Monday, February 16, 2009

Cyclamens and tortoises

Today we headed up north valley towards the quarry and we weren't far off when we noticed rain bearing cumulus looming fast from the west. We decided to get back and up the hill to the neighbourhood to avoid getting caught in a downpour. We just about made it back in time!

Flower of the day: Cyclamen Cyclamen persicum which was blooming in many places on the north facing slope. Looking back in last year's records, we did not find this flower till about a month from now but this does not mean they are blooming early this year but that last year we did not look on that slope before the middle of March so did not catch the start of it.

There were plenty other plants about too, some more of the Jerusalem spurge (Euphorbia),
Spiny broom, Calicotome villosa (?) or similar, a few more of those four petal blue/purple radish/cress(?) jobs, and lots of red anemones and small pink/purple geranium types.

The willow tree in the garden also wanted to get in the spring action and is producing lots of catkins. The Bauhinia is not yet in bloom, later when it is warmer no doubt.

It was good to hear a sunbird in the garden today, especially in the cape honeysuckle, many calls and some song. Clearly temperature is not a good guide to whether they'll be active or not as it was quite cool today.

The down side of today's walk was the finding of three dead tortoises Testudo graeca in north valley, two of them in a stand of cypress on the flat level of the watercourse. They were no doubt there to graze on the rich growth of grass and other vegetation there during a warm spell but became casualties for one reason or another. Definite signs of attack but can't be known if that happened before or after they died. The three were different ages, quite mature, half grown and very young. Still, I'm sure many made it, they can be quite prolific and have few enemies.

This shell of a young tortoise casualty is only four centimetres long.

Two gazelle noticed across the valley, more than half way up the hill slope, from the look of them, two well grown females and moving east.

Birds included Great tit (calls), blackbird (song), hooded crows, Eurasian jays, (laughing doves, house sparrows about the streets), collared doves in the pines, chukar partridge heard.
Also white wagtail yesterday up on the roof I forgot to mention.

I'm sure there was more stuff about but I must confess I've been paying the flowers amongst the rocks more attention lately! So exciting to learn new plants. I also managed to get IDs on plants I'd seen earlier while looking for the four petalled job. The plant with the curious figure 8 shaped seed pods turns out to be Buckler mustard Biscutella didyma. We found more of that by the side of our street, all florets converted to seed pods already. The one we photographed a few days ago was down in east valley.

Those long sprays of tiny white and pink flowers we've noted flowering many months by valley road turn out to be Horsetail knotweed Polygonum equisetiforme

for a very nice close up.

Monday 16th, at time of walk (4.30 p.m.) temp just under 10 degrees C, humidity 52%, winds WSW just over 18 kt . Today's range: 6-11.25 degrees C.

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