Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Up to the north ridge

Annual Clary Salvia viridis, Moshe

Today our youngest son Avremi came with us and Moshe wanted to go cross country up the north slope of north valley, a little west of the bat cave. This would take us out overlooking the secret valley farther upstream from the two acacias.

The way up was totally delightful as we scrambled up levels of limestone like huge giant steps, stopping just to point out the vegetation we had learned about to Avremi: asphodel, Jerusalem spurge, thorny burnet, red anemone, a few green orchids, pale Nonea, some more of that blue radish type plant and then an unfamiliar one, a spike of pale yellow and deep purple blossoms- we naturally had to stop and get photographs. It turned out to be Salvia viridis, Annual Clary.

Annual clary,
flower spike, Akiva or Moshe, extraordinary for its little flourish of purple petal like parts on top of a spike of very different shaped flowers.

At the top of this ascent Moshe found a group of very interesting rocks I hadn't noticed before. Huge boulders of white/grey limestone but in them, nice chunks of flint. All the rocks just in that small area were holding flint. I was amazed because I had no idea flint occurred like this, but apparently it does occur in nodules exactly in this kind of rock, though this is the only spot I've seen it.

Ahead of us husband spotted a couple of gazelle and a little later we saw four of them up ahead on the hillside on one of their many thin trails, heading west, the first seemed to be a young male, the other three, fully grown adult males.
At the top of the trail on the other side of secret valley we found a very interesting place which seems to me to be a gazelle arena. The area for several square metres was bald, just bare red brown earth but marked in many places with hoofprints and scuffle marks. I'd guess this is where the male gazelle have their jousting bouts, their more serious horn banging tournaments. Definitely a place to watch!

We also glimpsed a fox, a dark one husband thought, way up north west on the north slopes of secret valley and coming down, before he disappeared amongst the rocks.

On our way back down the hill we noticed the usual Eurasian sparrowhawk return to roost flight.. he is quite a regular bird, assuming it's the same one! Moshe's foot turned a rock and under it was the smallest scorpion I've seen between one and two centimetres long. It ran for cover. We also saw a small mantis on the way up, not the first I've seen lately.

Some feathers of a medium size/large bird by the tree line, striking black, white and chestnut brown. I'd say great spotted cuckoo wing feathers and wonder of the crows got this bird or something else? I would expect the local breeding hoodies to treat the cuckoo as enemy and this is the second time I've found such remains in the woods.

Blackbird song, Hooded crows about, jackdaws, Eurasian jays, larks and stone curlew?
Collared dove coo heard.
House sparrows and laughing dove in the street, white wagtail heard,

Flower head of Jerusalem spurge, Euphorbia hierosolymitana, now growing and flowering in clumps all over the place from watercourse level to above the tree line. Moshe. This is magnified, the flower head is usually barely a centimetre across.

On the way back that rotten woody patch just down from the north valley trail was STILL smoking, glinting embers visible on the hot ground. 20 to 30 square metres still fuming despite the recent rain, though it hadn't spread.

Weather: Switch from westerlies to easterlies about 8 a.m.
Time of walk, ~4.30 p.m. 11.4 degrees C, (today's range 4.75- 11.4 degrees C)
Humidity 48%, wind 0-3 knots.

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