Early in 2004, a National Guardsman from Connecticut arrived in Iraq for a year's posting. Sergeant First Class Jon Trouern-Trend had been a birder since age 12. So naturally he looked for birds--and found them in surprising number and variety around Anaconda Base in the Sunni Triangle, where he was stationed: old-world warblers near the laundry pond, kestrels at the dump, wood pigeons by the airstrip, owls on the cement bunkers. And whenever he got "outside the wire"--collecting water samples from the Tigris, delivering supplies to schoolchildren, at a forward operating base in Mosul, or on a trek to the ruins of ancient Babylon--his lifelist grew longer. From nearly day one until he left Iraq, Trouern-Trend wrote about his sightings in an on-line journal, which attracted thousands of readers and was excerpted in the press. Now some of the highlights of his "Birding Babylon" blog are collected in this small, beautiful volume, designed to resemble a birder's journal. In a Preface, the author looks back on his experience--and ahead to what the future might hold for the rooks, doves, storks, bulbuls, and sparrows of Iraq, and for its people.
This little book cuts through the politics of war like birdsong, reminding us of our imperishable connection with nature; of how birds and their journeys tie the world together; of the persistence of life even in a wasted land. It's a small act of grace.
Jonathan Trouern-Trend served with the 118th Area Support Medical Battalion in Iraq and currently works for the American Red Cross Blood Services in their Epidemiology and Surveillance program. He lives in Marlborough, Connecticut, with his wife and their five children