30 September 2010

Superb Finale in Royal... (Australia): 26 Sept 2010

A few days later and my tour began for real, could I re-find those Lyres and Origmas for the group so easily in Royal NP? As it turned out they made me sweat, the morning wore on, I eyed my watch nervously, and panic spread through my vains silently. However, just when things were looking sketchy I glanced up the trail to an open patch of grass at a large shape, that turned out to be a Superb Lyrebird boldly feeding in the open (photo). We watched in horror, then amazement, as one jogger after another heavily trotted past, without a flinch from the lyrebird. Until of course I approached for better shots and then it got all coy and skitted off into the forest! A confiding Rock Warbler on the way back down Lady Carrington Drive was even more popular with the group, as were a Southern Emuwren and Chestnut-rumped Hylacola out on the heath. Although a late afternoon at Barren Grounds bought my bird of the day-a lifer Pilotbird. A sweet moment of victory that had been a little late in coming!

Rockin' in Royal...(Australia): 24 Sept 2010

Got into Sydney early doors, picked up the rental, and hit Royal NP in the afternoon. Got 4 Superb Lyrebirds and a couple of friendly Rock Warblers for my troubles (photos)...It's good to be back in Oz!

21 September 2010

BOP Bonanza...(Papua New Guinea): July/Aug 2010

After a break in Oz, I found myself back in the "land of the unexpected", otherwise known as Papua New Guinea, where 24 species of birds-of-paradise came to us in our three weeks on the island. Here are some of the best: Raggiana BOP (bottom); Superb BOP (middle); and last but not least the extraordinary Ribbon-tailed Astrapia, which was voted the best bird of the trip (top).

Off on tour in Australia now, and will update from there soon...

Square-tailed Kite (Australia): July 2010

Continuing my week off between PNG tours, I checked out a park near Brisbane and found the hoped-for pair of frisky Square-tailed Kites at their regular haunt. A pair were present, and even seen mating rather aggressively with each other. This one is resting after all the excitement! Let's hope they are there in the next few weeks when I return there again on tour...

20 September 2010

Lamington Logrunners...(Australia): July 2010

Another favorite of my visit to Lamington NP were the Southern Logrunners. In complete contrast to their northern cousins in Papua New Guinea, that I had seen just before, the Aussie version is friendly approachable and even tame at times.Not to forget comical, one of the "characters" of the Aussie rainforest for sure. The female has the orange throat and the male the white throat.

Dutch off tune, Albert on song...(Australia) July 2010

I awoke on the middle of the night to see the first full game of the World Cup (soccer/football) as O Reilly's Rainforest Retreat had kindly decided to put it on their big screen live at an ungodly hour of the morning. I could not resist. Well the final was poor, the Dutch were offtune, and rightly Spain won. As I watched the game dawn rose, and so as the Spanish were lifting the cup I wandered into the rainforest of Lamington NP once more, with one target in mind: Albert's Lyrebird. For several days this wraith had been taunting us with its far-carrying mimicry, and I could take it no more! On arriving at a known territory we found two people peering intently into the bushes, we crept closer knowing just what it must be from the weird and wonderful sounds emanating from nearby, then suddenly this extravagant male wandered across the path and allowed us to watch it displaying at close range, spreading its strange, peacock-like feathers over its back. More than content we sauntered back towards the guesthouse in readiness for checking out, although just as we going to emerge from the rainforest another lyrebird stepped out in front of us, and treated us to magical views of it scratching around in the leaf litter.

19 September 2010

World Cup Birding II...(Australia): July 2010

As well as confiding birds at O Reilly's the odd "fluffy" was seen too. Here are a couple of shots of cute Red-necked Pademelons nibbling on the lawns of the property...

World Cup Birding...(Australia): July 2010

As the World Cup came to a close I spent a week off in Australia between New Guinea Trips. Part of my time was spent birding the rich rainforests of Lamington NP, and staying at the wonderful O Reilly's Rainforest Retreat. Known for its unbelievably tame birds, we saw this first hand, form the boisterous Australian Brush-Turkeys, and bolshy Pied Currawongs (top photo) to the vivid Crimson Rosellas and Australian King-Parrots, the comical Wonga Pigeon (bottom photo), and fancy Regent and Satin Bowerbirds, all of which hung about the cabins early in the mornings and were an absolute joy to wake up to. Here are a few shots of some of the O Reilly's "characters", with more to come in my next post...

Resplendent Raggianas...(Papua New Guinea): 6 - 7 July 2010

The final two days of the tour were spent in the fantastic Varirata NP, in the hills to the east of Port Moresby. For me one of the best sites in PNG and right near the capital. Chasing down flocks we came upon the amazing Dwarf Whistler, perhaps better referred to by its other more appealing name: Goldenface. A strange whistler that is sort of reminiscent of a Canada Warbler in plumage pattern. Usually high in the trees we were treated to eye level looks as 2-3 birds wandered down into the understorey while a flock swept by. The flock also held a few Black Berrypeckers, from the endemic New Guinea family, the berrypeckers. Trail work bought us more views of the luminous Brown-headed Paradise-Kingfisher, and the third roosting Barred Owlet-Nightjar of the trip, in addition to a cute White-faced Robin hugging the trunk of a rainforest tree. Our last day opened with one of the most breathtaking performances of all: RAGGIANA BIRDS-OF-PARADISE in full, dramatic display (photo), and closed with the rare Grand Munia, an erratic species that is not available every year, so we finished off with a couple of these striking finches near Varirata.

18 September 2010

Tari Catchup...(Papua New Guinea): 3-5 July 2010

After missing a night in Tari due to Air Niugini's annoying canceled flight, we had to cram in a lot over the few days, and we did...On arrival we were whisked straight to a SOOTY OWL day roost. A little rubbing on the trunk bought this fierce looking tyto owl out to check on what all the fuss was about (top photo). Then after lunch at the lodge we hightailed it to a trail where we enjoyed great looks at a Spotted Jewel-Babbler (something that happens very rarel.y). Of course Tari is famed as one of the greatest sites on the planet for PNG's most famous bird family: the birds-of-paradise. We can vouch for that, racking up some 10 species during our stay, including the bizarre Short-tailed Paradigalla, the flashy Princess Stephanie's Astrapia, the even more flashy Ribbon-tailed Astrapia (by virtue of its extremely long ivory white tail), and the odd Lawe's Parotia seen in the grounds of our mountain lodge. Also we saw the distinctive form of a Black Sicklebill calling in the early morning sun, that was a great relief to find after an awful hike to get to it.

On top of the BOP appeal Tari is home to many forest skulkers that world birders often fixate on (me included). Over the days we watched a shining black Lesser Melampitta hop out on to an open trail in front of us, and had cracking looks at the often difficult Papuan Logrunner scratching away on the forest floor. The usual "dip" (miss) on Feline Owlet-Nightjar was alleviated somewhat by seeing the local Mountain Nightjar. A band of pink-faced Black Sitellas should also get a mention. So despite loss of time we squeezed a lot out of just a few days in PNG's flagship mountain site. Sadly the site is being ravaged by development for a natural gas project in the area and I feel getting there sooner rather than later is advisable if you wish to walk away with trip birds like these, some of which are surely going to disappear long term.

Aside from the birds the colorful Huli people are another great reason to visit...(bottom photo)

Kingfishers of Paradise...(Papua New Guinea): 2 July 2010

Further to my post below, here is a photo of the BROWN-HEADED PARADISE-KINGFISHER encountered during the afternoon in Varirata NP. The species is simply stunning, but in a country brimming with stunning birds it rarely gets mentioned in the trip highlights at the end of the tour, which baffles me, I mean look at it! The species is endemic to Papua New Guinea and confined to the southeast of the country.

Canceled Flights, Changing Plans...and Owlet-Nightjars (Papua New Guinea): 2 July 2010

Returning to my first PNG trip this summer. Events on this day were a little stressful. On arrival at the airport Air Niugini said they could not take us as we had too much luggage. Well under our weight limit, the group took this amazingly well in their stride and stripped their luggage down further to the bare minimum (55kg in total between 9 people-a miracle!), only for the airline to cancel our Tari-bound flight, leaving us stranded in Port Moresby! Thankfully, there is a great national park Varirata, nearby and we simply re-routed ourselves there with some quick shuffling of plans and rapid phone calls. In the end this turned out to be a fine afternoon's birding. We began on a narrow forest trail, sun beating down, and still baking hot with little activity we decided to check in on a roost site for the odd, whiskered BARRED OWLET-NIGHTJAR. On arrival at the first spot there one was peering out of its woody hollow (bottom photo). We thought we'd check another very close hole too and amazingly another one was dozing there too. Still hot, we checked another roosting nightbird and found a Marbled Frogmouth sleeping bark-like in a casuarina. The clearing held some fruiting trees holding the widespread endemic PINK-SPOTTED FRUIT-DOVE (top photo), while another forray into the forest once birds had become active again found a Brown-headed Paradise-Kingfisher glowing in the understorey. Not a bad "detour" from our original Tari plans...

08 September 2010

The Lynx Effect...(Spain): Sept 3 & 4, 2010

Combining visiting family in Spain with the latest Spanish sensation: gettable Lynxes, I decided to visit the Sierra de Andujar Natural Park and try and get the rarest cat on Earth. Taking a handful of reports and advice from my good friend Lee Dingain on where to position myself I perched myself on a lookout and surveyed the Oaks and craggy outcrops for any sign of movement. Arriving in the late afternoon, hours went by with little action of any kind in the sweltering heat. Then with hope waning just half hour before dusk at 20:30, I noticed my mum gesturing down below (at the base of the hill I was sat on). Following her pointed finger I came upon an Iberian Lynx sauntering over the bridge below. well out of photo range below. Magical, long looks of the animal were achieved though.

Next evening there I was, with my chair now firmly at the base of the hill, overlooking where it had appeared the night before. This time I was ready and almost to the minute a Lynx appeared right on cue in the same spot before wandering casually off into a private estate.

01 September 2010

Mining Country...(Tabubil, Papua new Guinea): 29 June-1 July 2010

We left the mining port behind (Kiunga) and went to the town of Tabubil, close to the OK Tedi mine itself (that mines copper and gold). However, we were not here for that kind of natural resource but another: birds. One morning we waited in darkness for while a Papuan Boobook called back at us, and after a time was spotlighted, glaring back at us with bright staring eyes. Not long after our "real" quarry began to call as the first glimmers of light broke the treetops: the legendary Shovel-billed Kookaburra, a weird crepuscular kingfisher (photo from the 2007 tour above). We dashed into the forest and got it locked in the maglite, its hulking bill visible to all. Other Tabubil treats included the very inconspicuous Obscure Berrypecker, looking every bit as its name suggests-obscure!A narrow forest stream was lit up by a Torrent Lark that hopped on and off the rocks, and was nearly displaced by a Salvadori's Teal that used one of the same rocks a little later. Some scope work was required to finally track down a calling Papuan Hanging-Parrot, a tiny, tiny species that was nearly eclipsed by the equally minuscule Red-breasted Pygmy-Parrot. These birds are some of the smallest parrots on Earth. From small ones though to big ones, the final bird of Tabubil came late on at the "last knockings" when to my relief one of the group, Tim finally found a black-and-scarlet Vulturine Parrot perched on a dead limb just in he nick of time...