Tuesday, January 27, 2009

tortoise torpor

Approach to'look out corner' from the east valley. This pic was taken Nov. 13th. Eucalyptus on the left, the three large pines, and favourite hangout of collared doves and greenfinches on the right. The bunker rubble is just beyond them and the cistern another few score yards beyond. Gazelle field, almonds, (still in leaf, though dropped them soon after) hawthorn and the hill beyond is in the background left and centre. You can already see it's streaked with green growth where the rains have drained through and the ground no longer looks charred from the ground fires of last summer, thanks to the mole rats and other natural changes. The pistaccio orchard would be in the foreground immediate right if it were in view, and the pathway left leads back to our neighbourhood via central trail.

Range today: 9-15.5 degrees C. At the time of our walk, about 4.30 p.m. it was about 14 degrees C, humidity ~63%, winds southeasterly, just over 6 kt, skies mostly clear.

Husband was working in his home office today which has the cape honeysuckle right outside his window but not a peep from the sunbirds. I'm not sure if I heard them or not, not definitely. I did hear blackbirds, in or near the garden, house sparrows and laughing doves much of the day, jackdaws further off. White wagtail? If so, very briefly.

Within a minute of leaving the house I spotted a Eurasian sparrowhawk flying from over our street towards north valley. The local streets are good hunting grounds for them, full of their prey! Feral pigeons were also aloft and Hooded crows were about. Great tit heard in full song just off valley road in the pines and quite a bit of white spectacled bulbul activity around valley road, both melodious and coarse calls. Graceful warblers/Prinia also active by the north curve of valley road. Chaffinch heard by owl glade.. near the 'crossroads'.. that's a branch in the middle of central trail that leads to a ruin in the middle of east valley. Chiffchaff calls also heard all over. No black redstart by bunker rubble but I believe they're still about given our sporadic sightings . Not sure about the stonechats though, haven't seen or heard them in a while. Perhaps they moved on.

My favourite find today was a wild tortoise (Testudo graeca) almost hidden in a patch of deep grass where the flood drain spill drops garbage. The top carapace was 16-17 cm long and it appeared to be fast asleep, but it was not in the deep cover one would expect if it were seriously hibernating. It's possible it came out recently for a munch in the 'lush pasture' of this well irrigated area when the weather got warmer and then drifted back into a torpor when temperatures fell again. Night was already falling when I came upon this delightful reptile. We considered a pic but we have from last season and didn't want to risk disturbing its slumber with the flash, though it might well have been totally oblivious.

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