Thursday, January 22, 2009

Natural rock gardens

Today sunny and almost clear, just wispy high cirrus in all directions. At about 4.15 p.m. 15.8 degrees C (pleasantly mild), 31% easterlies, 3.5 kt

We headed towards the bunker rubble and cistern but since the lads were active there, no point looking for black redstart so we turned onto the north valley trail. We stopped for a while just after the new pine grove to look out north over towards bat cave and the north parts of gazelle field and hill slopes. It was really quite pleasant just to sit there, watching small twittering finches pass over, enjoying all the fresh green between the white limestone boulders and the late afternoon sun on the hillsides. Presently we noticed grazing gazelle on the skyline up the hill.. first two bucks. We wondered if they could have been the two bucks we saw a few days ago with Moshe but watching a little longer a third buck popped his head into view. Watching the heads pop up and down husband thought there might have been five or more up there, but others just over the ridge. It was the bachelor herd! All grazing quite peaceably together. We hadn't seen them in a while since they keep to the hilly area in the north. We're long overdue for a hike up there and to the Jerusalem sage vale.

Laughing dove Streptopelia senegalensis cooing the in the garden yesterday and at 'crumb corner' today. Great tit in song in the pines today not far from central trail. Hooded crows over singly, jackdaws heard, greenfinches & Chiffchaffs. (?) Blackbirds heard 'chakking' , Eurasian sparrowhawk seen in flight a couple of times over north valley.

House sparrows and graceful warblers about the garden. yesterday.White spectacled bulbul Feral pigeons about.

One great pleasure about cleaning up is it gets you up close and personal with an aspect of the forest I find a never-ending delight.. the rock garden nature of gentle hill slopes under the pines. The rocks are almost totally encrusted in lichens of every hue from white, yellow, ochre to emerald and any plant which could take advantage of any earthy niche was busy doing it with enthusiasm. In more open areas most of the Podonosma orientalis (Golden drop) is dried up but in shady areas it's becoming more leafy and I found one flower today! First of the season. This is also supposed to start blooming in February.
Check out for a great pic of this curious plant which is quite common amongst the rocks here.

Nothing amongst the rocks is too humble. I watch out for vipers but keep an eye out for any snails or other invertebrates that want to venture out at this time of year. I'm also hoping to catch a mole rat in the act.. lifting littered packets off their mounds very carefully in the hope of seeing one above ground. They're not really moles but true rodents though they live underground.

lichens with snail shells, spent pine flowers and needles, and a germinating grass.

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