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...


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