Thursday, December 31, 2009

early flowering

These red anemones were found just at the north edge of the young pine forest, the one just west of gazelle field. There were three of them, none seen elsewhere and earliest bloom we've seen yet (Monday)

A Gagea : Star of Bethlehem.. now sprouting in many places under the pines. (Monday)

Savyon in sapling field. The larger leaves amongst them are mostly those of growing milk thistle. These two views taken late last week.

Clumps of asphodel foliage near east valley watercourse, each bearing spikes of pale pink flowers.. just discernible.. perhaps click on it to see them a little better. The closest clumps are likely actually part of the same plant linked by an underground rhizome system. The whole plant takes up quite a bit of room and reaches up to my chest. Brown patches in the back were done by park authorities not mole rats. Yet more!

Below.. one of the Asteraceae (composites) but not sure which yet.

white flower is one of the brassicaceae.. shepherd's purse or near relative, not sure which.

Apart from these other plants noticed for first time lately.. Thorny burnet flowers! Male, by central trail and beginnings of female flowers too. Some deadnettle (purple labiate) flowers by edge of neighbourhood and more mustard.

Thurs Dec 31st: sapling field a riot of savyon now, quite delightful, as well as the small purple and orange jobs and a tiny white flower that is definitely one of the Brassicaceae.. a nasturtium? More asphodel coming out all over the place. definitely earlier this year.

Gazelle.. at least nine including adult buck, grazing north field area.

Black redstart on rebar at bunker rubble.. we were out an hour earlier than usual and I waited till he was back in action. Syrian woodpecker heard, Collared doves about, flock of feral pigeons over our street, laughing dove soft cooing in the garden. Sunbird in cape honeysuckle as well as house sparrows.

Sunbird singing up a storm in the garden like a robin on caffeine saturday , occasional black redstart, .

Sunday 3 Jan:

Gazelle.. adult buck with a number of females and young, at least 8 counted altogether, possibly more.. grazing in field by north watercourse, buck occasionally getting involved with some of group members.. brief sparring with young males (we'd noticed in the past the young males, rather unwisely, sometime start up with the adult buck and he puts them in their place! A little later he ran after a female for a stretch, straight run, no bounding, pretty level ground, alluvial area.

I checked north facing slopes of north valley in place we'd found cyclamen before.. sure enough plenty leaves by boulders but no flowers yet, not expected. Wild mustard is blooming, however, by valley road and stonecrop leaves already spreading over rock flats area by north dirt road turn off. Great place for little ponds.. some already teeming with life.. fly larvae most visible but I think microcrustaceans and other stuff in there too.. need to get samples for boys to check with microscope.

Two Eurasian sparrowhawk sightings plus kestrel circling over north valley. Laughing doves cooing in the garden today.. seems volume slightly increased, hen chaffinch spotted high in eucalyptus, their calls have been heard around a lot lately especially in north valley.

Birds also about lately: jackdaws, hooded crows, feral pigeons, house sparrows, graceful warblers, chiffchaffs, Syrian woodpeckers and great tits getting more vocal. Hyrax and fox not seen last few days though we were in right places.

Monday: Gazelle group seen almost all the way up the hillslope to the north, grazing peacefully, adult male amongst them, rest females and young. Young male standing on the crest, buck just a little way down from him. At least 8 individuals, hard to tell with their appearing and disappearing act amongst the boulders and bushes at that distance.

Feral pigeons, laughing doves, house sparrows about buildings, Hooded crows and jackaws around generally, lots of thin piping of insectivorous birds calling in the pines, thought we heard chukar just down from Shadiker hyrax colony but we've been fooled before by some kinds of alarm barks of hyraxes which sound very similar to 'chuckles' of chukar. When a small pack of feral dogs appeared down there made it even more likely we'd heard hyrax though I still say they sounded more like chukar. Nice view of a Eurasian sparrowhawk flying over. Blackbird brief song and chakchak pre roost calls.

Monday, December 28, 2009

geraniums etc

These beautiful tiny geraniums I found growing at the edge of the street this afternoon. (monday) I.D.d as Geranium rotundifolium - I'd been noticing the leaves all over the place but these are the first blooms I've seen this season, and a minute from the house.

This interesting insect was right next to me on the wall when I went to the bathroom first thing today! One of my kids killed it later, I think he was concerned about that sharp point at the end of the abdomen! I have never had one of these attack me but it's possible one of my other boys was stung by one years ago.. such he described but we never found the evidence. Unfortunately didn't measure it but it's about 4 or 5 cm long. Silver Y moth (Autographa gamma) on my bedroom wall this evening.

(below) later found, here, on the window blinds.

Below.. growing by our street on a patch of rough ground. Looks like one of the catchflies (Silene) but did not find a definite match and none this early. Earliest blooms in february! I also don't remember seeing them or the geranium this early last year, and neither of us remember as many winter crocuses last year, many places by gazelle field, by north watercourse. Could we have just walked past them last year?

Eager earthworks of the park authorities. They have been busy in many open places, turning over the earth for development, tree planting.. we shall see! I hope we won't lose out on any flora but the way vegetation is coming up there should not be much to worry about. The eucalyptus grove area by the north watercourse has also been ploughed so I shall be watching later to see if the Carmel orchids there can grow this year.

Mon 28 Dec : House sparrow chirps, Sunbird squeaks and laughing dove soft coos in the garden much of the daylight hours. Bulbuls and blackbirds settling to roost in the forest by valley road. Continous hyrax alarm barks over by the Shadiker colony today, perhaps cat or fox upsetting them. No hyrax activity by valley road noticed.

Tues 29 Dec: sunbird active in garden again today, (cape honeysuckle is in bloom), laughing doves soft coos. Jackdaws and Hooded crows swarming over windsurfer hill.. apparently collective nouns for jackdaws include a 'clattering' and a 'train' but I still prefer a 'snickering'! 'Jack' is also not an allusion to the call it makes but is a diminutive- means 'little daw' , 'daw' I assume simply meaning 'crow'. In Hebrew they are called simply 'kaak' קאק which is an allusion to the call.

Husband heard Tristram's starling as he was coming down the hill midday, (from bus stop to house),

Fox seen just as it was getting dark.. we took ramp path from valley road to the back of the buildings and as we reached the top fox cut just a few feet in front of us from back of a garden and down the bank with a large piece of what looked like bread in his mouth. It stopped on the slope briefly, crunched the bread but did not feel at ease eating there so continued across valley road and into the cover of the pines.

Wed 30th December: great tits scolding in the pines just down from valley road. Collared doves about. Jackdaws and hooded crows as usual. Sunbird squeaking in the garden. Call like that of european robin up the hill just west of the east valley watercourse dirt road. Black redstart at the bunker rubble.. good to see it has not been put off from its usual haunts!

Stone curlew heard from east field as it became dark.

9 gazelle, just east of the bat cave, lower slopes of hill to north.. one adult male buck following but a little apart from a group of females and quite well grown young.

Found the Silene depicted above and photographed the silver Y in my room.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Flowers, snails and other delights

Savyon (Senecio vernalis) now blooms in many places by the edge of valley road, in and about the stream bed. 13 petals on this one! (plus a very small insect which is probably a thrip)

Not sure what this is yet.. one of the very delicate purple flowers growing in mats of serrated leaved ground hugging vegetation. One of the geraniums? Each flower had five petals. The leaves of the round leaf geranium are becoming plentiful now as are those of monkswort.

Toadstools grow amongst young milk thistle and clover, grasses and other foliage. Caps about 4,5 cm in diameter. Akiva. Under pine cover just north of sapling field.

The flourishing of green vegetation in this season is always a delight to me. In this tiny window on sapling field ground cover a nice handful of species can be seen. Serrated pinnate leaves on the left are those of the purple flower.

Nice size snail found in the garden by the boys. It's alive, has just retreated into its shell for now, boy's finger for scale, perhaps hibernating at least temporarily. Right off I'd say it's a Roman snail (or close relative ) Helix pomatia which are used in Mediterranean cuisine though not in Israel as far as I know. (neither Muslims nor Jews eat them)

Wednesday 23rd December: Fox seen pretty much exactly same place as last week, north west lower corner of mid windsurfer hill slopes by treeline, this time heading in direction of Pistacio grove and cistern.
No gazelle today but two yesterday between north watercourse and bat cave stretch of rocks.. adult buck chasing another with shorter horns.. I got impression from sharp facial markings that it wasn't a female but a young male.

Blackbirds heard twice in song, one in gardens near house , another beyond pumping station.

First Asphodel! I don't remember seeing one in bloom so early last year. This was not far from the east valley watercourse in shade of pines just north of sapling field.

Saturday 26 Dec: sunbird singing in Bauhinia outside window early afternoon. laughing dove soft coos, house sparrow chirps.

White spectacled bulbuls just down from valley road as it was becoming dark , musical calls answered by more musical calls in trees down by watercourse, echo effect. Also some harsh social noises. Calls of chiffchaffs many parts of the wood(? ) calls of Chaffinches by shadiker colony. Pine just down from there brown/red leaves all over.. fire, or poisoned by stuff drained down hill? Acacia right next to it looks healthy though.

Jackdaws and hooded crows active as usual. We looked for hyrax all along valley road at the usual time but none about at all. Temps today ~9.5 -17 degrees C (just over 49 -~62.5 degrees F)

Sunday 27th December: Fox seen again. We left the loop where valley road becomes a dirt road and crosses the bridge, and crossed the watercourse where it descends the hillside there. From there we picked our way between the limestone, sprouting asphodel and other vegetation now really growing in. Thorny burnets and thyme filling out with leaves. The fox was down by the dirt road to our left and made its way up the hill ahead of us and up to our right. He looked like the fox we have seen a lot lately but not going on his usual path, south of the pumping station for a change.. he could have been spooked from that by a neighbour moving along the dirt road below, or, of course, his daily route could be complex and variable- or it could be another individual but the colouring was pretty much the same.

What do you call a group of Jackdaws? I'd coin the term "Snicker". A snicker of jackdaws - because that's what they seem to do when they all vocalize at once. Whether it's the correct collective term or not doesn't really matter.. we heard a flock snickering up on the hillside to the north. We also heard Syrian woodpecker, saw a pair of collared doves on a line near the pumping station, male with his thick neck and looking hopeful, heard graceful warblers vocalizing here and there, a group of rather tuneful small birds that may have been linnets but didn't get a good look at them, still, sounded like them, and hooded crows and feral pigeons were also about. Stone curlew heard from east field as it was getting dark and we were heading back up the hill home.

Monday, December 14, 2009

More fox, week's review, area development

Monday 14 Dec:
Fox seen again.. he was up the slope to west of pumping station (near hyrax colony there). Some boys with a dog way up the slope spooked it and it headed down the slope towards us, passed between ourselves and station and continued on down into the sapling field. We noticed he paused briefly at two shrubs, one of them fresh asphodel blades, cocked back leg to mark, and this time I made a point of looking and confirming he was indeed male. He continued down the longways central trail from the sapling field to the ruin. Checked east and north fields, no sign of gazelle today. Hyrax? *

Female chaffinch noticed on top of cypress in east valley, Tristram's starling heard whistling, two flew from hyrax colony area intto a partly built large building (will be a synagogue). Perhaps they hope to nest there in the spring, suits them like the ruin by the quarry. Graceful warblers foraging in low vegetation on the bank, young male black redstart perched on a rebar and flicking characteristically. Husband noticed another bird with orangish breast, darkish head, from that I'd say already stonechat. Great tits heard scolding, blackbird chak call at dusk.

Flock of over 50 feral pigeons on rooftops near house, sunbird singing in Bauhinia mid afternoon.

Tuesday 15th Dec. Temps down today, definite chill in the air. 9.7 -15.3 degrees C today (~49.5-59.5 degrees F) , two sweaters and jacket weather

Gazelle.. group spotted from valley road ascending northern slopes of windsurfer hill.. five altogether, four females and well grown young in front, adult buck following a few metres to the rear.

Great tit scolds, Syrian woodpecker call, Eurasian jay calls.. haven't heard latter two for a bit- jackdaw calls, Stone curlew call from east field as the stars were coming out.

Wednesday 15th Dec: Felt warmer than yesterday, cloud cover and very light mist over much of windsurfer hill. We had just mounted the shepherd's path to a point that commanded a view of all the northern slopes of windsurfer hill when Akiva noticed what looked like our fox moving by the tree line a little to our north west. Fourth day in a row! Looking down towards the fence we noticed two gazelle, looked like mother and well grown young between the olive grove and the east pine grove.

Birds included: blackbirds, jackdaws, hooded crows, laughing dove (1 flew across valley road into pines). Hoodie on top of tree indicated that they may already be starting to stake out breeding sites.

Sunday morning 21 Dec. early: garden, squeaks of sunbirds, blackbird soft chak chak, calls of jackdaw and hooded crows farther off, white spectacled bulbul and later, laughing doves.

We did not get down to the valley thursday or friday but were down there Saturday. In the woods lately, great tit scolds more frequent, collared doves occasionally seen but quiet this time of year, Syrian woodpeckers about, graceful warblers quite active and the occasional Eurasian sparrowhawk spotted, flying swiftly between groups of trees. Haven't seen black redstart for a while but again, we could be there a little too late, we need to catch him earlier in the afternoon when insect hunting is better - and after Shabbat and Chanukah may not be disturbed so much by people.. though the recent work on the field might also keep him away. Perhaps he moved to other side of eucalyptus grove.

No gazelles noticed yesterday but today 2, mother and quite well grown young down near north watercourse in the open, moved on towards bat cave.

Magnificent cloud scape today, no one picture would do it justice. The entire dome of the sky was traced with a delicate and ever changing pattern of high altitude dappled cumulus/stratus/cirrus variations.

What are they doing to gazelle field between cistern and central trail? Bulldozer has turned over all the soil now. Do they plan to seed it with lawn grass for picnics? I hope much of the Malcolmia and other flowers of that area survive. We shall see.

Monday 21st December, winter solstice!

Akiva spoke with a man from the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet) who was down near the bunker rubble with his work crew. They do indeed plan to plant trees over much of gazelle field as well as part of the owl glade and a bare part of the pistacio grove. They have already disposed of the prunings and were applying a liquid to the cut branches to prevent insect infestation. While they were down there the man spotted a gazelle over on the south, more open side of the Pistacio grove.

In the sapling field I noticed the first bright yellow Savyon! Senecio vernalis , also known as spring groundsel. Its smaller flowered relative, the diminutive but vividly orange dandelion type was also already blooming as well as a delicate petalled tiny purple flower with ground hugging leaves. Its hard to find an intact flower of one of those purple jobs, they seem to shed petals at the drop of a hat. Polygonum is also still in bloom as well as the low broom type by the wayside.

Graceful warblers were active and vocal today around gazelle field, Jackdaws and hooded crows heard many times, feral pigeons about, husband heard a Tristram's starling somewhere over east, great tits were busy scolding and sunbirds, house sparrows and laughing doves in the garden. White wagtails heard

It's now about 6.10 a.m Tuesday , and I hear a sunbird alarm call from the gardens somewhere not far off. Hoodies and jackdaws also heard.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fox company

This fox we encountered today, Sunday 14 Dec, on the bank just up from valley road, between cypress slum and the pumping station. It must have been aware of us but acted totally unconcerned.. this was shortly before sunset. It made its way silently along the slopes, like a dog, sniffing here and there investigating everything in its path. Akiva noticed it first this time, pointed it out to me and we both fell silent as we proceeded along valley road, husband taking shots, myself following quietly at a little distance behind. We followed it all the way to the pumping station where it took a turn up the hill and never seemed in any hurry. Akiva got nearly twenty shots of it.

Though thin, it looked in good health and condition. We got as close at 10m or so at times but for most of the walk the distance was between 10 and 20 metres.

Wednesday 9 Dec: Sunbird vocal in Bauhinia outside window early afternoon. House sparrows, white spectacled bulbuls about. Jackdaws and hooded crows vocal on and off all day, flying home south from forage late afternoon as usual.

8 gazelle- in east valley woods three noticed just north of sapling field. Then two noticed crossing east valley dirt road heading up the hill slope, joined by three more individuals .. all females and well grown young. As we reached look out corner saw three heading into the young pine grove, possibly the first three we'd seen and could not have been the three that headed up towards windsurfer hill.. so definitely 8 (with the outside possibility of 11 if the last group were a third group of three but less likely though we didn't see the three progress north through the east valley OR cross the road. )

What else? Syrian woodpeckers quite vocal today for a change, blackbirds, graceful warblers, great tits.

Thursday 10 Dec: 3 gazelle: seen from north valley dirt road.. two crossing watercourse towards trees by bat cave.. a female following an adult buck. (for a change). Another adult buck a few hundred yards farther west ('upstream' under same trees). Far from the first time we've seen two adult bucks in that region. I wonder if they are the same two that used to keep each other's company?
What else? Great tits (including some song in last couple of days, heard from house). Chiffchaff calls, chaffinch calls, small flocks moving between trees, Eurasian sparrowhawk (?), flying into trees by north valley dirt trail, in direction of owl glade from north gazelle field/hill.

Saturday 12 Dec: Hyrax very active along down by valley road late afternoon though didn't see any in the trees today and no very small ones.. not expected.
Akiva heard Tristram's grackles from somewhere up the hill from the pump station. Call of raptor up there, sparrowhawk? Calls of chiffchaffs about and as first stars coming out, stone curlew from somewhere by north valley. Chukar calls? Unless it was a similar hyrax call. Collared doves, two indivs, on two different lines near pump station. Chaffinch calls, small finch groups seen in flight over trees. Jackdaws and hooded crows vocal and active up on windsurfer hill. Small groups of white wagtails heading south to roost. (general note: 'heading south'.. we're NOT talking migration here, just their direction to roost.. which is more towards built up areas=more warmth so tends to be favoured direction for birds returning from forage)

up the slopes just east of east valley dirt road.. adult buck, looking down at us, handsome and looked like hair grown in, warmer, thicker winter coat.

Milk thistle leaves getting longer, more coming up, mustard leaves coming up on the bank below Lev Aryeh,( edible and quite peppery!), some winter crocus seen.

Sunday 13th: No gazelle today but amazing fox encounter.. pics above.

Apart from that: laughing dove cooing in the garden, sunbirds heard, large flock of jackdaws and some hooded crows scared off windsurfer hill by a chopper, milled over east valley for a while, calling. A pair of Tristram's starling flew over east valley, whistling. Sparrowhawk flew over eucalyptus grove area heading over east valley, southward.