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.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Wanna see a BoP? Part two

Day three started pre-dawn for the drive to the Hsui Estuary and mangroves. I had been reading a book called Notebooks from New Guinea by Vojtech Novotny (Oxford University Press). Novotny is a Czech entomologist who has been running various research stations in PNG for many years and his book recounts some of the 'adventures' that he's had, mostly relating to mad acts of violence and criminality. It's an excellent read but when you are reading it, and hearing various similar stories from people you meet, the last thing you want to see when driving in the dark is a large group of men carrying what look like machine guns and blocking the road. Paranoia sets in very quickly! Fortunately the men were police and we were allowed on our way. The newspaper next day revealed that PNG's most wanted criminal was shot dead on that road not long after we passed through.

The paranoia continued throughout the trip and didn't just affect me. My brother was convinced that the grills on all the vehicle windscreens were there to prevent armed hold-ups rather than to stop flying stones breaking the glass!

Birding the mangroves as Hsui was like birding mangroves anywhere - bloody hard work. Eventually most of the target species were seen, albeit often briefly.

Black-faced Monarch
The open, sunny areas produced a range of interesting insects like this shieldbug

On the beach it was nice to see something that I actually recognised

Gull-billed Terns
but our attention was soon diverted by Lesser Frigatebirds overhead. Some people claimed Great Frigatebird as well but we remained unconvinced.

The afternoon was spent birding open habitats just inland and was fairly productive for honeyeaters, mannikins, warblers, raptors, etc.

Whistling Kite
The highlight however was an amazing spot by one of our leaders; a Marbled Frogmouth on its nest several hundred yards up the road.

Another early start next morning, this time for a flight to Tari. The flight left and arrived on time; this is getting worrying.

Upon arrival at the airport, it looked like news of my presence had got around

but it turned out they were all waiting for another VIP

Our destination was the famous Ambua Lodge. Everyone raves about this place and from the price of a room, one would certainly expect it to be outstanding. I was not convinced however. I've stayed in plenty of places that were more scenically attractive, had better facilities, better food, etc. I guess they can get away with the outrageous fees because of the lack of competition. There is another lodge just up the road but it is almost as expensive and when our leaders checked it out it was horrendous, there was even a dead animal on top of the fridge!

We were now in the uplands so it was raining. We spent the afternoon birding around the huts.

Great Woodswallow in the rain
Great Cuckoo-Dove
The various fruiting trees were really productive including five Bird's of Paradise; Superb, Blue, Princess Stephanie's Astrapia, Lawes's Parotia and Short-tailed Paradigalla.

Princess Stephanie's Astrapia
Short-tailed Paradigalla
Short-tailed Paradigalla is supposed to have virtually no tail so I am convinced that this is a new species. A paper announcing the discovery of Intermediate-tailed Paradigalla is currently in preparation for Not BB - PNG edition.

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