Tag Archives: ibex

Photo of the Negev

The Negev is one of the quintessential areas of Israel. When visiting you should plan some time in the Negev, which makes up 60% of Israel’s land area. Ben Gurion was the visionary that realized the importance of the Negev to Israel’s future. Near Sde Boker, the final resting place of David Ben Gurion, is Ein Avdat, a spring in a canyon. It’s high limestone walls and pools are a great place for photographs.

Terebinth Ein Avdat horz

As you enter the reserve you will notice an old (250-year-old), solitary terebinth, a Pistachia Atlantic, אלה in Hebrew, rooted in the rocky soil. This tree normally grows in colder, semi-arid zones with annual rainfall of over 300 mm – this tree is a reminder of a forest that flourished here when the climate was colder and rainier. Looking up you may see Griffon vultures that nest on the cliffs soar overhead. There are also quite a few ibex that are attracted by the water. Ibex, a kind of mountain goat, are very good climbers on the steep rocky slopes and even up in a Pistachio tree.

Ibex in a Tree

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The technical details, shot with a Lumix point and shoot camera, ISO 80, 4.1mm, F4 at 1/200 sec.

Photographs on this website are © Shmuel Browns (unless marked otherwise) – if you are interested in purchasing one of my photos or using one of my photos for your own project please contact me.

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Photographing Wildlife at Ein Gedi

These two wildlife photos were taken on a hike in Nahal Arugot in the Ein Gedi Nature reserve. Nahal David is the more popular, family oriented part of the reserve which makes Arugot great for a more off the beaten track outing, less crowded and great for photographers. If you follow the stream bed to the end of the wild and photogenic canyon you will reach the hidden waterfall.

Ibex at Ein Gedi

The ibex (Capra nubiana) is one of 9 species of wild goats (the North American Rocky Mountain goat is in a separate genus, Oreamnos). The ibex is a ruminant, meaning they have four-chambered stomachs and chew their cud so they are kosher, along with addax, antelope, bison, deer, and giraffe. Evidence of the ibex is widely present in the archaeological record, for example, rock drawings, pottery and seals, particularly in the Near East and Mediterranean regions.

The technical details – the above photo of a young ibex was taken with a Nikon D90 digital SLR camera with Nikkor 18-70mm lens at the end of October (ISO 500, 70mm, F9 at 1/125 sec) in Nahal Arugot.

Rock Hyrax

The rock hyrax (Procavia capensis, in Hebrew שפן הסלע) is a medium-sized (~4 kg) terrestrial mammal, superficially resembling a guinea pig with short ears and tail but, in fact, the hyrax is related to the modern-day elephant. The rock hyrax inhabits rock crevices which protect it from predators as written in Psalms 104,18  סלעים מחסה לשפנים, rocks hide the hyrax; it also uses sentries, one or more animals take up position on a vantage point and issue alarm calls on the approach of predators. Among at least 21 vocalizations that the hyrax can make, it makes a loud grunting sound while moving its jaws as if chewing which may be the reason that the hyrax is listed in Leviticus 11,5 as a non-kosher animal that chews its cud. Unique to hyraxes is the dorsal gland, which excretes a skunk-like odor used for social communication and territorial marking. Hyraxes typically live in groups of 10–80 animals, and forage as a group. The rock hyrax has incomplete thermoregulation and so can be seen sunning itself on rocks – it spends approximately 95% of its time resting.

Photo of the Week – Ibex

When hiking in the Ein Gedi nature reserve keep your eyes open for hyrax, Tristram grackle and ibex. As I was coming out of the reserve a group of some forty ibex went by. Their color blends into the cliff side but I caught this one as it climbed over the hill.

Ibex

The technical details – the photo was taken with a Nikon DSLR camera (ISO 400, 200mm, F11 at 1/500 sec).

Please share this post with your friends by clicking on the icons at the end of this message.

Photographs on this website are © Shmuel Browns (unless marked otherwise) – if you are interested in purchasing one of my photos or using one of my photos for your own project please contact me.

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Photo of the Week – Tumulus in Negev

In a hike in the Negev, in the area of Mount Arkov (across the road from Avdat) to see the rock drawings and tulips in bloom, I took this photo of a tumulus, a mound of stones raised over a grave. The tumulus and rock drawings or petroglyphs may be from early hunter-gatherers, dated to the fourth millennium BCE.

Tumulus NegevYou can click on the image for a larger view (which may take some time to load depending on your Internet connection). Please share this post with your friends by clicking on the icons at the end of this message.

The technical details – the photo was taken with a Nikon D90 DSLR and 18-200mm lens in November (ISO 200, 36mm, F11 at 1/500 sec).

Photographs on this website are © Shmuel Browns (unless marked otherwise) – if you are interested in purchasing one of my photos or using one of my photos for your own project please contact me.

Mosaics at Hirbet Midras

All of the floors recently uncovered in the church at Hirbet Midras have incredible mosaics, that are extraordinarily well preserved. The mosaics include both intricate geometric designs and floral, fauna, fish, birds and fruit. The tesserae are fine, 7mm cubes in an assortment of colors enabling the artists to create realistic images. You can click on any of the images to see it in higher resolution.

The apse of the church with a geometric rectangular carpet; the curved part has an image of a rooster and duck in a design of grapevine tendrils and bunches of grapes.

Display of mosaics in the aisle, geometric patterns on either side of a panel with chukar birds.

Close up of the chukar bird panel.

Panel that combines birds, fish and lotus.

Image of a lion attacking what looks like an ibex among grapevines. Interesting to compare it with the image of the lion attacking the deer under the tree from Hisham’s Palace (Khirbet El-Mafjar, 7th century) near Jericho.

Nubian Ibex

Wild goats are very agile and hardy, able to climb on bare rock and survive on sparse vegetation. The Nubian ibex (Capra ibex nubiana) is a rocky desert dwelling goat found in mountainous areas of Israel and throughout the Middle East that eats mainly grasses and leaves. Archaeologists have found evidence of the ibex on cylinder seals and painted on pottery. You can find rock drawings of ibex on a hill above Carmei Avdat, a family farm where grape vines grow on original Nabatean terraces.

Ibex rock drawings

Across from the farm is the En Avdat nature reserve. I was hiking with a client in the canyon mid-morning and the sun was perfectly backlighting a grove of Euphrates poplar trees for a great photo. Near the entrance is a large Pistachio Atlantic tree with gnarled branches and strong roots anchoring it in a field of rocks. This tree was ablaze in reds and yellows – one of the things I miss is the beautiful autumn colors I used to see in Canada. As I looked up among the branches I saw an ibex that had climbed 10 feet up into the tree. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera.

There is a good chance to see ibex at nearby Sde Boker, overlooking Nahal Zin. Farther south, you can see ibex in the parks and on the edge of the makhtesh at Mitzpe Ramon.

Ein Gedi is a great place for a hike, to take a family to experience springs, waterfalls and pools in the desert. Today as we pulled into the parking lot, we saw a male ibex on the roof of a Eldan rental car so that it could reach the leaves of a nearby tree. I know ibex are good climbers and the ibex in the Ein Gedi reserve are used to people but that was certainly a surprise.

Ibex at Ein Gedi on car roof

Ein Gedi

Ein Gedi-waterfalls and pools

Ein Gedi (literally Spring of the Goats, refers to Nubian Ibex that come to the spring to drink) is an oasis in the Judean desert along the western shore of the Dead Sea. Here are two hikes (each about 5 km) in the Ein Gedi reserve that are perfect for families, Nahal David and Nahal Arugot.
On entering the reserve follow the marked the path and after about 15 minutes of easy walking we’ll reach the first waterfall, Mapal Shulamit that cascades 30 meters down the rock to a pool below. After a refreshing dip we’ll continue to a fork in the trail, we’ll take the steeper one on the right (the other path would take us back to the entrance) to the Shulamit spring and from there above the wadi to the Dudim cave. Retracing our steps we’ll continue to the Ein Gedi spring and beside it the flour mill. From there we can walk to the ruins of the Chalcolithic temple (3500 BCE), one of the oldest remains of human settlement in the Judean desert. We’ll descend through a cranny along a dry canyon to discover a 50 meter high waterfall and a great view of Nahal David and the Dead Sea beyond.

Ein Gedi-Nahal DavidAccording to the Roman historian Pliny the Elder the area of Ein Gedi was settled during the Second Temple period by a Jewish ascetic sect called the Essenes. The archaeological evidence uncovered by Hirschfeld suggests that they lived   near the spring where he found more than 20 tiny stone cells and two pools, one for irrigation and one a miqve or ritual bath. Pottery shards date it to the first century BCE.

The second hike starts from Tel Goren along the Nahal Arugot river bed past acacia trees and salvadora to a large pool used for irrigation of crops like balsam; the pool was filled by a channel that brought runoff from the wadi. Continuing we will pass reeds, maidenhead ferns, willow and poplar; we may see a rare orchid called Ben Horesh. A little farther the wadi narrows to a steep walled canyon at whose end is a waterfall and pool.
Excavations at Tel Goren by Mazar of the Hebrew University in  the 1960s show that the site was settled in the Israelite period and functioned as a royal estate for growing dates of the now extinct Judean palm Phoenix dactylifera, considered uniquely medicinal. Balsam was grown for the production of perfume (in Hebrew, afarsimon).
The Romans were interested in the production of balsam perfume; Mark Anthony confiscated the groves from Herod and gave them to Cleopatra. After their deaths, Herod was able to lease them back. During the Great Revolt, the Jews uprooted the groves so they would not fall into the hands of the Romans.
Excavations have revealed a small Jewish village and a synagogue from the 4th century with a beautiful mosaic floor. Written in Hebrew and Aramaic,  inscriptions list the signs of the zodaic and months of the year (later displayed graphically in mosaic floors in synagogues in Bet Alpha and Tiberius) and the expression “Peace unto Israel” (also found in the ancient synagogue in Jericho) and a dire warning at the end: “whoever reveals the secret of the town to the Gentiles – He whose eyes range through the whole earth and who sees hiddens things, He will set his face on that man and on his seed and will uproot him from under the heavens.” The secret seems to be the production of perfume from balsam.

En Feshka pondThe other natural source of fresh water in the Judean desert is Ein Feshka 30 km to the north of Ein Gedi. The lowest nature reserve in the world consists of 3 parts of which one is closed to visitors except research scientists who are studying the desert. The public part includes a small archaeological site from the Second Temple period and pools of fresh water, picnic tables and facilities for the enjoyment of visitors. The closed reserve is 1500 dunams (370 acres) that can only be visited with an authorized guide like me. It’s incredible to find a large freshwater pond with fish, shaded by trees in the middle of the desert next to the Dead Sea.