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West Papua October 2017

West Papua, 4-13th of October, 2017

Peter Ericsson

They say timing is of utter importance for visiting West Papua. Well, for me it is less of a matter of when to visit but rather whether I will ever visit or not! Ha!

This is my 4th day on the island and I have just experienced a tropical downpour of a kind, the first one so far. Having said that means that all our walks have been on rather dry trails and getting drenched has never been an issue.

My journey started out with a flight to Jakarta where I spend a couple of hours in a nice clean hotel before meeting up with the rest of the team at Jakarta airport. Sujan Chatterjee came from India to help organize and guide our team which also consisted of Walter Bachmann from Switzerland, Kjetil Schjolberg, Kjell Saether, Audun Lie Dahl, Espen Lie Dahl and Jan Ove Gjershaug from Norway. All very experienced travelers and with a passion for wildlife.

The trip was set up to cover 2 lowland destinations as not everyone has neither money nor time to do a regular 28 day all of West Papua tour as offered by many companies.
Our primary objective was to photograph Birds of Paradise (BOP) while trying to add whatever else possible.

A footnote: 2 of the participants arrived with passports with less validity then 6 months which normally would have prohibited them from entering Indonesia. In both cases a handsome sum of money cleared the issue (300 and 500 $US respectively) so it is definitely a good idea to make sure the passport is valid while traveling.

I had been warned again and again of the physical hardships of WP: heat, humidity, poor lodging, scarcity of birds etc. Well, so far so good and now at day 4 it feels like I am settling in to a good daily routine of very early birding, long period of rest midday and then afternoon birding again.

NIMBOKRANG

We were met at the airport of Sentani in Eastern WP by Jamil who has a Homestay at the village of Nimbokrang a couple of hours drive from the airport. 3 modern Toyota Innova fitted with AC took us on pretty good roads through a landscape I would characterize as very typical rural Indonesian.

Jamil's homestay holds several rooms with regular beds. The rooms are pretty new, high ceiling type but made out of concrete so a bit bunker like. Electricity has been on for most of the time but also gone off now and then which always is a chore for cold blooded Westerners.

Everyone brought their own mosquito net but not everyone has chosen to sleep in one as sleeping in a net doesn’t allow the fan to cool you down. We haven’t had a single mosquito in the house so far though.

The food has been very nicely cooked by Jamil’s wife and each meal has plenty of protein, vegetables and starch plus sambal (chili paste) for those that want.

Most of us are able to stay connected through the use of SIM cards. The cards are available all over including in the village itself. I bought a card for 7$US which was still working on the day I left.

There is a convenience store not far away with a fridge filled with cold drinks but no beer. Somehow we did manage to get a cart of bootlegged Ankar beer so cold drinks have been available after very hot and sweaty walks.

Our 1st birding on the afternoon of our arrival gave a taste of field birds. The highlight being several Munia species: Hooded, Grand and Chestnut-breasted! Other birds Yellow-gaped Honeyeater, Nankeen Night Heron, Pin-tailed Snipe, Bright-capped Cisticola, Fawn-breasted Bowerbird, White-winged Fairywren, Little Ringed Plover, Pacific Golden Plover and Lesser Black Coucal.

Each morning we have had breakfast at 4 am. Mostly eggs, pancakes or rice, coffee or tea plus bananas. The bananas are staple food and are simply delicious.

Our 1st morning we walked for 1 hour in the dark to get to a site with performing Lesser BOPs.
An hour walking in the dark might be a breeze for some but was pretty taxing for me. Either way I made it and it was well worth the effort. Walking on narrow planks isn’t all that easy. There were several males around performing for a good number of females. The birds were quite high up but exposed nicely on a horizontal branch.

There were other birds in the area but photography was the theme for this trip. After everyone was content we walked on towards another site for King BOP. This bird had a very different performance and proved much harder to see in the open. But what a stunner of a bird! A smaller watch tower had been built that fit 3 persons.

We got back to our homestay around 10:30 when everything was hot and quiet.

The afternoon we spent on a hill lookout after a bit of a walk and we got our first Yellow-faced Myna, Pinon’s Imperial Pigeon, Variable Goshawk, Eclectus Parrots, Papuan Friarbird and more.

To get to the best place for 12 wired BOP we engaged the help of Alex who is a native Papuan and owns a lot of land. He has now built rooms on his land and has also set up permanent hides.
He also had Papuan Frogmouths in his garden.

The tall tower in use for the 12 wired BOP was very sturdy and held most of us though I remained low. The male performed for a long time. As the days passed I started to realize that the performance from these various BOPs varies from day to day. Sometimes a female will show, other times another male…..sometimes a bunch of birds etc.

Because we put so much time into the BOPs we were not able to do much conventional birding. The bird activity in the forest pretty much dies around 8 to 9 am and with the early wake up and the heat coming on we opted for long breaks at our abodes. In the afternoon we went walking along roads or to a hill side with overview of the canopy and rolling forest covered hills. This is the best way to see hornbills, raptors, parrots and pigeons.

We spent 4 nights at Nimbokrang. This was quite generous but with the prospect of getting rained out we purposely allowed for back up days.

Birds did seldom respond to playback but we did manage to pull out a Blue-black Kingfisher for views. No Shovel-billed Kingfisher was around but plenty of Rufous-bellied Kookaburras.
Birding inside the forest was very difficult. The early hours are filled with sounds and it feels like birds are everywhere but seeing them is another thing.

WAIGEO



We flew from Sentani in easternmost West Papua to Sorong in the most western part of WP.
Before we boarded our hired speed boat we went to pick up some supplies in a larger supermarket where they to our surprise also sold cold beers. It is a good idea to buy what you need for Waigeo as beer is scarce on that island.

The trip took 2 hours. Some good birds seen along the way were: Bulwer’s Petrel, Pomerine Skua, Lesser Frigatebird and Brown Noddy.

Waigeo has a definite feel of paradise to it. It is a large island with a dense forest cover. Forest stretch all the way to the beach and I doubt anyone lives in the hilly interior. There is a road on the South side and a number of options for lodging is available. The island attracts divers and apparently is becoming increasingly popular.

We started out at a basic homestay but after the first night decided to move to a diving resort with better facilities, food and AC. AC wasn’t really needed and only came on at 9 pm. Electricity was on all day as the resort used their own generator. There was even hot water in the shower.
The food was served as a smaller buffet style and everyone at the resort ate the same. No a la carte available but cold soft drinks and a couple of days even some beers after much probing.

Again we had early reveille. For Wilson’s BOP we hired a 4WD to get up the mountain track. For Red BOP we hiked. Again a test of fitness that everyone passed but not without difficulty for the older folks that also had extra weight around the waist. The thing is, one has to be on time as the birds start displaying before sunrise. We visited various hides on each or our 5 mornings on the island and I believe the photographers were pleased. Both Red and Wilson’s are endemic to Waigeo and what birds they are!

Roadside birding near the lodge was quite good with lots of hornbills, raptors and parrots. A Pygmy Eagle gave a wonderful display.

On the resort grounds we had some amazing birds: Palm Cockatoo, Beach Kingfisher, Marbled Frogmouth and Eclectus Parrots.

We used the speed boat a couple of times to get to more remote areas. A couple of people had brought drones fitted with cameras and these contraptions produced some stunning imagery.

5 nights on the island was generous but I think it is better to have too many days then too few.
The evenings were magical as the sun set while producing glorious skies.
The waters at the resort also had some corals and snorkeling was great during midday breaks.

On our way to West Papua we had flown over Makassar and Biak Island to Sentani, Jayapura.
Going back we flew straight to Jakarta from Sorong where we parted ways.

It had been a good introduction to the world of Birds of Paradise and though taxing at times very rewarding. I will be back!

Birdlist follows IOC
Pictures of birds are found here https://pbase.com/peterericsson/west_papua



1. Brown Quail – seen briefly
2. Bulwer’s Petrel – 1 bird seen well on crossing to Waigeo
3. Cinnamon Bittern – 1 over rice field
4. Nankeen Night Heron – 2 over fields
5. Striated Heron
6. Great Egret
7. Lesser Frigatebird - 20 seen
8. Little Pied Cormorant – 1 seen
9. Eastern Osprey – 4 birds
10. Pacific Baza – 2 birds
11. Long-tailed Buzzard – 2 Waigeo
12. Pygmy Eagle – 2 Waigeo
13. Gurney’s Eagle – 2 Waigeo
14. Variable Goshawk – Waigeo and NBK
15. Brahimy Kite – common
16. White-bellied Sea Eagle – 2
17. Buff-banded Rail – 1
18. Red-necked Crake – 1 Waigeo
19. White-browed Crake – heard
20. Lesser Sand Plover
21. Little Ringed Plover
22. Pacific Golden Plover
23. Common Sandpiper
24. Swinhoe’s Snipe
25. Greater Crested Tern
26. Whiskered Tern
27. Brown Noddy - 1
28. Bridled Tern - 1
29. Pomarine Jaeger - 1
30. Slender-billed Cuckoo-Dove - 10
31. Great Cuckoo-Dove – 2
32. Stephan’s Emerald Dove - 2
33. Clared-breasted Fruit Dove – 5
34. Orange-bellied Fruit Dove – 10
35. Spice Imperial Pigeon – 20
36. Pinon’s Imperial Pigeon – 30
37. Pied Imperial Pigeon – 10
38. Zoe’s Imperial Pigeon – heard
39. Black-billed Coucal – 2
40. Ivory-billed Coucal – heard
41. Channel-billed Cuckoo – 5
42. Brush Cuckoo – 15
43. Papuan Boobook - heard
44. Large-tailed Nightjar – heard
45. Papuan Nightjar – 1
46. Papuan Frogmouth – 5
47. Marbled Frogmouth – 5
48. Glossy Swiftlet – 30
49. Uniform Swiftlet – 4
50. Papuan Spine-tailed Swift – 5
51. Oriental Dollarbird
52. Hook-billed Kingfisher – heard
53. Common Paradise Kingfisher – 5
54. Rufous-bellied Kookaburra – a few seen, many heard
55. Blue-black Kingfisher – 1
56. Collared Kingfisher – 1
57. Beach Kingfisher – 1
58. Yellow-billed Kingfisher – 1 seen, many heard
59. Azure Kingfisher
60. Papuan Hornbill – common
61. Palm Cockatoo – 5
62. Sulphur-crested Cockatoo – 20
63. Eclectus Parrot – common
64. Red-cheeked Parrot – 20
65. Great-billed Parrot – 10
66. Black-capped Lory – 5
67. Coconut Lorikeet – common on Waigeo
68. Salvadori’s Fig Parrot – 2
69. Double-eyed Fig Parrot – 2
70. Papuan Pitta – many heard, 1 seen
71. White-eared Carbird, heard
72. Fawn-breasted Bowerbird – 1
73. Emperor Fairywren – 3
74. White-shouldered Fairywren – 1
75. Ruby-throated Myzomela – 1
76. Streak-headed Honeyeater – 2
77. Meyer’s Friarbird – 1
78. New Guinea Friarbird (Helmeted) – 20
79. Mimic Honeyeater – common Waigeo
80. Yellow-gaped Honeyeater – common NBK
81. Rusty Mouse-Warbler – heard
82. Yellow-bellied Gerygone – 2
83. Papuan Babbler – 1
84. Yellow-breasted Boatbill – 2
85. White-breasted Woodswallow – 5
86. Black Butcherbird – heard
87. Hooded Butcherbird – 20
88. Black-browed Triller – 5
89. Grey Whistler – 2
90. Rusty Pitohui – 5
91. Little Shrikethrush – common NBK, hard to see
92. Raja AmpatPitohui – common Waigeo, 2 seen
93. Brown Oriole – heard
94. Spangled Drongo – 5
95. Willie Wagtail – common
96. Northern Fantail – 5
97. White-bellied Thicket Fantail – 2
98. Spot-winged Monarch - 1
99. Golden Monarch – 2
100. Frilled Monarch – heard
101. Shining Flycatcher – 10
102. Grey Crow – 5
103. Torresian Crow – 2
104. Glossy-mantled Manucode – 20
105. Pale-billed Sicklebill – 2 seen, many heard
106. Wilson’s Bird of Paradise – 3
107. King Bird of Paradise – 2
108. Twelve-wired Bird of Paradise – 2
109. Lesser Bird of Paradise – 12
110. Red Bird of Paradise – 5
111. Black-sided Robin – common, 1 seen
112. Barn Swallow
113. Pacific Swallow
114. Golden-headed Cisticola – 1
115. Metallic Starling
116. Singing Starling
117. Yellow-faced Myna – 15
118. Golden Myna – 2
119. Olive-crowned Flowerpecker – 3
120. Red-capped Flowerpecker – 2
121. Black Sunbird – 10
122. Olive-backed Sunbird
123. Eurasian Tree Sparrow
124. Great-billed Mannikin – 10
125. Hooded Mannikin – 5
126. Chestnut-breasted Mannikin – 4
127. Grey Wagtail - 1

Entering West Papua, signs of logging
Entering West Papua, signs of logging
Lake Sentani
Lake Sentani
1st meal at homestay
1st meal at homestay
'look, see those Papuan Frogmouths?'
'look, see those Papuan Frogmouths?'
Jamil, Sujan, Alex
Jamil, Sujan, Alex
Joy!
Joy!
sturdy tower for 12 wired BOP
sturdy tower for 12 wired BOP
Forested hill Nimbokrang
Forested hill Nimbokrang
modern vehicles
modern vehicles
on the way into the forest near Jamil's home
on the way into the forest near Jamil's home
tower at King BOP
tower at King BOP
Narrow planks hard to walk on
Narrow planks hard to walk on
Nimbokrang
Nimbokrang
Peter
Peter
our speed boat
our speed boat
Simple homestay at Waigeo
Simple homestay at Waigeo
Wilson's BOP hide
Wilson's BOP hide
Kjetil after a session with Wilson's
Kjetil after a session with Wilson's
4WD up the hill for Wilson's BOP
4WD up the hill for Wilson's BOP
Sujan and Peter
Sujan and Peter
wonderful skies
wonderful skies
Norwegian team
Norwegian team
Indonesian food
Indonesian food
Wonder in the heavens
Wonder in the heavens