Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Yesterday I had a little time in the morning and took a three hour walk around the base. A few migrants are moving through the area. In the last few weeks I've seen black redstart, some unidentified Phylloscopus warbler, White Wagtail, Barn Swallows, European Goldfinches, and Chaffinches. At a lagoon on the other side of the base I saw 25 Shovelers (ducks) and a couple of Redshanks.

My walk yesterday was quite productive. Slowly I'm getting to know the better birding areas on the base. I found that by going behind one of the buildings I got a great view of a little lagoon surrounded by phragmites. About 50 wood pigeons were sitting in dead trees around the lagoon. These birds winter in the area in large numbers and I expect them to be leaving north soon. In the lagoon I saw a couple of coots, three moorhens chasing eachother around in the grass, a magpie flying over the marsh, and a spectacular purple gallinule (not the same species as the one in North America). Swallows were wheeling around over the water catching insects. Mostly they were Barn Swallows, but I think there were some other species but they were too far away to see.

I saw some behavior I had never seen before. High in the air probably 1000 feet up I saw a small group of rooks riding a thermal just like they were a kettle of broad-wing hawks. They moved up the thermal's rising air effortlessly wheeling around, then at the top they glided away at a fast clip. Many of the rooks will, like the wood pigeons, be moving north. The rooks are everywhere in the farmland surrounding my base, looking for food in the freshly plowed soil.

On my way back to my building I came across a trash pit where lots of corvids had gathered. There were about 50 Rooks along with 15 or so Hooded Crows and 5 jackdaws. A few starlings were also hanging around looking for food. Tomorrow I get to go on a trash run to the burn pit. We throw all our garbage into a trailer and then haul it off to a giant pile of burning trash. Even though its over a mile away every day we see a giant plume of smoke. Some days the wind blows the smoke in our direction and a trash smoke haze decends on our living area. Sometime little pieces of burnt paper rain down from the sky. I'm looking forward to going, even though I'll have to probably change my uniform and take a shower afterwards. The dump is a big draw to gulls and crows and I'm sure I'll see something good in the gull department. I've seen several of my first gulls in dumps and of course I had to go to the Brownsville dump to see a Mexican crow.

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