Monday, August 3, 2009

Wasp and thistle season.

A low lying thistle blooming now, its flower little more than a scraggly tuft of blue, easy to miss since the plant itself is a scrubby mass barely a foot high. Many of these were found alongside the north valley dirt track side by side with the dry looking yellow flowering thistle, the only two thistles in bloom right now as far as I've seen. All the rest are in seed. I noticed they also look a lot like the green Eryngium out now, just as the blue Eryngium looked a lot like the centaury out at the same time. Perhaps the Eryngium gets some degree of protection by looking like a more prickly and possibly less palatable plant?

Of course boys had played 'kerplunk' at the large cistern and now there is an island of rocks and boulders in the middle. Moshe jumped down onto the island to get this pic of a thirsty oriental hornet (Vespa orientalis - ) ~3 cm. These were visiting the cistern frequently to sip the rancid water but are so fast moving that Moshe had to be patient to get a good shot. They have a nasty sting but only when provoked. You don't bother them and they won't bother you, my philosophy with wasps generally.

Below, this wasp was too preoccupied with the inside of this caper pod to notice Moshe sneaking up on it. I think it's Vespula germanica based on the triangular markings on the abdomen, those of the common wasp are shaped differently. This is one of the commonest wasps here and I need to check the markings of those that visit the house to see if those are V. germanica or vulgaris. Moshe found another potter wasp creation just outside the front porch which we will probably post tomorrow.

Below: an owl feather (probably) Moshe found under the pines by the north valley dirt trail. Unfortunately I lost it on the way back but I think it was no more than 8 or 9 cm.

Birds were again not so obvious today. Bulbuls started up at about 5.30 a.m. , sunbirds not long after. A sunbird was also seen zipping across the north valley dirtroad between watercourse acacia area and pines between the short cut down and the shaft. More about that later.

What else was about? A very nice flock of bee-eaters flying high to and fro over north valley and gazelle field for aerial insects, Nice though brief sighting of flying falcon, I think a hobby but didn't get a really good look.. flew over the bat cave and behind the cypress over there.. collared doves cooing a little and a family foraging on the ground where the north valley dirt road curves towards central trail, graceful warblers calling somewhere by south end of gazelle field, Flocks of house sparrows foraging near the shadiker hyrax colony as before and also in the rubble area but greenfinches quiet or gone. Jays calling nasal harsh calls and glimpsed foraging on the ground under the pines and between trees, Syrian woodpecker calls. Flock of a few score jackdaws flying southish over the bipass road and hooded crows about. Feral pigeons on tops of buildings and laughing doves foraging on the sidewalks, crumb corner and cooing in gardens as usual.

Gecko heard after dark from buildings.

You may be wondering what the heck the shaft is. It's a very deep metal lined hole (i.e. large pipe in the ground) nearly a metre across, by the north valley dirt trail, about due south of the bat cave. We brought it to the attention of the city council for safety reasons because it was possible for one strong teenager or two younger ones to remove the lid and endanger themselves. Since then someone riveted and welded the lid shut but there is still a tiny hole in the middle through which Moshe loves to drop small stones and listen to them fall. We never hear them hit the bottom but they ping with increasing resonance on the walls of the shaft making some rather neat funky sound effects and suggesting the hole bends or curves at some point. Shining a light down there revealed only darkness.

Today's range: 20.5-30 degrees C . (68.9 - 86 degrees F)

Time of walk: not sure when we set out actually, some time between 6.30 p.m. and 7.00 p.m. ~25.5 degrees C ( 77.9 degrees F) and falling.

Humidity: ~70% and rising, wind: westerly 11-14 kt

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