Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mercury and creatures under rocks.

Rockrose.. Cistus. This is not a member of the rose family at all but of the family Cistaceae. Widely scattered individuals on the north and west slopes of windsurfer hill (Wed)

Below: Moshe found this false black widow (Steatoda paykulliana ) under a large rock. Her legs span about 2 inches and here she guards her pinkish egg pouches. She looks fearsome but is not dangerous to man, though I wouldn't put her bite to the test! In Israel the black widow spider is all black, without any red markings. Steatoda actually hunts them, according to my guide, by Pinchas Amitai.

Moshe seems rather fond of a form of 'Russian roulette'... turning over large stones at arm's length and leaping back just in case of vipers.. though I've yet to see one in the area. Although other creatures found can be venomous they will tend to just sit there and not attack.. as in the case of several scorpions he found and a venomous centipede (by his description) which unfortunately retreated into a hole before we could photograph it. The red mouthparts indicated danger. Most rocks had nothing noticeable underneath, or very small spiders and ants. One, near the tree line, had a small snake, (or perhaps a skink), which also escaped into cover before I could reach it with the camera.

Below, a yellow scorpion: really not sure which species. At first I though Androctonus amoreuxi hebraeus but given the long delicate shape of the pincers it could be the (dangerous) Leiurus quinquestriatus. Quite common and definitely not to be touched.. I was reluctant to examine it closer as it was crouching in aggressive fashion and might jump, and the most delicate pincers are usually found on the most venomous scorpions.

Below, a geometrid moth found in the house. I adjusted the contrast on this one in order to show the patterning more clearly. Its natural colouring is much lighter and more 'washed out'.

Saturday 27 March:

Now the clocks have been changed, which must be borne in mind when giving times for walks, sunrise birds and son on. Now sunset is about 7 p.m. (10.56 a.m. ) and we head out for our afternoon walk at about 6 a.m.

This morning the bulbul started calling shortly after 6 a.m. (remember that was just after 5 a.m.) a few days ago, sunbirds chimed in a little later and laughing doves by half past. Not sure about the warbler. Blackbird also joined the song from farther off. House sparrows were active shortly after 5 a.m. as usual .

Rain on and off for last day or so giving the valley a distinctly damp feel, pools of water in the watercourse but already no actively flowing water. Hyraxes stayed in due to the damp and no luck on gazelle either but plenty birds active.

Hooded crows, Eurasian jays, Syrian woodpecker, Great tits, greenfinches, great spotted cuckoos, graceful warblers all heard, blackbird singing. Stone curlews only heard on our later walk at about 10.30 p.m.

Plants by valley road now include flowering Kickxia, viper's bugloss, veined savory, (the delicate tiny purple flowered Micromeria nervosa) . Also coming up now and all over, wild wheat and barley, goatgrass and an assortment of other grasses. Milk thistle still blooming all over and in some places the super spiny purple Syrian thistle is already out.

Watching and listening out for hobbies, turtle doves and passing storks but none seen or heard today.

Sunday 28th March : dryer than the weekend today so I was not surprised to find an adult hyrax right by the edge of valley road.. I'd spooked it and it descended a couple of metres, and then gazed back at me from atop a rock.
alarm call in pine, sounded like chiffchaff. Great tit alarm down in the pines. Stone curlews very vocal into the night.
Favourite sighting of the day was a black eared wheatear perched , flicking and from time to time calling melodiously atop a rock on a boulder mid northern slopes of windsurfer hill. So the wheatears are back for sure!

Monday 29th March: Bulbul started up just before 6 a.m. this morning, sparrows already up. within about 15 mins could hear the warbler singing.

Tuesday 30th March:
.. north slopes, could see 10 individuals, not sure how many with horns.. could have been some involvement of bachelor herd.
In east field another four individuals, two and two, unlikely any of the northern group had reached there. Blackbird song. wheatear call on east field.

Wednesday 31st March:
Early morning: house sparrows, orphean warbler, bulbul.

Forest and hill: laughing doves, stone curlews , (one heard wheeling and calling close over the forest south of the bridge at twilight) , call of Little Owl , we haven't heard that one for a while but, based on direction, could be the same owl that uses the bluff on the higher valley road.

We ascended windsurfer hill on the cistern side (northern), finding the Cistus and the various scorpions, spiders and such along the way.

Wheatears seen and heard calling on the hillside, a couple flying together around us. One gazelle, below us, disappeared under forest cover.. Akiva said had short horns.

Wednesday's pics are up above.

Task of the day, astronomical- a change from flora and fauna- to see mercury. This week mercury is relatively high above the western horizon and visible just after sunset so we decided to climb windsurfer hill to get the best view. Watching the golden western sky waiting for Venus to show can be like watching a kettle boil! Venus was our reference point since we knew mercury would be at about '4.30 p.m'. in terms of clock position from Venus (not time.. it was already after 7 p.m. in terms of time) and roughly between Venus's elevation and the horizon.

Soon, finally, Venus began to shine out of the darkening azure sky and we could start searching for mercury. Following Akiva's directions with binoculars I was able to locate it quite easily, a steady tiny shining pearl, clear and definite in the cloudless sky, less bright than Venus but still shining clear. We passed the binoculars all around so that Avremi, Moshe and Akiva could get a good view. I really could not see it with the naked eye neither could Avremi, Akiva barely could and Moshe said he could just make it out, this perhaps because of ambient light from the city. I was satisfied though, I'd had a good view of a planet that does not often give such a good opportunity and delighted that conditions were so perfect.

Then we had to descend the hill quickly in the gathering twilight as the still full moon had not yet risen and light was fading fast. We made our way down to the saddle water course trail and from there easily towards the bridge and pumphouse- surprisingly easy as our eyes adjusted and the whiteness of the limestone certainly helped. Soon mercury was barely peeping between tree branches, appearing increasingly bright as the sky darkened.

It had been a good day, a nice work out for all of us, including our little cairn, and satisfying in terms of finds.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Pouncing fox and hillside hike

Quaking grass, Briza. A small patch found by the saddle watercourse trail.

Above, flowers, below, leaves of Judean Bird's foot trefoil. Lotus collinus. (Best match I can find- up on the more open upper part of saddle watercourse.) 'Lotus' is usually associated with water lilies so I was quite surprised to see it as a genus in the bean family.

Below.. Crane fly , one of many we found drifting and settling on the watercourse vegetation around us. These look like giant mosquitoes but are thankfully harmless.

Below: the extraordinary abdomen of a tiny spider. It first drew my attention as it and its latest prey were vibrating rapidly on its web. Presently it crawled up, tucked in its legs and clung to the tree bark here.

Tuesday 23rd March

Early morning: heard european cuckoo call a few times at about 5.15 a.m. must have been close to or in the garden. By 5.20 a.m. sunbird, house sparrow, Orphean warbler heard and a laughing dove had started cooing by 5.30 a.m.

Walk: No luck with gazelles but nice view of fox a few metres in front of the bat cave. I watched him poised, front feet and back feet together and about a foot apart... starting intently at something about two or three feet in front of it. At a chosen moment it pounced forward, immediately digging with front paws, kicking earth backwards with back paws, nose in the ground. Success! Moments later I saw some small dark body in its jaws.. I'd guess a mole rat. This fox was quite similar to the one we saw near the pumping station.. reddish on face, legs and somewhat on the tail, the rest was mostly grey. He walked over to the edge of the trees and started on his meal, looked warily in our direction then picked up his catch and headed up the slope farther into the trees.

Hooded crows foraging on the field in various places, stone curlew calls, Syrian woodpecker, great spotted cuckoo, blackbird song, graceful warblers.

Wednesday morning 24 March.. House sparrows up about 4.45 am, hooded crow caws off in the distance shortly before 5 a.m. Bulbul started to call in the Bauhinia at 5.03 a.m.
Sunbird 5.08 a.m. By 5.11 a.m the Orphean warbler was singing a little somewhere beyond all the nearer noisier house sparrows and such.

Wednesday walk: we headed towards the bridge near the pumping station and then turned south along the dirt road and then east up the trail which leads up by the 'saddle' water course, that with the ''jacuzzi'' which drains rainwater from the south west side of windsurfer hill. This area is relatively more lush than the surrounding hillside and worth a regular check for vegetation.

Hawthorn shaded the ''jacuzzi'' and clearly its berries had fallen in it, two hawthorn saplings had taken root in the watercourse wall, doing quite well considering they would be caught in a fast flowing stream from time to time. Yellow Phlomis vegetation was filling out and getting tall. I also found the Briza and Lotus in the photos above.

As we emerged up onto the hillside we found a kestrel hovering over the upper western slopes of windsurfer hill, soon joined by another, both hovering and facing west.. perhaps the mate. We heard a couple of harsh calls from them. Akiva spotted some small birds on the hillside.. from his description could be wheatears.. perhaps black eared wheatears, the commonest local breeding rep. of the family back for the season. We also heard and saw some chukar partridge and glimpsed swifts aloft. Hooded crows and jackdaws about.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Hillside flowers

A low lying member of the legume family growing on much of the lower open northern slopes of windsurfer hill. Flowers are very like those of restharrow but vegetation completely different. Also below, another of the Fabaceae growing in the same area (both taken on Sunday)

Other plants in the area at the same time: clumps of Nurit,various small umbellifers ( wild carrot is also blooming now by the milk thistle by valley road)

The 'demon seedpod' plant story has suddenly become a little more complicated. Always interesting when that happens.

Today over at the northern end of gazelle field I recognized vetch leaves pretty much like those I'd seen in various places near the pines, often growing close to Palestinian vetch. Their flowers, as I've posted, are deep purple in colour. However here on much more open ground the seedpods, though having pretty much the same form, are significantly larger and the flowers are much much paler varying from offwhite with a hint of pink to rose.

Below: the spiny seedpods developing. Seedpod development is also different.. in the dark purple variety the seedpods are ranged along a stem at equal intervals and at least half a dozen on the stem. In this paler pink flowered variety seedpods are arranged in twos or threes at the end of low lying stems. Looks like we've got two species of 'demon seedpod' producing plants OR perhaps a variety within a species caused by different habitats, open or shaded.

A moth perched on Ajuga.

Saturday 20 March:

Early morning between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. heard bulbuls, sunbirds, house sparrows, laughing doves but no Orphean warbler.

late afternoon, about 5 a.m. walked along valley road, calls of great tits, blackbirds, bulbuls, and hooded crows were about, up on the hill to the east and flying over.

No hyraxes by valley road but there were a few up the hill by the pumping station, calling alarm, sitting out on the rocks. Turning 180 degrees I had a good feeling about windsurfer hill slopes and there on the grassy slopes just up from the trees we found a spread out group of seven mountain gazelles, no adult male noticed amongst them this time.

Sunday 21st March: 3 gazelle.. one just ahead of us near the shepherd's trail, ran up onto windsurfer hill slopes. As we emerged up onto the hill she was south of us, and cautiously returned under the trees. The second gazelle was ahead of us in the lower slopes area between us and the fence but we didn't see where it went. A third was at the north end of east field and headed into the pine plantation

Eurasian jay seen picking up nesting material, twigs, just up from east valley dirt road.
Also noticed, Hooded crows, jackdaws, collared doves both cooing and flight call, greenfinches calling. stone curlew shortly after sunset from direction of east fiel/far end of Pistacio grove.

Around the buildings: feral pigeons, laughing doves, house sparrows, bulbuls, sunbirds all day.

Monday 22nd March: early morning.. bulbul started about 5.05 a.m. house sparrows continuous for a while, jackdaws occasional and by 5.15 a.m. orphean warbler clear in the background. Not sure if I heard him yesterday morning or morning before... thought I heard his strains but distant, but this morning clear again. Hooded crow calls.

Monday: on our walk this afternoon: hoodies flying to and fro, several swifts aloft over east valley. collared dove cooing by the cistern, stone curlew calls.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Clovers and Orchids.

Pics from thursday 18th: Clover along the shepherd's trail.. at least four species found.. the crimson clover in an earlier entry, this charming clover above which has a close packed spiral seedpod, this yellow cluster of flowers below and a purple one with dark hairs also photographed last season up on north ridge.

This orchid was found just down from valley road, a little past the corner wattle tree. It's Orchis tridentata, the Toothed Orchid, its lower petals are divided, in contrast to the pink butterfly orchid. Another found by the shepherd's trail on thursday.

On thursday I went up to where we found the bee orchid last season, up from the valley road south turn picnic corner. The boy's camp from last year had been completely dismantled but I had no trouble finding the lone bee orchid, miraculously back pretty much where I remembered it was before and blooming proudly. This is the only bee orchid I know of in the whole area.. all other bee orchids I've found are Carmel bee orchids, a different species. Just now I compared the pic I took today with a pic taken last year and was struck by the similarity.. last year's flower looked glossier but that could be to do with the stage of development. The markings were far more similar to each other than any two carmel bee orchids tend to be, indicating that this was the same plant. I may post these next time

Below, a spider common and apparently everywhere on the lower open slopes of windsurfer hill, taken last week.

Wednesday 18th March:

Today my favourite discoveries were the toothed orchid, and a European cuckoo calling from the trees around the east watercourse, not far from the Pistacio orchard The orchard itself is becoming greener by the day, and seems to me to be glowing with a happy healthy vibe thanks to the recent attentions of the park authorities- pruning and other attentions. Meanwhile the almonds are in full exuberant leaf and the pomegranates are filling out, as are the hawthorns. Though, sadly, the acacia near the largest almond has fallen, all the other acacias in the area are growing well and blooming, though I don't see insect life on the flowers.. not very surprising given that they are really Australasian trees.

Hooded crows and jackdaws about, Collared doves active and cooing and an eggshell found on the ground near the orchid above, greenfinches chawing and active, flying between trees, blackbirds, various calls, great spotted cuckoo calls. Kestrel circling over ridge to the north.

Early morning: Sunbirds, house sparrows, bulbuls, laughing doves. Not 100% sure if I heard the warbler over all that noise, the sparrows are increasing in volume by the day.

Thursday 18 March: early morning: sunbird melodious calls, house sparrows, and by 5.45 a.m. laughing doves and a loud blackbird I have not heard singing here in a while. Rain on and off, and cold.

Later in the day: Tristram's starling heard towards sunset, greenfinches, collared doves. No luck on gazelles or hyraxes. Eurasian jay glimpsed,

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The 'Hamsin breaks, steps in spiny seedpod mystery

Spiny pod ("the spiny seedpod from hell!!'' ) mystery partially solved. I went back to the crossroads in the forest where I had seen the spiny pods on stalks last season, (as opposed to stuck on our shoes and socks) to try to catch the plant earlier in its life cycle. My patience was rewarded! I found the plant, above.. flowers, and below, leaves and early developing seedpods. I still don't know what it is exactly except that it seems to be a legume (as I had suspected) like a vetch. I checked all Vicia species on the site I go to but did not find a match. At least now we have much more to go on for I.D. A small blue butterfly was resting on one flowerstalk.

Monday: Here the clouds are blowing down through the north watercourse valley.

Masses of flowers are great places to check for insects. Now the milk thistle is in bloom, some stands including many plants taller than myself! Most blooms are purple but almost all stands include pure white flowers. Above, two earwigs visit a head, below, some kind of beetle squats at a thistle head base. I have also seen a beetle just like this on mignonette by valley road.

Numbers of crane flies and daddy long legs spiders have increased greatly over the last week, some crane flies entering the house. A bat seen chasing moths around a bright lamp at the edge of the neighbourhood yesterday evening.

Early morning: Monday 15th March: Bulbuls began about 5.05 am. , sunbird had been calling on and off over previous half hour and house sparrows had been up for about an hour already. By 5.28 a.m. Orphean warbler heard, eastern sky dimly lit. Laughing dove cooing on and off at odd times including late at night and early dawn but increasing as all other birds awake.

The Hamsin broke today. Late morning temperature climbed to over 30 degrees but between 11 a.m and 1 p.m. the wind shifted from east to west and by late afternoon cool clouds were blowing in from the west, down north valley like a mist.. the air was full of water droplets.

was seen in bloom and anemones were replaced by Nurit, the Persian buttercup, as the dominant red flower on the hillsides.

No luck with hyrax or gazelle and birds were generally keeping a low profile but for swifts, screaming on high and dipping in and out of the clouds in a group. Blackbirds heard singing, a flock of hooded crows over the eucalyptus along east valley watercourse, cawing and wheeling around, seemed disturbed.

Acacia siligna , the wattle tree, blooming all over, adding pollen to the air.. their flowers like strings of brilliant yellow pompoms. Many insect eating birds such as blackbirds and bulbuls seem to like these trees, at least as places to sing and socialize and perhaps nest and probably also forage for insects to some extent though I find relatively few there, it not being a native species.

Early morning: Tuesday 16th March, by 5.30 a.m. I could hear sunbird, bulbul, house sparrow and laughing dove but no warbler.

Later on our walk: greenfinches and great tits heard, jackdaw flock up on windsurfer hill, kestrel flying up over the east watercourse , flapping a great deal because of wind conditions ( or rather, lack of them) , graceful warbler, bulbul, great spotted cuckoo, , hooded crows heard, Eurasian jay glimpsed.

Also, another few steps closer to identifying the plant which produces the ''spiny seedpods from hell''.. pics above. Later when I find it, I will post a ref back to the entry with the spiny pod pic.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Monday 8th -Sunday 14th March:

Is this also pink butterfly orchid, a variant of the tall form, or another species? Two had this pyramidal form not far from those with a taller habit.

species of mallow larger than the common, its leaves below - found at the quarry. I may replace this at some point since I'm not happy about the focussing.

A harvestman type spider on clover.

Monday 8th March
Headed up to quarry today up the north watercourse dirt road. We saw 6 gazelle up on the south facing slope including an adult male and also one with many white patches on the back.. don't recall seeing any with those markings before. Great spotted cuckoo calls across the watercourse at the start of the trees, east end, half way up the slopes. Swifts calling and flying over the neighbourhood.

In the flat area under cypress by the watercourse many butterfly orchids, some green orchids and a quill of Indian porcupine, first we've seen in a while. We also noticed a narrow straight and distinct trail through the grasses and other vegetaton.. I wonder if porcupines made this.

At the quarry, graceful warblers, hyraxes on rocks by the north side of the watercourse just before the quarry, one giving the complex bark, quite loud and carrying. Chukar partridges on the flat area of rocks farther along on the other side, amusing watching their walk-hop on the boulders.

Tuesday 9th March
morning: House sparrows up early but at 5.20 a.m. could clearly hear the Orphean warblers trills rise up over the chirps even with my headphones on.. listening I could hear more of the song behind all the sparrow clamour. By 5.35 a.m. bulbuls and sunbirds added their notes but warbler now quiet.

walk: overcast, hamsin like weather, warm. Hit about 39.5 degrees earlier.
5 gazelle up on hillslopes just east of the bat cave, another , looked like juvenile male, moving along by the watercourse, then headed into the pines by the service road, across the dirt road and on up towards owl glade.

Skink seen amongst rocks by north valley dirt road. brown back, stripe along flanks, a small slender one, at least 10 cm long. At first I took it for a snake but it was moving more jerkily and once when it was still for a fraction of a second I could just see its tiny legs. Unfortunately it was moving too fast to photograph and reached cover soon.
Hyrax seen on a rock in an area of stepped limestone rocks between the owl glade and the north valley dirt road, far from the nearest colony. Is this one of a colony we have not yet noticed, or a nomad or exile? We did not see any other individuals about but we'll check that area again.
Birds today included blackbirds, possibly

Wednesday 10th March:
House sparrows started 4.20 a.m. another jump earlier, could be my light or family obligations.
Bulbul started at 5.15 a.m. by 5.45 laughing doves heard and sunbird calling at 5.51 am

Walk started ~5 am. mild/warm, sky mist overcast like chamsin, visibility poor, Adam just out of sight.

2 hawfinches top of cypress by valley road, flew off together, blackbirds in song, graceful warblers vocal as were greenfinches. Great spotted cuckoo calls up the slopes by east watercourse dirt road. Stone curlew heard as darkness fell .

We took shepherd's trail up from the dirt road, ground lush carpeted with clover and chamomile, seemed wrong to walk on it, till we reached open slopes of windsurfer hill, 4 mountain gazelle seen running from olive grove area, parallel with fence towards the eastern slopes of windsurfer hill. Another two gazelle moved into the cypresses from lower part of east field.

Thursday 11 March: Morning: House sparrows up by 4.15 a.m. but not continuously untill shortly after 5 am. within the next half hour jackdaws, bulbuls, sunbirds, and, to my joy, an orphean warbler joined in.

Later, on our walk, gazelles were seen running to and fro at the north end of gazelle field, behind the acacia and first almond, at least three individuals, perhaps more, and including an adult male. This was at about sunset.
greenfinches and collared doves were active and vocal.

Weather warm today- up to 31.5 degrees C at most, falling to ~26 degrees into the night.

Friday 12 March: morning: 5.08 a.m. I notice the Orphean warbler singing, still dark. House sparrows have been active already for nearly an hour. 5.23 a.m. bulbul melodious calls started. 5.26 a.m. sunbird started to call, melodious. Not sure if the Orphean is still singing, the others are making too much noise.. I don't think so. Correction, 5.30 a.m. Orphean singing again. bulbul harsh calls.

Saturday 13th March: Some large hawks about lately, individuals here and there perched on boulders, soaring or gliding at varying altitudes or taking flight from forest trees, but no good views.
No gazelle seen but plenty hyrax activity by valley road.. I startled about a dozen on the slope just down from the road. One heard giving the complex bark by the power station at 10.30 ish pm. Is this related to mating behaviour? In hyrax society the females are dominant. Is this perhaps the call of a female in heat? They have many other shorter calls they use for alarms.
What else about? Graceful warblers active and vocal, Syrian woodpecker call, collared doves about. Blackbird song in the woods, great tit calls. Stone curlews heard.
Chaffinch calls in the garden mid afternoon and sunbird in the cape honeysuckle.

Sunday 14th March: morning. laughing dove started at about 4.06 a.m. House sparrows have been up for at least 10 mins but that could be because of my light. Bulbul and sunbird started about 4.15 p.m. and some time shortly after I was able to hear Orphean warbler also through all the noise but it had stopped within the next fifteen minutes or so. Hooded crow at 5.40 a.m

Sunday walk: laughing doves, Syrian woodpecker, graceful warblers, calls of swifts and stone curlews at dusk.

Gazelle, one seen running behind the row of almonds, north gazelle field.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Spring greenery all over

Judas tree in bloom, Cercis siliquastrum- this tree was by east valley dirt road just a little south of the bridge. Below.. looks like one of the borages but unfamiliar as yet.. found at the head of the wide rough track that leads from lower open slopes of windsurfer hill just south of Pistacio orchard. Below, a clover growing on the shepherd's trail. Numerous clovers are blooming right now, some with circlets of small bright yellow flowers, others with the more usual pale with pinkish tints and this one, brightly purple.

Below, a hyrax skull found by the boys. The lower jaw is turned over to show the teeth. The skull is 8.5 cm long, 5cm wide and 4cm high.

A day or so before.. black redstart on stone wall and a dead tree by it, fore part of north gazelle field. Swift screams heard over the neighbourhood as it grew dark.

Tuesday 2nd March
: Still leaning towards Orphean warbler Sylvia hortensis as that early bird.. heard it early this morning and listened to recordings again and those rising and falling trills match far better the few recordings I have of Orphean warbler which really don't do it justice. I did see written that the quality of its song is comparable to that of the nightingale. Now I see how it gets its name, I always wondered. Very appropriate to be named for the legendary lute player of ancient Greece, Orpheus. The specific name, 'hortensis' is ironically a reference to garden, ironic since I had at first thought it might be a garden warbler.

Other bird of the day was a European cuckoo, which we heard call a few times not long after sunset as we walked up the east valley dirt road. Blackbirds were heard, both in song and 'chakking' its pre roost call, and much stone curlew vocalization from the direction of east field and to the north.

Wednesday 3 March: Orphean warbler started singing about 5.25 a.m this morning while still dark, later joined by sunbird, bulbul, hooded crows, laughing dove, house sparrows.
Later, on our walk, no luck with mammals but a hawfinch on top of cypress by valley road pretty much where we've seen one before. Jackdaw flock activity on windsurfer hill, kestrel circling over east field and bipass road , some hovering. Stone curlew vocalizations from various places outside forest borders as it became dark.

Thursday 4 March. This morning, Orphean warbler started about same time, perhaps a minute or two later, soon joined by sunbird, bulbul, laughing dove, house sparrows. Hooded crows and jackdaws also heard. One laughing dove started up about half an hour before the warbler for a short while.

On our walk: hairy pink flax blooming on south facing open hillslopes just north of gazelle field. Chamomile abundant, viper's bugloss and Egyptian alkanet also plentiful. Common mallow already has seedpods which are edible, I ate a couple.

Eurasian jays heard, kestrel heard calling from one of the higher rise neighbourhoods up the hill, great tit churrs heard. No luck on any mammals but for a feral dog, dingo coloured, up on the south facing hillside farther to the west.

Saturday 6 March: 3 mountain gazelle grazing up on western slopes of windsurfer hill, much grass and other low vegetation now, the hill is green between the rocks pretty much all the way to the top. Hyrax complex bark at pumphouse colony, up the hillslope there.. a whistle followed by a series of barking grunts, repeated.
Plenty bird activity today. Collared doves have started to coo and flight call heard.

Greenfinches have started to twitter and chaw. Chaffinches are still about, a small flock moving about the tops of eucalyptuses by east valley dirt road, one of which also held great tits, alarm calls in there. Also chiffchaff alarm call heard. Blackbirds active and vocal as well as graceful warblers and bulbuls. Jackdaws, Hooded crows and feral pigeons about. Sunbird in the cape honeysuckle outside husband's office/den. I was actually asleep over dawn for a change so missed the dawn birds.

Lots of pink butterfly orchid blooming by the shepherd's trail . An interesting borage unfamiliar to me blooming at the top of the wide rough trail leading from windsurfer hillslope down south side of Pistacio orchard, photograph above.

Sunday 7th March
Black redstart on line, just behind buildings near where the ramp goes down.

5 gazelle on northern slopes of windsurfer hill, hyrax active under cypress by valley road.

Bird of the day: a pair of great spotted cuckoos on the treed lower western slopes of windsurfer hill, near the bridge.. chasing each other back and forth and calling raucously. One seen clearly was a male.. could be two males arguing over territory. Also seen/heard- Syrian woodpecker, collared doves, blackbirds, jackdaws, hooded crows, bulbuls.
Around the house, house sparrows, laughing doves, sunbirds.