KingBird Tours' Poet Laureate, Lynn Barber, joined us for our May 2002 Sichuan Tour in West China, and regaled us with her talent for poetry.

Sichuan, 2002

Who is that masked man? Why, I think that it's Ben,
Leading a group to Sichuan again.
The time--it was May of 2002--and not having anything better to do,
I had joined with the birders, bound for the hills,
Looking once more for Mr. King's "thrills."
We first went to Wolong, the home of the Panda;
We laboriously climbed, a large mountain, and a
Great place it turned out to be,
For pheasants, warblers and tits in the trees.
As we drove to the pass, the world turned to snow,
With monals and partridges, above and below.
And then we turned north to the high endless plains,
Land of the skylarks, the ground-tits and cranes.
Yaks wandering everywhere; roads full of holes,
Marmots and pikas and sakers on poles.
The road to "Ju-jai-go" and nearby reserve,
I'll never forget, nor did I deserve!
But inside the reserve, Chinese Thrushes were found,
Rosefinches in bushes and grouse on the ground.
A day full of galliformes...partridge and pheasant,
In spite of the cloudiness, really quite pleasant.
I'll not dwell on the hours spent on the robin,
But the other new birds kept me from sobbin',
And then we turned south, to where we'd begun,
A trip full of wonder, exertion, and fun.


Ode to the Ferruginous Flycatcher

The ferruginous fly, the ferruginous fly,
He appeared one day, and a witness was I,
With his charcoal moustaches and little white chin,
An appearance calculated to make me grin;
Eyes white-encircled, ever-moving rufescence,
A small slice of lively, bright effervescence.


The Black-necked Crane (tune: "The Rain in Spain")

The crane, not in vain, we found mainly on the plain.
(In Taiwan, Hong Kong and Wolong, Gruidae hardly happen)
Once again, we found the crane, with no pain, without rain,
And where's that glorious crane? On the plain, on the plain.


Some Favorite Sichuan Things (tune: "Favorite Things")

Crag martins swooping round steep rocky crags;
Lammergeiers soaring, a wagtail that wags;
Cranes flying high with the sun on their wings,
These are a few of my favorite things.
Small buffy warblers that all look the same;
Firethroats a-glowing, and woodpeckers tame;
Fulvettas with splashes of orange on their wings,
These are a few of my favorite things.
Snow on the mountains and snow in the passes;
Larks flying high o'er the vast plains and grasses;
Snowcocks on mountains such happiness bring,
These are a few of my favorite things.
When the phone trills, when I pay bills, when I'm feeling stressed,
I'll simply remember my favorite things, and all that I loved the best.


Yak Lament (tune: "Oh Give Me Land, Lots of Land...")

Oh, see the yaks, lots of yaks, 'cross the vast Tibetan plains;
They're not fenced in.
See them graze 'til the grass disappears beneath the ground.
They're not fenced in.
See them run o'er the hills that are decimated,
'Til all the living things are extirpated.
Just thinking 'bout it gets me agitated.
They're not fenced in (please fence them in).



KingBird's poet laureate, Lynn Barber, found lots of inspiration for her talents on our 2001 Philippines Tour.


Waltzing Through Luzon (Tune: Waltzing Matilda)


Birding with KingBird, birding with KingBird;

We see the birds (or we think that we do).

Shamas and shortwings, babblers and small things;

Y'all come along, and you'll see them too.


1. Once a man named Ben took a group out to the Philippines,

Took them to the mountains and took them to the sea.

Everywhere they went there were birds beneath the underbrush.

Y'all come a birding to Luzon with me.


2. Then came the raptors, soaring o'er the mountain slopes,

Followed by owls hooting: one, two, three.

Then the hanging parrots, cuckoo-shrikes, and cuckoo-doves.

Y'all come a birding to Luzon with me.


3. Up flew the sunbirds, into a flowering tree,

Surrounded by flowerpeckers and white-eyes three.

Lots of lovely birds to elate the rabid birding folks,

Y'all come a birding to Luzon with me.



Luzon Eagles

'Twas our Philippine trip, and all through the bus,

Everything was rattling-it made such a fuss.

There was eagle-eye Eric; Bob and wife, Ann; Harriet; the punster;

All on the plan.

When what to our wondering eyes should appear,

But a Philippine Hawk-eagle;

We saw it quite clear.

His tarsi, how feathered, his breast beige and brown,

His eyes kept a look-out, upward and down.

I slowly approached, with my camera took sight,

His beauty spread forth, as he lifted in flight.

We boarded the bus, and our journey went on,

Exploring the wonders and thrills of Luzon.

Then out toward the mountains, there arose a big bird,

Its wings were immense, its size was absurd.

It was THE EAGLE-a spectacular feat:

Our trip one-third over, and yet was complete!



Furtive Flycatcher

The furtive fly, the furtive fly: it flits away in the blink of an eye.

And then I spy the furtive fly; no happier person exists than I.



Palawan Trail-Melodious Babbler

I walk along the trail, my eyes alert and bright,

Expectant and excited, tho' there's not a bird in sight.

I know they're in there somewhere-I can hear the chirps and trills.

And what's more, I've been promised that on this trip there'll be thrills.

Is that leaf really moving? Did a shadow just dart through?

Did I just glimpse a babbler? Was that the thing that flew?

It's there and then it's vanished. Oops-it flew across the trail.

If I stare through that opening, surely I'll not fail.

And then it sings behind me. The tape has lured it out.

Then there's five around me, and then I give a shout.

I see one really close, but of course, it plays its game.

Tho' only briefly viewed, a lifer just the same.



Negros White-winged Cuckoo-Shrike (Tune: Everything's Up to Date in Kansas City)

Everything's awfully wet on Negros Island;

A tropical depression's got us down.

My boots are filled with water, as we slog the slippery trail.

We saw the cuckoo-shrike, but then my legs began to fail.

We played the tape for babblers-alas to no avail.

We went about as fur as we could go.

And that's about as far as I can go.


Bohol Pitta, etc. (Tune: Over the River)

Over the river and through the woods, to Bohol we do go.

Our leader knows where, the birds to repair,

On ridges and outcrops, and so

Over the roots and the rocks and the mud,

The trogons and pittas we spy.

Hurrah for the hawk-cuckoo, fruit-dove, and kite,

Hurrah for another white-eye.

Cebu Flowerpecker Watch

We pass on by, the mangrove fly;

We're bound for flowerpeckers in the sky.

We park ourselves on bamboo shelves,

And wait for little things to fly.

"Tea for two," sings the cuckoo;

We wait another hour or two.

The coucal calls, as evening falls;

Bulbuls and drongos charge on through.

A pleasant day, that much I'll say;

As the hours of waiting slipped away.

Flowerpeckers swift, a mini-gift.

In days of sun, another ray.


Mindanao Medley

A maze of trails crosses the land

From the distant sea, to the hill where I stand.

The trees are tall, the canopy dense.

Our search for birds is quite intense.

A flock of white-eyes flutters by,

A fantail makes a constant cry.

A hooded sunbird probes the flowers.

We watch THE eagle sit for hours.

McGregor's cuckoo-shrikes flock by.

The ibons forage against the sky.

The Apo sunbird and the myna.

Really, nothing could be finer.

The flowerpeckers and racquet-tails:

Against these wonder, all else fails.



Philippine Birding-Advice to a Novice

Do you want to know how it is

To watch birds in the Philippine isles?

You take the very worst skulker that is,

And hide him behind brush piles.

You color him brown, with wee stripes,

And place him in sun-dappled shade.

You roll the rocks in red mud,

The slipperiest God ever made.

You hike through the forests and fields,

O'er mountains and down rocky dales,

You bring on the clouds and the rain,

Making rivers where once there were trails,

You play a tape of his song,

Every five minutes or so.

You squint and you peer and you listen,

And hope that the birdie will show.

Sometimes you do see the bird,

And marvel that luck's come your way.

Quite often, however, you'll need

To go looking on some other day.


Jeepney Exegesis

Poems in steel and paint they are,

Personalized with drivers' treasures.

Riding in one is another thing:

Not among life's greatest pleasures.

There's a cab in the front where the driver sits,

And a holding tank attached at the rear.

A narrow bench is on each side,

With space beneath to stow some gear.

Windows run along the walls;

An open doorway at the back.

No shock absorbers will you find:

A most regretful, tragic lack.

Each bump and hole jolts every bone,

And bumps there are, and holes to spare.

When it rains, plastic covers all,

Shutting out the view-and air.

Yet, all in all, a jeepney's good.

It gets one where one wants to be.

What it lacks in comfort, grace,

It makes up in efficiency.



Birding in the Rain

Just a-birding in the rain, getting soaking wet;

Hoping the next bird, will be the best one yet.

Just a-birding in the rain, deep among the trees,

Hoping that real soon, there'll be a little breeze.


Birds dart through the treetops; they just pass us by

Others squeak around us, and make me want to cry.

Just a-birding in the rain, down a soggy slope.

Each time there's a bird, I feel a burst of hope.


Just a-birding in the rain, with a group of five,

Wondering if we will see a bird alive.

Just a-birding in the rain, not an end in sight,

Knowing that the birds will still turn out all right.




KingBird's poet laureate, Lynn Barber, was on a recent Bhutan tour and shared some of her impressions of the tour with us.



by Lynn Barber

We are in Bhutan—a KingBird birding tour.

We are all fanatics, seeking more and more.

Raining, raining, raining, birding in the rain.

Clearly something's lacking where we ought to have a brain.

Other people's hell is our idea of fun.

Of course, we will not quit—we've only just begun!

Now our bus is swerving to avoid another cow.

Now we're in a snowbank, masquerading as a plow.

Now we're fording rivers, running gauntlets in the flood.

Now we're picking leeches, and mopping up the blood.

Every day is different; yet a pattern I have found:

Waking in the wee hours, walking 'til we're drowned.

Snoozing after lunching, running to the scope,

Getting way more birds than we had ever dared to hope.

Little chirps and twitters coming from the trees.

Fog is drifting o'er us, brought in on a breeze.

Do we ever stop, and wonder why we're here?

There's no time to do it, that's one thing that is clear.

Toes and joints are aching; we've walked another hill.

Ben, our leader's gloating; we've found another thrill.

Something flies above us; something lurks below.

Lifers we are finding everywhere we go.

Tragopans and trogons, minivets and more.

Babblers, barbets, buntings, bulbuls by the score.

Dapper drongos, dippers, laughingthrushes, too.

Magpies, mynas, minlas, robins full of blue.

Partridges and pigeons, fulvettas, forktails, crows.

We get birds with Ben, as everybody knows.




by Lynn Barber

(Tune: We Are Climbing Jacob's Ladder)

We are climbing Bhutan's mountains, We are climbing Bhutan's mountains,

We are climbing Bhutan's mountains, Birding Bhutan's hills.

Terraced slopes and water falling, And I hear a strange bird calling.

Oh, it's all just so enthralling, Birding Bhutan's hills.

Now it's getting awful foggy, And I'm getting very groggy.

And now I hear the barking doggie. Birding Bhutan's hills.

There are rocks on every trail, And cow-pancakes without fail.

As we walk o'er hill and dale, Birding Bhutan's hills.

Every switchback's higher, higher, And that bird's a flier, flier,

And the mountain's dryer, dryer, Birding Bhutan's hills.‘

Finding lifers, finding leeches, Hearing sighs, and hearing screeches,

learning lessons birding teaches, Birding Bhutan's hills.

Something's flying, to the right, Can you tell it by its flight?

A bit tricky, 'cause it's night. Birding Bhutan's hills.

What's that song? I'm sure I know it. If I I.D. it, I will blow it.

Where's a rock so I can throw it? Birding Bhutan's hills.

In the tree, out on the limb there, Just above the branch's bend there,

See the head; it seems it's red there. Birding Bhutan's hills.

Ben has found it, see, he's pointing, My head's bent back, neck's disjointing,

oh it's gone, so disappointing. Birding Bhutan's hills.

Oh, I've found it, what a blessing. No more questions, no more guessing (pause)

It's no lifer; how depressing. Birding Bhutan's hills.

In the end my list is longer, And my legs, they sure are stronger,

I'm a birder; I belong here. Birding Bhutan's hills.




by Lynn Barber

(Tune: K-k-k-katy)


B-b-b-bush-chat, B-b-b-bush-chat,

It's the only b-b-b-bird that I can see.

When the b-bus goes over the mountains,

It'll be waiting on each post, each bush, and each tree.