Monday, April 20, 2009

Checking out the Quarry

Somewhat blurred but still recognizable image of a Red Admiral butterfly Vanessa atalanta on hawthorn tree by north valley. Normally the larvae of these use nettles and the only ones I know are in the mouth of the cave just over north hill but there could be others.. or possibly other food plants.

A very pretty pink and green Geometrid moth Akiva spotted amongst the ground vegetation. Perhaps one of you insect enthusiasts could I.D. it more precisely? There's your mystery pic challenge today as far as I'm concerned.. help me with my research!

A common grass growing in stands in many places right now. The effect of square metres of this starlike stuff together is really quite pretty.

This grass was noticed interspersed with the above, clearly a different species but amongst them here and there. There were so many other grasses out right now including feral wheat, barley and oats I could probably make a little gallery just of grasses. The Poaceae (Gramineae) are a wildly successful family of plants with amazing variation including Giant Reed, Arundo donax, which grows like bamboo in many wadis in Israel as near as Wadi Qelt. If you are good at I.D. ing grasses you can put your talents to work on the above ! Neither featured in my nice but rather limited Azaria Alon guide

(We also found a lovely stand of Crown Daisy Chrysanthemum coronarium behind the Shadiker buildings, near where the trail down to the north valley begins. At the time were not sure if they were legit wild flowers or garden escapes but now I see them in A. Alon's guide as a wild flower. We had also noticed one down by valley road. Will include pics tomorrow. )

Many kids in the area are still on vacation so most of the valley was populated with families taking spring strolls or boys gathering dry wood for the Lag BeOmer bonfires. We decided to head up towards the quarry where we expected few people would go.

There were at least three Tristram's starlings in the area, two around the abandonned three story building and at least one more down across the quarry. I think the two are a pair as one has a rather grey head and one all black, female and male respectively, and I suspect from their movements they have a nest in the building somewhere. They flew there from the quarry on our approach ,then a few minutes later flew back into the building.. then the female flew to a field of boulders next to the building where she called a few times, then preened. Presently the male came to join her. She was clearly the most vocal, he only called while in flight.

Gazelles: Two adult bucks seen together, one following the other a few metres back, on south facing slope of north valley near the pine hangar. The boys found a group ~7 in the hills somewhere near the bat cave early afternoon today.. adult buck with females and young, including one very young one from their account.
Hyraxes near the quarry, seen scampering over the field of boulders.

White storks still around, a couple noticed perched in the top of pine trees middle of east valley, others flying around leisurely fashion, but we were not in a place where we could really keep tabs on their movements today.

Eurasian jays heard, collared doves, chukar partridges, great tits calling, very vocal graceful warblers. Buteo over the quarry, heading north west. Collared doves and chukar partridges about.

Sunbird, white spectacled bulbuls, laughing doves cooing, house sparrows in gardens, hooded crows and jackdaws also heard. The pretty turtle dove not noticed today:(

Boys found a skink today, and there's been a gecko near my bedroom window, 'tak tak' late at night. First marbled white butterfly I've seen this season by the north valley trail today.

Weather: today's range: ~17-26.5 degrees C. noticeable rise! Time of walk: 24 degrees, winds NW ~3 kt and rising. (were easterlies all morning till about 2.30 p.m. )

Yesterday's mystery pic was I.D.d by Garry Souders, today.. the moth! Good luck!

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