Thursday, October 28, 2004

This morning I spent an hour watching the lunar eclipse. We were fortunate in Iraq to see totality around 5:23AM when it was still dark. The moon turned a dark reddish orange which was better seen without my binoculars, which have a lens coating that block some red light. The eclipsed moon faded into the brightening morning sky while still a few degrees above the horizon.

The rooks have officially arrived in numbers. These very social crows will be spending the winter. At dawn for the past two mornings, great scraggly flocks of rooks mixed with a few jackdaws pour over our base moving from their roosts to the freshly plowed fields. Around noon I saw a huge kettle of several hundred Rooks circling upward in a thermal. For a few minutes it was a perfect cylinder of circling black birds 50 feet wide and a couple hundred feet high. A rook tornado.

I saw another butterfly that escaped my identification. I thought it would be easy because it was so distinctive, a large black and lime green spotted one. In the fleeting moment I saw it, it reminded me of Graphium agamemnon which I collected in New Guinea 14 years ago. I may still ID it, but I've been through the butterfly lists of Iraq, Iran and Turkey to no avail. Too bad I don't have a good field guide for butterflies. My method is to go through the list one by one in the appropriate families and type the Latin name into Google image search.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Waiting at the starting line for the Army Ten Miler race to begin, I looked up and saw a flock of 6 Rooks slowly flying over. These are the first ones I've seen since this spring. Soon hundreds more will follow to spend their winter in the fields around our base and picking through our dumpsters looking for food.

My visit to the Laundry pond yielded only a few birds, a single little egret, a coot, a pair of little grebes, several ferruginous ducks and a small flock of mallards.

I saw 5 or 6 species of dragonfly. There were a couple of large blue Aeshnids the size of a Green Darner, smaller red dragonflies, and a tiny gray species with a wingspan of about 2 inches.

I saw a migrating Red Admiral flying near the pond. Like the Painted Ladies that I saw this spring they are found throughout the northern hemisphere in both Eurasia and North America.

Since the weather got colder a few days ago the geckos have not been out. Last night I did find more macro moths than usual at our lights. Small crambids, a small green noctuid and a large moth that looked like a catocaline noctuid.

Monday, October 18, 2004

This morning I had to go to a meeting at one of the high security buildings. For the last two weeks I've seen a bunch of small hairstreak butterflies flying around one of the bushes outside. Because of the location I can't catch one to ID it and I can't bring in a camera to photograph it. The butterflies have tiger striped underwings and little black tails on their back wings.

A new bird I saw a couple of days ago was a male Redstart hopping around in the tamarisk trees near our building. It flew down to the ground and was running around under some old boards.

When we were out on our patio a few nights ago a barn owl flew in circles over us screeching. The noise flushed a couple of wood pigeons out of our Eucalyptus tree.

Friday, October 15, 2004

I finally went out again after a weeks hiatus. On the other side of post at the sewage pond I saw the usual black-winged stilts plus a pair of spotted redshanks and an active green sandpiper bobbing its tail as it fed along the shoreline.

The laundry pond was very slow, probably because it was the middle of the day. I saw a coot and a few moorhens swimming among the reeds and a group of 4 little grebes loitering in the middle of the pond. The engineers will be pumping some of the water out to make room for the runoff when the rains begin. The laundry pond is one of three stormwater basins on post. The problem is our laundry also pumps 120,000 gallons a day into the pond. If things remain as they are, the pond will overflow and flood part of the road. It may be good for the birds because they will be creating another shallow lake in an open field area, which the birds might like.

I've been seeing some small light orange butterflies that seem to be migrating through. They look like they are pierids, relatives of the cabbage white. I also have been seeing some Plain Tiger butterflies (Danaus chrysippus) flying through.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

In the last week I've only got out a few times. This morning I rode one of the guy's bikes down to the laundry pond. Usually it takes me about half and hour each way if I walk so it was a big improvement.

Today was overcast in the morning. It even sprinkled for a minute or so. The temperature was very comfortable in the 80's.

The pond was very quiet today only 4 ducks. 2 Garganey and 2 Mallards. A single white-winged black tern was flying over the water feeding. A pair of coots, some moorhens, a little grebe and a single Little Egret rounded out the waterbirds.

I did see four fuzzy black moorhen chicks running around amongst the reeds. That was the high point.

I saw a few other birds perched on the fence surrounding the pond. About a dozen blue-cheeked bee-eaters, a common babbler and the ubiquitous white-cheeked bulbuls.

A few days ago I stopped at my new spot, the water treatment pond. I observed a pair of ringed plovers, a new species for me, a common redshank, two dozen black-winged stilts and a yellow wagtail.

The treatment pond should be good throughout the fall and winter because many shorebirds winter in Iraq. I remember coming north from Kuwait in February and seeing large numbers feeding in the little ponds by the side of the highway.

Now that it is getting cooler some of the plants are starting to flower. One large bush I passed the other day was covered with tiny green flowers. Hundreds of tiny moths were fluttering around the bush and feeding on the flowers.