Thursday, March 30, 2006

Cats around Town

Missy slowly wakes up from a doze in the yard:

Missy awakens

Today, I saw a cat colony near my workplace. Here’s one member, a young orange tom, sleeping:

Orange kitty sleeps

A lovely calico lady:

Calico lady

Here are some of their friends, posing for the camera:

Cats posing for the camera

Check out the Friday Ark at The Modulator. This week’s Carnival of the Cats will be up at Pets Garden Blog.

Birkat ha-Ilanot (The Blessing of the Trees)

When we see fruit trees in bloom for the first time in the spring, we recite a special blessing called Birkat ha-Ilanot, the Blessing of the Trees. This blessing is recited once a year. The text follows in Hebrew, in transliteration and in English translation:

ברוך אתה ה' אלהינו מלך העולם שלא חסר בעולמו כלום וברא בו בריות טובות ואילנות טובים להנות בהם בני אדם.

Barukh atah, Adonai, Eloheinu, Melekh ha-olam, she-lo hisar be-olamo kelum u-vara vo beriyyot tovot ve-ilanot tovim lehanot bahem benei adam.

Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Ruler of the Universe, who let nothing lack in His universe and created within it good creatures and good trees in order to give pleasure to human beings.

(In the Hebrew blessing, the word “davar” is sometimes substituted for “kelum.”)

There is a custom to recite this blessing on Rosh Hodesh Nissan (the first day of the Hebrew month of Nissan). There is also a strong custom to recite it over at least two different fruit trees in bloom. Well, seeing that today is Rosh Hodesh Nissan and there are two fruit trees in bloom—an orange tree and a nectarine tree—in the yard, out I went. Prayer book and camera in hand, I discharged my religious obligation, took some pictures and enjoyed a good, strong whiff of orange blossom while I was at it.

Here are the orange blossoms:

Orange blossoms

The nectarine is still in bloom, too:

Nectarine blossoms

In religious neighborhoods, many people put up signs containing the words of the blessing next to the fruit trees in their yards and invite passersby to come and make the blessing.

(More information on birkat ha-ilanot can be found here, here and here.)

Finally, if anyone out there can tell me how to vowelize Hebrew in Blogger, please do. I’d appreciate it.

Flowers and Insects

A poppy (I think; I’m forever confusing poppies and anemones):



This common plant is the eaved madder, whose edible roots make red dye and contain a great deal of calcium (credit: herbalist and tour guide Nissim Krispil):

A bee on some blossoms (I don’t know what the blossoms are, unfortunately):

“Lazybones, go to the ant; study its ways and learn” (Proverbs 6:6, JPS translation). Ants carrying rosemary buds to their nest:

Ants carrying rosemary buds to their nest

Ants at the entrance to their nest

Finally, a thistle blossom surrounded by mustard plants:

Thistle surrounded by mustard plants

Sunday, March 26, 2006

A Visit from the Parakeets

The parakeets visited the tree outside my window again today, and this time I was ready for them.

(Click on any image to see a larger version.)

Here is a male (you can tell by the black stripe at his neck):

Mr. Parakeet

Here are two parakeets interacting. (I don’t know whether they were sparring or courting, actually. Or both, or neither.)

Two parakeets interacting

Here are three parakeets together:

Three parakeets together

We have liftoff!

Parakeet takes off

Three parakeets, one with wings spread:

Three parakeets, one with wings spread

Finally, a shot of all six:

Parakeet pyramid

Saturday, March 25, 2006

I Do Have a Parakeet Tree After All!

Last Thursday I suddenly heard a parakeet call from across the street. When I looked out the window, there were two parakeets on a distant tree.

I started thinking at them: “Closer ... closer ...” And what do you know—they flew right to the tree outside my window!

Now, before anyone gets any ideas about my ability to attract birds: it wasn’t me, but the fact that the tree outside my window is now full of seeds, and parakeets are seed-eaters. There are dozens of birds feasting on the tree at any time during the day, and it was only a matter of time before the parakeets headed over for a snack.

So here’s a picture of a female parakeet on the tree. When I tried to get closer to take a clearer shot, she saw me and flew off.

Parakeet on tree

(Click to enlarge.)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Best Ones Yet

My best photographs yet of Palestine sunbirds:

Palestine sunbird

Palestine sunbird, too

(Click on each picture to enlarge.)

I hope to do better, though.

Flowers and a Butterfly

Friends of mine told me where they get their bay leaves for cooking. So I decided to take a look ...

Bay laurel leaves and flowers

Then I saw a butterfly:


(As the sun began to set, I found bay laurel trees closer to home. Bay leaves, anyone?)

Today’s Cats

I went outside today to take some pictures, and while I was busy concentrating, I felt a bump at the back of my right leg. Fortunately I knew what it was even before I looked, so I didn’t panic.

Cat under skirt

It was a young tomcat who was just as interested as I was in the birds I was trying to photograph.

Cat emerging

A dose of grass ...

Eating grass

A peaceful meeting with an acquaintance ...

Two cats looking at me

I met this lovely black cat on the way home.

Black kittycat

On my way, I noticed this sign for the first time ...

Building sign

The actual spelling of the name of the street is “Katamon,” but I think I like this spelling better.

(Click here to read some history of Jerusalem’s Katamon neighborhood. Scroll down to the second item: San Simon Monastery, Jerusalem.)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Today’s Pictures

(Click on each photo for a larger view.)

A blackbird:


Here is a woodpecker in the very same spot on the eucalyptus tree where I photographed the parakeet last week, proving what my tour-guide friend told me: that the parakeets and the woodpeckers are in competition for living space.

Woodpecker on eucalyptus tree

Here’s my best shot yet of a Palestine sunbird (Hebrew: tzufit Eretz-Yisraelit):

Palestine sunbird

Here is a flower close up. I don’t know what it is, but I believe that the blossom forms a large “fuzzball” similar to that of a dandelion once it goes to seed.


Here’s a cat resting in a tree:

Cat resting in tree

Same cat, different angle:

Cat in tree

Monday, March 20, 2006

Big Red Flower

I passed by this flower last Shabbat and came back the next day to get a photo of it.

Big red flower

But I don’t know what it is.

Play With Me

Missy asks Her Ladyship: Wanna play?

Wanna play?


Gotcha, Your Ladyship!

More Birds

Here are some birds I photographed yesterday after work. First, a hoopoe on the ground and then in a nearby tree. He (she? not sure) was a good sport and let me take lots of pictures. (Say, can a hoopoe be a ham?)

(Click on any of the pictures to enlarge.)

Hoopoe on the ground


Hoopoe, side view

Hoopoe, rear view

Another attempt at capturing a woodpecker in pixels:


Finally, our local wild parakeets. My tour guide friend, Dani, told me that the parakeets are elbowing the woodpeckers out of their living space and that this is endangering the woodpeckers. Oy.

Well, at least they don’t eat the same food.

Parakeet from a distance

Parakeet feasting on tree seeds

Parakeet eating tree seeds

Let’s hope for better bird-related news soon.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Avian Camouflage Foiled (or: Gotcha!)

The eucalyptus tree near my building serves as an apartment building of sorts for the wild parakeets that have become so much more common throughout Israel over the past several years. My tour-guide friend Dani Barkai who, together with his wife, my friend Libby, graciously puts up with my rhapsodizing about these and other birds, wild plants and every cat I’ve met since infancy, showed me a picture of these parakeets in a 1970s guidebook that describes them as “rare.” They’re not rare here anymore; they’re all over the place these days, and frankly, I’m delighted.

As I was coming home this afternoon, I heard a parakeet chirp (well, more like a screech, actually) coming from the eucalyptus tree. I decided to take a brief detour in order to see whether I could spot the parakeet. Usually that is a losing proposition: the eucalyptus tree is green all year round, and green on green just doesn’t work.

But this time it did. A man from the building next door was outside doing some work in the yard, and he showed me where the bird was: preparing a nest in the trunk of the tree. So out came the camera ...

Wild parakeet on eucalyptus tree trunk

(“Honey, move over and let me in, quick! The paparazzi’s here again!”)

... and then the flash conked out. (Technology is wonderful ... when it works.)

The same wild parakeet, slightly darker

But I still got my photos, and now that I know where the parakeets live, I plan to get more. Lots more.

Three Cats

Her Ladyship (who isn’t my cat, by the way) gazes regally—at what, I don’t know, but she does, of course:

Her Ladyship’s regal gaze

Dappled Missy shelters between a tree and the garden wall:

Dappled Missy

Finally, Mister Neighborcat prowls around the garden:

Mister Neighborcat prowls

(Check out the Friday Ark at The Modulator. On Sunday, the Carnival of the Cats will be up at Music and Cats.)