Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A collection of days

Image from Wiki of Stonechat, Saxicola rubicola - now just returned to the patch.. see below.

Grasshoppers still abound in the fields. This is a Pyrgomorphella again, a very common though strange looking type with its elongated eyes and knobbly antennae type. A second grasshopper was nearby, more typical, green and pale brown longitudinal stripes and a fraction of the size, but was apparently camera shy...

'Everything comes down to poo..' We found several mounds of scat like that on the left, far more elongated than regular gazelle poop (and much too small in proportions to be porcupine poop, similar in shape) and here we found both kinds side by side. Why the change in form? More moisture due to the rains? If so, why does other gazelle scat stay spherical? One grazing near the watercourse, the other up on the hill? Perhaps that on the left is a female's and the male deliberately deposited his right next to hers?

Tuesday 27 Oct: Lots of hyrax on valley road, variety of ages.

28 Oct: Two large flocks of jackdaws at least one hundred individuals each returning from forage in the north towards sunset, shortly after followed by about 40 hooded crows.
Syrian woodpecker calls, blackbird chak chak calls at dusk, bats?

Thursday 29 Oct: Gazelle,
lone male buck north field/lower slopes just east of bat cave about sunset. No other gazelles seen today.

feral pigeons about, house sparrows, sunbird in the garden singing early afternoon briefly. Eurasian jays, some hooded crows and jackdaws flying home to roost but not in numbers as yesterday

Some rain today, cooler but still mild.

Saturday 31st Oct: Most significant.. the return of the stonechats! Numerous individuals heard by bunker rubble, around cistern, around dry stone walls and almond row in general.. one spotted in fading light perched on top of thorny burnet.. just after sunset they call to each other from every direction.

Gazelles: Mother and quite well grown young lower north slopes of windsurfer hill. We walked up shepherds hill, over part of the lower slopes and surprised a female that had been behind some boulders just off the path.. she ran down towards the olive grove where she then caught the attention of an adult male who was grazing there. That caught his interest and he chased her southward alongside the fence. Poor girl, from one thing to another! So 4 gazelle in all, all in east field. None spotted in north field though didn't scan lower hillslopes extensively. certainly none in gazelle fields.

Hyraxes by roadside. Jackdaw, flock of at least 110 with small group of hoodies amongst them, flying from north west over neighbourhood, heading towards windsurfer hill. From house main birds heard today house sparrows, hoodies and jackdaws) Rain on and off.
Eurasian jays, Syrian woodpeckers, graceful warblers, active and vocal.

Sunday 1 Nov: Laughing dove coo joined the house sparrows early morning. Chaffinch calls late afternoon in the trees near Shadiker colony? Birds in flight seen were some kind of finch..
Four gazelle on slopes of hill to the north, one young, rest females/well grown young.
Eurasian sparrowhawk over hill ridge to north briefly. Otherwise, blackbirds, white spectacled bulbuls, jackdaws, hooded crows, Eurasian jays, graceful warblers, Syrian woodpeckers.

Monday 2 Nov: Not much time for much of a walk, the skies opened again as we approached the pumping station along valley road. We did see a mature hyrax scamper across the road earlier. It has rained non stop since then and it was raining on and off during the afternoon. In the intervals when the sun peeked through the local birds hurried to forage, the sparrows, jays, bulbuls and such and various more furtive passerines.

Temps today: 9.5 (now) to 15 degrees C (early afternoon) ( 49-59 degrees F) as you see, quite a drop since Mid October!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mild fall days, a shower, a young gazelle

seedhead of Sharp varthemia also known as 'goldilocks', Chiliadenus iphionoides . Below, anothe rkind of seedhead growing in clover sized patches by north valley dirtroad.


Nice flock of feral pigeons over our street, up, swirling about, alighting on rooftops.. almost 100 members, they've been doing well lately! White wagtail distinctly heard, one glimpsed? Flying up onto a rooftop on Shadiker near the house sparrow date palm roost (which was already gathering members) . Syrian woodpecker seen flying over valley road into pines, blackbird and white spectacled bulbul calls in the pines. Sunbird song in the Bauhinia earlier today.
Jackdaws and hooded crows heading to roost. Eurasian Jay calls.

Forgot to mention late last week jays noisy in pines, a clamour that sounded suspiciously like mobbing behaviour. This was confirmed shortly after as husband glimpsed a large bird take off from that area but did not get detail, if some kind of buzzard, long eared owl or something else.

Keeping an eye and ear out now for any winter arrivals.. stonechats, black redstarts, starlings, robins, chaffinches. Leaf warblers are already about but others no sign yet. Occasional stone curlew calls but brief.

Weather today: 16.5- 24 degrees C (61.7- 75.2), still mild, and despite some cumulus rain not fallen, not that I noticed.

38%-88% winds variable 0-5 knots, NE-E-SE

Sunday: In east field, two gazelle running towards pine grove, two adult females or female and very well grown young. Hyrax high pitch alarm call at pumphouse colony as darkness fell.

Monday: Sunbird singing and calling in Bauhinia again today and lately. White spectacled bulbul heard melodious calls before dawn out there as well as house sparrows, hooded crows and jackdaws.

Jays, blackbirds, Syrian woodpecker heard but where have chukar been? Very low profile lately, haven't heard them in a while. A variety of butterflies and moths about and still grasshoppers.

Four gazelle on hillside across north watercourse, mothers and young including one very small young, a couple of months/few weeks old at most. Farther to the east a lone adult male not far from bat cave.

Heavy though brief shower in the afternoon.

Below, a caterpillar found on a caper leaf on monday, north banks of north watercourse. On the leaf you can see damage by the caper bugs earlier in the season.

Cast off skin by some kind of cricket.. found clutched in middle of a clump of Inula by upper part of valley road. Four short wings.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Heatwave gives way to a cooling before rain

Middle ground on the left, bank part of the Shadiker hyrax colony territory which continues down below and around the hillside facing north, many square metres and possibly a larger colony than the cypress slum colony. A minute after taking this picture a number of hyraxes of various ages scrambled down the bank (they had possibly been raiding gardens up the hill)

Pic taken from north west corner of loop of valley road. Below.. valley road continues before turning again roughly southward. Here grows a little Ailanthus (tree of heaven) surrounded by Inula, Aleppo pines behind nd farther down. Pines and cypress on the hillside beyond.

Vandalism (?) on lower slopes of windsurfer hill. It's possible these thorny burnets were burned just because some kids like the snap, crackle pop sounds .. we've seen this behaviour. Apparently whoever did it got bored after about a dozen bushes. Not to worry, this is all finished growth. they will likely start up again next year from the base.

Tuesday: Heatwave conditions still prevail

Glimpse of Sparrowhawk over north valley. Yes, we're seeing them more again now the hobbies are not competing with them directly. Eurasian jays also about and vocal. Hooded crows heading for roost and jackdaw calls. Blackbird chakking calls at dusk. Syrian woodpecker?
In the gardens, house sparrows and white spectacled bulbuls more active and vocal.

Wednesday: Weather took a definite turn for the cooler. Max about 26 degrees C today and cumulus clouds drifting over fast by dusk but not bringing immediate rain.

Gazelle? Not that I remember check with Akiva.

Large flock of jackdaws returning home to roost from north towards Pisgat Zeev.. over 100 birds.. much smaller group of hoodies in the rear and some ahead.

Akiva heard whistle of Tristram's starling earlier in the day. Syrian woodpecker heard, Eurasian jays, blackbirds.

Mud dauber wasp found in opened up mud capsule in the garden. (Boys were cleaning up dead leaves before the rain and I am not sure if they broke it accidentally, found it broken or what). There were two wasps, fully formed but seems quite dead. Both ~ 2.3 cm long, with black abdomen and yellow 'neck' connecting thorax to abdomen. Legs are striped yellow and black as you see. I need to get pic from the side. There was also a dark brown pupal case nearby from which it seemed one wasp had emerged. Perhaps they were unable to escape from the concrete additions to the capsule.

Also saw a Bath White (Pontia daplidice ) white butterfly and a small blue type within last couple of days fluttering about north valley.

Thursday: Similar observations to those all week with exception of buck gazelle sighted alone on hillside just east of the bat cave, call over the lowest edge of neighbourhood sounded distinctly like white wagtail but we didn't catch sight of the bird.

Temps down another notch to about 16-23 degrees C and rain forecast but still not fallen.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

October heatwave notes

Pistacio grove: Leaves now turning red.

One of the buck gazelles across north valley, eyes reflecting light at many metres

Cones on trees by shortcut down from valley road to north watercourse dirt road

Channel running west-east across middle of gazelle field, draining east watercourse and taking it past the fields. The channel is so choked with Inula and old thistle you can barely see the old stone walls along the sides but still acts as a conduit after heavy rains. (view rotating 180 degrees), the channel continues east till it reaches the eastern edge of gazelle field, then drains northish.

writing saturday night: 18 Oct.

Heatwave today, 26-33.5 degrees C, 79.8-92.1 degrees F , humidity 11-25%, winds north west early morning then turning easterly and very light, no more than 2 knots but for brief veer to the north in the afternoon and rise to 10 km, dropping back to easterlies for the rest of the day.

Sunbird in song outside the window a couple of days ago, melodious calls from bulbuls
Hyraxes out in numbers late afternoon, mostly adults, one 30 feet up in cypress tree, nibbling away, another a few feet farther down, just stared at us as we walked by.

Adult male gazelle across north watercourse walking east just at the edge of the pines, stopped to graze briefly.

Also active and calling: raucous call of white spectacled bulbuls, blackbirds, Eurasian jays, hooded crows,

Sunday: Another hot day, similar conditions to yesterday.

Much activity of the Shadiker hyrax colony, one climbing over 20 feet into a pine down the slope to nibble, plenty active on the bank, all sizes.

: 3 bucks moving pretty much together slowly moving westward across north trail, two together, the other lagging behind. One head butted another that came too close.

4 gazelle heading up the hill just east of the bat cave.. two and two. Looked like two mothers and well grown young.

Bats seen at dusk again.

Sunbird singing in Bauhinia early afternoon. Melodious calls of white spectacled bulbul from about 5.18 a.m. (now clocks have changed, not summer time any more of course) , Eurasian jays, jackdaws, hooded crows seen and heard. House sparrows going to roost in those date palms again, feral pigeons building tops. Laughing doves low profile lately. Blackbirds noisier in the woods, perhaps they feel freer to be vocal now hobbies gone?

Monday: another day of similar weather conditions. Low 30s celsius for a few hours middle of day, humidity low but with much in the air, dust, pollen etc. Some high altitude clouds last couple of days, some cumulus rolling in towards dusk.

3 buck gazelle seen again heading east, this time one came out onto north valley dirt road, others nearby.

In the woods: Syrian woodpecker calls, Eurasian jays also quite vocal, hooded crows. Heard laughing dove cooing softly in the garden today. Brief view of Eurasian sparrowhawk heading from north gazelle fields to pines, Kestrel up on slopes from near lines, flew quite low towards A Ram. Bats seen again about dusk.

Millipedes, grasshoppers, moths, crickets about.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Miscellaneous notes

Tough blades of new grass are emerging in many patches all over gazelle field, awakened by the recent fall rains.

Feather found near the large cistern pine. From it's colouring I'd guess it belonged to a stone curlew though it could be from many other birds. 14 cm.

Tree growing in the old water channel draining west east behind the cistern. Some kind of acacia?

Sunday: Birds relatively quiet today. Hooded crows and jackdaws as usual, house sparrows in the gardens but most places quiet. Gazelle hoofprints in the thick dust on central trail.

Monday: Hooded crows and jackdaws, flock of latter at least 90 birds heading from Hizmeh to windsurfer hill about sunset.

Adult male gazelle in east field, just south of olive grove, near fence. A little later we saw mother and quite well grown young in that field farther down, just north of olive grove. They headed for pine grove, youngster ahead, mother sproinged to join it.

Hyrax activity down by valley road, adults out on rocks.

Heard Tristram's starling whistles up hillslope west of pumphouse.. looked, pair on the lines, male and female near top of slope. Watched male take off and hawk something from the air and land back down, rather ungainly move for a bird of its size but tried repeatedly, female also tried. Farther down slope closer to road a pair of white spectacled bulbuls at top of a cypress and very small bird also taking off and hawking, couldn't make out what at first but then bill in silhouette gave it away.. it was a sunbird! Never saw one hawking before. Then one of the bulbuls did it. What is airborne? Flying ants possible, we've seen some around lately. Would be from numerous colonies since several hundred feet between the starlings and the cypress.

House sparrows in gardens, feral pigeons on buildings. Don't recall hearing a laughing dove lately but crickets still chirping at night.

Tuesday: Female and young heading down from east pine grove between fence and watercourse on east side of gazelle field. Possibly same female and young we saw north/lower end of east field yesterday. Fresh scat by the watercourse, west side.

Still lots of grasshoppers, though more browner ones with broader markings, as opposed to the greyer, paler ones earlier in the season. One with definite red wings. Those yellow thistles are pretty much over now and gone to seed. Orange marked butterfly seen recently in north gazelle field, painted lady? Just a glimpse

A leaflet published recently about this area claims wild boar are found here but we have seen no trace of them at all, no hoof marks, no sightings. Possibly any incursions of them or jackals were prevented by the building of the fence.

Bat at dusk

Wednesday: House sparrows, feral pigeons about the building, the former gathering in the tops of some nearby date palms, noisy pre roost chatter. A white butterfly noticed as we went down long path to north valley dirt road, but didn't settle long enough to I.D. First I've seen in a while. Also noticed honey bee sipping from Inula flowers, various small pale brown moths and more grasshoppers. The other day we saw geometrid moth on central trail, ash grey with dark spots front of forewing, unfortunately flitted off out of sight before we could get a shot.

At least three bats fluttering over us at dusk at crossroads central trail, coursed up and down and around, tending to fly over the trails. Already looking out for black redstarts, stonechats etc, never know when the first will arrive but none yet. Blackbird heard, also great tit, Eurasian jay, jackdaws, hooded crows (both crows heading to roost) , Syrian woodpecker.

No hobbies, does look they've finally gone, and perhaps the reason why the vocalizations of the stone curlews are picking up again lately, they were very quiet over the time the hobbies were most vocal, I think they were intimidated by them.

Today's range 18-28 degrees C. (64.5-82.5 degrees F), humidity: 30% late morning, 67% peak early evening, then falling again. Wind, WNW in the morning swinging to NE middle of the day then back to NW for the rest of the day.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Chol Hamoed notes

Inula viscosa, (Strong smelling Inula/ false yellowhead) blooming in many places now and aggravating the nostrils, sinuses and throats of many!

We took a walk north over the hill and to the olive grove just beyond. Saw a few swallows hunting over the area, probably on their way south, stopped for a bite. A group of three larks noticed on the rocks on the eastern hillslopes on the way back, hard to tell which, melodious calls made from the rocks, crest and no obvious striations or head markings of any kind, the ultimate brown job with just the beautiful warbling voice and crest to let us know they were larks.

Above, Carob flowers at Sacher Park, below, the ripe carob been fruit, deliciously edible and sweet.
A peculiar gall on a Pistacio at Sacher park. The trees in that section had many of these.


Gazelles - 7 two sep adult bucks, 5 females and young. Adult buck nudged young in behind, get him moving up hill, came up in rear ahead of us. Shortly after saw one farther up hill and to east no time, sep male?

Larks limestone boulders east hillslopes 3 crested very little striation
Hobby: excited call, flight over, around north valley
Swallows: small number hawking over olive grove to north
Eurasian jays, syrian woodpeckers, calls
Leaf warbler Phylloscopus busily foraging in a pine north edge service road, pines, willow warbler, chiffchaff? Also call of one in Pistacio grove in recent days.
jackdaw flock, some hoodies up hill towards A Ram foraging

Our street: laughing doves about and feral pigeons, house sparrows.

husband heard bee-eaters briefly yesterday mid morning and possible Tristram's .. we both heard Tristram's from house a few days ago.
sunbird Bauhinia

wed: adult male gazelle wandering into pines trees across north watercourse near short cut down. About half an hour later adult male ne gazelle field, beyond most eastern almond.. not v likely to be same individual

Eurasian jays, syrian woodpeckers, feral pigeons, jackdaws, hooded crows. Also stone curlews calls last few nights from direction of east field. Crickets like cell phones

Thurs: hyrax activity, up cypress about a third from top. Calls of Eurasian jay, jackdaws, graceful warblers. Also hooded crows about.

Today: large flock of jackdaws flew over Hizmeh to join hoodies at windsurfer hill. Collared doves on line near pumping station. Syrian woodpeckers, white spectacled bulbuls and blackbirds heard from valley road. For a change NO calls of sights of hobbies.. does this mean they have finally left? Last night: our dog (cairn terrier/ish) found a hedgehog just off valley road, took a sniff then backed off! Head tucked in, no nose visible and keeping still, waiting for us to leave.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Week's notes, First autumn Squill

Crescent moon between the eucalyptus

Looking west across gazelle field, just north of the cistern and pine. This shows the course of the central water channel which brings water from east valley through an L shaped course, past the large almond and hawthorns and then over to the east edge of the field, flowing north eastish a few hundred yards and then draining out of the area in the north east corner of gazelle field. Other stone walls border small fields cultivated decades ago. Green foliage is Inula viscosa, a ragwort like 'weed'

Mysterious feather found in a cypress grove by the north watercourse. Wing primary, too long to be that of a sunbird, too short to be bee-eater but with those metallic blue/green hues, what could it be? Possibly a great tit's ? 12.5 cm long. Other feathers about of other birds, evidence of a number of bird attacks which could have been due to sparrowhawks, hobbies or long eared owls. No other feathers from this bird found so could simply have been dropped in the summer moult.

Hyrax tues evening, young ones running down the bank from gardens end of Shadiker after 10 p.m. saturday, quite a number active by valley road across from cypress slum area, seen jumping out of cypress, standing on rocks staring up at us, variety of ages.

Gazelle tues adult male by bat cave, white on crown, strolled to grove, young gazelle on service road in the pine grove ran northish towards the field. Adult male seen shortly after in the grove

Sunbird singing in Bauhinia early afternoon thursday

Jackdaws, hooded crows, Eurasian jays, falcons, three near quarry area, aerial chase, hard to see in fading light and silhouette which falcons were involved. Kestrels and hobbies it seemed, some of birds probably passing through... glimpse of big brown job flying quite low over gazelle field towards look out corner.. but not enough detail.. Buteo like.

Today, saturday, the above, also calls of Syrian woodpeckrs, blackbirds alarm calls, sunbird squeak alarm call in the garden, more early afternoon song.

Shrike calls and graceful warbler near bunker ruins. Collared doves about but quiet. Still no white wagtails. Geckoes still calling middle of night occasionally as are crickets late evening, a long shrill call type. Black millipedes still about and German wasps visiting us in the Succah.

We visited Sacher Park again on thursday and J.B.O. but waterside pretty quiet today. Husband got more shots of sunbird on the sugarwater feeder and of a Eurasian jay taking a peanut off the wire. It was interesting that it pecked the peanuts within shell completely off the wire and flew off with the whole pod rather than try to open the pod at the wire. It was only pecking through the pod to release it rather than open it up. It will probably take it to some branch and open the pod in typical jay fashion, clutched under its toes. Lots of hoodies at Sacher park as usual. We looked out for Linda the raven but no luck there. Ruthie said she hasn't been seen for a while so I wonder...

A single autumn squill noticed in bloom beside the shepherd's trail, first one I've seen this season!