Sunday, May 24, 2009

Violet dye and forest breezes

It can be thrilling to see up close something you'd only read about before.
Today husband found two specimens of live Janthina, purple sea snail, blown onto Tel Aviv beach by the brisk westerlies. They make rafts of bubbles which enable them to float on the surface of the sea, these bubbles obviously a bit firmer than soap or water bubbles as they're made with their secretions. There they float until they meet a jellyfish, on which they prey, something which highly amused the boys since they were amazed that much larger jellyfish (one species of which had stung them in the past ) could be food for such small inoffensive looking snails.

As soon as Moshe picked up one of them it exuded this beautiful violet ink, probably a defense mechanism like the ink of squid. The whole shell is only 2 cm across at widest

Here the ink has coloured the shell itself. Above the ink is seeping into the water ( Med Sea water in a disposable dish)

This is a somewhat unusual blog entry in that the pics have nothing to do with the account.

Today I was alone in the woods as husband had taken the boys to the beach. It felt so good to get out and feel the cool breeze on my face after having been indoors all day!

I started off along valley road then headed down central trail. Veered off to the north, heading through 'owl glade', attracted by the sound of incessant young bird calls. Turned out to be a juvenile great spotted cuckoo near the top of an Aleppo Pine calling repeatedly at a hooded crow. The crow had its back to the cuckoo and was pointedly ignoring it, though not flying off. The cuckoo was well feathered and handsome, already had a very dark crown and creamy yellow underparts and looking dapper.

From there I continued down through the pines, dry oats and Eryngium and occasional singed patches, old asphodel stalks and occasional thorny burnet, till I reached the path leading from central trail to north valley. All around were the coos of turtle doves and collared doves, twitters and chaws of greenfinches, occasional calls of Syrian woodpeckers and blackbird song.

I searched the hillsides and north gazelle field for gazelles a number of times but no luck , though did note a flock of hooded crows scattered on the ground around the bat cave and lower slopes, foraging on the ground for whatever juicy invertebrates they could find. Then I heard a shrill high fast repeated cry up along the valley to the west and soon zeroed in to a fine looking hobby in the top of another pine. After a while it took off, heading north. A little farther and a series of high pitched calls kay! kay! kay! turned out to be a Buteo, probably rough legged, being chased across the valley by a pair of hooded crows. It alighted in a cypress and the crows then let it be. Other calls, of great tits, brief chukar partridges chuckles, bee-eaters overhead somewhere, swifts also screaming aloft, wheatear calls and/or larks somewhere over to the north.

Laughing doves and feral pigeons around the buildings as usual, house sparrows, white spectacled bulbuls and sunbird in the garden. Heard very nice sunbird song when leaving the house for a walk, male singing in the cape honeysuckle. Graceful warbler heard from house and also north bend of north valley road where we photographed that fledgeling. Jackdaws also about, some calls. Altogether refreshing, and shifted two more bags of litter.. nasty work but worth it for a beautiful clean forest which I love!

Later I picked another few score 'caterpillar burrs' out of my socks (like a swarm of ants frozen onto the fabric) , as well as some pesky grass seeds.

Weather at time of walk: (~6.15 p.m. ) 16.9 degrees C humidity 78%, wind NW 9.6 knots. Range: 14-21.5 degrees C.

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