Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cuckoos and grasshoppers

The hill slopes across north valley, up from the watercourse showing how most ground vegetation is becoming dried out and gone to seed.

A juvenile great spotted cuckoo calls for attention from its foster parent, a hooded crow which is busy foraging for it. We watched two young cuckoos following the crow and begging from it, and the crow gave food every few minutes. Unfortunately distance was too great for a clearer pic with our lens. This was under the pines just east of the trail which links valley road with the north valley dirt road.

Grasshoppers are probably one of the commonest insects now, all highly camouflaged so that when they land it can be difficult to find them. This kind was quite easy to find but another species was uniformly pale yellow and small, just like a piece of chaff.

A common seedhead which also acts like a burr. These 'stars' become easily detached from their stems and attach to clothes, these, the 'caterpillar' burrs, thorny jobs, grass heads and many others that need meticulous extraction after every walk.

Mammals.. No gazelles noticed today, though fresh scat in the cypress grove by the north valley watercourse. Fox spotted trotting in front of the bat cave, made its way east and descended to the watercourse, crossed and headed into the young pine grove.. where suddenly we noticed there were two! Were there two all along from the bat cave or did that one meet another here? They were both of the dark patchy variety and one, the thinner it seemed followed the other several metres behind but not a chase. They both crossed the trail ahead of us and headed up into the trees in the direction of the neighbourhood. Not sure if we heard hyraxes, did not go by a major colony but for the Shadiker one and that was quiet.

Known hyrax colonies in the area:

1- at least one before the quarry, large.

2- one just down from end of rchov Shadiker, medium size

3- one on the bank down from the school- small

4- half way along the bank between valley road and buildings- and boulders other side of road (cypress slum) large

5-hillslopes up and west from pumping station, including boulders across valley road corner of sapling field, medium

6- western slopes of east valley down from upper valley road (the famous little owl) - there could easily be several colonies in that locality as we've seen hyraxes on top of that bluff as well.

Wind was brisk down north valley and we watched a hobby struggle against it at canopy top level but make no headway. he could not glide into that. About a dozen bee-eaters plied the air at a higher level up and down over north valley, calling as they went. Swifts heard towards sunset and also from the house, at dawn at their most shrill. They scream most as it just gets light, their dusk calls don't reach quite that level of excitement.

Graceful warblers were calling from around valley road, some blackbird song , collared dove coos.

House: Garden- house sparrows, white spectacled bulbul calls, sunbird calls, laughing dove coos.

15-26 degrees C, time of walk starting about 6.45 p.m. 22 degrees C, 60% humidity, winds westerly, 9-15 knots.

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