In Association with:
PAPUA NEW GUINEA – May - 2005
Day 1 - 13th May
Most of the group met at Heathrow Airport for our evening flight to Cairns, Australia, via Singapore, arriving early on the morning of day 3.
Day 3 - 15th May
We arrived at Cairns in the dark early on Sunday morning and with 5 hours spare we caught a taxi and headed down to the esplanade where we watched sunrise while having a coffee and croissant. Our first birds duly arrived and included Willie Wagtail, Magpie Lark, and lots of Silver Gulls. We then walked along the seafront and on the mud soon found and got very good views of Australian Pelicans, Masked Lapwings, Great, Intermediate and Little Egrets. Amongst these were a couple of White-faced Herons, Whimbrel, and a group of Gull-billed Terns. We soon picked up other birds such as Chestnut-headed Plover, Great Knot, Caspian Tern, Black-fronted Dotterel and a Grey-tailed Tattler. On a dead tree we found several White-bellied Woodswallows as well as Peaceful and Spotted Doves and several Varied Honeyeaters. Welcome Swallows flew around and then we found a Helmeted Friarbird, while on the far end of the beach stood a lone Beach Thick-Knee. In the trees here we saw White-bellied Cuckooshrike and a fly over Mistletoe Bird and as we got near to a taxi rank we spotted Yellow-bellied Sunbird and some Metallic Starlings. We then got a lift to the centenary lakes where we soon found Straw-necked Ibis, Collared Kingfisher and then Thick-billed Gerygone, Yellow Honeyeater and plenty of Australian Figbirds. Moving through to the botanical gardens we split up and by the time we got to the bus stop where our taxi was waiting, we had found several Australian Brush Turkeys, Orange-footed Scrub-Fowl, Yellow Oriole and three Laughing Kookaburras. We were then taken to the airport where we met Phil Gregory who was to be our guide for Papua New Guinea (PNG). Once through formalities it wasn’t long before we caught our flight to Port Moresby the capital of PNG. Just a few minutes ride from the small airport and we were at our hotel. After settling in we then met up and went for a few hours birding in a dry area near some ponds and sewerage pools. A Black-backed Butcherbird was found and then excellent views were had of Yellow-tinted Honeycreeper, and several Fawn-breasted Bowerbirds. Around the lake we had Purple Gallinule, Whistling Kite, lots of Wandering Whistling Ducks, Pacific Black Ducks and amongst the trees were White-bellied Cuckoo-Shrikes, a pair of Sacred Kingfishers, Rainbow Bee-eaters and then on a small pool Dusky Moorhen. A group of 20 Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrikes flew over and on another small pool we found three Comb-crested Jacanas. A little further on and we got good views of four Spotted Whistling Ducks sat in a tree and brief views were had of two flying Rufous (Nankeen) Night Herons plus several Grey-headed Mannikins. A short drive to a nearby overgrown pool got us views of Orange-fronted Fruit-Doves, a distant Brown Goshawk and then for a few of us a perched Orange-bellied Fruit-Dove. Moving on we then parked beside a tree which had three huge Papuan Frogmouths roosting in it. Superb views were had of these strange birds before we were shown the bower of a Fawn-breasted Bowerbird which was adorned with green berries. After an excellent first days birding we returned to our hotel.
Day 4 - 16th May
This morning we left early and set off in the dark to Varirata National Park. As the sun came up we travelled through amazing scenery of huge black scattered boulders amongst rich forested valleys and waterfalls. A roadside stop found us Hooded Butcherbird, close views of Glossy Swiftlets, and lots of Rainbow Lorikeets. A Raggiana Bird-of-Paradise flew over as did a flock of Dusky Lory’s. We then got good views of two Yellow-bellied (olive-backed) Sunbirds feeding low in a roadside bush but only brief looks at a Graceful Honeyeater. Further along we made another stop and saw several White-throated Honeyeaters, Helmeted Friarbird and plenty of Rainbow Bee-eaters, White-bellied and Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrikes, plus a perched Lemon-bellied Flycatcher and then a Shining Bronze-Cuckoo which landed in a small tree top beside us. A little further on another stop produced a Leaden Flycatcher and then a perched Variable Goshawk, while above us flew groups of Goldie’s Lorikeets and then a flock of Pygmy Lorikeets and superb views of two stunning Western Black-capped Lory’s sat in a tree. Driving through the park entrance gate we made a stop near to a Raggiani Bird-of-Paradise lek. In the forest a Chestnut-backed Jewel-Babbler was heard calling but only Nigel got to see this excellent skulker.
In the same patch of forest we all got superb views of a perched Brown-headed Paradise-Kingfisher plus White-crowned Koel, Green-backed Gerygone, and then an elusive Rusty Mouse-Warbler and a close Pacific Baza. Perched out on a dead tree were two Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and a male Electus Parrot, while nearby a beautiful male Raggiana Bird-of-Paradise was seen well. A Cicadabird was found in the canopy above us as was Yellow-bellied Gerygone. We then drove to the lookout at the end of the road. It was too misty to enjoy the view so instead we watched a superb Mountain Red-headed Myzomela. We then decided to take a walk through the forest where we would meet our coach parked at the bottom. It was quiet for a while until we found a gorgeous Yellow-billed Kingfisher and then a small group of Black-fronted White-Eyes. Hooded Pitohuis were found followed by Black Berrypecker and a showy Chestnut-bellied Fantail. We then got into a small bird flock and amongst the Raggiana BoPs we found Rufous Monarch, Varied Triller, Frilled Monarch, Brown Oriole and Grey-headed Whistler. Moving on we passed by a Black-billed Brush Turkey nest mound and in a small stream we spotted an unidentified species of water snake. Through the forest we came to a clearing and a small area like a picnic ground - ideal for lunch. More flocks of Pygmy Lorikeets flew over and we had perched views of the face of a Red-cheeked Parrot. After our lunch we watched from a clearing and here we got to see a group of Boyer’s Cuckoo-Shrikes and a Golden Monarch. We then set off on a walk on one of the other narrow trails and here we soon got to grips with Dwarf Whistler, another Frilled Monarch, Spangled Drongo and poor views of several Superb Fruit-Doves flying off. Back on the road we scanned the tree tops and saw Papuan Black Myzomela, and in one tree there were perched Goldie’s and a couple of Pygmy Lorikeets. Heading towards the parked coach was we got fantastic views of Wompoo Fruit-Dove and then a Pink-spotted Fruit-Dove soon followed by a stunning pair of Papuan King Parrots that flew past in perfect light conditions. Back at the coach a scan of the tree tops found us Yellow-eyed Cuckoo-Shrike after which we drove back out of the park and finished off with a little roadside birding. Yellow-faced Mynas and Dollarbird were seen and we found Black-faced Monarch, and a Long-tailed Buzzard which circled around the forest. With a New Guinea Harpy Eagle heard calling we watched another Pink-spotted Fruit-Dove and then got to see a nice White-bellied Whistler. As we headed back towards our hotel a quick stop beside a pond produced two Forest Kingfishers sat on a wire and a Blue-winged Kookaburra in a tree.
Day 5 - 17th May
We were up early for our two hour flight to Kiunga. Once we had arrived in the heart of the jungle we drove the short distance to our lodge where we got sorted with our rooms and then met up for a couple of hours birding. We drove to the small airstrip where we had just arrived, and proceeded to the far end where we got out and scanned the area. Two White-faced Herons flew off, a Great Egret was spotted and several Brahminy Kites soared around. A Variable Goshawk then flew across and landed in a dead tree while noisy Dollarbirds were also seen. Walking towards the grassy edge of the runway a distant manucode could not be specifically identified but the calls of White-spotted Mannikins attracted our attention so we set off in search of these. Kevin, myself and Penny then got scope views of two Black Mannikins which then dropped behind the grass ridge they were feeding on. We approached the area and five birds were seen to fly off and away to the far end of the runway. Several small flocks of White-spotted Mannikins flew around and occasionally settled giving the briefest of views. Some nice pitcher plants were found at our feet and a group of Orange-breasted Fig Parrots flew over and in the distance two Nankeen Kestrels were seen hovering. We walked the edge of the runway in search of the Black Mannikins and flushed a Red-backed Button Quail, twice! Then Kev spotted three distant Australian Pratincoles. We watched them land and walked closer where we got good scope views before they flew off and back towards the area they had just come. Returning for lunch a quick roadside stop found us several Pacific Swallows and Tree Martins, and with them a few Papuan Spine-tailed Swifts. We then returned for lunch. After a short rest we drove to an area of forest and parked alongside a clearing where we watched and waited. Above us Papuan Spine-tailed Swifts flew and then Phil spotted a Lesser Frigatebird which circled around a bit before disappearing. Red-cheeked Parrots regularly flew over and several Yellow-capped Pygmy-Parrots gave their high pitched calls as they sped across the sky. A Dollarbird sat on patrol and two Lesser Black Coucals were found and we enjoyed excellent views as one bird sat right out in the open alongside a juvenile bird. A Meyer’s Friarbird was then watched in full view on a tree top while a distant Long-tailed Buzzard circled around and then an immature Swamp Harrier flew past which is a very good bird for the country. Activity started to pick up and we got to see several Greater Birds-of-Paradise, a Raggiana’s and probably some hybrid birds that were between the both. A female Australian Koel posed nicely while doves included Pink-spotted and Orange-bellied Fruit-Doves. A Grey-headed Cuckoo-Shrike was then found and in the tree with it was a Beautiful Fruit-Dove. Next we found a Trumpet Manucode plus a couple of Zoe Imperial Pigeons, fly over Orange-breasted Fig-Parrots and then a Brush Cuckoo. Two Pacific Baza’s showed fantastically and we managed to scope a couple of tiny Dwarf Fruit-Doves. More parrots flew over and this time included Red-flanked Lorikeet, while other birds seen included a superb Lowlands Peltop, Tawny-breasted Honeyeater, and Boyer’s Cuckoo-Shrikes. Some close calling Bush-hens typically remained unseen. We then headed back to our lodge.
Day 6 - 18th May
After an early breakfast we set off to an area of forest that that could only be accessed by 4 wheel drive due to the mud and deep pot holes. Phil made a roadside stop when he heard a close Hook-billed Kingfisher calling. We spent a while trying to locate the bird but it was only seen by the leaders. A Moustached Tree Swift flew over and the sound of slow heavy wing beats drew our attention to two huge Blyth’s Hornbills which went right overhead. We continued on and then stopped in an area that looked just like everywhere else and here we stood on a grassy bank so as to survey the surrounding forest. In a close tree top a male Black Sunbird showed well and we soon picked up Dwarf Koel, Yellow-bellied Sunbird and some Red-cheeked Parrots. Our first Papuan Mountain Pigeons flew over and several Greater Birds-of-Paradise were seen including some superb males. With everyone looking in all different directions, hopefully nothing would get away! A Variable Goshawk landed briefly while more fly overs included Pinion Imperial Pigeon, Slender-billed Cuckoo-Dove, Greater Streaked Lory and plenty of Pink-spotted Fruit-Doves. A Streak-headed Honeyeater then showed well alongside Meyer’s Friarbirds, and we soon picked up Papuan Spangled Drongo, Australian Koel and a very nice Yellow-billed Kingfisher. A tiny little Red-capped Flowerpecker had to be scoped to see the birds detail, but easier was the perched Superb Fruit-Dove and a very close Zoe Imperial Pigeon. Samual, our Papuan guide then let out a shout as he had just spotted our main target bird the outrageously stunning Flame Bowerbird. This bright orange and yellow bird landed in a tree and climbed to the top on some dead branches where everyone saw it, before it took off and disappeared across the forest. Wow what a bird! Not quite so impressive was a Tawny-breasted Honeyeater sat in a nearby tree, where a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo then landed. We then spotted Varied Triller, Hooded Butcherbird, Dollarbird and some nice Orange-bellied Fruit-Doves plus perched Greater-streaked Lory’s before a Rufous-bellied Kookaburra flew into a tree where it remained almost completely hidden from view. We decided to walk along the road a little and soon got to see a gorgeous pair of Emperor Fairy-Wrens and a huge Bare-backed Fruit Bat. A small feeding flock then appeared and we watched Green-backed Gerygone, Fairy Gerygone, Pygmy Longbill, Golden Monarch and excellent looks at several Wallace’s Fairy-Wrens. Unfortunately a Yellow-bellied Longbill proved frustratingly difficult with just flight views. Leaving the area we then headed back with a quick look again at the back of the airstrip. A huge Palm Cockatoo was watched flying away and a couple of White-spotted Mannikins was all we could find. We then returned to our lodge for lunch and a short break. Afterwards we drove a short while to a forested area out of town. Walking the track here we spotted some Papuan Mountain Pigeons and another Palm Cockatoo flew past. Some of the group then managed to scope a perched Slender-billed Cuckoo-Dove, while a little further on David found us a lovely pair of Golden Myna’s. With a little activity in this area we hung around and soon picked up Grey-headed Cuckoo-Shrikes, plus Scrub White-eared Honeyeater and then Tim found a Glossy-mantled Manucode which after a bit of a game of hide and seek eventually showed itself. A small collection of birds in a tree top now included Plain Honeyeater but our attention was soon diverted when a couple of superb Golden Cuckoo-Shrikes also landed in a tree top and showed wonderfully. Nearby a White-bellied Thicket-Fantail was heard singing and eventually seen, and as we slowly walked back an Eclectus Parrot flew over and in a single dead tree we saw several Papuan Spine-tailed Swifts ‘perching’ would you believe on the top branches. This looked to be pretty unusual behaviour for a swift although next to them a perched Moustached Tree-Swift was much more typical. Another excellent days birding, we returned to our lodge.
Day 7 - 19th May
We were up early so as to get started on our boat trip to Ekame some sixty kilometres up river in the middle of prime rainforest. As we started off the sun started to rise and many Greater Flying Foxes were seen flying over the river going back to their day roosts. We watched several small flocks of Collared Imperial Pigeons, but a real highlight came when we saw a male Twelve-wired Bird-of-Paradise sat on the very top of a dead tree, calling. We drifted back and forth in the river allowing time for the light conditions to improve and so getting even better views of this fabulous bird. We even watched it display, hanging upside down – what a show! At one point a Grey-headed Goshawk sat on the tree beside it. Continuing our boat journey we saw more Collared Imperial Pigeons plus a couple of Purple-tailed Imperial Pigeons. A female Twelve-wired BoP flew over the river and later we saw another distant male. We then had several Palm Cockatoos, Blyth’s Hornbills and then David found a super male Flame Bowerbird sat right on the top of a tree. Within the next five minutes we saw another plus a female and then later we even had another male fly across the river. Several Rufous-bellied Kookaburras were seen and as we entered a smaller tributary a pair of Shining Flycatchers were spotted. At least two Electus Parrots flew overhead and then a real highlight was a huge and very beautiful Southern Crowned Pigeon, a bird that everyone agreed was just fantastic. It sat right out in the open before flying across and joining another bird. We watched both these birds until they eventually flew away. On another dead tree we spotted a Glossy-mantled Manucode but typically it soon disappeared. A few other species noted along our excellent cruise included Yellow-faced Mynas, Metallic Starlings, and a White-bellied Sea-Eagle. Once we arrived at our remote lodge which was a rather basic affair, but positioned wonderfully in the middle of the forest and beside the river, we waited for the other boatmen to arrive with out luggage and supplies and then settled ourselves into our rooms before meeting up for a couple of hours birding. We took a short boat trip up river and then after going ashore we followed a small trail into the forest. Phil heard a Blue-breasted Pitta calling which I soon picked up amongst the leaf litter. Unfortunately only myself and Kevin got views of this brightly coloured forest skulker. Moving on we flushed a couple of Southern Crowned Pigeons and a group of Blyth’s Hornbills. A King Bird-of-Paradise was then heard and once we got to the area, it wasn’t long before we found and saw two of these wonderful birds displaying in the tree tops. Yet another excellent and memorable experience of an incredible looking bird. Nearby we heard and then saw a Common Paradise-Kingfisher while in the distance the loud raucous call of a Great-billed Heron was heard. After this we slowly returned to our boat and headed back to the lodge, where we enjoyed a coffee and saw two Channel-billed Cuckoos fly over. A Vulturine Parrot was also heard but not seen. After a late lunch we took a short walk into the forest directly behind the lodge. A Hook-billed Kingfisher was heard calling but after a lot of searching the bird could not be found. It was nearing dusk so we decided to have a quick look down by the river to see if any nightjars were around. This we did and as luck would have it we got good flight views of two White-throated Nightjars.
Day 8 - 20th May
This morning we had our breakfast which Dianne helped to get organised and then we set off in the boat to the King BoP trail. As we motored up river we noted Great Egrets, huge Palm Cockatoos and then an immature Great-billed Heron which flew a short distance and landed in a tree for all of us to see. Once we arrived at the muddy bank at the start of the trail we clambered up and set off quietly into the forest. Once again Blyth’s Hornbills flew over and then we heard the Blue-breasted Pitta which again proved extremely difficult and was only glimpsed. Down closer to the mangrove myself and Dianne flushed a bird which fluttered through the trees and dropped out of sight. Whatever it was it would have been good, either an owl, nightjar or more likely a frogmouth! and we did thoroughly search the area without success. We next spotted a female King Bird-of-Paradise in a tree and as we watched this we also found a couple of very nice Orange-bellied Fig-Parrots, as well as Spot-winged Monarch and a Little Shrike Thrush. Our next task was to try and find a calling Black-sided Robin and what a flighty bird this was. It took quite a while for everyone to get some sort of view, after which we left it alone and continued our forest search. While listening to another Blue-breasted Pitta we got to see a pair of close and very showy Frilled Monarchs, a Black Berrypecker and then very good views of two Yellow-bellied Longbills. We then headed back to our lodge for lunch. Later in the afternoon after a little siesta we boarded the boat and went on a little cruise around. It was pretty quiet as we searched some of the smaller tributaries seeing Palm and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos plus several Shining Flycatchers. We disturbed a huge roost of about 180 Greater Flying Foxes, these huge bats filled the air giving us a spectacular sight. Many groups of Metallic Starlings were sorted through and a few people got brief views of a Black Bittern which disappeared back into the forest. We returned to the lodge and after another attempt at Hook-billed Kingfisher we enjoyed an evening meal comprising of locally caught and freshly smoked fish. After this and the checklist a few of us went out on a short night cruise to see what we could find. First of all we heard an owl calling which Phil recognised as a Papuan Hawk Owl. We drifted near to the bird and then heard a second one calling on the other side of the river. Moving on we then spotted a Frogmouth fly up into a tree but by the time the boat had stopped and gone backwards it had gone. In the same tree some eye shine was seen and this led us to spotlight a superb mammal a Striped Possum. It was then time to return to the lodge.
Day 9 – 21st May
After breakfast this morning we set off up river, where after spotting Great-billed Heron and Palm Cockatoos we moored up and tried for White-bellied Pitohui. It wasn’t seen but two Variable Pitohui’s dashed across the river. We then took a walk along one of the trails and were soon listening to a Blue Jewel-Babbler. It took a lot of patience and intense watching to get a glimpse of this exciting but very difficult species. Eventually everyone had got some sort of view so we moved on a little. A Hook-billed Kingfisher was heard close by, but could no be found. We then walked on further and having heard a Blue-breasted Pitta we worked on seeing it, which took a long time but again most people got some sort of view. Leaving here we returned to the lodge for lunch. Afterwards we packed our baggage before going into the forest behind us. Another Blue Jewel-Babbler was heard and seen well by a few of us, and then a group of Rufous Babblers eventually came through the trees near to us giving good views. Returning to the lodge for lunch we later loaded up the boats and set off back towards Kiunga. A stop along the way to look at a fruiting tree produced lots of Orange-breasted, Orange-fronted, Pink-spotted and a few Dwarf Fruit-Doves, Orange-breasted, Double-eyed and eventually some Large Fig-Parrots. We also got Glossy-mantled Manucode, Metallic Starlings and a dead tree with four huge Channel-billed Cuckoos sat in it. Back at Kiunga we docked and then drove to our lodge where we were all very relieved to have hot showers again.
Day 10 – 22nd May
After breakfast we drove down to the river and boarded Samuel’s boat ready for a morning out. We slowly cruised up river watching the locals going about their everyday business in dug out canoes. Turning off the main river we followed a smaller tributary until we got to an area we could stop and go ashore. Following a trail within the forest we soon found a pair of Emperor Fairy-Wrens and then a Common Paradise Kingfisher. A male King BoP was also seen as well as Frilled Monarchs, while a Yellow-eyed Starling disappeared before any of the group could get on it. We decided to try and relocate it from the boat, and floated along a small channel where we could overlook the forest. A couple of Large-billed Gerygones were seen and three Southern Crowned Pigeons as well as a male King BoP which flew across the river several times with its wires trailing behind. A fruiting tree held lots of fruit doves and on some floating drift wood a large Monitor Lizard was seen. We then tried another section of forest and here some of the group managed brief views of a very mobile and elusive White-bellied Pitohui. Back in the boat we slowly cruised back seeing a single Channel-billed Cuckoo sat in a dead tree. After lunch and a little siesta we drove out to the airstrip. We soon found a group of about 40 or more White-spotted Mannikins and got very good views of them. Two Forest Kingfishers were also seen and a Channel-billed Cuckoo flew noisily overhead. Leaving here we then drove out of town and stopped beside the road to check out what if anything was around. We got to see Australian Koels and several fruit doves plus a Lowland Peltops, Scrub White-eared Meliphaga and good views of male Greater and Raggiana Birds-of-Paradise. A Trumpet Manucode was heard in the distance and once again as dusk closed in a Hook-billed Kingfisher called but failed to show.
Day 11 – 23rd May
After breakfast we packed our things together, loaded up the bus and set off towards Tabubil. Our first roadside stop saw us walk about a kilometre into the forest where we were then treated to a fantastic display of up to five male Greater and at least three Raggiana Birds-of-Paradise all performing on their ‘lek’ tree. We watched the birds noisily jump back and forth and then hang upside down with wings and tails all spread out – a simply superb show! Back on the bus we continued our journey and later as the scenery changed we found ourselves crossing a ridge with views of endless forest all around. A photo stop proved productive with a huge Vulturine Parrot flying across the valley showing its large red wing patches. In the same spot we also noted a group of Papuan Mountain Pigeons sat in a tree, plus Black Sunbirds, some fly over Streaked Lorikeets and several Bush-Hens calling loudly from beside the road. We tried to see this very skulky species but grass movement was the best we managed. A couple of Blyth’s Hornbills also flew past. Our next stop was an area of gravel extract beside a huge rocky river. A short walk soon found us up to three Little Ringed Plovers which interestingly were of a resident race that had a different call and indeed different plumage details and a pink base to the lower mandible. A group of Grey Crows were seen to fly past and we also managed several dragonflies and several very attractive butterflies. Moving on we arrived at our destination – the town of Tabubil where we had to call in to the airstrip and confirm our flights which were in a couple of day’s time. On the fence here we saw a male Pied Chat and beside the runway three Cattle Egrets and a hovering Nankeen Kestrel were found. An Australian Hobby was then spotted sat in a tree and we all enjoyed good scope views of this bird before driving to our hotel just a few minutes away. After settling in we met and then drove to an area of forest. Following a track we soon got good looks at a Northern Fantail and then high in the canopy were Black-fronted White-Eyes and a couple of Western Mountain White-Eyes. A Lemon-bellied Flycatcher was seen as was a couple of Black-shouldered Cuckoo-Shrikes, and some of the group had very brief views of a Black Butcherbird. Several Black-billed Cuckoo-Doves were also seen as well as a Scrub White-eared Meliphaga. Both Carola’s Parotia and Magnificent Bird-of-Paradise were heard calling but not seen which means we will have to have another go at seeing them tomorrow morning. Heading back to the coach a little tree top activity found us Brown Oriole and then Black-headed Whistler and Tawny-bellied Honeyeater. Finally we drove down to a nearby river where the main road bridge had recently been washed away. As Samuel our guide negotiated getting a vehicle to pick us up tomorrow, we all watched an adult Torrent Flycatcher sat around on rocks and then fly in to feed two little chicks sat in a shabby old nest overhanging the river.
Day 12 – 24th May
We woke this morning to rain and after breakfast even though it hadn’t eased we continued with our plan to check a track through a nearby forest. As we waited to board the bus a Nankeen Kestrel was spotted sat on the top of a dead tree. Arriving at the forest the rain had not let up so we relaxed a while and hoped things would improve. The rain then became a light drizzle so we set off on an uphill walk. We soon located a group of Red-collared Myzomelas and several Western Mountain White-Eyes. Further along, a tree seemed to be attracting some attention and we soon spotted several female Carola’s Parotias hopping around the canopy and most of the group managed to see female Magnificent Bird-of-Paradise in the same tree. The parotias continued to cross back and forth and there could well have been at least six birds involved. We then got good looks at Smoky Honeyeater and a Red-bellied Pygmy-Parrot which climbed around the top of another tree. Very few people got onto the Spotted Honeyeater but several Black-billed Cuckoo-Doves proved much easier. Both Obscure Berrypecker and Chestnut-backed Jewel-Babblers were heard and a White-breasted Fruit-Dove showed briefly. Further up we came across another mixed group of birds that included female Black Fantail, Brown Oriole, Varied Triller and a Mountain Meliphaga. We got excellent looks at a Sclater’s Whistler while much higher up were Mountain Peltops, a Long-billed Honeyeater, Spot-breasted Honeyeater, Dwarf Longbill, two Mountain Leaf Warblers and then a Stout-billed Cuckoo-Shrike. As we slowly made our way down the hillside a Rusty Whistler was spotted as well as Fan-tailed Berrypecker and a distant and brief Mottled Whistler. In another tree most of the group got very good views of a female Superb Bird-of-Paradise alongside a Carola’s Parotia. We then returned back to our lodge for lunch and as we were getting out of the bus a Little Eagle was seen circling around. In the early afternoon we re-grouped and set off to the river where the bridge had been washed out and our coach could not cross. We walked over and arranged a truck to take us to an area of forest about 10 kilometres away. It was a bumpy ride and at one point we nearly didn’t get through a particularly rocky area of the track. However we eventually got to the area we wanted and started birding. Almost immediately a Magnificent Riflebird was heard calling and then flew over twice. In the distance three Vulturine Parrots were seen perched in a tree and then the male riflebird returned and perched briefly for one or two of us to see. In the trees beside us several small groups of birds included such species as Red-throated and Papuan Black Myzomela, Dwarf and Obscure Honeyeaters. The rain then started to get heavier and the light conditions terrible, so we climbed back aboard our vehicle and drove back down the very bumpy track and back to our lodge.
Day 13 – 25th May
After breakfast this morning we drove down to the river, walked across the bridge and met our truck that would take us to the area of forest visited yesterday. A slight delay ensued as we got a puncture on the worst bit of rocky road. It was soon fixed and another couple of attempts to get up the hill succeeded so we bumpily continued on our way. On arrival a Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo was heard calling and then it flew fast across the track where we were stood. Slowly walking along a New Guinea Bronzewing flew low across the road, while in the trees above we spotted a couple of Beautiful Fruit-Doves, Tawny-breasted Honeyeater, White-eared Bronze-Cuckoo and a Pacific Baza. Moving on we got Obscure Honeyeater, Dwarf Honeyeater and Red-throated Myzomela. A Brown Oriole was then briefly joined by a Magnificent Bird-of-Paradise and a Crinkle-collared Manucode was seen by everyone. As a Variable Goshawk circled overhead a Rusty Pitohui started calling and then flew across the road to continue calling within thick cover. We then heard a Greater Melampitta calling from within the forest. We went in and the bird called very close to us allowing about five persons to actually see this very skulky bird – one of PNG’s hardest! A second attempt at trying to see it failed but it called within 10 feet but just out of sight over a ridge. We did however get excellent views of a couple of Moustached Tree-Swifts sat above us in a dead tree. We returned for lunch and then in the afternoon set off and drove to a mountain river. A Great Woodswallow was seen along the way and then on the river we saw a couple of Torrent Flycatchers. After a shower of rain we slowly walked back from the river and soon found Red-throated Myzomela and then a group of Rainbow Lorikeets followed by a tree which seemed to be jumping with birds. Amongst those seen were Spotted Honeyeater, Long-billed and Dwarf Honeyeaters, Spangled Drongo and Greater Bird-of-Paradise. Leaving here we returned back to our hotel.
Day 14 – 26th May
Once again we woke to pouring rain! After breakfast it was still raining so we hung around a while with most of the group watching an important European football match on sky tv. The weather then cleared and we drove to a nearby forest. Along the way a Nankeen Kestrel was seen sat on top of a dead tree. Once there we started a slow walk uphill, soon seeing several Red-collared Myzomelas and Western Mountain White-Eyes. Several female and an immature male Carola’s Parotia were seen as well as brief Magnificent Bird-of-Paradise. Plenty of Glossy Swiftlets flew around and a New Guinea Friarbird was spotted as well as Dollarbird. A skulky Sooty Thicket-Fantail flew across the road and showed briefly and a Superb Fruit-Dove was seen. We then walked higher hearing several Magnificent BoPs. A White-eared Bronze-Cuckoo then put on a very good show as it dealt with a caterpillar. Nearby a White-rumped Robin was heard and after entering the thick forest we all got superb views of a pair of these often tricky little birds. Rusty Mouse-Warbler was also seen nearby by a couple of the group but a Pale-billed Scrub-Wren gave prolonged excellent views. A party of nine Blue-collared Parrots flew over as did Long-tailed Buzzard and two Grey Crows. As we walked back down the hill towards the coach a Mountain Meliphaga showed very well and then a Dwarf Kingfisher was spotted and an Ornate Melidectes was only seen by two of us. It was time to leave and head back to the lodge, pack our bags and have lunch. Afterwards we waited for news of our flight only to be told that the weather was bad at Tari and there was not a flight anymore! Panic! An hour later we got news that things had improved and a plane was on its way. We drove to the airport where we still had to wait a while. We then said farewell to Samuel our local Papuan guide who had been with us the last 6 days. Our plane eventually arrived and after bags of nuts and fresh vegetables were unloaded we boarded for our forty five minute flight to Tari. Once we had arrived we set off in a coach for the 1½ hour drive to Ambua Lodge set at 7,000 feet in the forested mountains. After a bumpy ride and vehicle views of Papuan Harrier, White-shouldered Fairy-Wren and then a Buff-banded Rail, we arrived. What a gorgeous place and what a fantastic setting. From the front lawn we soon found Yellow-browed Melidectes and then in one tree we had Brown-backed and a male Sclater’s Whistler. A flock of twenty Great Wooswallows flew over and then we got wonderful views of a female Stephanie’s Astrapia. A couple of Yellow-billed Lorikeets flew in and landed for a short while and a Smoky Honeyeater was spotted. Out by the car park we watched two Black Monarchs very well, a Blue-grey Robin, female Superb Bird-of-Paradise, Mountain Peltops and to top it all a stunning looking female Blue Bird-of-Paradise – wow! If that’s what the female looks like then we can’t wait to see a male. The excitement over we were then shown to our wonderful rooms after which we met for dinner which like the lodge was simply superb.
Day 15 – 27th May
After breakfast we watched the Great Woodswallows lining up on a single branch of a tree, while several Yellow-browed Melidectes were easily seen and Yellow-billed Lorikeet and Papuan Mountain Pigeons flew over. A Blue-grey Robin then landed on a fence post beside us while a Black-breasted Boatbill was seen working its way through the tree top. We boarded our coach and then drove up the track out of the lodge. As we reached the gate Phil heard the call of Orange-crowned Fairy-Wrens so we jumped out and were soon watching a small group of these superb little birds. Several Smoky Honeyeaters were also seen and a couple of Friendly Fantails showed very well. We had a real good session of birding here and soon added a Rufous-naped Whistler along with Little Shrike-Thrush, a couple of Large Scrub-Wrens, Brown-breasted Gerygone, Brown-backed Whistler and a rare bird a Yellow-streaked Honeyeater. Wow, what a start to the day! We then drove several kilometres to a higher elevation where we got out and birded the road. A Stephanie’s Astrapia was spotted flying past a large tree but it was a while before we spotted three more birds fly over the road, with a nice male following two females. We also had fly overs of two Papuan Lorikeets and a Blue-faced Finch. Brown-backed Honeyeaters showed well and then a superb male King of Saxony Bird-of-Paradise showed off its bizarre head plumes as it worked its way around a tree. A Dimorphic Fantail was then found and five Black Sittellas flew into a tree where they needed scoping to get a good view. Our local guides heard a New Guinea Harpy Eagle calling so we drove slightly higher and got out to search for it. The bird had stopped calling so we continued our search of the area and found a Grey-streaked Honeyeater, several Belford’s Melidectes, female King of Saxony BoP, a couple of Ribbon-tailed Astrapias, Black-bellied Cuckoo-Shrike and then a male and female Garnet Robin. Joseph, one of our guides then shouted something, so we ran up the hill where we set our scopes onto two Archbold’s Bowerbirds, yet another really good bird. We then went on a short walk inside the forest, and along the narrow track just a couple of our group managed to see a Crested Bird-of-Paradise and others a Canary Flycatcher. On a small dead end trail we tried for some skulkers, and first of all a Lesser Melampitta only showed to me while a Logrunner was seen by just three persons. A stunning full male Ribbon-tailed Astrapia showed perfectly just forty feet away and then a Short-tailed Paradigalla landed beside us allowing excellent close looks and then promptly disappeared before some people had even realised what had happened. Another attempt was made at seeing the Lesser Melampitta and this time most people got some sort of view of this very difficult ground bird.
Leaving the forest and back out beside the coach Phil picked up on a snatch of call from a Blue-capped Ifrita and after some short searching we watched this beautiful bird feeding amongst the mossy branches of a tree. It was time for lunch so we returned to the lodge. Afterwards we set off back up the hill towards Tari Gap and an area of open paramo type grasslands at about 2,600 ft. Several Pied Chats were spotted and a Papuan Grassbird was seen beside the road. Once at the very top it began to rain. A quick foray into the grasses flushed three Brown Quail, but it was too wet so we retreated to the coach. Moving on a little further we looked closely at several Mountain Swiftlets and then an Island Thrush in a small roadside ditch. Our next stop was to photograph one of the locals camped out beside his lorry which had overturned along the pot holed road. While here we had a Black-shouldered Kite fly over and a distant Long-tailed Shrike was seen sat on top of a small palm tree. The rain had got worse so we tried heading lower, back towards the lodge. A roadside stop got some of the group a Papuan Scrubwren but nearby everyone saw at least one of the two Brehm’s Tiger-Parrots trying to hide in a small leaved tree. The rain and fog increased so we quit and returned to our lodge for a hot coffee.
Day 16 – 28th May
This morning we had an early breakfast and then left in the dark and headed up towards the Tari gap. Along the way we stopped at a small quarry and spotlighted two Archbold’s Nightjars sat on a rock. We also saw them in flight and even better flight views of another bird at another quarry. We then headed up to the gap for daylight. A search of the vast grasslands produced several Long-tailed Shrikes and a perched Black-shouldered Kite, while two Island Thrushes were seen on the road. Mountain Swiftlets were noted again and then as we descended towards the forest we encountered Glossy Swiftlets and a couple of Papuan Scrub Wrens. Several Papuan Lorikeets flew over and Smoky Honeyeaters and Belford’s Melidectes were easily seen. Lots of large groups of Papuan Mountain Pigeons were seen flying over with a total of around 200 birds. As we slowly walked down the road a couple of stunning male Ribbon-tailed Astrapias were seen including one with full metre long tail streamers. Further down Papuan Grassbirds were spotted and a probable male Loria’s Bird-of-Paradise zipped across the road and deep into cover while a Brehm’s Tiger-Parrot showed very nicely. We then walked inside the forest seeing a Fan-tailed Berrypecker at the start of the trail. It was pretty quiet within the damp mossy forest but a good find by Benson was a Chestnut Forest Rails nest. Unfortunately no-one was at home.
Moving on several Tit Berrypeckers flitted through the canopy and we all got good views of a Short-tailed Paradigalla and a family of three White-winged Robins. With little else going on we came out of the forest and immediately spotted a Black-throated Robin. As the rain started up we returned to the lodge for lunch. The rain was pouring down so after eating we relaxed a while and hoped it eased so as we could go out. Eventually it became lighter so we jumped in the coach and tried to drive to an altitude above the rain. We parked beside the road and as we waited a Papuan Lorikeet flew in and perched on a fruiting tree. The rain got harder so we turned around and headed back towards the lodge. Just before we got there it was decided to try and walk a trail to the river. A superb wooden bridge spanned the torrent that flowed below it and after several photographs a small mixed flock of birds was found which included about six Hooded Cuckoo-Shrikes and a female Superb Bird-of-Paradise. Another flock was then found and amongst these were Short-tailed Paradigalla, Sclater’s Whistler, and some Buff-faced Scrub-Wrens. The rain then stopped so we crossed back over the bridge and followed the river trail. More Short-tailed Paradigallas were seen alongside a group of Blue-capped Ifritas and then a family of at least three MacGregor’s Bowerbirds with an adult seen feeding a young bird. Another group of birds were encountered and this time amongst Mountain Peltops, more Ifritas, Friendly Fantails, a brief female Loria’s BoP and Brown-backed Whistler we found one and possibly two super rare Buff-tailed Sicklebills the hardest to see of all the birds-of-paradise. We had excellent views of one bird and this not only represented the first time our guide Phil had ever seen it with a group on any of the many trips he has led to New Guinea, it was also a new bird for him! Very pleased with this we returned to our lodge right at dusk and a celebratory wine was had with our evening meal.
Day 17 - 29th May
After breakfast we were to head downhill towards the town of Tari but with thick fog all around we were in no rush. Beside the lodge we saw the usual Great Woodswallows, Blue-grey Robin and a Little Shrike-Thrush. It was decided to go and try and get below the fog. As we drove down it did begin to clear so we went to Benson’s place, an area of land owned by his family and where he prevents hunting, enabling several good birds to be seen. Walking through his fields to a view point we soon found Hooded Mannikins, Brown-backed Gerygone, and some Island Leaf Warblers, while a group of noisy Yellow-billed Lorikeets sat in a tree for a short while. Scanning around we then spotted a Long-tailed Shrike and a Marbled Honeyeater as well as a Black Butcherbird sat in a bush. A Red-capped Flowerpecker was then seen and a male Superb Bird-of-Paradise was watched displaying on a dead tree top where its iridescent winged collar glowed in the sunlight. A pair of Stout-billed Cuckoo-Shrikes were found and watched carrying food to a nearby nest or young. A distant calling Blue Bird-of-Paradise never got any closer so we left and tried another site further down the road. Looking out over the forested valley Joseph eventually picked up the Blue Bird-of-Paradise sat on a very distant tree. We then moved on meeting several almost traditionally dressed Huli men along the way. A male Papuan Harrier flew across in front of the bus and then we reached a site where the land owners had a Sooty Owl nesting. We walked across some fields, several streams and then beside a huge dead tree with a hole in it, we got brief views of one of the owls as it left the hole and flew into the forest. We then walked into the woodland and soon got views of Superb BoP and a brief male and then excellent female Lawes’ Parotia. As we waited we saw more Superb BoPs, the female Lawes’ again and then two very nice Raggiana Birds-of-Paradise with excellent long plumes. We returned to the lodge for a quick lunch and back out again as it was not yet raining. We decided to go uphill and hopefully catch up with Brown Sicklebill as we really should have connected with this by now. We walked a good section of road and saw several Ribbon-tailed Astrapias, Brehm’s Tiger Parrot, two immature male King of Saxony Birds-of-Paradise which competed with each other in learning how to sing, and then we scored with our missing BoP as two Brown Sicklebills were seen very well in some nearby trees. Excellent views were had by all before Joseph called us up to the edge of the road where a fantastic male Wattled Ploughbill performed wonderfully. We tried to continue but the rains started again so we ended up returning to the lodge.
Day 18 – 30th May
After our final breakfast at Ambua we packed our luggage onto the bus and set off in thick fog down towards Tari. We stopped along the way and were taken into a section of forest which was actually very quiet; although a very nice male Superb Bird-of-Paradise was seen displaying. Leaving here we went to try an area of fast flowing river. Driving through a small village everyone seemed to be out busily building the fences a and ditch surrounding a school. As we got near to the river several Sacred Kingfishers and some Long-tailed Shrikes were spotted. Once we had reached our spot we scoured the river which held no more than a large ‘Water Dragon’ sat on a rock, and several bird species including a Long-billed Honeyeater, some Western Mountain White-Eyes, good looks at Mountain Swiftlets and a very showy Island Leaf Warbler. A single Hooded Mannikin fed on the tall grasses and a Papuan Harrier flew over. Moving on we checked out another spot where a pair of Pacific Black Ducks were found. It was now time to get to the airport where an entertaining wigman was present and on the airstrip we spotted three Australian Pratincoles. A single Nankeen Kestrel sat on the radio mast as we and most of the village awaited our flight. The plane soon arrived and we said goodbye to our local guides Benson and Joseph. On the way to Port Morsby we made at short stop at Mendi where several Australian Pipits were spotted running around the airfield. After another hour or so we arrived and were soon on board our bus and driven straight to our nearby lodge. We quickly settled into our rooms before setting off for a few hours birding at a nearby site. A stop at some rice fields produced good numbers of Little Egrets alongside Pied Herons, a Common Kingfisher and a Forest Kingfisher as well as lots of Pacific Black Ducks flying over. Both Cattle and Great Egret were also noted before we continued on. Once at our destination we checked a couple of ponds and found three Australian White Ibis, Comb-crested Jacana and three roosting Nankeen Night Herons. Two Australian Little Grebes were also found, and other birds here included a singing White-shouldered Fairy-Wren, Pheasant Coucal, Sacred Kingfishers, Whistling Kite, Helmeted Friarbird, Black-backed Butcherbird and a few fly over Papuan Imperial Pigeons. In another spot we saw a Little Pied Cormorant, Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike and a couple of Grey-headed Mannikins. On our last pond which was covered in lillypads we managed to see lots of Purple Gallinules, a Pied Heron and more Comb-crested Jacanas before it was time to leave and drive back to our hotel.
Day 19 – 31st May
This morning we had breakfast delivered to our rooms so as we could then get off early in the dark and head up to Variata National Park. As we drove up, several flocks of Black-faced and White-bellied Cuckoo-Shrikes were seen flying over. We then got out and found a couple of Black-capped Lory’s, Rufous-bellied Kookaburra and some Rainbow Bee-eaters. Another stop a little further up produced a male Black-faced Monarch, Helmeted Friarbird, male Leaden Flycatcher and then a male White-bellied Whistler. Next were a couple of Shining Bronze-Cuckoo’s, Lemon-bellied Flycatcher, Forest Kingfisher and a few Raggiana Birds-of-Paradise. Higher up inside the park we set off for a walk along one of the shorter trails. Several Yellow-faced Mynas were seen and then we got to see a Black-billed Brush Turkey which showed pretty well before it walked away and out of sight. We then heard an Eastern Riflebird and while looking for this we found a pair of Black Cuckoo-Shrikes and then excellent views of a Large Cuckoo-Dove which gave us some wonderful flight displays. A White-faced Robin was the heard and eventually seen very well by everyone. And a Chestnut-backed Jewel-Babbler began to call very close to us, but despite a lengthy wait it was only seen by one person. We returned through the forest towards the coach and along the way a Painted Quail-Thrush was heard but this real skulker never showed itself at all. Several mixed flocks zipped through the tree tops and we managed to spot amongst the many Raggiana’s a female Eastern Riflebird, Hooded Pitohui, Graceful Honeyeater and Crinckle –collared Manucode. The rains came in force, so we abandoned the hills and drove to an old lodge where we hoped the rain would ease. Along the way we spotted an Azure Kingfisher perched briefly over a pool. As we waited at the lodge we saw two Sacred Kingfishers, several White-shouldered Fairy-Wrens, Purple Swamphen and some Pied Chats. The rains did eventually ease so we returned back to the hills. Taking a different trail we walked a steep path and eventually came across a flock that once again contained many Raggiana BoPs, plus Black Cuckoo-Shrike and then an Olive Flycatcher. We then decided to check out several holes in trees to see if anything was at home.
Amazingly shortly after starting this, an Owlet-Nightjar was seen to fly out of a hole in a small stump beside the path, thirty feet in front of us. We watched where it flew and worked our way down the bank into the forest in the hope of relocating it. A bit of a long shot but it paid off when our local guide spotted it sat in a tree. We enjoyed excellent views of this bird which turned out to be a Barred Owlet-Nightjar. Once again the rains started and after a quick two person sighting of Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo we returned to the coach. Leaving the park an Agile Wallaby was seen to run across the road with several of us seeing it before it dashed off into the undergrowth. Walking a last section of road things had become quiet again but we did find Red-cheeked Parrots, Forest Kingfisher, Blue-winged Kookaburra and White-throated Honeyeater plus a big flock of Rainbow Bee-eaters. Our last bit of birding was done at the rice paddies on the way back to our hotel where we saw an adult and juvenile Buff-banded Rail, Royal Spoonbill, Little, Intermediate and Great Egrets, plus a single Australian Ibis and plenty of Pied Herons and Pacific Black Ducks.
Day 20 – 1st June
After our last breakfast we set off to the airport for our return flight to Cairn’s Australia. Several Singing Starlings waved us goodbye from PNG and after a smooth flight we arrived back in civilisation, ending a tough but very rewarding tour.
Those of us staying on for a few days in OZ said our goodbyes to Nigel And Penny who were to fly home early next morning.
We collected our hire van and set off for a little local birding before climbing up into the hills and our guides private lodge – Cassowary House.
Many thanks to Phil and all our local guides for making this an exciting and very memorable tour.
Check out our additional report on a superb short extension to Australia where we spent a day on the Great Barrier Reef and in 2½ days of birding we recorded over 200 species including such delights as Cassowary, Rufous Owl, Victoria’s Riflebird, 67 Australian Bustards, Duck-billed Platypus and much, much more!!