I've been out birding several times since I last wrote. I usually take the long way home after my Monday morning meeting on the other side of post.
Last week at the Laundry pond I saw three species of tern. Two (White-winged Tern and Whiskered Tern) I had seen before. The third was a little tern (Sterus albifrons), which also nest in the marshes and river valley of Iraq. This was the first new bird I've seen in about a month. Actually this same species lives in the US close to where I live.
On my way down to the clinic today I noticed that one of the date palms next to the road has a great load of fruit. The fruit need the extreme summer heat to ripen. This usually happens in July and August. The Iraqis call the Date Palm - Nakal. It holds a special place in their national identity. The palm fronds are a common symbol on money, on government seals, etc. Date groves are everywhere in the river valleys, the trees grow quite tall (up to 30 meters). The scientific name is Phoenix dactylifera, like the mythical bird rising out of the ashes, millions of these trees rise out of the scorching Iraqi countryside. There is a saying that a date palm must have its feet in running water and its head in the fire of the sky.
Twenty years ago Iraq dominated the world market. There were once 30 million trees in the country. Each female tree can produce 150 pounds of fruit a season. The combined effects of the Iran-Iraq war and Saddam's draining of the southern marshes reduced the number of trees by half.