Monday, May 31, 2010

Hot days

This small moth found on my skirt hanging in the bathroom today (wednesday), I don't recall seeing this one before. Not much more than 1 cm across.

Monday 31st May

Today Akiva was not available for the walk, he had business concerns in town so I went with Avremi. We left earlier (5.30 p.m. ) while it was still bright and quite hot, in the hope of seeing Agama lizards at the bunker ruins No luck with that but we did hear cicadas. He was interested in capturing a green toad in the cistern so I sat and watched the gazelle and the turtle doves while he searched. At first he had no luck but did see tadpoles which gave him hope. I headed back to relieve Elisheva of house watch duty .

He got back soon after with a toad in hand.

: 1 adult male grazing north west gazelle field not far from pines, by rock shelves there. 2 more, probably a female and well grown young, a little farther to the east behind the almonds. Soon I saw two closer to him but no interactions between them.

Hobbies: some calls, brief sights
Turtle doves: plenty coos around cistern area, vocal and active between there, across gazelle field and pine grove to west. also foraging on the ground near there.

Graceful warblers: quite vocal today
Blackbirds: some song
Collared doves: coos, flight calls, quite active.
Eurasian Jays: some activity
Great tits: some calls.
Greenfinches: twitterings beginning around look-out corner cistern area
Syrian woodpeckers
: frequent calls in woods

A pair of Tristram's starlings flew, calling into gazelle field from direction of north watercourse, settled briefly in a pine just outside of the grove, then flew off east towards the bipass road. Funnily right after we got back I found an I.M. from husband, he'd just seen another pair of Tristram's over by the central bus station.

Jackdaws: some calls, flying over valley
Hooded crows:, some calls, flying over valley

House sparrows: chirps in garden all day, sunbirds: calls in the Bauhinia.
Laughing doves: cooing in garden on and off, White spectacled Bulbuls: melodious calls in garden on and off

Tuesday June 1st.

Again, husband not able to come with me and Avremi (my home schooled son) otherwise occupied. Today definitely warmer, peaked at about 36 degrees C mid afternoon but had dropped to about 30 degrees by the time I headed out for the valley. First priority was to return the toad to the cistern. We had him in a bucket in the garden overnight but at the moment we do not have the materials to remake the pond we used to have. We really must! We had fish and a little waterfall, with papyrus, terrapin and such but we let all that go, sadly.

After releasing the green toad, (which was pinkish white with multiple amoeba shaped greenish blotches) , I headed along the bed of the north watercourse - soon heard calls of young (great spotted) cuckoo. I found him near an acacia- first noticing a hoodie that was foraging for him, then noticed his dark crown behind a rock, Finally it emerged and flew into the acacia. They are stunning birds! Scanning in direction of nearby young pine grove with binocs suddenly encountered a young gazelle, quite close, looking right back at me. Hello! Looking around a little found two more grazing in the area, both seemed well grown young. (3 gazelle)

At least two Tristram's starlings in gazelle field again, wolf whistling repeatedly , flying about then again heading for the bipass road. Turtle doves cooing everywhere, collared doves also vocal and active, some blackbird song, great tit calls, short high squeaky call of hobby about sunset. Jackdaws seen foraging on gazelle field and lower hill slopes as well as hoodies, Some greenfinch calls, graceful warblers, occasional Syrian woodpeckers. Nothing from stone curlews, swifts or bee-eaters again today.

Wednesday June 3rd

Another hot day, though not as much as yesterday, didn't get over about 31 degrees.

Garden: House sparrows, sunbird, many calls, bulbuls, not far off, also laughing doves and feral pigeons.

The fields and woods were similar: collared doves, turtle doves, jays , singing blackbirds, calling Syrian woodpeckers in the trees, out in the fields foraging hooded crows, nice size jackdaw flock crossed low over north slopes of windsurfer hill from east to west.

Good day for gazelle- 7 in all, First, a mother and young spotted on upper western slopes of windsurfer hill, then noticed three grazing in the small olive grove.. one, a young one, in a very frisky mood would seem to try to interact with the others then run in a wide circle. Looked playful but couldn't get the others enthusiastic. One of the others bounced on all fours briefly but soon lost interest, perhaps just irritated and went back to grazing. Another two grazing behind almond tree row.

Yet again Tristram's starlings calling from bipass road area at about level of the pine grove, just past the olives, Stone curlews heard from north gazelle field later towards sunset.
On our way back a bunch of young local boys were excited over a tail poking out of a crevice near the top of a cinderblock wall at the top of the bank. They thought it was a snake. Husband tried to gently pull out the reptile with two long sticks, using them like tongs. It soon became obvious that it was alive and clinging on hard inside so we decided to let it be. It soon dawned on me what I was seeing. It was the striped tapered tail of an agama lizard. (Agama/Laudakia stellio) The boys showed us the way round to the other side of the wall where we could look over and see it clearly. I was quite pleased because it was the first one I've seen this season and right next to human habitation- (the wall surrounded the balcony of a small synagogue looking out over the valley)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Brief week review.

Visibility conditions on the 27 th may, almost still, sky greyish with slight hint of yellow, humidity almost 40%, the dust was precipitating some of this out of the air on occasion. Within a day the westerlies blew all this away and the sky has been pretty much clear since.

Some days temps exceeded 30 degrees C in the early afternoon but most days mid or upper 20s at most and westerlies prevailing though some days from the east in the forenoon.

The blog has recently passed its 3 year anniversary!

Tuesday 25th May

: 1 adult male in greenest part of gazelle field by open north valley watercourse. Watching us.
Fox: 1 day Foraging on gazelle field behind and around large almond
Feral cat: calls up from east watercourse dirt road, lower slopes of windsurfer
Bee-eaters: calls over north valley watercourse, flying over, not many birds quite high.
Hobbies: call somewhere around look-out corner
Swifts: calls, Turtle doves: calls.
Blackbirds: calls, some song.
Collared doves: coos in various parts of the woods.
Eurasian Jays: active and foraging various places, some in gazelle field but quiet.

Graceful warblers: quite vocal. Great tits: calls heard up from north valley watercourse
Greenfinches: various twitters and calls around look-out corner area.
Jackdaws: Heard from house numerous times today.
Hooded crows: Foraging on lower slopes of hill to north, flying home to roost.
House sparrows:Chirping in the garden, male found trapped in sapling tube by north valley watercourse, we released it by lifting it and allowing to fly out from the bottom.

Stone curlews: heard as dusk fell and we were returning into the neighbourhood.
Syrian woodpeckers: calls.

Laughing doves, bulbuls, sunbirds not heard in the garden today.
Feral pigeons: Have not seen any on the local roofs lately, went farther affield to forage

Bauhinia pods on garden tree started bursting today

Wednesday 26 May

Gazelle: 9 today- 2 on upper west slopes windsurfer hill, one with thin horns, one with no visible horns, group of 5 females and well grown young in gazelle field near large almond, moving through and grazing. Adult male came to join them from direction of open north valley watercourse, tried to approach , raised his head a couple of times as if scenting the air.. those in the group ran from him though, so he resigned himself to graze. 1 more without visible horns in the owl glade, closer than usual escape distance.
Hyrax: family. Blondie sentry on boulder joined by a couple of youngsters. Another adult came up, probably their mother, then she skittered for cover. At least one more young seen down in the rocks nearby, probably all from same litter. The blondie could be older relative. (The older matures tend to have bleached out looking shaggy fur)

Reptiles: skink spotted by east valley dirt road, skittered from brown earth by a sapling to cover of plant base, too fast to get pic unfortunately. Mostly brownish.
Bee-eaters: Flock passed over us as we moved along east valley dirt road but didn't get a count.
Swifts: 6
Turtle doves: some cooing.
Great spotted cuckoo: calls heard near bridge. Avremi spotted the bird, skulking on the ground moving up the trail through sapling field to pumping station. Soon after saw it on a branch below a hoodie, following it in hope of food.
Blackbirds: some song, two males seen again near bridge, seems to be a territory border there, slight chase going on at ground level

Collared doves: coos, activity, flight calls, male trying to impress female near top of cypress but she flew.
Eurasian Jays: Akiva spotted one in eucalyptus but otherwise quiet and not in evidence today.
Graceful warblers: Some calls.
Greenfinches: Much twittering in look-out corner area as usual approaching sunset.
Jackdaws: Heard over various parts of valley and neighbourhood throughout day.
Hooded crows: seen, heard, dispersed over valley.
House sparrows:chirping in garden as usual.
Laughing doves: cooing in garden and by valley road.
Sunbirds: calling in garden various times from dawn.
Syrian woodpeckers: some calls look out corner area
White spectacled Bulbuls: calling in garden from before dawn, also calling near pumphouse late afternoon.

Thursday 27 May:

Hooded crows, jackdaws, jays, blackbirds
(song) , great tits, collared doves, turtle doves, (coos) , bee-eater, greenfinch, graceful warbler, feral pigeons. garden: house sparrow, laughing doves, sunbirds. bulbuls,
Friday 28th May: Garden, as above, Jackdaws also heard.

Saturday 29th May:

Hooded crows, jackdaws, jays, blackbirds (song) , collared doves, turtle doves, (coos) , bee-eater, greenfinch, graceful warbler, Syrian woodpecker, swifts, hobbies, feral pigeons, stone curlews. garden: house sparrow, neglected to pay attention to the others for the record.

Sunday 30th May:

Hooded crows, jackdaws, jays, blackbirds
(song) , collared doves, turtle doves, (coos) , bee-eater, greenfinch, graceful warbler, Syrian woodpecker, feral pigeons. garden: house sparrow, laughing doves, sunbirds. bulbuls,

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Season of insects

Moshe found this curious larva on the sidewalk outside our place, emerging from a hole this morning. (23rd May) It was about 4 cm long, mostly black and pink with hints of green at each end. Well developed insect legs at the front, pseudo leg/legs at the rear end so that it moved a little like a geometrid moth caterpillar but I rather think it's some kind of beetle larva. I sent a pic to Rittner, the Israel based entomologist whose site I often visit, hoping he is familiar.

* Neat, Oz Rittner got back to me.. it's a FIREFLY larva.. one of the Lampyrids.. we should have kept it because by now it would be glowing! So it is indeed a beetle but I had not suspected..

Cicada on one of the Pistacias. Pic taken by Akiva last week. I could not find the pic anywhere on my desktop or in my invertebrates file. Panic! I must have misplaced it. Fortunately before I did that I had posted it on yearbook and tweeted it everywhere so was able to access the image there. Phew!

(I should get out of the habit of calling the Pistacia palaestina 'Pistacios' because I want to avoid confusion with Pistaccio (nut) trees. In English they are also called terebinths.

Xylocopa pubescens (carpenter) bee seen on capers one day this week. First time I've seen this one in this area, up till now have only seen X. violacea though both common in Wadi Qelt not far off.

Wednesday 10th May

A number of big brown jobs about, honey buzzards? These upset the local corvids.. we saw hooded crows harrying the larger birds several times, jays made a fuss, probably when a raptor tried to alight in a nearby tree and one case of a kestrel trying to dive bomb one of the buzzards.

Greenfinches very vocal in the look out area last few days but bee-eaters must be foraging elsewhere. Turtle doves cooing and collared doves still about. Shrill call in eucalyptus could have been ring necked parakeet but not seen.

Occasional sightings of gazelle in recent days either by bat cave or on west slopes of windsurfer hill but only in ones or twos.

Thursday 20th May:
garden: house sparrows, laughing doves, white spectacled bulbuls, sunbirds active and vocal. Greenfinches heard in cypress next door a couple of days ago.

Saturday 22nd May

Fox sighting - emerging from behind pine grove east of cistern.. preceded by shrill alarm calls from stone curlews.. then saw it walk behind eucalyptus.. it cut in front of Pistacias , cross east valley dirt road into pine grove behind look-out corner, crossed central trail and headed into pine grove west of gazelle field, pretty much encircling us clockwise 180 degrees.

Turtle doves heard, some bee-eater calls, swifts,
Family of great tits near the bridge over east valley watercourse. Also there, nice views of a ring necked parakeet flying between eucalyptuses, came quite close to us, called a few times.

Sunday 23 rd May.

Fox: (2) 1st : more reddish than other foxes seen, just north of sapling field under pines, then crossed east valley dirt road and headed up lower slopes of windsurfer. A few minutes later fox seen near shaft headed over to north valley watercourse, greyer individual.

Hyrax activity by valley road, forest side.

Lots of jackdaw and hooded crow activity, hobby perched top of scraggly old cypress near the shaft. Some blackbird song and sightings, Eurasian jays about. Syrian woodpecker call. Young birds calling from the cypress by pumphouse hyrax colony.

globe thistles are beginning to bloom, no sign of their usual beetle infestation, by valley road though the clump by the trail down into sapling field appears to have died, no new growth for this season, perhaps due to overspill effluents from a nearby manhole, dry now but overflowed several times in early spring. This also appears to be adversely affecting nearby acacias and eucalyptuses between there and the bridge, much unhealthy looking or dead foliage.

Where are hoopoes? No sightings this season.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Moving into dry season

This season's snapdragons by the north valley watercourse. The old stems from last season are still present and this season's stalks, are, as you see, considerably shorter.. Since these are wild, nothing to prune back the old growth but fire, which HAD been in the area the previous year. Is the new growth short because much surrounding vegetation was cut by those 'tidying' the area for the saplings (so they received much light from the start), or did the presence of last season's stalks get in the way of growth- or both?

Monday 10th May:

Westerlies most of today blowing away a brief earlier 'hamsin, mild,

Gazelle: 3 today, 1 adult male alone in forest across north valley watercourse. 2 more, both females or female and well grown young, same area, just west of bat cave.

Bee-eaters: did not hear,
Hobbies: brief glimpses
Swifts: some aloft and screaming as yesterday
Turtle doves: heard near the shaft.
Great spotted cuckoo: one flew over north valley.

Blackbirds: some alarm calls, no song noticed.
Collared doves: coos and activity in pines
Eurasian Jays: some calls, a pair chasing a big brown job, didn't see enough to be sure if visiting Buteo type or a resident long eared owl.
Great tits: Family in hawthorn by north valley watercourse, not sure how many juveniles, vocal, active
Jackdaws: About valley in general, Hooded crows: about valley in general
House sparrows:about buildings and neighbourhood edges, Laughing doves: same, and coos
Stone curlews: calls dusk, Syrian woodpeckers: calls near orchard.

Tuesday 11 May

Bee-eaters: calls heard somewhere over east valley watercourse.
hobbies: in flight to and fro over east valley watercourse and orchard area.
Swif: some aloft and screaming as yesterday about dusk

Blackbirds: heard
collared doves: active and vocal
Eurasian Jays: active, foraging on ground.
Greenfinches: yes, calls, twitters as usual lowest altitude parts of the woods.
Hooded crows active around the valley, flying over mostly, also foraging on hill slopes and fields.
Laughing doves: yes, coos
Sunbirds: Avremi found empty nest on the sidewalk a few entrances up, chicks already fledged? probably

Wednesday 12th May
Early morning, melodious calls of
white spectacled bulbuls.
Hyraxes active along valley road today. Hooded crows, jackdaws, hobbies about. Greenfinches twittering as usual. Turtle doves heard near the bunker rubble.
24.5-32 degrees C

Thursday 13th May
By 5.15 a.m.
House sparrows already up. 5.15 a.m. white spectacled bulbul, 5.23 am jackdaws

Feral dog pair in young pine grove, female looked like she was nursing, and limping a little. They did not keep their distance, seemed very weary. No sign of puppies.

bee-eaters: flock of about three dozen assembled by sunset, flying to and fro over north watercourse. We saw groups of increasing numbers intermittantly up till then.
hobbies:calls from owl glade area. Jay by bat cave.
Swifts: some aloft and screaming over north gazelle field, north watercourse dirtroad turn off area.

Blackbirds: heard, some song
collared doves: active and vocal, cooing. turtle doves cooing close to north valley watercourse.
Greenfinches: calls, twitters as usual lowest altitude parts of the woods.
Hooded crows active around the valley, on cypresses here and there.. one feeding young great spotted cuckoo in cypress by bat cave.

Today's range 15-27 degrees C winds west to north west or north most of the day, light, up to 4.5 kt late afternoon.

Saturday 15th May

Hyraxes: active cypress slum colony including several young, some also at pumphouse

Swifts: some aloft and screaming over pine grove east of cistern area.

Blackbirds: calls, song
collared doves
: active and vocal, cooing. turtle doves coos .
Greenfinches: calls, twitters as usual lowest altitude parts of the woods.
Hooded crows active around the valley, on cypresses here and there..
Syrian woodpeckers: calls
Graceful warblers : by valley road, active, foraging,

Around house and valley road: white spectacled bulbuls, sunbirds, house sparrows, laughing doves
House sparrows also seen foraging on slopes by east valley watercourse.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Moving into May

This one I got of bee and caper flowers at just after sunset today: 9th May. Click on it to see the bee a bit better.. it was lucky.. only had chance to take 3 shots- on first - no bee. On second the bee was in there but almost hidden by stamens but here lucky to get almost clear shot just above the flowers to the right. Seems small on the pic but definitely bulkier than a honeybee.

Monday 3rd May: Fox seen near east valley watercourse

Tuesday 4th May
: Hyraxes active by valley road, adults on boulders on forest side, no young seen today. Fox seen moving into the pine grove just east of cistern, on the northern side. No gazelle today.

Jackdaws about hill slopes, hooded crows, one seen taking food to treetops west of gazelle field so still feeding fledgelings (own or cuckoo? No cuckoo calls heard there) , Tristram's starlings heard, two flying from neighbourhood toward Hizmeh, another call from direction of bipass road. Collared dove flightcalls heard, not so much cooing lately but turtle doves heard here and there. Stone curlew calls heard from east field or hidden watercourse direction each day as dusk began to fall.

Garden: last few days: sunbirds, bulbuls, house sparrows, laughing doves as usual. Great tit song.

We visited the snapdragon by the watercourse which runs along east side of north gazelle field: in bloom but interestingly slightly less than half the height it was last two seasons. The old stalks from last year still standing in contrast. The vegetation around it had been mostly cleared by the recent work on the area so perhaps the increased light and openness had caused the plant to 'decide' to keep a lower profile this year. No need for height, little competition with other vegetation. I want to wait a bit to see if it gains any height before posting our comparison pic.

No hawthorn blossom noticed this year yet anywhere.. usually it blooms in April. What's with that? I visited again (on 9th), the tree just off central trail by an old drystone wall. Full leaf but no sign of flowers or haw fruits at all. Do they skip years? The two trees by the large almond, similarly without white and those along the trail to the quarry also showed no signs of enthusiasm.

Wednesday 5th May: Swifts last couple of days high over valley shortly after sunset.. sparrowhawk heading over neighbourhood. Syrian woodpecker call. Last few days much twittering and chawing of greenfinches in eucalyptus and pines around cistern area. Stone curlew have also been very vocal from sunset on.

Thursday 6 May: Hyraxes active, one gazelle spotted, not adult male, slopes north of north watercourse.
Hobbies heard and glimpsed, just the short call. Great tit fledgelings also from the sound of it. blackbird song,
Eryngium and cat-thyme germander in bloom now. Eurasian jays about as well as hooded crows and jackdaws.

Friday 7th May: by 5:20 a.m. still pretty dark , bulbul melodious calls and house sparrow chirps.

Saturday 8th May: late afternoon in east valley watercourse:
Gazelles: 2 , females (or female and well grown young) , grazing on mid west slopes windsurfer hill, an area they seem to prefer that time of day.
Hyrax: some adults active both sides of valley road, cypress slum colony. A few more way up the west slope pumphouse colony. Fox: Akiva saw one by dry stone wall near large almond, gazelle field.

collared dove: coos and flight call. Turtle dove coos, from pines on the bank by valley road and more near the Pistacio grove. Great spotted woodpecker calls esp. from eucalyptus grove east of cistern. Hooded crows, jackdaws, Eurasian jays vocal and active throughout and over the valley. Some greater spotted cuckoo calls from direction of owl glade, some Tristram starling whistles. Great tit dead on ground look-out corner- adult, no signs of predation. Graceful warblers vocal and active various places. House sparrows have been visiting the country round about lately, probably for seeds.. we've noticed this previous seasons.
Greenfinch twittering heard towards sunset as we reached Pistacio grove. Bulbul calls east valley watercourse, stone curlew calls from direction of north gazelle field as dusk fell. Blackbird song on and off in various parts of the woods throughout our walk.
No hobbies today.

Sunday 8th May: Similar in almost all respects to above in terms of birds though no cuckoo and nice view of hobby flying right over us.

No gazelle but hyrax active on valley road, one laid out on the tarmac, belly to the ground, 'sunbathing' - though the sun not shining there the road still gave warmth. Hyraxes have a slightly sluggish circulation and like to baske like iguanas between scampering amongst the boulders. We also noticed the colonies are largest where humans (incidentally) left the boulders after building in the area farther up the hill. Other localites, such as all the rocky areas across north watercourse and lower slopes of windsurfer hill, not a one, but numerous again around the quarry. We have inadvertantly provided them with ideal shelter.. the loose boulders provide lots of gaps for dens that they don't get from the natural limestone terracing in the area.. they don't dig much if at all.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Wild visitors to the safari park

Ramat Gan Safari park and zoo is close to Tel Aviv and pretty much surrounded by urban buildings and suburbs and yet its habitats are wonderful for a range of visitors: gardens, parks, ornamental vegetation, flat open savannah type country, small lakes for the hippos and a wide range of trees. We took many pictures of the animals in the collection from dwarf mongoose to Siberian tiger but none of these will be included here- this is a blog strictly for the wild stuff.. and these are always delightful surprises.

My 'bird of the day' at the park was the glossy ibis.. Plegadis falcinellus, over 30 foraging around the hippo's lake and a dozen or so more up in the tree tops by the car park , others flying about between trees here and there so I really could not tell how many there were in total. These are wintering birds and common passage migrants in Israel and these had stopped off for the easy forage. Our vehicle acted as a convenient hide but these birds were so preoccupied and at ease that Avremi could photograph openly through the car window. This one is a non breeding bird: when in breeding plumage they attain a high gloss with iridescence similar to that of a European starling in spring.

Above (not far from an ibis) and below: spur winged plover Vanellus spinosus: a very common and numerous plover in Israel. Third pic: bathing, 4th pic: taking off.

Also around the hippo pool were pelicans.. not sure if these ones were part of the collection or not as these are wild in this country- similarly with the mallard ducks. Cormorants, a few white storks stalking about and a pied kingfisher perched on a handy waterside tree were wild, however, and great to see. Probably other water birds were about if I could have stayed longer to find them.

This egret, below, was foraging on the grassy area around the children's swings and allowed me to approach within about 20 feet of it. I should have altered the setting to get a sharper shot but here it is.. I think it's a little egret, Egretta garzetta according to the bill though its feet were not yellow, unless cattle egrets can have bills like this- those are usually yellow. Cattle egrets Bubulcus ibis, were very common around the grounds, perched in many high trees- all free flocks, as at the Jerusalem zoo.

Ring neck parakeets (Psittacula krameri) are feral in many park areas in Jerusalem both in the coastal vale and in Jerusalem (Mamilla park, Gan Sacher, our valley and many residential areas) and probably many other town parks up and down the country. These are a few individuals of a large and noisy flock around the coati enclosure. Lower pic.. I particlarly liked the way the sun shone through the spread tail feathers of the flying parakeet.

Small feral Mynahs were also spotted briefly, foraging on the grass but regrettably we did not get a picture. Akiva had noticed these before on a trip to 'Superland park'.

Blackcap song in central area of zoo, sunbirds and blackbirds also about. A hooded crow acting like an oxpecker on one of the elands in the safari area.. the eland was not at all bothered as the crow stalked over its back and flanks and pecked off flies. By the zoo area lake a few night herons were perched.. again a question whether they were part of the collection or free birds.

This trip was thursday and it is now saturday night.. I have not had the time or energy to enter this till now and I may have forgotten a few birds. If I remember I shall add them.