12 June - 1 July 2007
This male FLAME BOWERBIRD thrilled us on our first day at Ekame. A little patient waiting was required, although as you can see from the photos above, this mindblowing bird was well worth the wait as it came in and shuffled/danced by its relatively unimpressive bower. We had already had reasonable perched views prior to our bower visit, although in hindsight everyone was very happy that we took the extra time to visit the bower that brought these unforgettable views and this truly incredible birding experience.
A TROPICAL BIRDING custom tour
Report written by Sam Woods
Papua New Guinea, or 'PNG', is rightly considered a dream destination for many birders. It is a beautiful country full of rich natural resources, that includes rugged mountains with miles of unbroken, unspoiled, pristine rainforest, that is loaded with some of the most dazzling and extraordinary birds on earth. No birder leaves New Guinea disappointed, as the birds are nothing short of breathtaking. Of course the most familiar of these are the famous Birds-of-paradise, that the BBC thrilled us with in their landmark production 'Attenborough in Paradise', that has become a classic natural history film amongst birders, and left many drooling, and dreaming about a trip to this fabled island.
Our first tour to this thickly forested paradise was a great success, with 340 species recorded. With the wealth of mind-blowing species in PNG, on this trip more than any other it was impossible to pick a clear winner for a single bird of the trip. Certainly the Birds-of-paradise were a highlight, they were expected to be amazing, and they were every bit as impressive as people thought they would be. However, there were many other less obvious birding highlights, that illustrates well the difficulty in picking a clear winner. Indeed PNG must be one of only a few countries where you can get good looks at a couple of dazzling pitta species, and they do not even get a mention at the end of the trip, as they have been being drowned out by the truckload of other incredible birds! Listed below are some of the highlights from this memorable tour:
After a night in Port Moresby, we birded the lowland forests around Kiunga and Ekame (just above sea level), then made our way upwards into the mountains. We birded around Tabubil where there is access to higher mid-elevation rainforest (around 800m+), and then around Kumul and Tari in montane forest ranging between approximately 1800 and 2800m. The tour then ended close to Port Moresby birding the foothill forests and eucalypt woodlands of Varirata, that offered some suprisingly good birds.
PACIFIC ADVENTIST UNIVERSITY
With our afternoon arrival from Brisbane we only had a short time to begin our PNG birding, so we opted for some gentle introductory birding on the outskirts of the capital. The open woodland and savanna of the quiet university grounds brought us some Aussie species that can be difficult to pick up there in a 'standard' trip, as they are only found in the remote regions of Cape York that are rarely visited. These species included Fawn-breasted Bowerbirds, that were common and conspicuous around the university, and Black-backed Butcherbirds. We also found our first endemic - Gray-headed Munia feeding unobtrusively in the long grass there, as well our first Brown Orioles. At the close of the day, we watched a sleepy pair of Papuan Frogmouths roosting in a garden grove. We also saw our first Yellow-faced Mynas and our only Torresian Imperial-Pigeons of the trip there.
One of a pair of roosting PAPUAN FROGMOUTHS
Pacific Adventists University
We began our tour in earnest after flying to Kiunga, on the banks of the Upper Fly River, not far from the border with West Papua (Irian Jaya). Kiunga will probably be best remembered as the place we first came into contact with the incredible birds-of-paradise, as during our first afternoon of 'proper' forest birding in New Guinea we saw two different species displaying in the lowland forests there. On arrival we immediately heard the distinctive, distant cries of Greater Birds-of-paradise, although with the heat of the day not yet beginning to cool, they remained vocal but hidden. We waited out the early afternoon lull of activity and then the cries were heard a lot closer, and we then quickly focused our attention on the canopy of a known display site, where soon enough a flash of bright yellow feathers had us homing in on the flashy display of several male Greater Birds-of-paradise, not far from where Attenborough had encountered them in his legendary program. These birds have been known to hybridize with another similar 'BOP' in the area, Raggiana, although the clean yellow raised display plumes confirmed these as Greaters. We watched and filmed, mesmerized by our first encounters with these strange, otherworldly birds, doing what they do best - dancing and showing off their fantastically adorned plumage in amazing displays. Later in the afternoon we stumbled across a red-tailed male Raggiana Bird-of-paradise going through similar motions right by the side of a small trail. We had only just began exploring the lowland forests of PNG and already we had come across displaying males of two different BOPs, just what was needed to calm the nerves, and kick-start the trip. We also got some other New Guinea endemics, such as Lowland Peltops, Boyer's and New Guinea (Black) Cuckoo-shrikes, Orange-breasted Fig-Parrots and a superb male Golden Monarch. The same area also brought us a few near endemic birds, that are also found in the remote regions of the Cape York peninsula in extreme northern Australia, such as Red-cheeked Parrots which were vocal and conspicuous in our time around Kiunga.
One of the RAGGIANA BIRDS-OF-PARADISE that we saw near Kiunga.
The world's largest, and arguably most spectacular, pigeon - SOUTHERN CROWNED PIGEON - was found perched by the Elevala River on the way into Ekame.
RED-CHEEKED PARROTS were noisy and conspicuous in our first afternoons birding in the lowland forests near Kiunga.
Day 3 (afternoon)
The river trip to get to Ekame Lodge is an amazing birding experience in its own right. As we cruised first up the Fly River, then the smaller Elevala, many flocks of Collared Imperial-Pigeons passed overhead, with the occasional Pinon Imperial-Pigeon amongst them. Closer to the lodge itself we encountered our first hulking Palm Cockatoos that flapped noisily over us, while small groups of another forest giant, Blyth's Hornbill, were encountered. From a largely Asian and African family, this species has the most southerly distribution of all species within this colorful family. A pair of massive Channel-billed Cuckoos was found from the boat, beautiful Eclectus Parrots regularly passed overhead, and Papuan Needletails swooped low over the glassy waters within inches of our boat as they hawked for insects just over the surface of the river. Best of all was saved for just before we arrived at the lodge, when Kwiwan, the local guide, spotted a group of four Southern Crowned Pigeons that were preparing to roost in some riverside trees. These massive pigeons are the world's largest, and are seriously impressive. Aside from their size, they (along with the two other members of the genus) are unusual in sporting a strange, feathery gray crest. A great end to our 'Fly River cruise'.
Our first day at Ekame was a New Guinea birding classic, not about huge numbers, but getting cracking views of 'top quality' species that Kwiwan had staked out. We began with a very short boat trip and soon alighted on a river bank where we awaited our first quarry, a short time after daybreak. On arrival we could hear the clear ringing calls of our target bird, and a few minutes later in a flurry of yellow we saw a male Twelve-wired Bird-of-paradise land on his regular display perch, an emergent dead snag. He remained there for over 15 minutes calling continually the whole time, with the culmination of his show being a short stint of 'pole dancing' on his snag, presumably being brought on by the appearance of an unseen female in the forest below; a magical start to the morning. We then proceeded to Kwiwan's nearby village, where we staked out some fruiting trees for one of the most striking birds on the tour. Before he arrived though, a small burst of nearby song had us homing in on a cracking pair of endemic Emperor Fairywrens. Then a frantic shout went up as a flash of bright orange had been glimpsed in the fruiting trees, and a short time later the male Flame Bowerbird shot out of from his hiding place and landed fortuitously on an open branch in a near dead tree. Almost as soon as he had alighted, this shy species took off leaving us gagging for more. The villagers have recently built a number of specially-built hides at bowers of this incredible species. Eager for photos, we split the group between two close bowers. Patience was required for the sun to come out and conditions to become favorable for their arrival at the bowers, although in the end everyone enjoyed stunning male Flame Bowerbirds 'performing' at their respective bowers, a superb site and one that was still being talked about fondly at the end of the trip, despite many, many other avian distractions along the way. After lunch back at the lodge we set out in the afternoon for another displaying 'BOP', with our day closing with good views of a male scarlet-and-white King Bird-of-paradise calling from a rainforest vine tangle. This really memorable day' birding also included Spot-winged and Black-faced Monarchs, and Black Sunbird.
Due to space limitations we had to divide the group in order to visit two separate FLAME BOWERBIRD bowers near Ekame. One group came face-to-face with two full adult males, a female and a young male dancing beside a partially deconstructed bower (see title shots), while the other group were treated to the site of this stunning younger male tending to his far more impressive bower. During this same amazing mornings birding we also watched a dancing male Twelve-wired Bird-of-paradise displaying.
Another day was spent birding the steamy lowland forests around Ekame, although this time we focused our efforts on some other trails in pursuit of some other special rainforest birds we were after. Unfortunately the hoped-for Painted Quail-thrush was nowhere to be found, a notoriously difficult forest skulker that we would have further chances to see at Varirata later in the trip. However, the same area gave us another shot at Blue Jewel-Babbler that one or two people had not seen well in the previous showing at Kiunga. A pair of these exquisite denizens of the forest floor were really obliging on this occasion, the male of which called repeatedly from an open low perch for a few minutes, where thankfully this time everybody could get an eyeful of this blue wonder. A trip later in the day to another bird-rich area of forest found us staring straight at a brilliant blue Common Paradise-Kingfisher; in this same amazing small forest patch both Red-bellied (Blue-breasted) and Hooded Pittas also showed well, along with the endemics Gray-headed Cuckoo-shrike and Hooded Monarch.
Our final morning at Ekame saw us stopping the boat suddenly for a pair of the strange Pesquet's (Vulturine) Parrot perched up by the river, and a short time later we found a noisy party of the extremely localized White-bellied Pitohui calling in the riverside tangles. A forest trail finally brought us a Black-sided Robin that had eluded most of us the day before. Double-eyed Fig-Parrot was a familiar Aussie bird for those who had visited the Cairns area before, and we also had good views of the diminutive Dwarf Fruit-Dove and Beautiful, Wompoo and Superb Fruit-Doves. We had further views of Southern Crowned Pigeons prowling the forest floor and our first Zoe Imperial Pigeon of the trip. A Thick-billed Ground-Pigeon was typically more elusive, being glimpsed only in flight by one person when we were trying to track down a calling bird. After packing to leave Ekame, we birded the clearing around our cabins while the boat was being loaded, and although generally quiet in the heat of the day, it did provide a great parting shot when a pair of highly vocal Golden Cuckoo-shrikes came in and perched right beside the lodge. The best-looking of all the endemic Cuckoo-shrikes and completely unique in donning gold-and-black plumage unlike the usual grays and blacks that normally dominate the plumage of this family. The river trip back was less eventful than the first one as we cruised directly back to Kiunga, picking up some of the regular Ekame birds that we had run into over the last few days - like Golden and Yellow-faced Mynas, Eclectus Parrots, Moustached Treeswifts, Palm Cockatoos, Blyth's Hornbills, Black-capped Lories, and a few Glossy-mantled Manucodes.
Days 7 and 8
We finally left the lowlands behind on this day, climbing gently uphill to the mining town of Tabubil, the base for workers of the nearby OK Tedi copper mine. One of the world's largest mines, the infrastructure brought into the area for mine workers ironically provides facilities for birders that make visiting the area straightforward, and that may well have been impossible in the days before the mine. En-route to the town we made a special stop for the localized, dubius resident race of Little Ringed Plover, that has a very different call and an obvious fleshy base to the bill, leading some birders to split this 'race' off completely as a Papuan endemic shorebird. This same area finally brought us good, out-in-the-open views of White-bellied Thicket-Fantail, that until then had us pulling our hair out in frustration in our attempts to get a decent look at this skulking forest bird. Having birded only lowland areas before then, the suite of birds at Tabubil was markedly different. In our time at Tabubil we birded several different sites, all of which provide fairly easy (though sometimes steep) roadside access to this important habitat. A quiet mountain road in the Dablin area brought in many new birds for us with the corresponding rise in altitude compared to the other sites visited previously; the pick of the bunch was probably Magnificent Bird-of-paradise. Trees laden with fruits brought in not only three or more females at a time but also a brilliant male, that we saw numerous times over several visits to the site. This was a really lucky find as male birds-of-paradise, with their much more visible plumage, are famously much shyer than the dowdier, easier-to-see females. Despite the bundles of fruit in the area, we missed Carola's Parotia, another target bird-of-paradise in the area, that was frustratingly only heard calling distantly during our stay. However, the Dablin area of Tabubil provided many other key species that were not seen again elsewhere on the tour, including a small party of handsome Fairy (Little Red) Lorikeets, feeding on some ripe red fruits close to a small group of Red-breasted Pygmy-Parrots; a Doria's Hawk that flew across our path after a bout of calling closeby; a few close, tree-clasping White-rumped Robins; an agitated, close calling Mountain Kingfisher; several White-eared Bronze-cuckoos; a single Northern Scrub-Robin; a lone perched up New Guinea Bronzewing; several powerfully built Stout-billed Cuckoo-shrikes; a number of well-named Obscure Berrypeckers; many Mountain Peltops, including several found sitting on their indistinct treetop nests; and a stunning group of Ornate Fruit-Doves, that proved once more that the dull field guide illustrations rarely do the birds justice in PNG. Another forest road, at a slightly lower altitude than Dablin, pulled in arguably the top kingfisher of the tour. We arrived pre-dawn especially for this crepuscular species, spotlighting a Jungle Hawk-Owl (Papuan Boobook) while we were waiting. Just as we'd trained the spotlight on the boobook, the kingfishers began singing in earnest in the half-light, and the hunt was on. After a little frantic searching we finally found the strange Shovel-billed Kookaburra calling from an open perch by the road, displaying his odd, stumpy bill in the process. This same forest road also brought us our only Great Cuckoo-Doves and Red-flanked Lorikeets of the tour; a male Magnificent Riflebird was found calling from last year's songperch in heavy rain; good perched views of Variable (Dwarf) Kingfisher; and our first, unforgettable sighting of Pheasant Pigeon that crashed across the road within meters of several very lucky stunned people at the front of the group.
Surely one of the most highly sought-after and enigmatic Kingfishers in the world - the incomparable SHOVEL-BILLED KOOKABURRA, Tabubil. A bizarre semi-nocturnal, ground-feeding kingfisher.
Kumul Lodge, just a short drive from the large city of Mount Hagen in New Guinea's Enga province, was unanimously voted as the top birding site of the trip. Not only was this where we got our first taste of New Guinea's bird-rich mountains (the lodge is located at around 2800m above sea-level), but it is also a superb lodge with great facilities. Notably among these is a well-stocked bird table that is laden with fruits that pulled in some very desirable birds, including several species of birds-of-paradise that could then be watched from the comfort of the lodge balcony while sipping a hot brew. This rare spectacle provides truly unique photographic opportunities of species that would otherwise be extremely difficult to get a shot of, or even see at all. In addition to this, the lodge is also close to a number of other good birding areas that can be visited on short day/half-day trips. On arrival at the lodge, a quick glance at the feeders in the late afternoon was massively disappointing - not a bird in site and the garden appeared deserted. So with this in mind we quickly dropped our bags in our cabins, and then met in the garden right outside our cabins where we were quickly greeted with the sight of a pair of Crested Berrypeckers feeding in some low garden shrubs, and then a ruffle of feathers behind us while we were watching this cracking endemic, saw us come face-to-face with an impressive female Ribbon-tailed Astrapia (one of the high altitude birds-of-paradise)! We then returned to the balcony overlooking the feeders and were met with the sight of our first male Ribbon-tailed Astrapia on the bird table - this one being an immature with long black tail streamers. From then on until dark the action and new birds were nonstop as we got our first real taste of highland New Guinea birding. The bird table pulled in several Brehm's Tiger-Parrots, Common Smoky Honeyeaters, noisy Belford's Melidectes and a few Island Thrushes. The blooming shrubs in the garden twitched with feeding Black-backed (Gray-streaked) Honeyeaters, while several approachable White-winged Robins clasped onto the vertical trunks below, a Friendly Fantail flicked around in the low shrubs, and an adult Rufous-naped Whistler hopped around on the lawn a few meters away (a strange terrestrial whistler species). This was more than enough for all of us, but the best was still to come: a vivid flash of fiery orange caught our eyes, and we watched amazed as a stunning orange-and-black male Crested Bird-of-paradise screamed in and perched up on a lichen covered branch high up in one of the stunted mossy trees that were clearly visible from the balcony. This was an incredible sight that some voted for as bird of the trip. The black phase Papuan Lorikeet that flew in a short time later was almost missed in the post-crested bird-of-paradise chaos. It was not all plain sailing though, as the nightbirds fell flat, with not a sniff of either Mountain Nightjar or Mountain Owlet-nightjar in our first attempts.
Far less dramatic than the male's appearance, though it was good to see this nesting female CRESTED BIRD-OF-PARADISE over several days on one of Kumul lodge's trails.
Our late afternoon arrival the day before meant that, despite the flurry of birds then, there was still plenty on offer right around the lodge at Kumul. So we decided to spend the morning in the immediate vicinity of this scenically positioned lodge. Positioned on the balcony once more, we soon found our first Blue-capped Ifrita, Fan-tailed Berrypeckers, Black-throated Honeyeaters and Black-throated Robin of the trip. However, a substantial movement by the bird table was the main attraction as it heralded the arrival of the bird table's star visitor - a striking female Brown Sicklebill, that with a tail nearing a half-meter long, a huge decurved bill and strikingly barred underparts is a very impressive bird to see, particularly at this close range greedily wolfing down fruits right in front of us. Although not always present, this bird is a stunning regular at Kumul's well-stocked bird table. Other birds around the lodge that morning included two new whistlers - the beautiful Regent Whistler, and the far less impressive endemic Brown-backed Whistler, in addition to Rufous-throated Bronze-cuckoo, Mountain Mouse-Warblers, Papuan Scrubwrens, Mountain Firetails and a lone Wattled Ploughbill for one lucky person. A female Crested Bird-of-paradise (the males take no part in the rearing of the chicks like many birds-of-paradise) was also found nesting very close to the lodge where we saw her regularly brooding her chicks. Another person got extremely lucky, wandering off onto one of the lodge trails during the lunch recess and finding one the hardest birds in PNG - Papuan Whipbird, that could not be relocated in a later search. The afternoon started quieter as we took a trip downhill from the lodge in pursuit of one of New Guinea's most highly sought-after birds-of-paradise - both by visiting birders and the Huli tribesmen around Tari, who use the males' bizarre feather adornments in their flashy headdresses. Our journey to the site brought us our first of three encounters with a party of cute Black Sitellas, a small low-flying squadron of Mountain Swiftlets, and also a group of very smart Black-bellied Cuckoo-shrikes. As we climbed the short trail to THE site, we began to hear the metallic rattling calls of males in full song, and the tension began to mount, before a cry went up from the front as someone had located a male King-of-Saxony Bird-of-paradise calling from a high dead snag. The bird proved to be a bit of an anticlimax though as the unique long, serrated white head feathers that are the hallmark of this fantastic bird were missing in this immature male. The complete silence on getting the bird this time was not from being lost for words in excitement, but more from being completely underwhelmed! This was short-lived however, as someone else quickly found a fully-feathered, exquisite adult male just across the trail. We all breathed a sigh of relief. We were to come across this bird a number of times around Tari later on the trip and it is fair to say that we were never able to easily walk away from a full-plumaged male. Another definite trip highlight for many, especially one person who grabbed this species as his landmark 5000th bird. Another superb close to a day in the Kumul area.
This species - the awesome KING-OF-SAXONY BIRD-OF-PARADISE - was a very acceptable 5000th bird for one happy birder. What this bird lacks in color compared to some of its more dazzling congeners, it more than makes up for with its strange serated 'antennae' that are completely unique in the bird world. This bird was photographed in the upper Tari valley.
Again this Bop is much less striking than some of the other more colorful members of this extraordinary family. However, this huge Bop is a very striking, hugely impressive bird. This female BROWN SICKLEBILL was a very welcome daily visitor to the lodge bird table at Kumul, where it was watched greedily tucking into fruits, just a few meters away. The distinctive 'machine-gun' rattles of the males were a regular, highly evocative sound in the highland forests around there also.
We left shortly before dawn with Max, one of the local guides, and headed to lower altitudes for some very special birds indeed. On arrival at the site we could hear our quarry calling from a small clump of casuarinas, in a highland garden isolated from the near forested ridge. Several males of a special bird-of-paradise usually come here in early mornings to display in these open 'cypress-pines'. So we positioned ourselves in the garden overlooking the small patch of pines and waited. Our first glimpses of a male Lesser Bird-of-paradise were nothing short of frustrating - a small patch of yellow here, and patch of red there, and then nothing. However, when a few females arrived the action dramatically kicked off, with several fully-plumed males lurching into full display and we watched genuinely entranced by this avian spectacle as one male danced up and down his clearly visible display perch, rubbing his bill against the perch, flaring up his display plumes and spreading his wings out to full stretch, while females came in and pecked him invitingly. A really magical piece of birding and universally agreed as the greatest overall spectacle of the trip as we were able to watch and film these amazing displays for well over 30 minutes. Other new birds in this general area also included our only Ornate Melidectes of the trip, our first Yellow-breasted Bowerbird, New Guinea White-eyes, Mountain Myzomelas, in addition to another Black-headed Whistler. We then checked out a waterfall for Torrent Lark and found a female perched on a rock within the rushing mountain waters. This was a relief as we had tried for (and missed) this striking endemic in Tabubil earlier on the tour. Another notable sighting in the same area were some large, stout-billed Papuan Parrotfinches feeding in some seeding casuarinas. The afternoon was markedly quieter, although we picked up Yellow-breasted Bowerbird and all managed to see our first male Superb Bird-of-paradise.
What a bird! This amazing LESSER BIRD-OF-PARADISE provided the undisputed spectacle of the trip, on one of our trips out of Kumul lodge. We witnessed the full range of their incredible displays, when several males reacted dazzlingly to the agressive approaches of several close females.
This strange waxwing-like bird - CRESTED BERRYPECKER - is one of the classic high altitude birds that can be found easily around Kumul lodge. This beautiful species was a daily visitor to the small garden shrubs around the lodge itself, allowing very close approach at times. From one of two endemic bird families in New Guinea, we cleaned up on this two-bird family, the Tit and Crested Berrypeckers, in the highlands around Kumul.
Our last full day at Kumul saw us return to the infamous 'Saxony Trail', after a brief stop to look at our only trip Goldie's Lorikeets around the lodge car park. The morning action there was excellent, with high activity and many new birds all around. As well as further, much appreciated views of singing male King-of-Saxony Birds-of-paradise we also picked up a number of new trip birds. Only a short distance up the trail we were getting our first looks at crippling male Tit-Berrypeckers, that along with the daily Crested Berrypeckers around Kumul completed this small endemic New Guinea family for everyone, and a little further on we picked up small parties of both Buff-faced Scrubwrens and Orange-crowned Fairywrens. A Black-breasted Boatbill put in a brilliant performance, shortly before a male Princess Stephanie's Astrapia was found perched in a ridge top tree, and several Blue-gray Robins showed well in the same area. Lemon-breasted (Mid-mountain) Berrypeckers also made their first appearance, and we found more Black and Red-collared Myzomelas. Later a frog-like call had us scanning the trailside undergrowth, where someone lucked into a Forbes' Forest-Rail that came in really close; the rest of us were unfortunately blind-sided. A bit later, a few Loria's Birds-of-paradise flew into the canopy of a tall tree overhead; this is a far more understated member of this extraordinary family, lacking the extravagant plumes of many of the other more flashy species.
Two regular garden birds in our time at Kumul lodge: First, this BLACK-THROATED ROBIN that fed on the lawn on occasion...
...and this gorgeous male REGENT WHISTLER that visited the trees around the feeders several times while we sipped coffee on the balcony!
This was essentially a travel day between Kumul Lodge and Tari, brought about by Papua New Guinea's unpredictable flight services, forcing us to make the journey on road rather than by air as planned. Having fared badly at Kumul for nightbirds, missing amongst others the normally easy Mountain Nightjar, we decided to rise early and have another crack at Mountain Owlet-Nightjar that had at least been heard calling in our time there. The plan paid off, when a very close calling bird was found within meters of the lodge and incredibly remained there for half an hour, until just before full light, allowing us to round up all the more relaxed birders who had decided to maximize sleep that morning rather than look for this cute high altitude nightbird! The rest of the day was quiet in comparison with an impressive male Ribbon-tailed Astrapia crossing the road in front of us, displaying a full, meter long, ivory-white tail in the process, and a male Papuan Harrier found quartering close to our lodge on arrival in Tari, as well as our first few Yellow-browed Melidectes in the same area. However, one of the day's highlights was non-avian, as by moving into the culturally diverse Southern Highlands province we were in the realm of some of New Guinea's most distinctive and well known mountain tribes. Making our way along a quiet mountain road to Tari we were greeted by the sight of two Huli Wigmen in full regalia, dressed up for the local 'singsing'. The Huli tribe is one of the most extravagantly adorned tribes when in full dress, and regularly kit themselves out with feathers from a number of different bird species, including several birds-of-paradise, to go along with their vividly painted faces and bodies. In our time around Tari we came across men adorned with the quills from King-of-Saxony, Superb, and Lesser Birds-of-paradise and Ribbon-tailed Astrapias, in addition to many found wearing the casques of male Blyth's Hornbills across their shoulder blades. Some were also noted to have used Cassowary bones in their costumes.
The HULI WIGMEN that we met during the journey from Kumul to Tari.
Tari is probably the most famous and well-birded area in New Guinea. The reason for this is simple - there is a massive diversity of species in the area, largely due to a range of forest types for birding in, allowing birders to cover a range of altitudes (between 1700-2800m), which translates into lots of species. Tari is especially rich in birds-of-paradise, as proved by our first day where we recorded an incredible eight species. There are several good local guides living around here; our guide, Henny, knew some great stakeouts for birds-of-paradise as well as territories for some of the hard, skulking species. We had covered some of the same altitudes around Kumul Lodge, and so began our first day targeting lower altitude species that had not been possible until this point on the tour. A short downhill walk (hearing Large-tailed Nightjar, Greater Sooty Owl and Australasian Grass Owl on the way), saw us positioned overlooking a bank of misty mountain forest where we waited patiently for the dawn light to brighten the trees. As dawn broke we began to hear several calling males of our target bird-of-paradise, so we all focused our efforts on emergent dead snags within the forest, as these are used by this species to give its unique and 'alien' display in the early morning light. Tension built as many scanned snags just drew blanks from all of us, before someone with an 80mm Swarovski found the large black 'surfboard' shape of a displaying male Black Sicklebill, and soon enough all optics were trained upon it. A crazy bird with a strange metallic call and a truly unique display, we later also found a second bird that was content to just call from his perch in the morning sun. We were really pleased to be able to watch this bird at length giving its very weird call and markedly weirder display that is unique amongst the Paradisaeidae. One aspect of New Guinea birding is the very long periods of quiet, followed by moments where everything happens at once. This was the case on this morning, as not long after we began watching the sicklebill, we heard another highly desired species calling behind us. After everyone was made aware of the significance of the sound, it was not too difficult to drag people from the sicklebill and into Henny's garden - a regular haven for birds-of-paradise, where we were soon 'eyeballing' a brilliant male Blue Bird-of-paradise. This ivory-billed species, with its fancy tail streamers and neat white spectacles, comes into his garden daily and calls for prolonged periods from his open perch. We watched transfixed for over 20 minutes as the bird remained calling from the open branches of a low tree. Superb Birds-of-paradise harshly called from the same area and several female Black Sicklebills were also seen in the same garden along with Marbled Honeyeater, Blue-faced Parrotfinches and several Papuan King-Parrots. Whilst walking back up the valley the roadside verges contained several large groups of endemic Hooded Munias. The birding on this morning was thrilling with many new birds and many of these often tough species that are never to be expected. A busy fruiting tree on a nearby trail brought yet another new 'BOP', with first several black-headed females and then a brilliant male Lawes' Parotia. The same area also attracted a male Princess Stephanie's Astrapia and White-breasted Fruit-Dove, and a passing flock there held a fine red-throated female Papuan Treecreeper and several Sclater's Whistlers. We then focused our attentions on a small hide that had been set up near a MacGregor's Bowerbird bower. This species makes a 'maypole' type bower with a distinctive central column of sticks that protrudes out from a clean mossy green arena below. We all enjoyed seeing this strange bower, although the bird itself was very shy, giving only the briefest of views. Two of the group also got very lucky with the rare Buff-tailed Sicklebill that came in while the rest of us were blocked by the hide. Up until now we had been lucky to be only marginally effected by rain on the trip, although heavy rain on this afternoon limited our options a little. In spite of this, a visit to a small mountain garden still found us our main target, a Short-tailed Paradigalla feeding on fruits in the driving rain. Rufous-backed Honeyeaters were also fairly common in the area and new to us, being our first visits to these altitudes. Unfortunately the other hoped-for species, Wattled Ploughbill, was a lost cause in the heavy downpours. Still, no one could complain at a list of eight birds-of-paradise for the day (Ribbon-tailed & Princess Stephanie's Astrapia, Blue Bird-of-paradise, Superb Bird-of-paradise, Black & Buff-tailed Sicklebills, Lawe's Parotia, and Short-tailed Paradigalla).
One of the more understated birds-of-paradise, this SHORT-TAILED PARADIGALLA was one of five new Bops seen during our first amazing day around Tari.
Shortly after we had first located a dancing male Black Sicklebill, this fantastic BLUE BIRD-OF-PARADISE began calling behind us. We soon 'dropped' the sicklebill and hurried to a nearby garden that also held female sicklebills in addition to this stunner, and also a female Princess Stephanie's Astrapia!
It was our second day in Tari, and this time we decided to focus on some higher areas in the valley, birding some legendary narrow birding trails for some of those forest skulkers that so excite (and often frustrate) birders. Arriving before dawn, we tried for some nightbirds we were still missing and we all got great views of a calling roadside Mountain Nightjar, that had eluded us at the normally reliable site of Kumul. Before we got onto the trail though we picked up our eighth and final endemic cuckoo-shrike of the trip, with a roadside pair of Hooded Cuckoo-shrikes. We were also justifiably distracted once again by a roadside male King-of-Saxony Bird-of-paradise singing from a mossy, lichen encrusted roadside limb. On the trail itself we lured in a hat-trick of new robins: first a singing Lesser Ground-Robin at the start of the trail, followed soon by the similarly skulking Ashy (Gray-headed) Robin further on down the trail, and two people even had good looks at a scarlet-backed male Garnet Robin. Other skulkers included a brilliant polka-dotted female Chestnut Forest-Rail that came in really close on several occasions allowing everyone views of this small rusty crake, and a very showy pair of Lesser Melampittas that duetted face-to-face on a fallen log within meters of us. Melampittas are another confusing New Guinea taxon, currently being grouped within the birds-of-paradise based on recent DNA studies, making them the only truly terrestrial species within this family. It was good to also finally track down another 'catch up bird', that had previously only showed to one person at Kumul, when a well-endowed male Wattled Ploughbill was found feeding unobtrusively in the bamboo close to the trail. This strange bird is currently taxonomically grouped with the whistlers, although is completely unique in having bright pink lobes (wattles), of skin that hang down from its also uniquely-shaped swollen black bill. A really enigmatic species that was good to view at length for everyone in the group. Additionally, a Painted Tiger-Parrot in the same area proved to be our only encounter with that species. After a hearty lunch back at the lodge we decided to use the quieter afternoon period to go after a roosting nightbird in a close village. With a little ingenuity a Greater Sooty Owl was seen perched up close to its usual roosting site, that gave us memorable glares as it looked over its boldly spotted shoulder right down at us. The late afternoon birding was typically much slower, with a few more Yellow-billed Lorikeets amongst others, although we did find our only Black-mantled Goshawk of the trip perched up close to Bailey's Bridge.
Our final full day at Tari was again about targeting those 'low down and dirty' forest skulkers. We spent some time high up in the valley along the road where a fine male Garnet Robin was much more obliging than the previous day's bird, this time showing his crimson red back to all. Yesterday's failed attempt at seeing the newly split New Guinea (Northern) Logrunner, was avenged as a pair of this much shyer species (compared to their Aussie relatives), came in really close. We also came across some 'old favorites' from the Kumul area with further views of both Tit and Crested Berrypeckers, although several passing flocks of Plum-faced Lorokeets were new for the trip. The star bird of the morning was to be seen by only two of the group that were fortuitously placed to get views of a superb Spotted Jewel-Babbler that came in quietly. However, Sanford's Bowerbird was uncharacteristically more helpful, by responding strongly to tape, and flying in and perching up above all of us where we all saw it very well. Mottled Whistler and Black Monarch were also added to the trip list in the same area.
VARIRATA NATIONAL PARK
Having flown into Port Moresby the day before from Tari, we arrived just before dawn full of anticipation at our final site of the tour. Varirata is only a short drive from Papua's capital and therefore can be accessed by staying in the comforts of a good city hotel. This quiet national park is well known to locals although undervisited and is frequently deserted aside from a few keen birders. As dawn brightened the day we stood in a clearing watching a bird-packed fruiting tree that was pulling in a number of frugivorous birds - mainly Pink-spotted and Beautiful Fruit-Doves, along with our first Orange-bellied Fruit-Doves and a few female Raggiana Birds-of-paradise. Not long after it was light enough to venture onto the forest trails, we followed up a calling kingfisher and there amongst the open forest trees we found a brilliant red-breasted Brown-headed Paradise-kingfisher perched in the understory. On this particular open forest trail these shy forest kingfishers can be easy to find as their rich red breasts simply glow out from the dark shadows of the forest interior. We had had a number of run-ins with Sooty Thicket-Fantail previously on the trip with only poor views being achieved, and again the open nature of the forest on one particular good trail led us to all have cracking views of a pair of these striking fantails, as they made their strange, whipbird-like sounds. We then checked in on a roosting Barred Owlet-nightjar, that was found at its usual roadside hangout. We then hit the trails in earnest, where prolonged bird activity brought us a number of new species in addition to second chances at a number of sly species that had eluded some of us earlier on the tour. New birds included our first sightings of Yellow-billed Kingfishers, a lone Yellow-legged Flycatcher, a few Black Berrypeckers, and several Buff-faced Pygmy-Parrots that were watched with fascination as they moved along the trunks of a casuarina tree in a fashion more reminiscent of a nuthatch than a parrot. The trail saw us in the company of several terrific flocks one of which held the scarce Cape York breeder, Black-winged Monarch, a few Fairy Gerygones, in addition to some cool New Guinea endemics including the very skulking Crested Pitohui, several Hooded Pitohuis, and our first, very handsome Chestnut-bellied Fantails. Once again another skulker showed up for one lucky birder, when a White-eared Catbird passed close by and then promptly disappeared, a good sighting for this area. However, the White-faced Robin in the same area was much more obliging perching up on several vertical trunks in full view. This is another cute near-endemic species that also occurs in the remote areas of the Cape York peninsula in Australia. Varirata provided our best chance at Pheasant Pigeon for the tour (although two people had been fortunate enough with it around Tabubil), and this time another person was stunned by a pigeon that decided to cross the track right in front of him.
Two top Kingfishers were seen on our first day at Varirata - first this beautiful BROWN-HEADED PARADISE-KINGFISHER...
...and this was the second of two YELLOW-BILLED KINGFISHERS seen the same day at Varirata.
This morning of the tour will be remembered for only a couple of top quality birds, but what a couple of cracking, mind-blowing species they were. The whipbird family in New Guinea holds some really stunning species, although all of them are frankly tricky to see, being shy forest-floor skulkers. So any chance at seeing them should be jumped at, which is exactly what we did when we heard one of the rarest members of the family calling right at the start of the days birding. We walked a little off the trail and positioned ourselves in an area where all of us had a great view of the surrounding undergrowth - it seemed the bird on this day was helpfully calling right by a great spot for all being able to get views of it. And so it proved, we waited a little for the light to improve, and then began playing its call back to it. At first there seemed to be no response but then suddenly the bird began calling back continually, and gradually closer before someone at the end of the line spotted the absolutely stunning male Painted Quail-thrush creeping in towards us. Somehow he managed to alert all of us without unduly worrying this extremely shy bird, and more amazingly still, all of us were in a great position and got onto it as it slowly walked off into the undergrowth. As if that was not enough, a little later in the morning a bird flushed off the trail proved to be another quail-thrush, this time the slightly more subdued looking female, that again walked off in full view of all of us! We definitely considered ourselves extremely lucky on this one as many, many people are left wanting by this shy bird. The morning was a little quiet after then, with new birds coming in the form of a raucous female 'Eastern' Riflebird (this form is often considered a separate species from Magnificent Riflebird that we had seen at Tabubil) that shot by us a few times, a noisy party of Rusty Pitohuis, and a couple of calling Rufescent Imperial-Pigeons (here at a slightly lower elevation than normally expected for this montane species). However, the morning closed with yet another cracking whipbird that was initially glimpsed on the trail edge, and was later tempted across the trail several times, allowing all of us to thoroughly soak up this striking pair of Chestnut-backed Jewel-babblers. Other birds seen that morning included a New Guinea (Black) Cuckoo-shrike, another White-faced Robin, and a small group of Varied (Papuan) Sitellas. The afternoon was far from quiet either with a number of busy flocks encountered on our way down from Gare's Lookout. It was just such flocks we were now focusing our attentions on as some of the key remaining birds were all flock species, so they were timely in their appearance. Sure enough the clear notes of a calling Dwarf Whistler (Goldenface) were heard in the flock and soon we enjoyed some great looks at this superb lemon-yellow and powder-blue bird. Although the bird is currently lumped with the whistlers it looks far from anything in that family, and is grouped in its own monotypic genus. The same flock also held Cicadabird, Olive Flyrobin and the distinctly antwren-like Wallace's Fairywren. We then finished the day overlooking the same fruiting tree that we'd scoured the day before, where again Orange-bellied and Pink-spotted Fruit-Doves were in attendance, this time with a lone Dwarf Fruit-Dove, only the second time we saw this species on the tour.
Our final morning was spent mopping up around Varirata and just plain enjoying some final looks at some of those cracking New Guinea birds we had seen before. Once again we ran into a couple of Brown-headed Paradise-Kingfishers, these ones at least allowing some photographs to be taken, as well as Pale-billed Scrubwrens, a Green-backed Honeyeater, and a number of Spot-winged Monarchs. Several pairs of Dwarf Whistlers were again found in some of the active feeding flocks, and a shocking three separate Barred Owlet-Nightjars (one of which was flushed up when in hot pursuit of a very vocal Papuan (Mountain) Drongo that was found in one of the flocks in the area). A White-throated Nightjar was flushed up from a roost and perched up well, for a couple of people who were still chasing Pheasant Pigeon, that also put in a last gasp. Our final hours birding were spent in the open eucalypt woodland and savanna on the park edge, where we still picked up a few new trip birds like White-throated Honeyeater, Leaden and Lemon-bellied Flycatchers and Pheasant Coucal, in addition to a huge group of Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes, a load of (Papuan) Black Myzomelas, a Streak-headed Honeyeater and several Blue-winged Kookaburras.
BEAUTIFUL FRUIT-DOVES, Varirata. An abundance of fruiting trees in the park brought us great looks at a number of different colorful species, one tree holding Dwarf, Beautiful, Orange-bellied and Pink-spotted Fruit-Doves.
The 'impish' WHITE-FACED ROBIN, Varirata. This is another of those specialties that also occurs in the Cape York region of Australia.
the end of the tour we amassed 340 species,
including some of the most amazing birds that any of us had ever seen.
Despite the fact that the birding in New Guinea can be tough and
challenging at times, this tour shows that the thrilling rewards more
justify the efforts. The birds-of-paradise, for most the undoubted
highlight for New
Guinea, were fortunately some of the easiest birds to find, since
many were well-known to the local guides, who often have regular
stakeouts for these highly desired birds. Although the birding itself
was difficult at times, this tour was far from
physically challenging, meaning that New Guinea is easily within the
capibilities of most birders. Please feel free to email us at [email protected] for the latest
schedules, itineraries, and prices.
Two very special nightbirds - first this MOUNTAIN OWLET-NIGHTJAR showed for over 30 minutes just before dawn on our final morning at Kumul...
...and this BARRED OWLET-NIGHTJAR at Varirata was one of a ridiculous three separate birds found roosting in one day there.
and nomenclature follow Clements, James F. Birds
of the World. A Checklist. Pica Press. 5th Edition (including
marked *ENDEMIC* are
endemics to New Guinea (satellite islands and New Britain
are included within the definition of New Guinea used here).
Those marked with an (H) were only heard.
If a species is often given an alternative name to the one denoted here by Clements, I have indicated the other commonly used name in brackets, for ease of cross-reference with other sources.
Southern Cassowary Casuarius casuarius (H)
Tracks in the mud, and a single call were the best we could manage at Ekame, where they are very shy and very rarely seen.
Dwarf Cassowary Casuarius bennetti (H) *ENDEMIC*
This, as with the above species, is very rarely encountered these days at Varirata where it was heard on one occasion.
Little Black Cormorant Phalacrocorax sulcirostris
Seen around the Pacific Adventist University near Port Moresby.
Little Pied Cormorant Phalacrocorax melanoleucos
Seen around the Pacific Adventist University near Port Moresby.
HERONS, EGRETS AND BITTERNS: Ardeidae
Great-billed Heron Ardea sumatrana
A strange sight was seeing this huge heron fly low over the forest while we were on a forest trail at Ekame.
Great Egret Ardea alba
Several were seen around Ekame.
Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia
Recorded around Ekame.
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
A single was seen in the Port Moresby area.
Pacific Reef-Heron Egretta sacra
A few were seen in a coastal area close to Port Moresby.
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Recorded on several journeys, and also around the Pacific Adventist University.
Striated Heron Butorides striata
A few seen along the Elevala River.
IBIS AND SPOONBILLS: Threskiornithidae
Australian Ibis Threskiornis molucca
Several seen on the journey from Port Moresby to Varirata.
DUCKS, GEESE AND SWANS: Anatidae
Wandering Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna arcuata
Numerous on the ponds on the Pacific Adventist University campus.
Green Pygmy-goose Nettapus pulchellus
A few were seen on one of the Pacific Adventist University ponds.
Pacific Black Duck Anas superciliosa
Recorded only around the Pacific Adventist University.
HAWKS, EAGLES AND KITES: Accipitridae
Pacific Baza Aviceda subcristata
Seen a number of times ion the lowlands, around Kiunga and Ekame and also on the journey between Kiunga and Tabubil.
Long-tailed Honey-buzzard Henicopernis longicauda *ENDEMIC*
Seen twice from our boat along the Elevala River (Ekame), and once also on the journey between Kiunga and Tabubil. Also seen once at Dablin Creek, Tabubil.
Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus
One was seen by one person on the journey between Mt Hagen and Kumul Lodge.
Black (Fork-tailed) Kite Milvus migrans
Numerous around Kumul Lodge, and also recorded at the Pacific Adventist University.
Whistling Kite Haliastur sphenurus
Recorded at MT Hagen airport, and also at the Pacific Adventist University.
Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus
Recorded at the Pacific Adventist University, Varirata and also around Ekame and Kiunga.
Eastern (Papuan) Marsh-Harrier Circus spilonotus *ENDEMIC?*
Seen around MT Hagen airport, and a male was also seen several times, quartering the grasslands around the lodge at Tari.
NB. This species is currently grouped with the widespread Eastern Marsh Harrier, although many authors split this off as the New Guinea endemic, Papuan Harrier.
Variable Goshawk Accipiter hiogaster
Recorded around Ekame and Tabubil.
Brown Goshawk Accipiter fasciatus
Several birds were seen downhill from Kumul Lodge.
Black-mantled Goshawk Accipiter melanochlamys *ENDEMIC*
One was seen perched near to Bailey's Bridge in the Tari valley.
Gray-headed Goshawk Accipiter poliocephalus *ENDEMIC*
A single of this handsome, endemic accipiter was seen perched up by the Elevala River near Ekame.
Collared Sparrowhawk Accipiter cirrocephalus
One was seen on the journey between Kumul and Tari.
Meyer's Goshawk Accipiter meyerianus
One flew low over the lodge at Kumul, and a second was seen flying low over us carrying prey, quite far up the Tari valley.
Doria's Goshawk Megatriorchis doriae *ENDEMIC*
Several birds were heard calling on our first visit to Dablin Creek (Tabubil), including a juvenile bird. A little later the adult flew low over the road in front of us.
Black-billed Brush-turkey Talegalla fuscirostris *ENDEMIC*
This species was very loud and commonly heard around both Ekame and Varirata. They are however quite shy and hard to see, despite the presence of a number of active mounds in these areas. One person could not stand it any longer, and trudged off into the bush after a calling bird at Varirata, and was justly rewarded for his efforts when a single bird walked passed him at close range.
Brown Quail Coturnix ypsilophora
One was flushed off the side of the road as we drove through Tari Gap.
RAILS, GALLINULES AND COOTS: Rallidae
Chestnut Forest-Rail Rallina rubra *ENDEMIC*
We tried a few times to get this bird on the trails at Kumul, getting no response whatsoever. Tari was a different story however, where a superb, polka-dotted female bird came in really well to tape and circled us a number of times giving everyone good views.
Forbes's Rail Rallina forbesi *ENDEMIC*
3 separate birds were heard giving their frog-like calls on one morning near Kumul Lodge. One of the birds responded really well to tape, silently coming in really close. Unfortunately, only one of the group was in the fortunate position where they could see this unspotted male bird, where they were treated to good close up views of it!
Rufous-tailed Bush-hen Amaurornis moluccanus (H)
A completely non-responsive bird was heard on one afternoon at Tabubil, where it's only reaction to our tape was to go silent and to never call again!
Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio
Recorded several times in the Port Moresby area.
Comb-crested Jacana Irediparra gallinacea
Several were seen at the Pacific Adventist University.
PLOVERS AND LAPWINGS: Charadriidae
Masked Lapwing Vanellus miles
This common Australian bird was only seen on our first day, in the vicinity of Port Moresby.
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius *ENDEMIC?*
A pair of this distinctive resident 'race' were seen in their usual hangout between Kiunga and Tabubil. They possess a pale base to the bill and give a very different call to the nominate race, leading some to treat this as a separate, endemic species.
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
Several were seen close to Port Moresby.
Far Eastern Curlew Numenius madagascariensis
Several were seen close to Port Moresby.
Black-naped Tern Sterna sumatrana
Several were seen on the outskirts of Port Moresby.
Common Tern Sterna hirundo
A single bird was seen from the port at Kiunga, fishing along the Fly River.
PIGEONS AND DOVES: Columbidae
Rock Pigeon Columba livia
Several were seen in Port Moresby.
Slender-billed (Brown) Cuckoo-Dove Macropygia amboinensis
Recorded around Ekame, Tabubil and downslope from Kumul, on one of the days out from there.
Black-billed Cuckoo-Dove Macropygia nigrirostris *ENDEMIC*
Only seen around Dablin Creek, Tabubil, where they were regularly seen on all visits.
Great (Long-tailed) Cuckoo-Dove Reinwardtoena reinwardtii
One flying up in front of us in a display flight was a good way to get the bird on the list, and this same bird was also later seen perched side-by-side with another, along the OK Ma road (Tabubil).
Stephan's Dove Chalcophaps stephani
A few flyovers were noted on various boat journeys out of Ekame.
New Guinea Bronzewing Henicophaps albifrons *ENDEMIC*
We got cracking views of this shy bird, perched fully in the open, along the Dablin Creek road (Tabubil).
Peaceful Dove Geopelia placida
Seen regularly around the Pacific Adventist University.
Bar-shouldered Dove Geopelia humeralis
Just recorded at Pacific Adventist University.
Cinnamon Ground-Dove Gallicolumba rufigula (H) *ENDEMIC*
Heard along the OK Ma road, Tabubil on one occasion.
Thick-billed Ground-Pigeon Trugon terrestris *ENDEMIC*
A calling bird was pursued on one of the trails near Ekame, although all one person got was a crash of wings as the bird took flight right in front of him.
Pheasant Pigeon Otidiphaps nobilis *ENDEMIC*
We were very fortunate to have several cracks at this one, with most people in the group eventually getting this powerful and distinctive pigeon. Our first encounter was a bird that crashed across the OK Ma road (Tabubil), at eye-level right in front of two very happy and stunned people; then a different person was equally thrilled when another walked out on the Gare's Lookout trail beside him for a brief, mesmerizing moment at Varirata; and finally two other people in the group (having missed these previous sightings) went in and waited for another calling bird at Varirata and were treated to superb looks as this massive pigeon slowly walked by them.
Southern Crowned-Pigeon Goura scheepmakeri *ENDEMIC*
This, the world's largest pigeon, is rightly a big target bird for birders coming to PNG. Not only is it the largest, but it is also seriously impressive with a very non-pigeon like lacy crest, deep maroon underparts and a large whitish flash in the wing. A very dramatic species all round, that created an undeniable buzz on first seeing it. Having been on the alert on the boat all the way in to Ekame, the day wore on and by late afternoon it was looking as if we would have to try again later. We went a little further along the river for one more shot and then, there they were - 4 huge pigeons perched up in the open to go to roost for the night. This created a flurry of activity as people leapt off the boat and onto the muddy river bank to get photos of these massive, spectacular birds. We were all a little calmer when we saw 4 more, this time quietly feeding on the forest floor, a few days later at Ekame. One of the trip favorites.
Wompoo Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus magnificus
This powerful fruit dove was first seen a few times around Ekame, and then later again at Varirata. It also occurs in Australia.
Pink-spotted Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus perlatus *ENDEMIC*
First seen in the lowlands of Kiunga, although best seen at Varirata where an abundance of fruits led to flocks of at least 14 birds being seen at a single fruiting tree, in attendance with around 12 Orange-bellied Fruit-Doves, several Beautiful Fruit-Doves and a couple of female Raggiana Birds-of-paradise!
Ornate Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus ornatus *ENDEMIC*
This stunning fruit-dove is very poorly illustrated in the field guide, that does not portray at all what a superb and richly colored bird this is. We had just the one sighting of a group of four birds near a fruiting tree at Dablin Creek, Tabubil.
Superb Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus superbus
Seen at Ekame, several times around Tabubil, and also Varirata.
Beautiful Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus pulchellus *ENDEMIC*
Several sightings first at Ekame, although seen much better at Varirata. The abundance of fruiting trees at Varirata brought us multiple sightings of this well-named dove, including at least five birds together in one tree.
White-breasted (-bibbed) Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus rivoli
This striking, highland fruit-dove was seen really well, when a calling bird was 'teed-up' in the scope on one of the trails around Tari.
Orange-bellied Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus iozonus *ENDEMIC*
Only seen at Varirata, where some heavily-laden fruiting trees played host to a bunch of fruit-doves, including at least 12 of these, along with at least 14 Pink-spotted Fruit-Doves and a few Beautiful Fruit-Doves thrown in for good measure (not to mention the odd Raggiana Bird-of-paradise).
Dwarf Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus nanus *ENDEMIC*
This diminutive dove was first picked up at Ekame, and later on the trip a single bird frequented a fruiting tree at Varirata in company with Orange-bellied and Pink-spotted Fruit-Doves.
Purple-tailed Imperial-Pigeon Ducula rufigaster *ENDEMIC*
Just the one was seen, along a trail near Kiunga.
Rufescent Imperial-Pigeon Ducula chalconota *ENDEMIC*
This normally montane species was picked up at Varirata, where a pair of calling birds were seen really well in the scope.
Pinon Imperial-Pigeon Ducula pinon *ENDEMIC*
Recorded a few times along the Elevala River between Kiunga and Ekame where they were easily outnumbered by the much more common Collared Imperial Pigeon.
Collared Imperial-Pigeon Ducula mullerii *ENDEMIC*
Fairly common along the Elevala River around Ekame, where we frequently recorded them from the comfort of the boat.
Zoe Imperial-Pigeon Ducula zoeae *ENDEMIC*
A calling bird was first scoped along one of Ekame's trails, and later a nesting bird was found at Varirata.
Torresian Imperial-Pigeon Ducula spilorrhoa
A few were seen on the first day of the tour, at the Pacific Adventist University.
Papuan Mountain-Pigeon Gymnophaps albertisii
Large flocks of this gregarious, montane pigeon were seen regularly around Tabubil, Kumul and Tari.
Palm Cockatoo Probosciger aterrimus
This dramatic, monstorous cockatoo was a noisy, daily feature around Ekame where they were frequently seen cruising low over our boat, and a few were also seen perched by the scenic Elevala river.
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo Cacatua galerita
Seen regularly at Ekame and Varirata.
Yellow-streaked (Greater-streaked) Lory Chalcopsitta sintillata *ENDEMIC*
3 seen in the Kiunga area were the only sightings on the tour.
Rainbow Lorikeet Trichoglossus haematodus
Fairly common around Port Moresby, where they were seen at both the Pacific Adventist University and Varirata. Also recorded at Tabubil.
Goldie's Lorikeet Psitteuteles goldiei *ENDEMIC*
Just recorded on the one day at Kumul Lodge, right near the lodge itself.
(Western) Black-capped Lory Lorius lory *ENDEMIC*
Seen a number of times in Ekame itself and along the river on the way in there, around Tabubil, and also at Varirata.
Red-flanked Lorikeet Charmosyna placentis
A single party feeding noisily on roadside blossoms at Tabubil was to be our only sighting.
Fairy (Little Red) Lorikeet Charmosyna pulchella *ENDEMIC*
A flock of 6 of these really striking parrots were found feeding on some bright red fruits along the Dablin Creek road, Tabubil. These same red fruits also pulled in Red-breasted Pygmy-Parrots, and a female Magnificent Bird-of-paradise.
Papuan Lorikeet Charmosyna papou *ENDEMIC*
Seen twice around Kumul, the first time being a 'black phase' bird perched in full view from the lodge balcony.
Plum-faced (Whiskered) Lorikeet Oreopsittacus arfaki *ENDEMIC*
Small flocks of this high montane species were seen flying over high up the Tari Valley.
Yellow-billed Lorikeet Neopsittacus musschenbroekii *ENDEMIC*
A number of small flocks were seen around Kumul lodge and Tari.
Orange-billed Lorikeet Neopsittacus pullicauda *ENDEMIC*
One was seen near to Kumul Lodge.
Pesquet's (Vulturine) Parrot Psittrichas fulgidus *ENDEMIC*
A pair were seen perched by the Elevala River, near Ekame, causing us almost to beach the boat in an attempt to get the best angle on the birds. A few were later also seen flying over a scenic valley near the town of Tabubil.
Yellow-capped Pygmy-Parrot Micropsitta keiensis *ENDEMIC*
A calling bird taunted us at Kiunga, where it remained hidden for the whole time. We later found a perched calling bird on a trail near Ekame, that proved to be our only sighting.
Buff-faced Pygmy-Parrot Micropsitta pusio *ENDEMIC*
These tiny parrots were a joy to watch at Varirata, where 3 birds were seen climbing up and down vertical trunks and branches more in the manner of a sitella or nuthatch than miniature parrot.
Red-breasted Pygmy-Parrot Micropsitta bruijnii
A party of 3 birds were seen on one day at Dablin Creek (Tabubil).
Orange-breasted Fig-Parrot Cyclopsitta gulielmitertii *ENDEMIC*
Several were seen at Kiunga, in the Ekame area and around Tabubil.
Double-eyed Fig-Parrot Cyclopsitta diophthalma
1 was seen really well perched along a trail close to Ekame Lodge.
Painted Tiger-Parrot Psittacella picta *ENDEMIC*
Just a single sighting of a pair at Tari.
Brehm's Tiger-Parrot Psittacella brehmii *ENDEMIC*
A regular feature at Kumul's fruit-laden bird table, where a pair were regularly in attendance. A few were also seen at Tari.
Red-cheeked Parrot Geoffroyus geoffroyi
A noisy and visible parrot at both Kiunga and Varirata.
Blue-collared Parrot Geoffroyus simplex *ENDEMIC*
Just a few high-flying flocks seen along the OK Ma road, Tabubil, where their distinctive tinkling calls gave them away.
Eclectus Parrot Eclectus roratus
These very handsome parrots were regular along the Elevala River, near Ekame. Also recorded several times in the Tabubil area.
Papuan King-Parrot Alisterus chloropterus *ENDEMIC*
3 seen in a very birdy garden at Tari, were a little overshadowed by the calling male Blue Bird-of-paradise closeby and several female Black Sicklebills in the same garden!
Brush Cuckoo Cacomantis variolosus
Heard at a number of sites (Kiunga, Ekame, Varirata, Tabubil), although only seen downhill from Kumul.
Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo Cacomantis castaneiventris *ENDEMIC*
Heard at a number of places, although only seen just the once, when a calling bird was seen on the journey between Kiunga and Tabubil.
Fan-tailed Cuckoo Cacomantis flabelliformis
Heard around Tari, where a single bird was seen.
Shining Bronze-Cuckoo Chrysococcyx lucidus
1 was seen at Varirata.
Rufous-throated Bronze-Cuckoo Chrysococcyx ruficollis *ENDEMIC*
This vocal highland cuckoo put in an appearance several times at Kumul, once at the lodge itself and later along a trail close to there.
White-eared Bronze-Cuckoo Chrysococcyx meyeri *ENDEMIC*
Seen on a few occasions along the Dablin Creek road, Tabubil.
Little Bronze-Cuckoo Chrysococcyx minutillus
Regularly heard in the Ekame area, where one was seen right around the lodge just before we departed.
White-crowned Koel Caliechthrus leucolophus (H) *ENDEMIC*
We heard their distinctive sound a number of times at both Ekame and Tabubil, but never even got close to one.
Dwarf Koel Microdynamis parva *ENDEMIC*
One was seen visiting a fruiting tree on a short, unscheduled stop on the journey between Kiunga and Tabubil.
Australian Koel Eudynamys cyanocephala
Recorded daily in the Ekame area.
Channel-billed Cuckoo Scythrops novaehollandiae
A pair of these huge cuckoos was picked up from the boat on the way in to Ekame, and later another was seen in the same area.
Greater Black Coucal Centropus menbeki (H) *ENDEMIC*
This shy coucal was heard on two days at Ekame.
Pheasant Coucal Centropus phasianinus
Several were seen in the dry woodland on the verges of Varirata.
Lesser Black Coucal Centropus bernsteini *ENDEMIC*
The best we could rustle up was a brief flight view of one near the Kiunga airstrip.
Greater Sooty-Owl Tyto tenebricosa
This magnificent highly-rated owl was seen with a little 'ingenuity' at a traditional day roost near to Tari. One of the most bizarre experiences of the tour occurred later when we saw several kids along the road near the village shouting 'cuscus!' and pointing high up into a near tree. Alarmingly straight up from the assembled crowd, that included a number of fully dressed up Huli Wigmen, a local was in hot pursuit of this highly desired mammal. We quickly alighted from our vehicle in order to check out this interesting 'mammal', only to look up and find the boldly spotted body of presumably the same Sooty Owl we had seen before, so we alerted the crowd to the fact that what they were chasing was actually an owl and not a mammal at all, although as the man climbing neared the bird it promptly took off while being harassed by an attendant mobbing Black Butcherbird, much to the dismay of the disgruntled crowd and tired climber!
Australasian Grass-Owl Tyto longimembris (H)
Heard calling several times, low down in the Tari valley.
Jungle Hawk-Owl (Papuan Boobook) Ninox theomacha *ENDEMIC*
Poor views were first had from the boat near to Ekame Lodge, where most of us got nothing except the red glow of the eyeshine; and then later seen much better along the OK Ma road, Tabubil, when a close calling Shovel-billed Kingfisher quickly made us drop everything (including the owl) in a successful hot pursuit of that enigmatic, endemic kookaburra.
Feline Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles insignis (H) *ENDEMIC*
A frustrating miss was hearing this bird calling on two consecutive nights in the Tari valley.
Mountain Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles albertisi *ENDEMIC*
This one played hard-to-get at Kumul, a traditionally good site for the species. Only heard calling distantly on our first nights, before one person persevered and got it on our last night. With this in mind, we made one last attempt to get it on our final morning there, when the bird could not have been more helpful. It sat there at extremely close range for well over 30 minutes allowing us enough time to round everyone up (i.e. wake them up!), and get absolutely everyone on this very cute nightbird.
Barred Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles bennettii *ENDEMIC*
In stark contrast to the other owlet-nightjars for us this one was straightforward at Varirata, a single bird seen at its traditional day roost on our first day there. On the last day one person was treated to 3 in one morning - the 'usual' bird and then he unintentionally disturbed two other different birds from 2 further, unknown roosts!
Papuan Frogmouth Podargus papuensis
A pair of 'frozen' birds were found roosting at the Pacific Adventist University on our first afternoon.
White-throated Nightjar Eurostopodus mystacalis
Two of the group fortuitously disturbed a roosting bird on our last morning at Varirata, when they were going in on a successful pursuit of a calling Pheasant Pigeon.
Archbold's (Mountain) Nightjar Eurostopodus archboldi *ENDEMIC*
We had expected to get this one at Kumul Lodge where they have been regular in the past, although they were conspicuously absent there. A later attempt in the Tari valley was more successful when we spotlighted a calling bird.
Large-tailed Nightjar Caprimulgus macrurus
Several were flushed off the road in the car headlights in the Tari valley, and another was seen similarly on the way in to Varirata.
Glossy Swiftlet Collocalia esculenta
A commonly recorded bird at many sites on the tour in both the highlands and lowlands.
Mountain Swiftlet Aerodramus hirundinaceus *ENDEMIC*
This endemic highland swift was found at Kumul and later at Tari.
Uniform Swiftlet Aerodramus vanikorensis
This lowland species was recorded a number of times at Kiunga, Ekame and Tabubil.
Papuan (Spine-tailed-) Needletail Mearnsia novaeguineae *ENDEMIC*
This diminutive needletail was seen daily in the Ekame area, regularly seen swooping low over the glassy waters of the Elevala River.
White-throated Needletail Hirundapus caudacutus
A very unseasonal record was of a single bird seen downslope from Kumul Lodge. This bird would not normally be expected to occur in New Guinea at this time of year.
Moustached Treeswift Hemiprocne mystacea
This really attractive species was seen regularly on the tour, being recorded first at Kiunga and then Ekame, Tabubil and Varirata.
Azure Kingfisher Alcedo azurea
Seen a few times in the Ekame area.
Variable (Dwarf) Kingfisher Ceyx lepidus
One was seen really well after 'going in' (unsuccessfully) for a Pheasant Pigeon at Tabubil. Others were heard at Varirata.
Blue-winged Kookaburra Dacelo leachii
Recorded in the open woodland and savanna of both the Pacific Adventist University and Varirata in the Port Moresby area.
Rufous-bellied Kookaburra Dacelo gaudichaud *ENDEMIC*
This extremely attractive kookaburra was the first of the endemic 'fishers to be seen, when a very responsive, agitated bird flew in and perched right overhead in Kiunga.
Shovel-billed (Kingfisher) Kookaburra Clytoceyx rex *ENDEMIC*
Earmarked as bird of the trip by at least one person, and it is not hard to see why. A semi-nocturnal, shy and difficult kingfisher with an absurdly 'deformed' bill, that calls for only a short period around dawn and dusk - a bird with bags of charisma and with only a short window to get it in, one that is a great relief to find. This enigmatic species performed well for us at Tabubil, when it began to call very close and loudly, just as we'd managed to spotlight a calling Papuan Boobook. Unsurprisingly, the owl was soon dropped 'like a hot rock' in favor of chasing the kingfisher, that proved a timely choice as the superb Shovel-billed Kingfisher was soon found calling from an open branch, shortly before it fell silent and vanished.
Forest Kingfisher Todirhamphus macleayii
1 was seen in the Kiunga area and another was seen close to Varirata.
Sacred Kingfisher Todirhamphus sanctus
Regularly seen around Ekame.
Hook-billed Kingfisher Melidora macrorrhina *ENDEMIC*
This bird is pretty common in the lowlands of Kiunga and Ekame, but far from easy to see. Multiple birds were heard daily at dawn and dusk when they were a very loud and vocal part of the daily chorus. However, only one lucky person got a look at one in the Kiunga area, despite many attempts to pick up others at Ekame and Kiunga.
Yellow-billed Kingfisher Syma torotoro
Heard regularly at Ekame, where they proved elusive. The story at Varirata was very different however, where we picked up two different birds on our first morning there and another was seen right by the car park on another day.
Mountain Kingfisher Syma megarhyncha *ENDEMIC*
The highland counterpart of Yellow-billed Kingfisher. We saw one very vocal bird along the Dablin Creek road at Tabubil on one day. Distant ones were also heard in the Tari valley.
Common Paradise-Kingfisher Tanysiptera galatea
This cracking kingfisher was seen during a great afternoons birding at Ekame, where a short distance away from this attractive kingfisher both Hooded and Red-bellied Pittas also both showed well.
Brown-headed Paradise-Kingfisher Tanysiptera danae *ENDEMIC*
This beautiful kingfisher is endemic to southeast New Guinea, and was surprisingly easy to see at Varirata where one or two were seen on all of our visits there.
Rainbow Bee-eater Merops ornatus
Commonly recorded in the Port Moresby area.
Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis
Very, very common around Ekame, with a few also seen at Varirata.
Blyth's (Papuan) Hornbill Aceros plicatus
These magnificent birds were seen everyday around Ekame, where the loud 'woosh' of their huge wings was often heard overhead.
Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida
Seen three times at Ekame, the first view being a little brief and disappointing, although the second time one put on a great show, just yards from an obliging Red-bellied Pitta. It really is not very often that two pittas can be seen virtually side-by-side. Another good view was had later on a different trail.
Red-bellied (Blue-breasted) Pitta Pitta erythrogaster
As with the previous species this one was seen on three separate occasions in the Ekame area, although it took until the third try for the bird to give 'acceptable' (i.e. very good!) views.
Australasian Bushlark Mirafra javanica
A few were seen along the roadside between Kumul and Tari.
Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica
Fairly common around some of the lowland sites visited.
Tree Martin Petrochelidon nigricans
A single sighting was made around Tari airport.
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike Coracina novaehollandiae
Only recorded in the Port Moresby area, where a huge flock of over 100 birds was noted at Varirata, with others being seen at the Pacific Adventist University.
Stout-billed Cuckoo-shrike Coracina caeruleogrisea *ENDEMIC*
This powerful cuckoo-shrike was seen once on two separate days at Dablin Creek (Tabubil).
Yellow-eyed (Barred) Cuckoo-shrike Coracina lineata
Several were seen at Varirata.
Boyer's Cuckoo-shrike Coracina boyeri *ENDEMIC*
A pair were seen at Kiunga and Ekame.
White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike Coracina papuensis
Only recorded once on trip, at the Pacific Adventist University.
Hooded Cuckoo-shrike Coracina longicauda *ENDEMIC*
A pair of this high mountain cuckoo-shrike were seen on one of our days in the Tari area.
Cicadabird Coracina tenuirostris
A single male was seen in the same area, on two separate days at Varirata.
Papuan (Black-shouldered) Cuckoo-shrike Coracina incerta *ENDEMIC*
A vocal pair were found at Dablin Creek, Tabubil.
Gray-headed Cuckoo-shrike Coracina schisticeps *ENDEMIC*
A pair were first seen at Ekame, with another single sighting around Kiunga, and several further views in the Tabubil area.
New Guinea (Black) Cuckoo-shrike Coracina melas *ENDEMIC*
A male was seen near Kiunga on our first day in the lowland forests, with further sightings in Ekame and Varirata.
Black-bellied Cuckoo-shrike Coracina montana *ENDEMIC*
This seriously handsome cuckoo-shrike was recorded twice around both Kumul and Tari.
Golden Cuckoo-shrike Campochaera sloetii *ENDEMIC*
This unique and stunning black-and-gold endemic cuckoo-shrike was unanimously considered the best of this bunch. We first encountered this cracking cuckoo-shrike right around the lodge as we were leaving Ekame, and then later caught up with it again at Dablin Creek, Tabubil.
Varied Triller Lalage leucomela
Several seen at Tabubil.
Island Thrush Turdus poliocephalus
A regular visitor to the garden lawn and bird tables during our time at Kumul Lodge.
OLD WORLD WARBLERS: Sylviidae
Island (Mountain) Leaf-Warbler Phylloscopus poliocephalus
Seen in the mountains of Kumul and Tari.
Tawny (Papuan) Grassbird Megalurus timoriensis *ENDEMIC?*
One was seen flying across the road in front of the car near Kumul Lodge, and others were seen high in the Tari valley.
OLD WORLD FLYCATCHERS: Muscicapidae
Pied Bushchat Saxicola caprata
Commonly recorded in open country (i.e. 'trash habitat'!)
Northern Fantail Rhipidura rufiventris
Commonly recorded at Dablin Creek, Tabubil (that was the only site that we recorded it on the tour).
Willie-wagtail Rhipidura leucophrys
A fairly common bird in lowland areas, especially along the Elevala River.
Friendly Fantail Rhipidura albolimbata *ENDEMIC*
Recorded daily in the mountains of Kumul and Tari.
Chestnut-bellied Fantail Rhipidura hyperythra *ENDEMIC*
Arguably the most attractive of all the fantails, and thankfully a flock regular at Varirata.
Sooty Thicket-Fantail Rhipidura threnothorax *ENDEMIC*
A true 'rascol', being extremely skulking and sly in our first attempts at seeing it around Kiunga and Ekame, where a few people at least got glimpses. Fantastic views were finally achieved for all on a trail at Varirata, where the sparse and open nature of the undergrowth on that particular section allowed rare, close up encounters with a pair of this shy species.
White-bellied Thicket-Fantail Rhipidura leucothorax *ENDEMIC*
Another 'rascol', being downright low down and difficult to see. We struggled with several individuals first at Kiunga and later at Ekame, before finally one showed well to us en-route to Tabubil from Kiunga.
Black Fantail Rhipidura atra *ENDEMIC*
One was seen at Dablin Creek.
Dimorphic Fantail Rhipidura brachyrhyncha *ENDEMIC*
Fairly regularly recorded around Tari, and also heard near Kumul on one day.
Rufous-backed Fantail Rhipidura rufidorsa/ *ENDEMIC*
One person enjoyed good views of this endemic fantail at Tabubil, while others were transfixed by a male Magnificent Bird-of-paradise that chose that moment to put in an appearance at a fruiting tree, that prevented them from being dragged away.
MONARCH FLYCATCHERS: Monarchidae
Black Monarch Monarcha axillaris *ENDEMIC*
A pair were recorded in the Tari valley.
Black-winged Monarch Monarcha frater
Two sightings of this scarce breeding visitor to Cape York in Australia, of singles in a mixed flock on the Gare's Lookout trail, Varirata.
Black-faced Monarch Monarcha melanopsis
Recorded just the once, along one of the trails around Ekame.
Spot-winged Monarch Monarcha guttulus *ENDEMIC*
Seen on several days at both Ekame and Varirata.
Hooded Monarch Monarcha manadensis *ENDEMIC*
One put in an all too brief appearance, while we were chasing a calling Hook-billed Kingfisher at Ekame.
Golden Monarch Monarcha chrysomela *ENDEMIC*
A really stunning monarch, seen first along a trail close to Kiunga and a pair were also seen near Ekame Lodge. Another pair was also seen on our last days birding at Varirata.
Frilled Monarch Arses telescopthalmus *ENDEMIC*
This beautiful endemic monarch is a fairly common bird in PNG, regularly encountered in mixed feeding flocks around Kiunga, Ekame, and Varirata.
Leaden Flycatcher Myiagra rubecula
This species was one of the final additions to our trip list, in the dry savanna of Varirata.
Satin Flycatcher Myiagra cyanoleuca
A single bird was seen perched outside our cabins at Ekame Lodge.
Shining Flycatcher Myiagra alecto
Fairly regularly seen from our boat, feeding along the banks of the Elevala River at Ekame.
Black-breasted Boatbill Machaerirhynchus nigripectus *ENDEMIC*
This gorgeous endemic flycatcher was first seen really well on a trail downhill from Kumul Lodge, and then later again around Tari.
Yellow-breasted Boatbill Machaerirhynchus flaviventer
Only heard around Ekame, although seen near the end of the tour at Varirata, to complete nicely the 'brace' of boatbills.
AUSTRALASIAN ROBINS: Petroicidae
Lesser Ground-Robin Amalocichla incerta *ENDEMIC*
This forest floor skulker was lured in extremely close along a trail in the Tari valley, where after circling us a few times, everyone managed to get good views.
Torrent Flycatcher Monachella muelleriana *ENDEMIC*
This river specialist was seen at Tabubil, where at least three separate birds were seen hopping around on boulders mid-river.
Lemon-bellied Flycatcher Microeca flavigaster
One of the last additions to the list was this species, in the dry woodland of Varirata on our last days birding.
Yellow-legged Flycatcher Microeca griseoceps
One was seen really well along a trail at Varirata, on one day only.
Olive Flyrobin Microeca flavovirescens *ENDEMIC*
This fairly nondescript flycatcher quickly moved through with a feeding flock at Varirata, allowing only one person 'tickable' views.
Canary Flycatcher Microeca papuana *ENDEMIC*
This vividly yellow-breasted flycatcher was seen really well around the lodge grounds at Kumul, and again later at Tari.
Garnet Robin Eugerygone rubra *ENDEMIC*
This highly desired robin species was seen twice during our time at Tari. On the first occasion a singing, scarlet-backed male proved very elusive, only showing well briefly for two people in the group. So on returning to another area for the bird the following day we were a little more determined to not let it slip by. However, on this occasion the bird was very obliging coming straight into playback, and perching right above our heads on several occasions allowing everyone great views of this stunning little mountain robin.
White-faced Robin Tregellasia leucops
This is another of those northern Australian specialties, highly desired by Aussie listers who want to avoid the long trip to Cape York. We came across them clasping on the side of vertical tree trunks on several occasions around Varirata.
Black-sided Robin Poecilodryas hypoleuca *ENDEMIC*
This was a really tricky one to see for us, initially an eternally circling bird at Ekame completely eluded most of us. However on hearing another individual on a different trail there the following day, we were relieved to see this one sail straight in and perch in one position long enough for us all to get onto it, and even get the odd poor quality photo!
Black-throated (-bibbed) Robin Poecilodryas albonotata *ENDEMIC*
This chunky robin was really obliging during our stay at Kumul, with one particular bird showing really well regularly in the garden there and around the adjacent tracks. Others were heard in the Tari valley.
White-winged Robin Peneothello sigillatus *ENDEMIC*
One of the Kumul Lodge's resident 'characters'. These playful and approachable robins are a regular feature of the bird-packed garden at Kumul, 3 or 4 birds being seen daily in the later afternoons and early mornings, invariably clinging vertically to the side of a small tree trunk before suddenly hopping down onto the ground just a few feet away.
White-rumped Robin Peneothello bimaculatus *ENDEMIC*
Seen a few times around Dablin Creek, Tabubil.
Blue-gray Robin Peneothello cyanus *ENDEMIC*
A pair were seen really well by the 'Saxony trail' at Kumul, and another was seen in the Tari area where they were often heard calling.
Gray-headed (Ashy) Robin Heteromyias albispecularis *ENDEMIC?*
Clements currently has this lumped with the northern Australian Gray-headed Robin, that differs markedly in it's song and completely in its habits. The birds in Australia being showy and even tame at times. A far cry from the New Guinea birds that are notoriously skulking. Other authors have split this off as a New Guinea endemic, Ashy Robin. In spite of this, with a little patience everyone managed good views of at least one of a pair that came in quietly to our tape at Tari.
Northern Scrub-Robin Drymodes superciliaris
The same extremely skulking individual was seen on two consecutive days at Dablin Creek, Tabubil, when it circled us at lightning pace. Others were heard giving their distinctly Jewel-babbler like call at Varirata, and in other areas of Tabubil.
Mottled Whistler Rhagologus leucostigma *ENDEMIC*
Just the one was seen by one person at Tari.
Dwarf Whistler (Goldenface) Pachycare flavogrisea *ENDEMIC*
This incredible 'whistler' was one of the highlights at Varirata, where one or two pairs were recorded on two of our three days there. Despite being a highly vocal, dazzling yellow bird, these striking whistlers can be very unobtrusive and difficult to observe as they feed in the canopy within a fast moving feeding flock. The first sighting was typically like that, there one minute and quickly gone the next, although later a pair showed extremely well feeding very low, when one of the pair even descended to the ground to feed, giving 'prizewinning' views in the process.
Rufous-naped Whistler Aleadryas rufinucha *ENDEMIC*
One of only a few terrestrial whistlers, our first sighting was much like that, of a bird hopping across the lawn at Kumul Lodge. Others were seen around Kumul and at Tari, where their harsh, rasping, almost bowerbird-like calls were heard fairly regularly.
Rusty Whistler Pachycephala hyperythra (H) *ENDEMIC*
Frustratingly only heard distantly on one occasion at Tabubil.
Brown-backed Whistler Pachycephala modesta *ENDEMIC*
This drab whistler was first seen in the garden at Kumul, and later seen along the road at Tari.
Gray-headed Whistler Pachycephala griseiceps
Recorded in small numbers daily at Varirata. Also seen a couple of times at Tabubil.
Sclater's Whistler Pachycephala soror *ENDEMIC*
One of several very handsome whistlers in the forests of New Guinea, they were a seen a number of times on our first day around Tari.
Regent Whistler Pachycephala schlegelii *ENDEMIC*
Another very attractive whistler that first showed up close to the feeders in the garden at Kumul. Others were seen in the Kumul area and also in the Tari valley.
Black-headed Whistler Pachycephala monacha *ENDEMIC*
A singing bird showed well on two days along the Dablin Creek road at Tabubil, with another being seen at the Yellow-breasted Bowerbird site downslope from Kumul.
Rufous (Little) Shrike-Thrush Colluricincla megarhyncha
Seen at a number of sites on the tour - Ekame, Tabubil, Tari and Varirata.
Hooded Pitohui Pitohui dichrous *ENDEMIC*
This poisonous species was first recorded at Tabubil, although was seen much more regularly at Varirata, where a few were seen on each of our visits.
White-bellied Pitohui Pitohui incertus *ENDEMIC*
This is an extremely localized whistler with a small range, although they appear to be locally common at Ekame, even if a little hard to see at times. A party of around 4 birds were seen from the comfort of our boat along the Elevala River, on one of our day trips out of Ekame Lodge.
Rusty Pitohui Pitohui ferrugineus *ENDEMIC*
A group of three very noisy birds showed well on one morning in Varirata.
Crested Pitohui Pitohui cristatus *ENDEMIC*
This semi ground-dwelling species is arguably the hardest of the pitohuis to actually see. One person chanced upon one feeding unusually high in a tree at Dablin, Tabubil, while everyone else had to wait until Varirata to catch up with this elusive species. Two good although typically brief sightings in the Varirata area saw everyone else catch up with this legendary skulker.
Variable Pitohui Pitohui kirhocephalus *ENDEMIC*
Just the one seen during our first forray into the forest at Kiunga.
Wattled Ploughbill Eulacestoma nigropectus *ENDEMIC*
This curious bird has bags of character - one of the world's true avian oddities, sporting a strange bulbous, 'deformed' bill and a pair of fleshy pink wattles it is fair to say this is not your average 'whistler'! Unsurprisingly, therefore it was high on the wish list for everyone. A male frustratingly only showed to one person near the garden at Kumul, during a period when everyone else was understandably transfixed on Brown Sicklebill, Ribbon-tailed Astrapia, Brehm's Tiger-Parrot, Regent Whistler around the feeders, to name but a few! We tried a couple of places later on both around Kumul and in the Tari area, before finally a fully-wattled male bird was found quietly feeding alone, at eye level in a small stand of bamboo along one of Tari's trails. Definitely one of PNG's weirdest, and most enigmatic species.
New Guinea (Rufous) Babbler Pomatostomus isidorei *ENDEMIC*
A small party was seen in the forests of Kiunga on two separate days.
Northern (New Guinea) Logrunner Orthonyx novaeguineae *ENDEMIC*
This recently split species has a completely different song to the Aussie version. They are also decidedly more skulking than their Australian counterparts, although we did manage to get a pair in really close where everyone got good looks in the Tari area.
WHIPBIRDS AND QUAIL-THRUSHES: Eupetidae
Painted Quail-thrush Cinclosoma ajax *ENDEMIC*
We were extremely lucky with this notoriously shy species - first off we positioned ourselves just up from a calling bird and waited patiently, hoping that it would chose the convenient open patch of ground in front of us to investigate our tape. Incredibly it did just that, as a male flew in and then scurried past all of us one-by-one. (This was right at the start of a morning at Varirata that ended with incredible views of another shy whipbird - the equally stunning Chestnut-backed Jewel-babbler!) That really should have been enough, but this species was not done with us just yet. A little later the same morning, a bird was flushed off the side of the trail and on investigation was found to be a female Painted Quail-thrush that similarly walked past all of us once again - definitely an incredible showing for this normally very difficult species.
Papuan Whipbird Androphobus viridis *ENDEMIC*
All the whipbirds are highly desired, shy skulking species. Although this is arguably the hardest of the bunch. One extremely lucky person chanced upon one near Kumul Lodge while doing some 'illegal' birding during a lunch recess!
Spotted Jewel-babbler Ptilorrhoa leucosticta *ENDEMIC*
One lucky group member not being content to get the Papuan Whipbird up on the rest of the group, was also fortuitously placed when a Spotted Jewel-babbler came into investigate our tape in the highlands of Tari, being one of only two people who could see the bird from their position.
Blue Jewel-babbler Ptilorrhoa caerulescens *ENDEMIC*
This lowland jewel-babbler was much kinder to us, first showing well near Kiunga and then showing for a more prolonged period on one of the Ekame trails. On the latter occasion a male bird sat agitatedly calling from a great position where everyone could see it for a period of over several minutes. Definitely one of those magical birding moments, when everyone gets their first unforgettable taste of the amazing jewel-babblers.
Chestnut-backed Jewel-babbler Ptilorrhoa castanonota *ENDEMIC*
This mid-elevation species also performed very well for us all after the first disappointing showing at Dablin Creek, Tabubil (that only a few people got tantalizing views of). So the pressure was on at the last site of the trip, Varirata. Our first day there drew a complete blank with no birds heard calling at all. However, late on our second morning a few hours after we had unbelievably seen two separate Painted Quail-thrushes, a bird appeared briefly in the middle of the trail. The tape was put into good use, and lured in a pair that circled very close to us, allowing everyone a good eyeful of these exquisite jewels of the forest floor. On our final day at Varirata an action replay occurred when we chanced upon another pair that behaved similarly, and we could not resist getting further unforgettable looks at these cracking whipbirds.
Blue-capped Ifrita Ifrita kowaldi *ENDEMIC*
This bird seems far from a whipbird, although is listed with them currently by Clements (Beehler lists this species seemingly more appropriately with the whistlers). We first picked this species up in the garden from the Kumul Lodge balcony, later seeing several more on a trail near there. They were also seen a few times in the Tari area.
Orange-crowned Fairywren Clytomyias insignis *ENDEMIC*
One small party was seen on a trail near to Kumul Lodge.
Wallace's Fairywren Sipodotus wallacii *ENDEMIC*
Brief views were had first within a fast-moving mixed flock, along a trail close to Ekame. Much better views were enjoyed on two separate days around Varirata, where the birds were again seen within a busy feeding flock.
White-shouldered Fairywren Malurus alboscapulatus *ENDEMIC*
Recorded in Kiunga and around Tari.
Emperor Fairywren Malurus cyanocephalus *ENDEMIC*
This really cool fairywren was seen really well on a trip out of Ekame lodge, although was very quickly overshadowed by a male Flame Bowerbird that soon after made a dramatic appearance in a nearby fruiting tree.
THORNBILLS AND ALLIES: Acanthizidae
Rusty (Lowland) Mouse-Warbler Crateroscelis murina *ENDEMIC*
This subtly handsome warbler was seen several times at Varirata; and was earlier heard around Tabubil where they stubbornly remained hidden.
Mountain Mouse-Warbler Crateroscelis robusta *ENDEMIC*
Seen several times close to Kumul lodge, and also seen once in the Tari area.
Large Scrubwren Sericornis nouhuysi *ENDEMIC*
Fairly commonly recorded in the Kumul area and also around Tari.
Buff-faced Scrubwren Sericornis perspicillatus *ENDEMIC*
Seen once on a trail close to Kumul and twice around Tari.
Papuan Scrubwren Sericornis papuensis *ENDEMIC*
Recorded on several occasions in the Kumul and Tari areas.
Pale-billed Scrubwren Sericornis spilodera *ENDEMIC*
A few were seen in mixed flocks at Varirata.
Papuan Thornbill Acanthiza murina *ENDEMIC*
One was seen in the garden of Kumul Lodge.
Mountain (Gray) Gerygone Gerygone cinerea *ENDEMIC*
A couple of these handsome warblers were seen along a trail near Kumul lodge.
Green-backed Gerygone Gerygone chloronotus
1 was seen in the Tabubil area.
Fairy Gerygone Gerygone palpebrosa
This striking gerygone was seen in small numbers daily at Varirata, usually attending feeding flocks.
Yellow-bellied Gerygone Gerygone chrysogaster *ENDEMIC*
Seen on most days around Ekame and Varirata.
Large-billed Gerygone Gerygone magnirostris
2 were seen on one day at Ekame.
Brown-breasted Gerygone Gerygone ruficollis *ENDEMIC*
This highland warbler was seen on one of the day trips out of Kumul Lodge.
Black Sittella Neositta miranda *ENDEMIC*
This seriously cute and rare sitella was seen on three separate occasions, initially near Kumul lodge and then later several times in the Tari valley.
Varied (Papuan) Sittella Neositta chrysoptera *ENDEMIC?*
Seen twice in Varirata. Some authors split the New Guinea race off as an endemic species, Papuan Sitella.
AUSTRALASIAN TREECREEPERS: Climacteridae
Papuan Treecreeper Cormobates placens *ENDEMIC*
A red-throated female was seen on a small trail in the Tari area, that completed the set of Australasian Treecreepers for one member of the group.
Black Sunbird Leptocoma sericea
Seen a few times around Ekame, Kiunga and Tabubil.
Olive-backed (Yellow-bellied) Sunbird Cinnyris jugularis
Only seen on the first afternoon, in the grounds of the Pacific Adventist University.
BERRYPECKERS AND LONGBILLS: Melanocharitidae
Obscure Berrypecker Melanocharis arfakiana *ENDEMIC*
This very nondescript species was seen several times in the Tabubil area.
Black Berrypecker Melanocharis nigra *ENDEMIC*
This, the only lowland berrypecker species, was seen a few times at Varirata.
Lemon-breasted (Mid-mountain) Berrypecker Melanocharis longicauda *ENDEMIC*
Seen a few times in the Tari and Kumul areas.
Fan-tailed Berrypecker Melanocharis versteri *ENDEMIC*
Also recorded at both Kumul and Tari.
Streaked Berrypecker Melanocharis striativentris *ENDEMIC*
One was seen by a few people on a trail downslope from Kumul lodge.
Yellow-bellied Longbill Toxorhamphus novaeguineae *ENDEMIC*
Recorded just the once, at Kiunga.
Slaty-chinned Longbill Toxorhamphus poliopterus *ENDEMIC*
Just the one sighting, low down in the Tari valley.
Dwarf (Plumed Longbill) Honeyeater Toxorhamphus iliolophus *ENDEMIC*
What was presumably the same bird, was seen visiting the same fruiting tree over two consecutive days at Varirata.
Pygmy (Longbill) Honeyeater Toxorhamphus pygmaeum *ENDEMIC*
A couple of these tiny longbills were seen along the OK Ma road, Tabubil.
TIT AND CRESTED BERRYPECKERS: Paramythiidae
Tit Berrypecker Oreocharis arfaki *ENDEMIC*
Another very cool New Guinea highland bird, seen several times in one morning along a trail near Kumul Lodge; and then later seen high up the Tari valley.
Crested Berrypecker Paramythia montium *ENDEMIC*
This stunning highland endemic was a very welcome daily feature in the Kumul lodge garden, regularly feeding in the small shrubs right outside the window. A little bit like a stunning blue-and-white waxwing!
Red-capped (Papuan) Flowerpecker Dicaeum geelvinkianum *ENDEMIC*
Seen at Kiunga, Tabubil, and several times at Varirata.
Black-fronted White-eye Zosterops minor *ENDEMIC*
Small parties were seen daily in the Tabubil area; and also seen at Varirata.
Capped (Western Mountain-) White-eye Zosterops fuscicapillus *ENDEMIC*
Several small groups were seen in the lower section of the Tari valley.
New Guinea White-eye Zosterops novaeguineae *ENDEMIC*
Recorded on just one day, on one of our trips out from Kumul lodge.
Olive Straightbill Timeliopsis fulvigula *ENDEMIC*
A single bird was seen along the same trail at Tari on two different days.
Long-billed Honeyeater Melilestes megarhynchus *ENDEMIC*
This powerfully built, distinctive honeyeater was seen a few times at Dablin Creek (Tabubil); and also recorded once downslope from Kumul, and once also at Varirata.
Green-backed Honeyeater Glycichaera fallax
A lone bird was seen at Varirata.
Red-throated Myzomela Myzomela eques *ENDEMIC*
One male at Dablin Creek was our only sighting.
(Papuan) Black Myzomela Myzomela nigrita *ENDEMIC*
Singles were seen in the Tabubil area, and downslope from Kumul. Many were seen in the dry woodland on the outskirts of Varirata, where they were fairly common.
Mountain (Red-headed) Myzomela Myzomela adolphinae *ENDEMIC*
One superb male was seen on a trip downslope from Kumul; with another male later on the tour at Varirata.
Red-collared Myzomela Myzomela rosenbergii *ENDEMIC*
Another cracking little honeyeater, first seen in the garden at Kumul, and later seen downslope from there and again once in the Tari area.
Mountain Meliphaga Meliphaga orientalis *ENDEMIC*
Several were seen on most days in the Tabubil area.
Scrub (White-eared) Honeyeater Meliphaga albonotata *ENDEMIC*
Good looks at several calling birds in the Kiunga area.
Mimic (Meliphaga) Honeyeater Meliphaga analoga *ENDEMIC*
Several meliphagas seen in the Ekame area were thought to be this species, although meliphaga identification is still very poorly understood and extremely challenging to even the most experienced New Guinea birders.
Black-throated Honeyeater Lichenostomus subfrenatus *ENDEMIC*
This loud honeyeater was regularly heard around the garden at Kumul, where a few were seen. Another was also seen along a trail downslope from there, with others being heard in the Tari area also.
Yellow-tinted Honeyeater Lichenostomus flavescens
1 was seen on our first afternoon at the Pacific Adventist University on the outskirts of Port Moresby.
Tawny-breasted Honeyeater Xanthotis flaviventer
A pair were seen around Kiunga, and a few were seen daily in the Tabubil area.
Spotted Honeyeater Xanthotis polygramma *ENDEMIC*
Two sightings in Tabubil and another in Varirata.
White-throated Honeyeater Melithreptus albogularis
Only seen at Varirata, where they were reasonably common in the dry woodland on the edge of the park.
Plain Honeyeater Pycnopygius ixoides *ENDEMIC*
One seen during a brief roadside stop between Kiunga and Tabubil was our only sighting.
Marbled Honeyeater Pycnopygius cinereus *ENDEMIC*
First seen downslope from Kumul, with another seen low down in the Tari valley.
Streak-headed Honeyeater Pycnopygius stictocephalus *ENDEMIC*
Just two singles seen - one at Kiunga at the start of the trip, and another in the dry country of Varirata.
Helmeted (Papuan) Friarbird Philemon buceroides *ENDEMIC*
Regularly recorded around Kiunga, Ekame and Tabubil; and also seen at Varirata.
Rufous-backed Honeyeater Ptiloprora guisei *ENDEMIC*
Only recorded in the Tari valley, where they were fairly common in the lower parts of the valley. Higher up the valley they appear to be replaced by the next species.
Black-backed (Gray-streaked) Honeyeater Ptiloprora perstriata *ENDEMIC*
Very commonly seen at Kumul lodge, where they were regularly seen probing the flowering shrubs in the garden. Also recorded along the higher sections of the Tari valley.
Belford's Melidectes Melidectes belfordi *ENDEMIC*
Another common and very noisy garden bird at Kumul lodge, and also seen in the upper Tari valley. They appear to be replaced by the next species at lower altitudes in this area.
Yellow-browed Melidectes Melidectes rufocrissalis *ENDEMIC*
Fairly common along the lower sections of the Tari valley. Also seen once on a trail downslope from Kumul lodge.
Ornate Melidectes Melidectes torquatus *ENDEMIC*
Just the one sighting of this strikingly handsome honeyeater, on one of the trips downslope from Kumul lodge. This bird should have created quite a buzz considering what a great looking bird that it is, were it not for the rather large distraction of a fully-plumed male Lesser Bird-of-paradise being in the throws of a full close up display in the adjacent stand of casuarinas at the time !
(Common) Smoky Honeyeater Melipotes fumigatus *ENDEMIC*
Another very cool high-mountain honeyeater, with a striking patch of brightly-colored bare skin around the eye that varies in color from a pale yellow to a vivid orange-red color when in an agitated state. This was another of those cool and colorful common garden birds at Kumul, and a regular visitor to their fruit-packed bird table. They were also seen a number of times in the upper Tari valley.
Rufous-banded Honeyeater Conopophila albogularis
6 or so birds were seen on our first afternoon, around the Pacific Adventist University near Port Moresby.
Brown Oriole Oriolus szalayi *ENDEMIC*
Singles were seen at the Pacific Adventist University, Kiunga, Ekame, Tabubil and Varirata.
Green Figbird Sphecotheres viridis
Just recorded around the Pacific Adventist University, where they were fairly common.
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach
A few were seen in the Kumul and Tari areas.
Papuan (Mountain) Drongo Chaetorhynchus papuensis *ENDEMIC*
This small endemic drongo was seen twice - first in a passing flock at Tari, and similarly in a mixed feeding flock at Varirata.
Spangled Drongo Dicrurus bracteatus
Recorded at Kiunga, Ekame and Varirata.
MUDNEST BUILDERS: Grallinidae
Torrent-lark Grallina bruijni *ENDEMIC*
Seen at two of the three sites we checked. Missed first at Tabubil, then single female birds were seen well both in the Kumul and Tari areas.
Great Woodswallow Artamus maximus *ENDEMIC*
First recorded in Tabubil, where they were regularly seen right on the outskirts of town. Also seen around Kumul lodge, and between there and Tari.
White-breasted Woodswallow Artamus leucorynchus
Fairly common around the Pacific Adventist University.
BELLMAGPIES AND ALLIES: Cracticidae
Mountain Peltops Peltops montanus *ENDEMIC*
Seen daily in the Tabubil area, where several nesting birds were found. Also heard at Varirata.
Lowland Peltops Peltops blainvillii *ENDEMIC*
1 was seen at Kiunga, and another around Ekame.
Black-backed Butcherbird Cracticus mentalis
Only recorded at the Pacific Adventist University, where 4 birds were seen.
Hooded Butcherbird Cracticus cassicus *ENDEMIC*
Recorded at Ekame, Tabubil and Varirata.
Black Butcherbird Cracticus quoyi
Just recorded the once, when a pair of extremely agitated birds were seen continually harassing a Greater Sooty Owl that had recently emerged from its day roost, near Tari.
Loria's Bird-of-paradise Cnemophilus loriae *ENDEMIC*
One of the least inspiring of the birds-of-paradise, easily overshadowed by its more flashy cousins. A small group were seen in the Kumul area, and later again along a trail in the Tari valley.
Crested Bird-of-paradise Cnemophilus macgregorii *ENDEMIC*
In the midst of a frenzy of new birds for everyone (that included such beauties as Ribbon-tailed Astrapia, Crested Berrypecker, White-winged Robins and Brehm's Tiger-Parrots) shortly after our arrival at Kumul lodge, and getting our first unforgettable taste of birding in New Guinea's bird-rich highlands, a vivid flash of orange caught our eyes. Everyone was immediately drawn to a fantastic male Crested Bird-of-paradise that flew close by the balcony and then duly obliged by perching up on an open lichen-encrusted branch for all of us to savor to the full when a hushed silence fell over us, which was broken suddenly with a stream of appreciative expletives as the bird flew out of view once more! This black-and-orange stunner was at least one person's bird of the trip. The female we found nesting right above one of Kumul lodge's trails was a little disappointing after this first incredible sighting! Others were heard around Tari.
Glossy-mantled Manucode Manucodia atra *ENDEMIC*
Another one of the more understated 'Bops', that was regularly recorded from our boat rides along the Elevala River near Ekame.
Crinkle-collared Manucode Manucodia chalybata *ENDEMIC*
Several were seen in the Tabubil area, a rather distant individual first near OK Menga (although the heavy raised brows were still easily visible even at that range), and a much closer pair at Dablin Creek. Several singles were also recorded at Varirata.
Trumpet Manucode Manucodia keraudrenii
Another of those Cape York specialties in Australia, despite being common by voice at Kiunga we only saw one in this area that proved to be our only sighting of the trip.
Short-tailed Paradigalla Paradigalla brevicauda *ENDEMIC*
Everyone was desperate to get yet another Bop on our first day at Tari (a day that in the end brought us 4 new Bops, bringing our trip Bop total over the 20 threshold, and a commendable day list of 8 Bop species), so we ventured out in abysmal conditions as the rain bucketed down. However, this subtle Bop did not seem to mind, feeding away in its favored fruiting tree seemingly oblivious to the torrential downpour occurring around it!
Ribbon-tailed Astrapia Astrapia mayeri *ENDEMIC*
A quick glance at the Kumul lodge bird table on arrival found all to be quiet, with nothing at all in attendance. With this in mind, we quickly checked into our cabins, walked out of our doors and ran straight into a superb female ribbon-tailed quietly feeding in the garden just outside, just a few meters away from a friendly pair of Crested Berrypeckers that were our first sighting of the tour. Returning to the feeders we then walked straight into a streamer-tailed male bird feeding on the table! Two great first encounters with this high-mountain Bop. They were then regularly recorded in the Kumul area and also again in the upper Tari valley, that included one male with a full-length meter-plus, all-white tail.
Princess Stephanie's Astrapia Astrapia stephaniae *ENDEMIC*
None were seen visiting the feeders at Kumul, where they do sometimes occur. However several different males and females were seen in a bird-packed morning on a trail downslope from Kumul lodge, that saw us also seeing King-of-Saxony and Loria's Birds-of-paradise in the same area. Several were later also seen in the lower Tari valley, including a female that shared a garden with a calling male Blue Bird-of-paradise, several female Black Sicklebills and a few Papuan King-Parrots!
Carola's Parotia Parotia carolae (H) *ENDEMIC*
Definitely one of the frustrations of the tour was visiting a good site for the bird at Tabubil, where there were many appetizing looking fruiting trees, and only hearing the bird distantly there. Still we did manage rare views of a fantastic male Magnificent Bird-of-paradise at these fruiting trees, so I guess we should not complain!
Lawes's Parotia Parotia lawesii *ENDEMIC*
Our first classic days birding at Tari was arguably one of the best and most enjoyable days of the tour, as we added four new Bops, including a group of five of these birds visiting a fruit-laden tree. The group helpfully contained a male bird that sported a full set of antennae. Having missed the Carola's earlier on the tour it was good to get at least one species from this distinctive genus.
King-of-Saxony Bird-of-paradise Pteridophora alberti *ENDEMIC*
Has not got the dazzling colors of some of the other members of this incredible family. However, it more than makes up for this by possessing two extremely long, uniquely-shaped feathers that protrude bizarrely from the sides of the head that it can rotate at will. These serated-edged quills are like nothing else in the bird world, and for this reason I guess are highly prized by the Huli people for adorning their own very strange and unique outfits. We had a good run with this species, seeing singing males on several days around both Tari and Kumul. This enigmatic bird was first seen not far from Kumul lodge, where the bird in question made a very acceptable 5,000th bird for someone in the group. Hotly talked about at the end of the trip, despite repeated good looks, even the bird of the trip for one person.
Magnificent Riflebird Ptiloris magnificus
A male was found conveniently using the same well-hidden songperch as last year at Tabubil.
'Eastern Riflebird' Ptiloris magnificus intercedens *ENDEMIC*
Several female birds were seen at Varirata, where they harsh, loud and far-carrying calls were regularly heard on all our visits there. It is this hugely distinctive call that have led many to believe this endemic New guinea race should be split off as Eastern Riflebird.
Superb Bird-of-paradise Lophorina superba *ENDEMIC*
A female was seen really well downslope from Kumul lodge on one of our trips out from there, with a male bird being seen well later the same day in another area. Others were heard in the Tari valley.
Black Sicklebill Epimachus fastuosus *ENDEMIC*
A pre-dawn rise was necessary on our first morning at Tari, to get ourselves in position: overlooking a bank of tall trees. As the morning light beckoned the first calls of this highly-desired sicklebill were heard in the morning gloom just as the last of the Large-tailed Nightjars fell silent, that sent us into a frenzied search of the trees on the bank. All our first scans produced nothing but frustration as the bird continued to call away, before suddenly a cry went up and we were soon herding around the scope for a look at the strange display rituals of this massive Bop. We were all enjoying this very bizarre spectacle when a close calling Blue Bird-of-paradise behind us soon had us running into a nearby garden for views of this equally appealing bird. An amazing, adrenalin-fuelled few minutes of birding that only the highlands of New Guinea can produce.
Brown Sicklebill Epimachus meyeri *ENDEMIC*
The loud 'machine gun' rattle of this awesome Bop is surely one of the most evocative rainforest sounds anywhere. As with the equally familiar sound of the South American Screaming Piha, their distinctive calls leave you in no doubt as to where in the world you are at the moment you hear the sound, being unique and instantly recognizable to layman and birder alike. This fantastic sound was heard regularly around Kumul and also in the upper Tari valley. A single female showed extremely well wolfing down fruits on the bird table at Kumul where it was a regular garden bird in our time there. Others were seen around Kumul including our only sighting of a male, that was filmed giving it's machine gun rattle from high in the canopy. Other females were noted in the Tari valley, including upto 6 in one morning.
Black-billed (Buff-tailed) Sicklebill Epimachus albertisi *ENDEMIC*
The one that let the side down! The only Bop that was not seen by all members of the group, as a bird sneaked in while we were all waiting quietly for a MacGregor's Bowerbird to appear by it's bower in the Tari valley, and slipped away into the ether before anyone else could even be alerted to its presence.
Magnificent Bird-of-paradise Cicinnurus magnificus *ENDEMIC*
We led a charmed life with this species during our time around Tabubil. Not only did we get a number of good looks at females as they came into fruiting trees in the area, we also scored a rare sighting of a superb male bird that was seen over several days visiting the same fruit-laden tree. Away from their display areas males are generally shy and very hard to come by, so this more than made up for missing Carola's Parotia at the same site. This is another of those birds that is misleadingly depicted in the field guide, the full vividness of the sunburst of yellow on the males wings far from being portrayed adequately in the book.
King Bird-of-paradise Cicinnurus regius *ENDEMIC*
This red-and-white 'dream bird' was seen calling from a thick vine tangle at Ekame, its regular hangout. This was on our first incredible day in the area, that began with a dancing male Twelve-wired Bird-of-paradise, continued with a dancing Flame Bowerbird at a very close bower, and closed with the King Bop - a really fantastic days birding in New Guinea's lowland forests.
Twelve-wired Bird-of-paradise Seleucidis melanoleuca *ENDEMIC*
At dawn on our first morning out of Ekame lodge we traveled a short distance in the boat, pulled up by a muddy bank, and then sat in wait, all eyes focused on an emergent dead snag on the far side of the narrow creek. Before long the bold evocative calls of a male were heard carrying through the morning mist, that created a noticeable pulse of excitement and anticipation within our group. Nerves were soon calmed as the culprit of the sound, a beautiful black-and-yellow male twelve-wired, flapped up on to the top of his dancing pole. He then continued to call there for a while before doing what he is known for best - poledancing! The site of this great Bop dancing vertically up and down his chosen dead snag was definitely a tour highlight!
Lesser Bird-of-paradise Paradisaea minor *ENDEMIC*
One of the big draws at Kumul is the access to an incredible display site for this highly-desired species, and they certainly did not let us down as everyone mentioned this as the overall spectacle of the trip. On arrival at their display garden we set our camera gear up close to a sparse stand of casuarinas, at first only catching glimpses of an intermittently calling male bird. Not exactly what we had hoped for! However, not long after the male burst into action as several females appeared in his preferred casuarina. Their arrival heralded the beginning of his phenomenal display, that during our time included two separate male birds displaying in the same tree along with several females in attendance. We were treated to the complete range of his display, that included him spreading his wings at full stretch, fluffing out his dazzling yellow flank plumes, and running up and down the branch, and even sometimes hanging upside down while the odd female came in and pecked aggressively at their well-dressed suitor. An absolutely incredible mind-blowing performance, that was rightly being talked of right up until the end of the trip. Definitely what you could call a real 'Attenborough moment'.
Greater Bird-of-paradise Paradisaea apoda *ENDEMIC*
This Bop kickstarted the run on this family for the tour, being our first species of the trip, at Kiunga. We had to suffer for over an hour first though, hearing their raucous calls continually tantalizing us the whole time, before they finally got in the mood and began to display in an emergent canopy that produced good scope views of several fully-plumed males in the throws of a full display, a great introduction to the Birds-of-paradise. A few decidedly less dramatic passing birds were also seen in the Tabubil area.
Raggiana Bird-of-paradise Paradisaea raggiana *ENDEMIC*
Still reeling from our first birds-of-paradise - displaying Greaters at Kiunga on our second day - we walked straight into a red-tailed male Raggiana displaying not too far from the original greaters. A good number of females were also seen at Varirata, where the abundance of fruiting trees pulled in a few passing Bops.
Blue Bird-of-paradise Paradisaea rudolphi *ENDEMIC*
A calling male bird was seen perched up at length in an open dead tree, in one magnificent garden in the lower Tari valley, that also held Black Sicklebill and Princess Stephanie's Astrapia among others. Sadly his formerly clearly visible display perch has long since been inadvertently cleared by a local landowner who did not realize its importance. Hopefully someone will find his new display site soon, because the bird is striking enough when it is 'merely' sitting there calling!
Lesser Melampitta Melampitta lugubris *ENDEMIC*
Apparently currently considered a strange, terrestrial Bop, though these ground-dwelling habits, combined with a very un-Bop like song must leave this in some doubt? This shy forest floor skulker eluded us in our first attempts not even being heard around Kumul and in our first tries at Tari. The final try though more than made up for the wait, as first one bird came in and began calling from the top of a dead log, and was then joined by a second bird. At this point they both proceeded to call directly into one anothers face in full view of all of us. This was presumably a pair, one displaying a bright red eye with the other bird (a female?), having a dull brownish eye. Bop or not, it was a remarkable performance!
White-eared Catbird Ailuroedus buccoides *ENDEMIC*
A lucky birder got good views of this shy bowerbird at Varirata.
Sanford's Bowerbird Archboldia sanfordi *ENDEMIC*
A female bird flew into tape at Tari, and perched above us all in full view.
Macgregor's Bowerbird Amblyornis macgregoriae *ENDEMIC*
A female briefly came into a bower near our lodge at Tari.
Flame Bowerbird Sericulus aureus *ENDEMIC*
While everyone had a hard time choosing, this one just might have been the bird of the trip. First a male was seen visiting a fruiting tree, which it quickly left and flew up high into a dead tree for a few thrilling seconds, leaving everyone gagging for more of this 'vision in orange'. We then split the group to minimize disturbance, and visited two separate close bowers, where we all waited patiently until we all got unforgettable close up views of several different breathtaking male birds. At one bower a young male came in and decorated the bower with a few choice leaves, while at the other two different full adult males, a young male and female all came to the bower, where one of the adults and the juvenile male both gave a short dance. Only very recently have the villagers begun allowing public access to these bowers, that has changed the whole experience with this bird dramatically. Formerly the only real chance of this spectacular bird was the possibility of a fleeting flyby in the Kiunga area. Long may this new system continue. Up there with the displaying Lesser Birds-of-paradise in the Kumul area, as one of the most amazing avian spectacles of the trip.
Yellow-breasted Bowerbird Chlamydera lauterbachi *ENDEMIC*
This localized bird was found on one of our trips downslope from Kumul lodge, one of which was in the same small valley as a very vocal male Superb Bird-of-paradise was also seen.
Fawn-breasted Bowerbird Chlamydera cerviniventris
Very common around the Pacific Adventist University.
CROWS AND JAYS: Corvidae
Gray (Bare-eyed) Crow Corvus tristis *ENDEMIC*
Small groups were seen on several occasions near Ekame and around Tabubil.
Torresian Crow Corvus orru
Only seen at Varirata and in the Kiunga area.
Metallic (Shining) Starling Aplonis metallica
Very common along the Elevala River in the Ekame area.
'Singsing' Starling Aplonis cantoroides *ENDEMIC*
5 were seen in the grounds of the Pacific Adventist University.
Yellow-faced Myna Mino dumontii
A pair of these striking 'starlings' were found at the Pacific Adventist University; with others being recorded around Kiunga, Ekame, Tabubil and Varirata.
Golden Myna Mino anais *ENDEMIC*
A few were seen close to Kiunga, and others were found around Ekame.
WAXBILLS AND ALLIES: Estrildidae
Mountain Firetail Oreostruthus fuliginosus *ENDEMIC*
Several very approachable birds were seen in the grounds of Kumul lodge; and a few others were seen in the upper Tari valley.
Blue-faced Parrotfinch Erythrura trichroa
This species was really common in our time around Tari, due to the presence of a load of seeding bamboo.
Papuan Parrotfinch Erythrura papuana *ENDEMIC*
A pair of these chunky, stout-billed parrotbills were seen feeding in seeding casuarinas downslope from Kumul lodge.
Streak-headed (White-spotted) Munia Lonchura tristissima *ENDEMIC*
A pair of these attractive munias were seen at Kiunga.
Hooded Munia Lonchura spectabilis *ENDEMIC*
A few large flocks were seen low down in the Tari valley.
Gray-headed Munia Lonchura caniceps *ENDEMIC*
A few were seen feeding in the long grass within the grounds of the Pacific Adventist University; and represented our first, rather unimpressive, endemic of the tour.
Chestnut-breasted Munia Lonchura castaneothorax
A large group of over 20 birds was seen on the Pacific Adventist University campus.