The voice of the turtle dove is heard in our land

A thumbnail natural history of Neve Yaakov could not begin with a lovelier bird than the turtle dove a gracious bird which exemplifies fidelity, gentleness and peace, and likely one of the doves used as korbanos in the Beis Hamikdash.

The long sibilant purr of the turtle dove can be heard in the Aleppo pines all around Jerusalem throughout the summer and particularly in the woods of our own valley. They arrive right before Pesach, when we read Shir Hashirim. We can recognise them by their scalloped chestnut backs and pinkish breasts.

In contrast the Senegal dove, that small grey/brown dove which we see so often walking around our sidewalks in pairs, stays with us all year round. These were introduced from Africa by Moslims, charmed by their multisyllabic calls which resemble an Arabic blessing. And, of course, the feral pigeons, whose chicks were probably also used as korbanos, can be seen every day winging from windowsill to roof top.

The sweet evocative notes of the blackbird can be heard toward dusk or on an overcast day. This sooty coloured thrush is found in any tree shaded spot in Neve Yaakov. I was so happy to find this bird here, so familiar to me from bygone days in mossy English woods.

Sunbirds chime from flower covered bushes throughout the gardens of Cfar Ivri. The iridescent male bird can be mistaken for a hummingbird but, though he does sip nectar and hovers a little, he's a true songbird and will prove it to you.

Hoopoes, jackdaws, woodpeckers, grackles, falcons, titmice and quite a few other species can be seen in our neighbourhood if you have a quick eye and ear and a great deal of patience- and it's good to take a relaxing break just to stroll amongst the cypress, olives and oleander bushes.

If you're really a lady of leisure you can lie on your back with a pair of binoculars and watch the migrating birds fly over. In spring the majestic flights of white storks will catch the attention of anyone watching their children from the park benches, taking a welcome rest from domestic affairs. Many birds of prey may also be seen in transit. They usually raise a clamour from the local jackdaws, eager to see them well on their way.

Early mornings and dusk are the best times for larger wildlife- and a require a larger share of patience.

Timid gazelles can be found delicately picking their way along the valley trails. You may also come across rock hyraxes under the willows, resembling super size brown guinea pigs but hardly visible till they move. You may be lucky enough to catch sight or whiff of a local fox, but keep away! They are a rabies hazard. For all your pains you may only encounter a porcupine quill or a few footprints of the plump, and kosher, chukar partridges... but not to fret- we live here. There will always be another time to enjoy the natural wonders of Neve Yaakov.

Copyright © 1999 Gila Atwood

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