Monday, February 23, 2009

Various spring delights

Is it possible to have too many toad pictures? This is a mugshot of the female briefly captured today, sitting on Moshe's hand. (Bufo viridis )

Last night not long after 10 p.m. Aharon, our eldest, was thrilled to encounter a porcupine Hystrix indica on valley road, and a very nice size individual by his description. We have long suspected they come up to the bank to forage as we've had brief but indeterminate glimpses but this is the first time any of us have seen one at such close quarters.

This morning from first light I was serenaded by a relatively unfamiliar song from the Bauhinia. Not one of our locals, that was for sure. I was too tired to investigate at the time but heard him clearly and I'd put good money on him being a blackcap Sylvia atricapilla, an old world warbler that is on spring passage through Israel in droves starting this time of year. (I checked later in the day my Uzi Paz book for the likelyhood of its occurrence) Passage migrants do occasionally stop to sing and he was certainly a treat! I'd heard their song many times in a copse next to the river Taff back in Wales. This was not exactly the same but similar enough, local dialects can vary.

Also in the garden: house sparrows, sunbird, laughing dove, blackbird, feral pigeons.

Our walk was rewarding. As Moshe and Avremi like to do we went cross country under the forest canopy from valley road down towards the north valley path. The boys had fun leaping from rock to rock and I was naturally stopping all the time to see what was blooming. Lots of Euphorbia, red anemone, Roman squill, golden drop, a nice little stand of Damascus Gagea and of course, thorny burnet which has become a bit of an in joke with us now.
From north trail we headed cross country again towards the recently burnt patch where Moshe found lots of freshly sprouted brown mushrooms with white gills. (Not for eating I'd assume!) as well as a swift Apus high up above.

A little further on we noticed gazelle movement in the east part of gazelle field, at least six individuals, no adult males seen, moving to and fro between the almond trees and the various water courses.

We heard chukar partridges back in the direction of north valley, up west of the bat cave, then noticed a flock of jackdaws over 150 birds strong flying to and fro between foraging on the hillslopes and Hizmeh. Hooded crows also about and calling. Eurasian jays.

Husband spotted a raptor hunting near the power lines and we watched for a while. From what I could make out despite seeing her largely in silhouette I'd say female common kestrel, Falco tinnunculus, and quite successful as she flew up to the pylon a few times and ate something in her talons. She wasn't doing the hover method of hunting today, simply quartering and diving.
Husband speculated Lesser Kestrel, and although they would have returned from their winter haunts by now and would certainly love to use this field for hunting, they would normally hunt in groups rather than alone. The females are almost indistinguishable in the field. I really must visit the main lesser kestrel colony again this spring. It's in the centre of town in a neighbourhood of old red tile buildings. They favour the eaves for nesting. I haven't been there in at least 5 yrs.

We searched the south end of gazelle field for pheasant's eye to hopefully photograph it but no luck today and light was fading. There was plenty Nasturtium, Malcolmia (most white but some pink/purple tinted) , various small composites, blue Nonea, and by the wall that yellow/green cucumber type and fumitory. Alas no pheasant's eye.. well perhaps more will come out later in the season.

Moshe, of course, had to go down into the cistern and catch a toad Bufo viridis and now he's clearly seen which are which he could say this specimen was a female, and a very pretty one too.

Before we left the area shortly after sunset we were treated to the loud call, and even a nice view this time, of a white breasted kingfisher, Halcyon smyrnensis flying up into the top branches of a eucalyptus. Stone curlews and chakking blackbirds could also be heard.

Today's range : 4.5-12 degrees C. Time of walk: just over 11 degrees C, just 54% humidity. winds SW 5-10 knots. (By the way, from what I can make out that air pollution we had last thursday was mainly comprised of automobile exhaust from the Dan region, the huge metropolitan area around Tel Aviv. Occasionally it become photochemical smog and drifts uphill in our direction but that doesn't happen so often fortunately. There may be more to it since I don't remember ever seeing it that bad, if I get any further information I'll post it)

1 comment:

johnald said...

great blog! gives a real insight into the differences in wildlife over there.. love this pic of the toad, has deep eyes :)
we're friends on facebook somewhere by the way if you remember me? :) x