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, 18 March 2014

Wanna see a BoP? The conclusion

The place that I was most looking forward to visiting came at the end of the trip; a rustic 'lodge' on a tributary of the Elevala River. This involved a two hour boat ride along the massive Fly River then up the Elevala.

 The lodge was certainly 'rustic'

But the view from the dining area was stunning

Bird of the trip for me displayed one morning on the tallest tree on the horizon in the above photo so needless to say there are no photos of Twelve-wired Bird of Paradise from this trip!

The down side of this area was supposed to be the extreme heat and humidity, combined with mozzies, leeches, chiggers, etc. but it was about 10C cooler than normal and my approach of shorts and sandals paid off, with no chiggers or leech bites and just a few mozzies, and it certainly made the exceptionally muddy trails easier to navigate.

Some of the best birds were seen from the boat on the way in.

Marbled Frogmouth on nest
Blyth's Hornbill
Southern Crowned Pigeon. The best pigeon in the world?
Palm Cockatoo
The dense forests made birding very difficult and almost every species had to be worked for really hard. Common Paradise Kingfisher took about an hour to pin down but eventually showed well.

But this was nothing on Hook-billed Kingfisher. Several different birds were heard each day but despite astonishing efforts by both the Rockjumper leaders and the local guides (who are amazingly sharp at picking things up) all remained invisible. I had given up all hope of seeing this species but on the last morning, another sterling effort finally pinned one down.

The river trip back to Kiunga produced a group of Channel-billed Cuckoos

The trip was pretty much over now. If only.............
We spent a final morning birding the Boys Town Road while one of the Rockjumper leaders went to Kiunga airport to check our bags in for the flight back to the capital. We saw a few bits and pieces but most of the effort went into trying to see Blue Jewel-Babbler which I'd already seen so I kept out of the way. The highlight for me was the extended views of Yellow-capped Pygmy-Parrot.

We returned to Kiunga to find out that the plane was cancelled because of a pot-hole on the runway. The only option was to overnight in Kiunga and then drive to Tabubil (oh no, not Tabubil) early the next morning to try to fly out from there. The only problem with this plan is that planes can only land at Tabubil when the visibility is clear because of the surrounding mountains, but it rains at Tabubil 365 days of the year.

So began a routine. We would get to Tabubil airport early in the morning. A plane would fly out from Port Moresby, circle over the airport, decide they couldn't land and we'd return to the hotel for crap food and crap satellite TV. If anything the weather was getting worse each day and the 'mis-information' (some might call it downright lies) from Air Nuigini didn't help matters. We couldn't even get a message home because the whole town is run by a mining company and they don't allow access to email or social media. The Rockjumper leaders were absolute stars but even guys who could get a plane to fly to the wrong place earlier in the trip couldn't do anything to resolve this one.

Finally, on the Friday morning, when the visibility was worse than on any previous day, a plane appeared on the runway. It had cost us a days birding at Varirata National Park and two rebooking fees for our onward flights to the UK (or in the case of those who were booked on the extension to New Britain, three-quarters of the extension). How they could land on that day and not on the previous ones when the visibility was better will remain a mystery for ever but at least we were on our way out.

So, to answer the question in the title. You want to see a Bird of Paradise, what should you do? My advice is that you have unlimited money and unlimited time, book a trip with Rockjumper. If you have restrictions upon either, buy the David Attenborough video and wait a few decades for the country (and especially its airline) to get its act together.


  1. Well played down in regard to the unadulterated misery of the end few days - nevertheless one of the most memorable birding experiences ever !!!

  2. Sounds like an excellent trip, thanks for posting all the instalments and photos.