About NTS Seabirds

The Natural Travelling Society of Seabirds are a group of writers, photographers and bird lovers.

The best of friends are often made in the strangest of circumstances – such are the strange links that join together the disparate members of The Natural Travelling Society of Seabirds.

It all began with one man’s journey of disovery.

Jack Ladder was halfway through his Biology MSc and horrendously bored. He’d spent close to 6 years studying the microscopic biology of a bird that he had never seen in real life. His was a world where the second hand on the clock would progress with all the fervency of a snail traversing a hot desert.

Each week he would receive a brown envelope, post marked with an exotic stamp, inside he would find discreet plastic envelopes, each one containing a feather. He would scatter them over his desk each each week, creating a kaleidoscope of bright yellow hues, sparkling turquoises and deep reds – all the while wondering what kind of bird it could have possibly come from. Apparently the source of these feathers was on a need to know basis.

Jack’s job was a rather sad and menial one. He was tasked to pull each feather apart, until all that was left were a few small mounds of fibres. Each fibre was placed into a slide, along with a drop of preservative which sapped any remaining colour from the sample. Although he had initially been hired by the University to lead his own team of researchers, the situation had changed and he was given the choice of pulling apart feathers for half a year or signing on the dole.

Astonishingly – despite being the owner of an inquisitive mind, it took Jack five months to question where exactly these feathers were materialising from. When the next package materialised, he paused before opening it. Flipping it over, he closely examined the brightly coloured postage stamp, of which there were several, plastered to the road worn package.

One look at the stamps were enough to give him an idea. The words ‘Republik Indonesia’ were emblazoned on them, with little depictions of austere looking men, military vehicles and endangered animals. One in particular caught his eye.

The bird was a strange looking thing – bright red plumage gathered on the crest of it’s back, which faded out into a mottled brown. It’s legs were a bright blue, like that of an exotic ocean and it’s tail splintered off into thick curls – which seemed almost unnatural. A bright patch of yellow lay at the nape of it’s head, which was perhaps the strangest part of it. It’s small head was entirely black, save for a turquoise crown that covered the top of it’s skull. A fine lace of black lay in strips over this colourful cap.

Keeping one eye on the tiny stamp, lest the small bird fly from it’s paper confines, Jack pulled the feather samples from the envelope and scattered them on his desk. Whoever had painted the stamp had done a sterling job. The colours covering the table were an exact match to the ones used on stamp. Even from the tiny image, which could not have covered more than a couple of square centimetres, Jack admired the bird’s DNA and felt an instant pang of guilt when he looked down at the array of samples that littered his desk.

He decided then that he would not be pulling apart anymore feathers. He would not support a system that chose to punish creatures for being extraordinary and he would no longer work for a university that supported such research.

Within a week, Jack had handed in his letter of resignation and was on a flight to West Papua – in search of Wilson’ Bird-of-Paradise and the NTS Seabirds were born.