Working for birds in Africa

The Jewel Hunter

Fri, 12/21/2012 - 10:29 -- abc_admin
Chris Gooddie, 2010. Old Basing: Wild Guides. 424 pp, 136 photographs, 20 maps. Softback. ISBN 978-1-903657-16-4.
page 246

Chris Gooddie turned his back on a successful job in order to satisfy his dream to see every one of the world's 32 pittas in a single year. It is almost needless to say that he spent most of his time in Asia, but Gooddie also details his quest to find African Pitta Pitta angolensis and Green-breasted Pitta P. reichenowi in two chapters, and those who have tried to see these two skulking species will recognise the nature of his challenge! His writing style is clear, and his self-deprecating sense of humour makes the book an enjoyable read.

To satisfy his quest to see all of the pitta species, Chris travelled more than 200,000km through Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan, Sabah, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, Sri Lanka, Manus, and the Solomon Islands, as well as Uganda and Zambia. The task incredibly cost him nearly UK£30,000. Despite being a keen runner, he lost 13 kg in weight during his 'marathon' year!

To find Green-breasted Pitta, Chris travelled to south-west Uganda and allotted himself ten days to locate the bird. He succeeded on 25 July in Kibale Forest, where he managed to photograph it too. To find an African Pitta he travelled to Zambia and headed to the riverbeds near Siavonga, in the Lower Zambezi Valley close to the border with Zimbabwe. Finally, on 10 December, he managed to see the species, but not before a large amount of effort and perhaps the same amount of personal risk. Sadly, on this occasion, his camera failed to work while the bird posed in full view for ten seconds. As I read this, I felt Chris' mixed emotions in failing to obtain a photograph, while simultaneously realising his ambition to see every pitta in the world.

Although the focus of the book is pittas, Chris gives plenty of detail concerning the other birds he encountered during his travels - in fact he saw almost 2,000 species. This book is an interesting and enjoyable read, and made me want to get out birding, which seems an appropriate benchmark for any bird book.

Keith Betton

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