UKARUMPA, PNG — I spent some more time with “Birds of the Aiyura Valley” tonight, flipping back and forth between it and “Birds of New Guinea.” There are entire orders I haven’t seen up here, including the doves and the cuckoos. (On second thought, a small flock of Rock Pigeons hangs around the market tables and basketball court, but they hardly count.)
Brian keeps talking about the forest on the ridge, almost promising me that he’ll arrange a trip up there some day. He saw four species of bird-of-paradise in that forest several years ago, but he hasn’t been back up since. He’s more interested in orchids than he is in birds, but maybe I can be a good influence on the man.
The two of us were together yesterday for a day trip into Madang Province.
I saw golden-plovers in the grass as the 206 touched down at the Madang airport. From the brief look I had as we whooshed past, they seemed to be acquiring breeding colors. It is about time for that I suppose; “Birds of New Guinea” says they’ll all be far to the north in another month.
A Helmeted Friarbird popped up in a tree and called. Black Kites were about the only other living species I saw through the rest of the day, though Brian and I did have a nice look at a Dollarbird flying overhead and calling. My hoped-for hornbill did not materialize.
I specify “living species” because we also saw some dead ones. Brian pointed out a dessicated King Bird-of-paradise that hung by its feet from the rearview mirror of the truck in which we rode. Its plumage had faded to the color of a red velvet cake, and its two wiry tail feathers were gone.
These Kein dancers are wearing whole Lesser Birds-of-paradise on their headdresses. The one on the left is older and faded, and I don’t know who donated the brownish feathers on the base of that headdress. The pink cluster is dyed chicken feathers.
And then, on our return to the airport, I had a brief glimpse of a Varied Honeyeater before we left the lowlands. As we flew over Astrolabe Bay, two large waterbirds flew below the plane, but they were much too far away to see.