For some time Papua New Guinea has been high on our list of places to visit, but for birders who prefer to travel independently rather than with an organized group this is one of the more daunting destinations to consider. Definitely not the sort of place where one can just fly in, rent a car, and head off to look for birds! The tourism infrastructure in PNG is still fairly undeveloped outside of the coastal areas, and hotels are few and far between. Roads are even scarcer, making it necessary to fly between most locations, and the domestic flight schedules are notoriously capricious. Most importantly, knowing who the best local birding guides are and how to make contact with them requires local knowledge we simply didn’t possess. We concluded that we needed expert help from someone with experience organizing birding trips to PNG, and turned to Sue Gregory of Sicklebill Safaris (http://sicklebillsafaris.com/). Sicklebill runs several regularly scheduled group tours to PNG each year (along with a number of other Australasian destinations), and they are also happy to arrange custom trips for independent travelers. If you want to go to PNG on your own, we highly recommend their services! Sue put together an excellent itinerary for us that encompassed the birding highlights of PNG, booked all of our accommodations and transportation within the country, and arranged for local birding guides at each of the locations we would visit. These included Varirata NP near Port Moresby, Tabubil and Kiunga in the foothills and lowlands respectively of Western Province, and Mt. Hagen and Tari, both in the central highlands.
The unofficial tourism slogan of Papua New Guinea is “expect the unexpected,” and for us the unexpected was that nothing unexpected happened! Based on our advance readings of numerous trip reports, we fully expected to experience one or more travel-related events, including but not restricted to cancelled flights, broken-down vehicles, washed out roads and all manner of tribal warfare-related disruptions. In fact, all of our travel arrangements went off without a hitch, leading to what’s really a rather boring trip report! The only problem we encountered was the availability of birding guides in the highlands. The local guides we had pre-booked at Kumul Lodge (Mt. Hagen) and Ambua (Tari) were both AWOL when we arrived, with rumors at both places hinting at the reason for their absence being ongoing disputes with management over conditions of employment. Although the substitute guides we ended up with at both places were not as skilled birders as we might have wished, they nonetheless knew where to take us to find Birds-of-Paradise and most of the larger target species (their help with small, forest birds, however, was often of the “look, there’s a bird over there” sort…). The guides we had at Varirata (Daniel Wakra) and Kiunga (Edmund), however, were first-rate. Both know the birds very well, and are excellent not only at identifying them by sound but also at mimicking their calls to bring them in without the use of tapes.
Mimicry was a particularly useful skill to be able to take advantage of because we were unable to obtain recordings of many species in advance – although we downloaded and brought with us what we could find online (http://www.xeno-canto.org/) we always seemed to be missing the very species it would have been most helpful to have. Field guides for PNG are also a bit problematic, and a new one that has been promised for a number of years now has still not been published. The best available is Beehler et al.’s Birds of New Guinea, but it dates from 1986 and is long since out of print. If you can find a used version it will set you back several hundred dollars. We borrowed a copy from the local university library and scanned the color plates to take with us. We also took along a copy of Coates & Peckover’s Birds of New Guinea and the Bismarck Archipelago: A Photographic Guide. Although not all species are included in this book and the photos are of variable quality, the species accounts were helpful to have. The most current taxonomy can be found in Phil Gregory’s Birds of New Guinea and its Offshore Islands: A Checklist, available online from Sicklebill.
Our lodgings ranged from very primitive (Kwatu) to basic (local guesthouses in Tabubil and Kiunga) to high end (Ambua). Kwatu is a small landowner lodge located about 2 hours by boat up the Fly and Elevala Rivers from Kiunga. There is no electricity or running water, and all of the cooking is done over an open fire. The lodge consists of a traditional log house on stilts comprising six tiny bedrooms (each with two wooden bunks) and a dining veranda. Three small outbuildings house the “kitchen”, bush showers, and a pit toilet. Mosquitoes are plentiful (bed nets are provided) and the surrounding forest is teeming with leeches. But the birding in the adjacent lowland forest and along the river is absolutely superb! Although the living conditions are probably not for everyone, the 2-1/2 days we spent here was the highlight of the trip for us! Second place went to Kumul Lodge, at high elevation on the flanks of Mt. Hagen. This is also a landowner lodge built of local materials, but is considerably more civilized than Kwatu (the availability of hot water was a little erratic, but the electric blankets on the beds were very welcome!). Kumul has probably the world’s only bird feeder visited by Birds-of-Paradise, and the opportunities to watch and photograph such fabulous birds at close range make this a must-visit destination. The well known Ambua Lodge, on the other hand, was a bit of a disappointment. Ambua is often cited as one of the world’s great ecotourism lodges, but doesn’t even begin to compare (in service, comfort, or surrounding environment) to any number of places we’ve stayed in Central America and Africa. The lodge sits beside and overlooking the road to Tari Gap, which has recently been widened and improved to support the construction of a LNG pipeline on the far side of the valley. Each morning we were awoken at 5 a.m. by long convoys of trucks starting the journey to Lae, and in the late afternoons convoys rumble into Tari from the opposite direction. Not really the remote and idyllic wilderness experience we’d envisioned, but staying here still offers the best chance to see a number of birds that are hard to find elsewhere.
From the west coast of the U.S the easiest way to get to PNG is via Australia. Flights to Port Moresby leave daily from both Brisbane and Cairns. We flew direct from LAX to Brisbane and then on to Cairns, where we spent 3 days acclimating to the climate and time change, and re-familiarizing ourselves with the birds of Australasia. And then to PNG…
Tuesday 28 May: Pacific Adventist University, Port Moresby
We had arrived at Cassowary House in Kuranda (30 minutes from the Cairns airport) the previous evening, expecting to be able to spend a leisurely evening and breakfast discussing trip logistics with Sue Gregory. The first thing she told us, however, was that Air Niugini had just changed their flight schedule, and we were now due to depart Cairns at 7 a.m. rather than noon. A 3-hour check-in time for an international flight meant arriving at the Cairns airport at 4 a.m. – so it was early to bed and no breakfast for us! We were in Port Moresby by 8 a.m., and fortunately the Raintree Lodge had been advised of our flight change and had a driver there to meet us. The Digicel concession at the airport was not yet open, so our driver kindly took us to a nearby JMart (one notch above KMart, apparently!) where we could pick up a SIM card for our cell phone. The Raintree is a fairly upscale, small hotel in the Boroko district, not far from the airport. As it’s located in a largely residential area there’s not much reason to venture outside of the gated compound, so we spent the morning catching up on our sleep.
Daniel Wakra arrived after lunch to take us to Pacific Adventist University for an easy introduction to the birds of New Guinea. The campus is extensive, with numerous ponds and open areas, and this was the only place we saw any aquatic species or waders in PNG, apart from a few egrets and cormorants on the Fly River. We were already familiar with the ducks (Pacific Black Duck, Wandering and Plumed Whistling-Ducks), Dusky Moorhens, Comb-crested Jacanas, and Nankeen Night-Herons from Australia, along with other species such as Australasian Figbird, White-breasted Woodswallow and Rufous-banded Honeyeater. Although they also looked very familiar, the loud and conspicuous Coconut (Rainbow) Lorikeets and New Guinea (Helmeted) Friarbirds have been split from their Australian counterparts by some authorities. Also conspicuous were Fawn-breasted Bowerbirds, although the only bower we found was decidedly derelict. Other new species here included Singing Starling, Black-backed Butcherbird, Yellow-faced Myna, and several Orange-fronted Fruit-Doves feeding in a fruiting tree. On the way out of the campus we stopped along the road at a wet grassy area for Grey-headed Mannikin, and were surprised to see a Black Bittern slink into a distant ditch.
Wednesday 29 May: Varirata NP
We were up at 5 a.m. for an early breakfast before a 5:30 departure for Varirata NP. Unfortunately, the hotel staff who were supposed to have provided us with that breakfast and a pack lunch were nowhere to be found, and it was close to our departure time before we were finally able to rouse anyone. They hastily packed us what we would later discover were quite unpalatable sandwiches of gelatinous “square meat” (tinned ham or corned beef) rather than the chicken salad we’d ordered, and gave us a few packets of “Nambawan” (#1) biscuits to eat on the 45 minute drive to Varirata.
We spent the first part of the morning birding along the open ridge that leads up to the park entrance, where we picked up a number of endemics including Long-tailed Honey-Buzzard, Hooded Butcherbird, Brown Oriole, Black-capped Lory, a flock of about half-a-dozen Red-flanked Lorikeets feeding in a flowering tree, Streak-headed Honeyeater, Papuan Black Myzomela, and the ubiquitous Glossy Swiftlets. A fly-by male Raggiana BoP gave us our first Bird-of-Paradise. A number of species familiar to us from Australia were also common here, including Pheasant Coucal, Forest Kingfisher, Rainbow Bee-eater, White-throated Honeyeater, Spangled Drongo, Leaden Flycatcher, Black-faced Monarch and Lemon-bellied Flyrobin. We would not see most of those species elsewhere in PNG.
Eventually we proceeded into the park to the picnic area, scoring Slender-billed Cuckoo-Doves and Hooded Pitohuis on the way, along with an exceedingly brief glimpse (the only one we would get) of a female Growling Riflebird. Exploration of the picnic area turned up a Rufous-bellied Kookaburra, a small group of female and immature male Raggiana BoPs, and a calling Yellow-billed Kingfisher that took quite some time to locate as it sat high in a tall casuarina. While we searched for the kingfisher, a mixed flock containing several Stout-billed Cuckoo-shrikes and a pair of Black Cicadabirds passed by. As we walked back towards the car, Daniel spied a Barred Owlet-Nightjar peering out of a hole in a tree. He was even more delighted by this find than we were, as the birds are apparently gone from the spot that had been the traditional stake-out for this species, and this was the first one he had found this year.
Next we walked a short distance into the forest along the trail to the Lookout. Here we had phenomenal luck, managing to get quite decent looks at three very difficult species – Black-billed Brush-Turkey, Chestnut-backed Jewel-Babbler and Red-bellied Pitta – all in the space of about 30 minutes along the same small section of trail! Painted Quail-Thrush was also calling nearby, but that one couldn’t be lured into view. We celebrated our good fortune by eating lunch (such as it was) back at the picnic area, and then wandered the edges, picking up Tawny-breasted and Mimic Honeyeaters, Mountain Myzomela, Black-fronted White-eye, Dwarf Longbill, Barred Cuckoo-shrike, Red-capped Flowerpecker, Golden Monarch, and an all-too-brief look at a Goldenface (Dwarf Whistler) for Cathy only. By mid-afternoon it had become very quiet, and the only bird we could scrape up along the Treehouse Trail was a White-faced Robin. We drove slowly out of the park, encountering Moustached Treeswifts and another Rufous-bellied Kookaburra on the way. Near the village down the hill from the park we watched a Pacific Baza being hassled by a Glossy-mantled Manucode.
Wednesday 29 May: Varirata NP
The ladies in the kitchen at the Raintree were very apologetic about yesterday’s mix-up, and had a full breakfast and our chicken salad sandwiches ready to go at 5 a.m. Today we didn’t dally along the ridge, but drove straight into the park to the Raggiana BoP lek site. Daniel had told us it was a bit early in the season for the birds to be displaying, but we arrived to find at least three fully plumed male Raggiana BoPs being visited by a number of females, and witnessed two full courtship displays that culminated in copulation. A very impressive and noisy show! As the action died down we spent some time back out on the road, trying fruitlessly to see the Papuan King Parrot, Growling Riflebird, Crinkle-collared Manucode and Painted Quail-Thrush that were all calling simultaneously from just inside the forest edge. All we managed in the end was a glimpse of the Painted Quail-Thrush as it dashed across the road, and some equally poor views of Rusty Pitohuis doing the same. We had better luck down at the Lookout where Daniel located a Brown-headed Paradise-Kingfisher perched quietly in the forest, two Crinkle-collared Manucodes came out into the open above the trail, and a Variable Goshawk landed directly in front of us at eye level.
We spent the rest of the day back at the picnic area, getting good scope views of a calling Dwarf Koel, Beautiful Fruit-Dove and Red-cheeked Parrot perched in the high trees at the forest’s edge. A mixed flock of small birds that was active along the Treehouse Trail eventually yielded Chestnut-bellied Fantail, Black Berrypecker, Spot-winged Monarch and Frilled Monarch. By mid-afternoon there was little activity so we drove back down to PAU to try again for the Papuan Frogmouths that had so far eluded us. Today we were luckier, and found two juveniles and an adult perched together in a huge rain tree. A groundskeeper told us a frogmouth (the other adult?) had been found with a broken wing the previous day, and had been “taken to the garden.” Daniel suspected this was a euphemism for “eaten for lunch”!
Friday 31 May: Tabubil
Our Air Niugini flight to Tabubil was on time, and we arrived to unexpectedly good weather – Tabubil is the wettest spot in PNG, receiving up to 12 m of rain a year, and we hadn’t really expected to see the sun here! We were met by Samuel Kepuknai of Kiunga Nature Tours, who would guide us here and then take us to Kiunga. We settled in to the Cloudlands Hotel, ticking Uniform Swiftlet and Scrub Honeyeater in the hotel gardens, and then after lunch drove to the power station on the Ok Menga, a reliable spot for Salvadori’s Teal. For the first hour there we saw little other than a distant Torrent Flyrobin, but eventually a teal flew in and proceeded to work its way slowly upstream through the rapids. Very satisfied with our prolonged views of this rare species, we turned to birding the roadsides, but it was extremely quiet and we turned up very little before returning to the hotel at dusk.
Saturday 01 June: Tabubil
A Papuan Boobook was calling from somewhere nearby as we left the hotel to drive the short distance to Dablin Creek. We arrived there at dawn to hear Shovel-billed Kingfishers calling from the dense vegetation on the far side of the creek. No way to get anywhere near the area, unfortunately. It was an overcast and intermittently wet morning and activity was slow to pick up, but once it did we were treated to good scope views of a number of Carola’s Parotias, one young male with head wires among what were otherwise female-plumaged birds. We spent the morning standing in one spot overlooking the adjacent hillside, and our list of new birds gradually grew: a small flock of Ornate Fruit-Doves, a female Greater BoP, Canary Flyrobin, Grey-headed Cuckoo-shrike, a distant but unmistakeable Golden Cuckoo-shrike, Mountain Peltops, and a White-rumped Robin lurking in the roadside shrubbery. On the hillside above us, a flowering bottlebrush tree was being visited by Long-billed Honeyeaters, Spotted Honeyeaters, a single male Red Myzomela, and 3-4 females that appeared to be not Red but rather Red-collared Myzomelas (brown with red rumps, tails and throat spots and two very prominent buffy wingbars). A large raptor flew over that Samuel called Doria’s Hawk, but to us the size, tail shape and underwing pattern looked more convincingly like New Guinea Harpy Eagle. Unfortunately it disappeared into the fog before we could get photos or additional evidence to support that wishful identification.
We went back to the hotel for lunch and then returned to the same spot in the late afternoon. A Greater Melampitta was calling from some invisible location on the far hillside and a pair of Torrent Flyrobins put in an appearance, but apart from that it was a very slow afternoon with little activity and nothing new.
Sunday 02 June: Tabubil to Kiunga
We decided to try in earnest for the Shovel-billed Kingfisher at Dablin Creek today, and, armed with a tape, started the morning at a spot where the forest descends to the edge of the road. Unlike yesterday, however, the day dawned bright and clear and the kingfishers weren’t calling. After catching sight of a male Carola’s Parotia visiting a distant fruiting tree we climbed a steep and slippery metal catwalk atop a water pipe to get closer. We were rewarded with views of two female Magnificent BoPs, Rusty Whistler, Black Fantail, and flyovers by a Great Cuckoo-Dove and a pair of Torrent-larks.
We left Tabubil mid-morning to drive to Kiunga, made several short stops along the way to look unsuccessfully for Pesquet’s Parrot and Little Ringed Plover, and arrived at the Kiunga Guest House in time for a late lunch. Here Samuel turned us over to a new guide, Edmund, with whom we would spend the next four days. In the late afternoon Edmund took us back out the road to the Greater BoP lek site at Km 17. Although there were plenty of male BoPs present – including Greater, Raggiana and hybrid individuals – females weren’t visiting, and most of the activity involved males flying back and forth in the dense canopy, calling noisily. A difficult place to get good views, especially with the canopy backlit by the late afternoon sun. We moved back out onto the road just in time to spy three Pesquet’s Parrots feeding in a distant tree – unfortunately they flew before we could get the scope on them, but they gave good flight views as they went. Several much closer fruiting trees hosted a succession of good birds, including a trio of Eclectus Parrots, Pinon Imperial Pigeons, Pink-spotted Fruit-Dove, Orange-bellied Fruit-Dove, and an unexpected White-throated (Metallic) Pigeon.
Monday 03 June: Kwatu
Edmund and several other local tribesmen picked us up at dawn for the boat trip up the Fly River to the Elevala River and rustic Kwatu Lodge. Birds were plentiful along the riverbanks, and we got excellent, close views of a number of pairs of Blyth’s Hornbills and Palm Cockatoos, both species we had very much wanted to see. Other birds seen from the boat included Channel-billed Cuckoo, Great-billed Heron, Yellow-streaked Lory, small flocks of Orange-breasted Fig-Parrots, Yellow-faced Mynas, perched Moustached Treeswifts, another Rufous-bellied Kookaburra, numerous pairs of Shining Flycatchers, and several large flocks of Metallic Starlings flying low across the water.
While the landowners prepared our room we explored the area immediately adjacent to the lodge, running across a mixed flock that included Yellow-bellied Longbill, Yellow-bellied Gerygone and the trio of Monarchs (Spot-winged, Golden and Frilled) that were the mainstays of most flocks here. After lunch we continued a short distance up the narrow Ketu River by boat, disembarking in an area where there had been a reliable King BoP display site. Unfortunately, the site appears to be inactive this year. We also spent a considerable amount of time looking unsuccessfully for Common Paradise-Kingfishers; although several birds were calling, we were ultimately unable to locate them in the dense forest. Back at the lodge, a male Twelve-wired BoP displayed briefly from his pole on the far side of the river, conveniently in full view from the lodge veranda. After dinner heat lightning was flashing and rain was threatening to fall so we called off a planned excursion for owls, and decided to try early in the morning instead.
Tuesday 04 June: Kwatu
We were up at 4:30 a.m., but the morning was foggy and wet. Although a Papuan Frogmouth was calling not far from the lodge, a walk around the area didn’t reveal it or any other nocturnal birds. We spent the morning on the trails close to the lodge, intermittently deploying our umbrellas in light rain, and spending a lot of time removing very enthusiastic leeches from our socks. It was very quiet in the forest, but what the morning lacked in quantity of birds, it made up for in quality. Calling Common Paradise-Kingfishers continued to elude us (an Azure Kingfisher was a poor substitute), but with patience we eventually got reasonable views of a Blue Jewel-Babbler that Edmund skillfully whistled in. Cathy managed to find a Red-bellied Pitta that was calling from the understory, but her attempts to get the others on it were abruptly abandoned when a Cinnamon Ground-Dove walked by right in front of us! Minutes later we came across a pair of Southern Crowned Pigeons perched in a large tree beside the trail, but they didn’t stay long once they realized we had stopped to look at them. During lunch a female King BoP visited a fruiting tree below the lodge veranda, along with Boyer’s Cuckoo-shrikes and a flock of Orange-bellied Fig-Parrots.
In the afternoon Edmund took us back down the Elevala to try yet another spot for Paradise-Kingfishers. On the way we came across a Papuan Frogmouth sitting incongruously on the muddy bank of the river, only a meter or so from the water’s edge. Assuming it must be ill or injured we pulled the boat up close, but when Edmund started to jump out the bird quickly took off and flew into the forest – apparently not injured! Shortly after disembarking and entering the forest we encountered a large mixed flock that included several Wallace’s Fairy-Wrens, as well as Rufous-backed Fantail, Hooded Monarch, Black Sunbird, and several more Yellow-bellied Longbills. We then tracked down another Blue Jewel-Babbler for Paul, whose looks at the morning’s bird had been less than satisfactory. This second-chance bird afforded us all completely unobstructed views as it slowly circled the spot where we sat. While stalking the Jewel-Babbler we ran across a bonus Purple-tailed Imperial Pigeon. Next came a total surprise – a movement on the trail ahead of us resolved into a Thick-billed Ground-Pigeon that gave great views as it slowly wandered off into the understory! Finally, on the way back to the boat we heard Hook-billed Kingfisher calling, and waited patiently while Edmund tried to locate it. After about a half-hour during which the bird had gone quiet and we had lost all hope that it was still around, he miraculously managed to find it perched in the canopy, in a spot that required us to kneel in the mud to see it. Nonetheless, it was a great view of a really difficult bird, and more than made up for our continued lack of success with Paradise-Kingfishers! As we headed back up the river towards Kwatu at sunset we encountered a total of seven Southern Crowned Pigeons coming down to the river’s edge to drink. A spectacular end to an excellent afternoon’s birding!
The weather seemed a bit better tonight, so after dinner we took the boat down the river to the site of the old lodge at Ekame to spotlight for nightbirds. Two Papuan Frogmouths were perched on limbs overhanging the river, and we also came across a group of four tiny Large-billed Gerygones sleeping on a dead snag. We walked in to the lodge site, trying not to think too imaginatively about the possibility of Death Adders lying in wait along the overgrown, grassy track. By the old lodge we found a Marbled Frogmouth and a roosting Black-billed Brush-Turkey, but unfortunately no sign of owls or owlet-nightjars.
Wednesday 05 June: Kwatu to Kiunga
This morning we would visit the site where a hide has been constructed to watch for New Guinea Flightless Rails that come to feed on offerings of sago. The previous day some of the local lads had made repairs to the trail and hide, and reported that it was accessible albeit a bit muddy. On the way in we finally got our bins on a Common Paradise-Kingfisher, breaking the jinx that had plagued us since our arrival at Kwatu. At the hide we waited quietly for an hour or so, during which time the only bird we saw was a Lowland Peltops. It began to rain increasingly heavily. As we were wondering how much longer we should stand there, Edmund whispered “here they come”, and three fantastic New Guinea Flightless Rails emerged from the forest to begin pulling apart a fallen sago trunk. Magic! Of course we had put the cameras away during the long wait in the rain, and as Paul reached to retrieve our pack the rails saw the slight movement and became alarmed, vanishing as quickly as they had appeared. Assured by Edmund that the rails would be unlikely to return any time soon, we headed back to the lodge, thrilled to have seen them, but kicking ourselves for our stupidity (first for having put the cameras away and then for having moved to get them!).
It rained hard for much of the rest of the morning and we waited out the showers at the lodge, getting a nice look at a Lesser Black Coucal who came out to dry himself off when the rain finally stopped. After lunch we packed up and headed back down the river to Kiunga, stopping en route to try once more for a male King BoP. We were unsuccessful with that species, but did flush up a Greater Black Coucal for brief views. The trip down the river also netted us a female Twelve-wired BoP, Golden Mynas, and a small flock of Grey Crows. We arrived back at the Kiunga Guest House in mid-afternoon, and spent the rest of the day relaxing in the air-conditioned room, doing some laundry and cleaning the mud off ourselves and our gear.
Thursday 06 June: Kiunga
After an early breakfast we drove out the Boystown Road to a roadcut from which there is a clear vantage point over the surrounding forest. Setting up the scope here, we waited for birds to fly over or alight in distant trees. A large fruiting tree on the horizon hosted a number of species, including Orange-bellied, Superb and Beautiful Fruit-Doves, Papuan Mountain Pigeons and Golden Mynas. Crinkle-collared and Trumpet Manucodes sitting atop adjacent trees afforded a nice comparison, with the Crinkle-collared’s eyebrows and the Trumpet Manucode’s neck plumes showing well. Our target bird here was Flame Bowerbird, and two stunning males and a female eventually arrived to spend some time perched in full scope view. We also picked up new parrots in the form of two pairs of Double-eyed Fig-Parrots who appeared to be exploring nest holes in a dead tree, and two tiny Yellow-capped Pygmy-Parrots who landed nearby and gave brief views before they disappeared into dense vegetation. As the morning heated up the activity slowed down, and the arrival of a road grading crew finally motivated us to head back into Kiunga for lunch.
In the late afternoon we tried Km 17 again. The scene at the Greater BoP site was much the same as on the previous visit (lots of calling but no displaying), and the light was only marginally better. We adjourned to the road, hoping for more good looks at pigeons and parrots, but there was considerably less bird activity and considerably more traffic today than on Sunday. A Dwarf Fruit-Dove was a nice addition to the list, and a Pacific Koel finally showed well, but that was about it.
Friday 07 June: Kiunga to Mt. Hagen
Our morning flight to Mt. Hagen was uneventful, and Kim and Kenneth, the managers of Kumul Lodge, were at the airport to meet us. We were surprised by how hot and humid it was there, but the hour-long drive was mostly uphill, and by the time we reached Kumul Lodge at 2700 m (about 9000 ft) we were in a decidedly different climatic zone! Our cabin looked out at the summit of 12,579 ft Mt. Hagen, and we took advantage of the fact that it was momentarily cloud-free to step outside to take photos. On the small patch of lawn behind our cabin we found (and photographed!) the first of the many Smoky Honeyeaters we would see in the coming week, along with a White-winged Robin, Rufous-naped Whistler, and the only Mountain Firefinch of the trip!
We tore ourselves away from the cabin to head to the dining room for lunch, and there discovered the location of Kumul’s famous bird feeder. A place had thoughtfully been set for us at the table with the best view of the birds, ensuring that binoculars and cameras would spend more time in our hands than knife or fork! When we eventually finished eating we moved to the upstairs viewing balcony, and spent the entire afternoon there. Birds coming to the feeder included male and female Brown Sicklebills, Brehm’s Tiger-Parrots, Belford’s Melidectes and Smoky Honeyeaters, a female Archbold’s Bowerbird, and both sexes of Ribbon-tailed Astrapia, although the one adult male among them was missing his tail streamers entirely. A Bronze Ground-Dove put in a brief appearance, and Papuan Lorikeets visited a flowering tree adjacent to the balcony. White-winged Robins and Island Thrushes foraged confidently on the lawn, and in the trees around the edges of the garden we discovered Friendly Fantail, a colorful pair of Crested Berrypeckers, Large Scrubwren, and Regent Whistler. Mountain Swiftlets careened by periodically in the background.
Saturday 08 June: Kumul Lodge
We weren’t sure what the plan was for the morning, but the kitchen staff had advised us that they would go ahead and serve us breakfast at 5:30 a.m. (they are very used to birders and know the drill!). Two guides – both named Max – work at Kumul, and all we knew was that we were supposed to have Max 1 (a well-known birding guide) on one day and Max 2 (also knows the birds, but is really an orchid expert) on the other. At 6 a.m. Kenneth appeared and indicated that he would drive us down to a site for Blue BoP. When we asked where our promised bird guide was, he eventually confessed that Max 1 had quit two weeks earlier after a dispute with management over tipping policies. Max 2 was supposed to be coming today, but he was already late and it wasn’t entirely clear that he would show up either, as he had also been party to the dispute. A number of phone calls followed, and Max 2 eventually did appear, late enough that we had to really hurry down the hill to make it to the Blue BoP display site on time. We were relieved to find the male Blue BoP still there along with a male Superb BoP, and for quite some time we alternated watching the two of them display from the tops of trees on the ridge above us.
After the BoPs dispersed we continued up the steep hillside to an area from which we could look out over the forest canopy. Here we picked up a number of small birds such as New Guinea White-eye, Black-breasted Boatbill, Sclater’s Whistler, Buff-faced Scrubwren, Fan-tailed Berrypecker and Island Leaf-Warbler, along with a female Superb BoP. As we descended the hill back to the road we passed through an open grassy area where we found Papuan Grassbird, a flock of Hooded Mannikins, and several Brown-breasted Gerygones.
In the late afternoon Kenneth dropped us off a short distance down the road at the Pigetes Trail, which climbs steeply up and over a densely forested ridge. Along the way we encountered an Orange-crowned Fairy-Wren. We came out into a clearing overlooking the valley behind, where a King-of-Saxony BoP has his display site. We were soon watching him as he sat waggling his bizarre head plumes and belting out a song that has been described as sounding like radio static, but to us evoked pebbles being poured into a plastic bucket. Several Blue-faced Parrotfinches foraged in the long grass of the clearing, a flock of Yellow-billed Parakeets stopped in briefly, and the BoP was joined in his tree by a male Brown Sicklebill and a pair of Black-bellied Cuckoo-shrikes. As dusk fell we hiked back out to the road, hoping we wouldn’t have to walk the whole way back to the lodge. Fortunately, Kenneth returned in the nick of time to give us a lift. As we were finishing our dinner the lodge lost power, and we spent a companionable evening sitting around the woodstove in the lounge along with the other guests, most of the staff, and a few local bar patrons.
Sunday 09 June: Kumul Lodge
Max 2 reappeared at 6 a.m. to guide us for a second day, and we drove further down the road into Enga Province, past the village where we had seen the Blue BoP to a site for Lesser BoP. Once again, we worried that we had arrived a bit late, a fear that was magnified when we could neither see nor hear much activity coming from the grove of trees where the birds normally display. The grove was on the far side of a river, and Max eventually concluded that we would need to cross the river and hike over to the trees to look for the birds. The only route across was a crude bridge made from a large log that looked suspiciously slippery and was high enough above the water to worry those of us with mild acrophobia. Several small children dashed back and forth in their bare feet to demonstrate to us how easy it was, but our confidence was not buoyed by Max who looked a bit shaky as he carried our scope across. After Paul announced that he didn’t think he could do it, a local teenager stepped forward and offered to hold his arm, and then proceeded to sure-footedly lead both of us across.
Safely on the far side, we climbed up a steep, muddy ridge that had been thoroughly rototilled by pigs, and found ourselves looking at a lovely male Lesser BoP perched almost at eye level. The bird sat for a number of photos before flying off, at which point we turned to the task of trying to lure a calling male Magnificent BoP out from dense shrubbery. In the end, the best we could manage with this one were flight views of a black-and-yellow bullet streaking by. Yellow-breasted Bowerbird, Ornate Melidectes, Long-tailed Shrike, Black-headed Whistler, and a small flock of White-shouldered Fairy-Wrens rounded out the morning. The entourage of boys who had helped us cross the bridge had long since grown bored and disappeared, leaving us wondering how we would get back. The log had dried out by now and Cathy made it across unassisted, but when Max attempted to lead Paul across it appeared that both of them were in danger of ending up in the river. A local man who was nearby sprang into action and rushed across the bridge, rescuing Paul and guiding him across safely. Despite their well-deserved reputation for domestic violence and tribal warfare, the Papuan people are incredibly friendly and kind to visitors, as we witnessed on this and other occasions.
We spent the afternoon back at the lodge. Although we had originally intended to explore some of the trails on the property, neither of us was feeling 100%, and we ended up once again sitting in comfort on the balcony overlooking the feeders, cameras in hand. At dusk we met Max for a pre-dinner nocturnal outing. On the trail leading down to his orchid garden we flushed a New Guinea Woodcock several times in succession, although we were never able to get a light on it for a decent view. We then walked along the main road in search of Mountain Nightjars, but the traffic was a bit too heavy (a car or truck every few minutes) for that endeavor.
Monday 10 June: Mt. Hagen to Ambua Lodge
Kenneth dropped us off early at the Mt. Hagen airport and we spent most of the morning sitting in the comfortable TNT lounge waiting for our charter flight to Ambua Lodge. The plane arrived a bit late and took some time to load, as a number of cases of wine had to be offloaded when it became apparent that we were overweight (but no worries about the bar at Ambua running dry – several additional cases stayed on!). The hour-long flight in an 8-seater plane was fortunately very smooth, and we were welcomed to Ambua in time for lunch. Here, too, we discovered that our pre-booked birding guide, the well-known Joseph, was apparently AWOL. The manager didn’t seem to know we were there to bird, and when we informed him that we were expecting to be guided by Joseph, he looked either surprised or sheepish (hard to tell which) and informed us that Joseph was currently in Mt. Hagen. After we pressed our case he told us he’d see what he could do, and later reported to us that he’d arranged transportation to bring Joseph to Ambua the following day. (Long story short: Joseph never turned up, and when we asked again the next day about his whereabouts and ETA, all we got in reply was a noncommital shrug…) The lack of a birding guide was a moot point for today anyway, as it had started raining heavily during lunch, and showed no signs of stopping throughout the afternoon. During a brief lull in the storm we walked around the lodge grounds, finding Smoky Honeyeaters to be as ubiquitous here as at Kumul while Yellow-browed Melidectes replaced the higher elevation Belford’s Melidectes. A pair of Black Butcherbirds was lurking around the rondavels, and Great Woodswallow perched on the roof of the main lodge building.
Tuesday 11 June: Tari Gap
In Joseph’s absence, we were assigned a guide named Steven, who frankly admitted that he was a cultural guide and didn’t know all the birds. But he did know where and how to find the BoPs and other showy species, which he ably demonstrated by taking us straight to a site for Princess Stephanie’s Astrapia. Here, in a logged-over clearing near the Bailey Bridge, we had excellent looks at a male and more distant scope views of two females. Next we proceeded further up the road towards Tari Gap, and stopped in the territory of a Ribbon-tailed Astrapia. Unlike the poor fellow at Kumul, this bird had spectacular meter-long tail streamers that he displayed for us both in flight and while foraging in a roadside tree. We were also delighted to find our first Blue-capped Ifrita, working nuthatch-like up the mossy trunk of a small tree. A non-descript bird the size of a small honeyeater, with solid green back, gray underparts and a short, straight bill stumped us here. It did not appear to have either the tail markings or pectoral tufts of a female Berrypecker, but did closely resemble a female Papuan Whipbird. Unfortunately we were unable to get a photo or otherwise verify that tentative ID before a speeding Land Cruiser forced both us and the bird to flee the roadside.
We continued up to the Tari Gap, where a Papuan Harrier was hunting over the alpine grasslands, and Papuan Grassbirds and Pied Chats sat along the roadside. A Nankeen Kestrel was somewhat of a surprise here, a bird Steven said he had never seen before. We worked our way back down the road towards lunch, stopping for a mixed flock that included Friendly Fantail and Grey-streaked Honeyeater (both common) as well as Mid-mountain and Fan-tailed Berrypeckers.
After lunch we took a short walk down to the big waterfall at Ambua, where we found a Blue-Grey Robin and Tit Berrypeckers visiting a fruiting tree. We then drove back up the Tari Gap road to the same areas where we had spent the morning, but there was little activity and we saw nothing different. Traffic along the road is especially heavy at this time of day as convoys of trucks arrive en route from Lae, hauling pipe and other supplies for the LNG project on the far side of the valley. Simultaneously, local mini-buses completing the 8-hr milk run from Mt. Hagen to Tari careen down the gap at suicidal speeds. Everyone is very friendly, which they demonstrate by honking their horn as they pass. Needless to say, it’s difficult to concentrate on the birds when you have to leap into the roadside ditch every couple of minutes (sometimes more frequently) as a fully-loaded semi bears down on you, horn blaring in greeting. Not to mention that the birds don’t tend to stick around…
Wednesday 12 June: Ambua and Tari Gap
Cathy awoke at 4 a.m. to hear Papuan Boobooks calling, and went out to find one of them sitting on the roof of a rondavel opposite ours. A second bird was calling from a nearby tree. We would hear them every day, but several further attempts to see one were unsuccessful. After breakfast we started the day right back at our room, which was conveniently located next to a large fruiting tree. Yesterday we had seen a female Princess Stephanie’s Astrapia and female Superb BoP here, and now those same birds were joined by two female-plumaged Lawe’s Parotias, a pair of Short-tailed Paradigallas and a female Loria’s Satinbird! A pair of Black-breasted Boatbills and small flock of Tit Berrypeckers rounded out the cast. Steven tore us away from this bonanza prematurely to hurry down to the airstrip to try for Black Sicklebill. Although we got a very brief look at a very distant bird that appeared to be a female Black Sicklebill, no males were calling. After scanning distant trees for a while we concluded that we had tarried too long at the lodge, and would have to arrive earlier tomorrow to try again for this species.
We headed once more up to Tari Gap, where two Papuan Harriers were present today plus a Long-tailed Shrike. We continued over the gap and down to a forested area on the far slope that Steven said was the usual haunt of Macgregor’s Bowerbird and Lesser Melampitta. The patch was, however, very quiet, and all we succeeded in finding was a female White-breasted Fruit-Dove.
After lunch many of the same birds that had been present this morning returned to the fruiting tree by our room, joined now by the male Loria’s Satinbird. We had planned to go down to the village to try for Papuan King Parrot and other specialties found there, but as we started down the hill a storm blew in and shrouded the valley below in black rainclouds. We retreated back up towards the gap, and once more worked the roadsides in intermittent rain. Several King-of-Saxony BoPs were chasing each other back and forth across the road, and a male with considerably shorter head plumes than the one we’d seen at Pigetes eventually sat up in a distant tree and crackled away. A pair of Hooded Cuckoo-shrikes were new for the tour, and a Black-throated Robin emitted its electronic whistle while in full view on an open branch. Late in the afternoon Steven pointed out what he thought was a Mountain Firefinch foraging on grass seedheads beside the road. The color pattern didn’t look right, however, and after a puzzled minute we realized that we were watching what was most likely an immature male Wattled Ploughbill! This mostly olive-brown bird lacked wattles and had bright rufous-red wings, a trait not illustrated or mentioned in our field guides, but the laterally compressed bill was diagnostic. We followed this very confiding individual closely for about 20 minutes as it foraged just a few meters from us.
Thursday 13 June: Ambua and Tari Valley
This morning we didn’t linger over breakfast, but went straight down to the airstrip to try again for Black Sicklebill. We waited there for a few minutes, but hearing nothing continued down to the village at the bottom of the road. From there Steven led us to the top of a steep hill from which we could look down into the next valley. Below us in a distant dead tree sat a male Black Sicklebill, his resounding “pop” call – reminiscent of a cork being pulled from a bottle – strikingly different from the machine-gun fire of the Brown Sicklebill. Two females sat across the valley from us on the opposite ridge.
From here we proceeded further down into the village to a property that is visited regularly by Papuan King Parrot. The landowners in Tari charge 10 kina ($5) per person for birders to come onto their land, but the fee is payable only if the target bird is seen. We had to wait about an hour before a Papuan King Parrot finally put in an appearance, at which point we happily forked over the fee; while waiting for the parrot we had picked up the only Capped White-eyes of the trip, so ended up getting two birds for the price of one! Next we visited a property where a Sooty Owl roosts, prepared to shell out another 10 kina each. We had to wait some time for the landowner to appear, and when he finally did he told us he’d checked the roost for the last two nights and had seen no bird fly out, so had concluded it wasn’t in residence currently. Disappointed but having saved ourselves 20 kina, we drove back up to spend the remainder of the morning on the road to the gap.
Fortunately, today Steven led us off the busy road and into the adjacent forest in several places. The first of these forays netted us Dimorphic Fantail and Black Monarch. The next spot we tried seemed very quiet, but Steven noticed that something had recently been digging in the leaf litter on the trail. A moment later a movement off to the side revealed a pair of Chestnut Forest-Rails, and we watched as they worked their way across the forest floor, stopping periodically to kick up the leaf litter in search of food. We emerged onto the road to find it raining quite heavily, and retreated back to the lodge for lunch.
Tired of dodging trucks and curious to explore the lodge grounds further, we decided to spend the afternoon walking the loop trail at Ambua. This route passes two impressive waterfalls, and affords one the opportunity to cross the river three times on traditional suspension bridges made of sticks and vines. We saw few birds, but enjoyed the scenery.
Friday 14 June: Tari to Port Moresby
Before leaving Ambua we made one last quick check of the lodge grounds, getting another excellent look at a pair of Short-tailed Paradigallas, and flushing a Papuan King Parrot from the trees near the helipad. Air Niugini is notorious for overbooking flights, and as it was a Friday and LNG pipeline workers were likely to be heading home, we erred on the side of caution and arrived at the airport before check-in had even started. The departure lounge at Tari is a thatched gazebo-type structure adjacent to the runway, and from there we could see a market or other large, public gathering taking place on either side of the terminal – someone told us political candidates were speaking in the run-up to upcoming local elections. Our plane was already an hour late when we noticed some sort of disturbance taking place next door – people shouting and running towards the airstrip. Next we began hearing what sounded like gunshots, and people started jumping the security fence and running across the runway. Our throats began burning, and we realized teargas was being used and was drifting over to where we waited. Everyone ran into the small terminal building, where the locals began lighting fires to disperse the gas – apparently this is a regular enough occurrence here that everyone knows just what to do! Within a few minutes it was safe to go back outside, but we were very relieved when our plane finally arrived a few minutes later, happy to board and leave Tari behind!
We were about an hour late arriving in Port Moresby, too late for lunch at the Raintree (fortunately we still had some Nambawan crackers!) but not for our rendezvous with Daniel. Today was supposed to be a sight-seeing excursion to Port Moresby, and we asked him to take us to PNG Arts so we could buy some souvenirs. This is an amazing place, like a museum where everything is for sale at unbelievably cheap prices. If you want to take an 8-ft wooden crocodile home with you, this is the place to get one! The trees in the parking lot are also a reliable spot for the endemic Silver-eared Honeyeater, so we picked up one final, new bird along with a couple of carved masks and woven penis-sheaths to take home with us!
The next day we flew directly from Port Moresby to Brisbane, spent the night in an airport hotel, and continued on to L.A. the following morning. We finished the trip having seen approximately 250 species, including 20 Birds-of-Paradise and those amazing New Guinea Flightless Rails. Many thanks to Sue for arranging such a splendid trip, and to Daniel, Samuel, Edmund, Max and Steven for the birds!
Recommended items to take to PNG:
1. 100 PNG kina. Tourist visas can be obtained upon arrival at the airport in Port Moresby, but require payment of 100 kina (~$50) per person. One has to pass through immigration before there is an opportunity to exchange currency, so it’s most convenient to pick up some kina before flying in to PNG (available at the money exchange kiosks in both Cairns and Brisbane airports).
2. Spotting scope. Much of the birding in PNG requires scanning distant treetops for birds. Most birds are still hunted, so they are wary and keep their distance. None of our local guides had a scope, and had we not brought ours there would have been many species we would not have seen at all satisfactorily. A camera for digiscoping would also have come in very handy. Ah, well…next time.
3. Rubber boots and a poncho were essential at Kwatu. Trails and riverbanks were often very muddy, and heavy showers were frequent. Especially when out in the boat it was very convenient to be able to throw a poncho over ourselves and our gear each time the heavens opened. Ziplock bags of all sizes were also very useful for keeping gear dry.
4. Umbrella. It rains a lot everywhere in PNG, but the rain was often light enough that we could keep birding with an umbrella to keep the optics dry. The type that folds up to fit in a purse (or pocket) comes in very handy.
(New Guinea endemics in boldface):
PAU: Pacific Adventist University, Port Moresby
VAR: Varirata NP
KWA: Kwatu (including Fly and Elevala Rivers)
KUM: Kumul Lodge and vicinity (Mt. Hagen)
TAR: Tari and Ambua Lodge
Plumed Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna eytoni): PAU, a few among Wandering Whistling-Ducks
Wandering Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna arcuata): PAU
Radjah Shelduck (Tadorna radjah): PAU, 2
Salvadori's Teal (Salvadorina waigiuensis): TAB, 1 at Ok Menga
Pacific Black Duck (Anas superciliosa): PAU
Black-billed Brush-Turkey (Talegalla fuscirostris): VAR, 1; KWA, 2
Australasian Little Grebe (Tachybaptus novaehollandiae): PAU
Little Black Cormorant (Phalacrocorax sulcirostris): PAU
Little Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax melanoleucos): PAU
Black Bittern (Ixobrychus flavicollis): PAU, 1
Great-billed Heron (Ardea sumatrana): KWA, 2
Great Egret (Ardea alba modesta): KWA, 3-5 along river
Intermediate Egret (Mesophoyx intermedia): PAU, 3
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta): PAU, 1; KWA, 1-2 along river
Pied Heron (Egretta picata): PAU
Eastern Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis coromandus): flock at airport in Port Moresby
Striated Heron (Butorides striata): KWA, 2
Rufous (Nankeen) Night-Heron (Nycticorax caledonicus): PAU, 2
Pacific Baza (Aviceda subcristata): VAR, 1; KWA, 2-3 seen daily
Long-tailed Honey-buzzard (Henicopernis longicauda): VAR, 1; KIU, 1
Black Kite (Milvus migrans): KUM, 5+ daily; Port Moresby
Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus): PAU, 2
Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus): 1-2 seen daily everywhere except KUM
Papuan (Eastern Marsh) Harrier (Circus spilonotus spilothorax): TAR, 3
Variable Goshawk (Accipiter hiogaster): VAR, 1; TAB, 1; KWA, 1-2 daily
?New Guinea Harpy Eagle (Harpyopsis novaeguineae): TAB, possible sighting
Nankeen (Australian) Kestrel (Falco cenchroides): KIU, 1; TAR, 1
Chestnut Forest-Rail (Rallina rubra): TAR, 2
New Guinea Flightless Rail (Megacrex inepta): KWA, 3
Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio): PAU
Dusky Moorhen (Gallinula tenebrosa): PAU, many with chicks
Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles): PAU
Comb-crested Jacana (Irediparra gallinacea): PAU
New Guinea (Dusky) Woodcock (Scolopax saturata rosenbergii): KUM, one seen poorly
Rock Pigeon (Columba livia): 5 in Mt. Hagen
White-throated (Metallic) Pigeon (Columba vitiensis): KIU, 1 at Km 17
Slender-billed Cuckoo-Dove (Macropygia amboinensis): VAR, 3-5 daily; TAB, 2-3; KUM
Great Cuckoo-Dove (Reinwardtoena reinwardtii): TAB, 1 in flight
Stephan's Emerald Dove (Chalcophaps stephani): KIU, 1 in flight at Boystown
Peaceful Dove (Geopelia placida): PAU
Bar-shouldered Dove (Geopelia humeralis): PAU
Cinnamon Ground-Dove (Gallicolumba rufigula): KWA, 1 imm.
Bronze Ground-Dove (Gallicolumba beccarii): KUM, 1 visiting feeders
Thick-billed Ground-Pigeon (Trugon terrestris): KWA, 1
Southern Crowned-Pigeon (Goura scheepmakeri): KWA, 9
Wompoo Fruit-Dove (Ptilinopus magnificus): KIU, heard only
Pink-spotted Fruit-Dove (Ptilinopus perlatus): KIU, 2 at Km 17
Ornate Fruit-Dove (Ptilinopus ornatus): TAB, flock of 8-10
Orange-fronted Fruit-Dove (Ptilinopus aurantiifrons): PAU, 3-4
Superb Fruit-Dove (Ptilinopus superbus): KIU, 1 at Boystown
Beautiful Fruit-Dove (Ptilinopus pulchellus): VAR, 2; KIU, 2-3 at Km 17 and Boystown
Mountain (White-breasted) Fruit-Dove (Ptilinopus rivoli bellus): TAR, 1 female
Orange-bellied Fruit-Dove (Ptilinopus iozonus): KIU, a few at Km 17 and Boystown
Dwarf Fruit-Dove (Ptilinopus nanus): KIU, 2 at Km 17
Purple-tailed Imperial-Pigeon (Ducula rufigaster): KWA, 1
Pinon Imperial-Pigeon (Ducula pinon): KIU, KWA, a few seen daily
Collared Imperial-Pigeon (Ducula mullerii): KWA, a few seen daily
Zoe Imperial-Pigeon (Ducula zoeae): KIU, heard only
Torresian Imperial-Pigeon (Ducula spilorrhoa): PAU, 1-2 flyovers
Papuan Mountain-Pigeon (Gymnophaps albertisii): TAB, KIU (Km 17), TAR; usually in flight
Palm Cockatoo (Probosciger aterrimus): KWA, ~5 daily along river
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua galerita): KWA, a few seen daily
Yellow-streaked (Greater Streaked) Lory (Chalcopsitta sintillata): KWA, 5; KIU, small flock
Coconut (Rainbow) Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus): common at PAU, VAR
Black-capped Lory (Lorius lory): VAR, KWA, KIU; most often seen in flight
Red-flanked Lorikeet (Charmosyna placentis): VAR, 6
Papuan Lorikeet (Charmosyna papou): KUM, TAR, common
Yellow-billed Lorikeet (Neopsittacus musschenbroekii): KUM, 5; TAR, common
Orange-billed Lorikeet (Neopsittacus pullicauda): TAR, hard to separate from Yellow-billed
Pesquet's Parrot (Psittrichas fulgidus): KIU, 3 at Km 17
Yellow-capped Pygmy-Parrot (Micropsitta keiensis): KIU, 2 at Boystown
Orange-breasted Fig-Parrot (Cyclopsitta gulielmitertii): TAB, 2; KWA, common; KIU, 2
Double-eyed Fig-Parrot (Cyclopsitta diophthalma): KIU, 4 at Boystown
Brehm's Tiger-Parrot (Psittacella brehmii): KUM, several at feeders
Red-cheeked Parrot (Geoffroyus geoffroyi): VAR, 1; common at KWA, KIU
Eclectus Parrot (Eclectus roratus): a few seen daily at VAR, KWA, KIU
Papuan King-Parrot (Alisterus chloropterus): TAR, 2
Brush Cuckoo (Cacomantis variolosus): seen or heard at TAB, KWA, KIU, KUM, TAR
Little Bronze-Cuckoo (Chrysococcyx minutillus): PAU, 1; VAR, 2-3; KWA, 1
Dwarf Koel (Microdynamis parva): VAR, 1
Pacific (Asian) Koel (Eudynamys scolopaceus orientalis): seen/heard at TAB, KWA, KIU, KUM
Channel-billed Cuckoo (Scythrops novaehollandiae): KWA, 2
Greater Black Coucal (Centropus menbeki): KWA, 1 seen (heard frequently)
Pheasant Coucal (Centropus phasianinus): VAR, 3
Lesser Black Coucal (Centropus bernsteini): KWA, 1
Papuan Boobook (Jungle Hawk-Owl) (Ninox theomacha): TAB, 1 heard; TAR, 1 seen, 2 heard
Barred Owlet-Nightjar (Aegotheles bennettii): VAR, 1
Marbled Frogmouth (Podargus ocellatus): KWA, 1 at Ekame site
Papuan Frogmouth (Podargus papuensis): PAU, 3; KWA, 3
Papuan Spine-tailed Swift (Needletail) (Mearnsia novaeguineae): KWA, 2-3 daily on river
Glossy Swiftlet (Collocalia esculenta): common at VAR, TAB, KUM, TAR
Mountain Swiftlet (Aerodramus hirundinaceus): KUM, 6+ daily
Uniform Swiftlet (Aerodramus vanikorensis): common at TAB, KWA, KIU
Moustached Treeswift (Hemiprocne mystacea): VAR, 2; KWA, 2
Azure Kingfisher (Ceyx azureus): KWA, 1
Blue-winged Kookaburra (Dacelo leachii): VAR, 2
Rufous-bellied Kookaburra (Dacelo gaudichaud): VAR, 2; KWA, 1
Shovel-billed Kookaburra (Clytoceyx rex): TAB, heard only at Dablin Creek
Forest Kingfisher (Todiramphus macleayii): VAR, 1
Sacred Kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus): common at PAU and KWA
Hook-billed Kingfisher (Melidora macrorrhina): KWA, 1
Yellow-billed Kingfisher (Syma torotoro): VAR, 1 (3-4 heard only)
Common Paradise-Kingfisher (Tanysiptera galatea): KWA, 1 (3-4 heard only)
Brown-headed Paradise-Kingfisher (Tanysiptera danae): VAR, 1
Rainbow Bee-eater (Merops ornatus): VAR, a few daily
Oriental Dollarbird (Eurystomus orientalis): VAR, KWA, common
Blyth's Hornbill (Aceros plicatus): VAR, 1 heard; KWA, common along river
Red-bellied Pitta (Erythropitta erythrogaster): VAR, 1; KWA, 1
Archbold's Bowerbird (Archboldia papuensis): KUM, 1 female
Flame Bowerbird (Sericulus aureus): KIU, 2 male and 1 female at Boystown
Yellow-breasted Bowerbird (Chlamydera lauterbachi): KUM, 1 at Lesser BoP site
Fawn-breasted Bowerbird (Chlamydera cerviniventris): PAU, common
Orange-crowned Fairywren (Clytomyias insignis): KUM, 1 at Pigetes
Wallace's Fairywren (Sipodotus wallacii): KWA, 3-4 in mixed flock
White-shouldered Fairywren (Malurus alboscapulatus): KUM, small groups at Blue BoP and Lesser BoP sites
Plain Honeyeater (Pycnopygius ixoides): KIU, 2 at Boystown
Streak-headed Honeyeater (Pycnopygius stictocephalus): VAR, 2
Scrub Honeyeater (Meliphaga albonotata): TAB, 2-3 in hotel garden
Mimic Honeyeater (Meliphaga analoga): VAR, several quite conspicuous
Graceful Honeyeater (Meliphaga gracilis): KIU, several at Km 17, ID’d by Edmund
Rufous-banded Honeyeater (Conopophila albogularis): PAU, common
Red Myzomela (Myzomela cruentata): TAB, 1 male
Papuan Black Myzomela (Myzomela nigrita): VAR, 4
Mountain Myzomela (Myzomela adolphinae): VAR, 2; KUM, 1
Red-collared Myzomela (Myzomela rosenbergii): TAB, 3-4 females
Silver-eared Honeyeater (Lichmera alboauricularis): 2-3 at PNG Arts, Port Moresby
White-throated Honeyeater (Melithreptus albogularis): VAR, 5+
New Guinea (Helmeted) Friarbird (Philemon buceroides novaeguineae): PAU, VAR, KWA, common
Tawny-breasted Honeyeater (Xanthotis flaviventer): VAR, 3-5; KIU, a few
Spotted Honeyeater (Xanthotis polygrammus): TAB, 2-3
Long-billed Honeyeater (Melilestes megarhynchus): TAB, 2-3
Common Smoky Honeyeater (Melipotes fumigatus): KUM, TAR, very common
Belford's Melidectes (Melidectes belfordi): KUM, TAR, very common
Yellow-browed Melidectes (Melidectes rufocrissalis): KUM, 1; TAR, common at Ambua
Ornate Melidectes (Melidectes torquatus): KUM, 2 at Lesser BoP site
Grey-streaked (Black-backed) Honeyeater (Ptiloprora perstriata): TAR, common
Rusty Mouse-Warbler (Crateroscelis murina): VAR, heard only
Large Scrubwren (Sericornis nouhuysi): KUM, 2; TAR, a few
Buff-faced Scrubwren (Sericornis perspicillatus): KUM, TAR, small numbers
?Papuan Scrubwren (Sericornis papuensis): TAR, a few possibly this species
Green-backed Gerygone (Gerygone chloronota): VAR, KWA, heard only
Yellow-bellied Gerygone (Gerygone chrysogaster): KWA, 1
Large-billed Gerygone (Gerygone magnirostris): KWA, 5
Brown-breasted Gerygone (Gerygone ruficollis): KUM, 3
Papuan (New Guinea) Babbler (Pomatostomus isidorei): KIU, Km 17, not seen well
Loria's Satinbird (Cnemophilus loriae): TAR, 2, male and female at Ambua
Black Berrypecker (Melanocharis nigra): VAR, 2
Mid-Mountain (Lemon-breasted) Berrypecker (Melanocharis longicauda): TAR, 4
Fan-tailed Berrypecker (Melanocharis versteri): KUM, 1; TAR, 3
Yellow-bellied Longbill (Toxorhamphus novaeguineae): KWA, 4
Dwarf Honeyeater (Longbill) (Toxorhamphus iliolophus): VAR, 1; KUM, 1 questionable
Tit Berrypecker (Oreocharis arfaki): TAR, 6-8 at Ambua
Crested Berrypecker (Paramythia montium): KUM, 2
?Papuan Whipbird (Androphobus viridis): TAR, possible female
Painted Quail-thrush (Cinclosoma ajax): VAR, heard only
Blue Jewel-babbler (Ptilorrhoa caerulescens): KWA, 2 seen well
Chestnut-backed Jewel-babbler (Ptilorrhoa castanonota): VAR, 1 seen quite well
Black-breasted Boatbill (Machaerirhynchus nigripectus): KUM, 1; TAR, common at Ambua
Great Woodswallow (Artamus maximus): TAB, 4-5; TAR, common at Ambua
White-breasted Woodswallow (Artamus leucorynchus): PAU and Port Moresby
Mountain Peltops (Peltops montanus): TAB, 1
Lowland Peltops (Peltops blainvillii): KWA, 1
Black-backed Butcherbird (Cracticus mentalis): PAU, 2
Hooded Butcherbird (Cracticus cassicus): VAR, 2; KWA, 2; KIU, several at Boystown
Black Butcherbird (Cracticus quoyi): TAB, 3; TAR, 3
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike (Coracina novaehollandiae): VAR, 1; TAB, 1; KWA, 1
Stout-billed Cuckoo-shrike (Coracina caeruleogrisea): VAR, 3-5; TAB, 1
Barred Cuckoo-shrike (Coracina lineata): VAR, 2
Boyer's Cuckoo-shrike (Coracina boyeri): VAR, KWA, KIU, KUM, usually groups of 3
White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike (Coracina papuensis): PAU, 1; VAR, 1; KUM, 1
Hooded Cuckoo-shrike (Coracina longicauda): TAR, 2
Common Cicadabird (Coracina tenuirostris): KWA, 1 female
Gray-headed Cuckoo-shrike (Coracina schisticeps): TAB, 2
Black Cicadabird (New Guinea Cuckoo-shrike) (Coracina melas): VAR, 2; KWA, 1
Black-bellied Cicadabird (Cuckoo-shrike) (Coracina montana): KUM, 2; TAR, 4
Golden Cuckoo-shrike (Campochaera sloetii): TAB, 1
Varied Triller (Lalage leucomela): VAR, 2-3
Dwarf Whistler (Goldenface) (Pachycare flavogriseum): VAR, 1
Rufous-naped Whistler (Aleadryas rufinucha): KUM, 2; TAR, 2
Rusty Whistler (Pachycephala hyperythra): TAB, 1
Grey (Gray-headed) Whistler (Pachycephala simplex griseiceps): VAR, 2
Sclater's Whistler (Pachycephala soror): KUM, 2; TAR, 2
Regent Whistler (Pachycephala schlegelii): KUM, 2
Black-headed Whistler (Pachycephala monacha): KUM, 1 female
Rufous (Little) Shrike-Thrush (Colluricincla megarhyncha): VAR, 2
Hooded Pitohui (Pitohui dichrous): VAR, common and conspicuous
Rusty Pitohui (Pitohui ferrugineus): VAR, flock of 3-4 seen poorly
Crested Pitohui (Pitohui cristatus); VAR, 2 heard only
Wattled Ploughbill (Eulacestoma nigropectus): TAR, 1 imm. male
Long-tailed Shrike (Lanius schach): KUM, 1; TAR, 1
Brown Oriole (Oriolus szalayi): VAR, 5+; TAB, 2; KIU, 1; KUM, 1
Australasian Figbird (Sphecotheres vieilloti): PAU, common
Spangled Drongo (Dicrurus bracteatus): VAR, common; KWA, a few
Northern Fantail (Rhipidura rufiventris): TAB, 2
Willie-wagtail (Rhipidura leucophrys): common everywhere except VAR, KUM
Friendly Fantail (Rhipidura albolimbata): KUM, 2-3; TAR, common
Chestnut-bellied Fantail (Rhipidura hyperythra): VAR, 2
Black Fantail (Rhipidura atra): TAB, 1; KUM, 1; TAR, 2
Dimorphic Fantail (Rhipidura brachyrhyncha): TAR, 2 seen poorly
Rufous-backed Fantail (Rhipidura rufidorsa): KWA, 2-3
Golden Monarch (Carterornis chrysomela): VAR, 1; KWA, common in mixed flocks
Black-faced Monarch (Monarcha melanopsis): VAR, 3-4
Black (Fan-tailed) Monarch (Symposiachrus axillaris): TAR, 1
Spot-winged Monarch (Symposiachrus guttula): VAR, 1; KWA, common in mixed flocks
Hooded Monarch(Symposiachrus manadensis): KWA, 2
Frilled Monarch (Arses telescophthalmus); VAR, 3; KWA, common in mixed flocks
Torrent-lark (Grallina bruijni): TAB, 2 in flight
Leaden Flycatcher (Myiagra rubecula): VAR, 3
Shining Flycatcher (Myiagra alecto): KWA, common along river
Gray Crow (Corvus tristis): VAR, heard only; KWA: 5
Torresian Crow (Corvus orru): PAU, 2; VAR, a few daily
Glossy-mantled Manucode (Manucodia ater): VAR, 1; KWA, several
Crinkle-collared Manucode (Manucodia chalybatus): VAR, 2; KIU, 1 at Km 17
Trumpet Manucode (Phonygammus keraudrenii): KIU, 1 at Km 17
Short-tailed Paradigalla (Paradigalla brevicauda): TAR, 3
Ribbon-tailed Astrapia (Astrapia mayeri): KUM, several at feeders; TAR, 2-3 males
Princess Stephanie's Astrapia (Astrapia stephaniae): TAR, 2 males, 3 females
Carola's Parotia (Parotia carolae): TAB, 5+ females, 1 adult male, 1 imm. male with wires
Lawes's Parotia (Parotia lawesii): TAR, 2 female or imm. male at Ambua
King-of-Saxony Bird-of-paradise (Pteridophora alberti): KUM, 1 male; TAR, 5+
Growling (Magnificent) Riflebird (Ptiloris magnificus intercedens): VAR, 1 female seen poorly
Superb Bird-of-paradise (Lophorina superba): KUM, 2 (male and female); TAR, 1 male, several females
Black Sicklebill (Epimachus fastuosus): TAR, 1 male and 2 females
Brown Sicklebill (Epimachus meyeri): KUM, male and several females at feeders
Magnificent Bird-of-paradise (Cicinnurus magnificus): TAB, 2 females; KUM, 1 male in flight
King Bird-of-paradise (Cicinnurus regius): KWA, 1 female
Twelve-wired Bird-of-paradise (Seleucidis melanoleucus): KWA, 1 male and 1 female
Lesser Bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea minor): KUM, 1 male
Greater Bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea apoda): TAB, 1 female; KIU, several males at Km 17
Raggiana Bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea raggiana): VAR, 5+ males, females common
Blue Bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea rudolphi): KUM, 1; TAR, 1
Greater Melampitta (Melampitta gigantean): TAB, heard only at Dablin Creek
Torrent Flyrobin (Flycatcher) (Monachella muelleriana): TAB, 3; KUM, 5
Lemon-bellied Flyrobin (Flycatcher) (Microeca flavigaster): VAR, several
Canary Flyrobin (Flycatcher) (Microeca papuana): TAB, 1
White-faced Robin (Tregellasia leucops): VAR, 1
Black-throated Robin (Poecilodryas albonotata): TAR, 1
White-winged Robin (Peneothello sigillata): KUM, common at lodge; TAR, 3
White-rumped Robin (Peneothello bimaculata): TAB, 1
Blue-gray Robin (Peneothello cyanus): KUM, 1; TAR, 2
Blue-capped Ifrita (Ifrita kowaldi): TAR, several daily
Pacific Swallow (Hirundo tahitica): common at PAU; a few at KUM and Tari Airport
Island Leaf-Warbler (Phylloscopus poliocephalus): KUM, 1; TAR, 2-3
Papuan (Tawny) Grassbird (Megalurus timoriensis macrurus): KUM, 3; TAR, several
Pied Bushchat (Saxicola caprata): TAB, KUM, TAR, common along roadsides
Island Thrush (Turdus poliocephalus): KUM, a few at lodge; TAR, 1
Black-fronted White-eye (Zosterops minor): VAR, 2
Capped White-eye (Zosterops fuscicapilla): TAR, 2-3 at Papuan King Parrot site
New Guinea White-eye (Zosterops novaeguineae): KUM, 5+
Metallic Starling (Aplonis metallica): PAU, 1; KWA, flocks common along river
Singing Starling (Aplonis cantoroides): PAU, 1 female
Yellow-faced Myna (Mino dumontii): PAU, VAR, KWA, KIU
Golden Myna (Mino anais): KWA, 5+; KIU, 2 at Boystown
Red-capped Flowerpecker (Dicaeum geelvinkianum); VAR, 1; KIU, 1; KUM, 3
Black Sunbird (Leptocoma sericea): KWA, 2; KIU, 5 at Km 17
Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus): PAU, TAB and Port Moresby
Mountain Firetail (Oreostruthus fuliginosus): KUM, 1 at lodge
Blue-faced Parrotfinch (Erythrura trichroa): KUM, 2-3 at Pigetes
Hooded Mannikin (Munia) (Lonchura spectabilis): KUM, 2 flocks; TAR, 10-15 at Ambua
Gray-headed Mannikin (Munia) (Lonchura caniceps): PAU, 5 near entrance