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.

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