Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dominance of the Composites and mystery pic

Here's a view roughly to the south east from the hillside just north of north valley. East valley crosses the picture from upper right to centre left, beyond it on the right, 'windsurfer hill', up on the left, Hizmeh, beyond, more of north Jerusalem, Right centre, the lower part of our neighbourhood, valley road winding down from there, crossing east, then bending towards the south out of view on its way to the pumping station.

Composites growing close to the acacia tree down from the southward bend of valley road. Looks like one of the Scorzonera, (Viper's Grass) looks similar in some respects to both S. papposa and S.multiscapa. Plant about two feet tall with simple long narrowish leaves.

A Scabiosa? Looks most similar to S. rhizantha though according to the site I use I shouldn't expect to find it up here. At any rate, we found and photographed it in gazelle field last year also. This was growing around north valley. Though this looks very similar to the composites it's in a different family- Dipsaceae.

Also found blooming: Still some Acanthus though now steadily turning to fruit which looks like a small long melon inside. Meanwhile spitting cucumber is spreading well where it grows and flowering well, some fruit developing. A common thistle in many open areas Notobasis syriaca (Syrian thistle, Barkan Suri - this is the plant on which are the beetle pair Avremi photographed) . Yellow Centauries are also starting to bloom in many open places. This is definitely the season of dominance for the Asteracea, the composites, they've taken over from the lily family flowers of the early spring.

It was really quite pleasant to walk on the hill crest in the cool breeze amongst mats of gentle yellow flax, assorted thistles, Gundelia, innumerable star clover and the ubiquitous mole rat mounds and look around at the views.. the pleasant rolling view to the south, (above) and the more austere desert hills to the east. We saw the new moon, curved face down against the sun which was already out of view behind the hills by that time though there was still plenty light, just enough to get down off the hill in time. Crickets were already chirping on the hilltop.

Gazelle: Nice views of small bachelor herd of six individuals across the hidden watercourse and up the hill. There horns were of varying sizes but they were all pretty much adult males, some clearly more mature than others. They ran down the rocky hillside with a nimbleness that always astonishes us as footing for us must be careful and is occasionally treacherous where small stones gather. They do tend to travel along regular trails which wind around the contours of the hills. I'd bet that trails shepherds use were originally made by countless gazelle hoofs over the ages.

Birds? No storks at all today though husband theorized the winds might be keeping them down if they are still around. Bee-eaters also not aloft. Some Buteos about, long legged buzzards from what I could make out, hooded crows flying up and making them unwelcome as usual. Birdlife quite quiet today in fact. We did hear some black eared wheatear calls on the hillside and possibly larks. Some jackdaws also about and calling, collared doves active and vocal, turtles quiet. Chukar partridges quite noisy somewhere in north valley.

Garden: sunbird calls, laughing doves, white spectacled bulbul, house sparrows.

Weather: range 11-19 degrees C. Time of walk: 16 degrees, winds westerly 6-8 kt, )though I suspect more where we were)

Today's mystery pic. Any clues what this might be?

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