SPRINGFIELD, MO. — During eight months in Papua New Guinea, I visited parts of the nation that few other Westerners have ever seen. The problem was that I rarely had time to look for birds, except right around the villages or towns where I was staying. That, of course, is usually not the best way to see the really stellar birds that inhabit the islands.
So I decided, not knowing when or under what circumstances I’d return, that I’d take my final few days in the country and just go birding — really birding — and try to find some of the most spectacular birds in the world.
I emailed Kumul Lodge, asking if they had space for me at the last minute. They did. And so, from October 30 to November 3, I lived high in the mountains of Enga Province, where I birded, ate, slept, and birded again.
This is part one of that story.
Smoky Honeyeaters (Melipotes fumigatus) are common in the shrubs and trees around Kumul Lodge. Their weak, high-pitched calls are quite unlike the loud vocalizations of some of the other honeyeaters and reminded me more of the calls of North American sparrows.
Smoky Honeyeaters have a startling ability. That lumpy yellow skin around their eyes can change to red in a matter of seconds!
Island Thrushes (Turdus poliocephalus) are another relatively common resident of the Kumul grounds. They are not conspicuous, tending to lurk on the ground near forest edge. The species occurs on islands throughout much of the Pacific, but on New Guinea, the birds occur only in very high montane forest. Some have observed that this may be because they thrive only in areas of low bird species diversity.
Spectacular Papuan Lorikeets (Charmosyna papou) feed on Schlefflera flowers (the ball-like structures on the right) near the lodge. They occur in red, black, and mixed phases and are far more beautiful than the field guides or this photograph suggest.
Red-collared Myzomelas (Myzomela rosenbergii) are brilliant, active nectar-feeders with a chipper song. The male’s crimson collar glints in sunlight — gorgeous!
Oh, the astrapias. I couldn’t wait to show you the magnificent astrapias, members of a bird-of-paradise genus know for extremely long tails and colorful, iridescent heads. This Ribbon-tailed Astrapia (Astrapia mayeri) is a female-plumaged bird.
Ribbon-tailed Astrapias are fairly common around Kumul Lodge. I often saw the males feeding high in trees like this one, poking through dense epiphytes in search of a meal, their perfectly white, three-foot tail plumes winding gently through the branches behind them.
This astrapia appeared to be a young male. It has the brilliant green iridescence and pompom above the bill like an adult male, but it lacked the astonishing tail streamers. In addition to hunting for food in epiphytes, the astrapias also eat fruit — here, papaya and pineapples set out by the lodge staff. I also saw them feeding on Schlefflera balls.
- Finding paradise, part two
- PNG bird songs, part two
- Birds of Tropical Storm Lee, Part 1
- PNG bird songs, part one
- Magnificent Frigatebird plumages (Tropical Storm Lee Part 2)