Sunday, January 25, 2009

Jackdaw Convocation

hyrax up a cypress. We've seen them up in the trees many times but this was the first time we managed to find one posed so conveniently for us! Amazing how he scrabbled up there, up the trunk and along the branch! To leave they usually just jump down from where they are.

Temps: Just over 7 degrees C to just over 14. When we left for our walk at about 4.15 p.m. temp was ~13.5 degrees C, humidity just 35%, winds SE 2-5 knots and clear skies. (Forget to mention yesterday morning there was a mist over the valley most of the morning, couldn't see Hizmeh at all till early afternoon.

Most extraordinary and bizarre behaviour at 5.30 a.m. today. There were calls I don't ever remember hearing before, an excited high pitched 'whickering' call which went on and on, interspersed with the more usual nasal 'kak' of jackdaws! I was wondering if there was something else migrating through that was making the other call and had to go out in the garden to look.

The entire local jackdaw flock was perched on the roof rail around the top of a multistorey apartment building across the street (of the lowest row of buildings in our neighbourhood, back to back with 'cypress slum' hyrax colony) . It looked like something from Alfred Hitchcock's 'The Birds'! They were perched so close they were uncomfortable with it, often pecking at their neighbours but for the most part facing inwards and bowing and calling that high pitched call as if in intense conference. I counted nearly 80 birds but gave up because of the light but there were probably over 100 in all. What the heck was it all about? Was there a raptor there somewhere? I didn't see another kind of bird but it was still the dark before dawn, very little light. Several times they all took off together with a whoosh and clatter of wings, down , then up to the roof rail of the neighbouring building.. back and forth several times , all this for 10-15 minutes we reckon, until they decided to take off to somewhere else. I wonder how many people they woke up in that building!

Today: Heard soft coo of laughing dove heard in the garden.. not the full coo of breeding season, more of an uncertain warm up. Several pairs at 'crumb corner' across the street. Three hooded crows foraging intently at the northern turn of valley road, allowed quite a close approach. White spectacled bulbuls heard as well as graceful warblers, and alarm calls of great tits in the pines.

No black redstart at the bunker rubble today but as we saw, some curious work around the cistern. The lads had made most of the rocks they pulled out of the cistern into a protective dry stone wall around it. They had also removed the ugly and potentially dangerous rebars that had been sticking out of its inner walls. These had been useful for birds, though, I'd watched Syrian woodpeckers using them to manoevre down into the cistern for a drink. Husband noticed a goldfish down there in the remaining water! One that survived from before or a fresh one? No gazelle today but we did see lots of hyrax activity along valley road, and husband managed to get shots of one up in a cypress tree

We headed over gazelle field, noting nice patches of green, a wide variety of plant life, noticed a number of mole rat mounds behind the almonds that had open holes.. were they airing out their holes or did the vibrations of our footsteps just frighten them inside? They are great ground conditioners, acting like little furry ploughs, keeping the soil turned over and aerated.

Two hooded crows at the foot of an eruv pole at the north turn of valley road. Not simple to describe what an eruv pole is.. the eruv delineates the borders of a Jewish community for Shabbat purposes. for further details. This same ~5 m pole has been a perch for a little owl, common kestrel, European wheatear as well as other birds, always worth checking the tops of them because many birds such as shrikes and black redstarts love to use them as lookouts.

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