Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Move to Camp Virginia

I volunteered to be attached to a different company, in a camp to the south of where I used to be. My new job is similar to my old one, but so far it has been less stressful and it should become more interesting as time goes by. Among other things, I will be going through a lot of good training in the next few days. I also went swimming (in the pool at the Ali AlSalem Air Force base) for the first time since we left Mississippi. I watched the movies I brought from France, and I am reading Bernd Heinrich’s Winter World. I don’t have easy access to the internet here, which is too bad since it makes even such a simple thing as disseminating my new address much more complicated. Both of my roommates are people I know and like: Jad is a good friend and a floatplane pilot from Juneau, and McPhail works for a cannery in Petersburg.

The birdwatching has been very good so far. There is a water overflow area behind the showers and laundry that a little bit of vegetation grows into. It teems with warblers, along with white-throated robins, masked shrikes, red-throated pipits, feldegg yellow wagtails, grey wagtails, white wagtails, isabelline shrikes, and even a rufous bush-robin. Although it is a bird that I saw many times in France before, I guess that the pied flycatcher I saw here is a local rarity; according to my bird book they aren’t supposed to be found around here. I am putting up a photo of it because although it is not a first for me, it is a truly pretty bird. It is perched on a common plant that I haven’t yet positively identified. I believe it is Cornulaca leucacantha, but it is an annual and all the ones I have seen so far were dried-out, thorny shrubs from last year. It really surprised me that an annual plant would go through all the trouble of manufacturing all those thorns, but according to my plant book they are modified leaves. Cornulaca leucacantha would be a good fit because it isn’t supposed to flower until the end of summer. I am still wondering, though, when they even sprout. I guess it is possible for an annual to start this late in a place where there is hardly ever any frost.

The migration should be over soon. Yesterday the temperature hit 114 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius), and most of the flowers are in bloom or seed. Also, I haven’t seen any high-flying raptors or waders in the last few days.

I thought I’d try to find an interesting quote for each blog post I put up. This first one is from Bernd Heinrich’s book Winter World. It is not poetic and contains no revolutionary ideas, but it is an unusually good description of the red squirrel – Sitka’s most conspicuous rodent:

“The cheeky little chikoree (still another name for Tamasciurus hudsonicus) will let loose with a loud sputtering chatter or a churrrrr that resounds through the forest. This will usually be sequenced to a long series of staccato chatter, accompanied by flicks of its fluffy tail over its head and thumping of its hind feet for emphasis. Red squirrels are emphatically active at any months of winter.”

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