When you learn a new language, it’s considered a milestone when you start dreaming in your non-native tongue. Similarly, I had never really worked with birds until I got my field assistant job in Peru, so I consider the following dream, which I had after about six weeks in Peru, to be an accomplishment:
I am walking down a generic suburban street when I spot an ibis on the sidewalk. It is glossy black, and I know there are two North American ibis species that fit this description—the glossy ibis, Plegadis falcinellus, and the white-faced ibis, Plegadis chihi—mind you, I don’t know the scientific names in my dream; I’m not that good. But I know how to tell these two species apart: obviously enough, the white-faced ibis has white on its face. The ibis on the sidewalk has a white face. Great. My bird ID skills have leached over into my dreams.
Then the ibis starts running at me, and I experience a jolt of terror as I realize ibises are related to cassowaries, which can seriously injure people when provoked. (It is not in fact true that ibises and cassowaries are related; apparently my bird taxonomy skills have not trickled into my subconscious.) At the last second, the ibis turns away, leaving two pieces of paper fluttering at my feet, and I realize that there was a Polaroid camera attached to the bird’s neck. One of the papers is a picture of my terrified face as I’m about to be murdered by a vicious ibis. The other is a colourful card explaining that this trained camera-ibis is part of an art project that involves taking pictures of people’s terrified faces as they’re about to be murdered by a vicious ibis. The card includes contact information for the artist who is running this project, and that artist is my MSc supervisor. I wake up bewildered and realize that neither of these ibis species lives in Peru.