35 posts in this topic

Love the tree kangaroos but I didn't realise there were sub-species of those!

 

the hornbills are just spectacular. the flights are quite a challenge!

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I am too occupied with my African safaris,but looking at this trip report reminded me that long ago I dreamt of visiting Papua New Guinea. I have long dreamt of seeing the gathering of the tribes around Mt.Hagen,the scenery, and of course the incredible birds.

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@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.

 

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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!

 

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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

 

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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Some people opt to return to kilometre 14 on the BoysTown Road to maybe catch the fly past of the Flame Bowerbird.

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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.

 

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We saw this young cassowary at checkin for Port Moresby where it will be raised for food and eaten when about 12 months old.

 

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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.

 

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There is a police border post between Western Highlands and Enga Provinces which we are waved through.

 

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The lodge is very attractive and built in the local style using some local materials.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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The Smoky Honeyeater's yellow eye patch changes to red when the bird gets excited or agitated. 

 

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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.

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Posted (edited)

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.


 

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

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Max has collected wild orchids from the surrounding area and transplanted them into a maze-like garden close to his house.

 

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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.

Edited by Treepol
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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.

 

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This is a tidy, friendly village where the headman came to say hello.

 

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The ground around the huts is swept clean and the gardens neatly laid out.

 

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The site has a tremendous view over the surrounding countryside.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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This Long-tailed shrike was perched high up in the morning sun.


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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.

 

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Jimmy the headman bought his family out to say hello, the little kids loved their puppy which had a shoestring collar.


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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!

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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.

 

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Other visitors to the feeder during the afternoon were an Island Thrush

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Immature Island Thrush, Kumul Lodge

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Female and immature male Ribbon-tailed Astrapias

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Brown-backed Whistler

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Immature Rufus-naped Bellbird

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Ribbon-tailed Astrapia

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White-winged Robin

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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.

 

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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).

 

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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.

 

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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.


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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.

 

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What a great selection of birds you saw - and the BoP are spectacular.

Fascinating to see the countryside and some insights into the local way of life.

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Posted (edited)

The birds-of-paradise are certainly enigmatic, and I am thoroughly enjoying your insights as to the culture in PNG. Thanks for showing us a remote part of the world that many will never have the opportunity to visit. 

 

Edit: Spellcheck changed "culture" to "couture"  the first time. Uh, not quite. Glad I proofread.  :lol:

Edited by Alexander33

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@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.

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While birds are spectacular, what I enjoy even more is your description of places and people! And related photos.

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