Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Molerats and other curiosities.

Mole rats (Spalax )usually leave mounds like moles but this one we found today had an 'open front door' so to speak, a burrow leading down into the darkness. A minute before this hole had been surrounded by soft drink bottles washed down from the storm drain overflow. Those we cleared before taking the pic. The mole rats try to drag litter under. I wonder how many bamba packets are actually underground, lining their burrows or stored?

Just a view so you know what I'm talking about when I refer to places. Here's the bunker rubble behind a dry stone wall.. favoured place for breeding black eared wheatears in the summer and hunting ground for black redstarts & stonechats in the winter and occasionally also European robins and chukars. Beyond, all the way to the hillside is north gazelle field, still rather barren yet unless you look close up, but far less charred than it did, thanks to mole rats and other natural forces. Up on the skyline is Adam, which is actually not on top of that ridge but on a hill much farther back. There's a valley system between not visible from down here. Greenery from left to right: some pine leaves from the trees right by the rubble, two almond trees middle distance, a pomegranate tree in line of sight almost behind a concrete slab which is the preferred sunbathing spot for agama lizards in the hot days of summer. On the right, part of the large pine behind the cistern. It all seems rather bare at first glance but there's always something going on so we've found this spot to be a good look-out point. Altitude here, a little under 600 m.

You can also just make out a network of dry stone walls behind and in front of the almonds. These enclosed small fields and a water channel routed from west valley passes in front of the nearer wall. This area was clearly part of a farm years ago.

A definite nip in the air today. Skies totally clear, Jordan escarpment visible in the late afternoon sun, winds turned from northwesterlies to easterlies about 8 a.m. this morning and light easterlies blowing all day. At the time of our walk, just after 4 p.m. temp. was just under 9 degrees C, 27% humidity and very light south easterlies blowing, barely noticeable.

In the garden today I heard house sparrows, a blackbird and a graceful warbler earlier in the afternoon. Also hooded crows and a flock of jackdaws not far off. White wagtail in the street , mid morning, foraging on the road surface. Always amazes me they can find anything to eat on blacktop but apparently they can.

We were happy to see 'Blackjack' Black redstart, back again on the bunker rubble , perching on rebars and slabs and hunting for insects. We also noticed a chaffinch foraging in a pine along the north valley path and calling. Hooded crows up on the hill to the north and various birds calling, chiffchaffs and redstarts and such. Eurasian jays. Otherwise rather quiet. Pigeons/doves and sunbirds keeping a low profile.

A couple of large feral dogs noticed near look-out corner. They made their way to the field just beyond the cistern, stood there and just barked at us. One very black, seemed to have German shepherd in him, the other more typical reddish brown of the local feral dogs. I don't think this was the same large black dog we'd seen a few days back. Dogs like these would spook the gazelle for sure! None of those noticed today but fresh gazelle spoor spotted near the garbage zone, that depositted by flood waters on the north valley hillside. Quite a bit of work to do there since last rains! Those nosh packets are definitely interesting to the mole rats.. we found an open hole in a mound today with burrow leading down and a packet had been dragged into a mound nearby. Perhaps they like to lick the crumbs! Perhaps we'd just interrupted him and he'd darted underground at our approach.

fox again by the buildings at the bottom of Elias 10.30 p.m. checking out litter in that area.. the teenage boys hanging out around there were admiring it as it headed off back down valley road.

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