Sunday, July 25, 2010

Fire damage and surprise flowers.

Damage to the wattle tree on valley road corner. Ground nearby is charred. Branches facing roughly south east escaped the damage but the rest of the tree is browned. Smoke from another fire down by north watercourse dirt road rises into view.

Above and below, fire damage on the bank between valley road and the lower buildings of the neighbourhood. This is a haunt of hyrax, graceful warblers, blackbirds, bulbuls, sunbirds, , laughing and turtle doves and others. Seasonally also black redstarts and European robins. It is not clear whether these fires are caused by discarded cigarettes, mischievous children or another cause. There does not seem to be enough rotting vegetation in this area to start anything spontaneously but it spreads quite quickly through dried grass and thistles, causing damage to pines, cypress and acacias on the bank.

Sunday 25th July

gazelle: about 7.30 p.m a few gazelle in ploughed area beyond acacias.

calls heard, small group flying high over edge of neighbourhood.

typical call and seen flying about over Pistacia grove then heading upwind, up over east valley.

Turtle doves:
indivual on ground next to cistern with pair of collared doves.

s: some high pitched calls by east watercourse dirt road, not present on line.
Graceful warblers : calls heard by valley road
Hooded crows: some seen in flight
Tristram's starlings: calls heard from direction of lower east field

Jackdaws: calls
Collared doves: some coos, flight calls, activity in woods and over fields
Stone curlew: Akiva heard as it got dark, direction of east field.

Bulbuls, Great tits: some calls, House sparrows, laughing doves in and about garden as usual

More fires today: one by service road, young pine grove. There had been a pile of branch cuttings there and that was probably burning. Another fire along north watercourse, other side of the bank, just down from Shadiker.

Monday 26th July

heard about 5.10 a.m on Monday morning, later, house sparrows and laughing doves heard, sunbird and at about 6 a.m., bee-eaters, Syrian woodpecker call.

Hooded crows and jackdaws have also been heard about dawn lately.

gazelle: 3- Female and well grown young grazing north windsurfer hill slopes near fence. Another individual, well grown young, farther down slope between first two and the olive grove, looking at us.

Hobby: brief sights in flight, or another falcon. One flying up north valley looked like large falcon, Barbary?

Turtle doves:
not noticed today

s: 'Moon line' blackbird was singing in pine near loop, just past pumping station. Others glimpsed, heard alarm call other parts of pines.
Graceful warblers : calls
Hooded crows: some about, flying over to roost.

Collared doves: some coos and activity but greenfinches quiet today
Stone curlew: heard clear on our way back as it was getting dark

Those high pitched short calls heard again as we entered cypress grove by dirt road down off windsurfer hill to cistern.. moved to eucalyptus grove but could not find and light was fading fast at that time. Then it was clear that two birds were calling from trees at least 50 feet apart.
Over the last few days I had taken them for a variaton of hobby call but they never broke into a typical hobby call. We recalled months ago when Ruthie was with us and we heard similar calls in this area and she identified them as young long eared owls. Perhaps they were indeed owls this time too. We never heard them fly and they were definitely moving between trees. Owls can move with amazing stealth. They were short, ''kiik'' , a little like a woodpecker's but shorter, more piercing and in some of them, followed by shorter sounds .. like ''kiik - itit''

Below: We were watching a pair of Eurasian jays on the sapling field, using the sapling tubes for look-out posts and taking it in turns to hope down to the ground to forage. We had noticed several there last few days, probably a whole family raised this year and using that patch.

An odd head of yellow flowers at the top of one of these posts caught my eye and piqued my interest so I went over to check them out. They look like some kind of centaury but all the centauries in the area went to seed many weeks ago. It seems that this plant accidentally grew in the tube, kept on growing up towards the light, filling the tube with a mass of prickly stems, then emerged from the top. These plants are usually ground hugging so very curious to see them like this and so far out of season. We both (independently) gave it a tug to see if it would come away but nope, it was firmly rooted in there.

This seems to confirm our theory that the design of the tube is dew gathering, providing moisture not normally available to plants in the open. It 'fools' a plant to think it is still growing much earlier in the year, before the dry season has set in and all others of its kind have passed their time.

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