Michael Yon, one of my favorite bloggers in Iraq, has a contemplative post with lots of bird pictures he's taken in the last year. These include White-cheeked Bulbuls, Mesopotamian Crow and Spur-winged and White-tailed Plovers. I'm always pleased when I find someone, especially a soldier or former soldier in Michael's case, is interested in birds. It is an indicator to me of a person who can get outside of their immediate personal concerns. I guess it reminds me of the archetypal gentleman soldiers, renaissance men like the some of the British soldiers in the Mesopotamian campaign who compiled their observations of birds, mammals, plants and archeology into reports published by the Bombay Natural History Society. Or General Sir Alan Brooke, Chief of the Imperial General staff, enjoying a short walk watching goldfinch and stonechats on the eve of the Normandy invasion. I'm not sure if its coincidence or not but many of these multidimensional characters that I've met have been Marines. I'm not sure if there is something about the Marines that draws the soldier-scholar. Several I have met have been incredible students of history and culture and impressive intellectuals.
On another note I bought a copy of A Systematic List of the Vertebrates of Iraq by Mahdi and Georg (1969). There are 385 species of birds listed. Its a start to a comprehensive Iraq list. Avibase lists 416 species. It will probably be a few years before there is an Iraq Rare Records Committee and an official Iraq list.