Following some fieldwork on the Huon Peninsula, myself, Knud Jønsson and Troels Eske Ortvad spent an excellent few days at Keki Lodge - best known as the only accessible site in the world for the incomparable Fire-maned Bowerbird. We had a very successful stay and managed to see the majority of the local specialities. Keki has rather undeservedly gained a reputation for being a place that is very hard to access and contact, with little to offer besides the bowerbird. On the contrary, we had little trouble getting in touch with Moyang who runs the place and arranging our visit. Furthermore, the birding here was excellent, some of the best we have had in New Guinea. During our short stay we saw many top-notch birds including Victoria Crowned Pigeon, Cinnamon Ground-Dove, Papuan Boobook, Fire-maned Bowerbirds, Dimorphic Jewel-Babbler, Forest Meliphaga, Banded Yellow Robin and displaying Magnificent Bird-of-Paradise. We can thoroughly recommend Keki Lodge as an excellent place to visit - even for first time visitors to New Guinea.
Keki Lodge is situated in the Bogia district 3-4 hours drive north-west of Madang. The lodge is run by Moyang and his wife Ruth – both of whom were excellent hosts. The lodge is beautifully set in a large forest clearing, which makes for easy birding. There are also a couple of short forest trails which can be used to explore the surroundings. Visitors wanting to go to Keki should try to get in touch with Moyang beforehand. He can be reached on the following phone number or e-mail address:
Moyang only has irregular phone and e-mail access though. Furthermore, if you are contacting him by phone from abroad he might not be able to respond to text messages. An alternative option may thus be to contact Joanne at the Madang Visitors and Cultural Bureau who can pass on any requests to Moyang.
Madang Visitors and Cultural Bureau
P. O. Box 1071
Moyang will usually take a PMV to Madang to meet the visitors there, shop for supplies and arrange a hire car. The road leading from the coast up to the lodge is still not in the best condition, but significant improvements were being made whilst we were there. Needless to say, 4x4 is required. We didn’t have the best car going up and unfortunately we couldn’t get up one of the steeper slopes and so had to walk the last bit. When we were picked up a few days later, the car basically made it all the way. As our primary reason for being in PNG was research, we were staying at the Binatang Research Center north of Madang who also arranged our transport to Keki. Although they primarily cater to researchers, they might be able to assist visiting birders as well.
Based on previous trip reports we had bought our own food that we brought along. In retrospect, this would have been unnecessary as Moyang does sort this out if requested.
We paid K1885 for the three of us for a three night stay (not including transport to and from Madang). The price can approximately be broken down as follows:
K80 x 3 persons x 3 nights = K720
Price for cooking, utensils etc.
K50 x 3 persons x 4 days = K600
Use of blinds
K50 x 3 persons x 2 days = K300
Moyangs expenses for coming to Madang etc.
Victoria Crowned Pigeon
A major surprise of our visit was flushing two of these enormous pigeons from the roadside along the access road leading from the coast up to Keki! Moyang said that it was very unusual to see them along the road like that, but that they are not uncommon in the lower lying areas around here. Moyang mentioned that anyone interested in looking for them should let him know.
A pair walked by whilst waiting in the brush-turkey hide. A widespread but rarely seen species.
New Guinea Vulturine Parrot
We had great views of one to two individuals on most days, including one that perched up very nicely in the big fig tree in the clearing.
Keki Lodge offers a good opportunity to see this widespread species. I managed to track down a calling individual on the second night. It was responsive to playback, but refused to come any closer. I went into the bush after it and eventually got great views of it.
After an excruciating 8 hour wait in the lodge clearing on the first morning, a male finally appeared in the top of some dead trees. At this point we had almost given up hope! Alas, our worries were unjustified. As it turned out, the bowerbird was a lot more cooperative in the afternoons and were readily seen in the surrounding treetops. There were probably several in the area and we often saw two males perched up at the same time. At one-point we saw two males flanking a displaying male Lesser Bird-of-Paradise in the top a dead tree– a magnificent sight! We didn’t see any females though.
This rarely encountered species was regularly seen in the large trees around the lodge clearing including in the bowerbird fig tree. Rarely seen by visiting birdwatchers to PNG.
Decidedly uncommon and difficult to connect with. Moyang believes there are two territories on his property. Knud flushed one on one of his walks, and myself and Moyang were able to tape in a calling individual. Unfortunately, it only showed very briefly. This was the only occasion we heard one calling.
Banded Yellow Robin
Common in the forest interior but shy and so can be hard to see well. We managed to tape in one individual on our first day, but not all of us saw it. However, we had excellent and prolonged views of one from the brush-turkey hide. The hide was apparently in the middle of its territory so it showed well throughout the day.
Moyang has hides set up near the display site of this species. After a short wait Knud and Troels had excellent if brief views of the male here.
Species not seen by us
Although we tried our best, we didn’t see any Red-legged Brushturkeys even though they were calling all over the place. Moyang has hides set up at mounds so there should be a good chance of seeing them. Fortunately, I saw them later at Wanang, a conservation area west of Madang. Some birders also see Red-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher here, but we had no luck.
Gurney’s Eagle – one seen very well whilst walking to meet the car on the last day
Cinnamon Ground-Dove – a pair seen from the brush-turkey hide
Victoria Crowned Pigeon – two flushed from the road leading up to the lodge was a major highlight
Ornate Fruit-Dove – both this and the previous species were seen from the clearing
Pinon’s Imperial Pigeon
Zoe’s Imperial Pigeon
New Guinea Vulturine Parrot – 1-2 seen daily
Dwarf Koel – one gave prolonged views in the clearing
Papuan Boobook – one seen close to Moyang’s house
Papuan Frogmouth – seen from the veranda at night
Fire-maned Bowerbird – males were easy to see around the clearing in the afternoons
Papuan Black Myzomela
Spotted Honeyeater – only one seen along the road
New Guinea Friarbird
Green-backed Honeyeater – small group seen along the road below the lodge
Forest Meliphaga – easy to see in the large trees surrounding the clearing
Dimorphic Jewel-Babbler – two singles seen very briefly on our second full day
Northern Variable Pitohui
Banded Yellow Robin – easy to hear, but difficult to see. Use the hides!
We also made a brief stop at the Alexishafen ponds north of Madang and added Tricolored and Australasian Grebes, White-browed Crake, and plenty of Grand Mannikins.