Birders meet – young David Tan chances upon Ben King in Central Park, New York

David Tan, a 3rd year undergrad on exchange at Yale University was finally birding at Central Park (New York) in the evening, after a self-imposed ban to complete his assignments.

Sleep deprived, he ran into this group of birders camped out around a particularly productive spot where several migrating warbler species were hanging out.

During the ensuing conversation, David mentioned he hailed from Singapore. One amongst the group mentioned that he knew several people from the Malaysian Nature Society – this didn’t ring any bells initially, until he introduced himself by his first name.

Then it all clicked, David says, because John Ascher, soon to be at the department in Singapore, had mentioned to David several months ago that Ben King was in the area and based at the AMNH.

An excited David announced this in all caps on Facebook page and his Facebook page was peppered with congratulatory (and facetious) posts.

Ben’s book (Ben King, Martin Woodcock & Dickinson, 1975. The Collin’s Field Guide to Birds of South East Asia. 480p.) was a bible for many naturalists starting out with birds in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

I asked David for the photo he thankfully took – and I am sure it will bring warm memories to many a biologist in this corner of the globe.

David Tan & Ben King

Ben King, Martin Woodcock & Dickinson

David Tan and Ben King chatted about the work which still needs to be done for the Southeast Asian birds, especially with little brown birds like flycatchers and babblers. This work is closely related to Frank Rheindt’s interests and to a lesser extent to David’s thesis work to come.

Buried in marking, I was really pleased to hear this news.

I have relied on birders for over three decades for the finer points. Ben King’s book was amongst the first bird book I referred to, and David is the latest of many birders I have consulted – before leaving for his stint abroad, he produced The Birds of NUS, a resource for undergrads.

A chance meeting with Ben King in Central Park? Well, you know what they say about birds of a feather.

One thought on “Birders meet – young David Tan chances upon Ben King in Central Park, New York

  1. An inspiring serendipity this one, Siva! Congrats to David for being in the right place at the right time, for the right reason! Like all Singapore’s ‘nature veterans’, I too have my treasured copy of Ben’s original field guide still nestled on my bookshelves here in Perth, alongside many of the later ones, by Morten, Kim Seng and so many others.
    Ilsa Sharp

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