Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Like Peanut Butter and Sardines

The dream I had just before awakening this morning might have received a PG-13 rating had it been on a screen. Amidst the backdrop of a tawdry, soap-opera-esque, melodrama was a scene or two devoted to birds.

"Mongolian"/Lesser Sand-Plover (Charadrius mongolus)
Photo Copyright - KK Hui

Greater Sand-Plover (Charadrius leschenaultii)
Photo Copyright 2004 - Graham Catley

This dream contained photos of birds - yet another first for me. Somehow, I had aquired four or five polaroids featuring two species between them. Unfortunately, they were wanting for quality - so the IDs were up in the air. One appeared to be either a "Mongolian"/Lesser Sand-Plover, or a Greater Sand-Plover. Again, it was a fairly poor photo. The second species was also a plover, hunkered down in sand or mud. It appeared to be one of the smaller species sporting a single complete band around the upper breast. Wilson's Plover, Collared Plover and Long-billed Plover are the most likely candidates. To be honest, I only have field experience with Wilson's and incidental book knowledge of Collared. Never heard of Long-billed before writing this post.

Wilson's Plover (Charadrius wilsonia)
Photo Copyright 2007 - Pascal Aleixandre

Collared Plover (Charadrius collaris)
Photo Copyright - Christian Artuso

Long-billed Plover (Charadrius placidus)
Photo Copyright 2002 - Dick Newell

Just before the dream ended, we passed a stock tank. Spotting a Killdeer, I attempted to point out some similarities and differences between it and the birds in the photos. Might as well have been with goats by the reaction - or lack of it. Did I mention most of the drama took place on a bus, or RV? Travelling this way is probably great in the real world, but I don't recommend it for dreambirding - especially when you're stuck with a group that could've been the rejects from the "Bad Girls Club", or "Rock of Love"... like peanut butter and sardines... *shudder*.

Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)
Photo Copyright 2007 - Nick Kontonicolas

Monday, December 29, 2008

International Man of... Eccentricity!

As part of a much longer, bizarrely convoluted, plot involving cult members, gigantic bioluminescent goo-like aliens, terrorism, appearing in court (not related to terrorism) and pathetically stereotypical fratboys with a penchant for assaulting people with throw pillows... I went birding.

Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Image online here

The dream began with younger folks and I slogging through the perimeter of a marsh adjacent to a pond. A few Gadwall floated in the distant open water.

The scene then jumped to a road near the marsh/pond complex. A young brown-haired man, wearing a royal blue polo shirt and khakis, stepped out of the forest. He walked up to me and asked if I wanted to go birding. No, he never did ask if I was interested in extended warrantees. Indeed, I did want to go birding, and I just happened to be equipped with my binoculars (you know by now how I feel about these in dreams). The only other birds I remember are several inspecific passerines flitting about 30 or so feet up in the trees along the edge of the forest. This same forest ultimately led downhill to the marsh and pond.

Le fin.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Brushing the Cobwebs Off This One

Upon awakening the morning after the dream mentioned in my last post, I mistakenly presumed that was the first time I'd dreamt about hummingbirds. It wasn't until I finished writing today that I remembered a fantastic hummingbird dream from several months ago.

I was walking along a dirt road through a Central Texas forest; lots of juniper, and other small trees. A couple of friends were with me, but I was keeping my eyes out for birds. Movement in a tree to my right drew my attention. It was a hummingbird! Holy Cow, a dream first! Like a real hummer this one zoomed away after only a few seconds. Also much like in the real world, I didn't move but a skoche or two from that spot; anticipating an eventual return. 

Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufous) - male
Image online here

The little guy did not disappoint. It did, however, play coy a bit by nervously hovering from leaf-cluster to leaf-cluster for a while. We birders have it rough, don't we? It eventually moved into the open. It was essentially a Rufous Hummingbird but it had a magenta gorget and two splendidly long streamer-like tail feathers - also orange.  Very cool, indeed!

Here is where my memory gets a bit sketchy after 7+ months. I came across other hummingbirds, in the middle act of the dream, but no specifics are coming.  

I continued to walk down a path that intersected Shoal Creek at the north end of Pease Park. This is a popular park, containing over a mile of Shoal Creek, bordering the west side of downtown Austin.  Feeling easy n' breezy, I lay down on the far bank.  Shoal Creek is a rocky, bone dry, stream bed 95%+ of the year.  Spring flowers to my left, dry creek and park to my right, and a perfectly lazy sky above.  Could it get any better?  You bet. 

Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) - male
Image online here

I wasn't long into my cumulous reverie when another flying gem graced my presence.  A hummingbird buzzed up to a flower, right next to me.  In fact, he hovered directly over my face!  At that moment the neatest thing happened! Everything stopped moving.  Like a scene out of "The Matrix", my point-of-view became external of my body.  I was free to move this "camera" to anywhere, any angle, I wanted.  Of course, I used this opportunity to check out the hummer in amazing detail. This was when it became obvious the visitor was a male Anna's Hummingbird.  These are the kind of moments where words are inadequate.  It was awesome!  Truly, one of my favorite dream experiences. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Looked Out A Window And What Did I See?

A hummingbird staring back at me! And quite a handsome one at that. I don't know hummers south of the border well enough to out which species, so I'll just describe it as best I can.

The dream sighting was one of my briefest. I was inside a house, sitting and talking with a unknown woman.  A movement just outside the bay window to my right caught my attention. I have no recollection of what I or the woman was talking about. In the zone, I quickly spot a hummingbird doing the methodical feeding manouvers only they can do. 

Zooming in on it revealed an exotic, south of the border species. It looked like a cross between a Green Violet-ear, and a White-eared Hummingbird. In addition  the bird had a buffy breast band, just below the gorget. If this actually is a real-world species, feel free to let me know.

A Nightmare... of Sorts

Think "Soylent Green", "A Scanner Darkly", or a similarly dark last-second plot twist. Thus I call this dream a nightmare "... of sorts". A lesser reason: I had binoculars. Being able to zoom in on birds without binoculars, as I usually do in these dreams, rocks! Let this not become a trend. 

The dream found me walking out the backdoor of a strip-mall store. Presumably this was my place of employment. There I find a small field about an acre in size, dotted with various shrubs. The sun shone brightly, at an early morning angle. 

Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides)
Image online here

There was passerine activity in nearby shrubs. I couldn't resist investigating.  What work?!?! The first bird I find is a winner; a female Mountain Bluebird. The second, a Blue Jay. The third, a female Yellow Warbler.

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)
Image online here

Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia)
Image online here

The last bird I was flitting about in an adjacent small tree. It turned out to be an Oak Titmouse. Within seconds, the bird stopped moving within the middle branches. Not really noteworthy, at first. A few more seconds later it was still a birdcicle. I took a closer look, and moved my hand to touch it - nothing. I look closer. The scene looked like a museum diorama; in a word - creepy.  

Oak Titmouse (Baeolophus inornatus)
Image online here

To my shock, the bird had transmogrified into a larger-than-life-sized stuffed animal; similar to those cute "Audubon" critters. I pick up the plush bird and brought it back into the building to show my coworkers. Inside, I see the back room has several bins filled with stuffed toys of various bird species. One contains scores of... Oak Titmouse


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Am I a Man Dreaming I Was a Bird...

or am I really a bird dreaming I am a man? I paraphrase the metaphysical lesson of Taoist patriarch Chuang Tsu (Chou). Here's several translations:  http://www.chineseboxing.ca/bfly.html

On the evening of December 18th, 2008, I dreamt I was a bird for the first time in my life. It was among the more vivid and lucid dream-experiences I've had. And it was awesome!

The dream started near the crest of a long-sloped hill. An enchanting palette of Autumn carpeted the view to the horizon in all directions. I burst out of a tree, into flight, accompanied by a smattering of White-winged Doves.

White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica)
Image online here

Fluttering nearly straight up, we attained a cruising altitude of a few hundred feet quickly. With powerful swiftness, we made our way downslope. Others soon joined the flock.

Budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus)
Image online here

A noisesome little character took the lead. It stayed there long enough for me to identify it as a Budgerigar. It was a yellow variant. I couldn't see its cere  so I never found out the gender. Of some note: I don't remember being able to see colors flouresce on the budgie, from UV spectra, as birds would. A few moments later, he hung a hard left and I followed. The "piteousness" of doves disappeared. I glanced down; and perhaps in moment of humaness, get queasy with vertigo.

We continued to wing much higher; at least to several hundred feet. With much concentration and willpower I overcame the unbirdly spell of vertigo.  I began my descent. Not halfway down I spot a new flock heading my way. Huzzah! It is a "company" of macaws, and a few other indeterminable passerines. After a few moments flying together, we began a counterclockwise circuit toward a roost in the forest below.

During these moments of relative calm, I took stock of my new compatriots in detail. The macaws were preternaturally, colored; a feathered rainbow. Most have a base of bright scarlet, a few blue or purple. There was a single green one, but none of any other colors.

Crimson-collared Grosbeak (Rhodothraupis celaeno)
Image online here

More and more macaws join the vortex as the treetops rise up to meet us.  Two passerines are identifiable: a male Crimson-collared Grosbeak and a male Lawrence's Goldfinch.

Lawrence's Goldfinch (Carduelis lawrencei)
Image online here

The roost below straddled a part of the forest recently drowned. Several acres are defoliated, though the bark is intact. Moments before I alighted among the upper branches, I heard a human wordlessly gasp in delight.  The woman then excitedly told someone else she had just seen a very rare bird. Looking around I saw the two passerines, mentioned above, nearby. 

Major Mitchell's Cockatoo (Lophochroa leadbeateri)
Image online here 

Turning again, I saw two Cockatoos perched on the lowest limbs some fifty or so feet away to my left. The pair was breathtaking beautiful. I glided down to within six or so feet of the 'toos and the senior couple.  In rapt fascination they slowly reached out to make contact with the birds. I was surprised when the 'toos obliged, allowing them to gently stroke the feathers of their crest, head and neck. The Cockatoos are an intense indigo from bill to retrices, with sheening highlights of purple along their backs and scapulars. Tail feathers are long and teal. Their crests display a soft-marbling interplay between indigo, lavender, purple and white.  The closest resembling real world species is the Major Mitchell's Cockatoo. 

Magnificent Hummingbird (Eugenes fulgens)
Image online here

I run through the possible identities of this species. Erroneously, "Magnificent Macaw" came to mind first.  I then settled on "Emperor Macaw".  Ooops! The "magnificent" perhaps came from a superficial similarity with the Magnificent Hummingbird. "Emperor" I can only imagine was my attempt at equating the birds' aesthetics with regal presence. 

I then noticed myself reaching out toward the birds. Ironically, instead of feathers, I see my very human left hand move slowly into view toward one of the 'toos' heads. Before I could make contact, the dream faded to black. What a wild ride!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fruit of the Net

Doug Hutchison ("Dreambirds" - screenplay synopsis)

Thank you Mr. Hutchison for your wordsmithing abilities.

Where in the World was I last night?

Swimming with sharks, evidently. That was only the "what" of the dream. The "where" involved birds.

I started my dangerous entreprise from a small rocky island, many others sat nearby. My goal; a fairly rocky shore some two hundred feet away. I initially approached the islands from a helicopter-passenger POV, though minus the helicopter. Yep - weird.

American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)
Image online here

Scores of birds dotted the outcrops below.  I could only make out three groups:  American White Pelican, Glaucous Gull  and indeterminant Terns.  I could retire on a nickel for every time I've seen the latter in the field.

Glaucous-winged Gull (Larus glauscesens)
Image online here

As best I can noodle out, this places me and the birds on the central California coast.   

The dream ended with my being in the water, swimming toward shore.  Thoughts of becoming a shark breakfast created no small amount of anxiety.  I could be wrong, but I believe I saw a dorsal fin peak through the surface in my periferal vision. 

Thank God that was just a dream.  60 degree, shark infested, waters? No thank you!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Talking of Tinamous

Slaty-breasted Tinamou (Crypturellus boucardi)
Image online here

I was waiting tables in a diner (which, of course, had poisonous snakes all over the floor and tables, but I digress...).  I managed to safely exit from said establishment.  On the lawn out back, a medium-sized bird foraged.  My sudden presence made it run about, pardon the pun, like a chicken-with-it's-head-cut-off.  I couldn't resist. At the time, I thought "cool, a big ol' Tinamou". Apparently, even large tinamous aren't quite this size.

My experience with this group of birds is limited; some zoo time and book illustrations.  I only got one good look at the dreambird as it scooted past, onward to wherever dreambirds go. The closest real-world species to compare it with is the Slaty-breasted Tinamou. Dreams being dreams, this wasn't exactly what the little bugger looked like. Now, cross the above bird, at eight inches long, with a Darwin's Rhea, over three feet, and you're very close. Viola!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Birding on the Inside: A Natural History

I confess... to dreaming about birds. More specifically, I find myself birding in the dream. How long have I been dreambirding? At least 8 years - most of my birding "career". On average, I "bird the dreamworld" about once a week. The frequency fluctuates greatly, but seems to vary directly with the amount of real-world birding I'm doing at the time. I don't remember ever discussing this with fellow enthusiasts, but I assume I'm not alone in experiencing this phenomenon.

Most other dreams I experience have few, if any, lasting effects. Dreambirding, however, is a whole lotta fun! Almost as much as the real McCoy. It consistently engenders positive feelings long after I have awakened. The only real downer is I haven't figured out how to consciously affect whether I will dreambird - yet. I'll keep you updated.

Are the dream-species exotic and fantastical? I wish. The vast majority are of those expected in the Austin, TX area - my home for over a decade. Most individuals I do identify are arboreal and passerine. This is a profound irony as I spend the proverbial lion's share of my time searching for birds of wide open areas: sea, air, mudflat, ag. field (and sometimes garbage dump) at seemingly ever-increasing distances. A few times the dream-habitat was tropical/jungle-like, and once East African thornscrub-ish. While most of the experiences are typically dream-like (e.g. fairly pedestrian and creepy color palette), some are among the most vivid I've ever had. Alas, there's no predicting which will occur.

Another swell thing about my dreambirding experiences - I never have binoculars. If I hanker for seeing a bird up close, it just... happens. Sweet! In my book this definitely ranks way up there as one of the wicked cool features of dreams.

I've had the idea to blog about this "dream life" for years. I'm excited at the prospect of finally sharing with others the dreambirding experience. I might even be persuaded to perform experiments: like how/if different foods eaten just before bedtime influences these evanescent Aves. I've heard of some pretty far-out results with friends' non-bird dreams. Oh well, without further ado...

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