Sunday, February 28, 2010

Does it Get Much Better Than This?

I was standing on the back deck of a dark, split-level, shingle-style house.  It overlooked a small clearing in a forest, I'll call the backyard.  The yard sloped noticeably giving the impression I was in mountainous, or at least very hilly, country.   

The forest appeared a northern type; a good mixture of tall hardwoods and conifers.  Leafless branches told me it was probably winter, but I could not see any snow.  An anonymous group of passerines noisily made their way through the bare canopy in the distance.  Suddenly, the still was broken by an adult Cooper's Hawk that wove through the trees and settled on a branch not fifty feet away.

Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)
Image online here

After feeling I'd had enough time with the hawk, I headed to the front yard.  Upon arriving there, I looked up and noticed a Turkey Vulture and Golden Eagle soaring in lazy circles fairly high above.

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)
Image online here

Golden Eagle (Aquila chryseatos) - sub-adult
Image online here

Continuing, I strolled across the expansive front yard toward a line of tall bushes a hundred feet off.  As I arrived, a male House Finch and adult Barn Swallow zipped across my path not far above my head.

House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) - male
Image online here

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
Image online here

Beyond the bushes was a short slope that led to an orchard.  I investigated.  A few seconds later I began "pishing" and was rewarded with three American Robin showing themselves.  I turned to move on, when something at the top of a nearby tree caught my eye.  The piece-de-resistance: a Varied Thrush.  Niiiiiice!  I noticed a small group of birders a few dozen yards away and motioned for them to head my way.

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
Image online here

Varied Thrush (Ixoreus naevius)
Image online here

Just then my youngest son, Miles, popped into the dream.  I excitedly pointed out the thrush to him, then attempted to explain the significance of the bird.  Poor kid, I was probably over intellectualizing the experience for him.  Clearly the dream locale was far from the Pacific northwest, so this really was a big deal.  Once this dawned on me, I asked one of the other birders to notify their local rare bird hotline, and to call as many folks they knew.  I really enjoy when as many people as possible get to share experiences like this.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Look Who's In the Kitchen

I walked into a very capacious old country kitchen.  The mood cast was quite somber and brooding due to the dark walls, stone hearth and floor.  Pots, pans, trivets, and numerous other cooking implements hung from various places; including the oppressively low ceiling.  Adding to the cluttered charm were sundry quaint decorations, and gew-gaws, on the mantel and in several shelved alcoves.

The dream environs closely resembled this fine rustic kitchen, except the hearth was fieldstone and all wall surfaces were wood or painted brown.

Ostensibly, this was the kitchen of a restaurant, or inn, where I worked.  Dining was over for the night so a co-worker and I were there admiring the aesthetics as we waited for our rides.

As I approached the hearth, something moved on the far end of the mantel.  As soon as my eyes settled on that area, a bird flew to the right and into the shadows of a nearest alcove.  Luckily, I noticed a second bird hunkering down atop an intricate porcelain teacup. Expecting something pedestrian, like a House/English Sparrow, I was stunned to see a crouching Baird's Sparrow staring back at me.  This bird, also wanting no part of being out in the open with us, soon followed the same trajectory as the first.      

Baird's Sparrow (Ammodramus bairdii)
Image online here

I was about to make my way towards that recess, when my attention was drawn to the mantel once again.  Somehow I missed this the first time; right atop an old pitcher sat a pygmy-sized Indian White-rumped Vulture.  It couldn't have been much more than a foot tall.  But there it was, just hanging out, all creepy vulture-like. 

Indian White-rumped Vulture (Gyps bengalensis)
Image online here

I didn't stay with this guy for very long.  Though I do admire them as I do all birds, and the function they serve, I have no desire to be that close to any vulture any longer than necessary - even in a dream.  It was now time to investigate the nearby niche.

I didn't relocate the sparrows, but I did find was even more interesting.  Upon the middle shelf was an elaborately etched brass serving tray with a two-toned glazed bowl inside.  Hopping around the tray, rather impishly, was a Rainbow Bee-eater.  

Rainbow Bee-eater (Merops ornatus)
Image online here

A necessary aside: this species has appeared twice before in my dreams!  Fortunately, I was finally able to remember the species upon awakening.  I had not blogged the previous two dreams, because details were just too fuzzy

In addition to this little clown, four tiny toucans sat in the glazed bowl.  By all appearances they were fully grown, not nestlings.  The numbers were split evenly with a pair of Channel-billed Toucan, and Toco Toucan each.  The picture of cuteness, I assure you.  

Channel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos vitellinus) - ssp. culminatus
Image online here

Toco Toucan (Ramphastos toco)
Image online here

I slowly moved my right hand closer to pet them.  They responded by gently touching and picking at my fingers with their bills.  It didn't hurt, so I assumed they were being playful.  Very cool!  Sadly, this moment didn't last long,  The dream ended with the friend whom I was waiting for, arrived, and came into the kitchen to announce he was there to pick me up. 

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.   

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Nearly Had A Heart Attack

The storyline of the dream was otherwise unsettling, and too personal, to share here.  However, I can relate the part where birds made their appearance...

I had just come to a stop at a "T" intersection, in a car, and was about to take a left to exit a neighborhood onto a main thoroughfare.  With all of the suddenness only they have, a flock of twelve or so birds all but rained down on the road directly in front of the car.  My heart lept into my throat...  I was beginning to curse the winged beasts when starkly spangled napes caught my attention.  Spotted Doves?!?  Dreambirding lifers! 

The setting of the dream was Austin, Texas.  So, I mused about whether these obvious escapees would have a chance at establishing themselves, what with the Eurasian Collared-Dove having arrived so recently.  

Spotted Dove (Streptopelia chinensis)
Image online here

No sooner had these thoughts crossed my mind when a large, and loud, pickup truck sped by; directly through, and partly over, the dove flock.  Several members went "remige over teakettle" in the truck's turbulent wake.  All seemed physically unharmed, but many hundred a feather were crazily out of place. 

It was then that a single bird, among those whose feathers were woefully ruffled, caught my eye.  Not a dove, and harder to explain as an escapee, the new bird was another dreambirding first for me:  Eurasian Jay.  Huzzah!    

Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius)
Image online here

The avian section of the dream ended with my eyes following those birds, who'd been so rudely inconvenienced, as they seemingly self-consciously ambled into yards across the intersection.  There they began the unglamorous process of making their plumage proper again.  


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