Thursday, August 18, 2005

Hello to all my Finnish readers. For some reason I had over 300 hits from Finland today!

I didn't make it up to Montreal a few weeks ago for the ESA meeting. I was disappointed that the media covering the symposium only rewrote the press release. I'll make an effort in the next couple weeks to see if I can get some of the presentations. They deserve a wide audience. I'm especially interested to hear about what Mudhafar Salim from the Iraq Nature Conservation Society has been seeing in the bird surveys of the southern marshes.

I've been very, very busy lately. I have been studying for the the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test). The test is on Saturday, so it is an understatement to say I'll have a little more time after that.

This coming Sunday I'll be going out to Yellowstone National Park with my three oldest children and one of my good friends who helped us out a lot when I was deployed. Another one of my friends owns a cabin just outside the park.

After I get back I have a good bit of work to do on this blog. First I have been negligent in keeping up with my emails. Many people have emailed me and I've been too swamped to reply. I also need to re-establish some contacts in Iraq which I have also let slip. The site also needs to cosmetic changes. Blogger messed with the code months ago and I haven't bothered to try and fix it.

Just a few new sites I've found recently. A soldier near Baghdad found an orphaned kestrel and fed the young bird lizards and mice until it was fledged. The story and a picture are here.

I found another Danish site with Iraqi wildlife. This time its snakes. Apparently Søe Pedersen and his wife Karin are reptile breeders. One or both of them spent time in northern Iraq and collected snakes. Their site has nice pictures of Large Whipsnake (Coluber jugularis) from Irbil, Dahl's Whipsnake (Coluber najadum), Caucasian Ratsnake (Zamenis hohenackeri) and Bulgarian Ratsnake (Elaphe sauromates). I especially liked his description of a Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) that he found when a large ratsnake barfed it up. He thought it was dead and brought it home to examine. The next morning he found the snake revived and hissing in his waste basket. Some of the species descriptions have pictures of the snake habitat in Iraq where they were caught.

Finally on the domestic animal side I found a site by Sir Terence Clark who lived in Iraq from 1985 to 1990. His article describes some of his investigations into the origins of the Saluki, a hunting dog related to the Afghan Hound. There is an amazing photo from the Royal Harthiya Hunt in 1946 Baghdad. The men are on horses in traditional English Foxhunting gear and are surrounded by a pack of Dorset Foxhounds.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

I put a donation button on the website today. I can spend a bit more time doing this if I have some money coming in. Ideally, I would like to spend 8 or so hours a week working on this and related projects. A short term project, which perhaps some people would consider financing is getting to the ESA meeting in Montreal next week to hear and hopefully meet some of the Iraqi biologists who have been doing research in the southern marshes. I've heard that the bird surveys in the Marshes yielded some amazing birds. I'll wait till the researchers themselves publicly release the info, but the news is very heartening.

Anyway, here's the expense breakdown for the ESA meeting. I promise to be the paragon of frugality. I'll even publish my expense report!

My plan is to leave Connecticut and drive (about 6 1/2 hours) to Montreal the night before the meeting (Tuesday). After the meeting I'll hop in the car, drink a few Red Bulls and drive back to Connecticut.

Gasoline (710 mile round trip) - $80
1 day registration for meeting - $230 !
1 night at hotel - $80
Misc. (food, parking, etc.) - $120

I plan to write in depth about the research going on in Iraq when I return.

I've come across a few more soldiers accounts of wildlife sightings recently. I'm trying to track down some British Soldiers who have been birding in Iraq. Both the British Army and the RAF have ornithological societies composed of current and retired members of the services. The Army Ornithological Society takes trips all over Europe and sometimes further afield (like Malaysia). I know at least one of their members has just returned from Iraq.

I'm working (very slowly) on my systematic list. When I wrote all the birds down I had 116 species from Iraq plus two additional from Kuwait (Desert Warbler and Brown-necked Raven).

I found an email from BBC correspondent Frank Gardner on the OSME yahoo group (MEBirdNet) who reported what was probably the first westerner's report of Iraqi bird sightings in a decade from Basra in May 2003. Tragically in June 2004 Frank, the BBC security correspondent in the Middle East, was shot multiple times and partially paralyzed in Saudi Arabia in a terrorist associated attack that killed a BBC cameraman. Frank is back in England and gave an interview in June.

Date: Fri, 09 May 2003 19:11:03 +0100
From: Frank Gardner
Subject: FW: Salaams from Basra

Greetings from HQ 7th Armoured Brigade with just happens to be in a fabulous former palace of Saddam's. Moats, orchards and scrub, its a paradise for birds. The air is filled with a flock of Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters that have been here a week now. The European variety are still around in small numbers. First to wake up in the morning are the Red-Wattled Lapwings which are making a fearful racket. But there's also a pair of White-tailed Plovers here, beautiful birds with long, trailing yellow legs. Outside the cookhouse there's a Red-backed Shrike sharing the same tree as a Lesser-Grey Shrike and just behind the ammo dump there's a pair of Common Babblers (yes, black eye, not yellow!) hiding. A flock of Yellow-throated Sparrows is on the ground, mingling with the odd Whitethroat and I've seen a solitary Sedge Warbler. Fishing from the moat are 3 Pied Kingfishers and just across the Shatt Al-Arab Ive seen Squacco Heron and White-throated Kingfisher in the date palms. One surprise for me is to see Wood Pigeon here (they wake us up in London at weekends!) but the highlight has been a stunning male Red-necked Phalarope swimming round in circles on a lake out near the oil refinery. hope yr both well all the best
Frank G