Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Wildlife at the zoo

Cormorants settling in for the season. Cormorants nest by the zoo lake every year and will be joined later in the spring by a colony of cattle egret if all goes well.

This one is for Joybaby, who loves purple flowers:) The wild red anemone has a purple variant which grows wild in the north of the country and apparently also at the zoo. I could not resist a shot!

Moshe got this one of our Eurasian jay Garrulus glandarius atricapillus snatching a piece of bread from the ground.

It flew up onto a branch in an oak tree overhead and ate in typical jay fashion, gripping the food with its feet and pecking at it.

Beautiful Adonis specimen, couldn't resist!

Honeybees busy in the rosemary. Oregano, rosemary and lavender in bloom all over the place.

For a total change we spent much of the day (11 a.m - 4 p.m) at the zoo which is situated in a beautiful valley just south of the city.
http://www.jerusalemzoo.org.il/len/ for more info

The collection itself includes species which do or have lived in Israel in decades or centuries past, such as bears, lions, leopards. The last Asian Brown/Syrian bear, (Dov in Hebrew) , was seen visiting Yam Kineret, (The Sea of Galilee) by the zoologist Tristram in the beginning of the 20th century. Today I watched a Syrian bear splashing his paw in his pool, trying to catch the carp!

Persian leopards
namer persisted in the northern forests of the country such as Banias and Yaar Biriah up to maybe 50 or 60 years ago and a desert subspecies still just hangs on in the Judean desert near Eyn Geddi to this day. Today we came very close to one as it seemed it was just as curious about its visitors as we were about it, and came right up to us. I'm using a pic of this gorgeous great cat as my desktop background at the moment, want to see?

Lions no longer live here sadly though they are still the symbol of Yehuda (Judaea) . The Asian lion Aryeh in the collection appeared to be flat out fast asleep, which frankly I envied since I was wiped. The cheetah, however was quite active. Wild Cheetahs are thought to have finally disappeared in Israel back in the 1950s, sadly though work is in progress to bring it back and restore its place in the ecosystem of the desert south of the country.

The zoo also has herds of ibex and gazelle as well as other antelopes in the safari section and we watched two buck ibex sparring from an overhead walkway. There were also many other species not ever native to the country such as Sumatran tiger, cotton top tamarin, siamangs, Thai elephants and many many other species. The tiger seemed to be gazing at me with a look of profound reproach though a young male mandrill was much more friendly and tried to kiss the boys through the partition! The elephants honestly looked rather woebegone but I'm probably projecting again. There were many other species we saw, would take too long to describe everything but probably the highlight for Moshe was a close encounter with a great hairy armadillo which did not object to being cuddled, yes you heard me right. Moshe cuddled an armadillo and tickled its belly. He got ahead of us, got into its enclosure in the tropical birds house when the staff were off, I don't know what, having coffee but noone in sight to tell him nay. Very naughty of him yes, but who can blame him for making the most of it!

It's easy to take great pics of captive lions, tigers and bears so I have not included those here today, though we did take them, and of other species! If you want to see any of our pics of the collection I will happily upload them for you, but as you know I generally focus on the wild stuff.

As for wild birds, there were plenty! The zoo is a great place for them as it provides plenty habitat and food. Of course house sparrows and feral pigeons were flourishing all over the zoo, blackbirds and laughing doves were also abundant. Around the lake the collection of flamingos, pelicans, swans etc were augmented by wild mallard duck Anas platyrhynchos, numerous Cormorant Phalocrocorax carbo, some fishing, some drying out their wings, flying in, flying out, sitting on nests and generally settling in for the season. Moorhens Gallinula chloropus, were abundant on the shores of the lake and there were quite a few spur winged plovers Vanellus spinosus about, calling 'sik sik!' and wheeling around above. No sign of any cattle egrets yet. A flock usually nests here but apparently not arrived.

White breasted kingfishers
Halcyon smyrnensis were obvious all around the lake, calling and looking flashy. They had a new call I had not heard before, a repetitive loud simple trill, falling in pitch. I suspect this is a mate attraction call since I have not heard this at any other season. They also made their more familiar calls from time to time but the trill was insistent all day.

Some chukar partridges were seen in an area of oak, carob and other foliage and cover and Eurasian jays were everywhere. While resting I used part of my cheese sandwich to lure it down so that Moshe could take pics. (Above) It was using a branch directly above me in an oak tree and approached within a few feet, evidently used to grabbing scraps from picnickers.

Sunbirds were heard and seen about, calling and singing, a snatch of blackcap song was heard, a nice male greenfinch was noticed and photographed in a bare tree, (I haven't finished processing all the pics we got yet) some tantalizing calls that sounded like they could be masked shrike were heard in various shrubberies but those birds did not show. White wagtails Motacilla alba still around, several seen on zoo lawns foraging for insects, and white spectacled bulbuls heard and spotted all over.

Hooded crows were also noticed in various places today, jackdaws heard this morning and swifts seen aloft towards sunset.

Clear skies all day today and a very pleasing shade of blue though temps quite cool. temps 5-13 degrees C, humidity 45-80 %. Between 8 am and 3 pm winds N/NE/E, swinging back to north westerlies after 3 p.m. when temps noticeably started to drop.

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