What is it like following elusive Jewel Thrushes? One man shares his experiences with bird watchers in Milton Keynes

In February 2009, UK bird-watcher Chris Gooddie attempted to set a new world record by trying to see all of the world’s species of pitta in a single year.

Following conservative taxonmy, there are 32 different species of pitta Pittidae known to science, and no-one had ever attempted to see all the species in a year.

So far as is known, only two or three birders had so far managed to see all 32 species during a lifetime. Chris resigned from his full-time job as sales director for a professional audio company in order to attempt the feat.

Pittas are amongst the beautiful birds in the world, and as a result were originally called "Jewel-Thrushes" in many parts of Asia. They live in the rain forests of SE Asia, Australia and Africa, and are a highly secretive, terrestrial family.

Despite their gorgeous colours, almost all pitta species are elusive, and finding them requires experience, detailed site- and species knowledge, and precise field skills. A number of species are migratory, many are endangered, and a few species, such as Gurney's Pitta, (Pitta gurneyi, which is known only from one site in Southern Thailand and one site in Tenasserim, Southern Myanmar,) are on the verge of extinction.

Having run the London Marathon twice to raise funds to protect the remaining forests in which Gurney's Pitta survives, Chris was now looking forward to returning to the Thai forest in an attempt to see Gurney's Pitta again.

Chris's journey began in Southern Thailand, and during the following twelve months he travelled extensively in Thailand, Malaysia, Sabah, Vietnam, The Philippines, (Northern Luzon and Eastern Mindanao,) Taiwan, Indonesia, (Sumatra, Bali, Sulawesi, Halmahera, The Sula Islands, Flores, Sumba and Tanimbar,) Northern Australia, Sri Lanka, Manus Island, The Solomon Islands, Uganda and Zambia.

Chris will be talking about his experiences when he visits RSPB North Bucks Group at their indoor meeting on Thursday (Feb 8) at The Cruck Barn, City Discovery Centre, Bradwell Abbey.

Doors open at 7.15pm for a prompt start at 7.45pm. Members £3, visitors are welcome for £4 and children £1 with free tea/coffee and biscuits.


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