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A Global Birding Pioneer Finally Tells His Tale

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A review by Frank Izaguirre

Roads, Peoples, Birds, Mountaintops, & Billabongs by Dean Fisher

Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2018

500 pages, hardcover

ABA Sales / Buteo Books 14925

In To See Every Bird on Earth, author Dan Koeppel, while chronicling the first globetrotting birders, describes Dean Fisher: “When I first heard about Fisher, I didn’t believe he really existed, mostly because he’s not mentioned in the early accounts of listing that I’d seen.” For historians and enthusiasts of world listing and global Big Years, Fisher may be the most mystery-shrouded figure of the pantheon.

No more. 57 years after the completion of his three year round-the-world journey, Fisher has finally published an account of his and companion Noble Trenham’s avian-attuned odyssey, Roads, Peoples, Birds, Mountaintops, & Billabongs. For every birder who faithfully devotes a half-shelf or more to global listing chronicles like Noah Strycker’s Birding without Borders or Phoebe Snetsinger’s Birding on Borrowed Time, Fisher’s book is an instant must-own.

The quest begins in 1957, when Fisher obtains several days leave from his aircraft carrier, stationed off Japan, and attempts to summit Mt. Fuji. Already September, summiting season was closed, as the weather was unpredictable and the trail near the top was already covered in snow and ice, making the climb not only exceedingly dangerous but effectively impossible. Undeterred, Fisher attempts, very nearly succeeding before turning back amidst a series of hazardous and harrowing conditions. After this escapade, one of the carrier’s fighter pilots, Noble Trenham, approaches Fisher and asks if he would join him in traveling the world after the completion of their tours. They didn’t much know each other, but after hearing of Fisher’s Fuji attempt, Trenham had decided that was exactly the kind of spirit he wanted in a travel companion.

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