Tuesday, February 01, 2005

This will be my last entry from the Middle East. We are about to leave and make our way back home via snowy Fort Drum, New York. My next entry may be about Wild Turkeys and White-tailed Deer, both plentiful in Fort Drum.

The last few days have been fairly good for wildlife watching.

A couple days ago I saw what might be my last lifer of this deployment, a Brown-necked Raven I saw soaring around over Camp Doha when I went in to go to the PX and Starbucks. I found an overgrown running track with interesting succulent plants and dwarf tamarisk bushes. I turned over a few boards and found some were fat brown cutworms of some sort, these noctuid moth caterpillars were brown with lateral stripes. I also found quite a few woodlice and some tenebrionid beetles. I have a few pictures of the beetles which I'll post when I have a better connection. In the library I found a book on Kuwaiti wildlife and identified two of the Tenebrionid genera I saw.

Today I spent about an hour watching Libyan Jirds, a type of large gerbil that live in the dunes. Their body is about 6 inches long and their tail looks like another 6 or 7 inches more. For a couple days I've been looking in the large holes in the dunes hoping to see one. One of our sergeants took a picture of a hole, when he brought it up on the computer there was the face of a Jird staring out at him. I made an abortive attempt to excavate a burrow today and catch one. After 45 minutes of digging a burrow 10 feet long I quit after my hole was 4 feet deep and in danger of collapsing on me. I decided that I'd go out about an hour before sunset and just sit in the dunes and wait for the gerbils to come out to feed. Within 5 minute they were hopping around, eating seeds, running into one hole and coming out another 20 feet away. Their tails are incredibly long, reddish at the base and tipped with a black tuft. When they run they stick the tail straight up in the air. Very cool little beasts.

While I was watching the Jirds a Desert Wheatear was flitting around and singing in the bushes near me.

As I walked over to the Jird dunes I saw a pure white dove circle over the camp. I'll take it as a good omen.

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