Sunday, December 26, 2010

Turn of the Year

The autumn crocuses usually occur in twos and threes so I was amazed to find this cluster, just off central trail in the middle of east valley pines.

Most autumn crocuses already passed but plenty white winter crocuses about. Also asphodel foliage coming up everywhere in the woods. On the bank, right by valley road approaching the pumphouse, foliage of the wild geranium Erodium acaule (Stemless storksbill) is starting to spread.

Sunday 26th December

weather: 8-18 degrees C, no rain in last few days, winds shifted round to south easterlies all day, sky pretty much clear

however: more stuff sprouting, more purple autumn crocuses in more places, asphodel sprouting everywhere, first seed leaves of milk thistle coming out on the bank.

Gazelle: last thursday 7 seen crossing hidden watercourse just beyond bat cave, adult male taking the rear. None since.
Hyrax: plenty activity late afternoon by valley road, nibbling new thorny burnet leaves
Foxes: ?

Feral cats: one today in woods
Black redstart: none in usual places
Eurasian Jays: call near sapling field today
Eurasian sparrowhawk:one flying over central trail, look out area today
Feral pigeons: on roofs

Stonechat: song in north gazelle field about sunset
White wagtail:
Great tits: calls around sapling field area
Blackbirds: calls about sunset yesterday
House sparrows:calls in garden
Jackdaws: calls, small number flying over from neighbourhood to windsurfer hill
Hooded crows: plenty activity about valley, yesterday nine came down onto end of street to investigate small polythene bag of crumbs, was probably some kind of tasty treat, bisli or bamba or something like that, which crows love.
Laughing doves: foraging on ground in garden
Stone curlews: calls yesterday dusk, direction of north edges of forest
Sunbirds: many calls today in garden
Syrian woodpeckers: calls yesterday in pines
Tristram's starlings: calls yesterday and recently, one or two flying about over our street late afternoon

forest work lately has been more litter gathering, picking up a few saplings blown over, recent winds racing down east valley shoved down quite a few tubes in north field, the soft sapling wood had just bent rather than broken but had to be pulled back asap or they would stay bent. Akiva hammered the stakes in firmer with a rock. We also put out a brush fire by the east watercourse dirt road with rocks so that it would not spread farther along that slope.

Monday 27th December

Gazelle: 3 subadults grazing between olive grove and windsurfer/cistern dirt road. Two together, one short distance away
Hyrax: some active on boulders by valley road, cypress slum colony, some shrill calls also heard

Black redstart: none in usual places
Chaffinch: several on cypress tops near sapling field
Chiffchaff: contact calls
Feral pigeons: roofs
Stonechat: on thorny burnet, east field near small olive grove
Eurasian Jays: some calls
Blackbirds: pre roost chatter
Tristram's starlings: calls and flying over our street
Hooded crows: about as usual, and foraging on valley road
Laughing doves: foraging on ground in garden
House sparrows:chirping in gardens
Jackdaws: calls, flying over

Sunbirds: calls in garden

Sat 1 January 2011
good rain on and off last day or so

Gazelle: 4 north windsurfer where slope gets steeper, four, adult male last, moving from direction of fence to western slopes.
Hyrax: cool and damp, stayed indoors

Black redstart: seen last thursday (30th Dec) on rubble but none since
Stonechat: glimpsed on thorny burnet east field lately
White wagtail:less about lately, perhaps local population have moved toward town as temps have fallen
Blackbirds: calls at dusk off central trail

Eurasian Jays: calls
Eurasian sparrowhawk:1 flew into bunker pines, caused reaction amongst hoodies, cawing and flying about.
Feral pigeons: flocks about rooftops lately
Graceful warblers: glimpsed bank area
Great tits: calls in pines
House sparrows:chirping in gardens
Jackdaws: calls frequent but big flock moving not noticed lately on our walks.
Kestrels: call from direction of neighbourhood
Laughing doves: foraging on ground in garden

Syrian woodpeckers: calls in pines and eucs
Tristram's starlings: calls and flying over lower neighborhood. Prob still using the half built large synagogue
White spectacled Bulbuls: calls in garden

Sun 2 Jan 2011

Gazelle, hyrax: none seen today

Foxes: 2 foxes just beyond bat cave, sitting, grooming, one seemed to be drinking, rock has depressions there that can hold water. Did not see them interact but were just a couple of meters from each other and tolerant of each others presense so likely be mates. After a few minutes both had slipped from view.
Feral dogs: Much barking, several on west hill slope Hizmeh hill. Seemed to dogs lower on slope belong to one pack, 7 or 8 (hard to see, light and distance, this was just after sunset) , but three others higher up belonged to separate Hizmeh based pack and a shepherd's trail along the contour of the hill was the boundary line.. the valley pack had ventured across briefly and the hill pack were letting them know not to come higher. The upper dogs stayed on the shepherd trail, did not want to come farther down , they were outnumbered, but were holding their ground.

Black redstart: none

Stonechat: male seen on thorny burnet in east field, probably quite a few about but did not search, we were lookign for gazelle, saw him incidentally. Did not hear them
White wagtail:no calls
Eurasian Jays: calls east valley
Great tits: calls in north valley near watercourse
Hooded crows: about as usual, jackdaws, calls, and about as usual

3rd Jan 2011

Foxes: 1 by security fence, ran down road, slipped through barbed wire roll ?
Hyrax: heard chittering call but didn't see any active
Black redstart: none
Chaffinch: finches on cypress tops but didn't see which.
Blackbirds: dusk calls
Great tits: calls
Feral pigeons: flying about rooftops over road
Collared doves: 1 out in open east field SW corner, took off to trees as we approached windsurfer/cistern path.
Jackdaws: calls
Hooded crows: about as usual,

Laughing doves: ground, garden

cool, damp, sunny, our tortoise was wandering about garden again at noon.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Week leading to winter solstice

Thursday 16 Dec.

cool, clear, a few high altitude clouds, otherwise cloudless, peaking at 21.5 degrees C

Gazelle: 9 today. 6 in view grazing same place we've seen them lately, east field near fence foot of windsurfer. Another three, well grown young by dry stone walls by small olive grove.
Hyrax: several adults on rocks by valley road

White wagtail:calls. Also Akiva has noticed them again around central bus station mid afternoon.
House sparrows:gardens, buildings
Feral pigeons: around tops buildings
Sunbirds: heard in cape honeysuckle

Black redstart: none in the usual places despite good conditions.
Syrian woodpeckers: calls
Great tits: scolding calls near pumping station.
Jackdaws: flock of at least 80 heading south to windsurfer hill , vocal
Hooded crows: foraging on ground around olives. Old fruit?
Tristram's starlings: heard whistling up in neighbourhood mid afternoon.

Friday 17 December

Sunny 10-18 degrees C

House sparrows: active in garden
laughing doves: active in garden, foraging on ground
white spectacled bulbul: various calls
sunbird: calls in cape honeysuckle
jackdaws: calls, hooded crow calls

Friday 18 December

Clear skies
Gazelle: at least 6 about, mid north slopes windsurfer hill, including adult male, others females and well grown young, grazing together. As we reached top of shepherd's trail two sub adults were watching us, they moved towards fence to join the others, as did the adult male, then all proceeded towards west slopes.

Foxes: as we watched the adult male gazelle a fox walked up onto the top of some boulders just behind him and stared at us, then ran quickly behind. Gazelle and fox ignored each other

Judging by mounds just beyond top of shepherd's trail as it emerges from trees, fresh mole rat activity lately, line of mounds leading to large boulder, and around it

Black redstart: none in usual places despite good conditions, nor chaffinches or stonechats.
White wagtail:calls
Chiffchaff: contact calls
Blackbirds: calls around dusk

Collared doves: 19 on lines, over NE of gazelle field, where watercourses leave area
Hooded crows: calls, activity
Great tits: calls and two different songs around pumphouse area

Jackdaws: calls, activity
Syrian woodpeckers: calls in pines
Tristram's starlings: calls

Monday 20th December

Cool/mild, almost clear skies, some high altitude cloud.

Gazelle: 4 in all. betw windsurfer/cistern dirtroad and small olive grove, 1 adult male with good size horns, I think same buck that was with the herd. Soon after, two subadults together. A little while later another adult buck betw large almond, hawthorns and pine grove in mid north field. I think this latter male is the same male we have seen lately grazing in the small olive grove, moved over NW as the more dominant larger horned buck moved towards olives, but just speculation.
Hyrax: none noticed by valley road

oxes: 5 sightings though probably just 3 individuals. (1#) was seen just a few feet away from the first adult male gazelle, also gazing back at us, great sight to see, the two of them looking at us and the second time within a week that we have noticed fox near adult male. One wonders if it might be one of those associations you get between species.. like friendships between dogs and horses. Different location , last time it was up near where shepherd's trail comes out of trees but almost definitely same fox and buck. Then shortly after I saw (#2,#3) two running down alongside dry stone walls around small olive orchard, towards fence. Likely that first fox was one of them though not necessarily. A few minutes later I saw another one (#4) ahead of us heading off windsurfer/cistern dirt road and into Pistacia grove. This was a third fox if first fox was part of the duo, or it could have been the first fox. Then Akiva saw #5 by dry stone wall across north field near large almond, likely that was same individual as (#4) . Speculation based on timing and location but clearly at least three individuals involved.

Feral dog: 1 nice red colour on his own, working his way along east watercourse, foraging.
Feral cat: sitting on rock off central trail

Black redstart
: finally a sighting again! 1 male looking rather still and a bit fluffed on bunker rubble, not bobbing or hawking, sitting a bit more horizontal and low than usual but clear view.
Chaffinch: female top of cypress. Other small finches about but not clear views
Chiffchaff: contact calls

Stonechat: nice view of male on thorny burnets mid north windsurfer slopes.

Graceful warblers: call by valley road, edge of neighbourhood
Great tits: calls

Hooded crows: calls and flying over, one foraging ground top of ramp leading backs buildings to valley road

Jackdaws: at about sunset flock about 150 birds heading north to south towards Pisgat Zeev, returning from forage to roost, shortly after another ~50

Sunbirds: male seen in willow

House sparrows:about buildings
Tristram's starlings: calls, two seen flying quite high over valley road, changing direction a few times for no apparent reason, and calling.

Tuesday 21st December - winter solstice

Am I feeling the solstice? Something in the air, a sense of excitement, expectation, the sense of turning point, the promise of spring. It seems the trees and earth speak of it and rejoice. Cool/mild, sunny, mostly clear skies.

Gazelle: Lower slopes of hill to north, 4 grazing, females, well grown young. Adult male also in area. In east field, two subadults pretty much where we saw them yesterday, between olive trees and cistern/windsurfer dirt road. Then we saw adult male coming from western slopes following female, he stood for a while at the place the dirt road starts to get steeper. Female continued into open field in direction of young ones but did not join them, grazed in place.

Foxes: 1 on north hill slopes moving west, quick pace along limestone ridge line.

Black redstart: none around bunker rubble
White wagtail:calls
Chiffchaff: some contact calls

Great tits: whistle churr calls in north watercourse acacias

Hooded crows: about as usual

House sparrows:gardens
Jackdaws: the usual large flock 150 +, foraging mid northern hillslopes on the ground, spooked by a rambler, wheeled around but weren't ready to head to roost yet, must be good ground forage

Syrian woodpeckers: calls in pines
Tristram's starlings: calls from hidden watercourse direction, at least two birds

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Second quarter of December

Coming down windsurfer hill lower slopes dirt road leading to cistern, facing roughly north east. East field to the right.. this is where the gazelle herd prefers to graze lately.

Thursday 9th December

late afternoon, between ~4 p.m. and 5 p.m. cool, mild. Sky, lots of altocumulus

Gazelle: 8 1 group of 3 sub adults just beyond top of shepherd's trail staring down at us, then a lone adult female grazing down towards the fence near where we saw the small herd yesterday, then two more sub adults on the olive grove side of hill dirt road, then one adult male by himself farther down, then another female in the lower field between the olive grove and cypresses.

Hyrax: a bunch moving quickly oh hillside up from pumhouse
Foxes: 1 heading up shepherd's trail, greyish flanks, reddish head and tail, redder than the individual we've been seeing around the cistern.

Black redstart: none noticed in the two places we've seen them.

Chiffchaff: contact call

Stonechat: glimpses (?) in thorny burnets lower north windsurfer slopes
White wagtail:calls

Eurasian Jays: 1 flew over valley road

Feral pigeons: street, roofs

Great tits: calls in pines

Hooded crows: about, and again, a number perched on tops of cypresses along tree line up from east valley dirt road

Jackdaws: calls

Laughing doves: gardens

Sunbirds: in *song* in Bauhinia midday , sun shining
Syrian woodpeckers: calls
Tristram's starlings: calls
White spectacled Bulbuls:

Saturday 11 December

Gazelle: 15! All in east field. First noticed an adult male grazing in the olive grove area. Shortly after another adult male with slightly longer horns farther towards windsurfer hill, with female not far away. These two moved towards the hill to join a group- now 12 in all, ran down closer to the fence to graze. Shortly after two relatively young gazelle emerged from the woods near the top of shepherd's trail and moved in the direction of the herd.

Black redstart: none in usual places but not surprising since whether windy, probably too much for winged insects to fly or come out at all.

Strangest bird of the day was coo of a *
turtle dove.. we both heard it, close by central trail in the pines. Akiva thought he heard an answering call farther off but I missed that. It's possible some remained due to the long warm autumn.

Chiffchaff: contact calls

Great tits: calls in pines
Jackdaws: overhead about sunset, calling
Hooded crows: milling about over us, disturbed, after sunset as we approached pumping station. Akiva theorized that they were unhappy about their roosting trees, blowing about a lot in the breeze.

White spectacled Bulbuls: melodious calls near pumping station shortly after sunset
Sunbirds: some song in Bauhinia midday
Syrian woodpeckers: some calls
Laughing doves: some cooing.

Wednesday 15 December

cold winds and intermittant rain of the last couple of days has cleared up, sunny day with altocumulus and slightly warmer.

Gazelle: 15 today: first, 12 including adult male with long horns, grazing near fence foot of windsurfer hill again. Adult male with slightly shorter horns grazing in olives again, female appeared in his area and they both headed off down through Pistacia grove. Interesting.. though probably the loser of the sparring match and herd, he still gets company. A third adult male then seen north east field beyond cistern on slopes near fence there.

Black redstart: none about in usual places
Chaffinch: at least two about, tops of trees.
Chiffchaff: contact call about sunset
Stonechats: several about, on tops of thorny burnets in east field, active
White wagtail:several calls

Hooded crows: small flock about, perching tops of trees or flying about, cawing

Jackdaws: flock of 100-150 flying about near road or perching on olives, very active and vocal

Laughing doves: garden
House sparrows: garden,
Sunbirds: 4 in cape honeysuckle, prob family of this year

Vegetation: More asphodel sprouting, one winter crocus seen near top of shepherd's trail, also a 3 spot dianthus amongst thorny burnets same area. More autumn crocus on hillside and shepherd's trail,

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December begins

Coral gum fresh growth.. by east watercourse dirt road.. several little coppices of new growth sprouting around the trunks of felled trees.

First Jerusalem autumn crocus! Found near the top of the shepherd's trail, where it emerges from the shade of cypress and pine onto the hillside. I saw no others anywhere but I had a feeling I'd find one there, seems to be a relatively rich patch, reliable for autumn squill, orchids and clover variety.

Wednesday 1st December:

Another utterly clear sky, no sign of rain, air cool/mild. 14-24 degrees C, winds extremely light, E/SE, humidity 10-25 %

Gazelle: 3, grazing at treeline up from east watercourse dirtroad,
Hyrax: some activity on boulders by valley road

Black redstart: 2nd sighting, male again hawking on boulder rubble, bobbing, flitting about at sunset.
White wagtail:many calls throughout day heard from house and on walk, definitely seem more numerous than last year
Chiffchaff: contact calls

Eurasian Jays: glimpsed in pines

Feral pigeons: over street
Graceful warblers: call in gardens
Great tits: calls in pines by valley road
Tristram's starlings: calls from up slopes west of pumping station
Jackdaws: calls and flying over heading to roost
Hooded crows: calls and overhead heading to roost
Sunbirds: song and activity in Bauhinia

Saturday 4 December

Weather continuing dry- another clear day, no clouds, winds SE light to non existent. temps 14-23 degrees C. humidity, low, generally under 20%

: 4 - 3 grazing down by fence east field, amongst long dry grass and Inula
Hyrax: a number active on boulders by valley road today and thursday
Foxes: 1 coming from dry stone wall near fence, small olive grove, made its way quickly into field, disappeared into scrub or watercourse

Black redstart- none since wednesday but probably arrived too late.
Stonechat: 1 on long hard stem emerging from thorny burnets, east field
White wagtail:calls heard throughout day

chiffchaff: contact calls in pines thursday, didn't notice today
Blackbirds: alarm calls dusk

Hooded crows: heading over to roost, calls.
Great tits: calls in pines
House sparrows:chirping in garden
Jackdaws: large flock heading over windsurfer hill about sunset

Laughing doves: foraging ground garden
Sunbirds: garden
Syrian woodpeckers: calls various parts of woods
Tristram's starlings: 2 flying from neighbourhood to Hizmeh early afternoon thursday
White spectacled Bulbuls: calls garden

Sunday 5th December.


Gazelle: At least 4 gazelle grazing around almonds and hawthorns in north field around sunset, including adult male.
Hyrax: not out today, though we went by cypress slum area at the usual time. Perhaps it's a little chill.

Black redstart: we arrived at bunker rubble just after sunset, light fading fast so probably just missed him heading up to roost.
White wagtail:many calls
Chiffchaff: some contact calls in pines, less than usual.

Blackbirds: alarm calls at dusk

Eurasian sparrowhawk: Akiva saw over east valley woods, crows putting up a racket there, perhaps because of the raptor
Feral pigeons: over street
Graceful warblers: calls
Great tits:calls in pines

Hooded crows: over as usual and windsurfing off the hillside, south west slopes, now a building site. At least three tiers are being prepared below the level of the houses on villa hill and extending onto south west slopes of windsurfer hill, this development straddles the saddle watercourse so that may be disrupted, hopefully most of it will be spared.

House sparrows: garden
Jackdaws: over valley
Laughing doves: garden
Syrian woodpeckers: calls

White spectacled Bulbuls: calls by Pistacia orchard/look out corner area

Monday 6th December

Rain by 7 a.m.! Skies overcast and drizzling then, ground somewhat damp, hard to know for how long it had been raining.

By late afternoon no water still flowing in east watercourse but plenty evidence it had. Air heavy with scent of eucalyptus oils, cool/mild. Sky partially overclouded, large cumulus.

Gazelle: none seen in north field
Hyrax: calls heard

Black redstart: too late again

Chiffchaff: contact calls in pines
White wagtail: many calls throughout the day

: 1 in *song* somewhere past the bridge

Feral pigeons: cooing and active
Graceful warblers: calls
Great tits: calls

Hooded crows: active and vocal up in eucs and other tall trees by east watercourse dirt road

House sparrows:active and vocal in gardens
Jackdaws: active and vocal over hills

Laughing doves: active in garden and cooing earlier

White spectacled Bulbuls: harsh calls heard toward sunset

Wednesday 8 December

autumn crocus of the season!, and only one I found, near the top of the shepherd's trail.

Damp, and eucalyptus aroma still strong along east watercourse dirt road

Gazelle: at least 11 in east field: at least 8 grazing close to fence near north foot of windsurfer hill, another four between the hill dirt road where we were, and the other gazelle.
Hyrax: calls, but not seen out and about

Black redstart: none at bunker rubble but one male on dry stone wall in east field, just beyond the cypress grove, I would assume a different male, territory too far from bunker.

White wagtails:calls heard

Great tit heard in *song* up somewhere in trees on slopes beyond pumping station
Hooded crows: much calling, birds heading over to roost
Blackbirds: calls heard
House sparrows:chirps in garden
Jackdaws: flock betw 100 and 200 birds fanning sky, heading over from neighbourhood toward Hizmeh
Syrian woodpeckers: calls
White spectacled Bulbuls: calls
Laughing doves: garden, but now it's wetter the sunbirds are keeping relatively low profile.

Asphodel foliage coming up in some places, fresh coral gum growth in many, most Inula gone to seed.