Birdman from Oregon - NST
An American’s obsession with birds turns into a year of adventure and breaking world records. (Pictures courtesy of Noah Strycker)
I’d like to think I fell for Noah Strycker’s charm. Truth be told however, I almost fell onto the ornithologist instead, like a hurtling piece of timber.
The sun’s finally out after a whole morning of rain and the chugging of boats on the deceptively-calm bottle-green lake of the Royal Belum State Park cuts through the fog of silence hanging over the virgin jungle surrounding us.
We’re out on the Royal Belum International Hornbill Expedition at one of the world’s oldest rainforests organised by the Ecotourism & Conservation Society Malaysia (ECOMY) along with Perak State Park Corporation and Perak State together with the support of the Northern Corridor Implementation Agency (NCIA), Tourism Malaysia, Ministry of Tourism & Culture Malaysia, the Wild Bird Club Malaysia and NESt. International delegates, including Strycker, have travelled thousands of miles to arrive at this swathe of pristine tropical forest in search of hornbills.
The heat of the sun beating down our backs, our eyes squint tightly for any sudden sightings of the elusive birds. Meanwhile, Strycker’s holding on to his camera, poised like a sniper ready to take aim. Not long after, the roar of the engine signals that we’re moving to yet another spot, and just as we’re settling back into the boat, it lurches and hits a submerged tree stump. It’s barely a graze but to a little boat packed with birdwatchers, it’s a nasty jolt that sends us ricocheting off our seats and slamming into each other. In my case, I almost land back-first onto Strycker.
In a flash, his hands shoot out and stop me mid-fall. Never mind that it’s probably due to a survivalist’s reflex of save-or-be-crushed-by-falling-large-woman. Still, his quick instincts break my fall and I do nothing more than roll back and forth on my seat without much damage to myself or anyone else.