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)

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