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!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Indiana Jones - And The Carnival of Doom

[I just awakened from this one, the freshest dream blogged here to date.]

I was hiking in a very rural, very green, setting: low hills, some forest and a lot of wide open meadows. Early on I passed a small marsh; scaup and Bufflehead were visible. I didn't bother IDing the scaup, though my real-life experience favors Lesser rather than Greater.

Bufflehead (Bucephala albeolus) - male & female
Image online here

Next came negotiating unvegetated canyons. Gratefully they were fairly shallow. Besides beautiful rock strata, I came across two houses clearly built generations ago.  Both were so dilapidated that entire outer wall sections were missing.  On the positive side; 
no need to use a door. 

The first I investigated cautiously, praying the thing wouldn't collapse on my head. Mundane artifacts of bygone eras dustily lined wall, shelf and table. Immediately after exiting I looked for the trail.  I noticed someone up ahead. They were dressed like Indiana Jones - bullwhip and all. Normally I'd think this was cool and would make my acquaintance. However, in this dream I was wary of him, avoiding his attention.  So, I continued through the canyons, keeping my distance.

Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis) - male & female
Image online here

By the time I exited the skeleton of the next house, atop a hill, he was less than a hundred feet away.  What I saw in the wide valley below made me forget all about him though.  Storm clouds. Huge, violently dark, storm clouds.  My first look found a tornado roping out it's last moments of life. Yikes! Suddenly, a loud flash of lightning startled me blind. All interest in Indiana, or hiking, were shocked away. I frantically searched for shelter. There was the rickety house behind me.  I might stay dry and electrocution-free there... might. 

Eventually, I discovered a small shed at the edge of nearby woods. Appearing solid, I figured I'd give it a try. Turns out this was not an original idea. Inside were two other people, both friends of mine from real-life. Shortly after I was inside, someone else showed up... you guessed it - Indiana.

We weren't in there long before he told us his car was not that far away and it would be safer there. In my dreams, I do whatever Indiana Jones tells me to do. In no time we were all piled into his silver BMW. Curiously, real-life friend Klondike was at the wheel. We proceeded to drive into the valley, where the storm seemed to be fiercest. Why? I guess since Indiana Jones was in my dream gratuitous, life-threatening, drama was required. 

We soon drove into a village that looked right out of a wild west set. On the outskirts of town a carnival was still in operation, despite the ominous skies. While driving slowly through the midway gaming area, someone informed me that for prizes they gave out feathers from various bird species. The "grand prize" was the bird itself; alive or dead he did not say. His tone seemed intending to impress me. I mostly feigning interest, but was ultimately disgusted.

... and we have a winnaah! Step right up and take your pick...
Image online here

Then things got really "dramatic" (read: scary). The storm roiled above more potent than ever. Two rope-like tornadoes dropped down just a few hundred feet ahead. We were on a narrow, dirt-pack street. and they were coming directly at us! We had but seconds. When the one on the right was just feet away it hit something electrical. A huge shower of sparks and flames burst up.   
It instantly became a monstrous whirling mass of electric arcs, yellow-orange flame, and debris! At the last moment, both twisters parted giving us just enough room to pass between unscathed. Really! Freakin'! Scary!

Relief was brief, as we didn't and couldn't drive much farther. The road we were on ended in a cul-de-sac. Tall trees, and a hill, lay beyond the last houses. All I could see beyond them was a massive cloud of dust blowing sideways with unnatural speed. I screamed. Apparently, I'd seen the twister first. Klondike suggested parking in between buildings. I said he was crazy; that our best bet was to out run it with the beemer. On our way out of town, I leaned my head out the window and looked up. Cloud rotation was severe in several places. I knew these were all potential tornadoes. Oiy!

As if that weren't enough, the last scene saw us driving by the carnival one last time. The gigantic twister had out paced us, but had shifted and was about to engulf the carnival. Horrified, I watched all the people, still on the rides, still testing their accuracy at silly games, disappear behind the black-gray-brown curtain of certain death. I couldn't look any more; the sound of the howling winds was more than enough.

The dream ended with our heading back up the hill where we'd started with the car. I saw at least one more tornado touch down in the valley as we started ascending to safety.

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Giant, Robotic, Albino House Finch - need I say more

Fellow bird dreamer and blog contributer, Delia Guzman, has some fantastically entertaining bird dreams. I admit to being a bit jealous. Here's another winner she sent to me the other day... enjoy!

"The other night, I was birding with a bunch of older ladies, none of whom I knew. We were wandering along a path with some nest boxes on it when one of the ladies opened a nest box and found a leucistic male HOUSE FINCH [Carpodacus mexicanus]. His crown was pinkish with white feathers interspersed in little splotches, and his body also had the white splotchy patches. He was beautiful -- that's all I could think."

House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) - leucistic male
Note: image is altered for demonstrative purposes - original found online here

"Suddenly, I noticed that the woman's (and the bird's, which she was holding) shadow cast on the nest box, as the sun had peeked out from behind a cloud. She was still holding the bird when it began to flutter -- and GROW. I immediately said, 'put it back in the box! The sun is making it grow!' but she panicked and just let it go. The bird continued to grow until it was about 200 feet tall -- only it wasn't a bird anymore. It was a giant Transformer-like robot! It crushed the nest box with its foot, and we all scrambled for cover. I thought that if the sun would only go behind the cloud again, it would shrink back to bird size and maybe we could catch it and put it back in the box. Suddenly, I was on a bus, though -- with the same ladies, apparently after we'd gotten away from the giant robot/bird. I had the feeling, and almost the memory, of the bird having shrunk back to normal size, and that I'd caught it and put it back into the box. Then I woke up."

Copyright 2009 - Delia Guzman (published with permission)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Lucid Moment

The setting was Pond 1 W at Hornsby Bend, in Austin (Del Valle) TX. I was scanning the pond on the north side while real-world birding buddies, Shawn Ashbaugh and Scott Young, were scanning shorebirds from the SW corner (see link above). As has happened many times when birding in real life, Shawn started excitedly waving his arms to get my attention. Clearly they'd found something good. Just about anything would have been more interesting than the Pectoral Sandpipers (Calidris melanotos), Least Sandpipers (Calidris minutilla) and Solitary Sandpiper (Tringes solitaria) I'd been perusing. [All three species are beautiful and amazing, as all birds are, it's just that they are common as dirt at Hornsby Bend. With amazing views of thousands of all three, I welcome every opportunity to study a rarity.]

Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos) - Background
Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla) - Foreground
Image online here

Solitary Sandpiper (Tringes solitaria)
Image online here

After snagging my scope/tripod and jogging toward Shawn/Scott, a very cool thing happened. A dark blur flew across my path, a dozen or so meters ahead. My intuition screamed "immature Peregrine Falcon!", but I couldn't rule out a Cooper's Hawk. As my eyes followed the raptor's glide into Pond 1 W, the bird morphed into a thin, rectangular piece of card board. It then flipped and wobbled back and forth a bit before landing in the muck. Weird, eh? That's what I thought too.  The phrase "that kind of stuff only happens in dreams" also went through my mind. Then a brief, intense, rush of excitement hit me - like intense anticipation. Sadly, this feeling passed as quickly as it came.  I became aware Shawn was beckoning me to hurry up (this too is common in real life). What just happened was I had teetered on the brink of becoming fully aware that I was dreaming - while I was dreaming! This falcon/accipiter incident marked the first "Lucid" moment I remember experiencing while dreambirding. Too bad I never did positively ID the raptor... sigh.

With true dreamspeed we soon joined Scott in the SW corner. In that few seconds journey Shawn told me they thouth they had found a Long-toed Stint (Calidris subminuta). Whoooa! Now that's a quality bird! From that revelatory moment up until I was looking at it, I wracked my brain's for field marks. Something about plumage bounced around (breeding plumage is a bit brighter, turns out). My mind honed in looking for a pronounced whitish eye-line and maybe even a split supercilium (a field mark of the Little Stint - Calidris minuta, turns out). After some inspection, sure enough, we all agreed it was indeed a Long-toed Stint. Huzzah!

Long-toed Stint (Calidris subminuta)
Image found online here

The quality birds, for Hornsby that is, didn't stop there. Near the L-t Stint, an immature Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) was busily feeding. Better yet, almost directly in front of us a few juvenile Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) were just toodling around - the way only phalaropes do. These guys were all in non-breeding plumage, which along with the other two shorebirds strongly suggests this dream was taking place in the late summer/early fall. Upon seeing these cute little buggers so close, I couldn't resist leaning down and attempting to get ahold of one - they were that close! And as simple as that, I did. It's hard to explaing how giddly excited I felt. Another bout of morphing saw this inland rarity turn into a Rock Pigeon (Columba livia) of similar coloring. Probably startled by the transformation I let go of the pigeon and it flew away. Truly one of my cooler dreams.

Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres)
Image Copyright - 2009 Karen Gallagher

Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) - juvenile
Image found online here

Monday, June 1, 2009

"Dreambird" - Inspiration & Visitation

Below is an image of the beautiful painting "Dreambird", along with the full blog entry, from Susan Cornelis' "Susan's Art and Sketchbook Blog". Hopefully, this will inspire similar creatures, bursting with color and magic, to visit all our dreams...

"The birds got the tops of the plums in the top branches of the tree in my studio garden this year. I harvested enough plums for eating and canning and giving away, so I certainly didn’t begrudge them their meals. So when this bird like creature appeared in my demonstration painting for the workshop, i wasn’t surprised, and the plums appeared quite naturally as well. A pretty nature piece, and that was that."

"Dreambird" - Copyright 2008 Susan Cornelis

"Then last night after the workshop I had a dream that I was visiting some people and this bird with unusual shimmering feathers appeared. It actually walked right up to me, so I bent down and put out my cupped hands, a wee bit frightened that it might bite, since it looked like a bird of prey at first. But it climbed into my palms and was the softest thing I’d ever held. Then it started to vibrate and shake, sending such electrifying sensations through my whole body that I gasped. Sparks of some invisible substance were spraying off it and covering me. It felt like that giggle that perches just on the edge of bearable when you’re tickled. You’re afraid you won’t be able to stand it, but you can’t bear to have it stop either. It did stop of course when I woke up and could almost still feel the softness in my hand. So which do you suppose came first? the plum, the bird, or the dream bird?" - July 8th, 2008


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