Papua New Guinea Highlights Aug 05—18, 2013

Posted by David Bishop

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David Bishop

David Bishop loves his vocation and cannot imagine anything better than exploring wild and beautiful places in Asia and the Pacific in the company of friends and clients. H...

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The first of VENT’s 2013 Papua New Guinea Highlights tours was a great success, thanks in large part to the very warm, homogeneous, and easygoing group who, despite exceptional rain (mostly in the highlands) and flight delays, always found something to be positive about. And they were rewarded in the form of an exceptional trip for birds-of-paradise. No fewer than eight species of birds-of-paradise attended a fruiting tree on the grounds of Ambua Lodge. Here we were able to shelter from the rain and enjoy prolonged scope views of such gems as male Lawes’s Parotia, an astonishing fully plumed male Black Sicklebill (the largest of all birds-of-paradise), and Short-tailed Paradigalla. Down in the Tari Valley we were hosted by a Huhli family enabling us incomparable views of an adult male Blue Bird-of-Paradise in all his finery.

Brown-headed Paradise-Kingfisher

Brown-headed Paradise-Kingfisher— Photo: K. David Bishop

What is often overlooked in New Guinea is that this continental island supports some equally (yes, I assert equally) fascinating and beautiful fruit-doves; kingfishers—the Brown-headed Paradise-Kingfisher, for such a truly spectacular bird, is surely one of the worst named species in the world; Emperor Fairywren; and an astonishing diversity of parrots, cockatoos, lories, and lorikeets including a flowering tree that literally buzzed with gorgeous Papuan Lorikeets.

Just a handful of this tour’s highlights for me included:

* The sights, sounds, and charismatic odors of the New Guinea forests; seeing so much untouched primeval tropical wilderness surely rejuvenates the soul.

* Two Pheasant Pigeons displaying to one another and repeating the show for those that missed it the first time! Amazing! By far the most prolonged and certainly the best views I have ever enjoyed of this species.

* After seeing a male King Bird-of-Paradise in the scope, we followed this up with a tree full of displaying Greater Birds-of-Paradise. Here we were able to watch at length the astonishing posturing and cavorting of the fully plumed males as they courted females.

* An unusually easy and cooperative male Blue Bird-of-Paradise that posed so close by that we were able to obtain full-frame images of this very special endemic.

* A pair of Forbes’s Forest Rails that responded beautifully to our tape to the point they even climbed up on to the bird-feeder at Kumul Lodge.

* We all enjoyed a staggeringly wonderful lengthy and relaxed study of a male Crested Satinbird (and a female) as they fed at a fruiting tree on the edge of Max’s garden.

* And the finale was a New Guinea Woodcock roding all around us just as dusk descended before dropping to his display perch on a tree stump deep within this magical forest! Unbelievable.

Raggiana Bird-of-Paradise

Raggiana Bird-of-Paradise— Photo: K. David Bishop

It is always a privilege to return to New Guinea, which has become in many ways my second home during the 37 years I have lived and visited there. To return to this spectacular continental-island with such a wonderful group was sheer joy. Thank you one and all.

Thanks too, to all the people in PNG who helped make this trip so much fun and so successful: Leonard, Billy, and John in Port Moresby; Sam and Thomas in Kiunga, plus all the girls at the Kiunga Guest House; the incomparable Joseph and all our Huhli friends at Ambua; and Max at Kumul Lodge.

This remarkable country never fails to astonish me. New Guineans are undoubtedly some of the finest and most interesting people on our planet, and they, together with the continuing vastness of this island-continent’s forests, its birds, and other wildlife, combine to produce an outstanding tour. Who will ever forget that flight from Port Moresby to Kiunga over thousands and thousands of square miles of tropical forest wilderness? So yes, there really is still hope for our planet. What a place!

While a report such as this tells something of what we saw and heard, it only tells part of the story and can never really convey the wonderful overall sights and sounds of New Guinea, its forests, and its people.