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Papua New Guinea,
A report on birds seen on a birding trip to Mainland Papua New Guinea from 23 July to 22 August 2006
Tari Gap (Central Highlands) – Papua New Guinea.(2600 m) 12-08-2006
Travelling to Papua New Guinea to observe among others a multitude of Birds of Paradise was a long standing wish of mine.
But every time something came up: It was either too expensive or it just did not fit into my summer holidays. After reading some reports about birds/birding in Papua New Guinea it was clear to me that to get the most out of my trip to this country I had to join an organised tour.
I opted for Sicklebill Safaris for several reasons. First of all they had an excellent itinerary, the leader (Ian Burrows) is an experienced birder in Papua New Guinea and though still expensive, it was cheaper than travelling/birding with the other large tour companies.
And so it happened that in July/August 2006 I was able to join a 4 week trip with Sicklebill Safaris to PNG.
And it turned out to be a very successful trip. Obviously I missed some hoped for species but on the other hand I also observed plenty of rare or very rare birds.
We found 24 species of Birds of Paradise, Salvadori’s Teal, New Guinea Flightless Rail, Chestnut Forest Rail, Lewin’s Rail, Shovel-billed Kingfisher, a whole set of beautiful Fruit-Dove species, Palm Cockatoo, Vulturine Parrot, Long-billed Cuckoo, White-crowned Koël, Dwarf Koël, Barred Owlet-Nightjar, Mountain Owlet-Nightjar, Archbold’s Nightjar, 12 species of Cuckoo-Shrikes, White-faced Robin, Garnet Robin, White-rumped Robin, Ashy Robin, Lesser Ground-Robin, Wattled Ploughbill, 6 species of Pitohui including good views of the difficult Black Pitohui, White-bellied Pitohui and Crested Pitohui, Painted Quail-Thrush, all 3 species of Jewel-Babbler, Blue-capped Ifrita, 5 species of Berrypecker, Sanford’s Bowerbird, Macgregor’s Bowerbird and for some Eastern Alpine Mannikin. For further details see annotated list.
I personally observed 362 species including 206 endemics and heard another 5.
I still have vivid memories of crisp mornings in fantastic, undisturbed habitat with beautiful views of the surrounding landscapes. Many mornings we set off in great anticipation of exciting things to happen. Birding in the Tari Valley, along the Pipeline road and in the Myola area is a magic experience indeed.
As many species are thinly distributed, birding is not easy but the rewards are great.
This report is largely based on the excellent report written by Ian Burrows of this trip and I am only giving a personal impression of it, including some extra info on sites.
FLIGHT - GETTING THERE
I booked a return flight from Amsterdam to Singapore with KLM. € 950, for this return flight.
I flew with a Dutch birding friend of mine, Wiel Poelmans, to Singapore and there we met Ian and the other members of the team. These were Mike Passant and his son Paul Passant, Simon Aspinall and Oliver Wardman from England, Brian Beers from the states and Karl and Ottile Rahm from Germany. It was my first organised birding trip and as such a new experience for me as well. The next 4 weeks all the logistics were taken care of by Ian and all we had to do was birding.
Our itinerary worked out fine. Transport on the ground was by minibus or 4-wheel drive vehicle and in the Kikori area by truck with a canvas roof.
We also used small planes to cover larger distances and to reach some remote areas.
Altogether we had 7 domestic flights. Once we had a 5 hour delay but otherwise no problems though we were lucky a few times. The pilot who flew in at Kikori to pick us up put the plane down on the unsurfaced runway in heavy rain on his third attempt.!! And when we left Tari for our flight back to Moresby it took all the negotiating skills of Ian to get us all on board of an overbooked flight.
The PNG currency is the Kina.
In July 2006 the exchange rate was 1€ = 4.1K.
I only needed some cash for buying souvenirs and especially beer.!!
When I arrived at Port Moresby I changed some cash at the airport.
We stayed at hotels/lodges of which the quality varied from good to basic.
Keep in mind that accommodation is generally expensive to very expensive in PNG.
FOOD & DRINKS
In most hotels/lodges the food was reasonable to good. The exception was Warili Lodge in the Tari Valley where in the beginning of our stay the food was below standard. After complaints by Ian the food readily improved for the rest of our stay.
The staff was obviously overstretched at the height of the tourist season.
Nice meals were prepared for us by local cooks at the Elevala River Lodge but I personally did not like the food prepared for us in Myola. But that might be caused also by the fact that I suffered from minor stomach problems at Myola.
The beer in PNG is good and Ian made sure that we had enough with us when we stayed at remote places.
HEALTH & SAFETY
Check with your doctor at home for the latest info for vaccinations and especially for malaria prophylaxis. There is a high risk of malaria in PNG.
We did not encounter many mosquitos during our trip and when we did only in the lowlands.
Chiggers and leeches can cause more problems and a good repellent is essential and I recommend to use this repellent liberally.
We encountered many leeches in the Elevala River area and here both repellent and leech socks were very useful.
Chiggers were a nuisance in lowland rainforest and also in grassland habitat.
Twice I had a minor stomach upset for 1-2 days but it never effected my birding.
We found the people in PNG generally very friendly and I never felt unsafe with the exception of the Port Moresby area. This is a potentially dangerous area and I strongly recommend not to walk alone, especially not after dark, in the Port Moresby area and if you have to go somewhere do take a taxi.
Allthough people are friendly towards tourists/foreigners they are very often not so friendly to each other. There are many, many tribal groups and clans in PNG and unfortunately there are still regularly violent clashes between them. At the end of our stay in Port Moresby, clashes during the night between 2 ethnic groups cost the lives of 5 to 6 people.
There are some very poisonous snakes present in PNG and any snake encountered should be regarded as poisonous and left alone.
WEATHER AND WHEN TO GO
On a trip to PNG you visit habitat from lowland rainforest to highlands so you have to be prepared for all kinds of weather conditions.
Hot and humid, wet and humid, wet, chilly and sometimes even cold weather can be expected. So you need the gear to cope with these circumstances.
One thing I strongly recommend is to bring a pair of rubber boots (called wellies by the brits) with you. These were extremely valuable in the lowland areas where heavy rain can transform the trails into small, muddy streams. I always carry a small umbrella with me on trips. This enables me to keep on birding in rainy conditions.
The weather was generally fine but we lost one full morning on the Pipeline Road, Kikori and one morning near Tabubil along the Ok Ma road because of heavy downpours.
The second day at Myola we were bothered by a nasty drizzle.
July to Oktober is generally considered the optimum time to visit PNG. Also because during this period the Birds of Paradise are most active and as a consequence most tour groups visit PNG then. During our stay we encountered Victor Emanuel Tours, Field Guides and 2 other birding groups.
A telescope is very useful in PNG as you often bird along wide tracks and dirt roads. Many times I had fantastic views of perched birds in the canopy in the scope.
I had also brought a small tape recorder with me for drawing in birds but unfortunately after 10 days I got problems with my mike (battery failure)
PACIFIC ADVENTIST’UNIVERSITY GROUNDS
This site is en route from Port Moresby to Varirata NP. It takes roughly 20 minutes by car from Port Moresby. Nowadays you need special permission to enter the grounds for birdwatching.
This site holds good numbers of waterbirds and is a reliable site for Spotted Whistling Duck and Green Pygmy Goose. The general area is also good for a variety of open country species.
Species observed by us include:
Australian Grebe, Little Black Cormorant, Little Pied Cormorant, Australian Darter, Great Egret, Intermediate Egret, Little Egret, Eastern Cattle Egret, Rufous-Night-Heron, Australian White Ibis, Spotted Whistling Duck, Wandering Whistling Duck, Green Pygmy-Goose, Pacific Black Duck, Whistling Kite, White-browed Crake, Dusky Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Comb-crested Jacana, Masked Lapwing, Emerald Dove, Peaceful Dove, Bar-shouldered Dove, Orange-fronted Fruit-Dove, Torresian Imperial Pigeon, Rainbow Lorikeet, Papuan Frogmouth, Common Kingfisher, Sacred Kingfisher, White-belied Cuckoo-Shrike, Streak-headed Honeyeater, Rufous-banded Honeyeater, Brown Oriole, Green Figbird, Black-backed Butcherbird, Fawn-breasted Bowerbird, Singing Starling and Grey-headed Munia,
VARIRATA NATIONAL PARK
This site is roughly an hour’s drive from Port Moresby and is certainly worth 3 to 5 days.
The habitat is mainly low, montane rainforest (800 m alt.) and hold some spectacular species. But it takes time, patience and luck to observe them as most are difficult to find.
We walked and birded along the Boundary Track, Varirata Lookout Trail, Gare’s Lookout Trail, River Trail, some smaller side trails and around the main picnic area.
Species observed include:
Long-tailed Hawk, Variable Goshawk, Collared Sparrowhawk, Gurney’s Eagle, Little Eagle, Black-billed Brush Turkey (H), Slender-billed Cuckoo-Dove, Great Cuckoo-Dove, Emerald Dove, Pheasant Pigeon, Wompoo Fruit-Dove, Pink-spotted Fruit-Dove, Ornate Fruit-Dove, Orange-bellied Fruit-Dove, Rainbow Lorikeet, Black-capped Lory, Buff-faced Pygmy-Parrot, Red-cheeked Parrot, Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo(H), Common Koël, Barred Mountain-Owlet, Glossy Swiftlet, Azure Kingfisher, Dwarf Kingfisher, Blue-winged Kookaburra, Yellow-billed Kingfisher, Brown-headed Paradise-Kingfisher, Rainbow Bee-eater, Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike, Stout-billed Cuckoo-Shrike, Yellow-eyed Cuckoo-Shrike, Boyer’s Cuckoo-Shrike, Common Cicadabird, New Guinea (Black) Cuckoo-Shrike, Varied Triller, Sooty Thicket-Fantail, Chestnut-bellied Thicket-Fantail, Black-faced Monarch, Black-winged Monarch, Spot-winged Monarch, Frilled Monarch, Leaden Flycatcher, Yellow-breasted Boatbill, Lemon-bellied Flycatcher, Olive Flycatcher, White-faced Robin, Golden-faced (Dwarf) Whistler, Grey Whistler, Rufous Shrike-Thrush, Hooded Pitohui, Rusty Pitohui, Crested Pitohui, Painted Quail-Thrush, Chestnut-backed Jewel-Babbler, Rusty Mouse-Warbler, Pale-billed Scrub-Wren, Green-backed Gerygone, Fairy Gerygone, Yellow-bellied Gerygone, Dwarf Longbill, Black Berrypecker, Papuan Flowerpecker, Black-fronted White-eye, Red-throated Myzomela, Papuan Blck Myzomela, Mountain Myzomela, Puff-backed Honeyeater, Mimic Honeyeater, Tawny-breasted Honeyeater, White-throated Honeyeater, Streak-headed Honeyeater, Helmeted Friarbird, Brown Oriole, Mountain Drongo, Spangled Drongo, Black-backed Butcherbird, Hooded Butcherbird, Glossy-mantled Manucode, Crinkle-collared Manucode, Eastern Riflebird, Magnificent Bird of Paradise (H), Raggiana Bird of Paradise, Grey Crow and Blue-faced Parrot-Finch.
OTHER SITES AROUND PORT MORESBY:
LEA LEA SALT PANS, HIRITANO HIGHWAY & HISIU MANGROVES.
These are not really essential sites on a trip to PNG but worth visiting for species not likely to be encountered at the other sites.
Species seen by us:
Great Frigatebird, Lesser Frigatebird, Little Black Cormorant, Little Pied Cormorant, Australian darter, Brown Booby, Great Egret, Intermediate Egret, Pacific Reef Heron, Striated heron, Australian White Ibis, Pacific Black Duck, Osprey, Whistling Kite, Brahminy Kite, Papuan Harriër, Variable Goshawk, Collared Goshawk, Australian Kestrel, Orange-footed Megapode, Red-backed Button-Quail, Purple Swamphen, Pacific Golden Plover, Greater Sand-Plover, Eastern Curlwe, Whimbrel, Common Sandpiper, Gull-billed tern, Common Tern, Crested Tern, Peaceful Dove, Torresian Imperial Pigeon, Dusky Lory, Rainbow Lorikeet, Red-cheeked Parrot, Pheasant Cuckoo, Little Kingfisher, Sacred Kingfisher, Collared Kingfisher, Rainbow Bee-eater, Dollarbird, Singing (Australian) Bushlark, Tree martin, Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike, White-winged Triller, Golden-headed Cisticola, Northern fantail, Willie wagtail, Black-faced Monarch, Leaden Flycatcher, Shining Flycatcher, Mangrove Robin, Large-billed Gerygone, White-throated Gerygone, Yellow-bellied Sunbird, Silver-eared Honeyeater, Dusky Myzomela, Graceful Honeyeater, Varied Honeyeater, Yellow-tinted Honeyeater, Rufous-banded Honeyeater, Brown Oriole, Green Figbird, Glossy-mantled Manucode, Fawn-breasted Bowerbird, Torresian Crow, Metallic Starling, Grey-headed Munia and Chestnut-breasted Munia.
KIKORI – PIPELINE ROAD
This is a huge area of undisturbed lowland rainforest, situated in the gulf coast area. The pipeline road (roughly 150 km. long) cuts through it and is the only access road to this forest from Kikori.
One needs special permission from the oil company to go birding in this area and as far as I know Sicklebill Safaris is the only organisation travelling to this destination.
We mainly birded along the road from Kikori to the oil base at Kopi and a few km. beyond it. The forest is unbelievable intact, there are no settlers along this road and the primary forest starts right next to it.
Another advantage is the fact that there is hardly any traffic on this road and only occasionally one meets a large truck of the oilcompany or a small pick-up truck with workers.
It is probably the only place in PNG where one stands a chance to observe the near-mythical New Guinea Flightless Rail. And we did.!!
We stayed at a small lodge (Delta Lodge) at Kikori, which was actually a real nice, small hotel. Lunch and dinner were served at the oil base and these were absolutely superb. We had the best meals of the trip at this place. We moved around in a large truck with a canvas roof on it.
Unfortunately we lost one full morning and again a few hours on our last morning because of very heavy downpours. But during the rest of the time the birding along this road was outstanding.
Species encountered include:
Crested Hawk, Australian Hobby, Black-billed Brush-Turkey(H), Orange-footed Megapode, New Guinea Flightless Rail, Great Cuckoo-Dove, Wompoo Fruit-Dove, Superb Fruit-Dove, Coroneted Fruit-Dove, Beautiful Fruit-Dove, Dwarf Fruit-Dove, Purple-tailed Imperial Pigeon, Pinon Imperial Pigeon, Zoe Imperial Pigeon, Palm Cockatoo, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Greater Streaked Lory, Black-capped Lory, Vulturine Parrot, Yellow-capped Pygmy-Parrot, Orange-breasted Fig-Parrot, Large Fig-Parrot, Red-cheeked Parrot, Eclectus Parrot, Papuan King Parrot, Briush Cuckoo, Long-billed Cuckoo, White-crowned Ko
ël, Common Koël, Lesser Black Coucal, Marbled Frogmouth, Glossy Swiftlet, Uniform Swiftlet, Papuan Needletail, Moustached Treeswift, Rufous-bellied Kookaburra, Blyth’s Hornbill, Hooded Pitta (H), Boyer’s Cuckoo-Shrike, Grey-headed Cuckoo-Shrike, Golden Cuckoo-Shrike, Varied Triller, Black Thicket-Fantail, Rufous-backed Fantail, Spot-winged Monarch, Hooded Monarch, Golden Monarch, Frilled Monarch, Black-sided Robin, Variable Pitohui, Blue Jewel-Babbler, Rufous Babbler, Yellow-bellied Gerygone, Black Sunbird, Papuan Flowerpecker, Long-billed Honeyeater, Scrub Honeyeater, Mimic Honeyeater, Graceful Honeyeater, Yellow-gaped Honeyeater, Tawny-breasted Honeyeater, Plain Honeyeater, Streak-headed Honeyeater, Helmeted Friarbird, Brown Oriole, Spangled Drongo, Lowland Peltops, Hooded Butcherbird, Black Butcherbird, Glossy-mantled Manucode, Twelve-wired Bird of Paradise, Metallic Starling, Yellow-faced Mynah, Golden Mynah and White-spotted Munia,
KUMUL LODGE – Mount Hagen
It takes 2 hours to reach Kumul Lodge (2800 m alt.) from Mount Hagen. Situated in the highlands with a great view of Mount Hagen the grounds and habitat around the lodge provide great opportunities for birdwatching.
We also visited an area near the village of Kwynyank along the Wabag Road. This is a stake-out for Lesser Bird of Paradise.
Species recorded include:
Black Kite, Chestnut Forest-rail, Black-billed Cuckoo-Dove, Goldie’s Lorikeet, Papuan Lorikeet, Plum-faced Lorikeet, Brehm’s Tiger-Parrot, Rufous-throated Bronze-Cuckoo, Mountain Owlet-Nightjar, Mountain Nightjar, Mountain Swiftlet, Island Thrush, Island Leaf-Warbler, Friendly Fantail, Dimorphic Fantail, Black-breasted Boatbill, Canary Flycatcher, Garnet Robin, Black-throated Robin, White-winged Robin, Blue-grey Robin, Rufous-naped Whistler, Brown-backed Whistler, Regent Whistler, Black-headed Whistler, Blue-capped Ifrita, White-shouldered fairy-Wren, Mountain Mouse-Warbler, Large Scrub-Wren, Buff-faced Scrub-Wren, Papuan Scrub-Wren, Brown-breasted Gerygone, Fan-tailed Berrypecker, Crested Berrypecker, Papuan Flowerpecker, New Guinea White-eye, Red-collared Myzomela, Grey-streaked Honeyeater, Belford’s Melidectes, Ornate Melidectes, Smokey Honeyeater, Long-tailed Shrike, Great Wood-Swallow, Lesser Melampitta, Loria’s Bird of Paradise, Crested Bird of Paradise, Ribbon-tailed Astrapia, Princess Stephanie’s Astrapia, Brown Sicklebill, Lesser Bird of Paradise, Sanford’s Bowerbird, Yellow-breasted Bowerbird, Blue-faced parrot-Finch and Mountain Firetail,
Another mountain area ( 2000 m alt.) in Owen Stanley range, just a short flight from Port Moresby.
It is an absolutely magical place.
We stayed at a kind of small deserted village at the end of a grassy airstrip in a beautiful valley. Right next to our accommodation on the surrounding mountain slopes, undisturbed, intact mountain forest.
We had to bring all our drinks & food with us on the plane.
A good sleeping bag is also advisable as it can get rather chilly at night.
Species observed by us:
Papuan Harriër, Collared Sparrowhawk, Little Eagle, Brown Falcon, Orange-footed Megapode(H), Blue-breasted Quail, Lewin’s Rail, Forbes’ Forest-Rail, Spotless Crake, Black-billed Cuckoo-Dove, Bronze Ground-Dove, Goldie’s Lorikeet, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Rufous-throated Bronze Cuckoo(H), Greater Sooty Owl(H), Mountain Owlet-Nightjar, Shovel-billed Kingfisher (H), Island Thrush, Tawny Grassbird, Friendly Fantail, Black Fantail, Dimorphic Fantail, Black-breasted Boatbill, Canary Flycatcher, Garnet Robin, Lesser ground-Robin, Black-throated Robin, Blue-grey Robin, Ashy Robin, Wattled Ploughbill, Rufous-naped Whistler, Brown-backed Whistler, Sclater’s Whistler, Regent Whistler, Black Pitohui, Black Sitella, Papuan Sitella, Papuan Treecreeper, Spotted Jewel-Babbler, Blue-capped Ifrita, New Guinea Logrunner, Mountain Mouse-Warbler, Large Scrub-Wren, Buff-faced Scrub-Wren, Papuan Scrub-Wren, Grey Gerygone, Brown-breasted Gerygone, Slaty-chinned Longbill, Mid-mountain Berrypecker, Fan-tailed Berrypecker, Streaked Berrypecker, New Guinea White-eye, Olive Straightbill, Red-collared Myzomela, Black-throated Honeyeater, Rufous-backed Honeyeater, Belford’s Melidectes, Smoky Honeyeater, Mountain Peltops, Lesser Melampitta, Loria’s Bird of Paradise, Princess Stephanie’s Astrapia, Brown Sicklebill, Macgregor’s Bowerbird, Blue-faced parrot-Finch, Eastern Alpine Mannikin and Grey-headed Mannikin
1. KM 17 north of Kiunga on the road to Tabubil
This is the display site of Greater Bird of Paradise. Just next to the road from the clearing you can observe through your scope the display spectacle high in the canopy.
The area is generally good for a couple of hours birding in the early morning or late afternoon and plenty of more common lowland species can be seen.
Species observed by us:
Great Cuckoo-Dove, Pink-spotted Fruit-Dove, Superb Fruit-Dove, Orange-bellied Fruit-Dove, Pinon Imperial Pigeon, Zoe Imperial Pigeon, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Black-capped Lory, Red-flanked Lorikeet, Red-cheeked Parrot, Eclectus Parrot, Australian Koël, Lesser Black Coucal, Rufous-bellied Kookaburra, Grey-headed Cuckoo-Shrike, Emperor Fairy-Wren, Green-backed Gerygone, Tawny-breasted Honeyeater, Streak-headed Honeyeater, Lowland Peltops, Trumpet Manucode, Magnificent Riflebird, Greater Bird of Paradise, Rraggiana Bird of Paradise, Grey Crow, and Yellow-faced Mynah.
2. Boys Town road
Another area near Kiunga, worth to spend a full morning or afternoon.
Species observed by us: Whistling Kite, Variable Goshawl, Grey-headed Goshawk, Slender-billed Cuckoo-Dove, New Guinea Bronzewing, Orange-bellied Fruit-Dove, Pinon Imperial Pigeon, Zoe Imperial Pigeon, Papuan Mountain Pigeon, Palm Cockatoo, Red-flanked Lorikeet, Double-eyed Fig-Parrot, Red-cheeked Parrot, Eclectus Parrot, White-throated Nightjar, Large-tailed Nightjar, Hook-billed Kingfisher(H), Dollarbird, Hooded Pitta (H), Boyer’s Cuckoo-Shrike, Emperor fairy-Wren, Scrub Honeyeater, Mimic Honeyeater, Tawny-breasted Honeyeater, Brown Oriole, Hooded Butcherbird, Trumpet Manucode, Magnificent Riflebird andWhite-spotted Munia.
3. Fly/Elevara River – Ekame Lodge
The boat trip to the lodge is already spectacular and from the boat one
has excellent opportunities to observe Raptors, Pigeons, Parrots etc. in
flight and especially along the smaller Elevala River birds along the edges
of the river.
The Ekame Lodge provides only basic accomodation and all the drinks & food has to be brought along from Kiunga. Toilets and washing facilities are also basic but the location of the lodge right on the shore of the Elevala River in the middle of excellent rain forest is more than enough compensation for these minor inconveniences.
Near the Ekame Lodge several trails gave access to lowland rainforest, temporary swamp forest and gallery forest along the river/streams.Species observed by us:
Little Egret, Striated Heron, Crested Hawk, Long-tailed Buzzard, Whistling Kite, White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Variable Goshawk, Grey-headed Goshawk, Black-billed Brush-Turkey(H), Slender-billed Cuckoo-Dove, Southern Crowned Pigeon, Wompoo Fruit-Dove, Superb Fruit-Dove, Beautiful Fruit-Dove, Orange-bellied Fruit-Dove, Pinon Imperial Pigeon, Collared Imperial Pigeon, Papuan Mountain Pigeon, Palm Cockatoo, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Greater Streaked Lory, Large Fig-Parrot, Red-cheeked Parrot, Eclectus Parrot, Australian Koël, Channel-billed Cuckoo, Greater Black Coucal (H), Greater Sooty Owl, Jungle Hawk-Owl, Papuan Nightjar, Moustached Tree-Swift, Hook-billed Kingfisher, Lesser Paradise Kingfisher, Common Paradise Kingfisher, Dollarbird, Blyth’s Hornbill, Hooded Pitta, Red-bellied Pitta, White-bellied Thicket-Fantail, Hooded Monarch, Golden Monarch, rilled Monarch, Black-sided Robin, Rufous Shrike-Thrush, White-bellied Pitohui, Rusty Pitohui, Variable Pitohui, Blue Jewel-Babbler, Emperor Fairy-Wren, Yellow-bellied Gerygone, Large-billed Gerygone, Black Sunbird, Yellow-bellied Longbill, Scrub Honeyeater, Obscure Honeyeater, Helmeted Friarbird, Lowland Peltops, Glossy-mantled Manucode, King Bird of Paradise, Twelve-wired Bird of Paradise, Spotted Catbird, Flame Bowerbird, Grey Crow, Metallic Starling, Yellow-eyed Starling, Yellow-faced Mynah and Golden Mynah.
The town of Tabubil is roughly 150 km north of Kiunga (a 3 to 4 hour drive) and is situated at about 600 m of altitude at the base of the Star Mountains. It is also one of the wettest places in PNG and is home to many employees of the nearby, huge Ok Tedi mine.
1. DABLIN CREEK (700 m alt.)
Dablin Creek lies a few km north of Tabubil and is a steep dirt track along a pipeline.
The first 2 km. are already very good for birding and it is here where we found most of the good stuff.
Species observed by us:
Long-tailed Buzzard, Brahminy Kite, Doria’s Hawk, Red-necked Rail, Pink-spotted Fruit-Dove, Beautiful Fruit-Dove,Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Red-flanked Lorikeet, Little Red Lorikeet, Orange-breasted Fig-Parrot, Blue-collared Parrot, Eclectus Parrot, Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo(H), White-eared Bronze Cuckoo, Dwarf Koël, Mountain Kingfisher, Stout-billed Cuckoo-Shrike, Black-shouldered Cuckoo-Shrike, Grey-headed Cuckoo-Shrike, Golden Cuckoo-Shrike, Varied Triller, Northern Fantail, Black Fantail, Black Monarch, Black-winged Monarch, White-rumped Robin, Sclater’s Whistler, Rufous Shrike-Thrush, Hooded Pitohui, Fairy Gerygone, Dwarf Longbill, Obscure Berrypecker, Western Mountain White-eye, New Guinea White-eye, Mountain Honeyeater, Spotted Honeyeater, Tawny-breasted Honeyeater, Plain Honeyeater, Meyer’s Friarbird, Ornate Melidectes, Smokey Honeyeater, Mountain Peltops, Hooded Butcherbird, Black Butcherbird, Carola’s Parotia, Magnificent Bird of Paradise and Grey Crow.
2. OK MA ROAD
This is a road south-west of Tabubil and it takes 25-30 minutes to reach this site.
It was here that we found Shovel-billed Kingfisher and it is one of the best places in PNG to track down the Greater Melampitta.
Species observed by us:
Great Cuckoo-Dove, Greater Streaked Lory, Eclectus Parrot, Rufous-bellied Kookaburra, Shovel-billed Kingfisher, Stout-billed Cuckoo-Shrike, Black-shouldered Cuckoo-Shrike, Grey-headed Cuckoo-Shrike, Golden Cuckoo-Shrike, Northern Fantail, White-rumped Robin, Rusty Mouse-Warbler, Mountain Honeyeater, Spotted Honeyeater, Tawny-breasted Honeyeater, Hooded Butcherbird, Black Butcherbird, Greater Melampitta (H) and Grey Crow.
3. OK MENGA (700 m alt.)
A huge dam in the ? river.
Species observed by us: Salvadori’s Teal, Torrent Lark, Torrent Flycatcher.
1. TARI GAP ROAD ( including side trails of this road)
The Tari Gap road is in this report the road from the Warili Lodge at about 2000 m.altitude to The Tari Gap itself at 2700 m alt. (roughly 15 km. from Warili Lodge)
Sites include the Stephen’s Trail which start just opposite Warili Lodge, the area higher up the road around the Ambua Lodge entrance and the small garden nearby, the Bailey bridge area, Benson’s trail (closer to the gap itself) and the main area just before and right at the top (Gap) of the road.
The road transects fantastic highland habitat, mountain slopes covered by beautiful moss forest. As the road is almost devoid of traffic, roadside birding can be very productive.
Species seen by us:
Brahminy Kite, Black-mantled Goshawk, Collared Sparrowhawk, Brown Quail, Buff-banded Rail, Black-billed Cuckoo-Dove, White-breasted Fruit-Dove, Papuan Mountain Pigeon, Goldie’s Lorikeet, Papuan Lorikeet, Plum-faced Lorikeet, Yellow-billed Lorikeet, Orange-billed Lorikeet, Brehm’s Tiger-Parrot, Madarasz’s Tiger-Parrot, Papuan King Parrot, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Greater Sooty Owl, Mountain Swiftlet, Hooded Cuckoo-Shrike, Black-bellied Cuckoo-Shrike, Island Thrush, Island Leaf-Warbler, Tawny Grassbird, Friendly Fantail, Dimorphic Fantail, Black Monarch, Black-breasted Boatbill, Canary Flycatcher, Garnet Robin, Lesser Ground-Robin, Black-throated Robin, White-winged Robin, Blue-grey Robin, Wattled Ploughbill, Mottled Whistler, Rufous-naped Whistler, Brown-backed Whistler, Sclater’s Whistler, Regent Whistler, Papuan Treecreeper, Spotted Jewel-Babbler, Blue-capped Ifrita, New Guinea Logrunner, White-shouldered Fairy-Wren, Mountain Mouse-Warbler, Perplexing Scrub-Wren, Large Scrub-Wren, Buff-faced Scrub-Wren, Papuan Scrub-Wren, Grey Gerygone, Brown-breasted Gerygone, Slaty-chinned Longbill, Fan-tailed Berrypecker, Tit Berypecker, Crested Berrypecker, Papuan Flowerpecker, Western Mountain White-eye, New Guinea White-eye, Red-collared Myzomela, Black-throated Honeyeater, Marbled Honeyeater, Yellowish Streaked Honeyeater, Rufous-backed Honeyeater, Grey-streaked Honeyeater, Yellow-browed Melidectes, Smoky Honeyeater, Great Wood-swallow , Mountain Peltops, Black Butcherbird, Loria’s Bird of Paradise, Short-tailed Paradigalla, Ribbon-tailed Astrapia, Princess Stephanie’s Astrapia, Lawe’s Parotia, King of Saxony Bird of Paradise, Superb Bird of Paradise, Brown Sicklebill, Sanford’s Bowerbird, Macgregor’s Bowerbird, Blue-faced Parrot-Finch, Papuan Parrot-Finch, Mountain Firetail and Hooded Munia.
2. BENARI ROAD
Lower down from Warili Lodge, along the main road to Tari a dirt road branches off to the left . This is the so-called Benari Road. It goes down to a valley and then up to a forested ridge. The lower altitude means that another set of species are to be expected here.
Species observed by us:
Papuan Mountain Pigeon, Yellow-billed Lorikeet, Blue-collared Parrot, White-crowned Koël (H), Mountain Kingfisher(H), Black Monarch, Sclater’s Whistler, New Guinea White-eye, Marbled Honeyeater, Lawes’ Parotia, Superb Bird of Paradise, Black Sicklebill, Blue Bird of Paradise and Macgregor’s Bowerbird,
Day 1: Sunday July 23 To Singapore
At 16.00 pm. I took the train from Eindhoven to Schiphol Airport Amsterdam. During a stop at ‘s Hertogenbosch I was joined by Wiel Poelmans.
We left Schiphol at 21.30 pm for Singapore where we arrived at 15.30 pm on July 24.
Day 2: Monday July 24 Port Moresby - PNG
Arrival Singapore at 15.30 pm. The stopover planned at Singapore was 5 hours, before we would continue to Port Moresby but the flight was delayed because of the late arrival of the plane. In the airport lounge we met Ian and the other members of the team and so we had plenty to talk about. Of course about birds and birding trips.
Finally just after midnight we left for Port Moresby. During this flight I happened to sit next to 2 other British birders Richard Fairbanks and his friend Nick Preston. It was their second trip to PNG and they had joined a group led by Jon Hornbuckle. Their main objective was to find species missed during their first trip and to visit some new sites. One of it was a visit to Manaus for Superb Pitta.
Day 3: Tuesday July 25 Port Moresby – Varirata N.P.
Arrival at Port Moresby at 7.30 am but without my luggage. Fortunately we would be based at Port Moresby for a couple of days before we would travel further inland so this should be sufficient time to retrieve my luggage. If not I would be in trouble.
At the airport I also met Jon Hornbuckle with whom I corresponded for many, many years already and this was the first time I met him in person.
After dropping our luggage at the Hideaway Hotel, close to the airport and also on the right side of town near the access road to Varirata National Park, we drove towards Varirata.
Our first stop was at the Kokoda Trail Monument where we observed our first endemics, including the uncommon Grand Munia. We also recorded Grey-headed Munia, Yellow-faced Myna, Fawn-breasted Bowerbirds, Grey Shrike-thrushes, Pied Chats and a few obliging White-shouldered Fairy-Wrens.
We then travelled further to Varirata National Park and near the entrance gate we found a Yellow-billed Kingfisher in the Casuarina trees, which gave excellent views in the scope.
We spent quite some time in the main picnic area. Along the edges we observed Pink-spotted and Beautiful Fruit-Doves, Boyer’s and Yellow-eyed Cuckoo-Shrikes, Streak-headed Honeyeater and a pair of Brahminy Kites.
We tried the Tree-house Trail for Brown-headed Paradise-Kingfisher but dipped. We did see Black Berrypecker, Chestnut-bellied Fantail, a flock of Black-fronted White-eye whilst the lower part of the picnic area held Frilled Monarch, Spot-winged Monarchs and a Papuan Flowerpecker. All in all, a very good start of the trip.
At dusk we drove back to Moresby and most of us fell asleep during the ride. After dinner we went to bed early.
Day 4: Wednesday July 26 Port Moresby – Varirata N.P.
We started the day with a very early breakfast, which set the routine for nearly every day on this trip. After a one hour drive with our minibus we arrived at dawn at the entrance gate of Varirata NP. We started to bird the first part of the Boundary Track. We heard Painted Quail-Thrush , a pair of which inhabit the first part of the track, but they remained invisible.
On our way back we had excellent views of several Brown-headed Paradise-Kingfishers.
Birding was slow until we ran into a small feeding flock. Mountain Drongo was the best bird in this flock which also contained Frilled Monarch, Hooded and Rusty Pitohui and a Dwarf Honeyeater.
We also had excellent views of a Buff-faced Pygmy-Parrot gleaning a nearby tree trunk, our first Leaden Flycatchers and Lemon-bellied Flycatcher.
Near the main picnic area Daniël showed us the tree in which the head of a roosting Barred Owlet-Nightjar was protruding from a tree hole.
We bumped into Jon’s group and showed them the bird as well.
After studying this bird in the scope we again spent some time in the main picnic area where we were able to obtain good views of Pink-spotted and Orange-bellied Fruit-Doves, a single Ornate Fruit-Dove and a Crinkle-collared Manucode.
Next we explored the Varirata Lookout Trail which gave us Olive Flycatcher, Grey Whistler and Stout-billed Cuckoo-Shrike. The clear view from the lookout across the valley was fantastic and from this viewpoint we observed our first Long-tailed Buzzard, several Grey Crows and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos.
Ian took us to a relatively new lek site nearby for Raggiana Birds of Paradise and at least 4 males performed for us the moment we reached the site.
It was already dark again when we reached the Hideaway Hotel in Port Moresby.
Day 5: Thursday July 27 Port Moresby – Varirata N.P.
Just after dawn we arrived again at Varirata NP. 30 minutes later as planned because of a puncture. This time we explored extensively the Gare’s Lookout Trail. This trail is said to be particularly good for Chestnut-backed Jewel-Babbler and White-faced Robin. The first one eluded us but we had good views of several White-faced Robins along the trail. Other species encountered were Black Cuckoo-Shrike, Hooded and Rusty Pitohui, Papuan Black and Mountain Red-headed Myzomela, a Blue-faced Parrot-Finch, several Black-fronted White-eyes, Black-winged and Frilled Monarch, Yellow-breasted Boatbill, the beautiful Dwarf Whistler, Fairy Gerygone, Yellow-bellied Gerygone, Green-backed Gerygone and another Mountain Drongo.
I also had brief views of a perched female Eastern Riflebird and in the same area a male flew over the trail.
Afterwards we slowly birded our way down along the entrance road of the park. An Azure Kingfisher was observed at the stream, in the eucalyptus trees White-throated Honeyeater gave great views, a soaring Little Eagle and briefly a rather distant Gurney’s Eagle.
After a nice lunch in the field we travelled back towards Port Moresby and spent the afternoon at the grounds of the Pacific Adventist University where we searched and found a good range of marshland and savanna species including Great, Intermediate and Little Egrets, Pied Herons, Cattle Egrets and a few Rufous Night-Herons.
A good life bird for me was Spotted Whistling Duck of which we observed a small flock roosting in the nearby albizzia trees accompanied by Pied and Little Cormorants.
The ponds at the university grounds held Pacific Black Ducks, Wandering Whistling Ducks, a single Green Pygmy-Goose, Australian Grebe, Comb-crested Jacana and a White-browed Crake.
It took some time before we found 3 Papuan Frogmouths roosting in one of their favourite trees. Other notable birds include our only White-bellied Cuckoo-Shrikes of the trip, a few Brown Orioles and Black-backed Butcherbirds. Before we left we visited a bower of a Fawn-breasted Bowerbird.
When we arrived back at our hotel I was very relieved to find out that my lost suitcase has turned up. From Singapore it had travelled to Manilla, Sidney and on to Port Moresby.
Day 6: Friday July 28 Port Moresby – Kikori – Pipeline Road
Before dawn we were at the airport for our flight from Port Moresby to Kikori in the gulf area, only to find out that our flight was delayed until late morning.
So instead we first birded the scrub area around Jackson’s Airport which produced the only White-faced Heron of the trip, an Australian Hobby and a few Singing Bushlarks.
Another short visit to the Pacific Adventist University gave us Australian White Ibis, a flock of Rufous Night-Herons and a feeding flock of Rainbow Lorikeets.
Finally we set off for our next destination, Kikori. Normally Ian put his groups up at the Oil Search base at Kopi but this time the accommodation was full so instead we stayed at Delta Lodge and CDI in Kikori. I stayed at the rather pleasant Delta Lodge. We were transported along the Pipeline road from Kikori to Kopi and beyond by a big covered lorry provided by Ken Webb, manager of the Oil Base and a good friend of Ian.
After dropping our luggage at our hotel we immediately left for the pipeline road.
We birded from this road the area just before and after the Kopi Oil Base and new birds came fast.We had excellent scope views of Superb Fruit-Dove, Coroneted Fruit-Dove, Pinon Imperial Pigeon, Torresian Imperial Pigeon, Greater Streaked Lory, Vulturine Parrot, our first Papuan Needletails, Rufous-bellied Kookaburra, a beautiful male Golden Monarch, Golden Myna and flyby’s of 2 female Twelve-wired Bird of Paradise.
After an excellent dinner at the Oil Base we drove back to Kikori where we had some well deserved beers, organised by Paul.
Day 7: Saturday July 29 Kikori – Pipeline Road
Well before dawn we were on our way to K170 along the Pipeline Road, where an obvious bare tree top right next to the road is the display tree of a male Twelve-wired Bird of Paradise.
We arrived at dawn and we did not have to wait long before we had fantastic views in the scope of a displaying male. He went through the whole display routine and this spectacle was until now the highlight of the trip. We could actually count the wires.
But it would become even better. At one time I looked to the right along the road when suddenly a large rail appeared on it at a distance of roughly 50 meters. I whispered to the others:”to the right on the track, a rail”. I slowly swung my scope on the bird and seconds later I was watching a New Guinea Flightless Rail in full frame in the scope. It slowly crossed the road and was then followed by a second individual. We all had good views of this extremely rare bird.
We birded all morning along the Pipeline Road between K170 and K155 (Kopi Oil Base).
Excellent and close flight views of several Vulturine Parrots, scope views of a perched Palm Cockatoo and the only Dwarf Fruit-Dove of the trip.
I taped in a Black-sided Robin and along a small side trail I had good views of a pair of Blue Jewel-Babblers.
Actually we spent the whole day along this road intercepted only by an extensive lunch break at the Oil Base.
New birds added to our list included Purple-tailed Imperial Pigeon, Zoe Imperial Pigeon, White-crowned Koël, Moustached Treeswift, Blyth’s Hornbill, Grey-headed Cuckoo-Shrike, Golden Cuckoo-Shrike, Black Thicket-Fantail which took some time to get good views, Rufous-backed Fantail, Hooded Monarch, a pair of Golden Monarchs, Variable Pitohui, Lowland Peltops, Long-billed Honeyeater and Glossy-mantled Manucode.
Careful checking of Meliphagas gave us Mimic Meliphaga, Graceful Meliphaga and Yellow-gaped Meliphaga.
In the afternoon we eventually found up to 5 White-spotted Mannikins in some riverine scrub.
All in all it was an exceptional good day, one of my best birding days ever. Undisturbed habitat, fine weather and exceptional good species.
And there was still more to come. When we drove back to Kikori we discovered
a Frogmouth in the spotlight which turned out to be a Marbled Frogmouth.
When we continued we
observed no less than 5 different birds before we reached Kikori.
Day 8: Sunday July 30 Kikori – Pipeline Road
Unfortunately the weather had changed dramatically during the night and when we woke up in the early morning we were greeted by very heavy rain.
We had to wait until 10.00 am., before the rain finally ceased and we were able to start our birding but we had obviously missed the early hour activity.
Untill noon we birded again from K170 to K155 and in the afternoon beyond the base to K158. It was rather sticky and humid but still we managed to record several new birds.
I was one of the lucky ones to have brief but good views of a rare Long-billed Cuckoo.
Other new species seen were among others Lesser Black Coucal and a flock of Rufous Babblers. Hooded Pitta was heard several times.
And again we recorded several Marbled Frogmouths on our way back to Kikori.
Day 9: Monday July 31 Kikori – Kiunga – K120 – Ok Menga - Tabubil
We had planned to bird a couple of hours in the early morning along the Pipeline Road but again we were hampered by heavy rain. In fact we were quite lucky to get out of this place today as the pilot, who was supposed to fly us to Kiunga, succeeded only at his third attempt to put his plane down on the runway. He later told us that it was a rather tricky landing and if this attempt had failed he had to decide to leave the area without trying again.!!
We were lucky not to have been stranded and so we continued relieved to Kiunga where we arrived around noon.
Originally we would do the Kiunga/Elevala river leg first and then the Tabubil area but that way we would get into “conflict” with another group of birdwatchers and so Ian had decided to do the original itinerary in reverse. After a brief stop at Kiunga Guest House where we had lunch, we drove on to Tabubil together with our local guide, Kwiwan.
During a road stop at K120 we saw the striking different endemic race of Little Ringed Plover (by some considered a full species) and late afternoon found us at Ok Menga near Tabubil. Apparently, Salvadori’s Teal had become very difficult to see nowadays and our first scan from the viewpoint above the dam was unsuccessful. We did see Torrent Flycatcher and then checked the stream upwards from the dam for Torrent Lark which also eluded us. When we returned to the viewpoint Ian and I discovered simultaneously a pair of Salvadori’s Teal swimming in the stream below us and they could be observed in the scope for roughly 10 minutes before they flew off.
Very satisfied we drove on to our base for the next couple of days, hotel Cloudlands in Tabubil.
Day 10: Tuesday August 1 Tabubil – Dablin Creek – Ok Ma Road
Dawn saw us at Dablin Creek. We birded uphill on a wide dirt road which follows a pipeline.
All the good stuff can be found along the first 2 to 3 km. along this road. As soon as we started we observed most likely the best species of the day. An adult Doria’s Hawk feeding a recently fledged juvenile which was calling continuously. Higher along the road we heard and saw Carola’s Parotias in a fruiting tree. Most of them female plumaged birds but also 2 males, which appeared briefly. I had brief but good views of a perched male.
We also studied a calling Mountain Kingfisher in the scope. Other notable birds seen that morning include a female Magnificent Bird of Paradise, Long-tailed Buzzard, female Dwarf Koël, White-rumped Robins, Blue-faced Parrot-Finches and at least 3 Mountain Peltops.
On our way down near the start of the road, I discovered an Obscure Berrypecker which was observed by everybody at close range. This is one of the best sites in PNG to see this rare but otherwise drab-plumaged bird.
In the afternoon we birded along the Ok Ma road, another site near Tabubil. There was little activity and birds of note were Black-shouldered Cuckoo-Shrikes and 2 female plumaged Greater Birds of Paradise. However, the best was yet to come. We waited for dusk and when Ian played the tape for Shovel-billed Kingfisher we got an immediate respons and after a few tantalising minutes the bird flew in and gave brief but good views. It was the climax of yet another good birding day.
Day 11: Wednesday August 2 Tabubil – Ok Ma Road – Ok Menga – Dablin Creek
At dawn we were back at the Ok Ma road. The Shovel-billed Kingfisher called but failed to show. Unfortunately this morning was rained out and ruined our only chance to get to grips with Greater Melampitta. We visited a few sites where the species had been observed in the past, played the tape but did not get a respons.
We again visited Ok Menga in pouring rain and this time the river had swollen considerably and there was no sign of Salvadori’s Teal or Torrent Lark.
In the afternoon the rain ceased and we birded the Dablin Creek area. Rather quiet also.
Two Beautiful Fruit-Doves gave good views and Blue-collared Parrots and Little Red Lorikeets flew over. A little disappointed we returned to hotel Cloudlands.
Day 12: Thursday August 3 Tabubil – Ok Menga – K17 - Kiunga
Today we travelled back from Tabubil to Kiunga. We again visited Ok Menga and this time we finally tracked down a pair of Torrent Larks and Great Woodswallows overhead.
En route we checked a site where in the past Golden-backed Whistler was regularly observed.
We did not find the whistler but saw our only perched Vulturine Parrot of the trip.
Closer to Kiunga we stopped at K17 which produced 5 male and three female Greater Birds of Paradise in the display tree as well as a perched Trumpet Manucode and a few Great Cuckoo-Doves.
We spent the night at the Kiunga Guest House.
Day 13: Friday August 4 Kiunga – Elevala River – Ekame Lodge
Today we would travel to the heart of tropical lowland forest to the Ekame Lodge along the Elevala River. So it was with great anticipation when we set off up the Fly River before dawn.
The sunset was fantastic and birding from the boat gave us large numbers of Imperial Pigeons which were mostly Collared but also Pinons and a male Twelve-wired Bird of Paradise which crossed the river. As soon as we left the Fly River for the Elevala River we had close views of a perched Palm Cockatoo.
About halfway we stopped at Kwiwan’s village where we observed a female Flame Bowerbird feeding in a fruiting tree in the village garden area. But it was already too late in the day for any males to show up.
When we continued up the river we saw Channel-billed Cuckoos but the highlight was the observation of three perched Southern Crowned Pigeons along the edge of the river which gave stunning views. At one time one bird flew off, passed the boat and flew heavily across the river in full view. One of our target species scored before we had reached our destination!!
After settling in at the Ekame Lodge we then explored the trails upriver. But first we indulged ourselves in insect repellent brought by Ian for the occasion. According to him the area is notorious for leeches, ticks, chiggers etc. so we made sure that we were well protected.
Actually Ian gave us advice not to wash ourselves in the evening, to keep the layer intact for the next day!!
On the trails we had to work hard for our target species. Common Paradise Kingfisher was easily located but we only heard Lesser Paradise-Kingfisher as well as Black-billed Brush Turkey. We found a Beautiful Fruit-Dove on the nest just next to the trail.
Highlight of the afternoon was the resident male King Bird of Paradise which gave great views as he displayed from the vine tangles in the trees.
On our way back the only Large Fig Parrots of the trip were seen and we were lucky to observe a Papuan Nightjar as it hawked for insects over the river at dusk.
Back at the lodge when we were enjoying an excellent dinner prepared by our local cooks , Kwiwan came up to us announcing he had a Sooty Owl in the spotlight. A fine end to a first great day in this area.
Day 14: Saturday August 5 Trails and river Ekame Lodge area.
At dawn we were back on the trails and this time, with some effort, we all got good views of the rare Lesser Paradise-Kingfisher. With just a little break for lunch at noon we continued birding all day on the trails. And with success.
As I was walking first in line I was lucky enough to observe briefly a perched Papuan Boobook. Unfortunately the bird flew off before others could connect with it.
Other species encountered were a pair of very obliging Blue Jewel-Babblers, good views of both Hooded and Blue-breasted Pittas and another perched Palm Cockatoo.
In an area of recently flooded forest we were eventually rewarded with great scope views of Hook-billed Kingfisher and in the same area we found the local White-bellied Pitohuis which were very vocal but quite elusive and it took some time before we all got good views of this species.
We also walked to a site where Kwiwan knew Yellow-eyed Starling can be observed. This is a very enigmatic species and can often be completely absent from the area or on the contrary rather common. This time we saw a couple of hundred Yellow-eyed Starlings stripping palm leaves to build a huge communal nest.
We also managed views of White-bellied Thicket-Fantail and a perched Long-tailed Buzzard along the river.
A close body inspection in the evening revealed that I had a few nasty insect bites on my legs, despite all the repellent used by me. Again a nice dinner in the evening with plenty of beer, brought with us from Kiunga.
Day 15: Sunday August 6 Ekame Lodge – Elevala/Fly River - Kiunga
This morning we explored some trails near the lodge itself. We had good views of 2 Spotted Catbirds and poor views of Obscure Honeyeater.
Late morning we started our return trip to Kiunga. From the boat we observed our first Grey-headed Goshawk but unfortunately I missed the male Flame Bowerbird which crossed the river.
As soon as we had dropped our gear at the Kiunga Guesthouse where we had a well needed good shower and lunch we headed to K17.
Absolutely fantastic show of displaying Greater Bird of Paradise and some Raggiana Birds of Paradise in the display trees. We spent 2 hours of relaxt birding in the area before we returned to Kiunga. During a stroll along the main road Wiel and I briefly observed a female Magnificent Riflebird.
Day 16: Monday August 7 Boystown Rd – Kiunga – Mnt. Hagen – Kumul Lodge
Before dawn we headed for the Boystown road. In the headlights of the car White-throated and Large-tailed Nightjars were seen but I only saw the latter.
We spent some 2 hours in the area, which were obviously not enough. A New Guinea Bronzewing responded to a playback of its call and at one time it flew low out of cover but I did not see it well enough to identify it properly.
Late morning we flew to Mount Hagen for our first high altitude New Guinea birding.
After arrival it was a two hour drive uphill to Kumul Lodge, our base for the next 3 nights.
Kumul Lodge is a really nice place to stay. Fine accommodation, good food,
great scenery and undisturbed habitat with plenty of good stuff.
As soon as we were settled in we started to bird around the lodge and new birds came fast. Soon we were treated to close views of several stunning species as these are remarkably tame thanks to the embargo on hunting that has been imposed on the area by the local landowners.
Most notably were a female Brehm’s Parrot, three Brown Sicklebills, Island Thrushes, White-winged Robins hopping among the flowerbeds, Belford’s Melidectes, Common Smoky Honeyeaters and Grey-streaked Honeyeaters feeding from the garden flowers.
From the balcony one has a good view of the feeding table and the birds attracted by the fruit put out for them by the Lodge staff, gave excellent photographic opportunities.
Other species recorded included Black-breasted Boatbills, Brown-backed Whistler, Rufous-naped Whistler, gorgeous Crested Berrypeckers, Ornate Melidectes, our first Mountain Firetail and 2 immature Ribbon-tailed Astrapias.
In the evening we met two other birding groups Victor Emanuel Tours with David Bishop and Field Guides with Phil Gregory.They had a lot to talk about with Ian.
In the evening we had great views in the spotlight of a perched Mountain/Archbold’s Nightjar in the nearby garden.
Day 17: Tuesday August 8 Kumul Lodge
We spent all day on the trails around the lodge and the lodge area itself. The weather was excellent, fine temperatures and sunny.
On one of the smaller trails Ian taped in a Chestnut Forest-Rail and this bird gave amazing close views and at one time almost walked over my foot!
Unfortunately we had news that the hoped-for Rufous Woodcock has not been seen for quite a while now. But there is still a lot to be seen. Inevitable I missed birds seen by others and the other way around. Painful was the dip of a female Crested Bird of Paradise which I just saw fly off and unfortunately the bird could not be relocated.
New species seen today included Papuan Lorikeet, Goldie’s Lorikeet, Mountain Swiftlet, tame Mountain Mouse-Warblers, 3 species of Scrub-wren, Dimorphic Fantail, Canary Flycatcher, 3 Regent Whistlers including a fine male, Fan-tailed Berrypecker, several female plumaged Loria’s Bird of Paradise, at least 10 Ribbon-tailed Astrapias including several fully plumaged males with long white ribbon tails swinging behind them and 2 Stephanie’s Astrapias.
A search in the evening for Mountain Owlet-Nightjar proved unsuccessful.
Day 18: Wednesday August 9 Kumul Lodge – Kwinyank Village
We had received info that near the village of Kwinyank it was possible to find Lesser Bird of Paradise. So before dawn we drove to this village to start our, from time to time, steep ascend to the actual display site.
However, before we got there, we witnessed an extraordinary spectacle. A huge diesel tanker had crashed in a roadside ditch and people came from all sides, by foot, bike and car, carrying everything from fifty gallon drums to buckets and jugs to get hold of some of the “free”oil.
I reminded me of scenes in India or Africa of vultures creeping under and over each other at a carcass. Incredible sight but it meant that we lost time as we gradually picked our way through the traffic jam of passing scores of vessel carriers in the next few kilometres.
So we almost arrived too late in the territory of our target species after an unexpectedly long and sweaty uphill scramble. After a nerving 20 minutes or so a male Lesser Bird of Paradise appeared in the trees on the opposite hillside. We eventually saw 3 males and a female.
In the process we also observed 3 Yellow-breasted Bowerbirds, Black-billed Cuckoo-Doves, Blue-faced Parrot-Finches, Island Leafwarbler and Ornate Melidectes.
A dispute between the landowner and a intruder who made a lot of fuss towards us was followed by a chase of this intruding person along the steep hillsides by several locals.
Another interesting experience. On our way down we scored Black-headed Whistler. The afternoon we birded the Lodge gardens again.
During dinner we observed a Mountain Nightjar from our dinner table.
Later we initially did not succeed in finding Mountain Owlet-Nightjar but I decided to try again later that evening together with the local guide John and this time with success. Excellent and close views of the bird when everybody else was already deep asleep.
Day 19: Thursday August 10 Kumul Lodge – Tari – Warili Lodge – Steven’s Trail
We left Kumul Lodge early in the morning and after an uneventful drive to the airport in Mount Hagen we flew to Tari in the Tari Valley, which is probably the best known birding area in Papua New Guinea. In Tari we met Steven who owns Warili Lodge and Thomas our driver for the next couple of days in the Tari area. It took almost 2 hours to reach Warili Lodge, just before lunch. The lodge has a basic but nice sitting/dining room in traditional Southern Highland style with a large fireplace in the middle of it. Very convenient in the evening as it can get rather chilly. The rooms were ok but the communal toilet and the 2 showers (hardly working) were actually below standard and need improvement in the near future. But the only other option in the area is the outrageous expensive Ambua Lodge which is a few km. further up the Tari Gap road. If you are prepared to pay almost $300,- a person a night than Ambua would be your choice.
Another problem was that the accommodation in Warili Lodge was overbooked. Steven had also booked a group of French hikers who at that time were doing a hike to one of the native villages and were expected to arrive later that day.
A walk around the lodge with Wiel gave us Marbled Honeyeater and Yellow-browed Melidectes.
After lunch we headed for the Steven’s trail opposite Warili Lodge where we spent all afternoon. Hard work but we saw several Papuan King Parrots, our first Yellow-billed Parakeets, Blue Grey Robin, Sclater’s Whistler, my only Slaty-chinned Longbill, a female Lawe’s Parotia and best of all 2 Yellow-streaked Honeyeaters.
When we returned to the lodge we heard that Steven had quite some discussions with the newly arrived French hikers and saved the situation by transporting them to another hotel in Tari. This was certainly not an option for our group!!
Day 20: Friday August 11 Warili Lodge – Benari Road – Bailey Bridge – Tari Gap
Today was my birthday and probably the best birding day of the tour. We were treated to fantastic views of a whole set of great birds including 7 species of Birds of Paradise.
Heni, our local guide, took us along the Benari Road to his home and after a short wait we had stunning views of a male Blue Bird of Paradise in his garden. We then continued to the next ridge and on a narrow trail into the forest. Here we had great views of a male Macgregor’s Bowerbird by his bower and while we were watching this bird suddenly a Black Sicklebill started to call from nearby. It then flew in and perched close to us, calling loudly and giving excellent views. What a bird and the sight of this rare, huge black & blue bird with its extraordinary long tail, constantly calling was for me the highlight of the trip.
Along the same trail we enjoyed twice good views of a male Lawe’s Parotia near to his display area and at least 3 male Superb Birds of Paradise.
Other birds of note were a pair of Black Monarchs and a mixed flock of Capped and New Guinea White-eyes.
After lunch we drove up to Tari Gap where our first stop was at the Bailey bridge. We spent quite a while in the area where we saw a large flock of Tit-Berrypeckers, 2 Stephanie’s Astrapias and briefly a Black-mantled Goshawk crossing the road.
At Tari Gap itself we observed Plum-faced Parakeet and a male Brehm’s Tiger-Parrot but the best bird and the seventh Bird of Paradise that day, was a male King of Saxony Bird of Paradise calling from high on a dead tree.
Back at the lodge we celebrated my birthday with some extra beer.
Day 21: Saturday August 12 Warili Lodge – Ambua – Benson’s Trail – Tari Gap
Dawn found us at a small garden, a few hundred meters up the road from the entrance of the Ambua Lodge. Here we had excellent views of a very obliging male Short-tailed Paradigalla which fed in a fruiting tree. We then continued to the Bailey bridge when Ottie noticed that one of the car’s rear wheels had a very unhealthy wobble. A close inspection showed that the wheel had only one lose bolt holding it. Thomas “quickly”removed some bolts from the spare wheel and fit them on the rear wheel. That was a narrow escape.
Up at the bridge a male Garnet Robin was seen by some of us but I just missed it.
We also spent quite some time along the Benson’s Trail. Though I found it difficult birding with a group on a small trail we did remarkably well. We saw female Loria’s Bird of Paradise, female Brown Sicklebill, three female Ribbon-tailed and two female Stephanie’s Astrapias. Highlight was the bouncing courtship display of two males King of Saxony Bird of Paradise on a vine and the whole spectacle was observed on eye level at a distance of less than 10 metres.
Then, at the start of the trail Ian was alerted by the harsh calls of Sanford’s Bowerbird and we were treated to an amazing display of two males and two females feeding and calling in the canopy of a large tree.
The last hour of daylight was again spent in the small garden where we started our birding this morning. And it turned out to be a successful hour as we added Blue-capped Ifrita and a pair of Wattled Ploughbill to our list. Some saw also briefly a Papuan Treecreeper in the garden.
During our dinner a little incident occurred as 3 of our group received rotten eggs. And one thing you do not need on a birding trip and that is getting sick because of food poisoning and certainly not in a remote area in PNG. Ian was not amused and he made his point very clear to Steven , who promised that it would not happen again. As a result we received a very special dinner the next evening.
Day 22: Sunday August 13 Warili Lodge – Benson’s Trail – Tari Gap
Today we drove straight up the Tari Gap road to the start of the Benson’s Trail. Our main objective was to try for ground dwelling species along this trail.
Excellent views were had of 2 different Lesser Ground Robins, a pair and 2 female New Guinea Logrunners and only Ian saw briefly a Spotted Jewel-Babbler.
Lesser Melampitta was heard but it was not tape responsive.
In the afternoon we birded the upper part of the Tari Gap road. Best bird was a perched Black-mantled Goshawk which Karl picked out at long range.
Steven has kept his word and he served us an excellent meal in the evening.
In the evening we also released the Sooty Owl which was confiscated by us from Steven.
Steven had bought it from some local kids who apparently killed one bird of a pair and captured the other one. Steven kept it in a closet and Simon was sure that if we did not release it soon it would most likely succumb to the situation. The bird was handled by Simon who had experience with raptors, though he was bitten anyway. After taking some pictures of the owl we released it in the garden.
Day 23: Monday August 14 Ambua – Tari – Port Moresby
Our last morning was spent in the grounds of Ambua Lodge but unfortunately our birding was hampered by a mean drizzle. Still we managed to ad an immature Madarasz’s Tiger-Parrot to our list and we had also good views of Stephanie’s Astrapia, female Loria’s and Superb Birds of Paradise in the same tree as the Tiger-Parrot. Another addition was a pair of Hooded Cuckoo-Shrikes further down the valley.
Then it was time to leave. Our plane came in a little late and it was thanks to the negotiating skills of Ian that we were all able to board our plane as it turned out that the flight was heavily overbooked.
We again checked in at the Hideaway hotel and this time we opted for a somewhat more luxurious room than last time. In the afternoon we just relaxed in our hotel room.
Day 24: Tuesday August 15 Port Moresby – Varirata N.P. – Lea Lea
At dawn we were back in Varirata national Park which was disappointedly quiet although the Boundary Track produced a couple of Pale-billed Scrub-Wrens.
In the afternoon we visited the Lea Lea area, a mangrove area with some salt pans. Also not very productive and actually not an essential site on a trip to PNG.
We saw Brown Booby, six Lesser Frigatebirds from the beach and Graceful Honeyeater, Mangrove Gerygone and Mangrove Robin in the mangroves.
In the adjoining grasslands we flushed a Red-backed Button-Quail and two immature Papuan Harriërs were patrolling the area.
Day 25: Wednesday August 16 Port Moresby – Hiritano Highway – Hisiu mangroves
Again before dawn we drove along the Hiritano Highway to Hisiu mangroves. Most notable was a male Great Frigatebird among a flock of Lesser Frigatebirds, at least four Orange-footed Scrubfowl, the only Little Kingfisher of the trip, four Collared Kingfishers and four Mangrove Robins.
A stroll through the dry savanna on the way back produced two White-throated Gerygones and a White-winged Triller. A stop at the Aroa Service Station gave us Yellow-tinted Honeyeater which was common.
Day 26: Thursday August 17 Port Moresby – Varirata N.P.
Again to Varirata National Park. The plan was to bird thoroughly along the Boundary Track to look for some difficult species we missed so far.
Birds were sparse but it was quality we scored. Ian taped Painted Quail Thrush and with perseverance most of us (I certainly did) had good views of a pair of this skulking species.
The same applied for Chestnut-backed Jewel-Babbler which I briefly saw in response to tape playback. Other species seen were Wompoo Fruit-Dove, Mountain Drongo, Dwarf Whistler, White-faced Robin and a pair of Buff-faced Pygmy-Parrots.
Later along the Gare’s Lookout Trail we struggled to obtain reasonable views of a pair of very vocal but also very elusive Crested Pitohuis. Three of us continued on the trail and just around the corner stumbled on a Pheasant Pigeon, walking right in the middle of the trail. Obviously I was not one of them.
On the way back we stopped at the PNG Arts shop where we bought some souvenirs and added Silver-eared Honeyeater to our list.
The last part of our day was spent preparing our gear and supplies for our final part of the tour: Myola.
At the last moment there had been a change of plans which meant that we would travel to Myola one day later as planned and as a result we would also return one day later to Port Moresby. I definitely did not like that because it meant that we would fly from Myola to Port Moresby and then a couple of hours later our flight would leave from Port Moresby to Singapore and then further to Amsterdam. But if anything would happen (weather conditions for instance) and the pilot would not be able to land on the grass strip in the Myola area we would be in big trouble because we would miss our international connection that way.
Day 27: Friday August 18 Port Moresby - Myola
Early in the morning we set off the Jackson’s Airport for our chartered flight to Myola, in the Owen Mountains behind Port Moresby. First our flight was delayed because of foggy conditions in the Myola area and then it turned out that our plane was overweight which meant that at least two people had to stay behind. Ian, as organiser of the trip had agreed to take a local chief and one of his tribesmen with us to attend a funeral in a village in the mountains. The situation was already tense because of some local political problems in the recent past and when they received word that they could not come along with us the situation became rather ugly in the departure lounge. However, careful negotiation by Daniel, local representative of Sicklebill and responsible for the logistics, got us and most of our supplies airborne but with the chief and without our cook and his helper.!
It was only a twenty minute but spectacular flight to Myola over forested mountains. The way the pilot descended and flew into this beautiful valley was a memorable experience indeed. As we touched down on the grass airstrip we were surprised to find the whole area deserted..
At the end of the airstrip some basic huts were erected and this would be our base for the next couple of days. Two of these huts would be used for sleeping, one as a dining room and one with a huge open fireplace as a kitchen. Also 2 basic toilets and a dripping tube for basic washing.
Right next to the huts slopes with undisturbed forest. There is only one trail going through it and this gives access to the interior to the forest. It was an absolutely magical place. No electricity, no cars, no other people, no noise.
In the immediate vicinity of the camp was a small marshy area and with some patience excellent views were had of Spotless Crake and Lewin’s Rail. We also checked a favourite daytime roost in a tree hole close by of Mountain Owlet-Nightjar and sure enough we found it there. Since we had done a lot of montane birding earlier, we focussed mainly on finding the species we missed so far. As we had the place for ourselves we could do whatever we wanted. So regularly I wandered off alone and at other times I birded with one or two others of the group.
Birding at the edge of the grassland/forest gave us Brown Falcon, some Papuan Harriërs and from the grassland itself we flushed Blue-breasted Quail.
That afternoon I spent quite some time at the forest edge just behind our little village.
Here I observed Dimorphic Fantails, Sclater’s Whistler, Regent Whistler, Rufous-naped Whistler and some Brown-backed Whistlers, a female Mid-mountain Berrypecker, Fan-tailed Berrypecker and had good views of a Black-throated Honeyeater.
A small stroll into the forest gave me Wattled Ploughbill and Ashy Robin but not a sniff of Lesser Melampitta.
As I had some minor stomach problems I did not eat much of the food prepared by Daniël and Ian with so much dedication. In the evening we tried for Feline Owlet-Nightjar but nothing.
Tired I rolled myself in my sleepingbag and despite the rough wooden “beds” and despite the heavy snoring of some people I slept remarkable well.
Day 28: Saturday August 19 Myola
Today I devided my time between birding along the forest edge near our settlement and walking up and down the trail going through the forest.
In the early morning we heard a Shovel-billed Kingfisher call from the slope above our settlement but it did not come down.
Some people were lucky to observe some very tame Eastern Alpine Mannikins near our huts which unfortunately flew off never to be seen again. Some consolation for me was that at the same time I was chasing of the track after a calling Spotted Jewel-Babbler which eventually gave brief but good views. So now I have succeeded in observing all three species of Jewel-Babbler in PNG.
Other birds seen today included Blue-capped Ifrita, Black-throated Robin, Ashy Robin and unexpected views of a male Black Pitohui, a very obliging Papuan Treecreeper, a small flock of Black Sitellas, Blue-faced Parrot-Finch, a nice male Loria’s Bird of Paradise (up to now we had only seen females) , Brown Sicklebills and a male Stephanie’s Astrapia.
Day 29: Sunday August 20 Myola
Unfortunately the weather had changed and part of the day, birding was hampered by an ugly drizzle.
I birded all day around our camp and along the trail. Saw at least 3 New Guinea Logrunners, three times a Papuan Treecreeper, one Mountain Peltops and species seen the day before.
Highlight was the observation of a Streaked Berrypecker which was seen by me and Wiel.
A little nervous I went to sleep as the drizzle continued into the night and I was wandering if the pilot could land in this type of weather the next morning.
Day 30: Monday August 21 Myola – Port Moresby - Singapore
Fortunately the weather had cleared overnight and we still had a couple of hours of birding before the plane would arrive.
An adult Bronze Ground-Dove was the last addition to my list when we heard the unmistakable sound of an approaching plane. We quickly took our gear on board and within 30 minutes we were airborne and flying out of this magical valley.
In Port Moresby we had a much needed shower and then we prepared for our flight home.
At the airport we met Richard Fairbanks and Nick Prestom again who had successfully scored Superb Pitta on Manaus. We said goodbye to Ian who had been an excellent tourleader and companion during this trip and then we left for Singapore.
In Singapore we said goodbye to the other members of the team. After a 5 hour wait we left Singapore at 22.30 pm.
Day 31: Tuesday August 22 Singapore – Amsterdam - Eindhoven
At 5.40 am, we arrived at Schiphol airport, Amsterdam. We took the train to Eindhoven where I arrived at 8.45 am (Wiel got out at ‘s Hertogenbosch), I was picked up by my father, drove home, took a shower, shaved myself and at 10.00 I was addressing my students.
I have to admit that by mid afternoon I was pretty exhausted. But it was all worthwhile. It was just a minor inconvenience to get to the country of the Birds of Paradise.
If I may, I want to give some advice for future birders, planning to visit PNG.
Visiting PNG is generally an expensive business and you first have to decide how you want to visit the country. Most people will want to get the most out of their trip and try to go on an organised one. I can certainly recommend Sicklebill Safaris LTD. They are also not cheap but less expensive than the big tour companies and they offer more.
As far as I know they are the only ones offering Kikori/The Pipeline Road and Myola in their itinerary. Furthermore Ian Burrows is both a good organiser as well as an excellent birder spending quite some years in the country, birding all corners of it.
On the other hand, having done the trip now I am convinced that small independent teams can also do it. But it will take some preparation!!
Get 4 to 6 people together, let one of the local tour operators organise the logistics (flights/accomodation) and contact the local guides. It is important that you try to plan your trip outside the period, roughly from mid june to the end of september, because in that period the guides are very often occupied.
A suggestion could be:
Heni, the local guide can assist you here. He can be contacted through Steven.
Visiting these areas for 4 weeks would certainly give you plenty of good birds.
You could also ad four extra days to your trip and fly to Mount Hagen and travel from Mount Hagen to Kumul Lodge (2 hour drive). The owners of Kumul Lodge can arrange transport for you. Excellent birding just around the lodge.
Geldrop January 2007
The trip to Papua New Guinea was a great success. The birding was not always easy but the rewards were often great when you finally succeed.
Our itinerary was fine but I would have liked an extra day in the Tari area and Tabubil area.
I personally observed 362 species in PNG, including 206 endemics and heard another 5.
Difficult to say what was the best species seen on this trip as we saw so many good ones.
The rarest bird was undoubtedly the New Guinea Flightless Rail crossing the road along the Pipeline Road. But the huge Black Sicklebill with his extremely long tail, perched in a tree, constanly calling along the Benari Road in the Tari Gap area was for me bird of the trip.
Species missed by me and seen by others of the team were:
Forbes’Forest Rail was seen at Myola.
Painted Tiger-Parrot, a female at Kumul Lodge.
Dusky Lory, 3 seen in flight along the Hirotano highway
White-throated Nightjar along the Boystown road near Kiunga.
Dwarf Kingfisher: observed twice at Varirata NP.
Sooty Thicket-Fantail: Twice seen at Varirata NP.
Garnet Robin: female at Kumul Lodge, a male at the Bailey Bridge, Tari Gap and a pair at Myola.
Mottled Whistler: A female near the Bailey Bridge, Tari Gap
Papuan Sitella: a small flock at Myola.
Olive Straightbill: 1 at Myola.
Lesser Melampitta: 1 at Kumul Lodge and 2 at Myola.
Crested Bird of Paradise: a female was briefly seen twice at Kumul Lodge.
Papuan Parrot-Finch: 1 near Ambua Lodge.
Eastern Alpine Mannikin: 2 briefly at Myola.
Some species possible and hoped for on this trip but not encountered were:
New Guine Harpy-Eagle Rare, possible at Varirata, Elevala River and Tari Gap area.
Meyer’s Goshawk Rare, possible around Tabubil, at Tari Gap and Myola
Rufescent Imperial Pigeon Rare, possible around Kumul Lodge and Tari Gap.
Red-breasted Pygmy-Parrot Normally common at Dablin creek, Tabubil.
Modest Tiger-Parrot Rare. Benari Road, Tari area.
Northern Scrub Robin Rare, Varirata.
Papuan Whipbird Rare, Tari area. Ashley Banwell, one of the members of Jon Hornbuckle’s team found and photographed a pair at Tari in july/august 2006.Check out : www.Worldbirders.com
Orange-crowned Fairy-Wren Kumul Lodge and Tari Gap area.
Wallace’s Fairy-Wren Varirata, Tabubil area, Ekame Lodge and Tari Gap.
Pygmy Longbill Varirata, Tabubil area, Kiunga area.
Red Myzomela Tabubil area.
Greater Melampitta Rare, best place is along the Ok Ma road near Tabubil.
Buff-tailed Sicklebill Rare, Tari area
Full bird List for PNG (pdf file)