Thursday, April 01, 2004

Back to the birds. I wrote a long post few days ago about my recent wildlife sightings only to lose the satellite connection and have the computer reboot.

Its been a while. My schedule will be changing soon which will give me more time in the evening to write (my most productive time).

Today I had an absolutely fantastic day (see Iraq calling) , finally getting outside the wire into the surrounding farmland on a civil affairs mission delivering school supplies to children. Not many new birds. I was trying not to drive the humvee into an irrigation canal. I did see a few egrets in the fields (maybe cattle egrets) and a group of blue-cheeked bee-eaters hawking for insects and perching on powerlines. I wish I got a chance to study the bee-eaters but I'll probably get a chance when I go out again.

Last saturday I went on a short walk with one of our doctors around the living areas. We have some large eucalyptus trees where we saw a small group of white-cheeked bulbuls. One of the birds was displaying lowing its head, drooping its wings and fanning its tail. We also saw collared doves, wood pigeons, barn swallows and a red-wattled plover.

After I dropped the doc off at the clinic (he had to work at 8 am), I decided to take a spin around the base in my truck.

The first stop was the south lagoon where the laundry facility discharges its water. The water level has gone up by a few feet in the last couple of weeks. I saw a single coot and lots of wood pigeons perched in the dead trees surrounding the lagoon. Earlier in the week I saw a black kite circling and cruising around the perimeter of the water.

When I drove to another vantage point I saw a summer plumage whiskered tern cruising over the water. This was a lifer and a very significant one to me. The bird looks like a common tern with a dark breast. They are a marsh tern, like the black tern. In the summer of 1993 I drove to Delaware twice to look for the first North American record of this species. I was skunked both times. The trip did produce a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and some great butterflies. The last trip I missed the bird by 30 minutes. On the way out of Little Creek Refuge I was stopped by a camera crew from DateLine NBC looking for where people were looking for the bird. I told them to drive down the dike and look for the group of 200 people. The next week my wife called me at work and told me she had seen the bird on TV!! The crew had arrived just in time. The indignity!!! Well it took 11 years and 6300 miles but I finally had my tern.

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