Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A cooler week, and the burrowing thread

Akiva caught this beautiful blue flower up on the hill between north valley watercourse and hidden watercourse.. at first I thought it was a Scabiosa rhizantha but I'm not satisfied with that now as the petal form is wrong.. will post a better I.D. when I find it.

Charming walk up there today (monday 19th) .. must be about the peak of marbled white activity right now and a brighter salmon coloured butterfly which I didn't get close enough to see properly. Brighter than a salmon Arab I thought- perhaps coppers but none settled long enough for me to see it well. When they land their underwing spotted pattern hides the orange and makes them completely disappear. The pale orange underwing of salmon Arabs also conceals them very well amongst the dry oats.

This spirally twisted seed thread thread is becoming a real menace on walks as we move into the dry season. The tiny deceptively softly barbed end (left) catches onto ones socks and then, as one walks it works its way into the skin of the foot, literally planting itself quite painfully. You don't notice them when they first catch but after a minute or so you feel an increasingly aggravating pricking sensation. I stopped numerous times to pull a number of these out of my socks.. one had worked its way into my shoe and gone unnoticed for a few minutes till I took off my shoe to deal with all the sainfoin ('demon') pods, grassheads and threads I'd picked up. Only by taking off my sock I found the final offender - one had already worked its way into the most tender part of my upper foot and yanking it out was really quite painful due to the barbs and hairs. Really, this little thread of vegetative matter looks like nothing but it acts like a tiny American porcupine quill.

Above, the whole seed thread, finishing at a finely tapered tip lower right- just over 7 c.m. long and feels tough as wire. From now till the rainy season I shall probably now keep to trails and not strike out cross country without more protection!

A young but chubby member of the grasshopper group.. haven't found the species. This one was sitting out on valley road last week. There is an ancient tradition in the middle east to eat some of this group, indeed there are several species which are considered kosher by Jewish law - IF you can identify them reliably and today few have the oral tradition, most of those from Yemen. Would I eat this? If it were one of those, and roasted with barbecue sauce.. hmm interesting idea.... Below, a geometrid moth found in the house. Silver Y moths and a nice size mantis have also invaded lately.

Tuesday 13th April :

Early morning, bulbuls and sunbirds started up at about 5.45 a.m. house sparrows had been up for a while and laughing doves were cooing shortly after.

Today we went up the saddle watercourse, I wanted to see if I could find those extraordinary spikes of crimson flowers I had yet been unable to identify. They were blooming there this time last year but no luck. Perhaps they are biennial? I'd guess they were one of the Lamiaceae but I could be wrong.

Best sighting was a hobby, gliding over the upper west face of windsurfer hill.. first one I've seen this season.

Chukar heard ,then seen flying low across our ascending path.

Up the slope, also on the west side and north of us, two gazelle grazing.
Hyraxes active by valley road. One sitting on a boulder facing away from us. It turned round 180 degrees and stared up at us when husband said ''wuff!'' Great tits and collared doves about, some flight calls of the latter. Great spotted cuckoo heard.

Wednesday 14 April:
4 gazelle seen grazing up on western slopes of windsurfer hill, not including an adult male. Hyraxes active.
Vocal and active: , Eurasian jays, jackdaws, Syrian woodpeckers, graceful warblers, collared doves.
Bee-eaters. . flock hawking over east valley and valley road, and neighbourhood now 40-45 individuals. (also heard early thursday morning.. about 6 a.m. )

Thursday 15 April:
1 gazelle spotted just out of the trees south of us as we emerged up the shepherd's trail. She was aware of us but far enough off not to be afraid, and after some hesitation she headed under the shade of the pines.
Medium/small flock of jackdaws over north slopes of windsurfer hill, hooded crows about. Graceful warblers, collared doves, greenfinches, bulbuls vocal and active. Blackbird song. Turtle dove heard cooing by central trail not far from valley road. Stone curlews calling about sunset or a little before. That was while I was letting a small crowd of local boys have a turn at my binoculars and talking with them about what wildlife could be found in the valley. They were a polite and receptive lot and it was a pleasure to share with them.
Bee-eaters.. just 15 today

Friday 16 April:
Early morning: house sparrows for a while, bulbul started up at 5.55 a.m. , hooded crow caws farther off. Laughing dove cooing just before 6 a.m.

Saturday 17 April
Hobbies in the young pines immediately west of gazelle field.. definitely 3, based on calls already there, likely 4 . Establishing territories? I'm guessing offspring of previous year came back and parents want them to disperse. Many calls, both repeated high note and a shorter 'tsirikik'' like call.
Calls of young birds in the pine grove immediately east of the cistern.. sound to me like at least one young great spotted cuckoo .. hooded crows seen coming and going but didn't see the cuckoo, no doubt deep within the foliage.
Stone curlews about, collared doves, bee-eaters.. at first a group of about 15 seen, later a group of about 22.

Sunday 18th April
Mountain gazelles (5 in all) on north slopes of windsurfer hill.. adult male attending two females (or one female and well grown young). The two ran westward, followed some metres behind by the buck. A little later two more gazelle noticed on flatter area towards fence, closer to the olives.. they ran north.. young 'teenage' gazelle in this case with short horns.

Hyrax by rocks on sapling field side of valley road, near pumping station.

Blackbird song, Syrian woodpecker, graceful warblers (by dry stone walls near olives) , today and yesterday much greenfinch twitter and chaw

Monday 19th April

Warmer today, range, about 16-27 degrees C.

collared doves and turtle doves cooing, great tits and blackbird song. Jackdaws, hooded crows, jays about. Large hawk (buteo?) perched on the ridge to our north, mostly dark brown with some pale feathers on the breast.. a black eared wheatear minding its territory nearby clearly perceived no threat from it. Also melodious calls of latter.

Encounters with pods and burrowing seed threads discussed in captions above.


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