Book review: The Jewel Hunter.
Birdingblogs is doing far too few book reviews. But then again, others make great reviews, so to keep our readers updated, another strategy could be to share exceptional reviews from others. I really like Donna Lynn Schulman’s review on 10000birds of The Jewel Hunter (affilliate link) by Chris Goodie.
Chris quit his job and set off on a year long quest to see all 32 species of Pitta’s in a year in Tropical Asia. He succeeded and documents his adventures in this entertaining book that has been out for about a year now. Since we here at Birdingblogs love Pittas as seen from previous posts, we are posting an excerpt from Donna’s review here.
Gooddie gets the book off to a quick start by describing his love affair with pittas (“the ultimate forest prize”), and detailing his decision to give up a good career as sales director of an audio manufacturing company (“my life was out of whack”). It isn’t till his travels get under way that we learn, chapter by chapter, about the specific difficulties of locating and viewing pittas. The endangered Gurney’s Pitta is losing habitat due to deforestation. Black-faced Pitta is found only on one of the Solomon Islands (northwest of Australia). Schneider’s Pitta was thought to be extinct for over fifty years. So little is known about Green-breasted Pitta, that he cannot get a definite location for the bird, or a recording of its display call. (He does find out that some have recently been made when he arrives in Uganda, stupendous news). I get my own idea of the lunacy of Gooddie’s quest when I talk to a friend who has birded Asia and Africa. “I’m reading a book about a man who is doing a Pitta Big Year,” I say. He stares back at me, mouth open before exploding, “That’s insaaaane.” .
Each chapter of The Jewel Hunter reads like a mini-travel novel. Thankfully, stories of plane travel gone wrong are minimized. There is a lot more to tell: descriptions of remote villages, delicous exotic food, unusual exotic food, going hungry, preparations for treks into isolated jungle areas (does one buy Quaker Oats or a live chicken?), how guides and drivers are found and where they live and what their families and homes look like, birder friends who accompany him on some legs of his quest, and the quirky people he ends up sharing beers with, in bars in huts on stilts. Beer looms large in Gooddie’s daily routine, and much text is devoted to finding beer in the middle of rural Asia and evaluating its quality. If you want to travel the world birding and drinking beer, The Jewel Hunter is a must-buy.
Read the rest of Donna’s review on 10000Birds.
As for myself, I hope to get some Pitta close encounters when I visit Philippines in 2013. Here is a Red-bellied Pitta by Francesco Veronesi (Creative Commons Flickr) from the Philippines. Another reason to go. Join me.
Top Photo: Banded Pitta (male) from Thailand. Photo by Alex Vargas from his Birdingblogs post.
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