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BEST OF WEST PAPUA

Sunday 12th August - Sunday 26th August 2018

Josh Bergmark

Western Parotia (Josh Bergmark)

Western Parotia (Josh Bergmark)

Birdwatching in New Guinea can be more challenging and frustrating than anywhere else in the world, but the world-famous Arfak Mountains and tropical Waigeo in the Raja Ampat Islands these days offer more of an “Attenborough Experience” than anywhere else in the land of paradise. The local people of the Vogelkop Peninsula in West Papua truly understand the value of their birds and ecotourism, which has resulted in world-class hides and blinds for all the star avifauna of the area, allowing us to take a fantastic glimpse into the secret life of the world’s best birds. It is no surprise that the extraordinary ballerina courtship dance of the male Western Parotia and the jaw-droppingly striking Black Sicklebill headed up the list of amazing species enjoyed on our short Best of West Papua tour this year. In fact, the whole top-five list was comprised of birds-of-paradise which we witnessed in full display! From the tiny yet incandescent Wilson’s Bird-of-paradise which vibrantly glows in the dark understorey of Waigeo, to his close relative on the mainland, Magnificent Bird-of-paradise with his intricate feathery cape. Of course the famous Paradisaea genus made an impression as usual, with the Raja Ampat endemic Red Bird-of-paradise observed flamboyantly dancing around in their lek with remarkable style.

It is unfortunate that with so many amazing birds some real stunners always get left out! We enjoyed stupendous views of both Masked Bowerbird and Vogelkop Bowerbird, the former with his gorgeous fiery plumage, and the latter with his eye-catching and impeccably designed bower. The newly-split Curl-caped Lophorina (Vogelkop Superb Bird-of-paradise), impressive Arfak Astrapia, and particularly rare Long-tailed Paradigalla are all Vogelkop endemic birds-of-paradise which showed well this year, while Black-billed Sicklebill took a little more time! In the lowlands, the stupendous King Bird-of-paradise was found sitting unusually unobscured in his display tree, allowing detailed and prolonged scope views, and Glossy-mantled Manucodes were seen performing display flights. We cannot forget of course to mention the hulking Western Crowned Pigeons which showed ever so brilliantly, amongst the other Vogelkop endemics which appeared in our binoculars. Red-billed Brushturkey was particularly exciting, as it is unusual for the whole group to see this shy species as well as we did, while the similarly cryptic White-striped Forest Rail literally ran circles around us and hopped onto logs in full view! Spice Imperial Pigeon, Arfak Catbird, Vogelkop Melidectes, Arfak Honeyeater, Vogelkop Scrubwren, Vogelkop Whistler, Raja Ampat Pitohui and the restricted Grey-banded Munia popped up too. Indeed, we saw all but one of the Bird’s Head endemics this year – that last owlet-nightjar didn’t want to show itself – but we did enjoy tremendous looks at both Feline Owlet-nightjar and Mountain Owlet-nightjar around Syoubri.

The incredible Black Sicklebill (Josh Bergmark)

The incredible Black Sicklebill (Josh Bergmark)