Papua New Guinea - Birds of Paradise

Friday 12th - Friday 26th July 2019

For many people, New Guinea represents the ultimate birding goal. Certainly Sir David Attenborough regards this country as пїЅthe greatest unclaimed prize in ornithological filming.пїЅ His classic programme about the splendours of the birds of paradise and bowerbirds has created a widespread public interest in experiencing New Guinea at first hand. Until recently, the islandпїЅs remoteness and lack of tourist infrastructure prevented this dream from becoming reality. Now, with the help of some well-located lodges, we can explore in comfort and safety the best Papuan habitats and their unique birdlife. We will divide our time between lowlands пїЅ Kiunga, and highland lodges (Kumul Lodge and Ambua Lodge) before finishing our tour in the capital Port Moresby. This itinerary is specially prepared and should give us a wonderful opportunity to watch many species of birds of paradise, in fact 21 species and 1 subspecies. We will also see a wide variety of pigeons and fruit-doves, parrots, cuckoo-shrikes, kingfishers and bowerbirds. Less familiar groups include fairy-wrens, whistlers, berrypeckers, butcherbirds and honeyeaters. We will also be able to observe some of PapuaпїЅs colorful people, with their distinctive tribal dress and customs.

ITINERARY

Day 1 Arrival at Port Moresby and transfer to the hotel for check-in and if time permit birding around the town in the afternoon, looking for the first species of BoP пїЅ the Glossy Manucode.

Day 2  Our day will begin with a very early departure for Varirata National  Park, situated in the foothills above the city, looking for the Raggiana and Magnificent Riflebird birds of paradise. En route to the park entrance, we will pass by the head of the notorious Kokoda Trail, where valiant efforts by Australian and local troops halted the Japanese march during the Second World War. The dry eucalypt forests that flank the quiet access road to Varirata provide superb birding and noisy screeches will reveal pairs of stunning Black-capped Lory and/or flocks of busy Coconut Lorikeet and Red-cheeked Parrot. Here we will find a mix of New Guinea endemics and species shared with Australia. Likely birds may include the attractive: White-shouldered Fairywren, Black Sunbird, White-throated Honeyeater, White-bellied Cuckooshrike, Varied Triller, Lemon-bellied Flyrobin, Leaden Flycatcher, Brown Oriole, Spangled Drongo and noisy Hooded Butcherbird. We will also work hard to try and locate the scarce WhiteпїЅbellied Whistler.
Upon entering the park, we will spend the morning slowly walking the narrow trails that enter the moister evergreen hill forest. These well-marked trails wind through a variety of habitats with some excellent lookouts over Port Moresby and the coastline, providing a full day of new sights and sounds.

Days  3 and 4 A short charter-flight takes us to Ambua Lodge, over intact forests and alpine grasslands. Western influences have only recently arrived in the area, and some of the local population, the Huli, still wear traditional dress and ceremonial wigs decorated with exotic plumes.
AmbuaпїЅs thatched chalets have commanding views over the Tari Valley. Seven species of bird of paradise (Black Sicklebill, Superb, LoriaпїЅs and Blue Birds of Paradise, Short-tailed Paradigalla, LawesпїЅ Parotia and StephanieпїЅs Astrapia) regularly come into the gardens. Common species include Black-billed Cuckoo-Dove, Large and Buff-faced Scrubwrens, Blue-grey Robin, SclaterпїЅs Whistler, Great Woodswallow, Mountain Peltops and Common Smoky Honeyeater. During our two full days here, we will walk along the road up to Tari Gap at different altitudes, looking for species such as: BrehmпїЅs Tiger-Parrot, Papuan Lorikeet, Blue-capped Ifrita, Dimorphic Fantail, BelfordпїЅs Melidectes and both Crested and Tit Berrypeckers. Again, birds of paradise will be a focus of our expeditions: King of Saxony Bird of Paradise, Ribbon-tailed Astrapia and Brown Sicklebill are usual above the lodge. If we are lucky and find some fruiting trees we may see Crested Bird of Paradise, MacgregorпїЅs Bowerbird and Mid-mountain Berrypeckers coming to feed. Many other rarely seen mountain species are possible too, such as New Guinea Harpy Eagle or Painted Tiger-Parrot. One morning we will go down into the Tari Valley to attend a Huli sing-sing, a traditional and spectacular war-dance and a superb photo-opportunity. At these lower elevations we can look for Buff-tailed Sicklebill, Red-collared Myzomela, Marbled Honeyeater and Great Cuckoo-Dove. In the evenings the Papuan Boobooks should be calling near the restaurant.

Days  5 to 7 Short domestic flight to Mount Hagen, in the Central Highlands. From here, a 90 minute drive brings us to Kumul Lodge, set at 2,800m just over the border in Enga Province, where we stay for three nights. The accommodation is simple and rustic, but you will love the setting пїЅ as you can relax in a comfortable chair and watch the well-stocked bird table laden with fruits and have your first close-up experience of birds of paradise! Notable visitors to the garden feeder are Brown Sicklebill and Ribbon-tailed Astrapia, BrehmпїЅs Tiger-Parrot, and with luck the shy Bronze Ground Dove and ArchboldпїЅs Bowerbird. The photographic opportunities are wonderful. We also hope for: Plum-faced and Papuan Lorikeets, Regent, Brown-backed and Rufous-napped Whistlers, White-winged Robin and Mountain Firetail. We can walk the trails below the lodge and look for Lesser Melampitta, as well as Blue-capped Ifrita, a bird with a poisonous plumage. Excursions we can take from the lodge may enable us to find Lesser Bird of Paradise, Crested Satin Bird of Paradise,  Brown Sicklebill, Torrent Flycatcher, Yellow-breasted Bowerbird and with luck Torrent-lark.

Day 8 Morning birding in Kama areas for Blue and Superb birds of paradise and afternoon transfer from Kumul to Highlander hotel where we stay for two nights.

Day 9 Early morning start to Baiya river where we will spend the day searching for CarolaпїЅs Parotia.

Days 10 and 11 Again we will take short flight to Kiunga and at noon we will check-in hotel Kiunga where we stay two nights. The sparsely populated lowlands of southwestern Papua New Guinea around Kiunga are still one of the least disturbed areas in the country. One of the highlights will be a visit to the mixed display ground of both Greater and Raggiana Birds of Paradise, we may also find some hybrids. Other species might include: Grey-headed Goshawk, Red-flanked Lorikeet, Yellow-capped Pygmy-Parrot, Ivory-billed (or Greater Black) and Lesser Black Coucals, Obscure, Plain, Green-backed and Streak-headed Honeyeaters, Scrub Honeyeater (or Scrub White-eared Meliphaga), MeyerпїЅs Friarbird and Trumpet Manucode. We shall also keep our ears open for the whistles of the Long-billed Cuckoo, looking for the  gorgeous Emperor Fairy-Wren and try hard to entice a Blue Jewel-Babbler into view. If we are lucky we will find one or more of the less frequently recorded species, which include Orange-fronted Hanging Parrot, Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher, Black-eared Catbird (split from Spotted) and Ruby-throated Myzomela. One full day we will devote to birding executions to Kilometer 17 looking for King and Greater birds of paradise.

Day  12 We shall set off early in a small boat in order to explore the Fly and Elevala Rivers and their tributaries, spending one night at a very basic lodge deep in the depths of the swamp forest jungle surrounding the Elevala River. We shall be aiming to reach a display post of the beautiful Twelve-wired Bird of Paradise in good time to see the male running up and down the pole in order to win his females. This strange behaviour lasts for a very short period just after dawn each morning and so we will rely on our local guides knowledge to get us there in time to witness the display. After a hopefully successful encounter, we shall be able to sit back, relax and watch the spectacle of the forest awakening.
As we move through the muddy river, hundreds of birds will be flexing their wings and voices and preparing for the new day. We can expect to see large numbers of Collared Imperial Pigeons, mixed with smaller numbers of Pinon Imperial Pigeons, as they erupt from the treetops as we pass by. Large flocks of BlythпїЅs Hornbills flap lazily from tree to tree and strange, spiky-crested Palm Cockatoos and Glossy-mantled Manucodes are a feature of the journey. Parrots are everywhere, especially Eclectus Parrots and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos. We shall be looking out for the Southern Crowned Pigeon, one of the largest and most mysterious pigeons in the world. It may take us some time to locate one, but we have a good chance of success and the sight of this incredible bird is one that will surely last a lifetime. Here we shall be on the lookout for the gorgeous King Bird of Paradise and we shall hope to find one of the staked-out males that are amazingly faithful to their display trees. Rarities such as White-bellied Pitohui and the pretty Little Paradise Kingfisher occur in these swampy forests and among the bird parties we shall hope to find difficult species such as Hooded Monarch and Rufous Babbler. With luck we will also see Dusky Lory and Large Fig Parrot. Southern Cassowary occurs but we would need to be very fortunate indeed were we to catch a glimpse of this shy creature.

Day  13 Morning excursions around Kwatu Camp looking for Southern Crown Pigeon, Flame Bower Bird and BlithпїЅs Honbill. In the afternoon we shall return to by boat to Kiunga for one more night.

Day  14 Morning birding around the hotel and at noon we will board our return flight to Port Moresby where we stay the last night. Afternoon birding in the area for any species we might have missed - Crinkle-Collared Manucode, Trumpet Manucode and King BoP and Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher.

Day  15 If time permits we will make some final birding in the area then head to the airport for our flight home. For those joining the extension the adventure continues.

Extension

Day  16 An internal flight will bring us at Normanby island. In the afternoon we will look for the Curl-created Manucode bird of paradise пїЅ an endemic species for the island. Overnight at Normanby guest house for two nights.

Day  17 Full day birding with main targets GoldieпїЅs and Curl-crested Manucode birds of paradise, but also Purple-bellied Lori, Eastern Black-caped Lori, Channel-billed Cuckoo, Cinnamon Ground Dove, Black Sunbird,  Nicobar Pigeon and many more.

Day  18 Following early breakfast, we shall leave Normanby island by boat to Escape, Alotau and through Port Moresby continue to Lae where we will stay in a local hotel for one night.

Day  19 Early morning transfer to Lae airport for a flight to Houn Peninsula. Here we will be looking for the Emperor bird of paradise which is an endemic species. Its display upside down is a privilege to observe. Overnight at MissionaryпїЅs home for two nights.

Day  20 Full birding at Satop looking for the peninsulaпїЅs endemic species - Huon Poratia or WahnesпїЅs BOP, which cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

Day  21 Transfer to Wasu airstrip for Lae/Port Moresby for a last overnight.

Day 22 This morning will be at leisure until we transfer for the airport around midday. Departure.