Friday, June 11, 2004

The summer heat has come. The high temperature is between 105 and 122 during the day. The white-cheeked bulbuls don't seem to be bothered in the least by the heat. They sing, chase each other around and hop from branch to branch in the tamarisk trees.

Last weekend I had a mission in another location. I was hoping to see some new birds on my trip across the Tigris and out into the desert. Nothing new, but I did see about 10 birds each of both European and Indian Rollers. They seemed to like roosting on the powerlines next to the road. We also had a quite a few Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters swooping over the fields.

The wood pigeons are still to be found everywhere. They have a funny bounding flight that they sometimes do. Its almost like they're doing it for fun. They power up at a 45 degree angle then swoop down with wings bent downward. They repeat this so the flight path is in the shape of a sine wave (or cosine depending where you start).

While I was out in the desert I watched a crested lark hovering about 100 feet off the ground singing its heart out. The amazing thing is that it kept it up for almost 10 minutes, slowly drifting in its hover. Finally it came flying down and rested on the ground near me.

The camp that I visited was distinctive in that it was so quiet compared to where I usually live. No din of a generator around every corner and no light pollution from the street lights. I sat outside for a long time watching the stars. I saw 3 shooting stars.

Back here at the home base last night some of us were out on the back patio when a pair of barn owls flew into a large dead Eucalyptus next to our building. Someone brought out a bug zapper because there were a few mosquitoes. 220 volts certainly packs a punch but I don't think it got any mosquitoes. Mostly small flying ants and little tan flying termites were the victims. The UV light did attract a spectacular owlfly, the first I've ever seen. It had green patches lining its abdomen, giant eyes, and antennae with little clubs on the end.

I've got to get out and drive the roads at night more. A few nights ago, around 3 AM I had to get a few of our soldiers who came in from Baghdad on a helicopter. After I dropped them off, I took a ride. I saw 2 jackals skulking up the road and an unidentified fox crossed in front of me. I also saw a long-eared hedgehog scurrying around by the side of the road. It looked like a prickly little white hovercraft. Its feet moving so fast it looked like it was floating above the ground.

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