Treepol

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Treepol last won the day on September 5

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  1. @lmSA84it is rather epic! There are 7 of us starting in Dar with a week in Dar/Zanzibar then 2 nights each for Mikumi and Udzungwa NPs before 4 nights at Kilimatonge Camp in Ruaha. We are picked up from Iringa from where we drive south through northern Zambia with 2 nights each at Kapishya (I am very keen to see Shiwa N'gandu aka the Africa House) and Mutinondo before overnighting for a night in Lusaka to provision for 6 nights in Kafue NP where we have to partly fend for ourselves at Hippo Bay campsite for 3 nights before spending the next 3 nights in lodges - be seeing you @KaingU Lodge. Our guide will then take us to Vic Falls for 2 nights and then we fly to JNB. Next up is a 3 night stay at Marrick Farm - there are a few changes in the group along the way. Four maybe 5 of the original 7 will have departed by the time we leave Marrick, however @farin and @GnuGnu are flying in for RSA and the Marrick and another 2 for the RSA sector only. In RSA we are at Tembe for 3 nights, Manyoni and Endomeni for 2 nights with 3 nights at St Lucia. This is followed by 2 nights each at Mountain Zebra and Karoo NPs and Cape Town after which the group trip ends. Three of us are staying on for an extra night in Cape Town and a 3 day trip to West Coast NP returning thru' the Winelands. Just 2 of us are continuing to Giant's Castle where the vulture hide has been booked for us and then we fly back to JNB where @Peter Connan has very kindly offered to take both myself and @farinto Marievale. I may stay on for a further 2 weeks if a scheduled Birds and Wildflowers trip gets off the ground. The company need 4 clients for this to run and so far I am the only one to show interest - the trip didn't run this yearand there is no one on a waiting list, so I think its unlikely (and very sad) that it won't run next year. I'd very much like to do it, but have booked my international flights to take advantage of a special and to ensure that I land in Dar with the others on 23 June 2018. I will post a detailed itinerary when the RSA sector is booked and deposits paid.
  2. @Sitatunga95 thanks for the itinerary and operator details. I am enjoying your wonderfully detailed report very much. The drive into Selous sounds very lush.
  3. @Sitatunga95 15 safaris by age 22 must surely be a record! Welcome to Safaritalk, I am really looking forward to your TR as I will be returning to the southern circuit next July with stays in Mikumi, Udzungwa and Ruaha before heading south through Zambia to Vic Falls. At some stage in the TR could you post your itinerary and the name of the operator that you chose and also your accommodations? Looking forward to more when you have time.
  4. @gatoratlarge Tswalu looks like an amazing experience, one for my bucket list. The photo of the reclining owl is priceless!
  5. @TonyQ and @alexander33 thanks for your comments. I am off to the beach for a week, and will resume with photos and comments on the cultural shows when I get back.
  6. This day is a red letter birding day for me because I saw 3 species of BoPs and managed photos of 2 species! I can't think of another day from my own birding experiences that comes near to this achievement, maybe the closest would be the hummingbirds of South America at Tandayapa Lodge or Chaparri Reserve. If I count the Ribbon-tailed Astrapia at the feeders, I saw 4 different species of BoP and the memory of this day thrills me as I write up my notes and I expect it will remain vibrant for many years to come. Another early morning, and we are off to Kama Village in search of Lesser Bird of Paradise. This is a tidy, friendly village where the headman came to say hello. The ground around the huts is swept clean and the gardens neatly laid out. The site has a tremendous view over the surrounding countryside. A pop-up market appeared and we were able to buy bilums at reasonable prices. Bilums are traditional bags made from fibres that the women use to carry heavy loads of just about anything - produce, firewood, even pigs. The handle is a wide strap that goes around the forehead to take the weight of the load. After the shopping we set off down the road in search of Superb BoP, a bird I was particularly keen to see. Max eventually located a Superb BoP more than half a kilometre from the road, high up in a tree and back in the shadows - I have no idea how he saw it. Through the scope I saw the blue cravat and the black plumage of this dazzling BoP that bobbed and bounced, dipped and swayed as it danced along the branch. A truly memorable sighting. An entourage of villagers followed along behind us. Nights in the Highlands are very cold and families, including livestock and maybe some dogs take refuge inside the huts where cooking fires provide both warmth and hot food. We saw a number of huts early in the morning that looked as though they were on fire, however there was really no cause for alarm. This Long-tailed shrike was perched high up in the morning sun. After such a successful morning at Kama Village with the Lesser BoP, we drove back towards Kumul Lodge and stopped to climb a steep trail in search of the Blue Bird of Paradise. Jimmy the headman bought his family out to say hello, the little kids loved their puppy which had a shoestring collar. Some of the children followed us downhill to the next stop at a river for Torrent Fly-Robin, where our arrival coincided with the end of the school day. School's out! This was an absolutely top morning's birding, and a great day for photos. Moreover, the birds all turned up on time and perched in the open, except for the shy Superb BoP. After such a successful morning, we returned to the lodge and I took the afternoon off and sat at the feeder. The mature Ribbon-tailed Astrapia turned up after lunch - the long white tail ribbons ae just visible through the tree. Other visitors to the feeder during the afternoon were an Island Thrush Immature Island Thrush, Kumul Lodge Female and immature male Ribbon-tailed Astrapias Brown-backed Whistler Immature Rufus-naped Bellbird Ribbon-tailed Astrapia White-winged Robin Land ownership and land owners were a recurring theme during this trip. Given that up to 70% of land in PNG is privately owned, that up to 82% of the 7,000,000 population live outside urban areas and that 40% of the population live a subsistence lifestyle landownership and access to land for nature tourism are important issues. Privately owned land is usually conspicuously fenced, often with sharpened stakes, although the fence may not totally surround the property. Most people live in villages and they may own land near the village or some distance away. Some landowners opt to live on their land away from the village, however they are still part of the village social structure. The village headman no longer 'rules' the village, however he has a role in resolving local disputes and negotiating on behalf of the villagers with commercial and government representatives. Some landowners may have several hundred acres whilst others may have a plot just large enough for a house and to grow enough food for their family. Landowners don't welcome strangers on their land, and in PNG where most men carry bush knives and axes it is advisable to always be accompanied by a local. Whenever we were birding on private land, the landowner turned up, welcomed us and seemed knowledgeable about birds in the area. Each landowner was paid 12 Kina per head for our group of 6. The Lesser Bird of Paradise we saw at Kama Village was the last of a group of 5 or 6. The village obviously does well out of per capita payments and sales from the pop-up market that result from visiting groups and if this last individual Lesser BoP disappears there will no longer be a reason for groups to visit and a valuable revenue stream will be lost. Avitourism is big in this area of PNG - Kumul Lodge just down the road is a birder's lodge and arranges for visiting groups to visit the known sites of BoPs. Whilst we were a relatively small group of 6, there was a large Rockjumper group of around a dozen participants in the area, Tropical Birding had 3 people at the lodge the same time as us and a large Australian group of 19 clients arrived to attend the Mt Hagen Show, beforehand they went to see a BoP. During the time we were at Kumul Lodge the headman at Kama Village and Jimmy the landowner where we saw the Blue BoP received around 480 kina or $240 AUDeach for providing access to these sites - this is a significant source of external revenue and hopefully a strong incentive to protect both the birds and the habitat. Kumul Lodge is instrumental in providing access to the BoPs in the area as the staff manage transfers to and from Mt Hagen - here is a photo of Kim our driver (far right). This upmarket birder's lodge is located close to the border between Western Highlands and Enga provinces. It is a successful community-owned lodge built of local materials. The en-suite accommodation is constructed of woven fronds on a local wood foundation. Hot water heated by a donkey system is available and there is (intermittent) electricity in the rooms. The food at Kumul deserves a special mention as the kitchen turns out 3 cooked meals a day. There is an extensive choice of cereals at breakfast, followed by bacon, eggs, sausage and toast. Lunch and dinner are similar with one meat dish (2 at dinner), potato, sweet potato, fresh mixed veg sometimes cooked in coconut milk, maybe a salad. The kitchen staff are very clever with marinades. Dessert is usually a platter of fresh pineapple and papaya. Food in the highlands generally is very good and is grown in plots like these that are called gardens, with raised beds to facilitate drainage. PNG has 26 varieties of sweet potatoes and the local guide told me that surplus crops are sold at the local market to people who grow different types of sweet potato. Carrots, broccoli, cabbage, peanuts and sugar cane all grow prolifically in the rich highland soil. Produce from the highlands is taken by road down the Highlands Highway to Lae and then shipped to Port Moresby by barge. Starvation doesn't seem to be an issue in PNG and interestingly we didn't see any beggars.
  7. @iceI received this information from Trevor back in November 2016 so there may have been some price rises during 2017. Day Drives are R 990/drive. That is for the vehicle and driver. Night drives @ R 2800/night. This includes a driver, spotter and guide. Not per person, but for the vehicle.
  8. The day we saw 3 BoPs! (All scope views) The lodge put on a hearty cooked breakfast before an early start to see King of Saxony (KOS) BoP at a smallholding on the Murma Pass. This morning we are birding in a garden clearing amongst the cabbages when the landowner turned up. He said he was pleased that visitors came to his garden to see the birds which he also enjoys. This landowner is paid 12 Kina per head per visit and for this morning he will earn enough to feed his family for a month, buy 72 betel nuts or a case of beer. The walk into the garden took about 15 minutes along an OK track, from which we had distant views of a Brown Sicklebill. This traditionally built shelter was handy when a slight shower blew over. Both male and female KOS BoP were calling, as was the Brown Sicklebill which made a harsh, rat-a-tat-tat machine gun call. The female KOS BoP showed first, a plain brown-gray bird with a spotted chest. Max the lodge guide spotted the male high in a tree. It was a young male that hadn't developed the head plumes yet, so more of a Prince of Saxony. The third BoP of the morning was Princess Stephanie's Astrapia, which briefly shared a tree with a pair of Brown Sicklebills. Brightly coloured Regent Whistlers, Glossy Swiftlets, Rufus-throated Bronze Cuckoo and Red-collared Myzomela flitted around in the tree tops. The landowner and our local guide Max enjoy a quiet chat, the bush knife that Max has is typical of that carried by many PNG men. When the birding dropped off in the garden, Ben suggested to Max that we bird from the road. Max said that he didn't know the people further down and that we could only go if the landowner accompanied us, otherwise it may not be safe. We didn't get far down the road before the lodge bus returned to take us back to Kumul Lodge, the daylight revealed the countryside we had passed through in the darkness this morning. This photo shows how the people make stockade fences to protect their property. Branches, sometimes with sharpened points are lashed together with vines and fibres collected from the surrounding area to provide a fence. Later in the afternoon we birded some trails around the lodge, but it was quite slow so we headed for Max's orchid garden. Max has collected wild orchids from the surrounding area and transplanted them into a maze-like garden close to his house. This is Max's house, where we stopped for a short visit while he flushed a Brown Quail and we admired a Long-tailed Shrike whilst eating freshly picked passion fruit from Max's vine.
  9. @lmSA84 thanks for the lead to Birds and beyond, I have contacted Stuart and will book with him once my RSA safari dates are confirmed. Good hint about the community bird guides too.
  10. @Julian how fantastic that this trip came together for you and Rachel so quickly. Your itinerary looks wonderful, just 4 accommodations that will allow for plenty of rest and having a good look around the area you are staying. Rivertrees is a scenic and restful lodge, they have a wonderful vegetable garden there where a lot of the food for the kitchen is grown - or it was in 2008. I'm with you, I quite like Lake Manyara NP possibly because it has so much water running through it to the lake that sometimes attracts animals and birds to take up places close to the road. One day, I hope to stay at the Tree Lodge. I like the sound of the Highlands Camp, using the quieter northern access road and the private lunch spot are definite bonuses. I wonder if someone has explained the idea of 'private' lunch spot to the Whistling Kites? Its interesting isn't it how we look back on our first, modest safari itinerary (in my case) and measure how far we have grown (in safari terms) with preferences for private guides and small camps? I did a Serena-based Northern Circuit safari in 2005, which gave me a taste for private safaris because I was the only one booked on the trip.
  11. Another early morning sees us on the track to the Greater BoP Lek, the same site as used by David Attenborough. We walk into the jungle from Kilometre 17 on a good track, with the birds calling from the treetops. There are several resplendent males displaying to at least 2 females. They sit quietly for a while and go into overdrive when a female gets close. There's a lot of dancing, hopping along branches, feather ruffling, calling and swinging upside down before mating occurs. After about 45 minutes we are off back to town and the flight to Mt Hagen. This flight will be trouble free as we are flying with PNG Air rather than Air Niugini. We saw this young cassowary at checkin for Port Moresby where it will be raised for food and eaten when about 12 months old. Thank goodness that the sweaty part of the trip is over and we are leaving behind leeches, mosquitoes, mud, heat and humidity to fly to Kumul Lodge which is 2800 m above sea level. Low cloud obscures the view for most of the flight, however I do catch glimpses of green-cloaked mountains and valleys before large areas of cleared and cultivated land appear. Neat raised garden beds grow a huge variety of crops including, potatoes, sweet potato, carrots, taro, bananas and sugar cane. This area is the food bowl of the country. Kim from Kumul Lodge met us at the airport and drove back to the lodge over the cratered Highlands Highway where traffic from both directions weaves in and out to avoid the deep pot-holes in the road. There is a police border post between Western Highlands and Enga Provinces which we are waved through. The lodge is very attractive and built in the local style using some local materials. I have been looking forward to the famous feeders and am not disappointed because the first bird I see is Ribbon-tailed Astrapia! The young males are yet to develop the long white tail streamers that flutter lazily when in flight. The feeders here attract a range of good birds with regular visitors being Brehm's Tiger Parrot, Smoky Honeyeaters, Belford's Meledictes and the Ribbon-tailed Astrapias. The Smoky Honeyeater's yellow eye patch changes to red when the bird gets excited or agitated. Ben showed us the main birding areas around the lodge and on our walk we saw White-winged Robin, Stella's Lorikeets and scrub wrens. The food here merits a special mention because it is so good. We enjoyed a late lunch of marinated pork chops with fresh veg and dinner was curried beef, stir-fried chicken with rice and veg. Both meals were followed by a platter of fresh fruit with possibly the sweetest pineapple I have ever eaten.
  12. @pault thanks for reading along @Kitsafari we have Lumholtz Tree Kangaroo in northern Queensland and there was a report of one in PNG by another group. In PNG we saw Doria's, Goodfellows, Huon and Grizzled Tree Kangaroos and there were some other species that we didn't see. @optig more photos of the shows will be along by the weekend. This morning we leave at 6 am in search of the 12 Wired BoP. Sure enough, a male and female bird appear at the display site which is high in a tree and quite far. However, we have good views thru' binoculars and can see 4 wires on the tail. This bird is a strange insect shape with a bright yellow body that allows us to follow the dance ritual from a distance. We were still high from this colourful sighting when Glen spotted a Southern Crowned Pigeon perfectly perched for photos. These large birds are a special of the area and have the most amazing bouffant comb. This bird is very similar to the Victoria's Crowned Pigeon, although its hair-do is not as exotic. We wondered how it managed such a great look after the rainy night! I opted to stay on the river while some people braved the rain, mud, chiggers and leeches and went in search of the Flightless Rail. We spent a pleasant 2 hours checking out the Blyth's Hornbills that flapped overhead, saw a Little Kingfisher, Ruddy-breasted kingfisher, Ruddy babbler, Great-billed Heron, numerous Dollarbirds and parrots before returning to the group who were waiting at the trailhead after their muddy trek. Mud, glorious mud Back on the river we saw more weird hair-do, these Palm Cockatoos were screeching and preening high up in the treetops. They are very noisy, second only to the garrulous Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and usually travel in pairs. Back at the lodge we are surprised to see a pair of distant Pesquet's Parrots, aka Vulturine Parrots. After an early lunch of warm bread, tinned spaghetti, scrambled egg, spreads, peanuts and biscuits we make our way carefully down the muddy, slippery track to the boat. Some of the camp staff join us for a lift downriver where once again the locals are out and about. One of the guys is holding a glutinous pink pancake which he said was the staple food of taro with small white fish inside, similar to whitebait. We return to Kiunga Guesthouse for hot showers and to re-pack our bags ready for the flight to Mt Hagen tomorrow. Before completing this day I should mention that we saw a pair of brilliant orange Flame Bowerbirds high up in the trees along the Elevala River where their plumage contrasted sharply with the dark green leaves. Some people opt to return to kilometre 14 on the BoysTown Road to maybe catch the fly past of the Flame Bowerbird.
  13. We made an early start which turned out to be in vain because the boat driver couldn't be found. Eventually a stand-in guy named Morrie arrived and we were away shortly after dawn. The Fly River is the second longest river in PNG and is the largest river in the world without a dam in its catchment. It was discovered by Europeans in 1845 when Francis Blackwood, in command of HMS Fly, surveyed the region hence the name of the river. Villages that can only be reached by boat are located by wisps of smoke or secluded landings that lead to houses deep in the forest. Very soon we see local people in dugout canoes of various sizes, mostly paddled but a few had outboard motors. Canoes are the lifeblood of the Fly River, carrying people, food and fuel and serving as fishing boats. Many are paddled by hand, but a few have outboard motors especially the larger people-movers. A White-bellied Fish Eagle surveyed the river from above. Soon we are passing villages and isolated huts, even some old shipping containers which are widely used in PNG as homes, freezers, shops and airline terminals. Many roadside shops are run out of painted-up containers that provide sturdy shelter from the rain and mud and that lock-up securely. However, I digress, lets get back to the Fly and Elevala Rivers. We stopped at a village which is the home of our local guide Glen, where his father, the guy in the white shorts is the village headman. The BBC have 2 cameramen camped in the jungle behind the village where they are filming Flame Bowerbirds and 12 Wired Birds of Paradise. Upriver, this Salvadori's Water Monitor scuttled away from the boat. Suddenly, there are loud wing beats as Blyth's Hornbills fly over the river. They sometimes land in the trees where they are easy to see due to their size and distinctive plumage. Mostly the birds fly high overhead in search of the next fruiting tree. Around a bend in the river we see a small landing stage and learn that we have arrived at our upriver accommodation. Kwatu Lodge is a basic landowner lodge built in a bird rich area. There are 6 rooms with 2 bunks in each, separate kitchen, outside long drops and showers, a common eating area and views of the river. View from the dining area. This Papuan Friarbird was feeding right next to the common area. This afternoon we went out in the boat with a specific goal of seeing Southern Crowned Pigeon. a colourful dragonfly rode along for a while. We were about to give up at dusk when Glen's persistence paid off and we found a Southern Crowned Pigeon perched well back in a leafy tree. This was a great way to end the day so we returned to Kwatu for a dinner of rice, noodles, fried onion and baked beans, prepared by Veronica who is the cook lady for visiting groups. Heavy rain teems onto the iron roof during the night, reminding us that we are in a tropical jungle.
  14. @Gilgamesh I meant to write yesterday that many people say that birding in West Papua is a less expensive option than PNG. Services for birders, especially well-located accommodation are increasing which is interesting quite a few travellers. I met a guy this year who had been to see the Vogelkop Bowerbird and he was very impressed with the birdlife generally around the Vogelkop Peninsula. Next morning we are at the airport at 6.30 ready to do battle with Air Niugini in order to get on the plane, and just as well we were. Ben quickly obtained 4 boarding passes, however we needed 6 and waited a further (tense) 90 minutes to receive these. The checkin staff told us the plane had 29 seats and that there were 68 people wanting seats. Imagine our surprise when we boarded a 20 seater Dash 8 to find 9 empty seats! Once again we flew out over the Coral Sea with an aerial view that showed just how spread out Port Moresby is. Visibility was better this morning, or maybe the smaller plane flew lower, and I had a good view of thickly forested, green velvet valleys running down to the coast. The pilot turned right and we flew north over the thick broccoli forest, once again unable to land at Tabubil due to bad weather and headed straight to Kiunga which is very close to the border with the Indonesian province of West Papua. Samuel our local guide was saying goodbye to his previous group (who had spent an extra night in Kiunga as they couldn't leave the previous day) and welcoming us at the same time. I was talking to an Israeli guy on the plane who arranged a lift back to Tabubil on a cement truck, as he worked for a company building chicken, corn and potato farms and processing plants in the hills behind the town. Kiunga Guesthouse is a welcome oasis, with large rooms, a pool and a pleasant garden area. After lunch we drove out to Kilometre 14 on the BoysTown Road for some birding and hopefully a glimpse of the Flame Bowerbird. We saw colourful Golden Monarchs, Lowland Helpos, a Dwarf Coel being mobbed by Black Sunbirds, Ruddy-breasted kookaburra and a Yellow-billed Kingfisher - scope views only. Numerous pigeons, parrots and fruit-doves flew by during this time! Even female Raggiana BoPs. A couple of tropical downpours failed to dampen the afternoon. Samuel joined us for dinner and outlined the plans for the next day when we are going up the Fly and Elevala Rivers with local guide Glenn to stay for a night in a local community lodge. The river trip usually yields good views of Blyth's Hornbill, Southern Imperial Pigeon, and maybe a 12-wired BoP.
  15. @monalisa thanks for posting a report of your time at sightings at Flatdogs. I have wondered what this camp and the offered activities would be like and I can see that it is wonderful. I love the hippo photos, the grazing in the greenery and the hitch-hiking heron. Congrats on an almost perfect Pel's Fishing Owl photo.

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