Monday, December 27, 2004

My CBC was somewhat abreviated because several projects were sprung on some in the last few days. I only hit two spots, our laundry pond and the dump. I'm traveling again this week and I'll post after I get back. I'm hoping to do some birding while I'm away.

Here's my list:

Little Grebe - 2
Cattle Egret - 4
Grey Heron - 1
Mallard - 7
Shoveler - 4
Ferruginous Duck - 1
Marsh Harrier - 1
Moorhen - 3
Coot - 11
Black-headed Gull - 1500
Lesser Black-backed Gull - 2
Yellow-legged Gull - 3
Armenian Gull - 8
Rock Dove - 200
Collared Dove - 18
Crested Lark - 7
White Wagtail - 12
White-cheeked Bulbul - 3
Graceful Prinia - 6
Common Babbler - 1
Jackdaw - 12
Rook - 65
Hooded Crow - 9
House Sparrow - 35

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

I haven't been for a good long walk for a few weeks. Tomorrow morning I'll have an opportunity. I'll consider it a Christmas Bird Count. Because of this deployment I've missed the last two counts with the local Audubon society that I have participated in since I was 14. The first CBC I went on I remember seeing a flock of Pine Grosbeaks in the snow. We also take our annual trip to the dump. At least I can replicate the dump trip here. At home I usually get to count the birds at a huge American Crow roost. Here I have my Rooks.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

This evening on another run to drop someone off at the helipad I saw a little Ruppell's Fox by the side of the road. As we passed it turned and ran off into the bushes flashing its very fine tail.

Our force protection guys are constantly cursing all the holes that the foxes and jackals dig under our perimeter fence. There's too much good stuff inside the wire, nothing is going to stop them coming in.

Even thought the temperature has got as low as 30 at night, the insects are still active during the day. In the last week I've seen dragonflies, mostly small reddish and gray Libellulids like the genus Sympetrum back at home, several species of ant, and a handful of Pierid butterflies that look like they are probably Cabbage Whites.

We have a little planter with flowers in it that we now take in at night. I was looking at the leaves of the marigolds and I found little leaf mines snaking through some of the leaves. By the looks of it I think its an Agromyzid Fly larva. Several insects including some microlepidoptera and some Chrysomelid beetles have this unusual habit of making a trail through the middle layers of a leaf as their larvae feed and grow. Some birds are fond of picking the larvae out of their mines before they can pupate.

I haven't been out much birding this last week. I have noticed an increase in white wagtails. These funny little birds seem to be everywhere on post in little groups of 3 or 4 birds. I've seen a Kestrel a few times flying around our building and a black redstart now seems to be a permanent resident hopping around our patio, flying up on one of the tents and making its circuit around our scap lumber pile.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

This morning I met our Battalion surgeon for a little early morning birding. I grabbed one of the humvees and we headed out to the laundry pond. There was more activity than the last time I was there. On the fenceline 3 red-wattled plovers ran on the ground in front of us. Down in the pond there were mallards, northern shovelers, coots and a few gallinules. A Marsh harrier flew up out of the reeds and cruised around the perimeter of the pond. This long winged raptor was a new bird for me. As we walked back to the truck we saw a great egret flying over. In the low Syrian Mesquite bushes we found a stonechat and a few white wagtails running around.

The next stop was the sewage pond on the other side of post. One black-winged stilt was feeding in the shallow water along with a green sandpiper. A pair of spur-winged plovers were hanging out on the bank.

We continue on to another of the storm water basins that are now covered with reeds. Several avocets flew around the pond and landed in the shallow water to feed. The only other time I saw these striking black and white birds was in the southern marshes on my first day in Iraq convoying up from Kuwait. We also saw a magpie flying around and a common redshank and
some more black-winged stilts near the waters edge.

Our final stop was the large flock of gulls near our dump. Like last time it was mostly black-headed gulls along with a single lesser black-backed and a couple Armenian gulls.

After dropping off our surgeon I spotted a nice male chaffinch on a fence while driving back to my building.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

This morning I walked out our back door and saw a few small birds hopping around in the top of a large Eucalyptus tree that grows next to our building. I climbed up on the roof to get a better look and found that it was a group of Eurasian Siskins feeding on the seeds in the Eucalyptus gum nuts. They are pretty little birds that look like our pine siskins with bright yellow wing bars, black caps and yellow streaked breasts.

I spent about 10 minutes watching the little group feeding, often hanging upside down. Even thought the Eucalyptus trees look like they have a bumper crop of gum nuts, these are the first birds I've seen feeding on them. Perhaps other birds can't get the seeds out of the small holes in the cone.

The only other birds of note I saw around my building today were a Magpie flying over and a Black Redstart hopping around the patio.