Saturday, April 11, 2009

Stork stop-over continues

Look ahead in the distance, beyond those hills rolling before you. Do you see those mountains in the distance, tinged purple? That is the Jordanian escarpment beyond the Jordan rift valley, and yes, that is our neighbour to the east, Jordan. The mountains rise about 900 metres above sea level and an additional 300 or so metres above the level of the Jordan river itself, (and about 200 metres above Jerusalem) and they are a little over 40 kilometres to our east. We can see them on a clear day, when there is not too much dust or humidity over the rift valley. Aman is a little to the north (left on the pic) about 70 km distant. Lights along the top of the escarpment are visible as a twinkling row of yellow sparks most nights.

Yet more white storks today! Again we used the tactic of approaching via the shepherd's path leading up onto windsurfer hill and took the ridge slowly because we expected them to be on the other side. They were indeed and when they became aware of us, sooner than we had hoped, they took off in small groups, about 20 of them, north west in the direction of the orchard and gazelle field. Some settled in eucalyptus around the orchard. Later we saw more in flight over the hills to the north, and about a dozen settled in eucalyptus and cypress in the north valley. As before between about 6.40 p.m. and 7 p.m they were flying about sorting where they were going to roost and a few more arrived from the direction of the the Jerusalem sage vale. Our conservative estimate is something over 30 birds in all but there may have been more, we just wanted to make sure we didn't count any twice. They did give us some wonderful close views today!

We saw a stone curlew fly and land on the hillslope, lower slopes east end of the hill. It walked a little way, then stopped and waited. I watched for a while and it stared back with an expression that said, 'if you think I'm going to walk to my nest while you guys are watching, you must think I'm stupider than I look!' Later it called shrilly and another stone curlew way over in east field answered with its own call.

What else today? Sunbird active in the Bauhinia, house sparrows, blackbird, laughing doves in the garden. Hooded crows and jackdaws active though not much calling, much foraging. Greenfinches about, chawwing and twittering in many parts of the pines esp. approaching the pump station, around look-out corner. Quite a few common swifts active aloft and calling. Bee-eaters came down north valley again about sunset, a group of four, then a few minutes later a group of 12 flying quite high. Graceful warblers very vocal, as were jays, a pair of great spotted cuckoos in the pines just west of gazelle field and some great tits. Syrian woodpeckers have been very quiet lately.

No hyrax out and about along valley road at all, to my surprise, but early this morning husband saw four gazelle, one near the orchard and three more with a group of storks in north gazelle field. You'd think the storks aren't camouflaged but from a distance they can easily be taken for just another limestone boulder when they stand still.

Weather: has been weird! Temp range 10-just over 20 degrees C, ~16.5 degrees at about 5 p.m. when we went out. ~65% humidity. Wind switched to easterlies in the early afternoon for a couple of hours and again later in the evening. Unhelpful winds could be exactly what is causing this week long stop-over of the storks. Too many westerlies and too cool will impede their progress. They need warm south easterlies and southerlies to be able to move on and give them thermals to ride. They have certainly been taking advantage of the lush fields to refuel for the next leg! Interestingly, though they're probably finding the same delicious bugs the crows are taking, the latter do not see them as competition the way they see birds of prey.. though of course, the storks are a LOT bigger than the crows!

Forgot to mention Tristram's grackles heard near the bipass road by windsurfer hill last thursday.

This was from this time, last year's stock, I don't remember showing it then. I'm pretty sure it's one of the Erodium genus but not sure which. E. gruinum (great stork's bill) or E. subintegrifolium seem quite close. Another member of the geranium family and I thought quite appropos to bring it in now, with all the storks around! (And it's a nice purple flower, so why not:)

More dandelion types out now.. so many of these in our flora it's a real botanists job to tell one from the other! This one has a medium size flower and growing esp. in open ground

This mystery pic shouldn't pose much difficulty.. just first on the buzzer gets the hit!

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