Thursday, March 5, 2009

Assortment of spring fascinations

Pheasant's eye, Adonis (probably microcarpa) , flowering in the gazelle field, just west of the cistern, a small and brilliant member of the buttercup, tiny petals shiny as lac, stamens grey and orange.

The most fascinating and unusual plant we found was Bongardia chrysogonum, known as Lady's Nightcap, though other unrelated plants also bear this name. The yellow flowers look similar to Gagea but the branched stalk and strange marked leaves tell you right away it has to be something else. This one became slightly buried, probably in the flooding but you can see 5 sets of the pinnate leaves radiating out from where the base of the stalk would be under the silt. I want to get a clearer pic of the flower soon because the stamen form is interesting. (It's a member of the Berberidaceae family, and is related to Barberry, Mayapple and Twinleaf. )

Remember that blackcap Sylvia atricapilla I thought was singing in the Bauhinia? Today (thursday) I finally had confirmation! I've been hearing that song just after dawn almost every day over the last week and it's been driving me crazy since every time I'm aware of it I'm too tired to do anything about it! Today I heard it clear as crystal and my seventeen year old daughter must have thought me slightly bonkers when she caught me lying on the living room floor trying to focus my binoculars through the french windows into the tree but without success since it was skulking deep within the leaves somewhere. A little later I showed pics of the bird to husband and he confirmed having seen it. He'd noticed a bird in there with a black cap which had slightly reminded him of a bulbul but looked wrong, too small, wrong jizz.
Check him out at
He's not much to look at, though I think the photo there doesn't do him justice, he generally looks much more dapper and neat and cute and slightly Jewish looking with that cap, but his song is one of the more beautiful and clear of the Sylvia warblers and it stood out to me because I always thought it sounded rather sarcastic.

Our trip across gazelle field was quite productive today. Much of the water of a few days ago has already drained off, the cistern is so full that a gazelle could probably drink from it if it wished and many more pheasant's eye have sprouted in the middle region as well as the by now familiar collection of Malcolmia, small composites and grape hyacinth. I was particularly fascinated by a six petalled yellow flower, much like those of the lily family but with very different and peculiar leaves. This turned out to be Bongardia chrysogonum, also known as Lady's nightcap (though, it turns out, a number of other flowers also have that name) . Plenty asphodel, Roman squill, & red anemone were still blooming in many dryer places.

5 gazelle were noticed grazing and ambling their way up the lower slopes to the north, husband was sure one was an adult male, but he kept his head down while I was counting! Plenty hyrax active by valley road along its east flanks, sitting on boulders or lower boughs of cypresses.

Birds: Eurasian jays, hooded crows (we've noticed a new call by them lately- very much like a light woodpecker drum), stone curlew after dusk, blackbirds in song, graceful warbler and great tit calls. Chukar partridges yesterday, jackdaws heard today. Laughing dove cooing in the garden this morning, Swifts heard yesterday.

Do jackdaws attempt to imitate Tristram's grackles? Husband noticed a jackdaw on the ground about 70 feet from him up in the centre of the neighbourhood, from what he could make out it was attempting a two tone grackle style whistle. Birds of the crow family can be great mimics and jackdaws and grackles could be found in the same habitats so it's not out of the question for a jackdaw to want to play around with such sounds.

A eucalyptus had fallen across the east valley stream trail, totally blocking it to any traffic but did give us nice views of the seedpods found on the upper branches. Olive green and hard as wood. Another farther along had also started to collapse and others showing signs of ill health.

This one shows seedpods at a different stage of development on the same tree.

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