Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Over the Hill

4 p.m. : Just over 15 degrees C
27% humidity
winds north easterly, light
today's range: 9-15.5 degrees C.

Today we decided to set out a little earlier, at 4 p.m. and head over the hill to the north to the olive grove on the other side.

We took the service trail through the new pine grove, east end of north valley, a track taken by vehicles to manage the pylons and power lines that march over the hill. This is a heck of a lot easier than picking our way across country. There are numerous narrow trails that wind around the contours of the hill, probably made by countless ages of gazelle hooves. As the trail started to climb we noticed a group of five gazelle running on the rocks ahead of us, one adult male and I think the rest were females and well grown young. The rest headed off over the crest of the hill while the buck simply stood and stared back at us. We later saw two more gazelle over towards the north west, just down from the wall, a nice size buck right up at the wall.. I don't think the same one , he'd have moved too far too fast and this buck seemed to have significantly longer horns. On the way back we saw a lone female down in the open part of the north valley watercourse. All in all 9 individuals if there was no overlap.

Birds included a stone curlew which flew away from us near the young pines, jackdaw calls to the east, hooded crow singles, a couple of small flocks of finches foraging on the open hillslopes but didn't get near enough to make them out.. possibly linnets. We did see a lark singing beautiful notes while in flight toward the ridge of the hill, not a skylark but related. It didn't go on like a skylark and flew lower, less elaborate but definitely a display flight or approaching one. Most likely Crested lark, Galerida cristata, which are quite common here. Other musical calls, possibly wheatear. White spectacled bulbuls heard, blackbird song at dusk. Feral pigeons aloft.
Laughing dove cooing softly in the garden earlier,

Only other mammal was a bat that flew right by me on the north valley trail when we returned to it by dusk. We needed to time our return well as light fails quickly and the moon is not yet large enough to provide much light after dusk. Once we reach the north valley trail we can use the remaining light to reach the path leading up to the neighbourhood which is usually floodlit.

The olive tree vale was rather quiet apart from some chukar partidges on the opposite hillside somewhere and I think black redstart. Any other birds around were being very elusive! We noticed the soil in the area was amazingly thick, at least a foot, probably more. In most areas on this rocky hillsides it's a matter of a few inches at most before you hit rock. Nothing new blooming here, in fact less than around the pine woods. Not suitable asphodel terrain. Still, we knew this would change later in the spring since then it was a riot of different kinds of clover and here was where we found the beautiful gladeolus.

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