22 October 2013

The Land of the Unexpected...PNG (29th-30th Sept.)

We landed in the so-called "Land of the Unexpected", Papua New Guinea, the day before and soon set about picking up some easy birds right in Port Moresby. The city of notorious as one of the least attractive cities on the planet and I agree. However, the well-manicured grounds of the Pacific Adventist's University (PAU) provide a haven from the usual squalor and hustle and bustle of the capital. We enjoyed the usual haul of good birds there, which come with a distinctive Australian feel, many of them also occurring in the far reaches of northeast Oz. Highlights included a pair of bark-like Papuan Frogmouths hiding well within a massive Rain Tree on campus; equally inconspicuous Spotted Whistling-Ducks roosting within the trees around a hidden pond; a gorgeous Orange-fronted Fruit-Dove with its orange "headlamp" turned on full; and a veritable flurry of Fawn-breasted Bowerbirds which as common as I have ever seen them here (this was my 7th visit). Visting this late in the season also brought some surprises like Latham's Snipe and Pacific Golden Plover foraging on the lawns, and the newly established population of both Hardheads (White-eyed Ducks) and Plumed Whistling-Ducks were also of considerable interest to me.

On this day though our plan was to see our first of the very family which draws people in from all over the globe: BIRDS-OF-PARADISE. We had hatched a good plan for this: a three-night stay in Kumul Lodge in PNG's "BOP"-rich highlands. The only thing we needed to navigate was Port Moresby chaotic airport and even

more chaotic airlines. However, on this day our flight to Mount Hagen left pretty much on time and before we knew we were at the lodge with binoculars (if needed) focused firmly on the lodge's unique centrepiece: a long-established bird table (so long-established it is is coated in a deep layer of wet moss) which plays host to birds-of-paradise. This is the only lodge on Earth that can boast such a thing. Before long, the first of these dropped in and mouths dropped open, while cameras snapped into action. Brown Sicklebills came in over our few days there, with both several bar-breasted females and a super immature male which is daubed in way more colours than the brown of its name...

More from PNG's Kumul Lodge to come, including one of the contenders for bird-of-the-trip...

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