An alternative to birding around sewerage plants

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: An alternative to birding around sewerage plants
From: L&L Knight <>
Date: Thu, 4 May 2006 20:28:39 +1000

Wing Man
How birding and blogging changed one soldier's time in Iraq

By  Emily Gertz
03 May 2006

Jonathan Trouern-Trend has been a dedicated bird-watcher since he was about 12. So in 2004, when the now 38-year-old Connecticut National Guard sergeant got sent to Iraq, he had birds on the brain. While stationed at Camp Anaconda -- a huge American installation located about 40 miles north of Baghdad in the Sunni Triangle near the Tigris River -- Trouern-Trend got to know the better birding spots on the base, including a small lagoon and the camp dump. Since he was working in intelligence, the base MPs didn't pay much attention as he peered through his binoculars. He recorded his observations anonymously on the blog Birding Babylon, and the matter-of-fact reports eventually attracted a wide readership.

Readers took solace in Trouern-Trend's observations of nature in the midst of a situation that seemed to be spinning out of control. "When I go to vote on Tuesday," wrote one blog commenter in September 2004, "I will look at the birds and take courage in the fact that -- as serious and as real as they are -- war and politics are only a small part of life." That same month, another wrote that she pictured Iraq "as barren and rubble! Who would have thought birds and butterflies would find havens there! We appreciate your reports and look forward to more ... and your safe return."

Trouern-Trend spent a little more than a year on active duty in Iraq and Kuwait, and saw 122 different bird species. His observations have now been collected in a slim, illustrated book also titled Birding Babylon, published by the Sierra Club. While it might seem impossible for a book about the Iraq war to leave politics aside, this volume is purely an appreciation of nature -- wherever it may be found.

Today Trouern-Trend is back home in Connecticut, where he works in epidemiology for the American Red Cross and has recently created an interactive site devoted to the natural biodiversity of Iraq. Grist spoke with him by phone a day after he had taken his five children to the zoo in Providence, R.I.



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