Monday, April 13, 2009

Storks & purple flowers seem to be in endless supply!

View from the hill north of the bat cave, looking down on the woods where the two valleys meet. It's almost sunset and the storks have already settled in cypress and acacia. If you click on the pic and look carefully you can see white spots sprinkled over the centre trees. Lower slopes of windsurfer hill top of pic. In the foreground, thorny burnet and mole rat mounds. Akiva

We saw this a few times today! (though pic taken by Akiva yesterday) Conservative estimate 54 individuals all heading to roost in the Mir Forest. We thought they might be foraging in the sage valley but they were returning from farther north, around Adam somewhere or perhaps farther than that. Some foraged closer to home, a couple were working the lower hill slopes just north of the bat cave.

Evidently the storks are in no hurry to leave, perhaps they're even bringing friends over! Other birds about: several Buteos over sage vale and north valley, at least half a dozen about, nice views of them landing on trees, boulders and flying about. One was quite comfortable resting on an olive tree in lower sage vale for a while. Hobby aloft, bee-eaters towards sunset, flock of at least 25 birds high over north valley. Husband also noticed stone curlew and swifts.

Great tit calls and song, calls of shrike (probably masked) somewhere in north valley acacias, also some warblers working the trees but didn't get a good look. White spectacled bulbuls, collared doves, Eurasian jays and graceful warblers also vocal and active

Very nice views of black eared wheatears Oenanthe hispanica melanoleuca up on the hill: male calling up on a wire, then standing on a boulder and fluttering his wings at a female nearby. She definitely seemed to be paying attention to him. A lark was singing somewhere along the hill ridge farther east. Great spotted cuckoos calling like jungle birds as we descended into the woods after sunset. They are noisy right now! Still no turtle doves.

Sunbirds in garden, house sparrows, laughing doves as well as hooded crows and jackdaws about as usual, one hoodie took on a Buteo but as usual didn't make much of an impact. Sightings of sparrowhawks have declined lately, I suspect the wintering birds finally moved on.

Weather today: 15-25 degrees C though it felt warmer. Time of start of walk ~5.45 pm 23 C, humidity ~27%, winds WSW (though easterlies had been blowing from 7 am to noon this morning again) - which means the storks were coming in to roost against the wind, though gliding low, barely skimming the hilltops, skilled flyers they are. They may have used a thermal somewhere north to gain altitude, then all they would have to do is fall with style to their destination, against the wind or not. Weather station said 8-11 knots but seemed quite still to me, sage hardly nodding during pic taking so I wonder about those results altogether, perhaps we had different wind conditions from those in Ramot in west Jerusalem where the station is located last I heard.

Above, a true sage, Salvia (hierosolymatana? or a close relative) A beautiful plant of a set of pink /purple spikes growing by a stone wall in the sage vale. Gila

Something of an irony because the crop grown in this vale is also called Jerusalem sage, just to confuse, though it's not a true Salvia sage, it's Phlomis, though in the same family, Lamiaceae. Last year I discussed this at more length and posted pics of the light purple and yellowish flowers. A new batch is already growing though it's not in flower yet. What happened to the last crop? We had some evidence that their owners did manage to come and harvest. The leaves are used in middle eastern cuisine.

As last year I found several Gladiolus italicus amongst the Phlomis and also, yesterday, just one bloom in north east gazelle field, behind the cistern.

Not sure what this one is yet, though it's growing in many places along north valley and on the hillslopes. Also tall spikes like the sage above though not as large, and probably related. Gila

Yet another purple clover, this one found near the top of the hill between the bat cave and the sage vale. Gila

Last mystery pic unsolved so I'm giving you all another day on that!

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