Photos with this report (click to enlarge)
This is an account of the trip undertaken immediately before my budget tour of PNG that followed the “standard” itinerary see surfbirds. I had been to Manus in 1999 but not to the Huon Peninsula or D’Entrecasteaux Archipelago which held the last of the PNG birds-of-paradise I needed (on the latest taxonomy). To my knowledge, we were the first non-commercial birding party to visit the latter two areas successfully in recent years. It was a good trip as we saw all the hoped-for species including Superb Pitta, Manus Boobook, Curl-crested Manucode, Huon Astrapia, Wahnes' Parotia, Goldie's and Emperor Birds-of-paradise, Spotted Berrypecker, Cinnamon-browed Melidectes and Spangled Honeyeater. The logistics worked well, apart from the flight that was unable to land at Alatoa due to heavy rain, costing us some birding time, and the rather rough return by boat to the mainland from Normanby Island. It was during the latter voyage that we had the tantalising view of a small party of what appeared to be Grey-backed Tern, a species claimed before from PNG waters but with no accepted records.
My thanks go to David Bishop, Richard Fairbank, Dave Klauber, David Mitchell, Phil Gregory and Daniel Wakra for help and information.
July 15 Arrive Port Moresby 05.30, visit Brown River and Aloa Petrol Station area.
July 16 Varirata NP
July 17 Fly PX100 Port Moresby 06.00 – Lae 06.45; NCA flight Lae 07.00 to Wasu 08.00
July 17 – 20 Birding Wasu/Satop, Huon Peninsula
July 21 Fly Wasu 08.10 to Lae 09.00; PX226 Lae 11.40 – Lorengau, Manus Is. 12.40
July 25 Fly PX227 Manus 12.25 – Port Moresby 13.45; PX158 Port Moresby 15.15 – Gurney, Alotua 16.05 and back to Moresby due to heavy rain.
July 26 PX158 Port Moresby 06.30 – Gurney, Alotua 07.30. Boat East Cape – Normanby Is.
July 27 Early birding, boat back to East Cape, vehicle to Alotua.
July 28 Fly PX955 Gurney, Alotua 07.20 – Port Moresby 08.20. Collected Lori and Bob from airport. Late afternoon at PAU.
Huon: the only cost-effective way of getting here is to take the daily Air Nuigini 0600 flight from POM to Lae and connect with North Coast Aviation’s flight to Wasu on Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, departure 0700 am, returning same days - fare Lae-Wasu PGK330.00. Be sure to contact NCA beforehand so they don’t go without you: Mike Tse at firstname.lastname@example.org. This saves having to stay overnight in Lae, a rather dangerous city some 40 km from the airport, or at the expensive hotel near the airport. Take some food and if you can afford him, take Daniel Wakra email@example.com with you to avoid potential problems with the locals. Hitch a lift to the mission at Gatop and ask to be put up there. The German pastor may have left but I imagine that his successor will still be hospitable, although whether transport to Satop and above will be provided must be less certain. There is a guest-house in Wasu but if you stay there, daily transport would have to be arranged to get above Satop, which might be difficult. If there is more than 1 or 2 of you, best to pre-book the flight back to Lae as the flights, in small planes, can be full. 3 days should be enough to see most of the good birds here.
Manus: there are 3 flights a week from POM and one decent hotel, Harbourside Inn at Lorengau, (Tel: 006754709262 ) not so expensive if there’s more than 1 of you. The hotel’s bus meets arriving flights, usually driven by the helpful Richard, who knows where the birding sites are.
The key contact for seeing the Pitta is Aaron Joseph – best to write to his wife beforehand to say when you want him, Mrs Susan Joseph, c/o David Pomaket, RL & VJ Knight, PO Box 108, Lorengau Manus, PNG. You can stay economically at their house at Rossun village. Aaron's friend Timothy, or Temote, owned the land on which we saw the pitta, on the airport side of Lorengau. He came with us and has a phone contact - Lorengau 4709016 - where someone can apparently give him a message if phoned in the evening. (Temote is a nice guy but Aaron is a somewhat edgy and be aware that they charge a flat rate for their help 60kina per guide/day and 150kina land access charge for each site visited so it is pricey for small groups.)
Look out for dark-rumped swiftlets of different size, the smaller Uniform Swiflets are commonest on coast and the larger ones in the hills which could possibly be the rare Mayr's, although this has yet to be resolved.
To see Manus/Admiralty Rufous Fantail R. semirubra it is necessary to charter a boat to Tong Island outside the coral reef near Lorengau. This is only possible if the sea is not rough and the locals not at war with each other. If impossible, it is worth visiting the nearby Kandriu Island (also known as Hawaii, though nothing like it!) for small island species.
D’Entrecasteaux Archipelago: fly to Gurney Airport, Alatoa and take a vehicle to North Cape. Contact Mombi, the local guide at Sewa Bay, Normanby Is, through the very helpful David Mitchell who works with Conservation International in Alotau firstname.lastname@example.org. There are dinghies every day across to Sewa Bay, about an hour’s journey in good conditions. It is then 2+ hours walk to the Goldie’s site at 300m asl with Curl-crested Manucodes on the way. You can stay at the site by sleeping on the floor of a local house, as we did, or at the basic Saugeri/ Saidowai Guest House where you come ashore. The link http://www.visitmilnebay.com/index.htm contains some useful information about the area (Milne Bay and East Cape) and getting to the islands.
Tour groups tend to go to Sebutuia Bay on West Fergusson Is as there is a more easily seen population of Goldie's of about 10 birds at sea level only 20 minutes easy walk from the beach. However, this requires a journey of about 4 hours by dinghy from East Cape to Esa'Ala women's guest house on the north side of Normandy Island to see the Manucode, and then a 90 minute-2 hour boat ride to Fergusson Island where the Goldie's are. The sea can be rough at this time of year due to the SE Trade Winds – BirdQuest had to abort the trip for this reason this year.
DAILY ACCOUNT by GRAEME WALLACE
15 July (Day 1)
We flew in to Singapore from Edinburgh arriving on the evening of the 14th where we met up with JH and boarded the Air Niugini flight which arrived in Port Moresby (POM) on time at 05.30. Despite having obtained our visas in the UK to avoid queuing at POM the immigration and customs process was a nightmare taking over 1.5 hours to complete. We were met by Daniel Wakra, the local operator/guide and headed to the Hideaway Hotel where we found DH and around 08.00 on a clear, sunny morning drove out of POM on the Hiritano Highway to Hsiu. The first stop produced some nice birds: Torresian Imperial Pigeon, Greater-streaked Lorikeet, Eclectus Parrot, Orange-fronted Fruit-Dove and Rufous Night-Heron. Around 09.40, having crossed the bridge over the Brown River, we stopped by and entered a remnant forest patch which yielded Wompoo Fruit-Dove, Yellow-billed and Forest Kingfishers, Common Paradise-Kingfisher, Golden Monarch and a pair of Emperor Fairy-Wren. A brief stop beyond Kuriva at 11.00 added Golden Mynah, White-shouldered Fairy-Wren and Golden-headed Cisticola. After a further hour or so we arrived at the Aloa Petrol Station where the key bird Silver-eared Honeyeater showed well along with Rufous-banded and Yellow-tinted Honeyeaters, Fawn-breasted Bowerbird and our only Australian Ibis of the trip. Around 14.30 we began to drive slowly back to POM and various stops along the way added Greater Red-flanked Lorikeet, Black Coucal, Tawny-breasted Honeyeater, Shining Flycatcher, Orange-breasted Fig-Parrot, Frilled Monarch and Rufous-bellied Kookaburra. Returning to the hotel we had dinner and crashed-out in our small and somewhat noisy room.
16 July (Day 2)
Up at 04.45 and departed 05.30 for Varirata NP with DW. Arrived at 6.30 and birded around the car park area until it became light enough to walk into the adjacent Koiari Tree-house Trail where the resident and spectacular Brown-headed Paradise-Kingfisher soon showed, quickly followed by skulking Northern Scrub-Robin and great views of Chestnut-backed Jewel-Babbler. Returning to the car park we scanned the trees around the open area and saw Zoe Imperial-Pigeon and the uncommon Coroneted Fruit-Dove. Met up with Augustus, the park ranger/guide who soon took us to daytime roosts of Marbled Frogmouth and Barred Owlet-Nightjar which was great - we probably also disturbed a roosting Barking Owl which flew off without anyone getting a good view. Back at the clearing Boyer's Cuckoo-Shrike, Black Myzomela and Green-backed Gerygone were seen but a calling Painted Quail-thrush could not be located.
At 09.40 we began walking the Circuit Trail, seeing Dwarf Whistler and Sooty Thicket-Fantail. Walked to the 1100 metre mark and then returned the same way encountering a large mixed flock near the river crossing, which included Wallace’s Fairy Wren, Pale-billed Scrub Wren, Chestnut-bellied Fantail, Black, Frilled, Spot-winged and Black-faced Monarchs, Yellow-breasted Boatbill, Spotted Honeyeater and White-eared Bronze-Cuckoo.
Returned to the car and left the park around 13.00, heading back to POM to change money. The car had a flat tyre and DW took ages to come back and collect us, but then on to the supermarket to buy basic provisions for the next few days at the Huon Peninsula. Returning to the hotel we dumped all the unnecessary gear to meet the 15kg baggage weight restriction for the small plane that would take us to Wasu tomorrow. Went down for dinner and await the arrival of Birdquest led by MvB, returning from Huon, from whom we hoped to get some useful information. In the event they did not appear so we would have to make our own arrangements with the reputedly unfriendly villagers. After some debate we decided to take DW as intermediary, costly but it was to prove well worth it.
17 July (Day 3)
As the hotel bus was full we had to wait for it to return from the airport but with something of a scramble we just made it on to the plane which took off on schedule at 06.00 and landed at Lae about 45 min later. We then transferred to the small plane operated by North Coast Aviation, with GW riding as navigator, and had an excellent if somewhat low level 45 min flight over the hill ranges landing in Wasu at 08.15. We then hung around the grass strip on the edge of the village in the company of many interested locals including 2 of the local crazy guys while DW tried to find some transport. This he did and around 10.30 a flatbed truck agreed to take us up to Gatop Village where we literally placed ourselves in the hands of the local pastor at the Lutheran Ulup Mission (at 860m). Pastor Gerhardt kindly agreed to let us stay and to our surprise offered some basic dormitory accommodation which we accepted gratefully as a big improvement on the floor we had been expecting. MW was allocated a room in the pastor’s house. The pastor also agreed to provide us with transport which was a huge relief.
As we settled in, awaiting the end of the showers, we began to hear of the problems experienced by Birdquest with the villagers at Satop who despite pleas, entreaties and written letters had been denied access to the villager’s lands, making it difficult for them to see some of the key endemics. In the early afternoon we walked down the road seeing Mountain Peltops, Ornate Fruit-Dove (eastern race) and Pink-spotted Fruit-Dove (northern race), White-bellied Cuckoo-Shrike, Pygmy Honeyeater and an immature/female Emperor BOP and Riflebird. The rain began in earnest and soon was pouring down in torrents as we sheltered under the eaves of a building at the side of the road along with school children and villagers who giggled a lot at our presence. The rain would not let up so we endured a miserable walk back to the Mission. The ladies produced dinner using our supplies plus local rice and vegetables. We talked a lot about how to handle things tomorrow but it was really DW’s play and he seemed to want to target the local dissenters, have a strong talk with them and then pay them to act as guides. Early a-bed at 08.30.
18 July (Day 4)
MW was up first to explain to the ladies how to make porridge, which she did well, and breakfast of porridge, raisins and tea was taken around 05.40. With some trepidation we set off in the truck at 06.00 for the ridge above Satop, concerned partly over the murky weather on the ridge but more about the reception we would receive from the villagers and whether having come all this way access would be denied. We drove up to Satop (at 1350m) where villagers met us and with DW doing a lot of talking all seemed friendly enough with lots of smiling and nodding. Then another man appeared on the fringes with an expression that was certainly not friendly and for a while he listened somewhat stone-faced to the discussions, seemingly unmoved. However, suddenly he became engaged, smiles and handshakes followed and he joined us in the truck as we were off to the ridge above the village.
As we drove higher we all noticed a black blob sitting high in a tree on the ridge which, when scoped, proved to be a male Wahnes’ Parotia, our first bird and surely one of the key endemics of the Huon. A female Wahnes’ Parotia was also noted in the tree and further on male and female Huon Astrapia were well seen together with the stunning Spangled Honeyeater and 4 Pesquet’s Parrots, and it was not yet 07.30! As the vehicle climbed slowly up the road to the top of the ridge, Blue-grey Robin was seen and Ashy Robin heard and at 09.00 the truck reached the viewpoint at 1900 metres. We admired the view of the forest and its little villages dotted around and then began to walk back down the road. We hadn’t gone too far when we encountered a flock including Yellowish-streaked, Rufous-backed and Black-throated Honeyeaters together with the much wanted Spotted Berrypecker and Mottled Whistler. Spotted Berrypecker seemed fairly common with 10+ birds seen and we even found an active nest in a roadside tree.
Continuing down the road we encountered Brehm’s Tiger Parrot, Tit Berrypecker and following a quick lunch on the road at 13.15 added Brown Falcon, Mountain Kingfisher, Mid-mountain Berrypecker, Brown-breasted Gerygone and Brown-backed Whistler. With some difficultly we finally saw another of the Huon endemics, the vocal but elusive Cinnamon-browed Melidectes. Around 15.30 the truck picked us up and we made our way down to Satop, somewhat painfully for those sitting over the wheel arches of the vehicle as it bumped along the rough road. The day’s only disappointment was a stop at the beer shop where we found the beer was “finished”. Dropped off by the now friendly Satop villagers and headed back to the Mission. As it was still bright and sunny we continued further down the valley but activity was low so we soon returned to the mission to relax with a cup of coffee at the end of a very successful day.
19 July (Day 5)
Following a slightly thicker porridge and raisin breakfast we headed back up to Satop, picked up the guides, drove up the valley and then walked a rough trail down to a hide that had been built adjacent to the display court of a Wahnes’ Parotia. Superb Bird of Paradise was briefly see on the walk in but on a chilly morning our uncomfortable 90 min wait in the cramped hide gave only brief views of the Parotia - we also heard an invisible Lesser Melampitta calling close to the hide. We climbed back out the valley to the road and walked a little way before taking another trail that led upward into dense closed forest. Regent Whistler and Huon Astrapia were seen on the way and once on the trail Grey-streaked Honeyeater, Mountain Leaf Warbler, Yellow-billed Lorikeet were found as was a perched Long-tailed Buzzard which soon flew off. Thanks to DH, GW finally saw Orange-crowned Fairy-wren - seen by MW in Irian Jaya 16 years earlier. Walked the road which was somewhat quiet so at 11.45 descended once more to the Parotia hide where the bird showed briefly on the ground but did not display.
We ate lunch on the road and while the others wandered off in search of new species we walked back down to the trail where we had seen the first Parotia the previous day. No sign of the bird but good fly-by views of Pesquet's Parrot. Left JH by the trail, camera poised and walked back up the road to give the Parotia one more try. Down at the hide we were rewarded with stunning views of the bird on the ground clearing its display court of leaf litter, with iridescent breast-shield, orange nose bump and swirling plumes clearly visible without bins. The bird appeared to be gearing itself up to display but, possibly lacking the stimulus of a female audience, suddenly gave up and disappeared. Back on the road we began to walk down hoping that the vehicle would soon arrive; caught up with DH and stopped for a while but no sign of the vehicle meant we had to start walking again – eventually to Satop where the waiting vehicle almost drove off without us! Later discovered that JH had walked all the way back to the Mission.
20 July (Day 6)
A latish start due to some sleepy, slow risers and a change of direction today as we walked downhill to the start of the trail leading to the Emperor Bird-of-Paradise display tree. In the semi-dark we began the walk in to the display tree, the trail proving narrow and slippery, but soon arrived and could hear the birds calling loudly. As the light improved we had great views of several male Emperor BoPs displaying in a large tree 70 metres away and indeed from time to time they would fly in and display above us. The birds put on a great show augmented by Magnificent Riflebird calling loudly and offering occasional glimpses as it sped from perch to perch. Very content with the Emperor we stumbled down another trail to a small hide overlooking the display court of Magnificent Bird-of-Paradise. Another cramped hide meant that White-eared Catbird was only seen by some along with Papuan Drongo and Dwarf Whistler, but although we could hear the Magnificent BoP calling there was no sign of it coming to the display court. Around 09.00 we emerged to walk the trail, seeing Hooded Pitohui and Crinkle-collared Manucode feeding in a huge tree and further along the trail 4-5White-rumped Robin put on a surprisingly good show.
Leaving DH in the forest the others headed down the trail to an open area, where we took a short break before returning the hide. The bird seemed closer, calling just above our heads but nothing could be seen until for just a couple of seconds it blazed in, iridescent green, burnished gold and mahogany brown, perched on the display pole and just as quickly shot back into cover. Meantime DH had a big flock of mainly monarchs and fantails plus a Long-billed Honeyeater.
As heavy rain had begun, we walked back to the edge of the trail leading from the forest, took some shelter as best we could and ate lunch. The rain persisted and grew heavier so around 13.00 we descended the by now treacherous trail – JH slipping into the river - finally reaching the house by the road where we again sheltered under the eaves. Paid the guide half of what he asked for and began to walk up the road to the village. Fortune favoured us as a vehicle stopped to pick up which saved our legs but left us soaked through by the time we arrived at the Mission. The rain continued unabated the entire afternoon and was still pouring as we went to bed.
21 July (Day 7)
Awake at 04.30 to discover that fortunately the weather had cleared, packed and said our farewells to the kindly folk at the Mission and drove slowly down to Wasu flushing Scrubfowl from the roadside as we went. Arriving at Wasu at 07.15, we were advised that the plane would arrive any time up to 09.00. A pair of Purple-tailed Imperial Pigeon flew by and JH & DH made the short walk to the beach seeing an Osprey, before speedily returning as the plane arrive at 08.00. Departing 8 minutes later we arrived back in Lae at 08.40 to find our Manus flight delayed by one hour until 11.40. Bade farewell to DW and DH whose birding skills and company had been great, and arrived on a hot sunny day at Momote Airport on Los Negros Island, Manus.
The vehicle and helpful driver from the Harbourside Inn were there to meet us together with local guide Aaron Joseph with whom JH planned to stay in Rossun Village. Departed the airport and went to the hotel, checked in and were subject to all sorts of strange looks and sidelong whispers from Aaron “Come stay with me –its better”; “The hotel is no good”; “You stick with me, I show you everything”. However when pressed to talk about how, when and at what cost we would be looking for the pitta AJ was utterly evasive and unhelpful. In the end we had no option but to go to Rossun where we would discuss matters. Arriving at the village, there then followed a betel nut induced charade of evasion, red herrings and time-wasting before finally the price was named: 60 kina per guide per day and 150 kina land fees for each site visited (£1=4.78 kina). The guide price was okay but the land fees ridiculous as the Boobook was one site then there were 1st,2nd and 3rd sites for the pitta which could result in a huge cost for just 3 people. AJ was not prepared to deviate or make allowances for small groups so after 2 hours we finally agreed that they would be able to find all the key birds at no more than 2 sites , achievable in 1 day at a maximum price of 420 kina.
This agreed, by late afternoon they produced the first bird at 6 pm with great daytime views of a calling Manus Hawk-Owl. Departed Rossun leaving JH in his 50 kina accommodation (mattress on floor) after declining a large meal of chicken, fish, taro, greens and rice from AJ’s sensible wife Susan. A very odd afternoon.
22 July (Day 8)
Departed 05.15 for Rossun village where we picked up JH and AJ plus a bunch of schoolchildren who we dropped off at the highway. We drove 4-5kms to AJ’s friend’s (brother in law?) Temote’s land and walked into the forest at 06.15 After about 45 minutes we stopped and AJ started whooping loudly, imitating the double note call of the pitta. This he did for the next hour with only one feeble, distant response. We continued further until about 08.15 when we stopped, having seen Meek’s Pygmy-Parrot briefly and Admiralty Pied Monarch, adding Island Imperial Pigeon and Golden Whistler as we waited. With nothing happening, around 10.00 we walked further finally descending into a sago swamp. Still nothing and the 2 guides left us saying they were going to look quietly for the bird. After 30 minutes Temote returned saying they had seen the bird and we should follow, firstly over a very dodgy bridge that none of us fancied but we made it and walked on to where AJ was waiting. Regrettably there was no sign of the bird so, hot, sticky and somewhat cheesed off we walked out the forest emerging at 12.15. Hitched a ride on a navy vehicle which kindly dropped us at the Harbourside Hotel. Had lunch and snoozed, eventually going out around 4.00 to check on flight availability (but the Air Niugini computer system was down). Bumped into kindly couple Grace and Ken, ancient Aussie prospector and his generously proportioned Papuan wife who allowed JH to use their e-mail. Remainder of the day dwindled away, JH returning to Rossun courtesy of Harbourside’s vehicle.
23 July (Day 9)
Similar routine as yesterday except that the vehicle picked up JH and AJ at Rossun then returned to collect us, before driving to Temote’s house in Pokun village. A calling Boobook was spotted at the edge of the forest and gave good views in torchlight. Walked in pretty quickly, AJ whooping loudly, to the area where we had stopped yesterday. AJ lectured us on standing still and not making any silly mistakes like yesterday when, according to him, our minimal movement had scared off the bird – no comment! More whooping elicited a distant response, then it was heard closer at which point AJ hared off down the track hooting even more loudly but the bird came no closer. We walked a little further and began the whooping again when suddenly the bird appeared above us vibrant red, blue and black calling loudly. AJ told us to sit down and the bird would hang around. “The door is locked he cannot get out!” Over the next hour or so we had great views of the bird perched in the trees and were able to take some photos. We then ambled slowly out the forest seeing Variable Dwarf Kingfisher, Meek’s Pygmy-Parrot, Golden Whistler, Pied Monarch, Shining Flycatcher and Northern Fantail. We paid Temote, who is a really nice guy, 250kina and soon reached the road where the hotel vehicle was waiting.
Late afternoon we headed out to Rossun village to find AJ off his head on betel and a waste of space, although we did glimpse Nicobar Pigeon in the rubber plantation along with Black-headed White-eye. Paid Anton 300 kina including a small tip which he accepted with bad grace and in many ways we were happy to depart his dubious company. Back at the hotel, JH went round to Grace & Ken’s who kindly agreed to allow us the use of their boat the following morning. We had JH for company now, having given up village living for the relative comforts and cold beer of the hotel.
24 July (Day 10)
Long lie for us and casual breakfast, JH returning at 09.45 from his morning walk and hitch to Rossun and back. Met Grace & Ken at the jetty and the small boat was soon whizzing across the bay to Kandriu Island (renamed Hawaii by US troops during the war). On arrival met by the local head man Jack Daniels who immediately showed us Yellow-bibbed Fruit-Dove sitting low in a tree by his house. Spent the next couple of hours walking round the island with an ever increasing gaggle of kids, seeing Spice Imperial Pigeon, McKinlay’s Cuckoo-Dove, Island Monarch, Bismarck Black Myzomela, Melanesian Scrubfowl and Beach Kingfisher among others. Returned to the main island late morning and idled the afternoon away, latterly on Ken & Grace’s super slow e-mail. During dinner the hotel band started up and as we headed off to bed we were surprised to see that our boatman of the morning was the pretty good lead guitarist who on request played a couple of local tunes with a very relaxed and pleasing Pacific island feel to them.
25 July (Day 11)
Another late start and casual preparation finally ended in a bit of a scramble for us as the transport to the airport left a little earlier than expected. JH walked to the waterfall on the way to Rossun and saw a good selection of the island’s birds. The bus to the airport toured the main street picking up missing passengers but we eventually reached the airport in the company of a big crowd but no check-in staff. Staff eventually turned up around 11.00 and we proceeded through the painful manual check-in process culminating in hand-written boarding cards. Flight was delayed and eventually left at 12.50 arriving in POM at 14.15. Grabbed the bags, changed some money and checked in for the 15.15 flight to Alotau, scoffing a meat pie and coke in the process. Flight delayed, finally departing 16.10 and arrived over Alotau in the far east of PNG at 16.50 by which time the weather had closed in and after two aborted landings we returned to POM. To their credit Air Niugini put us in the Gateway Hotel and paid for dinner with the flight rescheduled for 06.30 the next day. GW telephoned the Napatana Lodge to explain what was happening but despite some confusions and contradictions on boat departures to Normanby Is, from the East Cape, the arrangements appeared to be in hand.
26 July (Day 12)
Up at 04.30, breakfasted and drove the short distance to the airport where the flight departed in on time at 06.30 in overcast conditions and landed at Gurney Airport in Alotau at 07.20. The van from the Napatana Lodge was there and a 15 minute drive had us at the hotel where we met David Mitchell (Australian researcher of Goldie’s BOP) and Mombi the guide from Normanby Island. Quickly dumped our surplus gear and drove down to the PMV stop in town, where a welcome coffee and donut passed the time until a PMV/lorry arrived. Settled ourselves on the hard benches of the PMV surrounded by many smiling faces, some of the smiles betel nut induced, and began the tortuous 2.5 hour journey for 70km to the East Cape where we arrived around 12.00. Managed to find what appeared to be a perilously small dinghy, 15ft maybe, with small covered area in the centre and wooden slat benches behind. Bought some noodles, tea, coffee and biscuits. Noisy Varied Honeyeaters were active in trees by the landing stage before we departed at 12.30 with a few other passengers (30 kina each) in flat seas with little swell. Encountered a few Brown Booby as we set off and further out a few Brown Noddy in amongst the much more numerous Black Noddy chasing shoals of flying fish. Entered Sewa Bay 1.45 pm, dropped off some passengers and finally landed at Sadowai around 14.30.
No time to hang around so we immediately began the walk with Mombi to the village of Welawa at an elevation of 250m as we needed to get there before dark to see the Goldies BoP which allegedly hung around trees at the village in the late afternoon. A fairly stiff walk then followed with brief views of Curl-crested Manucode, endemic to the islands here, before we arrived around 17.00 at Welawa, a village of 3-4 basic huts surrounded by vegetable gardens. Plenty of Eclectus and Eastern Black-capped Lories but no BoPs - finally we did hear some although seeing them proved virtually impossible due to the horrible overgrown rocky terrain and the fact that the birds were in high dense canopy. It was a real struggle and none of us had a decent view before dusk brought activities to an end.
We passed the rest of the evening in real “village” style with a dinner of sweet potato, corned beef,pumpkin, greens and noodles with lots of tea. Interesting chat about belief systems and secret valleys with special trees before we retired to our floor for the night.
27 July (Day 13)
We slept better than anticipated even although it became quite chilly in the night, and arose at 05.30 having foregone the opportunity to look for the owls calling an hour earlier. We packed our gear and as dawn broke wandered to the edge of the forest where the Goldie’s were calling. Same scenario as the previous evening, stumbling around uncomfortably inside the forest proved useless and we eventually came out to the edge where 3 or 4 Goldies including full males seen well. Blyth’s Hornbill, Channel-billed Cuckoo and Sulphur-crested Cockatoo were also added. Fried sweet potato and tea for breakfast, during which JH saw a Cinnamon Ground Dove fly through the clearing. We left at 07.15 and during the descent saw the highly localised Curl-crested Manucode showed well and lower down a small flock included Spot-winged and Black-faced Monarchs, Large-billed Gerygone and Grey Whistler.
Concerned by the rising wind and somewhat behind schedule we pressed on, arriving at Sadowai around 10.00, immediately noting the choppy water in the sheltered bay. Captain Raymond was waiting and told us that the proposed trip to Duchess Island for Nicobar Pigeon and Louisade White-eye was off as we would need all our time and fuel to get back to East Cape. Donning our waterproofs we set off and once clear of Sewa Bay the water in the channel was running fast with 3 foot swells, not much when you are standing on the shore but pretty impressive in a boat only 3foot above the water in the open sea. With seas regularly breaking over the bow the captain hugged the shore of Normanby before finally heading across the channel to East Cape at a slow steady pace as imperceptibly we gradually drew nearer to land eventually and thankfully arriving on the beach just over 2 hours later. Many fewer birds on the crossing although the palish grey mantle and wings of a party of 5 black-capped terns that flew across the bows were very suggestive of Grey-backed Tern rather than Bridled Tern.
Back on land we eventually found the ancient Land Cruiser that would take us back to Alotua where we settled into the comfortable surroundings of Napatana Lodge (320 kina inc dinner and breakfast). Birding the grounds produced Sacred Kingfisher, Helmeted Friarbird, Rufous-banded Honeyeater, Chestnut-breasted Munia and Fawn-breasted Bowerbird. Had a couple of beers with JH who had elected to stay in the cheaper Saugeri Guesthouse close by and had added Grand Munia to the list. Ate dinner, later spoilt by the arrogant, bloody minded and unhelpful attitude of Greta, the expat British manger whose role that evening seemed to be to get pissed with the locals and to hell with the passing guests.
28 July (Day 14)
Checked out and picked up JH from his hotel, arriving at the airport in good time for the flight. Just as well we did as the flight in a small Dash 8 proved to be overbooked and several very irritated people were told they would have to wait for a later flight. Arriving back in POM we checked into the Granville where lack of electricity in our standard room meant a free upgrade to an “Executive” room. Didn’t make much odds if you dislike cockroaches – they occur in both!! Spent an hour at the Datec internet place, recently upgraded to broadband, a first for JH in PNG, then back to the Granville while JH went to the airport to pick up the first two of the other 4 participants for the main tour.
H = Huon 17-21 July, M = Manus 21-25 July, A = Alotau area including Normanby Island 26-28 July, X = Port Moresby area 15-16 July
Australasian Grebe Tachybaptus novaehollandiae X
Brown Booby Sula leucogaster M A
Little Black Cormorant Phalacrocorax sulcirostris X
Little Pied Cormorant Phalacrocorax melanoleucos X
Darter Anhinga melanogaster X
Great Frigatebird Fregata minor M A X
Lesser Frigatebird Fregata ariel A
Great Egret Ardea alba X
Pied Heron Egretta picata X
Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia X
White-faced Heron Egretta novaehollandiae H
Little Egret Egretta garzetta M X
Pacific Reef-Heron Egretta sacra M A
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis M X
Rufous Night-Heron Nycticorax caledonicus X
Australian Ibis Threskiornis molucca X
Spotted Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna guttata X
Wandering Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna arcuata X
Pacific Black Duck Anas superciliosa M X
Osprey Pandion haliaetus H
Pacific Baza Aviceda subcristata X
Long-tailed Honey-buzzard Henicopernis longicauda H
Black Kite Milvus migrans H
Whistling Kite Haliastur sphenurus X
Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus M X
Variable Goshawk Accipiter hiogaster H M X
Brown Goshawk Accipiter fasciatus
Grey-headed Goshawk Accipiter poliocephalus X
Gurney's Eagle Aquila gurneyi H
Oriental Hobby Falco severus H
Australian Hobby Falco longipennis X
Black-billed Brush-turkey Talegalla fuscirostris X
Melanesian Scrubfowl Megapodius erimita M
New Guinea Scrubfowl Megapodius affinis/decollatus A
Orange-footed Scrubfowl Megapodius reinwardt H X
Rufous-tailed Bush-hen Amaurornis moluccanus A
Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio X
Dusky Moorhen Gallinula tenebrosa X
Comb-crested Jacana Irediparra gallinacea X
Australian Pratincole Stiltia isabella X
Masked Lapwing Vanellus miles X
Pacific Golden-Plover Pluvialis fulva M
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos M
Gull-billed Tern Sterna nilotica
Great Crested Tern Sterna bergii A
Common Tern Sterna hirundo M
Bridled Tern Sterna anaethetus A
Sooty Tern Sterna fuscata A
[Grey-backed Tern Sterna lunata] [A]
Black Noddy Anous minutus A
Brown Noddy Anous stolidus A
Slender-billed Cuckoo-Dove Macropygia amboinensis H M X
Mackinlay's Cuckoo-Dove Macropygia mackinlayi M
Great Cuckoo-Dove Reinwardtoena reinwardtii H
Stephan's Dove Chalcophaps stephani M X
Peaceful Dove Geopelia placida X
Nicobar Pigeon Caloenas nicobarica M
Cinnamon Ground-Dove Gallicolumba rufigula A
Pheasant Pigeon Otidiphaps nobilis H
Southern Crowned-Pigeon Goura scheepmakeri
Wompoo Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus magnificus heard A X
Pink-spotted Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus perlatus X
Ornate Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus ornatus X
Orange-fronted Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus aurantiifrons A X
Superb Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus superbus M A
Coroneted Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus coronulatus X
White-breasted Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus rivoli H
Yellow-bibbed Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus solomonensis A
Orange-bellied Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus iozonus A X
Purple-tailed Imperial-Pigeon Ducula rufigaster H
Island/ Grey Imperial-Pigeon Ducula pistrinaria M A
Pinon Imperial-Pigeon Ducula pinon X
Zoe Imperial-Pigeon Ducula zoeae X
Torresian Imperial-Pigeon Ducula spilorrhoa H X
Papuan Mountain-Pigeon Gymnophaps albertisii H X
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo Cacatua galerita H A X
Yellow-streaked Lory Chalcopsitta scintillata X
Dusky Lory Pseudeos fuscata H
Rainbow Lorikeet Trichoglossus haematodus H M A X
Eastern Black-capped/Purple-bellied Lory Lorius hypoinochrous A
Black-capped Lory Lorius lory X
Red-flanked Lorikeet Charmosyna placentis X
Fairy/Little Red Lorikeet Charmosyna pulchella H
Papuan Lorikeet Charmosyna papou H
Pesquet's Parrot Psittrichas fulgidus H
Yellow-capped Pygmy-Parrot Micropsitta keiensis heard H and X
Meek's Pygmy-Parrot Micropsitta meeki M
Orange-breasted Fig-Parrot Clycopsitta gulielmitertii H
Brehm's Tiger-Parrot Psittacella brehmii H
Red-cheeked Parrot Geoffroyus geoffroyi A X
Eclectus Parrot Eclectus roratus H M A X
Brush Cuckoo Cacomantis variolosus M X
Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo Cacomantis castaneiventris H M
White-eared Bronze-Cuckoo Chrysococcyx meyeri H X
Greater Black Coucal Centropus menbeki H X
Papuan Boobook Ninox theomacha heard A
Manus Hawk-Owl Ninox meeki M
Barred Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles bennettii X
Marbled Frogmouth Podargus ocellatus X
Papuan Frogmouth Podargus papuensis heard A
Glossy Swiftlet Aerodramus esculenta H X
White-rumped Swiftlet Collocalia spodiopygiusi M
[Mayr's Swiftlet Collocalia orientalis] [M]
Mountain Swiftlet Aerodramus hirundinaceus H
Uniform Swiftlet Aerodramus vanikorensis H M X
Moustached Treeswift Hemiprocne mystacea M X
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis heard A
Azure Kingfisher Alcedo azurea X
Little Kingfisher Alcedo pusilla heard H
Variable Kingfisher Ceyx lepidus heard H M
Blue-winged Kookaburra Dacelo leachii X
Rufous-bellied Kookaburra Dacelo gaudichaud H X
Forest Kingfisher Todirhamphus macleayii X
Beach Kingfisher Todirhamphus saurophaga M
Sacred Kingfisher Todirhamphus sanctus M X
Yellow-billed Kingfisher Syma torotoro heard A X
Mountain Kingfisher Syma megarhyncha H
Common Paradise-Kingfisher Tanysiptera galatea X
Brown-headed P-Kingfisher Tanysiptera danae X
Blue-tailed Bee-eater Merops philippinus heard H
Rainbow Bee-eater Merops ornatus H M X
Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis H M X
Blyth's Hornbill Aceros plicatus H A
Red-bellied Pitta Pitta erythrogaster heard H
Superb Pitta Pitta superba M
Australasian Bushlark Mirafra javanica H
Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica H M A X
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike Coracina novaehollandiae X
Boyer's Cuckoo-shrike Coracina boyeri X
White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike Coracina papuensis H A X
Manus Cuckoo-shrike Coracina ingens M
Hooded Cuckoo-shrike Coracina longicauda H
Cicadabird Coracina tenuirostris M X
Black-shouldered/Papuan Cuckoo-shrike Coracina incerta/morio H
Grey-headed Cuckoo-shrike Coracina schisticeps A X
New Guinea/Black Cuckoo-shrike Coracina melaena/melas H X
Black-bellied Cuckoo-shrike Coracina montana H
Golden-headed Cisticola Cisticola exilis X
Island Leaf-Warbler Phylloscopus poliocephalus H
Tawny Grassbird Megalurus timoriensis H
Pied Bushchat Saxicola caprata H A
Northern Fantail Rhipidura rufiventris M A X
Willie-wagtail Rhipidura leucophrys A X
Friendly Fantail Rhipidura albolimbata H
Chestnut-bellied Fantail Rhipidura hyperythra X
Sooty Thicket-Fantail Rhipidura threnothorax X
Black Thicket-Fantail Rhipidura maculipectus X
Black Fantail Rhipidura atra H
Dimorphic Fantail Rhipidura brachyrhyncha H
Black Monarch Monarcha axillaris H
Island Monarch Monarcha cinerascens fulveiventris M
Admiralty Pied/ Manus Monarch Monarcha infelix M
Black-winged Monarch Monarcha frater H
Black-faced Monarch Monarcha melanopsis X
Spot-winged Monarch Monarcha guttulus H A X
Golden Monarch Monarcha chrysomela A X
Frilled Monarch Arses telescophthalmus H X
Shining Flycatcher Myiagra alecto M X
Black-breasted Boatbill Machaerirhynchus nigripectus H
Yellow-breasted Boatbill Machaerirhynchus flaviventer X
Lemon-bellied Flycatcher Microeca flavigaster X
Olive Flycatcher Microeca flavovirescens A
Canary Flycatcher Microeca papuana H
White-rumped Robin Peneothello bimaculatus H
Blue-grey Robin Peneothello cyanus H
Northern Scrub-Robin Drymodes superciliaris X
Mottled Whistler Rhagologus leucostigma H
Dwarf Whistler Pachycare flavogrisea H X
Brown-backed Whistler Pachycephala modesta H
Grey-headed Whistler Pachycephala griseiceps H A X
Golden Whistler Pachycephala pectoralis sexuvaria M
Regent Whistler Pachycephala schlegelii H
Rufous/Little Shrike-Thrush Colluricincla megarhyncha M
Hooded Pitohui Pitohui dichrous H X
Painted Quail-thrush Cinclosoma ajax H
Spotted Jewel-babbler Ptilorrhoa leucosticta heard H
Chestnut-backed Jewel-babbler Ptilorrhoa castanonota X
Blue-capped Ifrita Ifrita kowaldi H
Orange-crowned Fairywren Clytomyias insignis H
Wallace's Fairywren Sipodotus wallacii X
White-shouldered Fairywren Malurus alboscapulatus H A X
Emperor Fairywren Malurus cyanocephalus X
Rusty Mouse-Warbler Crateroscelis murina H H
Mountain Mouse-Warbler Crateroscelis robusta heard H
Large Scrubwren Sericornis nouhuysi H
Buff-faced Scrubwren Sericornis perspicillatus H
Papuan Scrubwren Sericornis papuensis H
Green-backed Gerygone Gerygone chloronotus heard H X
Fairy Gerygone Gerygone palpebrosa H X
Yellow-bellied Gerygone Gerygone chrysogaster X
Large-billed Gerygone Gerygone magnirostris A
Brown-breasted Gerygone Gerygone ruficollis H
Black Sunbird Leptocoma sericea A X
Olive-backed Sunbird Cinnyris jugularis M A X
Black Berrypecker Melanocharis nigra H
Mid-mountain Berrypecker Melanocharis longicauda H
Fan-tailed Berrypecker Melanocharis versteri H
Spotted Berrypecker Melanocharis crassirostris H
Yellow-bellied Longbill Toxorhamphus novaeguineae X
Slaty-chinned Longbill Toxorhamphus poliopterus
Dwarf Honeyeater Toxorhamphus iliolophus
Pygmy Honeyeater Toxorhamphus pygmaeum H
Tit Berrypecker Oreocharis arfaki H
Crested Berrypecker Paramythia montium
Papuan Flowerpecker Dicaeum pectorale H X
Black-fronted White-eye Zosterops atrifrons A
Black-headed White-eye Zosterops hypoxantha M
Long-billed Honeyeater Melilestes megarhynchus H X
Silver-eared Honeyeater Lichmera alboauricularis
Black Myzomela Myzomela nigrita H
Mountain Myzomela Myzomela adolphinae H
Bismarck Black/ Ebony Myzomela Myzomela pammelaena M
Red-collared Myzomela Myzomela rosenbergii H
Forest White-eared Honeyeater Meliphaga montana H
Mimic Honeyeater Meliphaga analoga X
Black-throated Honeyeater Lichenostomus subfrenatus H
Varied Honeyeater Lichenostomus versicolor A
Yellow-tinted Honeyeater Lichenostomus flavescens X
Tawny-breasted Honeyeater Xanthotis flaviventer H X
Spotted Honeyeater Xanthotis polygramma X
Marbled Honeyeater Pycnopygius cinereus H
New Guinea (Helmeted) Friarbird Philemon (buceroides) novaeguineae H A X
Manus/ White-naped Friarbird Philemon albitorques M
Yellowish-streaked Honeyeater Ptiloprora meekiania M
Rufous-backed Honeyeater Ptiloprora guisei H
Cinnamon-browed Melidectes Melidectes ochromelas H
Spangled Honeyeater Melipotes ater H
Brown-backed Honeyeater Ramsayornis modestus A
Brown Oriole Oriolus szalayi H A X
Green Figbird Sphecotheres viridis X
Papuan Drongo Chaetorhynchus papuensis X
Spangled Drongo Dicrurus bracteatus H
Great Woodswallow Artamus maximus H
White-breasted Woodswallow Artamus leucorynchus A X
Black-backed Butcherbird Cracticus mentalis X
Hooded Butcherbird Cracticus cassicus H A H
Crinkle-collared Manucode Manucodia chalybata H
Curl-crested Manucode Manucodia comrii A
Huon Astrapia Astrapia rothschildi H
Wahnes' Parotia Parotia wahnesi H
Eastern Riflebird Ptiloris intercedens H H
Superb Bird-of-paradise Lophorina superba H
Magnificent Bird-of-paradise Cicinnurus magnificus H
Raggiana Bird-of-paradise Paradisaea raggiana X
Goldie's Bird-of-paradise Paradisaea decora A
Emperor Bird-of-paradise Paradisaea guilielmi H
Lesser Melampitta Melampitta lugubris heard H
White-eared Catbird Ailuroedus buccoides
Huon/ Macgregor’s Bowerbird Amblyornis (macgregoriae) germanus H
Fawn-breasted Bowerbird Chlamydera cerviniventris A X
Grey Crow Corvus tristis H
Torresian Crow Corvus orru H A X
Metallic Starling Aplonis metallica H X
Singing Starling Aplonis cantoroides M A X
Yellow-faced Myna Mino dumontii H X
Golden Myna Mino anais X
House Sparrow Passer domesticus X
Grand Munia Lonchura grandis A
Grey-headed Munias .Lonchura grandis A
Grey-headed Munia Lonchura caniceps X
Chestnut-breasted Munia Lonchura castaneothorax A