Sunday, October 04, 2009

Yesterday I went for a walk to the far side of base early in the morning. For some reason there was a concentration of birds in a work area near the softball field and the big berms that surround the camp. Perhaps someone feeds them there or there is a source of water. I saw crested larks, laughing doves and house sparrows. As I was looking at the doves roosting on the concertina wire I heard a familiar churring call above me. The call was from a blue-cheeked bee-eater gliding around above me. This electric green colored species was a familiar sight when I was at LSA Anaconda 5 years ago. After a few minutes it flew off over the airfield.
Walking back along the perimeter near the airfield, I found the only green plants I've seen so far growing in a ditch that looks like it recently had water in it. The last two times I was in Kuwait was during the winter months when the winter rains had provided enough water for a good number of plants to grow. Now at the end of the prolonged heat of summer there is not a plant to be seen other these few. Down near the coast there are hardy trees and some irrigated farmland, but up here there's nothing.

Walking back through one of the housing trailer areas a medium sized bird flew out in front of me and up on to a light pole. It turned out to be a Rock Thrush, my first life bird for this deployment. The back was a dark blue color and the breast was a brick red with dark scalloping.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Northern Kuwait

I'm now in Kuwait waiting to go north to my base in Iraq. I'm at a very busy camp living in a big tent and officially known as a Transient. Its still blazing hot and the desert dust gets into everything. Still, I've managed to find a few birds and other wildlife around camp as I walk around our tent area or to the chow hall.

The land scape in Northern Kuwait is largly an expanse of flat brown ground of stones and sand. Not unlike a gigantic beach with no water. Since we arrived there has been a persistent pall of airborne dust hugging the ground. Many of the stones have all their edges smoothed by the ever-blowing sand.

Thanks to Major Dallas Hewett, who left me a copy of the Field Guide to the Birds of the Middle East. Today I made it over to see the officer from the Medical Brigade who has been keeping the book for me.

Though the camp is located in an very barren and dry area, especially after being baked in the intense heat of the Kuwaiti summer for months, a number of birds still manage to make a living here. Because of the human activity, there is also water available in the form of spillage from shower trailers or water dripping from the many air conditioning units. The shade underneath trailers or in the shadow of tents or buildings provides welcome rest to migrants passing through. Indeed, during his time here Major Hewett compiled an impressive list of visiting birds.
A few days ago I saw a Hoopoe winging through the tent area, flashing its broad zebra-striped wings. The most abundant birds on the camp appear to be the house sparrows, who seem to particularly like hanging out near the chow hall and the camp Burger King. Also very common are the Crested Larks who can be seen running around on the barren ground and whistling to each other in the middle of the day, apparently unfazed by the heat.

On the way back from the dining facility this evening I saw a small nondescript brownish-gray bird catching flying insects at one of the many construction light sets that illuminate the base. Closer inspection proved it to be a Spotted Flycatcher making a pit stop on its migration south.

As I'm typing here in the MWR tent among soldiers playing poker, xbox and watching various movies, I just noticed an Old World warbler of some sort flitting around in the rafters. I just talked to one of the Indian guys who works here. He said the bird has been in the building several weeks. They tried to shoo it out but it wouldn't leave. He said they like it because it eats the spiders and flies. The fact that the bird would rather be in an air conditioned tent rather than poking around outside when its over 100 degrees doesn't seem too surprising, I'll be back tomorrow to try and ID it or at least get a photo.