the bat cave

Today's temps: 14-21.5 degrees C. About 18 degrees C at about 4.30 p.m. when we set out.
Humidity 65% and rising, winds NW to N, 3.5-7 kt

Today we went down into the north valley, and turned east, then decided to strike out north for the bat cave region. We picked up some litter along the way, mainly some plastic bags that had blown down into the valley, so that they won't get entangled around vegetation and smother it.

Gazelles: two noticed running up a trail towards the north ridge from gazelle field, quite distant on the hillside.

immature (or female) black redstart foraging from branches of a bare acacia in the more open part of the north valley watercourse.
House sparrows:gardens as usual. Hooded crows: in flight overhead. Jackdaws: calls
blackbirds: song in east end pines of north valley at about 5 p.m. alarm chaks later from at least two individuals as we passed through. We took the d service dirt road which leads from the twin pylons in that newer section of pines.
Chukars: calls from cypress and pines across north valley, not far west of bat cave. Jay calls.

Around the batcave.. some of the round dimples in the limestone were filled with water, I'm sure very useful for the local wildlife. Maidenhair fern still green inside the cave. Podonosma flowers mostly withered though still many green leaves. Some ragwort, and the yellow aster still in bloom, some crocuses and the mysterious spike plant still had a few whitish flowers, but much of summer vegetation now withered. Sprouts all over of lily family plants.. probably most of them will turn out to be asphodel, but always worth watching in case some of them turn out to be something else. The oregano scented spiky cushions are slowly filling out with new leaves.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

gazelles visit the almond trees again

Buck gazelle : taken by Ruthie Schueler. This individual is one of the south of Jerusalem population.

: Four today, at about sunset, milling about beneath the large almond tree, and between that and the hawthorns, probably eating fallen nuts. One was definitely an adult male, others hard to tell in that light. One, apparently an adult female, separated from the group and headed west towards the north valley pines, followed by the male. The others lingered under the tree. At that point light was failing fast.

feral dogs: Some barking across north valley lately, on the slopes there.

white wagtail calls heard over the street. Black redstart calls ? in the pines.
House sparrows: gathering in the roost in local trees as usual, major racket by 4.30. This time after 'bedtime' they were quiet and no owl appeared. Hooded crows: calls, Jackdaws: calls. Feral pigeons: about, in flight betw. buildings
Blackbirds: heard singing in the gardens at about 3.30 p.m. various alarm calls later. Another heard singing in the pines, east end of north valley towards sunset.
Sunbirds: Heard in the gardens, squeak alarm calls, some song phrases.
White spectacled Bulbuls: Heard in the gardens, various calls and alarms.
Great tits: calls in the pines by valley road.

The lovebird staged a final break-out, his third houdini effort in a week.. this time tearing his way through my mosquito screen while my attention was diverted. He was remarkably quick at that effort. I looked up at his call and saw to my astonishment that he was out there in the Bauhinia tree, quite beautifully camouflaged amongst the large leaves. Ah well, he wants to take his chances... We kept the salon door open in case he changed his mind but nothing seemed further from it. Feisty little parrot, we enjoyed him while it lasted.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Owl

Owl, eyes reflecting the flash, though he was not phased by that at all.

The most delightful sighting was a beautiful owl which husband noticed on an electric cable strung across the street right outside our front garden (probably linked to a generator in a nearby building)

I'd noticed the sparrows had been chirping rather nervously to each other in rather low tones in the trees outside way after 'bedtime' and wondered what was keeping them up. We first noticed him shortly after ten when we went out and I couldn't resist pointing him out to some passing neighbours, a mother with her baby in a pram and some teenage boys playing football in the street, 'yanshuf!' I said, and pointed, and instantly the owl had an admiring audience. He was not phased by all the attention at all, and simply sat there right over the middle of our residential culdesac while husband took a few pics of him from various angles.

After a few minutes, though, he seemed to tire of the boys' whistling and flew in a silent arc, possibly into our neighbour's palm or nearby. His wing span was about a metre and quite impressive. However, when we came back from our walk in the valley he was back on the line and posed for a few more pics, and stayed there quite contentendly till after midnight and probably later, we'd gone inside.

From the pics we noticed his orange wing feathers, (lower left) face markings and 'ear' tufts and positively identified him as a long eared owl Asio otus. The tufts really have nothing to do with ears, they are mainly for display. This bird's tufts were quite clear and erect most of the time.

I'd long suspected the woods by us held long eared owls as it's perfect habitat for them, and we've been waiting a long time for a decent sighting. We never knew that sighting would come to us so conveniently! Though it may have gone for sparrows I suspect he was really looking out for rats that may come to the garbage skipper. Moshe saw a grey coloured rat along valley road a couple of days ago not far away, disappearing into one of the pipes, so we know they're about.

What else today? House sparrows in the trees as mentioned, blackbirds and white spectacled bulbuls around, high flying raptor earlier today soaring, very pale underparts, pretty much white, but couldn't make out much more at that distance, plenty jackdaws heard, hooded crows, white wagtail heard.
Over by the rubble no stonechats and too late to see black redstart though I believe we heard one in the trees, a musical call over in the field, wheatear or lark? Jays heard.
No sign of gazelle sadly but plenty hyrax active by valley road. Open holes by several mole rat mounds, looks as though several have been emerging lately though we didn't see any, no doubt they made for cover at vibrations of our feet if they were out recently.

today's range, 15-20.5 degrees C. wind direction mainly easterlies

Our other more exotic bird celebrity is a lovebird (Agapornis roseicollis x personata? seems to be a hybrid) which flew into a friend's front room, probably attracted by the calls of their cockatiel. He's perched on top of my open window, looking at me now. He did a 'houdini' from the cage we'd provided (as no doubt he did from his previous owners) so I put strategic seed and water about the room and let him do his own thing and get exercise. We have metal mosquito screening on the window bars which keeps him from total escape while I have fresh air.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Wednesday/Thursday round up

Temp ranges today: 14.5 -20.5. Sunny, pleasant, few clouds. Jordan clearly visible in the east beyond the rift valley, the escarpment lit in the late afternoon sun.

Most delightful sighting today was of the first crocuses Colchicum (Stevenii?) of the season, blooming in many spots on the north facing slopes of north valley, along our shortcut down there. Some Dianthus and autumn squill also seen along the route.

Sunbirds active in the cape honeysuckle by the entrance. We headed out at about 4.20 p.m. House sparrows already assembling in roosts next door and in tree clump on Shadiker St.

Two flocks of jackdaws were heading off to roost at about 4.25 p.m. from the hills north toward Pisgat Ze'ev, at least 100 in the first group and another fifty plus following not far behind.

We decided to head up north valley for a few minutes, just as far as the little owl's haunts.

Gazelles: no luck today or yesterday
Hyrax: alarm screams up in the north valley side colony today, just down from the buildings.

Bat, forgot to mention, at the beginning of the week, not far from the buildings.. interesting to see a bat active beginning of November.
Little Owl: calling somewhere around the walls of the first quarry, didn't see it.
Hooded crows group north ridge, near wall by A Ram, perhaps a score. Eurasian jays active and vocal throughout the pine woods as usual, moving about as singles. Syrian woodpeckers heard. Blackbirds heard various places in teh pinewoods, Graceful warbler on the bank yesterday, European robin in the acacias along water course today?

Black redstart on the bunker rubble yesterday. Several stonechats in the scrub past the cistern within last few days.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Looking 'upstream' up north valley towards the quarry. A rough trail leads down to the valley ahead of us, yellow flowers of the ubiquitous Inula (ragwort type) This is about where we saw the nightjar. A Ram up to our right.

Last couple of days quite mild. Today's range: 15-20.5 degrees C, at about 4.40 p.m. when we began our walk it was about 18.5 degrees C. Humidity doubled over a very short time, from about 30% to 60% around 5 p.m. when the easterlies that had been blowing for much of the day were replaced by westerlies bringing damper air from the Mediterranean.

hyrax: quite a few active just after dark along valley road.. scampered down from the bank to their woodside dens. A few alarm screams from the bank.

Little Owl.. Athene noctua on top of a pole at north curve of valley road.. flew down into north valley woods with a cry that reminded us of the stone curlews but much shorter. We had heard a few similar calls from that direction over the last week or so

Nice sighting of black redstart foraging in the bunker rubble today.
European robin heard 'ticking' near bridge, near pumping station.

House sparrows:assembling in numbers towards sunset in
laughing doves: yesterday quite a few seen foraging and about the street between here and Shadiker
Hooded crows: a few dozen heading home after foragin towards dusk.
Jackdaws: Today a flock of over 100 heading home from hills to north to their roost southwards.
Eurasian Jays: active singly in the woods as usual, some vocal
Feral pigeons: Roofs of buildings as usual
Blackbirds: chakchak call in pines after dark:
Sunbirds: active in Bauhinia as usual, some song, territorial dispute a couple of days ago. Calls
Syrian woodpeckers: calls
White spectacled Bulbuls: calls, also by rubble.
Great tits:some calls in the pines