UNCHARTED PAPUA NEW GUINEA EXPEDITION: ITINERARY
Uncharted Papua New Guinea Expedition: Day 1 Our Uncharted Papua New Guinea expedition will commence at Port Moresby airport this morning. From Port Moresby, we will take a flight to Kieta on the island of Bougainville at the far eastern edge of Papua New Guinean territory.
After meeting up with our local agent at Kieta airport, we will transfer to our comfortable hotel accommodation in Arawa and prepare for the coming days.
Uncharted Papua New Guinea Expedition: Day 2 We will first drive into the interior and then trek upwards today, starting from the vehicles at 1100m (3609ft) and ascending to the altitudes required for the star bird of this region – Moustached Kingfisher. Seen by less than a dozen ornithologists since its discovery, this beautiful kookaburra-sized species has never been photographed in the wild. With our new montane site now accessible and expert local assistance, we rate our chance of success with this mythical species as very high. Our camp will be set in the evening and will act as our base for the following days.
Uncharted Papua New Guinea Expedition: Days 3-5 With three full days under our belt to explore the forests around our lodgings, we will dedicate our time to finding not just Moustached Kingfisher, but additionally the plethora of Bougainville endemics which have never before been observed on Birdquest tours. Bougainville Bush Warbler, Bougainville Thicketbird, Bougainville Crow, Bougainville Whistler, Bougainville Honeyeater, and Bougainville Monarch are the key birds, but other specialities are restricted to only a few islands in the region and are just as special – Pale Mountain Pigeon, Meek’s Lorikeet, Black-backed Thrush, Brown Fantail, the endemic race of Grey-throated White-eye, and maybe even the cryptic Imitator Goshawk.
Uncharted Papua New Guinea Expedition: Day 6 After a final morning in the high forest, we will descend back to the road and transfer to our hotel in Arawa for a two nights stay.
Uncharted Papua New Guinea Expedition: Day 7 The lowland forests and wetlands around Arawa hold an array of birds which can be seen only here and in the Solomon Islands – we will spend the day searching out whatever we can find.
Sanford’s Sea Eagles may glide lazily overhead while we search the coconut palms for gaudy Duchess Lorikeets, and we will focus on any remaining Bougainville endemics (Bougainville Crow, in particular, can be tricky to pin down). The endemic race of Woodford’s Rail frequents marshy areas and is likely to be a future split, and we will attempt to follow up on some old records of the ultra-rare White-eyed Starling from this area.
Other interesting species we may see in the lowlands include Pied Goshawk, Cardinal Lory, Ultramarine Kingfisher, Solomons Cuckooshrike, North Melanesian Cuckooshrike, Red-capped Myzomela, Oriole Whistler, Cockerell’s Fantail, Steel-blue Flycatcher, Solomons Monarch, Yellow-throated White-eye, Brown-winged Starling and Long-tailed Myna.
We will go spotlighting after dinner in the forest behind town for West Solomons Boobook and, in particular, for the imposing and poorly known Fearful Owl, which is closely related to both the extinct Laughing Owl of New Zealand and, confusingly, the widespread Short-eared Owl.
Uncharted Papua New Guinea Expedition: Day 8 Today we will fly back to Port Moresby, then onwards to the island of Misima at the eastern end of the Louisiade Archipelago for the next section of our expedition. (We will have to overnight in Port Moresby en route if schedules do not allow for a through connection.)
Uncharted Papua New Guinea Expedition: Days 9-15 This area of the Louisiade Archipelago is extremely under-travelled, and facilities for tourists do not exist outside of the main town of Liak on Misima.
As such, an exact day-to-day itinerary is impossible to ascertain in advance, but we will be aiming to transfer directly upon arrival at Liak to Rossel Island for a two or three nights stay in one of the villages on the west coast.
Here we will be in search of Rossel Paradise Kingfisher and Louisiade Pitta, and in doing so we will be among the first birdwatchers to in fact look for these species on this out-of-the-way island, which is still very well forested. A number of endemic subspecies can also be found on Rossel, the most alluring being the distinct form of White-bellied Whistler, along with a colourful local variant of Louisiade White-eye.
After wrapping up our time on Rossel, we will travel westwards by boat and begin our exploration of Sudest, the largest island in the region. It is here that most of the Louisiade endemics can be found, and a further two nights in one of the local villages should allow us to enjoy not only the traditional Louisiade hospitality, but the birding as well!
Compared to our targets on Rossel, the species we will be searching out on Sudest should prove much less skulking, and between the mainland forests and a few small offshore islands, we will be able to enjoy the attractive Tagula Butcherbird, along with Tagula Meliphaga, Tagula White-eye, White-chinned Myzomela, Louisiade Whistler, Louisiade Flowerpecker, Louisiade White-eye and Islet Kingfisher.
Undervisited and understudied, many of the subspecies we see on Sudest could well prove to be distinct species in the future. Birds like the local forms of Glossy-mantled Manucode and Little Shrikethrush having completely different calls to elsewhere in New Guinea, while the plumages of the local Spectacled Monarch and Double-eyed Fig Parrot look nothing like those elsewhere.
Uncharted Papua New Guinea Expedition: Day 16 Today we will fly from Misima back to Port Moresby, then travel onwards by air to Kokoda on the north side of the Owen-Stanley Range for an overnight stay.
(We have allowed enough time in the Louisiades in case we have to return to Port Moresby an overnight the previous day, owing to changing flight schedules.)
Uncharted Papua New Guinea Expedition: Day 17 Today will be primarily a trekking day as we hike up to Isurava Village. We will arrive after lunch and hopefully will be able to locate a fruiting tree to relax our legs under during the afternoon.
Uncharted Papua New Guinea Expedition: Days 18-19 The forest around Isurava holds four particularly special species which have been seen by very few birdwatchers (although considering the number of Australian hikers who visit the area each year, they have probably been seen by a fair few non-birdwatchers!).
Eastern Parotia and Lesser Superb Bird-of-paradise are two of only three Bird-of-paradise species not targeted on regular Birdquest tours (the third being the Bronze Parotia of the inaccessible West Papuan Foja Mountains). Both are regularly seen in fruiting trees around the village, and the locals should know of a few active parotia display courts if we are lucky.
The reclusive Black-capped Catbird is another species found only in the mountains of the south-eastern peninsula of New Guinea, but as with all catbirds, getting to grips with this one will be a challenge.
During our time around Isurava, we will constantly be casting our eyes skywards in search for the near-mythical Chestnut-shouldered Goshawk, which has been seen and photographed around Isurava in recent years.
The forests here are in good shape, so we will also hope to enjoy species like Pesquet’s Parrot, White-eyed Robin, Black-billed Sicklebill and Growling Riflebird during our stay. The ultra-elusive Pheasant Pigeon is not uncommon in the area, but seeing this species is never a guarantee!
Uncharted Papua New Guinea Expedition: Day 20 After some final birding in the morning around Isurava, we will head back down to Kokoda for an overnight stay.
Uncharted Papua New Guinea Expedition: Day 21 Today we will take a morning flight back to Port Moresby, where the main part of our Uncharted Papua New Guinea expedition ends.
NEW BRITAIN HIGHLANDS EXTENSION
Uncharted Papua New Guinea Expedition (New Britain): Day 1 Those going to New Britain will catch a flight from Port Moresby to Kimbe and transfer to the comfortable Walindi Resort, where we will finalize the preparations for our highland experience.
Uncharted Papua New Guinea Expedition (New Britain): Days 2-7 The montane forests on the largest Bismarck island are extremely poorly known, having been visited less than half a dozen times by teams with specific interest in the local avifauna.
Our goal is to reach an old research camp high up in the Nakanai Range, which we will use as a base to explore the higher ridges where we have a slim chance at locating the lost New Britain Thicketbird. This species has not been recorded since the only two existing specimens were first collected during 1959 in the adjacent Whiteman Range. However, almost nobody has searched!
During our thicketbird chase, we will likely come across the more common montane endemics and other Bismarck specialties. Gilliard’s Melidectes, Rusty Thicketbird, Black-backed Thrush (the birds here almost certainly a distinct species to the one on Bougainville), Red-chinned Lorikeet, Song Parrot, Black Imperial Pigeon, Bismarck Pitta, Bismarck Whistler, Bismark Fantail and Bismarck White-eye should all feature, having been seen at or near our campsite on previous expeditions.
More widespread species also in the area include Bronze Ground Dove, White-breasted Ground Dove, Red-breasted Pygmy Parrot, and a cryptic endemic race of Island Thrush.
There are of course a number of exceedingly rare species which apparently rely on intact or undisturbed primary forest on New Britain, and if we are exceedingly lucky we will spot some of them. These include New Britain Goshawk, New Britain Sparrowhawk, Slaty-mantled Goshawk, New Britain Bronzewing, Yellow-legged Pigeon, Pink-legged Rail and Bismarck Hanging Parrot. Given that we will be almost the first birdwatchers to explore the area, it is anyone’s guess as to how successful we will be on this front – the actual population density of these birds in good hill forest is unknown!
On our final full day on New Britain, we will pack up camp and return to the lowlands. After transferring back to Walindi Resort and refreshing ourselves in the afternoon, we will spend the evening searching for exquisite Golden Masked Owls in a nearby oil palm plantation. In recent years this mythical bird has become almost guaranteed, so we stand a good chance.
Uncharted Papua New Guinea Expedition (New Britain): Day 8 This morning we will return to Port Moresby, concluding our groundbreaking expedition.
We may find that our discoveries from these uncharted regions will put some of the region’s most mythical and unknown birds on the map. If Golden Masked Owls could be found after decades of absence only a few kilometres from the main birding area on New Britain, who knows what we may uncover in the far reaches of Papua New Guinea?!