Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The salmon that *flies* long distance, and uphill.

Today Moshe came with us and we walked down the short cut from the north west corner of valley road down to the north valley dirt road, spooking a few hyrax from the Shadiker colony along the way. Several adults scampered over the boulders for cover.

We were, as usual, on the alert for anything and everything. I can usually count on Moshe to find us extra goodies and we were not disappointed!

Moshe caught this image by the service road through the young pine grove. Rittner's site was helpful again, I I.D.d it as the Large Salmon Arab Madais fausta fausta. (Olivier) The upper wing is a pleasing pure salmon orange in colour with a couple of thin bars on the front of the forewings. This pic shows the underwing as the individual rested on a wild oat.

I just read they are a migratory species spending the summer months in the Levant (Here, Lebanon, Syria) and the winter in the Arabian peninsula, quite an astonishing distance for such a small and delicate insect, at least 900 miles.

Below, another of Moshe's pics.. a small but fully grown grasshopper found by the north valley dirt road. He was lucky, he got this one shot before it took off. How do we know it's an adult? Fully developed wings.

This pale heteropteran plant bug below I found on a dried up plant, also by the north valley dirt trail. There were several such bugs on that plant, but none on any others I noticed. This is a nymph, as told by the undeveloped wings, mere scallops on the top flanks.

Tumble thistle Gundelia flower heads as they look now, the seeds already emptied out of some of the partitions but still packed like sardines in others.

Moshe pretended to use main strength to drag a Gundelia out of the ground, which was very comical. We left the tumblethistle on the dirt road and went on our way and seconds later heard a dry rustle, turned around and the thistle was already rolling after us. It was so funny!

Salmon Arab butterfly from above fluttering over a patch of Eryngium- not sharp but it hardly stopped moving and it was really difficult to catch a view of the upper wing. Moshe did quite a nice job considering and certainly conveys a sense of the colour.

I heard distant bee-eaters, husband heard distant stone curlews but we both missed each other's calls - so it goes. Other birds much more obvious were collared doves, cooing and in flight between trees, laughing doves, cooing in the gardens, feral pigeons overhead here and there, white spectacled bulbuls in the garden, sunbirds in the garden, Moshe spotted one foraging quietly low in the Bauhinia branches, right outside my window and I found yet another feather of one on a bush near the shaft. We all saw a flock of at least 20 jackdaws returning low and quietly south over gazelle field to roost and a little later some hooded crows.

I noticed a Eurasian jay up on top of an acacia by the north valley watercourse and wondered if this was the one that came to check out Prince. Moshe found a jay blue wing covert feather on the ground at the edge of the road but no others about. Graceful warbler calls heard but the greenfinches were being quiet. Hobby called briefly about sunset.

Husband spotted a young gazelle for me up on the skyline ridge north-eastish, very small and young, no sign of horns. Also no sign of its mum but she could have been grazing just the other side of the ridge.

Cicadas heard in the pines by the east valley dirt road after sunset and some eucalyptus shedding a lot of bark.

Bats seen as we rose from central trail onto valley road, getting dark then.

Today's range: 24-31.5 degrees C. (75.2- 88.7 degrees F)

At time of walk: ~7 p.m. 27.7 degrees C (81.86)

humidity 46%, wind 5.2 knots and westerly.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Israeli tumbleweed

The base of the prickly Gundelia plant, (Gundelia tournefortii , also called Tumble Thistle) broken clean from its roots. It took no effort at all to lift it up from the ground, it had already separated at about one inch below ground level. You can see the dimple where it was, long slender leaves radiating out from it. I just lifted the dried plant up an inch or so to show the break. The plant separates from its roots the same way deciduous leaves separate from the tree allowing the whole plant to roll along in the wind and scatter their seeds. Most Gundelias have already blown up from their bases now and are heading out on their cross country journey to propogate their species. These plants fascinate me from their beautiful pineapple shaped flower head of yellow/purple stars (photographed earlier in the season) to their tumbleweed summer habits.

While browsing a flower book I got some insight on those fascinating yellow mystery flowers we photographed some time back, (not the stars, the paired lipped flowers that had yellow versions in the open and orange/purple/yellow versions in the north valley watercourse). I should have guessed from the form that they might be some kind of Scrophulariaceae but now I can zoom in a little more and say they are some kind of toadflax, (a name that doesn't really do justice to these beautiful peculiar little satiny/velvet jobs at all) probably of genus Linaria though I have not yet found a definite match at the online Israel flower site.

Gazelles: Three today: An adult male that was grazing in the pines by the service road, headed out towards the north watercourse and on to the hillside beyond as we walked along the trail. Mother and young up on the ridge north-eastish, grazing together.

Bats seen along central trail frequently lately by us and by Aharon, both towards the end of our regular walk and on night walks.

We didn't get a pic of that hedgehog as we didn't have the camera with us at the time, we don't always remember to take it out for our evening walks. Pity! We did post a hedgehog pic some months back though.

Bird life was rather sparse and quiet today. We did get excellent views of a pair of hobbies in flight over the north valley watercourse/shaft area, one flew over and landed high in a cypress across the valley to the north. Apart from that, a few hooded crows, graceful warbler calls by gazelle field, some collared dove coos and activity the local bird life was keeping a very low profile. We were also on the look out for Prince but even the jays weren't being very obvious today.

In the garden some sunbird calls were heard and white spectacled bulbuls from some time before 5.30 am but I didn't get a time today. House sparrows of course and for a while in the late afternoon lots of calls that suggested bulbuls were feeding another brood. Briefly I heard bee-eaters from over somewhere east at about 6 p.m. Feral pigeons about, and plenty laughing dove coos from early in the day.

btw did I mention the hoopoe Moshe saw on the trail near the cistern on Saturday?

I also heard that Breslover warbler again, singing somewhere up in the cypress grove by east field but deep in there, being furtive, though loud.

Grasshoppers still numerous in the open areas, these are probably what the foraging jackdaws and hooded crows are catching as well as possibly mole crickets and other invertebrates just below the surface.

Bye bye birdie. Prince heading toward the acacia tree yesterday. I wonder if we miss him as much as he misses our lasagna? Or vice versa!

Weather today: range: 23.75- 32 degrees C (74.75 - 89.6 degrees F)

time of walk: ~7 p.m. 27.5 degrees C. ( 81.5 degrees F) (sunset here now is at 7.39 p.m. )

humidity: ~37 %, wind: roughly westerly, 7-9 kt.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Prince goes free, and other miscellanea

You've seen pics of Prince : here's one of Ruthie Schueler's pics of our local jay in its natural habitat and tip top plumage. (Middle Eastern race of Eurasian jay, Garrulus glandarius atricapillus

Below, the yellow flower we found blooming by north valley dirt road- here the entire flower spike to show the form of the flowering plant, spent flowers, blooming flowers and buds.

Gazelle: Today, Sunday (4) As we reached the shaft (best look out position on north valley dirt road towards bat cave) , saw a female and young grazing on the hillside just up from the bat cave. We walked along the service road through the pine grove just east of there and emerged in the open north valley watercourse area, crossing the course. From there we saw a well grown young up on the skyline to the north-eastish and then an adult buck a few dozen metres farther to the west and on our side of the hill just below the skyline. Shortly after the female and young appeared farther up the hill ahead of us.

Hyrax: some sightings in the past few days at various colonies.

! First we've seen for a while, on our walk yesterday evening ~10.30 p.m. on valley road. It didn't roll into a ball but just stood still facing the nearest road edge, waiting, trembling very slightly. We walked on and on our return heard it trundling its way up the bank through the ground vegetation.

Bee-eaters: not around since late last week.. perhaps off hawking different fields for a change. There were similar mysterious and unpredictable absences last year.
Hobbies: call heard from tops of trees along the road south eastward just as we released the jay. I wondered if one had seen him and was considering him as prey though he's rather large for a hobby to take on.

Eurasian jays: We released Prince near the shaft and he hopped off with no fear, hesitation nor backward glance. (we actually do not know if 'he' was male or female, I use 'he' by default) He blundered through a patch of green Eryngium and then a few metres away he made a two note harsh call, a typical contact call that he had not made once while living in our salon. He then continued towards an acacia by the north watercourse and hopped/fluttered up into one of the lowest branches. Soon after that he returned to the ground. Shortly after he vocalized we noticed another jay that had been foraging on the rocks across the watercourse. We didn't see any definite interaction between the two jays, the jay already there did not attack and may have just been curious.
A few other jays noticed elsewhere around the woods.

Blackbirds: very low profile lately, hardly a peep.
Chukar partridges: some calls heard lately, north of central trail
Collared doves: Active and vocal many parts of the woods especially the lowest altitude sections around gazelle field.

Feral pigeons: some about, in flight.
Graceful warblers: some calls around gazelle field and valley road.
Great tits: Greenfinches: relatively quiet in the last few days.
Jackdaws: Flock of about 50 returning from the north towards windsurfer hill or east of there not long before sunset, unusually quiet today, only one individual heard once.
Hooded crows: loose flock of 20 or so returning from forage in the north, flight path more to west than jackdaws.
House sparrows:about houses as usual.
Laughing doves: cooing in the morning around the buildings from about 5.30/5.45 am
Stone curlews: Also very quiet lately.
Sunbirds: Active from ~5.30 a.m. squeak calls and others many times today and last few days around the Bauhinia.
Syrian woodpeckers: many short calls heard. White spectacled Bulbuls: Vocal from ~5.20 am last few days, melodious calls in the Bauhinia.

Butterflies.. blues and Satyrids recently but today around the almond line and dry wall there, a few more brightly coloured but they would not stop long enough for an I.D. The brief glimpse I got strongly suggested lesser tortoiseshell or painted lady but unfortunately could not get closer, they were hardly settling at all and of course put wings together when they do, hiding most distinctive colouration and I was unable to get a good look at the underwing.

Today's range: 21.5- 30.5 degrees C (70.7- 86.9 degrees F)
time of walk: approaching 7 p.m. 27 degrees C (80.6 degrees F)
Humidity: 45%, W, 6-9.5 knots.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Walk to the Quarry

Today we walked to the abandonned quarry by way of the north valley dirt road.

Much tree tobacco about, now reaching the end of its blooming phase. On many branches as here we found flowers and seedpods together. I opened up a few pods to find what appeared to be one wrinkled brown seed in the centre of each.

Just as I'm thinking there will probably be no more new blooming plants before the rainy season I find another. This just shows the hardiness of the local flora, that it can put forth new growth and flowers even when rain is scarce. This pretty yellow star like flower was found growing in loose spikes on the south side of the trail to the quarry. At the same time some globe thistle, mullein and thyme persist and a few delightful small blue butterflies were noticed along the way, the kind we have already photographed. I'd try to get a sharper pic of the yellow stars soon but we have family outing so that will have to wait till sunday afternoon. Who knows what will be out then? We get what we can each day.

We were quite lucky with mammals today. Hyrax activity (2 colonies today) in the colony below Shadiker, some kids playing at the top accidentally spooked a group of adults and we saw them scamper over the boulders above our position. Later, approaching the quarry we saw a number of youngsters cross our path from the smaller quarry on the south side and head down towards the watercourse.

Approaching the quarry we saw two gazelle ahead of us, one without horns and one with thin ones, so most likely a female and well grown young. A little later we saw eight gazelle heading east along a trail about three quarters the way up the opposite slopes. First two, perhaps female and well grown young or two females followed a few metres behind by an adult male. Perhaps a hundred metres farther back and higher up the slope a group of five, females and well grown young also heading slowly towards the east. We couldn't know if the two we saw earlier were any of these eight or not.

Nice view of a kestrel above us, circling over the quarry area. Feral pigeons had made their home in one of the higher structures of the quarry and were cooing contentedly up on ledges in there- a very nice undisturbed colony with little to fear unless a peregrine falcon would come by. Kestrels would not be interested in them and even hobbies and sparrowhawks, that routinely take smaller birds, would likely leave them alone.

Other birds in the area included graceful warblers, heard now and again, chukar partridges, heard chuckling briefly somewhere on the hillside, and Tristram's grackle whistle which husband noticed coming from the large quarry ahead. A Syrian woodpecker was heard somewhere up ahead and above at the top of the opposite slopes we could hear a rooster and goat bells from A Ram. Jays seen between trees and foraging on the ground and Collared doves heard cooing and seen active. Bee-eaters heard somewhere overhead. No greenfinches along that north valley stretch.

A mystery bird was heard in an overgrown area of mini cliffs and gullies down from and around the pigeon 'lofts'. I had never heard the like before, it was a long clear trill which rose a little at the start and fell at little at the end. We heard it trill several times but were unable to locate it in the foliage or rocks though there were many places it could be hidden. Akiva suggested we ascend to the next level to get a better view of the area but I think this move might have spooked it altogether because we did not see or hear any sign of it then - and it was sunset and time to head back- there would be no moon to light our way once we ran out of sunlight.

Earlier today- mid/late afternoon a sunbird was singing persistently in the Bauhinia for a while but so many large leaves I didn't see him. There was also at least one laughing dove in there. Again I was serenaded by a bulbul first thing in the morning not long before first light.

House sparrows, jackdaws and hooded crows also about and heard numerous times.

Weather: Range: 23 -32 degrees C (73.4- 89.6 degrees C)

Time of walk, approaching 7 p.m. 27 degrees C ( 80.6 degrees C)

humidity ~60%, wind: WSW 6-9 knots.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Attack of the caper bugs.

Variegated caper bug, (Stenozygum coloratum), a Heteropteran plant bug of the family Pentatomidae. Here above is a nymph.

check out also http://www.nature-of-oz.com/heteroptera.htm scroll down about two thirds down the page for a nice pic of the adult bug which is mostly black.

Below, 'on the march', several adults and a nymph on a caper stem. We found several bushes along valley road swarming with bugs, some obviously damaged but with no signs of bugs at all and a few as yet untouched. Black spots and discolouration caused by the bugs.

Below: caper pods damaged by bug activity. Ugh, nasty, I wouldn't eat these! These bugs are known to migrate to avocado trees and damage them too. Fortunately we have no avocado trees in our neighbourhood as far as I know.

Early birds today: Bulbul again started up at 5.18 a.m. as yesterday. Not long after: sunbirds, house sparrows, laughing doves, hooded crows cawing.

No luck on gazelle but some hyrax activity by valley road.

Syrian woodpeckers around eucalyptus grove area, greenfinches around bunker rubble, jays in woods and around gazelle field. collared doves active and vocal in various places but turtle doves quiet. Husband spotted hoopoe flying into large hawthorn tree side of gazelle field. Wheatear (black eared ) at edge of cistern.

Jackdaws (flock 50+) and hooded crows about, bee-eaters heard.

Range today: just under 20 -just over 30+ degrees C (68- 86 degrees F)

~7 p.m. ~27 degrees C. (80.6 degrees F)

humidity ~60%, wind: westerlies, about 10 knots.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A stroll towards the quarry

We found several cushions of this small composite growing at the lowest north east edge of the neighbourhood by Shadiker, near the beginning of the trail leading down to the north valley dirt road. It's a lot like groundsel (Senecio vulgaris) in flower form but leaves are very different, paler, hairy, small and simple in form. I did not find another Senecio with this foliage. Nearby much Inula (ragwort type) is coming up strong, much rank smelling foliage and already some blooms. Figs are green and getting larger on neighbourhood trees.

That yellow thistle is still out, though very little green on it, just a few green leafy thorns on the stem just below each flower, some mullein still flowering as well as the roadside low soft yellow broom type as well as globe thistle, now finishing, and thyme still peaking. Golden thistle is over and no sign Syrian thistle ever were. Gundelia found detached, an entire deciduous plant ready to roll the dirt roads like tumbleweed as I'd read. One really short stemmed globe thistle found close to the dirt road, a few of the green beetles on it but no red. We wondered if the persistent wind coming down that section had inhibited its growth since most globe thistles are about three feet high and how that affects which beetles it has- and how that in turn affects the plant.

Below, an earth (fox's den) we found just up the north bank of the north valley watercourse, not far from the quarry. No evidence of recent use.

Early birds today: 5.18 a.m. Bulbul, ~5.28 a.m. sunbird and house sparrow 5.33 laughing doves. Also hooded crow caws around that time. As you see, a few minutes later still as sun gets up a little later each day now, though all of these when still pretty dark.

No luck on gazelle today but some hyrax heard, shrill alarm calls from quarry colony.

Collared doves very vocal and active today, coos and flight calls and activity noticed between trees. No turtle doves heard at all along that stretch. Feral pigeon over the neighbourhood earlier and laughing doves as mentioned and foraging on sidewalks and crumb corner.

Jays active and vocal today but though we listened alertly heard no chukars or grackles. One small raptor overhead, kestrel? Graceful warblers vocal in various places, valley road and towards the quarry but blackbirds keeping a low profile. A quiet afternoon for birds! Jackdaws heard from direction of A Ram and from the house earlier. Bee-eaters also heard and flock of over 25 flying over NE edge of neighbourhood. Some hooded crows about.

Some Satyrid and a white butterfly seen but didn't get close enough to see which, and grasshoppers of course as well as ants and occasional black millipede still esp. on evening walk.

Weather: range: 22 to just over 30 degrees C today ( 71.6 -86+degrees F) - time of walk: approaching 7 p.m ~27.5 degrees C (81.5 degrees F), humidity: ~45%, wind: westerly 9-13 knots

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Olives and Eucalyptus

A view from the slopes of windsurfer hill north-eastish towards the small grove of olives and almonds. Dry stone walls divide the lower area into sections and a watercourse that flows only at times of heavy rains traverses the area from the south (right to left) between the grove and the hill and empties towards the cistern area via the eucalyptus grove.

Below: Various eucalyptus berries at different stages of development, all pics taken today from trees at look-out corner (above) and near the sapling field. (below)

Gazelle: Mother and young grazing near north valley watercourse out in the open. Small young.
Feral dogs: some barks heard.
Bee-eaters: Plenty calls heard of flock somewhere north gazelle field, several birds glimpsed
Hobbies: calls from woods somewhere north of central trail as it was getting dark

Collared doves, Eurasian Jays: some calls, activity
Graceful warblers: Quite vocal by valley road and look out corner area
Great tits: Some calls heard. Greenfinches: twitters and chaws around look out corner
Jackdaws: Flock of at least 100 returning from hill forage towards Pisgat Zeev at about sunset
Hooded crows, House sparrows: Laughing doves:
Stone curlews: some calls in the fields
Sunbirds: calls in the garden since before dawn.
Syrian woodpeckers: some calls in the pines
White spectacled Bulbuls:calls in the garden from about 5.15 a.m.

Weather: 17.5-30 degrees C. (63.5- 86 degrees F) Time of walk: ~6.45 p.m. 27 degrees C (80.6 degrees F),
humidity: ~50%, wind: WSW/W/NW ~5-9 knots

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Saturday walks

A July view of east field looking south towards windsurfer hill.

Gazelle: Two on south west slopes of windsurfer hill.. appeared to be female and well grown young. 1 adult male making his way up hill near east end of south facing slopes north of gazelle field.
Hyrax: high pitched calls from valley road, husband saw on early morning walk.
Fox: sitting or lying in the grass half way up the south facing slopes to the north, just gazing in our direction, looking about from time to time but taking it easy. Some hooded crows were foraging not far behind and higher up on slope, ignored each other.
Bee-eaters: Above 50 flew over us at look-out corner from direction of Pistaccio grove, over gazelle field towards lines over the service road, some whirled back, showing off their beautiful aerial manoevres.
Turtle doves: Husband heard early this morning, brief cooing towards sunset this afternoon.

** Also early this morning Akiva got nice view of
long eared owl flying from service road pines towards owl glade up to south west. Already light, about 6.30 a.m. seemed he'd spooked it as he walked by.

: Some activity and calls early this morning.
Breslover warblers: very vocal somewhere on the slopes of windsurfer hill, flightless songsters though song itself far carrying. Distinct penguin like plumage and white crowns.
Collared doves: coos, flight calls and activity towards sunset
Eurasian Jays: activity, calls, foraging on the ground and about, towards sunset.
Graceful warblers: towards sunset vocal activity south end of gazelle field by central trail, and seen foraging.
Greenfinches: calls in trees towards sunset, look-out corner area
Hoopoe: In eucalyptus near look-out corner, flew over to pines, service road area.
Jackdaws: Flock of about 100 took off from hillsides by A Ram and headed towards windsurfer hill or farther east.
House sparrows: calls activity about buildings and in fields.
Laughing doves: coos about buildings as usual.
Stone curlews: some calls in fields towards sunset.
Syrian woodpeckers: Calls in various parts of the woods, quite vocal.
White spectacled Bulbuls: variety of calls in various parts of the woods.

Weather: 20.5-29.5 degrees C. (68.9- ~85 degrees F)
Time of afternoon walk: towards 7 p.m. ~26 degrees C , (78.8 degrees F)
humidity ~53% and rising, wind NW/W 5-9 knots

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Brief Thursday report

Above, north gazelle field now, tall seeding milk thistles is a popular venue for flocks of greenfinches, noticed also feeding on them today.

Below, the most common thistle actually blooming now, active yellow florets, present in many places at watercourse level and hillslopes. (a closer pic with ants posted a few days ago)

Fennel also flowering in many places, some plants in gazelle field and elsewhere taller than I am.

Today we headed down shortcut to north watercourse dirt road and from there, east to gazelle field, then south along east watercourse dirtroad, across sapling field and back along valley road.
Hyraxes not noticed today.

Gazelle: Four
noticed up at the tree line up the east slope from east watercourse dirt road, an adult buck interacting with a small group of at least one adult female and well grown young.

Bee-eaters: Flock of at least 30 in the Pistacio field and gazelle field area, probably more about, hard to count as groups were keeping low, some alighting on the dirt trail by the cistern and elsewhere and hawking low, and then taking off in melodious flight at eucalyptus canopy level. Always mesmerizing to watch in flight.

Turtle doves: Much cooing today in various places along north valley dirt road.
Blackbirds: Some alarm calls, both chak chak and tzreet. No song lately.
Collared doves: some active but relatively quiet today.
Eurasian Jays: active, some harsh caws in various parts of the woods.
Graceful warblers: Some calls. Great tits: some calls.
Jackdaws: Flock of at least 100 birds returning south to roost after foraging on hillsides, lower slopes to north. Hooded crows also up there working the ground, perhaps after grasshoppers and such, plenty of those to catch now!
House sparrows:chirping about houses as usual. Laughing doves: cooing, active about the street, ground foraging.
Stone curlews: calls in fields towards sunset. Sunbirds: short calls in the garden.
Syrian woodpeckers: vocal in the woods, some glimpsed.
White spectacled Bulbuls: garden and north watercourse acacias. Musical sounds from early morning, harsh calls late afternoon.

Today's range: 18-27 degrees C. (64.4 degrees F- 80.6 degrees F)
Time of walk: just before 7 p.m. , just over 24 degrees C (75.2) and falling,
Humidity: 55% and rising, wind: westerlies, 5-9 knots.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Brief Wednesday report.

Today at about 7 p.m. summer time we headed down central trail towards the east valley dirt road via the ruins, then up the shepherd's trail to the lower slopes of windsurfer hill to look out for gazelle. We spooked two, looked like mother and well grown young - they headed off right around the western slopes of the hill. There was a fresh cool breeze roughly from the south west and as I faced into it, saw these cumulus blowing up over the hill. Husband mentioned it actually drizzled this morning, rare for July. Otherwise warm and sunny.
Calls of stone curlews somewhere in the field.

After scanning the olive grove and hills around it we headed over and north to the dirt road that leads over windsurfer hill and down to the cistern area, pines on the left, mostly cypress on the right. Also noticed there a thorny burnet exposed at the base showing a short central thicker trunk, like a little tree.

Below, a salmon coloured lichen found on many of the rocks

Bee-eaters: calls of a flock active somewhere over the woods. Blackbirds: some alarm calls.
Collared doves, foraging on ground by bunker area.
Eurasian Jays: some active. Prince doing well, shows no fear of us at all, never really did, and now does not try to peck when hand in cage.
Graceful warblers: calls. Greenfinches: chaw and other calls in bunker area just after sunset
Hooded crows: some about, flying to roost, but quiet, low profile today.
House sparrows:about houses, also near Shadiker hyrax colony, small flock foraging at forest edge.
Laughing doves: active foraging in pairs by street, crumb corner, cooing in the garden.
Sunbirds: some calls in the morning. Syrian woodpeckers: calls betw eucalyptus grove and Pistacio orchard.
White spectacled Bulbuls: calls from garden from about 5.15 ish give or take.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A stroll along and by north watercourse dirt road.

Cute little discovery.. on a prickly leaved shrub out in the open near the north valley watercourse found this feather, iridescent on top half- unfortunately the pic doesn't show how much.. around sunset, but the hues gave it away as that of a male sunbird. I saved the feather

I returned to the green shrub which I thought might be another species of Eryngium and now am more sure given the form of the flowerhead buds, and spines about, some with two spines at the base just like the blue variety (which was Eryngium creticum). I don't find a match for this one though. Whole cluster head less than 1 cm across, this is magnified.

I was also determined to find the prickly shrub with the star shaped 'flowers' and found it with Akiva's help but it was not quite as I'd expected. It was clearly restharrow, Ononis, some of the pink pea like flowers were still blooming but it seems the star is left after the flower has finished.

This bug was scampering quickly on the sidewalk on our way out of the neighbourhood, running so fast the ground beneath is a blur. Looks like a beetle but is in fact a Heteropteran, (different order) no idea which.

First birds today: 5.05 a.m. Hooded crow caws.

5.09 a.m. bulbul from another garden, joined by 'our' bulbul at ~5.15 am

5.25 am musical calls from sunbird.. (song heard later.. early afternoon. )

house sparrows and laughing doves chimed in soon after.

Gazelle: No luck today. Hyrax: A couple scampering over the rocks for cover at Shadiker colony.

Bee-eaters: calls heard. I didn't notice any calls at 5.30 ish this morning.. that's a change.
Hobbies: Very nice views of one circling over north valley watercourse, close to where it emerges to open field. Also circled over the road, must get telephoto, great sight! We tried pics but didn't come out satisfactorily. A second bird emerged from trees to south and made a few passes, then flew south into pines and soon after heard shrill calls.

Blackbirds: Some alarm calls in the woods. No song last few days.
Collared doves: Some activity. Eurasian Jays: some calls.
Graceful warblers: some calls. Jackdaws: calls, then flock of 50 flew over A Ram and continued south.
Hooded crows: much cawing before and around dawn. House sparrows:about houses
Hoopoe: seen flying from bat cave area to pines by dirt road, husband noticed foraging on ground by rocks
Laughing doves: around buildings as usual. Stone curlews: need to confirm with husband.
Syrian woodpeckers: some calls.

Weather: today's range : 18.75-25 degrees Celsius. ( 65.75 - 77 degrees F)
Time of walk: ~7 p.m. 23 degrees C (73.4 degrees F), 12-16 kt, westerlies, humidity ~70%

Monday, July 13, 2009

Gazelle, Grackles and grasshoppers

Hillside trail linking lowest north eastern extremity of the neighbourhood with the north valley dirt road. This is area we saw nightjar last season. Tree up on left is Tree tobacco, in bloom.

Rectangular basin cut out of the stone, drainage lip and deeper rounded basin now overgrown but appears cut by man and may have been used as olive press or perhaps small threshing floor long ago. This on the hillside up from north valley watercourse not far up from bat cave.

Yet another grasshopper.. they are just everywhere amongst the chaff! I took a pic of yet another species on a thorny burnet, a long slim variety but pic not satisfactory, sadly. Shows the range about now, hard to know if numerous species or much individual variation in a few.

Below, a thistle type plant with ants visiting the florets. There is also quite a bit of new growth in the open amongst the rough remains of the spring. One appears to be another type of Eryngium but green, with no trace of bluish, but heads look similar though longer buds. I took a pic but want to get a clearer one. Another spiny shrub in gazelle field just down from the shaft bore small white star like flowers along its length. I took pics but very unsatisfactory and that I also want to repeat. In all, an assortment of new green is pushing up through the brown and gold, mostly thorny plants adapted to the harsher weather of summer. We checked on the snapdragon clump by the field east water course .. still a few last latest blooms on it.

Acacia seedpods bursting open showing pill like seeds, black, flattish and roughly rectangular in shape with rounded edges.

Gazelle: 5 grazing middle of hillslope just east of the pine hangar, all females and well grown young. Several piles of scat various places on the south facing hillslopes in small flattish areas around trees west of bat cave.

Reptiles: Lizard scampered into the depths of a thorny burnet, then I completely lost sight of it unfortunately.

Pair of Tristram's grackles seen foraging on the ground near the north valley watercourse.. as noticed before the female seems much more vocal with the whistle, (tuu-ee-oo!) she has the greyer head. First time I've seen them on the ground in the area away from the quarry.

Bee-eaters: calling throughout our walk, small flock high over north valley flying to and fro hawking aerial insects.
Hobbies: calls in trees near the shaft as it became dark.
Turtle doves: coos in pines on hillslopes across north valley.
Collared doves: coos, flight calls, foraging on the ground, active between trees.
Eurasian Jays: some calls, foraging on the ground, active between trees. One in an acacia was alarming a great tit calling alarm repeatedly, possibly was rearing another brood deep in there.
Feral pigeons: In flight overhead here and there
Graceful warblers: calls, active and vocal near valley road. Interestingly not so many greenfinches noticed in the pines of north valley, they tend to concentrate in the lowest altitude flattest part of pines and around look-out corner.
Jackdaws: flock calls heard,
Hooded crows: calls heard, some seen over in flight.
House sparrows:calls heard around buildings as usual, as were Laughing doves & seen foraging on the ground:
Stone curlews: calls in the fields after sunset.
Sunbirds: brief tic tic calls in garden, Syrian woodpeckers: some calls.
White spectacled Bulbuls:calls in garden and north valley acacias.

Weather: 19-31 degrees C. ( 66.2- 87.8 degrees F)
Time of walk: ~6.45 p.m. ~27 degrees C ( 80.6 degrees F), humidity: ~40%, winds westerly 6-10 knots

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Look at the superb camouflage of the grasshopper above.. the dorsal stripe looks just like a stalk of grass and head area exact colour of the earth. The one below looks obvious from this close but even if you just stand upright the stripes break up its outline so that it 'disappears' amongst ground debris.

Today we made a late start because of vet visit, already after 7.20 p.m. summer time when we headed around valley road, via central trail to towards the bunker ruins then, because jogger near cistern would have spooked wildlife before us, we turned left onto the north valley dirt road, took service road through the pines (where we first saw the fox today), crossed north valley watercourse and made our way east along a rough trail, transversing the north part of gazelle field to the watercourse at its eastern border.

Most vegetation here now dried out and finished, grass harsh and golden, seedheads, seedpods, burrs, prickles of all sorts, mole rat mounds, deep dense soil in this region now cracked by dry season but not hard, grasshoppers everywhere very camouflaged. One kind that caught my eye had vivid red/orange wings when jump/fluttering but these vanished to perfect camouflage when they land. We did, however, find and photograph a couple, seem to be different species from each other and comparing with pics of grasshoppers earlier in the season, different species from those too. Not easy to tell until you compare photographs because they often have some basic markings in common (outline breaking stripes across body) but amazing how much the details can vary.

Gazelle: None today
Hyrax: Did not pass any colonies, but husband did notice one just below the school the other day, a part of the bank where seems to be a small colony, occasionally notice activity.
Fox in woods by service road, headed over towards bat cave, stood on flat rocks over there and gazed back at us before heading into the cypresses over there. light brown head paler around muzzle, darker patches on side.
Bee-eaters: Calls of flock just after 5.30 a.m this morning, flock active north west gazelle field around sunset
Turtle doves, collared doves: Some coos.
Eurasian Jays: activity between trees, foraging on ground in the woods.. Vet came today to give dog vaccination also checked out Prince and gave clean bill of health, yeah!
Graceful warblers: some calls, Great tits: some calls
Greenfinches: flocks on gazelle field again on the thistles.
Jackdaws: 5.48 a.m. heard from house somewhere to east.
Hooded crows: Heard cawing at least 15 mins before 5 a.m. and a few more times over next half hour or so
House sparrows:In the garden, chirping from ~5.20 a.m.
Laughing doves: In the garden, heard cooing from soon after 5.20 a.m.
Stone curlews: calls from fields as it began to draw dark, sounded like from field just east of Pistacio orchard.
Sunbirds: squeaky call heard in the garden ~5.20 a.m.
Syrian woodpeckers:
White spectacled Bulbuls: getting up a little later, 5.18 a.m. in the garden but another one farther off started at least five minutes earlier.

Range today: 22 -31 degrees C, time of walk: ~28 degrees C, ~32% humidity, wind W/NW 3-5 kt

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Log catch up, foxes, bee-eaters et al

Another shot of the Helichrysum sanguineum for you.

W = wednesday T = thursday F = friday S = Saturday

Foxes: 3 on S
at morning by Akiva near shaft, (a covered deep well by north valley dirt road just west of service road), look out position over gazelle field and bat cave area) The foxes headed in three different directions, one up back into forest to south west, one towards bat cave, one other.. some barking as if contact bark after husband had alarmed them.. he had impression all were adults, all quite thin tails and all dark.

Gazelle: Also saturday morning by Akiva, adult male by service road through pines just east of shaft.

: W one by Shadiker company, several including young near pumphouse, Sa: mother and kits on a rock down from valley road pointed out by neighbour Bracha, sentry closer on rock between Bracha theorized may be father.

Bee-eaters W 100 + seemed two distinct flocks flew over us on valley road towards neighbourhood, later over gazelle field. Heard friday and saturday morning at about 5.30 a.m. Small flock by cistern toward sunset saturday
Blackbirds: W, S active various parts of the woods foraging, alarm calls but not song
Collared doves: W some coos, S: coos in woods
Eurasian Jays: W, S active in various parts of the woods between trees, calls, pair foraging by cistern. Prince is starting to vocalize, husband says sounds like something between a sneeze and a hoarse bark.
Feral pigeons: W, S in flight over neighbourhood.
Jackdaws: Flock heard calling from towards A Ram, foraging on hillside by there? At least 50 flew over towards south/SE
Graceful warblers: W, S by valley road, also apparently a family foraging and vocal in a clump of fennel near pumphouse on Wed.
Greenfinches: W calls near look-out corner. S, flock foraging for thistle seed in gazelle field towards sunset
Hobby: Sat, rising on a thermal over look-out corner area.
Hooded crows: W very loose flock heading to east valley from north west shortly after we set out, calls T, F, S
House sparrows:W around buildings, also T, F, S
Laughing doves: W coos from dawn and around buildings, also T, F, S
Stone curlews: W, S calls north gazelle field
Sunbirds: W calls just after 5 a.m. garden, also T and F but absent S, not heard all day.
Syrian woodpeckers: S: calls in woods, some dispute near orchard, two ''hide and seek'' around tree trunk. We saw together this afternoon, husband said saw same just there this morning .
Tristram's grackle: some whistles heard
Turtle doves S: coos in woods.
White spectacled Bulbuls: W calls just before 5 a.m. garden, also T, F, S
Sparrowhawk W briefly at edge of Pistacio orchard/eucalyptus grove

Weather Wed: 23.6 degrees C (~74.5 degrees F) , humidity 71%, winds westerly 12.2 knots, range: 18-27 C, (~64.5-80.5 degrees F)

Friday morning: hooded crows heard before 5 a.m. bulbul 5.11 a.m. (later than usual) , sunbird 5.18 a.m. house sparrows, bee-eaters flock calls 5.30 a.m. laughing doves shortly after not sure what time.
Saturday morning similar but without the sunbird.

Weather Sat: - time of walk, just before 7 p.m. 27 degrees, (80.6 degrees F) humidity 45%, westerly 4-8 knots
22- just over 32 degrees C (71.6 - 89.6 ) , you have to love the mild and moderate weather we get in the hills!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Hillside wanderings

Today we took the short cut down to north valley dirt road and from there crossed the north valley watercourse and headed up the opposite slope to the flint stones and on to the hidden water course. On our way we saw a beautiful adult male gazelle heading from there towards the north valley woods. It stopped to gaze at us and I noticed it had quite long horns and a small patch of white on the crown of its head. (Perhaps that's Snowflake's dad!)
We crossed the north valley watercourse and headed along the hillside towards the service road, hearing the calls of wheatears on the hillside and the distant calls of a flock of bee-eaters way down in the cistern area.

Recent ground fire on north facing slopes of north valley between the short cut down and the service road we noticed, the ground was still smoking. They only damage leaves on the lowest branches of the pines but, we noticed, not the twigs as they sprout new the following year but eucalyptus leaves tend to be damaged up to half way up the tree. No eucs involved in this fire though, and so far fires not so bad as last year by this time.

Moon was rising over Hizmeh as we returned, like a nice round of Edam.

Plans to expand settlement of Adam (across bipass road to north east) would affect bachelor herd grazing area but various groups are fighting that. Plans include much of upper parts of the hill north and to some extent west of sage vale. A real downer of course though it may take years to execute if at all. I've seen earlier birdwatching grounds (particularly eastern hillslopes by Bayit Vegan) disappear like this, always sad. The apartment we live in now stands on land that was part of the forest 20 years ago.

Still, there is plenty room for the gazelle in the fields and woods even with that development and the gazelle herd that lives by Katamon thrives in a much smaller area. Of course I wonder about the effect on the population if the bachelor herd loses its upland grazing area, that and the effect of fires. Because of the fence they cannot migrate out of the area so will have to make do, but the fence must of course be altered to embrace the whole of Adam and land (they are not shy to come right to the edge of neighbourhood at night) so may actually expand grazing.. all that is still hypothetical and we will have to see.

A view across east valley, showing the new growth on the pines nearby and tall eucalyptus farther back, spires of cypress behind. Below, an ant enjoys dinner on a thistle head.

Below, a bee-eater in silhouette. Shape of the winds is reminiscent of the wings of a sea gull.

Hyrax: No hyrax activity noted around Shadiker colony but could be because the feral cat we saw had alarmed them underground
Lots of mole rat mounds all over the hillsides. Bats seen, south end of gazelle field and at the crossroads on central trail.
Bee-eaters: Flock heard early morning, also by cistern just after sunset as mentioned above.
Black eared wheatears: some calls on the hillside.
Hobbies: call after sunset from the pines just west of gazelle field.
Blackbirds: a little song, chack chak and tzeet alarm calls
Collared doves: coos, some activity
Eurasian Jays: calls, some activity in the woods. Prince knows he can soften bread by soaking it in the water bowl.. smart bird!
Feral pigeons: flying about over the neighbourhood.
Graceful warblers: calls by east road heard as we were going down the short cut
Hooded crows: loose flock returning from roughly north west shortly after we set out.
House sparrows:around the buildings and foraging for grass seed by valley road.
Laughing doves: coos in the early morning.
Stone curlews: Clear calls and nice sighting about sunset, bird arrived at grassy flat patch on hill slope to the north across hidden watercourse, joined by another bird flying from the south. A third bird called from a little farther to the west but that one we didn't see. I always enjoy seeing them in flight and on the ground since we usually only hear them. Nice views!
Sunbirds: From early morning, shortly after 5 a.m. in the garden.
Syrian woodpeckers: calls in the woods.
White spectacled Bulbuls: melodious calls in the garden just before 5 a.m. again and hoarse chacking calls heard as we descended towards north valley.

Weather: ~6.55 p.m. time of walk temp. 23.3 degrees C again, ( ~74 degrees F)
humidity 69% and rising, winds NW, 10.4 knots.
Today's range: just under 18 degrees C to ~27 degrees C. ( ~64 - 80.6 degrees F)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Finally we see Red Everlasting in its glory

Funny thing about ants- when you're trying to take a pic of them it tends to come out blurred but when you're taking a pic of some flower, there's a nice sharp ant you didn't even notice! Akiva found these Helichrysum sanguineum (Maccabee's blood/red everlasting/red cudweed) in a cypress grove by the north valley watercourse. Even just from a few feet off they just look a mess as the blooms are so small but when you zoom in they reveal their wonders, more opened up than we've ever seen them. Extraordinary to see them like this now when we found them elsewhere with seed hairs a few weeks ago, of course development could proceed very differently out in the open on the hillside and here in a shaded glade.

We took several pics, I am likely to post more in future. Now they finally look like a Helichrysum!

I checked on the tree just up the slope to the south of the north valley dirt road to see how the fruit is developing. Comparing the pics, though very similar they do seem now more swelled out at the base and a touch paler and yellower than the shade of green they were.

Ant on a caper bud. On another copy I tried playing with brightness and contrast to bring out the mandibles more but no significant improvement so decided to post the original natural pic.

Below, though lack of sharpness esp on the back legs I decided to post this pic of a white grasshopper simply because I've never seen such a one before. This one was on midsummer day on the lower parts of a caper bush. Plenty grasshoppers lately including a laterally striped individual that we have photographed before not long ago, and some dark satyrid type butterflies.

We headed down into north valley and up dirt road towards quarry, checking globe thistles, the tree with the small green fruits.. (no further obvious development, perhaps a touch yellower)

Gazelle: No luck today. Hyrax: passed Shadiker colony but no above ground activity noticed

Bee-eaters: heard up over the edge of the neighbourhood. Also heard about 5.30 a.m. from the house.
Hobby: Neat flying by one individual up over the north ridge close to A Ram. Flying INTO the wind but hardly moving its wings.. a stationary glide.. using the oncoming breeze to give lift but maintaining position. Kestrel flutter their wings to hover but this was managing minimum movement without a beat.. did move a little more laterally than the kestrel does but pretty much held position. Turned and was whipped downwind a way with some quick wing beats then turned again and resumed ''hover" position over the edge of A Ram.

Blackbirds: Some alarm calls heard just below Shadiker, foraging on the ground.
Collared doves: coos, flight calls, activity between trees.
Eurasian Jays: some calls, activity between trees.
Feral pigeons: some aloft, flying between tops of buildings.
Great tits: some calls in the pines, Hooded crows: some about.
House sparrows: gardens as usual, Laughing doves: coos in the garden from early morning
Stone curlews: calls from direction of east field 10.30 p.m. no doubt foraging at night, a wader aspiring to owlhood.
Sunbirds: calling in the garden from early morning.
Syrian woodpeckers: some calls in the pines.
White spectacled Bulbuls:calling in the garden from just before 5 a.m.

Weather: time of walk ~6.55 p.m. 23.3 degrees C (~74 degrees F )
humidity 69% and rising, wind NW 5.2

Range today: 18.5 to just over 26 degrees C ( 65.3- 78.8 degrees F)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Today I decided to give some attention to the local trees as they show such a marvellous range of forms of texture. Above, young cypress cones, looking juicy enough to eat but hard, astringent.

Aleppo Pines showing new cones and, in the background, some old cones, also as you see, fresh needle growth this season. This richer green topped all the pines like frosting. Below, some detail of the bark of a young pine tree by the shepherd's trail.

Below: this feathery/flaky texture was found on many of the eucalyptus by the east valley dirt road, quite different from the smooth patchy nature of other eucalytpus near look-out corner and other places, (photographed a few weeks ago).

All the pomegranates have vanished from the trees by the cistern. Perhaps someone had the idea of harvesting them early and trying to mature them at home, good luck with that, they were nohwere near ripe!... or use them for some other purpose. Left long enough though the wildlife, birds etc, will go for them before they are fit for human use.

Gazelle: No luck though we scanned east field and north field and hill slopes though I could still have missed them.
Hyrax: Several spotted on the west side hill slopes near the pumping station.
Reptiles: Moshe saw a nice size skink earlier in the day.
Bee-eaters: small flock working the air above north west part of gazelle field and edge of pine woods there.
Also heard near the house around 6 a.m. Akiva noticed something of a regular thing lately.
Hobbies: calls heard only.
Turtle doves: some coos heard near central trail after sunset

Tristram's grackles: heard calling in north valley, hidden watercourse area? hard to tell. A little later one flew over us as we walked along the east valley dirt road, whistling and moving fast with the wind from the neighbourhood to windsurfer hill.. possibly same bird, but this one seems to be a regular.
Blackbirds: Some calls, smidgen of song
Chukar partridges: Not heard but a rather bedraggled feather found on shepherd's trail.
Collared doves: coos and some activity noticed.
Eurasian Jays: Some screeches, glimpses, and Prince still doing ok, getting used to us.
Graceful warblers: Some calls.
Greenfinches: calls, small groups moving about between the trees look-out corner area.
Jackdaws: flock heard early morning from the house somewhere east, intermittant calls.
Hooded crows: loose flock returning home from the north west today.. nice speed, riding the wind over north valley
Also heard calling about 4.45 a.m. and intermittantly for next half hour or so
House sparrows: Chirps in gardens from before dawn
Laughing doves: coos in gardens from dawn-ish
Stone curlews: Calls from east field area around 10.30 p.m.
Sunbirds: calls in the garden shortly after 5 a.m.
Syrian woodpeckers: Calls in the woods, activity in eucalyptus grove east of bunker, edge east field.
White spectacled Bulbuls: Calling in the garden from about 4.55 a.m

Weather: Time of walk 18.45 p.m. 22.1 degrees C. 70% WNW 10 kt.

Range today: 18-25 degrees C.