Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Study In Awkardness

One of my stranger bird dreams...

I was strolling along in the neighborhood of a close friend. I was soon accosted by a young woman out walking with her very young daughter (three-ish). We made small talk while continuing down the street. We then crossed paths with a couple of middle-aged women also out walking. They asked me where I lived. I explained that I didn't live there, but that I was visiting a friend who lived a few blocks away. I remember feeling really awkward, as I didn't want to appear a creep - my friend wasn't with me after all.

White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)

Image online here

Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)

Image online here

The young woman, her daughter, and I continued our walk. Along the way I pointed out a few birds that were working trees. I remember White-breasted Nuthatch and Tufted Titmouse. These would have been fantastic finds, as the neighborhood is in northwest Austin, TX. [The nuthatches are found generally in large pecan groves many miles east, and north of the city (in very low densities). While pure Tufteds (e.g. non hybrids with Black-crested) only become reliable twenty or so miles east of town.]

We soon ended up at the woman's apartment where I met her two, male, roommates. They were also around her age (early 20's). All of us squeezed onto a large sofa, where we chit-chatted for a while. I remember the young woman having a dominating the talk and enjoying being the center of attention. I was distinctly uncomfortable by this point, and I began looking for an opening in the conversation to politely exit the situation altogether.

This train of thought was interrupted by teenage hooligan neighbors driving up over the curb and onto the lawn of the house. It was immediately obvious they had packed way too many in the car. Upon their exiting and walking to the house next door, I counted no less than nineteen gangly, very rough around the edges, youths! Our couch-bound audience found this quite amusing.

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) - female
Image online here

The dream wound down with a stroll in neighborhood park with this woman. I was still feeling very uncomfortable, and I remember wondering why I was still hanging out with her. To make matters significantly more awkward, we kept passing couples who were obviously romantically fixated on each other. The dream ended with her asking me what bird was feeding on the grass next to a small pond. It was a female Mallard.

Dreambirding With The Next Generation

Small groves of trees in a prairie - a peaceful dreamscape...

This dream started with my exiting the end classroom in a wing of a single story school. It appeared to be elementary/primary from the size of building. Not far from the school, I was joined by another birder. We strolled through a fairly large expanse of grass, possibly a prairie, dotted with small groves of trees. There was no mention of where this was geographically, but the suite of birds suggests south Texas.

Meadowlark (Sturnella sp.) in familiar surroundings
Image online here

This other birder, a woman, shared we should keep our eyes open for an unspecified rarity that could be lurking in this kind of habitat. Early in our trek, a single Meadowlark (sp.) flushed and flew away from us. (It's challenging enough to ID them to species, in real life, without vocalizations... but in a dream? Please forgive me, just this one time.) As we walked on, unidentified sparrows flushed, flew a few dozen feet, and dropped down as abruptly as they popped up. Very Ammodramus-like don't you think?

Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla) - Image online here

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) - Male
Image online here

In the next scene we were in one of the grove of trees, birding with a group of children. The place was alive with birds. Waves of excitement shot through crowd each time flock members flew across the grove, or wheeled around anywhere. You can't beat that kind of electricity. What an awesome feeling. Field Sparrow was identified, as was a finch species (the specific ID didn't survive the transition; however I believe it was a species native to Africa). Present, also, were at least three male Northern Cardinal.

"Attwater's" Greater Prairie Chicken (Tympanychus cupido attwateri)
Image online here

My guide brought my attention away from having fun with the kids in order to point out that she had spotted a individual of the rarity she'd spoken of earlier. Getting satisfying looks at the bird proved difficult. I only got glimpses as it occasionally hopped up in to partial view above the grass, in apparent pursuit of making a butterfly it's next meal. It was clearly a Prairie Chicken! (This dream appearance was probably triggered by my recent reading of an article about their reintroduction onto private lands in Goliad Co., TX. Read more about this effort here.) Unfortunately, those brief looks were all I was going to get.

The disappointment was not long lasting, however. Upon turning around to focus back on the grove, a new species caught my eye. On a low branch, on the far side of a far tree, sat a very handsome Green Jay.

Green Jay (Cyanocorax yncas)
Image online

The typical dream integrity began breaking down as I started to wake up. The last moments saw the head, and bill, of the Green Jay steadily transforming into that of a Groove-billed Ani. Sometimes, such as in a dream like this one, the experience seems so real that when something like this happens it is initially unsettling.

Groove-billed Ani (Crotophaga sulcirostris)

Image online here

Thursday, December 3, 2009

"Dreambirding" Turns One

Has it been an entire year already?!? Wow...what a ride! "Blessing" comes to mind when describing this experience. Honestly, I never expected this site would garner even the attention it has, let alone followers. Thanks everyone. More than most experiences in my life, maintaining this blog has edged me "out of my shell" and kept me there. Who in their right mind publishes their dreams on the internet - even if they're just about birds?

I'm not all that on board with believing dreams, or at least these dreams, as veiled windows into my innermost machinations, motivations or unmet desires (as I've had them when I was birding a ton too). Rather, they are, in part, a celebration of the fascination and wonderment birds evoke in this ol' aviphile. Very little else so thoroughly sets my mind on fire like our befeathered sister taxa. And if you're still reading, this may be your truth too.

Recent rereadings of older posts have revealed a tendancy for understating the effect these dreams have on my internal experience. Until a year ago, most local field birding had become become beige and droll. It was hit-and-miss when it came to feeling that heart-palpitating, lightning-about-to-strike, thrill I remember from novice birder days. The Zen masters were right: beginners mind = downright magic. This process of remembering, writing down, editing and broadcasting these dreams to the virtual universe has stuck my finger back in that birding-rocks-my-world socket. Yeah, this blogging adventure will never replace real-world birding. But, it has proved a fabulous compliment to the field. I can confidently say that today I have a much more rich appreciation for even the mundane chickadee and, dare I say, European Starling than probably ever before. I never saw that coming... did you?

Finally, I love the english language, and greatly admire those who can turn a phrase in ways that trancend, elevate and inspire - especially when they make me crack-up laughing at the same time. O, that I could some day do the same. This blog offers the chance to steadily plug away at demystifying the storytelling process. In this year, I feel these dreams have become less and less "my" dreams; that I'm just a steward of a story - a shared story. I will ever strive to hone my wordsmithing so the enjoyment factor is greater for all.

What will next year will bring? Hopefully more bird dreams, more stories to be told, and more celebrating.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What Might Have Been

For the first time I can remember, I was awakened by the alarm right in the middle of a bird dream. This was doubly disappointing as dreams of the past several weeks have only seen bird cameos, or snippets of stories that were just too murky to remember any detail worth passing on. So it goes...

(Northern/Southern) Carmine Bee-eater (Merops nubicus/nubicoides)
Image found online here

... I am in a car with two birders I know from Austin. Only one, the driver I can remember for sure - Stu Wilson. Great guy, great birder. We are driving down a small, two-laned, highway. It appears to be spring migration, as there's a lot of vibrant green. Soon after the dream began, a HUGE flock of birds flushed from both sides of the road, whirling and wheeling around only a hundred or so feet to our left. We oohed and ahhed for a few seconds, then collected ourselves in order to estimate three to five THOUSAND Carmine Bee-eater [which species was not determined]. (Large flocks appear in many of my dreams; probably because they never cease to inspire awe in real life.)

Not far down the road from them, we flushed a second, much smaller, flock of a few dozen medium-sized birds. They appeared to be approximately dove-sized, predominately slate blue with long white tails and rumps. Some richer blue, even purplish, was mixed into their upper body plumage as well. (There probably isn't a corresponding real world species. If anyone can think of one, by all means let me know.) Regardless, the third person of our trio declared it to be kind of "long-necked" something-or-other. Neither Stu nor I agreed with him.

At this point, I declared that both the bee-eaters and this species reminded me of two other "rarities", I'd seen before in this location. I think what I really meant by "this location" was "in dreams". Indeed, this WAS in reference to another dream I had with species vaguely similar in color and structure as these two. Although, I think one of the other dreambirds was a hummingbird, and the other a passerine. This original dream, was only a fragment I didn't bother to write down, as it was just too difficult to remember at the time. I will journal further on this to see if anything else crops up. Stay tuned.

We then turned left onto a new road, soon stopping to survey a small wooded pond flanking the right side of the road. I was still scanning, when simultaneously someone in the car called out a duck of some kind and the alarm annoyingly brought all this to a screeching halt. So it goes...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Bird Dream Drama

In scene one I found myself in a hospital room, waiting for the results of a checkup. I was eventually informed by non-medical staff that one prescription I was receiving was for a potentially fatal condition. Without this drug I would surely die young. This was the first I was hearing of such a diagnosis (the dream environs did not make this less troubling news). Anxious and distraught, I insisted on further information from medical personnel.

A nurse appeared and counseled me about this disease, using a brochure as a visual aid. One thing I do remember about the malady was it was named for a person; beyond that nothing else. She also told me about a form I could fill out on paper, or online. It would allow my doctor(s) to monitor my symptoms, directly and immediately, between office visits. This did help calm me down.

In scene two I was looking up a friend's name in a search engine. I believe this was with the intention of finding her most recent email address so I could update her on my hospital visit results.

(From here on the dream jumped forward a bit choppily...)

I then drove to her house. Not finding anyone there, I left to track her down (for some reason I felt concerned for her safety). I then spontaneously transformed in to a songbird - which species I don't remember. I immediately flew high above her house, and neighborhood attempting, to find her distinctive car.

"Georgian Style" flower garden, closely resembling the dreamscape.
Image found online here

I then went into a steep dive, flying and weaving through neighbors' yards. I lingered in one that was beautifully arrayed with islands of blooming flowers. Two other birds, and some butterfly's were also availing themselves of this oasis. I recognize the two other birds as long-time friends. One a Mountain Bluebird the other an American Kestrel.

Mountain Bluebird (Sialia curricoides) - Male
Image found online here

American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) - Male
Image found online here

A conflict suddenly arose! An attack by other birds apparently, including one other small hawk. One of the last images was my bluebird friend on the ground, ostensibly unconscious, in the grass at the base of some flowers. As the dream was fading, I was about to land on the grass next to my bluebird comrade toward to see if I could help.

Just the kind of scenario I was hoping to avoid when the dream ended... ouch!
Image found online here

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Megascops Coture

Koussevitzky Music Shed (viewed from "the Lawn"), Tanglewood - Lenox, MA

I was on the lawn of Tanglewood (a fine music venue in Lenox, MA) presumably for a performance. I remember little if anything about that. It was nighttime. Floodlights revealed pools of richly green grass at the edge of the dark sea of night. A White Pine with low sweeping branches loomed nearby. On the closest branch sat a red-phase Eastern Screech Owl. It seemed to beckon me with a few calls, so I obliged and sat next to it. I ventured a hand, and to my pleseant surprise I was allowed to pet. So soft, so cute.

Eastern Screech-Owl (Megascops asio) Red-phase
Image Online Here

I then got up and returned to where I was originally sitting, closer to the music "shed" (open-air concert hall). He followed, perching on the ground next to me. The rest of the dream was my sitting there enjoying the music (can't remember which piece) coming from the shed, whilst the little screech-owl let me pet and scratch it like a puppy. He even playfully rolled around like one for a few moments. Quite a sweet little vignette.

Monday, August 10, 2009

(Southern) California Dreamin'

[From a few weeks ago]... I was with two other guys in the coastal chaparral of southern California (a place I have only been birding once in real-life). We were hiking along, several hundred feet from shore, primarily for wildlife/nature photography. Our elusive quarry at the time? A dove. (Can anyone tell me what dove sp. could possibly be worth the effort in this habitat? Ruddy Ground Dove?)

Heading back down towards dune and shore, we encountered birds worthy of our cameras' attention. I, on the other hand, encountered camera troubles - mostly slow/flakey autofocus. The first scene we shot was a male Calliope and Anna's Hummingbird sharing a perch.

Calliope Hummingbird (Selaphorus calliope)

Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna)

I was able to get a few shots off before they both departed, but did not feel confident they would be keepers.

Moving on, I noticed a something taking place near the water's edge below - two mixed-species shorebird flocks going at it after a fashion. Their movements and interactions looked like two rival gangs feel each other out, replete with posturing and machismo. Those defending their "home turf" (I'll call the "Sharks") consisted of a female Red Phalarope, a Semipalmated Plover and some Least Sandpiper. The "Jets" comprised a Willet, a Greater Yellowlegs and few Sanderling. "The Jets are gonna have their day... toniiiiight. The Sharks are gonna have their way... toniiiiight." Though entertaining, the conflict was brief, and the two groups quickly went about their separate ways.

The "Sharks"

Red Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius)


Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus)


Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla)

The "Jets"

Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca)


Willet (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus)


Sanderling (Calidris alba)

By this point in the dream, daylight was waning, and had achieved that very desirable "magical glow" this photographer loves to shoot.

The next scene took place next to a gate in a chain link fence, which gave access to the back dunes. Nestled together, at the foot of a bush growing against the fence, was a Buff-breasted Sandpiper and another female Red Phalarope
. Not only were they ostensibly sleeping, but they were bathed in golden light. (It was as beautiful as it sounds). I was able to snap off what felt like a few good shots, as the scene screamed "photography me NOW!". But, as I was just about to pull the trigger on a frame-filling close-up, the Buff-breasted awakened. It wasn't slow about it either. Before I could react, both it and the phalarope were filing out of frame, and out the gate.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis)

Red Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius)

The last scene was of the Buff-breasted, Red Phalarope with a healthy helping of Least Sandpiper and Sanderling, all congregating about some tidal pools along a rocky shoreline.

The lens on my camera was not that big, and was fairly "slow" at that. All this meaning I had to get close any hope of a good image - and fast, as the "magical" light was fading. I scrambled as quick, and carefully, as I could toward them. At one point, the phalarope settled down on the rock, next to a pool; with the ocean and a full moon in the distance. ( Another very memorable tableau). Luckily, I was able to get a few shots of this, before the light faded and the dream ended...

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Dreambirding Experiment

Over the past couple of days, I've been brushing up on dream induction, and recollection techniques {more on that at a later date}. The reason? Simple - the bird dreams seem to be drying up.

As best I can tell, one thing that affects my dreambirding frequency is intense new bird-oriented experiences. For example, I recently spent time in the St. Louis area. While there, I studied a few books about birds found around the world. I also made four visits to the world class St. Louis Zoo. I was blessed with the opportunity to spend several hours studying their scores of exotic bird species. Exquisite! Perhaps as a result, I had some of the most interesting bird dreams I've had to date during that time of rich real-world experiences.

Before bed tonight, I'm going to give some time to Rosair & Cottridge's "Photographic Guide to the Shorebirds of the World". On Saturday, I'm going to checkout Austin Avian Rescue at J & M Aviaries. Sunday will find me paying visits to a few pet stores specializing in birds.

Austin Avian Rescue & Rehabilitation

Will any or all of these novel experiences trigger dreambirding? your bets now.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

From Dreambirding to... Birds Dreaming

Birds' brains do not have cerebral cortexes, like mammals. They do have something called the hyperstriatum however. New evidence suggests that, despite this structural difference, birds have evolved the capacity to dream - at least the Zebra Finch has. How... cool... is... THAT!?!

Zebra Finch (Taeniopygia guttata)

Humans sometimes dream of flying. Do birds dream of playing the piano? Eating a taco? (Grackles, gulls, and corvids do just fine at that already, eh?) Driving? Capturing humans and putting them in cages? Take a gander at the links below, talk amongst yourselves, and let me know what you think.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Dreambirds of Fancy

My middle brother, Jarrod, teases me about being the obsessed birder I am. Typically, he asks if a certain species is on my lifelist - inevitably an absurd name he makes up. What he comes up with is hilarious, so I share the laugh. How downright goofy official bird names can seem reminds of a recent dreambirding first. All species I dreamed of were fantastical, made up... loosely based in reality. A bit ironic that only now are these dreams drifting away from reality, eh? Regarding these new "species", I'm going to let it all hang out and make up some names for them... where's Jarrod when I need him?

Slice of the Texas "Hill Country" - a common sight west of Fredericksburg

I was birding in the "Hill Country" of central TX with my long-time, real-life, friend Shawn Ashbaugh. The landscape was Live Oak savannah; a sight most prevalent west of Fredericksburg. I was in the open when Shawn called to me with a find. In the dream, this bird was a vagrant from northern Mexico. Nice going Shawn! Beautifully colored was this songbird, and like most others, very active - so not the best look. Head was probably green, though not brightly so. Back/scapulars were a cobalt blue, edging of the secondaries grass green and the rump an electric violet-purple. Tail feathers were also edged with green. Que linda! I'll call this one the - "Violet-rumped Leafbird". Of real-world species, it most resembled a mashup of...

Emerald Tanager (Tangara florida)


immature passerine from american tropics, yet to be re-identified

= "Violet-rumped Leafbird"

Time with this exquisite little one was all too brief, as it soon disappeared into the canopy for good. Immediately upon turning around, I spotted a second fantasy bird - perched nearby on a low branch. Resembling a European Robin, it looked much more like a Catharus thrush (e.g. Swainson's) with the robin's unmistakable auburn frontside. "Orange-breasted Confusing-Thrush" sounds about right to me.

European Robin (Erithacus rubecula)


Swainson's Thrush (Catharus ustulatus)

= "Orange-breasted Confusing-Thrush"

The last bird caught my eye as it flushed from branches to my right. It wasn't "ugly", per se, but it definitely looked like evolution gone a little wrong. As with the other birds, the view was exceedingly brief. This guy gave the added challenge of being on the wing. Oh well, I'll take what I can get. This gem looked like the visual hybrid of a Worm-eating Warbler and a Short-eared Owl. I like the way "Short-eared Worm-eating Owl" sounds so I'll stick with that moniker.

Worm-eating Warbler (Helmitheros vermivorus)


Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)

= "Short-eared Worm-eating Owl"

I dig the novelty of these dreamcreatures, if only because they're birds. Truth be known, though, the more bizarre a dream is the more unsettled it makes me. Feedback always welcome...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Muse On Sabbatical?

Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina

Image online here

In the dreambirding realm, things have been a bit frustrating as of late. The source - dream recollection has waned significantly. I still scribble down everything I can remember upon awakening (an act of physical comedy most mornings, just so you know). The past three or four times I've blurrily put pen to paper only a few sentences, regarding vague and uninteresting highlights, come out. Mostly, I can just remember the birds, little else.

Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana)
Image online here

One dream had a male Western Tanager among some foliage. Another, a Wood Thrush. Last night I dreamed I was walking in an open area (a park?) with different species of pheseant walking around. Male Superb Lyrebird, Golden Phaesant, and Indian Peafowl (peacock) are all I can remember. I believe at one point I, and whomever I was with, were attempting to catch one of these beauties. The result - more physical comedy.

Superb Lyrebird (Menura novaehollandiae)

Image online here

Golden Phaesant (Chrysolophus pictus)

Image online here

Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus) - cock
Image online here

I'm hoping with this post to send a flare into wherever these nightly visitations come from - just to remind such powers I'm still here.  To that end, I'm also officially requesting vibes to be sent this way for the Muse to return.  Many thanks, in advance, for your efforts and energy.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Aviarist Encounter (Part II) - Through A Glass Darkly

(NOTE: The first part of this dream can be enjoyed here.)

... That many exotics clustered in such a small area was too much for me to resist investigating. Asking a neighbor revealed to which house the birds belonged. A maid answered the door, and when I asked about the birds, she let me in. It's a very nice place inside - well appointed. I was immediately introduced to the couple responsible for the birds. Apparently they: ran a "world-famous" exotic bird rehab center/aviary, had authored books on the subject and even had an "exotic" sounding last name; Zormun, I believe. I was then introduced to their three teenage children, and we all sat and chatted for a bit. Dad was a character; a fabulous fabulist as it were.

I was then informed things had to move along as they needed to catch a plane, for an out-of-the-country conference, later that evening. Toward that end, they gave me an autographed copy of their latest book. It was a hefty compendium of all known escaped-bird populations in the continental U.S. - replete with VERY detailed maps. I'm floored, humbled, and honored all at the same time.

I'm then taken on a tour of the grounds. French doors lead to a porch and fairly spacious backyard - at least an acre I'd guess. In the very back appeared to be a very large, seemingly iron/mesh wire, structure - the formal aviary I presume. Sadly, the tour never got that far.

(the flight-cage in the dream closely resembled the "1904 free-flight aviary" found at the St. Louis Zoo, pictured here.)

Why we never make it that far never surfaces, but it may have something to do with the following. Between the porch and the aviary was a tennis court and a large, empty, in-ground pool. Dozens upon dozens of people were huddled in small groups or milling about both features, and the yard in general. Mrs. Zumon, "Ursula" I believe, was proudly droning on about the place. I missed it all as I became more and more intrigued by these people. Looking more closely, it became obvious they (including children) were not in good shape. The arrangement looked to me either like a refugee, or detention, camp. I was revolted. Why was she just going on as if they didn't exist, why were they here, and who were they? I couldn't stomach questioning, so no answer ever came. Again for reasons never explained, the tour then wrapped up abruptly and awkwardly (at least for me). I soon walked out the front door, in the direction of my car. Some delivery digression, eh? The last thing I remember is looking up and seeing another pair of "tyrant" flycatcher, Sulphur-bellied, hanging out at the top of a tree bordering the street.

Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher (Myiodynastes luteiventris)
Image Found Online Here

Monday, June 15, 2009

Aviarist Encounter (Part I) - Meeting The Menagerie

It started with my being a delivery driver out on a call. Things began to get interesting as I was slowly rolling down a neighborhood street, scanning house numbers for the correct address. Eventually I began spotting a very eclectic series of birds along a three property-wide stretch. Several Zenaida Dove (Zenaida aurita) were waddling in the middle of the street.

Zenaida Dove (Zenaida aurita)

Image Online Here

A pair of Houbara Bustard (
Chlamydotis undulata) were poking around a front yard.

Houbara Bustard (Chlamydotis undulata)
Image Online Here

On a large rock, next to a mailbox, a Common Potoo (
Nyctibius griseus) sat in the sun.

Common Potoo (Nyctibius griseus)
Image Online

At the tip-top of a small tree sat a Piratic Flycatcher 

Piratic Flycatcher (Legatus Leucophaius)
Image Online Here

To top it all off, a Short-eared Owl swooped across the otherwise sleepy neighborhood street several times.

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)
Image Online Here

And, it got curiouser and curiouser indeed. Stay tuned 'til tomorrow for the thrilling conclusion!

count visits
Apple iPod Touch 8GB