|Subject:||Buka and Bougainville|
|From:||Phil Gregory <>|
|Date:||Thu, 27 Sep 2001 16:53:40 +1000|
Thanks to Andy Anderson for his recent posting about his trips to Buka
and now Bougainville. I am sending a summary of our recent scouting trip
there as well, it's a fascinating destination that is once again opening
Buka and Bougainville August 30 - September 4 2001
Chris Eastwood and I made a trip to these islands, long off the route
for birders due to the civil war, which has put them off-limits since 1989.
Andy Anderson made a brief Buka trip in 1999, and was here the week before
us, but no other birders have visited here for many years. However, Don
Hadden is the resident birder, teaching with the NZ Aid program, and he
and his wife Llane (of Cichlornis (Megalurulus) llaneae fame) were
kind enough to host us at Arawa. Happily a peace process is now in place,
and the long task of rebuilding from the ruins can begin, though the mountain
areas are still firmly off limits and are likely to be so for some time.
Bougainville is now an autonomous province of Papua New Guinea, with a
referendum about independence scheduled for sometime in the future.
Solomon?s and Bismarck endemics are in bold type
We travelled by PMV from Buka, after crossing the narrow Buka Strait that separates the two islands, taking about 4 hours to reach Arawa on pretty reasonable gravel roads. Arawa is a simply a shell, burnt out and destroyed by the Bougainville Revolutionary Army in their scorched earth policy, obliterating all traces of the Panguna mine infrastructure including such things as schools, hospitals, electricity, water supplies, banking, postal services etc. A sad sight indeed, though the UN and NZ aid have reconnected a water system and supply power for about 4 hours a day to the people dwelling in the surviving houses. Two guest houses now operate as well and signs of recovery are evident. We encountered no animosity, people were friendly and interested in what we were doing, and now again have some hope for the future.
We added a few species by coming down to Arawa, including the almost mythical Woodford?s Rail which is quite common in the environs of the town and can be seen scuttling across the main road north. The long grass everywhere may have helped the survival of this species, which is listed as vulnerable in Threatened Birds of the World (BirdLife International 2001) and of which there have been very few sightings until Don found them commonly here. We saw 9 birds one day, including a pair with two juveniles out by the Arawa airstrip. I saw 4 on the return car ride to Buka, including two quite well north between Wakunai and Tinputz. The plumage was entirely black, with a pale bill and legs almost whitish in colour, and the eye was reddish. The birds often ran across the road with wings upraised, and we saw them foraging along the banks of the main river in town and coming out on the shingle banks in the water.
Sanford?s Sea-Eagle was elusive, and one we particularly wanted after just a glimpse on Buka. Fortunately we eventually did see a single bird out by the airstrip, and had scope views of it perched for a while. Bougainville Monarch was sparse but not uncommon in the understorey of forest, and we heard the Solomon?s Boobook out in the same area on a night foray. Bougainville Crow was very scarce, we saw just 5 birds in total north of the Arawa/Panguna road junction. Good news was that Common Myna is down to a single pair and we had to twitch this for our PNG list in the ruins of the petrol station in Arawa, where it was formerly common. Hopefully it will die-out soon!
The Collared type Kingfishers here are very like Sacred in plumage,
only more intensely coloured, with intermediate sized bills. Very vocal
and showing signs of breeding activity.
We had only been at Don and Llane?s house in Arawa some 5 minutes when
Don?s collector John appeared down from the mountains with live specimens
of some species destined for the American Museum of Natural History. The
following were taken at 1500m, and were duly photographed, measured and
Thanks to Don and Llane Hadden for their hospitality, and to Chris Eastwood
for accompanying me on this scouting trip.
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