Thursday, January 29, 2009

Acacias and oregano

The two acacias up 'hidden valley'. The pic really doesn't do the rocks justice in terms of the nooks and crannies filled with new sprouting green. I think these are native acacia species rather than the introduced Australian species in our neighbourhood. The one above has leaves like those of Mimosa, the lower one, more similar to those of the wattle tree.

Thurs: ~4.30 p.m.: temp 11.3 degrees C, wind WNW 14.8 knots, 70% humidity. Today's range: just over 9 to 14 degrees C. both evening and mid-day temps down from same times yesterday due to the cooling damp westerlies.

Today we decided to head up over to the 'hidden valley' up just north west of bat cave. The little cave itself obligingly lived up to its name by producing a bat which fluttered out, then vanished, I believe it dived back into the cave through a hole in the cave roof.

6 gazelle up on the hillside today including at least two bucks following females, crisscrossing and running about, quite frisky!

There we found a number of flowers in bloom including Roman squill (Bellevalia) lots of golden drop now (Podonosma) and a wild pink, Dianthus (tripunctata?strictus?) looked just like former but lacked the 3 spots per petal and which amazed me because in either case it's blooming at least two months out of season!) I don't think they ever quit flowering this winter, in ones and twos here and there. Lots more asphodel. In the flat eucalyptus planted area of north valley found what appeared to be flowering heads of the oregano scented spiny cushion like shrub which is everywhere. I was quite surprised at how tiny the flowers are, almost like grass flowers but could see definite stamens.. probably wind pollinated.(?) I'd expected labiate flowers similar to those of the Israeli thyme which often grows close by these bushes.

Several raptor sightings.. several Eurasian sparrowhawks about.. hard to know exactly how many since can't be sure if we're seeing the same individual more than once. One large raptor which had terminal tail bar, fit darkest morph of long legged buzzard. Buteo rufinus. It soared over the north part of gazelle field for a while, then dipped down to the east. No crow bothered it, for a change. Male Greenfinch twittering in the top of a cypress near the bat cave, not quite full breeding song but getting there. Also some alarm calls. They're getting into gear for breeding season, as are hooded crow, one was commandeering another cypress not far off.

Whole family of sunbirds active in the cape honeysuckle today including a male in song. Perhaps these are offspring of last season? They left honeysuckle in small group to forage in the Bauhinia. Feral pigeons and house sparrows about as usual, former around roof rims, latter in Bauhinia. Some laughing dove cooing in there too.

I also wanted to check out the acacias that were scorched by the fires last summer. Most of the upper branches of both were already in green leaf and new leaves was also sprouting along the centre of the fire damaged branches. The earth was totally devoid of any signs of charring and new life cropping up every where. I was ever vigilant for vipers, both because I don't want to get bit, and because I want a pic! I did find the remains of a wild tortoise near the bat cave, not fully grown. From the state of them it had died just a few weeks ago, possibly lulled into wakefulness by the mildness of the weather. It was not even fully grown.

Flower spikes of the oregano scented thorny cushion like plant that I still haven't IDd except that it is one of the mint family. The flowers are really tiny and green with prominent stamens and I suspect they are wind rather than insect pollinated, in contrast to many other members of the family. Just guessing here!

No comments: