Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ants, Grasshoppers and thistles

Thurs: 27 Aug: Today we had the pleasure of Moshe's company and hand at the camera. We found a busy ant's nest near the shaft and Moshe bravely came close to take these pics, because those big ones bite! In the pic below you can just make out the dark mandibles on the two large individuals on the left. You can also make out which end is which - abdomen is much darker than the head, and the head bears a pair of fine antennae with 'elbows' . I thought the larger ones were soldiers, only present to guard the workers but I did notice one clutching a large seedhead so it seems they do help out in the communal task of bringing grass seed to the colony storehouses. They certainly do guard quite ferociously, you step close enough a dozen or more will swarm up your boots and try to attack, but it's pretty easy to shake them off.

There are still lots of grasshoppers about in gazelle field. Moshe caught two species here, both I think we've been seeing all season. The one above has lost its left antenna. Looks like one of the Pyrgomorphella again.

Moshe also spotted our first gazelle of the day.. an adult buck heading down to the north watercourse towards the bat cave from the dirt road ahead of us. It had probably caught our scent but was in no hurry, it made its way steadily to the trees across the watercourse. A little while later the guys spotted another gazelle over there, partially hidden by the cypress and pine, a female from what they could tell.

Hobbies were very vocal over there again. Akiva and I agreed there must be three for sure by all the calls and he thought there may have been a fourth based on calls and glimpses of their movements. I had a nice view of one perched on top of a cypress for a while.

Other bird life was relatively low profile again. Syrian woodpeckers heard as well as Eurasian jays heard and spotted here and there. Hooded crows were about, feral pigeons spotted, laughing doves around gardens and buildings as usual and white spectacled bulbuls very vocal in many places. House sparrows and sunbird squeaks also in the garden. By contrast not a peep from greenfinches, bee-eaters or stone curlews. Not sure about collared doves and jackdaws.

Most of the greenery about now is that of Inula viscosa, the ragwort type plant which is flowering in some places, particularly at the end of Shadiker, but in most places is still a growing mass of rank smelling green foliage, but a strong contrast to the surrounding yellows and browns.

Today's temperature range: 18-28 degrees C. ~64.5 - ~82.5 degrees F. humidity: 30% early afternoon, 90% at night, smooth rise and fall between. winds: mainly westerly, SW & NW to and fro much of the day.

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