Bruijin's Brush Turkey
Victoria Crowned Pigeon
West Papua 2008
14th July to 10th August
Worldbirders participants Steve Webb and Carlton Collier
See our forthcoming trips for details of our 2009 trip to West Papua
We started our adventures on Biak Island which is home to 11 endemics, most of which were seen without to much trouble, but as always there were some tricky ones. We enjoyed many excellent views of Biak Paradise Kingfisher of which we saw up to 8 a day. Two of the commonest pigeons are real stunners: Claret-breasted and Yellow-bibbed Fruit Doves, which were both seen really well. The endemic Black-winged Lory was a colourful and common sight feeding on flowering trees. A Biak Scops Owl was spotlighted shortly after dusk on our first day along with some Large-tailed Nightjars, which were flying up and down along the track. Biak Coucal appeared to be quite common vocally but proved to be a real challenge to see, eventually a couple gave themselves up albeit briefly.
After the incredibly hot Biak we were all looking forward to cooling off in the Snow Mountains. A migrant Australian Hobby flew past us as we boarded our airplane at Jayapura airport. Soon we were searching successfully in some grassland for the endemic Black-breasted Munia and our first BoP of the trip, a female Superb Bird of Paradise. The next morning we drove up to Lake Habbema, seeing Black Sittella on the way. The birding here was excellent with Alpine Pipit, New Guinea Thornbill, Snow Mountain Munia, Snow Mountain Quail and a very close Spotless Crake and dusk. The next day our main target was eventually tracked down – MacGregor’s Bird of Paradise. We had close views as it sat by the roadside – wonderful!! After bagging our target bird and with the pressure off we made our way down to the lower elevations and our campsite with another 2 MacGregor’s seen on the walk down. We had nice views of New Guinea Woodcock at dusk just near to our camp and brief views of an Archibold’s Nightjar. During the next 2 days we saw Papuan Treecreeper, Chestnut Forest Rail, a wonderful daytime Feline Owlet Nightjar, Lesser Ground Robin, Brown Sicklebill, Archibold’s Bowerbird, Splendid Astrapia, Torrent Lark and Lesser Melampitta.
After the cool highlands we were back in the very hot lowlands at Nimbokrang. After our long hike into Muaib Jungle Camp we felt we had earned some good birds, and we were not to be disappointed. In fact some magic moments were going to be our reward. First up was Victoria Crowned Pigeon, which allowed us scope views for 45 minutes, what a bird, certainly a trip highlight. Blue Black Kingfishers seemed to be common and allowed us great scope views. The call of Northern Cassowary could be felt as it rumbled hauntingly through the forest, how could we see this? Many footprints around some fallen fruits seemed our best shot, so a blind was constructed near them and at before dawn the next morning we stumbled our way in the dark to the blind and waited. Amazingly soon a huge Northern Cassowary was standing there in full view and here is lingered for 15 minutes, Wow, can it get better than this? Oh yes! Just before noon I heard a whurr of wings and I had to have a double take before I uttered “ Shovel-billed Kingfisher” and there she sat in the scope in full view for 15 minutes, she even turned around for us to see her back and then jumped around again before flying off, fantasy birding! Pale-billed Sicklebill gave us the run around before giving itself up and allowing us point blank views, other BoP’s we saw were King, Twelve- wired and Lesser along with Magnificent Riflebird and Glossy Mantled Manucode. On our walk out we saw the long toed Buff-faced Pygmy Parrot the delightful Coroneted Fruit Dove and a good flock of Streak-headed Munias.
Our trip to the Arfak’s were dogged by poor weather – low cloud and continuous rain. On the fine days we did well by seeing a perched New Guinea Harpy Eagle, a female Arfak Astrapia and a noisy Black Sicklebill. Each day we were able to see a brilliant Mountain Owlet Nightjar on its favourite perch. Other birds we saw included a regular Long-tailed Paradagalla round the camp, Western Parotia and Vogelkop Bowerbirds both seen from the hides. We each took turns in the other hide to watch the display of the male Magnificent Bird of Paradise, what an incredible bird!!
Waigeo was a real adventure, but an incredible one, which we all enjoyed. The habitat seems unspoilt here with the forest coming down to the sea, a very rare site in Indonesia. As soon as we arrived we could tell this was going to be our birdiest site. A welcoming party of Rajah’s Shelducks were waiting for us as we got out of our boat and Blyth’s Hornbills noisily flew overhead. To get to our first camp we had to cross the river many times, sometimes waist deep and one section it was chest deep and we had to a great chance to swim! Sitting up on a branch we had wonderful views of Waigeo Spotted Cuscus a beautiful endemic mammal. A sure sign this island's fauna is still in pristine condition. Near to our second campsite a display tree of Red Bird of Paradise gave us 1of the 2 endemic BoP’s that we were hoping for. The next day was another one of those magic days, to see a displaying male Wilson’s Bird of Paradise down to a few metres is the pinnacle of your birding career, surely the best looking bird in the world. Just two birders had seen the island’s only true endemic and our chances of seeing this bird outside its breeding season were not good. Our best chance was to take a full days hike to a third camp, which we was never going to have time to do. After watching a Cinnamon Ground Dove something else caught my eye, just a snatch of bare skin in the dense undergrowth, could it be? I quickly set up my camera without not daring to take my eyes of what I hoped would be something really special, with my tripod and camera at the ready, amazingly an adult male Bruijin’s Brush Turkey wandered out into full view, incredible luck!! Just one target bird left, and after walking down several small streambeds we eventually tracked down a perched Western Crowned Pigeon. On the way back we spent a few hours on the idyllic Wai Island were we watched Rufous Fantail, Island Whistler, Olive Honeyeater and the brilliant Beach Kingfisher.
Our visit to Sorong lowlands was a big contrast to the unspoilt Waigeo, lots of people and deforestation, rather depressing. Luckily the birds are still there, Blyth’s Hornbills still seem to be abundant and Red-billed Brush Turkeys called around us. We managed to find the crippling Red-breasted Paradise Kingfisher at a new site, a wonderful bird to end the trip on.
Red-breasted Paradise Kingfisher