birding-aus PNG Trip May 1999

To: "" <>
Subject: birding-aus PNG Trip May 1999
From: Phil Gregory <>
Date: Mon, 14 Jun 1999 10:11:23 +1000
Greetings birdos,
Hope you had a nice long weekend, herewith a brief summary of PNG May
Happy birding
Phil Gregory
PNG May 99

An adventurous trip, following the usual 3 week  Birdquest tour pattern, then 
going on to Mussau Island and New Ireland as an add-on reconnaissance, with 
Chris Eastwood and Jon Hornbuckle's group.
New Britain was quite rewarding, despite a dreadful vehicle and some wet 
weather: Two sightings of Black Honey Buzzard were nice, one along the Lavege 
track and the other near the Kulu River, a species not seen by Jon's group in 
another 10 days on New Britain later. Bismarck Wood-swallow was another nice 
find, plus Black -tailed Monarch, Black-headed Paradise-Kingfisher, a female 
Bismarck Kingfisher, the red billed island form of Variable Kingfisher ( 
potential split),  nice looks at Finsch's Imperial-Pigeon, Buff-bellied 
Mannikin gave good views too and we had a real run on Violaceous Coucal this 
year. Lesser Shining Flycatcher and Song Parrot were also good finds, but once 
again we did not come across any of the endemic accipiters. We did not try for 
the New Britain Boobook due to concerns about being out after dark.

Kiunga proved good again, though as ever the odd quiet morning was to be 
expected. We had nice looks at a male Flame Bowerbird and an excellent adult 
Long-billed Cuckoo, now very much one of the Kiunga specials. We got great 
value on Southern Crowned Pigeon after poor initial views, a bonus Great-billed 
Heron, and, as ever, wonderful views of King BP, Twelve-wired, Greater and 
Raggiana plus an undoubted hybrid of the two. White-spotted Mannikin also 
played along, though we dipped on Yellow-eyed Starling this time and only got a 
flyover Large Fig-Parrot, though Double-eyed and Orange-breasted Fig-Parrots 
were some compenstion. Common Paradise and White-tailed Paradise-Kingfishers 
were splendid, the latter my first at Kiunga, and White-bellied Pitohui 
performed adequately, as did the always skulking and elusive Blue 
Jewel-babbler. White-crowned Koel gave excellent views along a new road en 
route to Tabubil, and for the first time in ages we got great looks at the rare 
and local Golden-backed Whistler, the distinctive PNG race of Little Ringed 
Plover and a bonus Magnificent BP.

Tabubil was hard work, due to curiously hot, dry  weather, very bad roads and 
much habitat disturbance, making for tough birding. We found no Streaked 
Lorikeets at all despite two attempts, but Carola's Parotia back at the mine 
gate site was unexpected, as I thought this was now too overgrown and it's now 
a hard bird to find. Obscure Berrypecker gave nice views along the Dablin Creek 
track despite continued clearance there, and an adult Dwarf Koel was pleasing. 
Ok Ma was hard, the road is in a shocking state and we struggled, though the 
Greater Melampittas were calling quite close by. We heard Vulturine Parrot, but 
none showed, and White-rumped Robin led us a similar dance, whilst a distant 
calling Pheasant Pigeon was it for this trip. Good views of a male of the 
western form of Magnificent Riflebird were pleasing, as were flight (natch!) 
views of Blue-collared Parrot .

Ambua was up to scratch, but the road up is a shocker still, unbelievably rough 
and potholed. Bad news was that last year's Black Sicklebill has gone, and the 
great track above the Bailey bridge is now much disturbed by logging. We had a 
lovely male Chestnut Forest Rail here, and seeing Painted, Brehm's, Modest and 
Madarasz's Tiger Parrots was quite an achievement. New Guinea Log-runner came 
close by yet stayed tantalisingly out of sight range, but we had excellent 
value with Lesser Melampitta and Lesser Ground-robin was reasonable. An adult 
Meyer's Goshawk at the Lodge was excellent, a pleasing lunchtime bonus of a 
very difficult species. Finding a nest of Black Sittella was also nice, high in 
an Antarctic Beech, this may well be the first time it has ever been found.

Birds of Paradise were memorable as ever, the male Blue Bird showed very nicely 
as did males of Lawes Parotia, Loria's and Superb birds. Unforgettable was a 
bare tree with 5 male Ribbon- tails waving their plumes, against a magnificent 
backdrop of storm sky and forest, with a male Crested Bird coming to perch 
alongside for a while, a really great afternoon. Both Stephanie's Astrapia and 
Brown Sicklebill males also gave us outstanding views, as did the bizarre King 
of Saxony, and I almost saw a Buff-tailed Sicklebill that flew off as we 
approached along the waterfall trail, seen buy Joseph! Damn, pity you can't 
tick movement! Josephine's Lorikeet is an Ambua regular these days, and both 
Pygmy (my first at Ambua) and Goldie's Lorikeet's helped to make up for the 
lack of lorikeets at Tabubil. White-winged Robin, Crested Berrypecker, 
Red-breasted Pygmy-Parrot, Marbled Honeyeater and Mountain Red-headed Myzomela 
were all good finds, and a Lesser Frigatebird over the valley below the lodge 
took the prize for most out of place species.

We had a chartered flight out, with the two pilots arguing all the way, very 
reassuring! The stopover at the Highlander Hotel gave us New Guinea White-eye, 
a good trip bird, then it was back to Port Moresby for the final few days 
birding. Varirata came up trumps with a great morning, preceded by an average 
one and a dull, foggy afternoon. Highlights here were an immature Dwarf 
Cassowary on the Circuit Track, an immature Brown-headed Paradise-Kingfisher, 
Chestnut-mantled Jewel-babbler at point-blank range, Dwarf Whistler, Dwarf 
Fruit-Dove, another White-crowned Koel, the rare and elusive Wallace's 
Fairywren, Black-winged Monarch and Spotted Honeyeater, plus Raggiana's at lek 
and a good look at a male of the eastern form of Magnificent Riflebird.

The mangrove foray to the Hisiu and Aroa areas went well, with Silver-eared, 
Brown-backed, Dusky and Yellow-tinted Honeyeater being really easy, plus 
Wedge-tailed Shearwater, White-winged Triller, White-throated Gerygone, 
Collared Kingfisher, White-bellied and Mangrove Golden Whistlers, Mangrove 
Robin and Rufous Fantail. Ironically, I went back to this area the day after 
the trip finished, and found 5 species that we did not get on the trip: Spotted 
Whistling-Duck, Red-backed Buttonquail, Swamp Harrier, White-headed Stilt and 
Australian Darter!

Grand Mannikin up at Sogeri was a neat trip bird, never easy on this route, and 
the Lea-lea visit proved very productive despite a high tide. This gave us some 
good waders, more Wedge-tails, an Arctic Skua, Pied Imperial-Pigeon, Mangrove 
Gerygone, both Greater and Lesser Sand-plover and a great bonus in a pair of 
Beach Thick-knee, a long overdue PNG tick for me. Our trip total was about 380 
species, of which about 27 were heard only, exact figures await the return of 
my notes from Mussau........

Attachment: sicklebill.vcf
Description: Card for Phil Gregory

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