Thursday, January 27, 2005

Yesterday was my last day in Iraq for this deployment. The last few days I walked around base quite a bit. Seeing my familiar favorite birds that I'll always remember when I think of Iraq. The residents like the playful white-cheeked bulbuls, the Crested Larks with no fear of people and the hooded crows, plus the winter visitors like the rooks and the ducks in the laundry pond.
The Moustached Warbler turned out to be the last lifer in Iraq.

I have been blessed with the opportunity to be here, doing a mission that I believe in. Because of my job and the places that I ended up I had, perhaps, more opportunity to see and appreciate Iraq's natural world than some. One day I hope to return, with binoculars but without a weapon. I've been encouraged by the steady stream of kind words that reader have posted. Thanks to the people who have sent me books and to the American Birding Association for sending me encouragement and reading material. You've all made this deployment more enjoyable for me. Its been my pleasure to share it with you.

I took one last nostalgic walk during the long wait yesterday afternoon for our plane taking us to Kuwait. I walked up the road leading to the main gate, up past the burning dump. Several hundred Starlings were milling around the garbage as well as large flocks of house sparrows. Its funny I've only seen Starlings four times since being here. One the mounds of dirt around the burn pit had a few dozen collared doves roosting, including some very dark birds that look like they got quite a bit of soot on them. A pair of Kestrels patrolled the dump, using the light poles as lookouts.

Directly across from the dump there was a rain pool by the side of the road. 5 black-winged stilts were wading around feeding on something. They are another beautiful bird with their elegant black and white with long red legs that I'll remember well. I could find at least a few on any day of the year somewhere on our camp. In the summer they nested in one of the drainage ponds.

I continued my walk up to a large drainage pond. Walking around it I found a pair of magpies hopping around a large bush calling to eachother. I also saw a few coots and a purple swamphen near the edge of the reeds. A moorhen called from inside the reeds and then flew across the pond.

Night fell and I boarded the c-130 for a flight to Kuwait.

Today I'm in a camp in the Kuwaiti desert. I'll try to add to my pathetic Kuwaiti list of 5 species. Today I've seen quite a few Barn Swallows plus some House Sparrows and Rock Doves.

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