Fight or Flight

A soldier goes birdwatching in Iraq

Illustration: Jed Morfit

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When Sergeant Jonathan Trouern-Trend, an avid birder, deployed to Iraq with the Connecticut National Guard, he saw a chance to update his life list. His sightings are chronicled in his new book, Birding Babylon (Sierra Club Books).

2/15/04 I’m lying on the ground with my eye on some guy racing around in a pickup truck, wondering if he’s going to take a potshot at us (which would have been suicidal), while a pair of crested larks were not even 10 feet from me, the male displaying and dancing around.

3/16/04 Tomorrow I get to go on a run to the burn pit…. [The pit] is a big draw to gulls and crows, and I’m sure I’ll see something good in the gull department.

3/18/04 I think everyone thinks I’m doing security work when I’m looking into the distance with binoculars. I’m not sure what they think when I’m looking up in a tree.

5/14/04 On the way the helicopter hit a bird. It traveled through one of the windows near the pilot’s feet and into the helicopter…. The bird was a male pin-tailed sandgrouse. I’d like to see one alive, maybe later this year.

6/23/04 As I was watching some wood pigeons, a pair of F-16s came tearing down the runway…. The birds were unfazed.

1/27/05 Yesterday was my last day in Iraq for this deployment…. One day I hope to return, with binoculars but without a weapon.

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And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

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