Thursday, February 12, 2009

Back to the Nettle/jawbone cave

Here's the nettle cave.. big enough to fit a good size dining room both in extent and height. Hung with great clumps of golden drop (Podonosma). The ceiling is sooty from fires and there is a patch of charred earth underneath showing that it has been used quite recently by man. There is a 'portico' in front with a rough stone wall around this 'apron'. It's likely shepherds used to bring their sheep here for shelter. No sign of bats today.

We decided to go to the large cave overlooking the olive glade, just over the ridge to the north. I decided to rename it the nettle cave for its more notable vegetation. The smaller cave on the other side of the hill also held bats so that name is out. 'Jawbone cave' is also not good since the small cave held a dog jawbone.. that we found months ago. Today we found more gazelle bones on the hill outside the larger cave.. leg bones, more ribs and a hip bone. The smaller cave I'm now calling the fern cave for the maidenhair fern we found and photographed there. Today Moshe also found a white porcupine quill at the east end of the large cave indicating that they may use a hole in the cave wall there for a den. That could lead into the hill some way. No luck on bats at all today. The nettles match Urtica urens as far as I can see from all its parts but the vegetation is quite lush, leaves quite large and glossier than any I remember from the U.K.

Gazelle: none seen today, but some fresh spoor and old bones near the nettle cave.
Hyrax: shrill alarm call down from north curve of valley road.

We were accompanied by the beautiful trilling calls of a lark on the hill, probably crested lark though I didn't get a good close view of it, a dark job bobbing on a nearby rock, looked like black redstart in both jizz, shape and colour but again, didn't get close enough for a better view. It was quite far from its usual lower land rubble and ruin haunts but not unlikely.

Hooded crows about, on tree tops and flying over, feral pigeons, Eurasian jays and jackdaws vocal, feral pigeons aloft, house sparrows active and vocal in the gardens, blackbird in gardens and woods, singing at dusk, and alarm calls. Almost forgot to mention! Stone curlew heard calling at nightfall on our way back and Little Owl heard up in the direction of the secret valley.

On the hillside we found Nonea obtusifolia (Monkswort) with blue flowers blooming right next to those with the pale yellow.. leaves identical but flowers different, both in colour and in detail form. The pale ones are same size and petals but central parts at the petal base project like small bumps, seem to be stamen heads.. unlike the blue flowers.. yet they seemed the same plant. Are we looking at male and female flowers? There is apparently quite a bit of form variation in this group, given the number of papers online on this subject but I haven't seen anywhere pics of the pale morph or anything to say they change colour. This is Moshe's pic of some of them.

Other flowers noticed- Jerusalem spurge (Euphorbia), Star of Bethlehem, red anemone, Bellevalia, golden drop (Podonosma) most common- not dense but definitely present in good numbers, not rare.

Thursday ~4.10 p.m. just over 14 degrees C, humidity 58%, wind easterly, very light. (Easterlies blowing since about 8 a.m. westerlies before that. Lots of beautiful high altitude cloud.
range: 7.5 to 15 degrees C, peaking late afternoon.

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