Saturday, July 31, 2004

Just to let everyone know, I've taken a 6200 mile change in venue for a few weeks. I'm back in the northeast US for R+R.

My observations in the last week have been all North American in nature, I'll be back in Iraq soon enough.

Yesterday, I sat on my back deck listening to an Eastern Wood Pewee and a Red-eyed Vireo singing in the woods behind my house. A Ruby-throated Hummingbird has been frequenting the flowers. The feeder is playing host to White-breasted Nuthatches, Black-capped Chickadees, Chipping Sparrows, American Goldfinch, House Sparrows, Tufted Titmice and a Carolina Wren. I've seen a few Barn Swallows and Chimney Swifts flying above the house.

My kids and I took a drive yesterday and stopped by a large field and watched a Coyote padding around.

We also took a hike in the woods a few days ago and found flowering Indian Pipes. We also collected a big variety of mushrooms and brought them home to make spore prints. The goldenrod have started to flower, a sure sign that summer is half over.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Another short visit to the laundry pond. A pickup truck was circling the pond, which flushed some birds out of the reeds and into the open water.

There was a group of about 20 little grebes congregated on one end of the pond. I haven't seen so many of these birds congregated before. Other birds that seemed to be flushed out by the truck were a few moorhens, a single purple swamphen, and a pair of marbled teals.

Also out in the open water I saw 16 white-winged black terns feeding. From what I've observed the terns are here mostly in the morning and evening. During the heat of the day I think they fly back to the Tigris river which is about 2 miles away.

On the far side of the pond two gulls were swimming in the water. Its been several months since I've seen any gulls. I think they were black-headed in their fall/winter plumage but they were too far away to be sure.
Near the edge of the pond I saw a beautiful butterfly that turned out to be a blue pansy (Junonia orithya).  Several subspecies are found from the Middle-East through South Asia to Australia.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

This morning I had a relaxing walk down to the pond. We had cloud cover, which was unusual. It kept the temperature below 90 until I got back around 8:45 AM. Often it is already 100+ by then.

On the way down I stopped to examine a type of plant I haven't yet identified. They started coming up in late April and are still going strong. They grow into fairly large bushes, up to 5 feet tall and have semisucculent leaves. They produce small fruit that look like tiny watermelons that split open into four sections when ripe revealing red flesh with little black seeds. One I saw today was covered with small red hemiptera (true bugs) that looked like box elder bugs. Almost all the fruit seem to have a small caterpillar living inside.

fruit bush
iraq flower
iraqi fruit
Hemiptera feeding on fruit
fruit bug

As I approached the pond a little owl flew up on a light pole about 50 feet from me. I approached closer and it moved to a cement bunker. I watched it for about 5 minutes before I moved on. It seemed very interested in a flock of house sparrows nearby.

The pond was active. A couple of Black-crowned night herons were flying around. Terns were feeding. There was also a pair of squacco herons in the reeds. A kingfisher and bee-eaters were perched in the trees next to the pond.

On the edge I saw a few stilts and a common sandpiper.

Bird List 0630-0845 7/10/2004
Little Grebe - 4
Black-crowned Night Heron - 2
Squacco Heron - 2
Cattle Egret - 4
Moorhen - 6
Coot - 1
Black-winged Stilt - 2
Red-wattled Plover - 2
Common Sandpiper - 1
Little Tern - 2
Whiskered Tern - 1
White-winged Black Tern - 6
Rock Dove - 2
Wood Pigeon - 8
Collared Dove - 4
Little Owl - 1
White-breasted Kingfisher - 1
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater - 5
Crested Lark - 4
Barn Swallow - 2
White-cheeked Bulbul - 2
Hooded Crow - 3
House Sparrow - 30

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

My mobility has been reduced because we aren't allowed to drive alone anymore. Too many people were getting into accidents on post, most of them from backing up a truck without an assistant. My argument that I only go forward when driving alone didn't fly.

As a result I decided to walk to the pond after a meeting. It was 115 degrees and I had all my gear on, which adds 5 degrees. I was completely exhausted after about a 4 mile walk. It would be easy to get heatstroke here. I brought plenty of water with me.

The pond had four white-winged terns feeding. One was starting to get its fall plumage. Its face was starting to turn white. I had excellent looks at a
whiskered tern and a blue-cheeked bee-eater.

The young black-winged stilts have now fledged and are adult size with darker plumage.

I saw one little egret feeding on the far side of the pond. The first one I've seen here. I saw some in the southern marshes in February. Soon I should start seeing the first of the southbound migrant shorebirds.

The resident wood pigeons are still nesting in the big eucalyptus trees.

On the bug front I'm starting to hear some different things that I haven't yet found the source. One I am hearing at night is probably a katydid of some sort, one during day may be a cicada or it may be some sort of cricket.