Monday, May 30, 2011

May 2nd Half

above: Broom, in bloom here and there not far from east watercourse.

Beetle on pomegranate leaf.. many were flying about the tree near cistern between sunset and dusk, as well as lacewings (further down the page). Below, this species of ladybird (or ladybug but of course really a beetle) seems the most prevalent right now. Its larvae also found on milfoil, thistle and some other plants. (Black aphids also quite common now on fennel and various composites)

Below, mating robber flies on thorny burnet. I realised these seeding composites by the burnet are actually fleabane.. they're everywhere.. given the small size of the flower itself the seedheads are unexpectedly spreading. Caper bugs about, many nymphs seen but still plenty healthy capers.

30th May

Much earlier vegetation starting to dry out now, grasses turning yellow, most thistles and fleabane going to seed and we're picking up 'caterpillar burs' and nasty sainfoin seedpods on our walks, but other vegetation just getting green, such as mullein and Varthemia sprouting up fresh everywhere. First blooming thyme noticed today! The thistle which has small blue tuft blooms has come up everywhere but not bloomed as yet. Caper vegetation esp along valley road.. we noticed blooms more at night than day. Wild carrot is everywhere, Polygonum has put forth fresh green, fleabane making surprisingly spreading seedheads and a large purple late thistle noticed, not milk thistle. Hawthorns produced more fruit than last year (which was none) but far from their best. Pomegranates in full bloom now. Horehound and Ballota now in bloom. Thorny burnet berries mostly brown.

Birds: Prinias very active and vocal, hobbies about , calling esp. round sunset. Blackbirds in song then too. Some stone curlew calls. Hooded crows as active as usual and jackdaw calls on and off through the day when their flocks are active. Collared doves less now, intermittant, more muted. Turtle dove coos sometimes heard. Greenfinches twittering and chawing around bunker rubble area but seem somewhat fewer than previous years.
Around the buildings: house sparrows, bulbuls, sunbirds, laughing doves, feral pigeons and several times a week noisy calls of ring neck parakeets heard.. they fly from forest to/around neighbourhood and back, favouring the eucalyptus by east watercourse. Syrian woodpeckers today heard around north watercourse. In last week various young birds heard calling for food, some of them sounded like young great spotted cuckoos but didn't get sightings. Bee-eaters heard a few times, but not in notable numbers, the odd large brown job passing through, stopping by to roost overnight (honey buzzards?) , occasional Tristram starling calls, chukar partridges spotted on rocks around the area .

Plenty gazelle grazing activity noticed lately.. up to at least a dozen gazelle active in east field and windsurfer hill slopes, various bachelors still seen between north watercourse and hidden watercourse. Hyraxes active in the usual colonies and some young seen. Hedgehog heard on our walk the other night, snuffling in vegetation close to valley road. Occasional fox sightings in various places but no more cubs spotted.

Insects: see above. .Bath white butterfly spotted yesterday, various small blues and Satyrids but not good close views. More grasshoppers, the one with lateral broad stripes and crimson underwing. More black millipedes. Cicadas heard at the zoo last week but not up here yet. Crickets at night.

More gecko activity on building walls at night heard. No agamas seen yet. Correction.. Akiva saw agama in small park near central bus station early afternoon yesterday. I

This blog is four years old now! Wow so much discovered in these few years, more than we realized could be here since we arrived in north Jerusalem about 18 years ago..I feel like I only actually LIVED the last four from a natural history point of view.

31st May

Yesterday evening, 30th May we spotted 'glow worm' (really a beetle) on rock not far from valley road, low bank.. it was dark and no camera for pic.. but looked like she was arcing front part of her body up and backwards.. the last three segments of abdomen glowing steady light green.

Another hedgehog making its way through milk thistle, didn't see, just heard.

Spookiest thing, this evening (31st) after 10.30 7 (or 6, we were so astonished we both totally forgot to count) appeared to be large white birds appeared over east valley, about twice canopy height and together silently flew over us, slightly fluttering (against wind) somewhat up and over the neighbourhood, looked ghostly white reflecting all ambient light, quite large .. only thing that remotely fit were egrets but not quite like them either and at such a late hour. Couldn't make out head shape but broad wings. Entire owl family? Never saw so many owls flying together and only thing that would look so light would be barn owls which I don't think are here.

Italian Anchusa in bloom on upper valley road (from edge neighbourhood to below pool), also broom near east watercourse(above, top)

Today's afternoon walk (31st May) .. Hooded crow with great spotted cuckoo juvenile on electic cable post, crow hopped right over the cuckoo which was calling incessantly.. ignoring it. As we approached to take a pic the cuckoo flew into some nearby pines but crow remained. Singing blackbirds various places east valley, Prinias, jackdaws, Syrian woodpeckers.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

May: First half

The white sage discovered in the ploughed field area behind the almond row.. now overgrown with oats, golden thistle and an assortment of other vegetation. Above, close up, below, whole plant. A number of these in a patch there, not noticed in previous years.

Grasshopper nymph on Kickxia.. lots of these about now by roadside and plenty little yellow blooms on the Kickxia.

Firebug on fleabane. Fleabane pretty much past its prime now, gone to seed. Below, a related firebug on fresh mullein foliage. This is the one near the pumping station, already has a flower as of yesterday.

Wednesday 4 May

Hiked up to the quarry. Tristram's starlings whistling all about, settling on rocks around quarry Akiva saw for sure 6 individuals at once and had impression from all the calls that there were more about.

Chukar partridges also around quarry environs and lip of quarry itself, we didn't count how many. Akiva had impression their backs are paler and greyer than those back around east watercourse, that the latter were browner. The grey would certainly give them more camouflage in this open stony environment. He also thought the hyraxes looked paler and greyer too though the ones we saw were the more mature individuals which tend to be more blonde and shaggy than younger breeding individuals and young.

Buteo over the valley, had terminal tail bar though thin, much banding but no noticeable dark shoulder areas. Hobbies not noticed yesterday though have been seen and heard this month.

An unfamiliar lark noticed on approach to quarry, had shorter crest than crested lark and hardly any striation, body tending to rufous buff. salmon coloured legs , not sure about bill, also salmon I think.

Swifts about, jays in woods, singing blackbirds, great tit fledgelings heard within 100 feet of bunker rubble, greenfinches twittering in that region, collared doves active and heard and on some days also turtle doves,

Gazelles: Saw two adult bucks by north watercourse with one much younger buck , same party of three I suspect we saw a couple of weeks ago. Are these those two males we used to see frequently around north watercourse in vicinity of bat cave, the younger male having attached itself to them, mini bachelor herd?
Gazelle snorts also heard lately from time to time. Gazelles noticed lately tend to have been grazing dispersed over any of the fields, not herding so much.

Saturday 7 May male and female blackcap foraging for food in scrubby/eucalyptus area between saplings and pumping station. Another blackcap pair in trees half way along from there to cistern, as well as family of great tits and one pipit like striated job perched and quite still half way up tree, striated on breast, back with stripes about eye and white fleck on shoulder.

Other birds similar to sunday.

Sunday 7 May
Bee-eaters at least two groups, largest about three dozen .. as yesterday favouring eucs by look out corner as settling place, they had not used those in previous years. , swallows, big brown jobs, Buteos? Several about, passing through, swallows zipping through two small groups

8 male gazelle grazing between bat cave and north watercourse, walking about, two practice sparring,

then saw fox moving from bat cave, followed north of north watercourse east betw. rock shelf and thorny burnets, then headed across watercourse into young pine grove by service road, stopped by wall, appeared to have caught something, sat by there for a while on haunches then headed off towards north gazelle field

Also greenfinches, collared doves, turtle doves, blackbirds but not singing, masked shrike heard in a number of places, one seen in pine near where north watercourse dirt road angles towards central trail. Syrian woodpeckers.

Masked shrike also seen late last week and others heard.

Lots of marbled whites about, counted at least 8 settled out of wind in a patch of thistles and mustard by north trail,

Now in morning in garden bulbuls and sunbirds starting up about 5.40 a.m. laughing doves also. House sparrows earlier . bulbuls also like hunting around the tamarisk over the storm drain.

16 May Monday

Hidden watercourse area , fox family working upstream near acacias far side, vixen with two , Akiva believes three cubs , she was relatively dark but cubs much paler, quite well grown. Another fox around a bit of a distance away.. the dog? Managed to get glimpses of young ones .

Also about: plenty hyraxes including fairly well grown young Shadiker colony very active at dusk as we came up, some barks heard. Also gazelle, at least 5 adult bucks butterfly area before you get to hidden watercourse, amongst the cypresses.

Increasing foliage of goldilocks, thyme, caper, polygonum, mullein, Kickxia.. this is the time their greenery really fills out while the milk and Syrian go to seed and wither back.. but for the summer thistles.. the blue tuft thistle which is also coming into green. Yesterday got a number of shots of various arthropods on this foliage.. always worth checking out the various flower heads for insect life. Wild carrot is also flowering everywhere now and still some milfoil here and there.

Yesterday it had rained earlier in the day . . in the relatively low flat area east field near the fence , between the small olive grove and north hill slopes, amongst pale yellow sea of dried oats 8or 9 gazelle behaving friskily, running, chasing, leaping.. two (juvenile males) in mock spar, another one from grazing group rushed at one of the combatants, chase ensued to and fro.. more chases as we watched.. seemed they all just wanted to be playful and were running about just for the sheer joy and exercise, amazing speed and nimbleness.

Birds now: graceful warblers noisy and active, much purring of turtle doves, occasional calls of greater spotted cuckoo youngsters calling as hoodies forage for them and wait on them, masked shrike in the Pistacia grove yesterday just after sunset, jackdaws, blackbirds, Syrian woodpeckers esp in eucs by Pistacias, chukar partridge up by hidden watercourse today, larks heard in that area and also east field yesterday but no sightings or definite calls of black eared wheatears this season yet, surprising.

Quite a few Buteos (or other big brown jobs, likely honey buzzards) passing through lately wanting to roost but the hoodies harass them when they see them. Yesterday another much smaller raptor joined in the harassment but didn't get a good view of what it was.

Two new species of white sage like flower found lately.. one bushy and branching with basal leaves with more elaborate lipped flowers growing in the ploughed field area behind almond row (head of page) found a week or so ago, and this one, below, foliage and flower, growing by rocks . I have seen neither in previous seasons but too easy to overlook white flowers.