Tuesday, September 14, 2004

I've been pretty busy in the last few days. I did manage to stop by the pond a few times. There seem to be less terns this week but the little egret numbers continue to increase. I counted 37 one day. I saw a small flock of Garganey, the first so far. All were either females or drakes in eclipse plumage. There also have been a few coot, some more mallards and marbled teal.

The large lakes in central Iraq have traditionally been the wintering grounds of large numbers of waterfowl. I read somewhere that 30,000 coot were sold one winter for food in the markets of Fallujah, which is nestled between two large lakes.

Recently I've had some fantastic views of Hoopoe, certainly one of the most unique birds I've seen in the area. When they fly they almost look like a broad-winged woodpecker with their striking black and white wings. Their body is a buff color and they have a crest that they can move up an down. One day a Hoopoe landed about 50 feet from me next to the edge of the pond and I spent 10 minutes watching it hop around in the mud. catching insects and every so often stopping, cocking its head to one side and erecting its crest in its full glory. Some of the local people believe that the hoopoe or Hudhud has magical powers, its bones are used in potions and magical charms.

Yesterday, while some of our soldiers were in one of the perimeter guard towers they saw a mongoose. It was a small brown one I'm not sure which species.

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