Monday, January 10, 2005

All over the post, in ditches and in patches of dirt next to the road or sidewalk, plants are coming up, encouraged by the rain. They will sprout, flower, produce seeds and die all before the end of May. Its funny seeing patches of bright green where there has only been brown 7 months. By May the sun kills all but the hardiest plants. The plants sprouting now include grasses, clovers, dandelions, several types of thistle, mustards, and small composites. Its amazing the seeds survived the summer. The ground temperature can be over 150 degrees and everything turns to a dessicated dust. Also the first of the Eucalyptus trees have started flowering with their little white puffballs.

I took a short walk yesterday to the pond. On my way down I saw half a dozen cabbage butterflies feeding on the small white flowers in a patch of some type of mustard plants. Also at the flowers I found a honeybee and a few small hoverflies. On some of the thistle plants large orange ladybugs with black spots were crawling around, probably feeding on aphids.

I saw white wagtails and crested larks feeding in a patch of newly sprouted grass near the side of the road.

The reeds around the pond are now dead and brown. Out on the water were about 30 coots, some shovelers, a few mallards and a pair of ferruginous ducks. A Marsh Harrier was cruising around the perimeter of the pond and would sometimes drop down into the reeds. None of the waterfowl seemed to pay attention.

Walking back to my tent I came across a big nest of harvester ants. The mound was spread out over a radius of maybe 5 feet with multiple holes. The mound was made up of excavated dirt and pieces of seeds and plants they had collected.

Near a chow hall I found a large tree I hadn't noticed before. It was covered with little yellow fruit that looked like tiny apples. A group of white-cheeked bulbuls and some collared doves were busy eating the fruit.

This afternoon I took a walk in another direction and checked out the dump. Lots of gulls, hundreds of house sparrows, a few hooded crows and thousands of rooks. I saw a little egret standing near the perimeter fence, which seemed a bit out of place.

On my way back to the tent I had a male siskin fly down to a puddle just in front of me and later a flock of 8 Eurasian goldfinch landed in a Eucalyptus tree. I had great looks at these very pretty birds.

We had a warm night a few days ago and I saw my first bat of the year. Down near Nasiriyah a few weeks ago there were quite a few bats of a slightly larger variety.

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