Sunday, April 12, 2009

May Blossom in April

On our way home one little tree stood out like a vision close by the central trail, perched by an ancient dry stone wall. Petite compared with the pines all around, but dressed all in white and filling the air with a subtle peculiar sweet aroma - a hawthorn Crataegus in full bloom. (called in England 'May blossom/flowers or simply 'May'') I think I must be nostalgic about this tree since it was common around my childhood home and part of me recognized that scent from those days. I have pics of groups of blossoms and leaves from last season so here (above) I decided to zoom in on just one flower from a pic taken by Akiva.

On our way down through the pines cross country between valley road gazelle field I found a whole little stand of bee orchids (Ophrys apifera?) , each flower a little different from the rest. On this one you can see quite well how the flower mimics a bee with yellow stripes and even wings. I took a bunch of pics and will probably share more later. I wanted to make sure I had plenty because the wind was making them all nod - I knew I'd have some blurring.

This handsome little beetle I found in gazelle field not far from the cistern*. It was having an intimate conversation with another beetle on an Ainsworthia flower but it was not totally willing to commit to that relationship as it was also gripping firmly onto a wild oat leaf. This became apparent when I tried to lift the oat off the flower - this beetle went with it, leaving the other behind! Not yet I.D.d

*(which, by the way, is now teeming with cute little black tadpoles, or would they be toadpoles? Husband also saw a dragonfly)

This beautifully hued and interestingly shaped small flower was also found in dense foliage near the cistern. The stigma like a snake's tongue is quite striking and even though five petals, seems to show billateral symmetry rather than the radial symmetry of geranium flowers. Not sure what it is yet.

One gazelle seen in the pine woods today as we crossed through and down. No sign of horns, it appeared ahead of us just a few score feet away, stood and stared at us for a while, then moved off, seemed to be alone.

Contrary to my prediction, the white storks did not continue on their way today. I had thought the higher temperatures and morning of easterlies would induce them to move on, but no.. they were still very much about and 26 came over the north ridge towards sunset to settle in the Mir forest trees - not as a whole flock but lazily in dribs and drabs as if they had all the time in the world. Apparently they had been foraging in the sage field area today. I'm not complaining, wonderfully majestic in flight, they glide effortlessly. At least one in the east field seen earlier.

Occasionally storks do breed in Israel here and there but most continue to Europe. There is also a growing wintering population particularly around the fish ponds of Beit Shean just south of Yam Kineret (Sea of Galilee). The way things are going they will become residents!

Greenfinches vocal all over the pines, (and I do believe one is holding territory in our next door neighbour's cypress, that's the sweet song I've been hearing), collared doves also cooing and making flight calls. No turtle doves yet but the *hobbies* are back! A pair seen flying just east of look-out corner. Great tits also heard calling and some song. Blackbird song, sunbird active in our Bauhinia of course and also heard in another Bauhinia, a purple one just up the street. Stone curlews also active and vocal even before dark. Judging by calls I'm even more sure birds nesting where we saw that stone curlew yesterday.

Laughing doves cooing in the gardens and foraging on the sidewalks as usual and I watched one male following a female, puffing up his neck and strutting. They're also cooing a lot lately. Feral pigeons also around, a fancy pigeon foraging near the doves.. not sure if feral or a member of a local coop.. quite a few boys in the neighbourhood like to fly pigeons (including my son, Aharon, a few years ago). When we started photographing the doves a pair of jackdaws landed on a fence nearby.. I do believe they were curious about their equipment and were watching.. so we took a few pics of them too! All in all we got far more pics today than I'm showing right now.. more later if needed!

Hooded crows also about as usual, hoopoe seen higher in the neighbourhood earlier in the day. Long legged buzzard soaring high over north field, common swifts also aloft.

A whole bunch of spontaneous fires have erupted and subsided along a section of the central trail just east of the owl glade. They seem to start where ground litter is thick with much rotting wood and each charred area is just a few square metres. Clearly not vandalism but natural. Still amazes me. Aharon questions whether each starts independently or if the wind is blowing embers.. that's also possible but there's clearly a lot of very combustible material and many seem to start at the base of old bushes.

Weather: Time of walk: late afternoon 23.3 degrees C, 27% humidity, 8.7 kt Westerlies. range 15-25 degrees C today.

Last mystery pic was a zoom up of one of the common black millipedes (good job Garry!) all over the place now, street, walls, gardens - often 5 inches long or more and thick as a pencil. We are not sure what can or will eat them, other than meerkats and they don't live here!

Here's your mystery pic for today! Good luck.. no, you won't find this pic in the archives as I just took it today but I will say I HAVE posted pics of it but at a different stage of its life cycle.

Noone got it yet so I'm posting an alternative pic of the same :) (14 April)

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