Poor old Gilbert is getting restless. Despite the fact that there is more interest in wildlife than ever before, it seems that most of the so-called conservation organisations are losing interest in species. Instead they prefer to babble on about landscape scale conservation and ecosystem services (whatever they are). Could this be because most of their staff don't have any knowledge about species if they don't have four legs?
This is my attempt to encourage an interest in good old-fashioned natural history.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Wanna see a BoP? Part one

Ok, so I make a criticism of a certain well known software manufacturer and my laptop dies. New hard disk lasts less than an hour. Next new hard disk lasts two days. Coincidence or conspiracy? You decide.

Anyway, at long last here are some of my holiday snaps (although most of them were actually taken by my brother).

Among naturalists, or perhaps that should be birders, PNG has a mythical status. Perhaps it's the Birds of Paradise, perhaps it's the difficulty of getting there or perhaps it's the sheer expense of a trip there (which means that few can afford it - or are stupid enough to pay that much) but whatever it is, PNG comes near the top of most birders 'would love to visit list'.

The approach of a significant birthday for my brother, combined with a significant rush of blood to the head for both of us, meant that we booked a trip with Rockjumper in late summer 2013. The trip there was surprisingly uneventful apart from the food poisoning that I got from a dodgy omelette at Heathrow! We flew with Swiss to Singapore via Geneva where the monorail through the airport had 'entertainment' in the form of various Swiss sounds - all rather mundane until it was suddenly punctuated by the sound of mooing cows. All rather surreal. From Singapore it was on to Port Moresby with Air Nuigini, the fact that we arrived without incident became more and more surprising as the trip went along......

I'm nowhere near as well travelled as many people but PNG (which is in Australasia) was my final continent and I reckon I know what to expect when travelling in developing countries. PNG is different! The first clue came a couple of hours after we arrived when the bus failed to turn up to take us for an afternoons birding at the university campus. Investigations by our leaders revealed that two days previously, our driver had been held up at gunpoint and was now a gibbering wreck at home in bed. Alternative arrangements were quickly made and we arrived at the university just a little later than planned.

As is always the case on your first day in a new continent, things were a bit manic but we saw a number of species that we would not see again on the trip such as Nankeen Night-heron

and my first ever Kookaburra; Blue-winged.

The main target at this site looked like it was going to evade us though. It was known to roost in a particular set of trees but there had been disturbance in the area recently and on their last visit our leaders hadn't seen it. There was no sign of it in its usual tree and I had pretty much given up hope when one of the group members picked up on it nearby.

Papuan Frogmouth
What a bizarre and outrageous bird, and a great end to our first day. Next morning saw an early start to arrive at Varirata National Park at dawn (via a seriously dodgy entrance road which at one point had me thinking that the bus was going to topple into this river).

Most of the morning was spent birding from the picnic area

where fruiting trees attracted a procession of stunning fruit-doves and a good range of other birds.

Beautiful Fruit-Dove
Moustached Tree-Swift
Not everything in PNG is stunning to look at.

Torresian Crow
Although even some of the crows are bizarre.

Grey Crow
After several hours productive birding we drove a short distance to the view point from which we would walk a forest trail back to the picnic area. The view across to Port Moresby was deserving of more superlatives.

Forest birding in the tropics is always hard work and kingfishers in PNG seemed to be particularly tricky but were well worth the effort.

Brown-headed Paradise-Kingfisher
A staked-out Barred Owlet-Nightjar was a new family for most of us and ticking families became something of a theme for the trip as several members of the group are trying to see one species from every bird family in the world. To me this is one of the most meaningless forms of twitching I've ever heard of, but each to their own I guess.

A family which repeatedly surprised me during the trip was the robins; cracking little birds without exception.

White-faced Robin


  1. Glad to see that you are now back online - don't mention software companies ever again :)

  2. Some gripping stuff here already. And I quite like that Torresian Crow. Smart.