Tuesday, September 23, 2014


baby mynah fueling up before flying lessons
During my first week of work at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, I was chatting excitedly with the Provost about having seen a real live moose in the woods while hiking the weekend before. He was kind enough not to roll his eyes at me, but as  I learned later, moose were regulars at his place in Park City. They were pesky eaters of young trees and would wander into garages in his neighborhood.

I've seen people in parks take dozens of pictures of chipmunks, the same little rodents that my mom catches in a trap to release across town to try to mitigate the damage they do burrowing up the lawn.

It's funny how the critters you see all the time in a place can start to become less impressive.It hasn't happened here yet though!  Much like in the desert around Las Vegas, wildlife sightings here are a little less ubiquitous and still exciting and impressive.

Birds are by far the animals I see the most of. There are the pigeons and- one time a baby mynah and parents- on my 14th floor window sill, the flamingos In Ras Al Khor (translates, I think, to Head of the Creek)
Ras al Khor flamingos
that I pass on the way to/ from work everyday and the fantastic variety that I see on the ZU grounds. In he courtyard there are little white cheeked bulbuls with bright yellow or red under-bums. On the lawns at the entrance I often see water birds like white egrets or along the sandy road side, little chukkar-like game birds. Every now and again I see this crazy awesome bird strutting around on the ground. It looks a bit like a woodpecker but apparently it's a hoopoe- and instead of pecking at trees/ wood, it pokes its beak into the ground to pull up tasty insects, and if they're a little large to swallow, it bashes them against the ground or a
must confess, not my photo, but a great shot of the hoopoe
rock to knock off wings or legs. I just love how dramatic its crown and coloring. Apparently they can spread open those crown feathers in a fan- got to catch that kind of preening at some point!

A few weekends ago, Michelle and Layla and I went to the Arabian Wildlife Center in Sharjah Desert Park to learn what other critters are in the area. This place was great- it's an indoor zoo! In a climate like this, what a concept. And it was surprisingly large and also had a very modest entry fee for the whole Desert Park which also includes a Natural History Museum, a petting zoo and a botanical museum- but the Wildlife Center was the star attraction. I figured being indoors there'd mostly be rodents and reptiles-
which they did have plenty of! But they also had wild cats of various types and sizes, even a cheetah (the cheetah was outside, but we viewed it from inside), and jackals and foxes, porcupines and bats, an aviary room, some ungulates (mostly oryx- also outside), an Arabian wolf, orangutangs and a little cafe. All the animals at the center can be found (or could be found before they were hunted to local extinction) on the Arabian peninsula. The sheer variety of subspecies of gerbils was pretty staggering. My favorite reptile was this weird creature called the Sandfish (or scincus scincus for the biologist types) that burrows, or swims under the surface of the sand, we weren't allowed to take photos in the wildlife center, sadly, but you can see a really quick video of one diving under the sand here: http://youtu.be/d4hEhgosKfg 

As it starts to cool off and I get to do more camping, I'm guessing I might spot a few of the reptiles, rodents and insects we saw at the wildlife center. On my one overnight in the Abu Dhabi desert so far, I didn't run into anything but in the morning, it was clear they'd been around!
camping: morning after tracks. gerbil?