Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My Fellow Travelers to PNG

Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Before we launch into the Papua New Guinea birding trip posts in earnest, I feel it might be helpful to introduce you to the folks on the trip—six Brits, one Canadian, and one American. Above is a shot I took of our group eating lunch in Tabubil. So here, in brief, are my fellow travelers:

The trip's organizer was Tim Appleton, MBE, one of the co-founders of the world's largest birding event The British Birdwatching Fair held annually at the Rutland Water Preserve in England. Tim has more stamps on his passport than the post office has for sale. And he's a jolly good fellow, despite having the initials MBE following his name (bestowed upon him for his good deeds in conservation by the Queen). We were required by the laws of the Commonwealth to refer to Tim as "His Lordship" during the trip.

Author, reformed twitcher, and world-class conversationalist Mark Cocker is perhaps best known for his many popular books on birds and nature, including Crow Country, Birds Britannica, and one of my favorites Birders: Tales of a Tribe. His new project is called Birds and People, which he's currently researching and writing. Mark saw it as his duty to interview nearly everyone we met, usually starting with the question: "Do you know anyone who does not chew betel nut?"

Ray Tipper is a talented bird photographer and a tour leader for Avian Adventures. He lives in Portugal, but lived for many years in Hong Kong. His deep knowledge of Asian bird life—especially shorebirds—makes him a valuable travel companion. Even more endearing is Ray's willingness to laugh at all of my silly jokes.

Matt Merritt is the features editor at Bird Watching magazine in the UK. He is a quiet fellow, and a deep thinker (the smoke in the above photo is actually being generated by Matt's mind). Matt maintains the Polyolbion blog, which is always interesting and readable. He is also a fine poet —you can read some of his work here.

Chris Collins was perhaps the birder on our trip with the most actual experience in the Central Pacific. He has led many extensive pelagic trips for WildWings. Chris came loaded with audio gear and bird song recordings, which netted us quite a few species we might otherwise have missed. He also single-handedly supported local artisans by buying their fine works of art.

Gavin Bieber (secretly Canadian) was the only other North American on the trip, which was great because he and I had no language barrier to overcome. Gavin leads birding tours for WINGS, and though he'd never been to PNG, he'd done so much homework in preparation for this trip that he knew more than any of us about PNG's birdlife.

Barry Trevis leads tours for Ramblers Worldwide Holidays. He's traveled extensively both as a guide and just for the heck of it, and he has the stories to prove it. At one point, when the birding was slow, Barry and I started quoting lines from our favorite movies. His imitations of Bruce Lee were totally hilarious. "Ahh, Mr. Braithwaite! Some tea?"

That's me (Bill of the Birds) with the gang, birding on the mountainside at Nick's Place on New Britain. Photo by Tim Appleton.

And that's the band of birders that participated in the fam trip to Papua New Guinea from September 24 to October 12, 2010.