Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hillside discoveries

The red and green berries seem to belong to the same plant and though the green one looks like a water melon it's actually about the size of a pea. We found about twenty of these in about one square metre just beyond the level of the trees up the hill from north valley watercourse but nowhere else.

A pic of a mantis I found about half way up the hill, 6-7 cm long.

We found many of these structures in the limestone ''steps" on the hillside in one patch, hard ridged brown structures like tubes. Other rocks showed oval cross sections, the hollow tube centre filled with limestone. This area was beneath the sea millenia ago and these seem to be fossils of organisms from that time, revealed now by steady weather erosion of the rock. This above at least 6 cm or more, didn't measure there.

My ''trophy" for today, a beautiful feather I found by the hidden watercourse. The whole feather is about 22 cm long .. note the three dark crescent like marks on the near side. I'm guessing this is a secondary wing feather of a Little Owl, Athene noctua given the fringe around the entire edge of the feather (enabling silent flight) . I've noticed many feathers lately, most of the various crows (moulting season just started apparently) but this one I brought home!

Today we headed down to north valley dirt road, crossed the watercourse and headed straight up the opposite hillside and over to the hidden watercourse. We followed this down for a way (where I found the feather) then, at about sunset we headed back to north valley and home as the (full) moon would not rise till a while after dark and we needed last light for return walk.

Always a delight to walk there, though it's a scramble on boulders and treacherous slopes strewn with small stones, aromatic blue flowering thyme, thorny burnet, Kickxia, dried oats and other grasses, golden drop festooning rock faces, composite seed heads and other vegetation.

Growth of new vegetation in many places on the hillside, clumps of small long elliptical pale leaves, fleshy, slightly hairy (adaptations to dry season) .. leaves have strong mint/rosemary aroma. We'll have to wait till they bloom to zoom in on any I.D. Some butterflies about, like the meadow brown we've been seeing but noticeably darker and with an outlined almost white ''eye" on each leading wing.

Gazelle: Adult male ahead of us on our way up from north valley watercourse, moved off when aware of us. Female or young (very small horns, hard to make out shape) up on skyline ridge to the north east, grazing. Fresh scat in several places by watercourse and on hillside.

Hyrax: None seen today but not near colony but for one below Shadiker and no activity there.

Reptiles: Geckoes calling near hidden watercourse, one ran across the road on our evening walk
Bee-eaters: calls from over the valley but couldn't make a count.
Black eared wheatears: family of wheatears - we watched one (female, mother?) flying up from the rocks by hidden watercourse to hawk for insects, and then down again.
Swifts: husband noticed some as we made last ascent home, already starting to get dark, regular time for their last vocal flights.
Blackbirds: song heard in a number of places in the pines, high pitched chakking alarm.
Chukar partridges: brief calls
Collared doves: cooing and seen flying about.
Eurasian Jays: calls and active foraging
Feral pigeons: seen flying over the hill towards the neighbourhood
Graceful warblers: calls heard from near valley road
Jackdaws: calls heard from the house
Hooded crows: individuals flying about
House sparrows:around buildings, active, vocal, grass seed foraging near valley road
Laughing doves: cooing around buildings, active, foraging by road
Stone curlews: calls heard from direction of gazelle field.
Sunbirds: calls heard in the garden.

21-29 degrees C time of walk: ~6.30 p.m. ~26 degrees C. Humidity: 40-45 % and rising, wind westerly 10-12 knots.

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