Treepol

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Everything posted by Treepol

  1. @Sitatunga95 thanks for the itinerary and operator details. I am enjoying your wonderfully detailed report very much. The drive into Selous sounds very lush.
  2. @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.
  3. @gatoratlarge Tswalu looks like an amazing experience, one for my bucket list. The photo of the reclining owl is priceless!
  4. I have just returned from a couple of weeks in North Queensland with Mum and @@GnuGnu. The itinerary was: Day 1 : Fly Hobart-Cairns, overnight at the Hilton Double Tree on the Cairns Esplanade Days 2-6: Overnight at Chambers Rainforest Lodge at Lake Eacham Days 7-9: Overnight at Red Mill House, Daintree Days 10-11: Overnight at Milkwood Lodge, Cooktown Day 12: Overnight at the Hilton Double Tree on the Cairns Esplanade My last visit to Northern Queensland was in 1991 when I travelled overland to the tip of Cape York and visited Thursday Island. This was before I became interested (obsessed some would say) with wildlife viewing which was the focus of this year’s trip. This year in addition to wildlife we were seeking sun as a respite from the Tasmanian winter, local food and produce and a relaxing trip with some downtime for reading and birding. High on my list of ‘want to sees’ were wild Cassowary, Kingfishers, Rainbow bee-eaters, Striped Possums and Tree Kangaroos. I was delighted to be leaving a chilly Hobart with a forecast top of 10C to fly to tropical North Queensland. Large raindrops and a cold wind blew as I hurried across the tarmac to the plane for the flight to Brisbane and from there I had one connection to the Cairns flight. Flight times were 2.5 hours to Brisbane and then a further 2.5 hours to Cairns. I arrived at the hotel around 9pm and found Mum and @@GnuGnu before settling in for the night. Next morning I took an early morning walk along the boardwalk where pelicans preened in the early morning sun and Welcome Swallows wheeled and dived overhead. After breakfast we picked up the hire car and headed west to Lake Eacham on the Atherton Tableland where Chambers Rainforest was to be our base for the next 5 nights. This hide-away is tucked away in the rainforest and is a peaceful haven. My first visitor was a Victoria’s Riflebird followed closely by Spotted Catbirds and Lewin’s Honeyeaters. The resident Brush Turkey jealously guards the territory around Chalets 1-3, chasing off all other birds. Whenever I heard a quiet step and a rustle on the stairs, it would be him trying to creep onto the deck - think vervet monkeys with wings and you will get the idea. The first night 2 sugar gliders came to the feeder.
  5. Diverse, colourful, extreme – Papua New Guinea (PNG) is one of the last frontiers for travellers and remains one of the least explored countries in the world. I have always wanted to visit PNG, a nation that comprises the eastern half of the colourful rainforest island-continent that lies between Australia and the equator. Much of Australia’s 20th century history is entwined with that of PNG and I know many people who have lived in PNG, working as teachers, booksellers, engineers, agricultural advisors, aid workers and administrators pre- and post-independence, all of whom have colourful tales of this culturally rich, scenic and geographically remote nation. Just a 90 minute flight from Cairns, PNG is home to 38 species of Birds of Paradise (BoPs), unique cultures and a largely rural/subsistence economy. This year, I booked a scheduled Birds and Culture tour with Sicklebill Safaris rather than making my own arrangements. My goals were to see Birds of Paradise and to attend the colourful Mt Hagen ‘’singsing’’, a cultural show where clans gather to flaunt, flourish and flutter in traditional regalia, featuring music and dance from the Western Highlands province and further afield. Sicklebill arranged travel with local operators and key guides by private mini-bus, scheduled flights and river boats which are common forms of transport, due to ragged jungle roads and a feudal land ownership system that is jealously and violently guarded. Rugged mountains, tropical rivers and coastal islands are home to tribal peoples whose villages of thatched huts now have satellite dishes and men who hunt with spears now sport mobile phones. A local guide is essential for communications and access to, and safe travel through complex land ownership and village sensitivities. Visits to some Bird of Paradise leks and habitats involve mud, steep hills, jungle treks and long river trips. Highlights were: · Paiya village ‘mini-show’ and the Mt Hagen ‘singsing’ · Boat trip up the Fly and Elevala Rivers · Birding around Kumul Lodge · Birds of paradise My pre-trip reading revealed the following: · During the colonial period PNG was governed at various times by the Dutch, Germans and British. It was part of the British Empire in the late 19th century and administered by Australia from 1906-75. Independence was celebrated on 16 September 1975 at a ceremony attended by Prince Charles, who was referred to in Tok Pisin (Pidgin English) as ‘the nambawan pikinini bilong Misis Kwin’; The nation of PNG comprises the eastern half of the world’s second largest island; The population of around 7,000,000 people uses one or more of over 800 languages; ·70% of the country is covered by tropical forest; ·PNG comprises one of the world’s largest remaining rural communities with 82% of the population living outside urban centres; · PNG is classified as a developing country by the International Monetary Fund, with 40% of people living a subsistence lifestyle; Social and religious systems are a mix of traditional and modern practices; The PNG coastline was mapped many centuries ago, yet land exploration occurred as late as the 1930s when Australian gold prospectors Mick and Dan Leahy trekked into the highlands, discovering the amazing hidden world of central PNG Stone Age tribespeople dressed in loincloths, grass skirts and plumed head-dresses who hunted with poisoned arrows; During World War 2 over 200,000 Australian, American and Japanese soldiers died in PNG, many along the Kokoda Trail. The fuzzy-wuzzy angels (as the PNG people were known to the soldiers) who assisted soldiers from both sides of the campaign are remembered annually at Anzac Day services in Australia and New Zealand; PNG may harbour undiscovered plants and animal life as fore-shadowed in Throwim’ way leg (1997) by Tim Flannery a book which records a relatively recent expedition to PNG and West Papua in search of new species; and · A guide told us that 70% of land in PNG is privately owned which caused me to wonder about the average number of acres owned per capita and per family when compared to Australia. Before winging my way from Cairns to Port Moresby I spent a few days around Cairns and the Atherton Tableland, which as well as being very scenic also have interesting birds and wildlife.
  6. @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.
  7. 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.
  8. @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.
  9. 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.
  10. @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.
  11. @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.
  12. 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.
  13. @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.
  14. 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.
  15. @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.
  16. @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.
  17. @BieneMaja more great photos and travels. Congratulations on having your photo published in the 2018 Galapagos Conservancy calender.
  18. @Kitsafari David Attenborough certainly introduced many people to the BoPs. Generally, the birds are hard to see in the wild, we had many scope and/or binocular views only, however sometimes we got lucky with known leks and the BoP just appearing as if on cue. The Raggiana sighting was the closest that we achieved, the others were more distant and many were so far away that I couldn't get photos. @Gilgamesh certainly you won't see many other people if you go on safari to PNG, uness you visit a singsing that is. We spent some time at Kiunga and along the Fly River which is close to the border of Indonesia's West Papua Province. I wonder why one of your friends recommended this region over others? It was in the lowlands and quite hot and humid compared with the highlands. Yes, the six pocket short sign was at Parliament House and I didn't understand it either. @Atravelynn I remember a guide saying that this time of year is good to catch the BoP displays, although I can't remember if it was all species. It certainly worked for the Raggiana and Greater BoPs though. This morning we set out with Samson to visit the fishing villages of Laelae Island and Huanabada, the latter of which is built on stilts. The drive to Laelae Island was about 90 minutes out of Port Moresby which gave us the chance to see something of the countryside. We saw the huge Exxon Mobil refinery which was very secure with a double security fence, including razor wire, perimeter cameras and floodlights. The facility incorporates a wharf where a large tanker was docked. We witnessed an unfolding drama along the razor wire when someone spotted a Brown Falcon. Inside the razor wire was a young pheasant coucal that the falcon was hunting. Foolishly, the coucal left the safety of the wire and flew across the road with the falcon in hot pursuit. The coucal dived into some long grass as the falcon struck from above. We didn't see the end of this drama, but I suspect it didn't end well for the coucal which looked bedraggled, possibly from an earlier strike. The village at Laelae Island was quite large, with a 6 room school, multiple wells where women and children collected water for washing and USaid donated water tanks to ensure clean drinking water. The village is reached by crossing a bridge underneath which families washed, swam and cleaned pots and pans. A tidal rivulet at the back of the village served as an anchorage for a variety of boats - traditional canoes, a home-made catamaran and a fibreglass dinghy. Closer to Port Moresby, these boys were salvaging recyclables from roadside litter. The last stop of the morning was at the Waterfront where we purchased last minute snacks in preparation for the next 6 days. This afternoon there is time for more sightseeing which included a visit to the Wildlife Park for some 'insurance' photos of Birds of Paradise (BoP) particularly, other birds generally and some hard to see mammals. The final stop of the day was the Bomana War Cemetery where many allied soldiers from the Second World War are buried. The wildlife park was quite good and we achieved some sightings of Birds of Paradise (BoPs) that we may miss in the bush or that live in areas not covered by our itinerary. The park incorporates the National Orchid Garden which features traditional wood carvings and sculptures, a walk-through aviary and some tree kangaroo enclosures. We were greeted at the walk-thru aviary by a Victoria's Crowned Pigeon followed closely by Magnificent BoP. The Curator of the BoP display came to replace some feed and was closely accompanied by a Cardinal Lorikeet. A Pinon's Imperial Pigeon was catching some afternoon sun when suddenly the BoPs all made for the feeders. These female riflebirds headed for the berries as did the Lawe's Parotia. A Crinkle-collared Manucode was jumping around in the trees above a Pheasant Pigeon while a Wompoo Fruit-dove looked on. The Pheasant Pigeon is a large bird that we had heard in Varirata NP and we had a brief sighting of a Yellow-legged Brush Turkey also in Varirata. The Dusky Lorikeet is a colourful bird. About this time the Australian Pelican got antsy and started chasing Ramesh, snapping and clacking its bill. The Victoria Crowned Pigeons escorted us out of the walk-thru aviary on our way to see the tree-kangaroos past more artwork and a pair of Common Kingfishers. The Grizzled Tree Kangaroos were in the first area followed by the Goodfellows Tree Kangaroos who were lazing above. Bomana War Cemetery was our last stop, and although it was officially closed when we arrived, the security guy kindly let us look around for a while. The Cemetery is the resting place for 3,778 servicemen and 1 woman from Australia, New Zealand, the U.S., Canada, India and Pakistan, who died on active service during World War 2. This quiet resting place is a haven for birds and in the late afternoon we saw Fawn-breasted Bowerbird, Torresian Imperial Pigeon and Yellow-faced Myna. Next day we were looking forward to arriving at Kiunga and arrived at the airport at 6.45 for an 8.45 departure. The airport was very busy, and there were a couple of other tour groups heading off on their own adventures. The plane flew west over the Coral Sea before turning right for Tabubil over densely forested ridges and valleys, that I could see between breaks in the thick clouds. The plane couldn't land due to low clouds and bad weather, which happens frequently. Usually, the plane flies on to land in Kiunga but not today because there is no avgas for the plane to re-fuel. The pilot advises that he has been directed to fly to the small town of Wewak on the north coast, re-fuel and return to Port Moresby. We flew over the mountainous spine of PNG and once on the northern side of the ranges the clouds lifted to reveal an endless sea of green trees. In places, the rainforest looked like a densely packed broccoli jungle, with the tree canopy reaching for light. A single rusty river snaked towards the coast and some small villages were seen through the trees and along the river. A single track road that looked like a scar through the rainforest was the first clue that we close to Wewak. The plane seemed to coast over an undulating green counterpane before landing at Wewak which was located on a sandy beach with a fringe of palm trees. Inside the terminal building policemen toting AK 47s were gathering, not sure what this was in aid of but I didn’t try to take a photo! Anyway after about 30 minutes we were in the air on the return flight to Moresby. Ben, the group leader spent a long time at Customer Services but emerged with vouchers for overnight accommodation at the comfortable Gateway Hotel. Air Niugini say the flight will leave at the same time tomorrow so we shall see.
  19. @lmSA84 I have really enjoyed your RSA TR, mostly because you went to some out of the way places that we don't hear much about. Fabulous phots too, and I am impressd that you did all this with a 6 month old baby! I have a question for you - next year I am hoping to visit the Giants Castle Vulture Hide, I will be travelling by myself and flying up from Cape Town. I will need a guide, transport and accommodation - is this something that Sakhamuzi Mhlongo would be able to guide. Sorry, I am a bit unsure of the geography and travel distances. I wonder if @Panthera Pardus is following along and has any ideas?
  20. @Towlersonsafari and @Atdahlthanks for your interest @AtravelynnI was so pleased when the Riflebird ran through his full program as I had been waiting for this sighting since our 2015 visit. The dressing for the show is a happy, social time. Lots of talk and laughter and the mirrors come out for primping and preening. I have lots of photos to come, but here is one for now. Meanwhile we are looking for BoPs! The alarm went off at 4.15 am for a 5 am breakfast and 5.30 departure for Varirata NP. Everyone is looking forward to the visit to the lek of the Raggiana BoP and we have an extra guide along today, Lyall who works for Heritage Expeditions and Tropical Birding was doing a recce for his guests who arrive tomorrow. At the lek, three or 4 males displayed for the occasional female that dropped by. The orange feathers shook, heads bobbed and wings outstretched in this colourful ritual. Next we did the lookout walk after some photos looking down over Port Moresby and the coast. A pair of Blyth's Hornbill flapped by below the lookout, their noisy wing beats alerting us to their presence. Kingfishers featured very well along this trail, beginning with the brightly coloured Brown-headed Paradise Kingfisher followed by Azure Kingfisher and the Variable Kingfisher which had a brilliant saffron breast, but was mostly hidden behind a leaf. A flock of Hooded Pitohuis fluttered in the treetops, an unusual, poisonous bird. It carries a range of poisons in its skin, feathers and body tissues. The toxins may be derived from the diet and may deter predators and parasites (the locals do not eat this bird). Further into the walk a fruiting tree attracted a variety of brightly coloured fruit doves of which Pink-spotted and Zoe's Imperial Pigeon showed well through the scope. A White-faced Robin peeped shyly from behind a leaf. Towards the end of the walk, Daniel showed us the day roost of a Barred Owlet-nightjar. Once we returned to the picnic area for lunch we saw another Blyth's Hornbill and a Red-cheeked Parrot. Later in the afternoon we saw a Hooded Pitohui and very active Elegant Honeyeaters in the picnic ground. Leaving the park we scored Rainbow Bee-eater and finished the day with more kingfishers - Sacred Kingfisher and Blue-winged Kookaburra. Varirata NP is a very pleasant place to spend a day out of Port Moresby. It is 800m above sea level and comfortably cool and very green. The inviting picnic grounds are well maintained and we only saw another 2-3 cars all day.
  21. @Alexander33 yes I have seen Tim Laman's amazing and inspiring book. I am pleased to learn that others have found PNG birding difficult in the utmost! I checked into the Air Niugini flight at 9.15 and after a quick shop in Duty Free was ready for Port Moresby (POM). The flight left 15 minutes early at 11.30 and 90 minutes later we landed in PNG. I was delighted to be travelling internationally for such a short time in order to land in a country that is so diverse and culturally different to Australia - it sure beats 20+ hours to Johannesburg or 32+ hours to Sao Paulo. I will be looking for other exotic destinations close to home - Sabah, Thailand and Hokkaido spring to mind. The climate in POM is tropical and there is a slightly damp odour around the city, although later we were to see little piles of burning garbage that produced added a strong smoky smell and contributed to the smog. Back at the airport we cleared immigration and customs without any problems, changed money and then bought a Digicell card for the mobile phone. We are staying at the Citi Serviced Apartments for the next 3 nights. There were 5 people in our Sicklebill Safaris group and it wasn't until we arrived at the POM accommodation that we all met up for the first time. Linda and Kathy, sisters from Virginia and Pennsylvania, LeslieAnn from Tucson Arizona, Ramesh from Singapore and myself. After greetings all round and a light lunch, Daniel, the local guide arrived with a driver and gopher/security guy and we were off sightseeing. First stop was Parliament House which has a soaring high peak at the front with indigenous art and a Bird of Paradise door carving. In the grounds we saw Torresian Pigeon, Sacred Kingfisher, White-breasted Woodswallow, Yellow-tinted Honeyeaters and Fawn-breasted Bowerbird. Directly opposite, people were growing vegetables in impromptu market gardens. Next stop was the fish market where all sorts of fish, crabs and frog kebabs were on sale. There didn't seem to be any restrictions on the species of fish that could be caught as we saw a Humphead Wrasse (that are protected in Australia) and some colourful reef fish all on sale as well as individually trussed mud crabs. Daniel Local fishing fleet A stilt village that is home to many of the fishermen was nearby. The last stop of the day was at the top of what Daniel calls "Rich man's hill" where many politicians and diplomats live. Security services like Black Swan were very obvious in this area as well as along the main traffic thoroughfares. The hilltop affords a birds-eye view of the city laid out below which was shared with a Fawn-breasted Bowerbird. Daniel dropped us back at the Apartments where we chose dinner from a limited menu before turning in for an early night ready for a 4.15 am. start tomorrow.
  22. @xelas @michael-ibk@kittykat23uk@TonyQ@Atravelynnthanks for reading along. @Kitsafari safari in PNG is very different to safari in Africa or South America. We saw one mammal, a Dusky Pademelon in the wild and lots of birds. Sightings are usually distant and fleeting - I will write more on the perils of birdwatching in PNG later in the report.
  23. Next day dawned and it was another gray morning. Surprisingly the Riflebird is on his post, but there isn't enough sun to light up his metallic feathers so he doesn't linger to display. Later, the Black Butcherbird and the Victoria's Riflebird made an appearance at breakfast. I decided to drive to Cairns to buy some new waterproof shoes with a really good non-slip sole for PNG. The shops in the mall were very similar to those at home - Prouds, Myer, Athletes Foot and a Food Court selling mostly unhealthy food. I returned to Cassowary House for a lazy afternoon and to finish my book. I waterproofed my new shoes, sat on the deck until a volley of barks indicated the arrival of the cassowary, Gertie. She is quite a friendly bird and likes company and admiration. She obligingly sat for a long time with her powerful feet stretched out in front of her providing many photo opportunities. Gertie is one of 3 wild cassowaries that visit Cassowary House. I was hoping and hoping that the male bird would appear with this year's young, but I missed him by 2 days, the chicks debut was recorded 8 August 2017 on Facebook. and here is a close-up of those lethal toes Ben Blewitt, who is to be our PNG guide called by this evening to see Sue and Phil and it was good to have a chance to say an early hello. Next morning we are treated to a display by the resident Victoria's Riflebird. Once again it was a gray and overcast morning, however the bird dipped, stretched and ruffled before raising its wings and showing a bright yellow gape and a blue metallic neck patch. After this brilliant start to the day we weren't surprised when Gertie the cassowary appeared at breakfast. I left Cassowary House around 10 am and drove to Mareeba to visit Granite Gorge where I walked for an hour and saw the endemic Mareeba Rock Wallaby, searched unsuccessfully for Blue-headed Kingfisher and enjoyed walking alone in the bush. The coloured route markers embedded in the large granite boulders lead visitors on a cracking scramble/walk. After the walk I found the resident Squatter Pigeons and a pair of Tawny Frogmouths. This was my last stop in the beautiful Atherton Tableland as the car was due back in Cairns and so was I, because tomorrow I fly to Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea.
  24. Just before I left home there had been a terrorist scare in Sydney and the airlines were insisting on clients arriving 2 hours before a domestic flight. I turned up at Devonport airport at 12 noon, and checkout opened at 1 pm - oh, well a bonus hour of reading time. It took three flights to get to Cairns where I finally arrived at 10.30 pm after 10.5 hours in transit and checked into the Coral Tree Inn. After a good sleep and breakfast I’m off to collect a car and then drive to the Atherton Tablelands via the scenic Gilles Highway that climbs through the Gilles Range - 262 bends, 19 kilometres and 800 metres later I arrived at Lake Barrine in time for the 11.30 cruise. This was my second time at Lake Barrine and the cruise was once again memorable. A large group of school girls from Loreto College occupied the upper deck of the vessel and an elder of the local aboriginal tribe explained the local names of the wildlife and the creation story of Lake Barrine. This year the Pacific Black Ducks once again followed the boat, even landing up front for a free ride. The Saw-shelled turtle and Long-finned eels jostled for a handout of fish meal while Welcome Swallows flitted around the boat. New sightings this year were a Carpet Python, a Tawny Frogmouth and a Water dragon (that disappeared too quickly for a photo). The 1920s style tearoom still does a very good Devonshire Tea. Rain set in as I was leaving Lake Barrine and it was too wet to walk at Lake Eacham or to check out the trees at Nerada Tea for the resident tree kangaroos. I ended up doing a drive thru' of Atherton en route to Kuranda where I eventually found Cassowary House tucked away in the rainforest. True to its name, one of the resident cassowaries put in a brief appearance, his radiant blue head contrasting sharply with the rainforest backdrop. I sat on the veranda during the afternoon relishing the nearness of the rainforest and at night all I heard was crickets and the drip, drip of rain on the tin roof. The local wildlife distracted us from breakfast next morning as it put on a show below the deck. An Emerald Ground Dove ran the gauntlet of a ring of bossy Brush Turkeys, while a shy Musky Rat Kangaroo foraged for scraps once the turkeys were occupied. Phil and Sue offer to give away a turkey to every guest at checkout - those of us who know the reputation of these feathered vervets decline hastily, while others muse that it would be good to take one home. The sky was again overcast, but at least there was no rain today so I decided to drive to Julatten in search of honeyeaters. A few Yellow Honeyeaters were feeding in the grevilleas and posed prettily for photos after which I returned to the school where a Great Bowerbird has a colourful pink and white bower. He was flying around the trees but just wouldn't pose at the bower. Along Sides Road a blue and white streak shot up from the ground to a high branch and disappeared, maybe a Forest Kingfisher?
  25. @michael-ibk most of the birds photographed at the wildlife parks we saw in the wild except for Magnificent BoP, Lawe's Parotia, Cardinal Lory and Victoria's Crowned Pigeon because we didn't visit the appropriate habitat for these guys. I will put some comments about the difficulty of birding in PNG in my TR which I am about to start tonight!

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