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BEST OF WEST PAPUA

Saturday 5th August - Saturday 19th August 2017

MARK VAN BEIRS

Wilson's Bird of Paradise (tour participant Marcel Holyoak).

Wilson's Bird of Paradise (tour participant Marcel Holyoak).

The incandescent Wilson’s Bird-of-paradise and the seemingly rather modestly attired Superb Bird-of-paradise were, by far, the favourite birds of our new “Best of West Papua” tour. The former because the flamboyant male showed so very well as he was cleaning his dance court and displaying a bit to his lady and the latter because we were so incredibly fortunate to be able to observe the very rarely seen full display of this fairly common and widespread, well-named species. We were the first birding tour ever to be able to offer the unique, out of this world spectacle of a dancing male Superb Bird-of-paradise to our clients! Both Birds-of-paradise were observed at close range from well positioned hides. In fact, the five most fascinating birds of the tour were all admired and studied from hides, as we were also lucky enough to appreciate the intricate display of a fabulous male Black Sicklebill, the wonderful ballerina dance of a male Western Parotia (for some) and the unique fashion-conscious behaviour of a decidedly unpretentiously-plumaged Vogelkop Bowerbird at his truly amazing bower. In contrast to the situation in Papua New Guinea, where hides are virtually non-existent, these simple, easily built structures make all the difference in getting the most astonishing insight in the behaviour and appreciation of some of the most appealing birds of our planet.

Other Birds-of-paradise that performed very well for us included the rare and very little-known Long-tailed Paradigalla, Arfak Astrapia, Black-billed Sicklebill, the widespread, but so very attractive Magnificent Bird-of paradise (also from a hide) and the Raja Ampat endemic Red Bird-of-paradise. Notable birds that showed particularly well or stood out included beauties like Gurney’s Eagle (perched), White-striped Forest Rail (for some), the wonderfully extravagant Western Crowned Pigeon, Marbled and Papuan Frogmouths, the stunning Feline and the more subtle Mountain Owlet-Nightjars, Hook-billed and Yellow-billed Kingfishers, Common Paradise Kingfisher, Palm Cockatoo, Great-billed Parrot, the exquisite Masked Bowerbird, Tit Berrypecker, the outstanding Spotted Jewel-babbler, Mottled Berryhunter (the only member of its family!), Raja Ampat Pitohui, Drongo Fantail (what used to be called Papuan Drongo), the rare Brown-headed Crow, Green-backed, Smoky and Garnet Robins and the very localized Grey-banded Munia. This fairly short tour focused on seeing the specialities of the Vogelkop (Bird's head) Peninsula and the Raja Ampat Islands and we succeeded rather well. From the misty mountains of the Arfaks to the steaming lowlands and azure blue seas of Waigeo, we enjoyed the unbounded variety of New Guinea birding at its very best. Although we had to stay in sometimes rather simple accommodation, the situation is much better than it used to be and the physical effort involved to get to some of the sites is now so much easier.

The amazing Western Parotia (tour participant Marcel Holyoak).

The amazing Western Parotia (tour participant Marcel Holyoak).