Saturday, November 21, 2009

Winter crocuses, Bold starlings

Today, Sunday, I returned to the place where all the crocuses were growing in profusion, just up the bank to the east of the east valley dirt road, found this one open.

This, taken last thursday, pretty much all the winter crocuses were in bud. Below, milk thistle germinating all over the place, the first, seed leaves (cotyledons) are simple in shape with just a few pale markings but the next pair already have the spiny serrations of the future leaves.

Friday 20 Nov: Before dawn, sunbird squeak alarm yet again, early afternoon blackbird SONG heard.

Saturday 21 Nov: Gazelle: No luck on our walk this afternoon but on our way back up from our evening walk an adult male gazelle was ahead of us on the last turn, right between us and the caravan shul. When it became aware of us it ran around the back of the caravan and paused at the end of Elias, then made its way in less alarmed fashion across part of the empty lot beyond and then down the bank.

Lots of hyrax about this (late) afternoon on our walk, on the forest side of forest road across from 'cypress slum', on and between the boulders and nibbling up the trees. a few dropped down out of them at our approach.

Husband spotted two sparrowhawks over towards east field. As we approached look-out corner area from east valley dirt trail I noticed male black redstart on a rebar, always good to see. A little later stonechats heard and one male spotted perched in the fore field just beyond the rubble. Syrian woodpeckers heard. Graceful warblers heard, flock of jackdaws up to the north west today, by A Ram, at least 100 probably more. Hooded crows over, Eurasian jays about the woods.

Sunday 22 Nov: Again before dawn, at about quarter to six a.m. sunbird started off with much squeaking alarm calls. Soon after a white spectacled bulbul called melodiously for a while, house sparrows chirped and farther off jackdaws and hooded crows called. Laughing dove cooed softly later.

As we walked northish along the east valley dirt road we heard chukar partridges from somewhere in the valley, first time we've heard them in weeks.

We ascended the shepherd's trail to look out over east field and were in luck.. 6 today! An adult male gazelle was grazing in the quite close company of a group of at least five gazelles, females and well grown young- just a little to the south of the olive grove in one of the lowest parts of the field. Presently they started to move towards windsurfer hill, parallel to the fence which gives them some sort of cover. I've noticed five paces.. walk, trot, run, a bounding, leaping run when they really want to make speed, and a sproinging bounce.. all we saw them do this afternoon apart from the bounce which is usually used when one gazelle wants to catch up to another gazelle quickly. The buck was quite happy where he was and continued grazing, apparently oblivious to the movements of the others away from him.

Monday 23 Nov: Hooded crows winging home from foraging, white wagtail noticed end of Elias very interested in a dense tree, flew at it a couple of times, seemed quite excited. Wants to roost in there or some interesting forage? Sunbird and bulbul about from dawn again. In the woods: blackbirds, chak chak alarm call at dusk.

A couple of weeks ago my eldest son, Aharon, travelled in the south of the country. Here he is relaxing on the shores of the Dead Sea surrounded by Tristram's starlings Onychognathus tristramii They are numerous down there and have adapted, and even thrive on the presence of man. One is actually perched on his left hand, this I have NEVER seen before. It clearly trusts him and is interested in his pita bread and cheese! At least five forage for crumbs on the ground and three more watch out for opportunities from the backs of chairs.

Below, a female Tristram's starling - you can tell by the brown rather than jet black head.

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