Report on BRUCE BEEHLER event, Nov 5, 2015:
ABC was very fortunate to snag Bruce Beehler to address the group and interested members of the public on November 5, 2015. Dr. Beehler is the Research Associate/Division of Birds, National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution, and the world’s expert on birds and wildlife of New Guinea, having made numerous trips there over the years and co-editing the essential birding guide to this remotest of islands.
The University of Puget Sound hosted this event, thanks to Tahoma Audubon past board member and director of the Slater Museum, Peter Wimberger. Jerry Broadus of ABC, a board member of Tahoma Audubon, introduced Bruce, and then the fun began!
Bruce started out with descriptions of the terrain (no roads possible!) and the people and customs. Having met Bruce now, we can see how his friendliness and interest made him friends everywhere he went, which was certainly necessary in some of the more remote areas such as the mountains of western New Guinea. Landing strips and helicopter pads are the only points of contact for much of this area. Aerial photos brought this home to us. Out of the trees, it could be very hot, but quite bearable in the shade, if a little damp.
The slide show then switched to flora and fauna. Even the flowers (world’s largest Rhody flower!) and rats (the largest in the world, reminiscent of Conan Doyle’s “giant rat of Sumatra!”). But the birds — Wow! From huge (Cassowary) to a miniature parrot! And two POISONOUS showy birds, which were personally tested by one of Bruce’s colleagues. Wouldn’t want that job! Although the exact poison is known, the mechanism of how it made it from plant to bird is still unknown.
Amazing bower birds and birds of paradise just amazed us! One bird of paradise was “discovered” several decades ago by identifying feathers in a native’s headdress! The Raggiana Bird of Paradise is New Guinea’s national bird — sure puts the Bald Eagle to shame!
Bruce told us the amazing story of having 60 Minutes do their famous piece on him and his work in New Guinea, sending the late Bob Simon out there with him plus a full camera crew shipped in from Africa. Bruce was amazed at the professionalism and the silent acceptance they all had of the obvious hardships and how they got the job done. Bruce’s contacts saved the day for the TV crew when their helicopter failed to materialize, though, as Bruce was able to get one right away from his contacts. This TV experience turned out to be a pivotal experience in Bruce’s career, rocketing him to stardom, so to speak. And well deserved! Bruce used some of their film footage in his presentation, and it was great!
Bruce brought along a few copies of his books for sale. THE BIRDS OF NEW GUINEA: SECOND EDITION sold out to our group within 5 minutes. Luckily he brought more copies of his newer book, LOST WORLDS, ADVENTURES IN THE TROPICAL RAINFOREST, which includes New Guinea and lots of Bruce’s other expeditions.
The full house gave Bruce a round of applause and a bunch of interesting questions.
Click on the image below to enlarge: