Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Hyraxes and hungry owls.

Today Ruthie Schueler joined us for our walk. Perhaps you remember the name from previous entries? This is the very same Ruthie who has kindly allowed me to use a number of her bird pics in this blog and today joined us to photograph some of the local hyraxes and to experience some of the delights of these forests and hillsides with us. Ruthie is a naturalist from Switzerland originally and our conversation turned to the marmots there and how they compare with hyraxes, and of the alpine choughs and my son's experience of them.

(She also told me of a webcam in Switzerland she's been watching of a kestrel's nest and how the parents brought mice, small birds and lizards for the young, and once brought a live mouse. The youngsters stared at it for at least 15 minutes, not sure what to do, till the largest one took action and dealt with it. It sounds cruel but falcons have to eat too! )

These below are taken by her with a ( ) with 400 ml lens and were just down from valley road a little past cypress slum area. The hyraxes are so used to people here that they allowed quite a close approach which definitely delighted Ruthie. A little later we heard a range of alarm barks and screeches for her further interest. Aren't these gorgeous?

A little later Ruthie taught me something new. I love that! We turned at the pumping station, over the bridge and around north towards the Pistacio orchard and cistern area. At the orchard we took a trail towards east field to see if any gazelle were over there or on the lower slopes of windsurfer hill when we heard a high pitched to me unfamiliar call coming from the pines and cypress just uphill and south of the orchard. Ruthie recognized these as the calls of young owls for food, probably long eared owls (Asio otus) which are found in these woods all around.

Over a hundred crows were up on the upper western slopes of windsurfer hill, most of them jackdaws, the rest hooded crows. They boiled up and settled a few times as we watched. We had a brief glimpse of a hobby and heard some calls, heard a flock of bee-eaters way over in the direction of Adam, caught sight of some but too far too count, over gazelle field.

Collared doves were active, many glimpsed in flight between trees, some coos and flight calls. Turtle doves quiet apart from one coo I thought I heard from valley road. From there also we saw and heard bulbuls on the bank, heard graceful warblers a number of times from various places in the woods,.. seems they have dispersed from the valley road area as their calls are in many places now.. summer dispersal of juveniles no doubt. Great tits also called a few times from the pines not far from the road and some Feral pigeons flew overhead.
Chukar partridges
heard from the east valley dirt trail somewhere, numerous Syrian woodpecker calls, a Tristram's grackle call Akiva picked out but I missed. Blackbird chak chak alarms and Eurasian jays also heard in the woods.

Ruthie told me autumn migration has *already started*, various warblers have been netted at the Jerusalem Bird Observatory for ringing including Olive tree warblers, olivaceous warblers and a *European robin*, this early! It's outrageous! Robins are normally winter visitors here.

On the way back it was getting quite dark and an almost full moon was rising over Hizmeh. We heard a Stone curlew call from the direction of the bat cave. Ruthie was clearly familiar with the woodpeckers, doves, bee-eaters, (and young owls) and others, but apparently this was a new call for her and always a delight for me to be able to share that.

Evening walk: ~10.30 p.m. glimpse of a fox in the area we saw the hyraxes.. no doubt he hoped to catch a youngster, well, good luck with that, the colony is organized and always on its guard.

Weather warm today though didn't top 30 degrees C, (86 degrees F) pretty much like yesterday, winds roughly westerly though only 4-8 knots. humidity ~60%

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