Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Birding's Good in Islamabad

It wasn't anything specific about the initial surroundings, I just intuitively knew I was in Pakistan, in the vicinity of Islamabad...

I started the dream walking toward, then under, a row of tall trees. In doing so, I entered someone's backyard. It was typical suburbia for all I could tell: short green grass, trees and bushes tracing the property line, and two small trees in the middle of the backyard. The creamy-yellow, ranch-style, house even had a wooden porch. The dreamscape said anywhere in America, but my mind said rural southern Asia.

This IS very similar what the row of trees looked like in the dream, but not what northern Pakistan looks like in real life... surprise!

As I approached the dwarf trees in the middle of the yard, I noticed bird activity. The first to catch my attention was drab; brown-and-white. It reminded me of a Sage Thrasher, but a little sleeker with a satiny sheen on the brown upper side. I hadn't been examining it long before a tiny flash in the next tree over caught my eye.  Sitting on a branch in the middle of the tree next to me was a neon-green hummingbird (e.g., Brilliant Emerald).  Hummingbird?!?  I remember thinking that couldn't be right.

Empress Brilliant (Heliodoxa imperatrix)
Image online here

Sage Thrasher (Oreoscoptes montanus
Image online here

A woman appeared on the porch and asked if I needed help.  Startled and embarrassed, I emphatically apologized for my trespassing.  I told her I was just a birdwatcher, that her yard was impressive with bird life.   She shared she too was a birdwatcher; that the birds were there because she had several well stocked feeders.  What relief!  Graciously, she even welcomed me to stay for as long as I wanted.       

I then asked her, what bird it was that looked so much like a hummer.  She informed me that, indeed, it was a "Citrine Hummingbird" - the only species in the eastern hemisphere.  Nothing about that explanation made much sense.  I didn't have much time to mull it over as we were then joined by a man who seamlessly joined the conversation; clearly a birder very familiar with the local avifauna.

Long-billed Thrasher (Toxostoma longirostre)
Image online here

He confirmed the hummer's identity.  He also said there was a sister species to the one that looked like a Sage Thrasher; though larger, less common, and retiring.  No sooner did his words come out then he pointed to a bush at the edge of the yard, next to the house.  Speak of the devil, there was one these very birds now, looked much as described!  It strongly resembled a Long-billed Thrasher.

We didn't look at it long before he led me around the front of the house, onto the road and toward the city.  The scenery changed substantially.  We were surrounded by thorn scrub, and near-desert environs.  The road was little more than tire tracks in sand.  The man made a point of telling me to pay particular attention, as there were many birds to be found along this road, but they were difficult to see.  He was quite right on that last point, as I only caught sight of one bird plunging deeper for the rest of the dream.

A good idea of what the road to Islamabad looked like in the dream

What a real road into Islamabad looks like; including a section of the famous Margalla Hills beyond.

The dream ended with our coming upon a bazaar at the edge of civilization. The surroundings were a study in ramshackle and dilapidation; masses of people, clothing, wares and sounds very... well, foreign.   

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