Bird-snapping leads to field guide

University of Otago bachelor of science student Oscar Thomas with his first book — A Naturalist’s...
University of Otago bachelor of science student Oscar Thomas with his first book — A Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds of New Zealand. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Lying in a cold wet bog; freezing on the side of a mountain; holding his stomach while rolling on rough seas in a fishing boat — Oscar Thomas would do just about anything to get the perfect picture.

Now, the 20-year-old bird photographer has just landed his first international publishing deal with a London publisher.

Mr Thomas said his Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds of New Zealand was a photographic identification guide to 238 bird species in New Zealand, which included the most commonly seen, unique and endemic species.

The University of Otago first-year bachelor of science student is one of New Zealand’s youngest nature photographers, and has provided the high quality photographs which are accompanied by detailed species descriptions, nomenclature, size, distribution, habits, habitat and the key sites for viewing the listed species.

His interest in birds began following a school visit to Tiritiri Matangi Island Sanctuary in 2010.

Since then, he has been photographing birds, and some of the photos in his book were taken when he was just 11.

"Over the years, I’ve been to some pretty rugged places to photograph birds — like the rock wren, which only lives on the mountain tops, so you have to walk up the side of a mountain for a couple of hours to find the habitat they live in.

"I also went to the Chatham Islands, where there was some very rough conditions in storms.

"I’ve been in some pretty inhospitable conditions and places to get photos."

Mr Thomas said his favourite bird was the "rare and ghostlike" kokako.

"It’s absolutely unique, preferring to leap and bound through the forest as opposed to fly, with a haunting drifting call reminiscent of an organ."

He was delighted recently, when he received a copy of his book in the post.

"I had a lot of fun working on it and I’m really glad to see it. It looks really amazing."

He said word-of-mouth about his book was already spreading far and wide.

"There’s definitely been a lot of early interest. A lot of people have sent me messages asking when it’s out and where they can get it from. I’ve been responding, asking how they knew about it."

As for whether there is another book in the pipeline, the young Aucklander said he was still considering his options, and was content for now to continue studying ecology, zoology and marine science.



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