West Papua, Indonesia 7th to 25th of August 2023

Forewords

In spring I had got a phone call from my old friend Vesa Jouhki and he had asked me to join their trip to West Papua, Indonesia. Their trip had been cancelled for almost 3 years already because of the Covid and now when it seemed that the trip was finally going to happen, a couple of participants weren’t able to go anymore. So Vesa was searching for new participants and with Hanna we would have fitted well. But the trip was in August when Hanna’s holiday was already over, so I told to Vesa that we couldn’t come. But I still asked a week or so time to think. And after all I thought this would be a once in a lifetime possibility to get to this exotic place and I decided to join the trip.

On Saturday the 5th of August I walked to Parikkala railway-station and at 10:20 a.m. a train left. A few hours later I got out in Tikkurila and then took a local train to Helsinki-Vantaa airport. I was there at 1:40 p.m. so I had plenty of time but anyway I went through the security-checks and to the gate to wait.

After some waiting other participants started to get to the gate too and finally we were all there: Vesa Jouhki, Markku Vesterinen, Jyri Strandberg, Andreas Uppstu, Matias Castrén and Mikko Ala-Kojola. Because of Hanna hadn’t been able to join the trip, Vesa had asked me to try to get some friend of mine to join us and I had asked my good old friend Mikko. And it was great that he had been able to join us!

Traveling

Finally at 5:10 p.m. it was time to get to Finnair plane that soon left towards Qatar. I tried to watch some movies but it seemed that there weren’t any good movies made during Covid-years. After all I managed to sleep a little.

Just before midnight we landed to Qatar where we had to spend whole night at the airport. Both Matias and Markku had an access to different lounges and they could take a few persons with them so we all could get in. But after all we could stay in the lounge only for a couple of hours but at least we could get something to eat and drink before we had to try to get some rest in awful benches near the gates.

Finally at 8:30 a.m. our Qatar airways flight left to Jakarta Indonesia. It was another extremely long flight but finally we landed to Jakarta at 9:30 p.m. We had been flying over many time zones.

After passport-check and so on we found our luggage and then we still had to get Visas and queue in many different queues. We were absolutely tired after long traveling and it was hard to understand what was happening in the end of different queues. The strangest check was a QR-code that we had to get from internet and then it was checked. Finally we got out to the lobby and there we met our Indian tour-leader Sujan Chatterjee.

For some reason we were hurrying all the time and even the ATM was visited so briefly that I had no idea how much money to get. I took a million liras which felt like a lot of money but after all wasn’t enough. And when we finally got out and met our local contact and our drivers and started packing our luggage to the trunks, I realized that one of my bags was missing. Luckily it was just a small bag which had my pillow, vest, hat and bird-book and all papers in it, but of course I had to go back to the airport to search for it. But it was gone. Of course I had lost some money but I had also lost hours and hours of work as I had done lots of markings to my book and papers about birds, their voices and places where to see them and so on. But after all I was lucky that I hadn’t lost my passport.

Soon we had to leave to our hotel where we got our rooms. Then with Mikko we still arranged our stuff so that we had everything ready for the morning before we fell asleep.

Jakarta bay

On the 7th of August after a good breakfast we were ready to do some birding. Cars came to pick us up and soon we were driving in a surprisingly green and nice landscape towards Jakarta Bay. I had thought that Jakarta would be an awful place but it seemed quite nice actually.

The first birds we saw were common city-birds but when we reached the river, we saw some Oriental Darters, Javan Mynas and so on. And soon we climbed to a boat and left to sail along the river towards Muare Angke.

Our guide was a young man named Kalev, which had been guiding Vesa before. Actually they had done the same river-trip earlier too. Soon we started to see Black-crowned Night-Herons, Javan Pond Herons, Eastern Cattle Egrets, Striated Herons, Little and Great Egrets and Grey and Purple Herons. And after some time we saw the first Milky Storks.

Purple HeronMilky Stork

We photographed Sunda Teals that were breeding on ship-wrecks and saw plenty of Whiskered Terns, some White-breasted Waterhens and Golden-bellied Gerygones and a couple of Clamorous Reed Warblers. Lifers I got were Bar-winged Prinia, Pied Stilt and Black-backed Swamphen.

Sunda TealWhite-breasted Waterhen

Crab-eating Macaques were seen on the trees and docks and Water Monitors were seen on the shore. Pink-necked Green Pigeons and Red-breasted Parakeets were on the top of trees and then we found a coucal that we hoped to be a Javan Coucal but it seemed to be just a Greater Coucal.

Crab-eating Macaque

Finally we reached the sea and after some sailing we found the first Christmas Frigatebird that we managed to photograph well. Also a couple of White-bellied Sea Eagles gave us good views. A flock of 40 Glossy Ibises flew over us. But otherwise there weren’t many birds to see. We had hoped to find more frigatebirds and much more terns but now we saw only more Whiskered Terns and some Great Crested Terns.

Christmas FrigatebirdWhite-bellied Sea Eagle

Little Black Cormorant was numerous and after some scanning we managed to find a single White-winged Tern and a Little Tern was seen flying past.

White-winged TernJavan Plover

Once we were along the shore again, we saw a single Javan Plover and on the river we saw more herons and egrets and also a few White-headed and White-capped Munias, a Pied Triller and Sunda Pygmy and Freckle-breasted Woodpeckers.

When we were on the dock again, we jumped into our cars and continued a short drive to Taman Wisata Alam Kapuk mangrove-park. There we walked about an hour and found Brown Honeyeaters, Javan Munias, Scarlet-headed Flowerpeckers, Malesian Pied Fantails, a Cerulean Kingfisher and so on. Also a couple of Sunda Collared Doves were seen.

Common IoraBrown Honeyeater

The day started to get hot and our guide had somewhere else to go so we soon continued back to our hotel to relax. After some relaxing it was time to get back to the airport and after a couple of hours waiting our last long flight left towards Biak, West Papua.

Biak

The 8th of August. I slept very well on the plane but there was a stop in Kendar, Sulawesi where we had to get to airport for some time before our flight continued. It was an early morning, 7 a.m. when we finally landed to Frans Kaisiepo Airport on Biak.

We met our local contact and drivers again at the airport while we were waiting for our luggage. Everyone else had already disappeared from the airport when I was still waiting for my bag. When the last bags came there still was no sign of mine. I started to get very nervous but then I got information that the drivers had already taken my bag and it was already in the hotel! I have no idea how they had identified my bag.

Anyway then I walked to the hotel where everyone else had gone by car much earlier. Then we had a brief breakfast and were soon were ready to go birding! Finally we were in our destination, small island of Biak – West Papua!

Again we had a local guide with us and three cars with drivers, but it took some time to find out which one of these men was the guide as they all were very shy and none of them took any contact with us. Luckily Sujan had been in West Papua already 14 times and of course we had also studied quite a lot so we started to fill our trip-list.

The first identified birds were common and familiar birds like Tree Sparrow, Pacific Swallow, Sooty-headed Bulbul, Feral Pigeon, and Spotted Dove, but when we got out from the village, we started to see other birds too but most of the birds we saw from the car were seen too briefly, but Willie Wagtail, Glossy and Uniform Swiftlet were identified.

After some driving we stopped along a small road and started to walk along it. There were bushes and trees around us and we started to see more birds immediately. Red-capped Flowerpeckers, Black Sunbirds, Hooded Butcherbirds, a Brush Cuckoo, a Great Cuckoo-Dove, a Claret-breasted Fruit Dove and the first endemic birds, a Geelvink Imperial Pigeon and a Geelvink Fruit Dove were found.

Hooded ButcherbirdGeelvink Fruit-Dove

We also found some birds that I was already familiar with: A Sacred Kingfisher, Oriental Dollarbirds and Olive-backed Sunbirds I had seen in Bali and Java or elsewhere in Asia. But all other birds were lifers like endemic Biak Hooded Pittas that were calling, Rainbow Bee-eaters, Metallic and Long-tailed Starlings that were seen well. Then we saw briefly or only heard some other birds like Biak Trillers, Papuan Eclectus Parrots and a Biak Black Flycatcher.

Long-tailed StarlingBiak Black Flycatcher

Finally the playback produced a beautiful Biak Paradise Kingfisher that flew several times over us but didn’t let us to get any pictures. Later we heard several Biak Paradise Kingfishers more but couldn’t see them at all.

We walked until the end of the road and stayed there in a bushy area for some time and playbacks were playing. We had no idea what songs and calls were being played but after some waiting I finally heard similar calls behind us and we could see a small flock of Biak White-eyes skulking inside the bushes.

Willie Wagtail

The weather started to get hot so we drove back to our hotel. On the way we saw a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo flying in the sky. Then in our hotel, which was very nice, we just rested in our cool rooms for some time. When we woke up we did a short walk in the garden and photographed a tame Willie Wagtail and also a Sacred Kingfisher. But soon we went back to relax.

In the afternoon we headed to a forest where we could find Amboyna Cuckoo-Doves, Spangled Drongos, Shining Flycatchers, a Golden Monarch that showed very well, Biak Coucals that were only heard, a Pacific Baza, Moustached Treeswifts, a couple of Geelvink Pygmy Parrots, Black-capped Lories, Emperor Fairywrens, Black-winged Lories, Biak Lorikeets, a Biak Gerygone and a Common Cicadabird. Of course we saw some species that we had seen already in the morning but still couldn’t get any better pictures of them.

Golden MonarchGeelvink Pygmy Parrot

Biak Scops Owl

When it was getting dark, we continued to a place where we started to play calls of a Biak Scops Owl. And soon we heard a response and saw the owl flying to one treetop. With torches we could see and photograph this endemic owl pretty well. In same place we played also Papuan Frogmouth calls and it also started calling further and then also another Biak Scops Owl started to call. But soon we were ready to drive back to hotel and go to sleep.

On the 9th of August we woke up early and started driving in darkness. Finally when we reached the birding spot, we started to have breakfast. This wasn’t a clever move as the sun was soon rising and it was the best time for birding. Then when we were finally walking along a small road, there wasn’t much activity anymore. So it wasn’t a big surprise that we couldn’t locate any Biak Scrubfowls.

Biak Lorikeet1

We found some Red-cheeked Parrots, a Biak Fantail, a couple of Biak Monarchs and also a couple of Large-tailed Nightjars. Then we moved to another place where our guide hurried to walk a path and everyone who was ready was following him. I had to change my shoes and so on so I wasn’t even on the path yet when someone shouted that a Biak Scrubfowl had flushed in front of the guide. Of course the last ones missed it. Luckily it gave a call when it landed. Then we played tape and waited for a long time it to come back but it only called one more time.

During the morning we found also a singing Biak Leaf Warbler and finally when we had managed to make our guide Eko to understand that we were happy also to hear some species if they were too difficult to see, we started to search for one more endemic. And after some searching and playbacking, we finally heard a Biak Whistler!

Mangrove

During the day we rested in our room again and tried to get rid of sleep debt and jetlag. In the afternoon we drove a longer way to the south-eastern corner of the island to mangrove that tsunami had deformed in the past. We walked on the road in the middle of mangrove and found Sacred and Beach Kingfishers, many Torresian Imperial Pigeons, a few Spotted Whistling Ducks and Channel-billed Cuckoos and a single Torresian Crow.

Beach KingfisherTorresian Imperial Pigeon

We also saw lots of Rainbow Bee-eaters and a Brahminy Kite and an Osprey, which was an own species in the past. Also some waders were found like Wood Sandpipers, a Greenshank, a couple of Grey Tattlers and a couple of Common Redshanks which is very rare bird in Papua.

It was getting dark when we saw some egrets flying to roost. They were all Great and Little Egrets until Mikko noticed a big grey heron flying in the distance. Only I managed to find it too before it landed to (or) behind a big tree – it was a Great–billed Heron!

It was already dark when Nankeen Night Herons started to fly, but soon we had to start driving back to our hotel.

In the evening we ate well in a local restaurant – fish and crabs and so on. It was funny that we could find beer in some restaurants but some of them didn’t have any Coca Cola, and Pepsi wasn’t found anywhere in the whole island!

Some of our group still went to swim to a pool before we kept the log. “Luckily” the number of bird-species was low so we were able to go to sleep soon.

Sentani

On the 10th of August we had packed our luggage ready and soon headed to the airport. And soon our flight towards Jayapura left.

We landed to Bandar Udara Sentani airport and pretty soon we had packed our luggage to cars and left driving. After a short drive we turned to Sentani grasslands where we soon stopped when we saw a Pygmy Eagle soaring on the sky.

Pygmy EagleWhistling Kite

Soon we found also New Guinea Friarbirds, Tree Martins and saw a Brown Quail in flight briefly. Then we saw a Papuan Harrier soaring behind the grassland and a couple of Whistling Kites flew over us. Both Golden-headed Cisticolas and Rainbow Bee-eaters were seen some tens.

Crimson Finch

We walked along the road a little and still found a White-shouldered Fairywren and several Crimson Finches. Both Black-billed and Pheasant Coucals were heard and then we saw another quail in flight – this was smaller than the previous one – a King Quail.

A Fawn-breasted Bowerbird landed to one tree and a Buff-banded Rail crossed the road so quickly that only a couple of us managed to see it. Then we still found Great-billed and Hooded Mannikins, heard a White-bellied Thicket Fantail and a Pacific Koel, so we were very happy when we continued driving towards Nimbokrang.

Nimbokrang

After one and half hours driving we finally parked to Jamal’s Homestay and got our rooms. After a short relaxing we did a short walk in the village with Mikko, Andreas and Jyri. Sun was shining and it was incredibly hot so only bird to mention was a Variable Goshawk.

In the afternoon we headed to so-called KM9 view-place. We had a local guide with us but he really didn’t take any contact with us in the beginning. We had to always first find him and then ask if there was some call or difficult bird that we wanted to identify. He knew the birds well and always answered our questions but then he again disappeared somewhere to talk with locals.

Anyway we managed to find lots of birds like Orange-bellied Fruit Doves, Pinon’s end Zoe’s Imperial Pigeons, Black-browed Trillers, Plain, Tawny-breasted and Puff-backed Honeyeaters, Yellow-faced Mynas, Brown and Coconut Lorikeets, Ivory-billed Coucals, a Grey-headed Goshawk, a Boyer’s Cuckooshrike, a Rufous-bellied Kookaburra, Papuan Spinetails, a Mamberamo Shrikethrush and some already familiar birds.

Tawny-breasted HoneyeaterPuff-backed Honeyeater

Papuan Nightjar1

When it was getting dark, we continued to KM8 area where we followed a path inside the forest. Drivers carried seats for us and we sat down to wait. Soon we heard and saw a Hook-billed Kingfisher with our thermal cameras. Then after some waiting we saw a Papuan Nightjar that came to hunt insects to a small open area where we were sitting. It was very dark but I managed to get a couple of pictures of this nightjar.

Then we followed the path a little bit further and soon heard a Marbled Frogmouth calling. We found the bird with our torches but it was behind branches so pictures weren’t good at all. But anyway our first day in Nimbokrang had been excellent. Our guide Kolik had been getting better in the evening so we expected to have good next few days.

On the 11th of August we started early and soon we were walking a path that lead inside Korea Forest. After some walking we had again seats ready for us and we sat down to wait for sunrise and then something else. After we had heard Papuan Frogmouths calling the sun started to rise and pretty soon the bird that we had been waiting for arrived to a top of a trunk. It was one of my dream-birds – a Twelve-wired Bird-of-Paradise!

The Twelve-wired B-o-P was turning and twisting on the top of the trunk for a long time before it flew away. And after some time it came back to continue its lek. It was quite high up and the light was still bad but we managed to get some OK pictures.

Twelve-wired Bird-of-paradiseTwelve-wired bird-of-Paradise

When our first B-o-P once again flew away, Kolik told us to come next to him and there we saw another treetop with a couple of birds – there was a Glossy-mantled Manucode and a Pink-spotted Fruit Dove. Soon we heard also a Pale-billed Sicklebill which was visible only very briefly so we didn’t get any (except one very bad) pictures of it.

Glossy-mantled ManucodePale-billed Sicklebill

We heard also a King Bird-of-paradise, a Northern Fantail and a Black Butcherbird before we walked back to the road. Then we walked along the road for some time and found Grey-headed Cuckooshrikes and Black Cicadabirds, a beautiful Lowland Peltops, an Ochre-collared Monarch, a Large-billed Gerygone, Meyer’s Friarbirds, Streak-headed Mannikins, a Salvadori’s Fig Parrot that flew over us and the most stunning Palm Cockatoos. Another guide, or some kind of helper, Mr. Dante was very happy when he pointed us these big parrots – and they really were amazing!

Lowland PeltopsPalm Cockatoo

Blyth's Hornbill

We also saw more Glossy-mantled Manucodes, a gorgeous Blyth’s hornbill flew over us, Black-capped Lories, a distant Pale-billed Sicklebill and so on.

Next we continued to a forest-garden where we sat under a big tree and waited for Buff-faced Pygmy Parrots to arrive climbing to the trunks and branches but they didn’t come. So we went to photograph a mom and a child Papuan Frogmouths and a noisy Yellow-billed Kingfisher that were nearby.

Papuan FrogmouthYellow-billed Kingfisher

Then we walked a little around the garden and managed to find some Buff-faced Pygmy Parrots but they were mostly just heard and then seen in flight a couple of times.

Rice fields

In the afternoon we spent time in a couple of hides but neither Spotted Jewel-babblers nor pittas were visiting the feeders. In the late afternoon we headed to rice-fields that were close to the village but we were there probably too late. We heard mostly just Hooded Butcherbirds that were calling so many different kinds of calls that Sujan told that they are called 5 dollar birds amongst bird-guides. Every time someone asks: What bird is that?” and it is a Hooded Butcherbird, 5 dollars should change owner. At least one of us would have got much lighter wallet after this trip…

On the 12th of August we headed early to walk a path inside a forest and after some walking we went into a hide to wait. While walking we had heard a Collared Brushturkey and to the hide we heard a New Guinea Scrubfowl and a couple of Papuan Pittas. We were waiting for a Magnificent Riflebird but it was just calling nearby and didn’t show itself.

When we had given up waiting for Magnificent Riflebird, we continued walking along the path and soon heard some Lesser Bird-of-paradises and then managed to find them on the top of one huge tree. They were quite far and high so we couldn’t get any good pictures but at least something.

Lesser Bird-of-paradiseLesser Bird-of-paradise

Then we walked to sit and wait close to trees where we soon saw some movement. It was an absolutely beautiful King Bird-of-paradise! Also this bird was quite high up and almost all the time in the shadows, but after some trying we managed to get some OK pictures.

King bird-of-paradiseKing bird-of-paradise

The forest-walk was a success as Kolik had understood that we really wanted to know all the birds that were calling. So we managed to find an Ornate, a Coronated and a Dwarf Fruit Dove, a White-crowned Cuckoo, a couple of Papuan Dwarf Kingfishers, a Pesquet’s Parrot, another Salvadori’s Fig Parrot, Papuan Babblers, Long-billed and Streak-headed Honeyeaters, a Bar-tailed Cuckoo-Dove, Golden Cuckooshrikes, a Rusty and a Northern Variable Pitohui, a Sooty Thicket Fantail, a Rufous-backed Fantail, a Hooded Monarch, a Black Berrypecker and an Olive Flyrobin.

In the afternoon we headed to Korean Forest again to walk to the road between the bridges. For some reason Kolik wasn’t with us but only Mr Dante. He was a former hunter who had started to search birds for birders. He was also some kind of chief in the village so everyone knew and respected him. But he didn’t speak any English and he always disappeared into the forest with his machete. He clearly tried to find some extremely difficult birds for us but unfortunately we weren’t lucky. Earlier there had been some Victoria Crowned Pigeons in the area but nowadays they seemed to be impossible to find.

Anyway we managed to find some birds by our own. a Wompoo Fruit Dove, Green-backed Honeyeater, Jobi Manucodes and a Spectacled Longbill were found. We also saw a couple of Twelve-wired Bird-of-paradises that were quite distant on the top of trunks on the forest edge.

Salvadori's Fig Parrot

On the 13th of August we started the morning with a long path-walk to a tree where Salvadori’s Fig Parrots were living. Some of us had missed the species earlier so we had to go to see them better. On the walk we already found nice species like a Tan-capped Catbird, a Black-sided Robin, a Grey Crow, a Dwarf Koel and a Spot-winged Monarch.

Once we reached the tree, we got better views of Salvadori’s Fig Parrots but the birds were directly above us and very high. On the tree-top we saw at least 6 parrots and also a Brahminy Kite was perched there for some time.

Hooded Pitta

When we were walking back we observed many already familiar birds and then stopped again in pitta-hide. This time the wait was worthy as a beautiful Hooded Pitta came to feed with mealworms. We got nice pictures but of course we hoped that also Papuan Pitta would have shown up. It was just calling nearby.

Next we continued to the best organized photographing place so far. There was an open area with a branch in the middle of it and Kolik and one of the drivers started to hang earthworms to the branch. Then Kolik started to play tape and soon we heard a response. And then a stunning Common Paradise Kingfisher came to feed with worms.

After the kingfisher had eaten a couple of worms it dropped down to the ground and caught one more worm and ate it just in front of us. So we had finally started to get some good pictures!

Common Paradise KingfisherCommon Paradise Kingfisher

When the day was warming up, we headed to a view-place to do some raptor-watching. Sujan was laughing a little bit as he said that local raptors are hunting inside the forests. Most of our group was sitting under a roof in a shadow but with Jyri we were standing under a tree and watching to a different direction. And soon we saw an enormous raptor flying over the forest! I shouted to the others but only Mikko managed to see this bird gliding low down and disappearing inside the forest – it had been a Papuan Eagle!

Soon we saw also a couple of Long-tailed Honey Buzzards and Whistling Kites and a Variable Goshawk so it was possible to see raptors with some effort.

In the afternoon we walked a little bit in a forest edge near the village but saw only a couple of White-bellied Cuckooshrikes.

Dwarf KoelWhite-bellied Cuckooshrike

For some reason we left back to our hostel too early and walked to a bridge nearby. There were absolutely no birds so we asked if we still could go back to the first place. It was already late so only bird we found was a calling Pale-vented Bush-hen – the same species that we had tried to find from the bridge.

In the evening we got bad news – our next flight had been cancelled. It was hopefully going to fly 24 hours later. So we had to stay in Nimbokrang for an extra day – and we already had a feeling that there wasn’t much to do anymore.

On the 14th of August we started again in Korea Swamp Forest. Mr Dante was our guide and even though he didn’t speak any English, he was the funniest person we had got with us. Again he disappeared to the forest with his machete while we stayed birding along the road. We saw and heard plenty of familiar birds and got good practice with them but only new species was a Mimic Honeyeater. We also saw a Pale-billed Sicklebill again and got some distant pictures.

Boyer's CuckooshrikePale-billed Sicklebill

When it was getting hot, we decided to go to try to see Buff-faced Pygmy Parrots again. We really had no idea what else we could do. Birding in Papua is difficult because of all land is owned by someone. So you have to get a permit to go anywhere. So you have to be ready to bribe locals to get some places and to most of the places you can’t go at all.

Papuan Frogmouths were still on their nest and now we saw more Buff-faced Pygmy Parrots but again only in flight. Pretty soon we decided to go to rest a little.

In the afternoon we headed to a view-place once again. We saw familiar birds and finally we saw a few Grey Crows that we had only heard earlier. Unfortunately we didn’t see any Brown Lorikeet that some of the group had missed earlier. We photographed all parrots that flew over but they were all the common ones.

View

It was getting late afternoon when I heard a call from distance that I immediately identified – or at least though I identified. It was one of the only calls that I was sure that I had learned when I had been listening to many calls and songs of Papuan birds at home. I went to ask both Kolik and Sujan to listen to the call as I thought it was a Papuan Eagle. They both laughed at me and told that it was just an imperial pigeon. Well I hadn’t heard any that aloud and far-carrying imperial pigeon that could be heard from kilometers away and was always calling only ones in every 30 seconds, so I kept on listening to it and started to take sound-recordings too. After some time I went to ask Kolik to listen to the call again as I was sure that it wasn’t a pigeon. This time he concentrated to listen to it and it was funny to see his look change – and after some listening he said: “I was wrong – it is a harpy!” Then he told that actually he had seen a pair of Papuan Eagles in exactly that direction close to KM8 several times. And he had also heard the bird calling there. He just couldn’t believe that it could be heard this far – but after all it was only a couple of kilometers to KM8.

Sentani again

On the 15th of August we left towards Jayapura airport very early. We wanted to do some birding in Sentani grasslands again. And right away when we arrived to the familiar place, we saw a Black Bittern in flight. Then we walked along the road for some time and saw many familiar species which some of them we saw now better and got some pictures too. We also found some Chestnut-breasted Mannikins, 4 impressive Channel-billed Cuckoos flew over us and I also found a very distant Australasian Darter flying on the sky. So the morning was pretty good.

Hooded MannikinChannel-billed Cuckoo

And traveling again

Soon we had to continue to the airport and luckily our flight to Manokwari left in time. We landed to Bandar Udara Rendani airport where drivers were soon found and then we packed our luggage to the top of three 4-wheel cars. Then we headed to shopping.

Sujan

We ate well at the restaurant in a big shopping mall and then did some shopping. Sujan had a huge work as he had to buy all food for all of us for next few days. It took some time but after all we left driving towards Arfak Mountains.

But soon we met some problems as police stopped us and asked to see passports from our first car passengers. Of course Andreas had his passport in his bag and it was on the roof of our third car that was missing. This third car’s driver had some problem with car papers so when he had seen the police; he had turned to another road.

Luckily we managed to get through the police after we had taken some selfies and joked with them. But soon we had to stop again as there were lots of children dancing in the middle of the street. There was some kind of dance-competition between school-classes and these children were walking and dancing in big groups along the street. Unfortunately local women paid more attention to us than the serious-looking dancers and shouted loudly and with red smile (many of them were biting some red narcotic plant). Finally we got through the traffic-jam and could continue driving.

Arfak mountains

It was already late afternoon when we had climbed up to the mountains and the asphalt-road ended and soon we turned to a very bad and extremely steep uphill-road that went through a small village and in the end of the road were our Syoubri Guest house cottages.

Group

It was still light so we did a short walk in the village but saw almost no birds at all. Then the dinner was ready. We got 2 cottages and luckily with Matias, Sujan and Mikko we got own rooms in our cottage. We also got a big hall with a big table where it was good to keep the log in the evening.

Beetle

On our porch railing we found a huge beetle that everyone had to get some pictures. When it came dark we listened to a distant Papuan Boobook calling and after everyone else had gone to sleep, we still heard a Feline Owlet-nightjar calling with Mikko.

On the 16th of August we woke up early and after the breakfast we were ready to follow our guide Chet. When we were walking downhill to our cars, we heard a Greater Sooty Owl.

We drove a short distance and then started to walk in a dark forest following Chet who was walking very fast. After some walking we arrived to a hide and again started to wait for morning and birds to come.

While walking we had already heard an Arfak Catbird and now another one was calling behind the hide. There was a big fruit in front of the hide and we waited for the target-bird to come to feed.

After some waiting a Black-billed Sicklebill arrived and soon it started to eat the fruit with its long and curvy bill. The light was still quite bad but we got some pretty good pictures of it. When the bird left we kept on waiting for it to come back or other birds to visit the feeder. But only bird that arrived was a young Great Cuckoo-Dove. It was very shy and it didn’t start to eat at all and soon disappeared to the forest.

Black-billed SicklebillGreat Cuckoo-Dove

Feline Owlet-nightjar

Soon we were walking along the path again. A couple of younger local men had been walking along the path before us and soon they came back and started to discuss with Chet. Then Chet told us to follow these men and told it will be a tough climb. So not everyone from our group followed them but of course most of us climbed very steep uphill while our guide was making the path with his machete – and it was worthy! Finally he pointed to a bush and first we couldn’t see anything but then we realized that there was very well camouflaged Feline Owlet-nightjar openly in the middle of the bush.

Mountain Owlet-nightjar

Soon we were back on the path and saw a funny-looking Black-breasted Boatbill before we turned to walk inside the forest again. It was again very steep uphill but now shorter climb until we were inside a bush and our guide pointed straight above us – and there was a Mountain Owlet-nightjar perched on a branch just a couple of meters above us. The bird was too close for Mikko’s 600mm lens but close enough to take picture even with a phone.

When we were again following Chet on the path he showed us that he was clearly the best guide we could have. We got amazing numbers of new species but most of them were just heard or seen briefly, so not many pictures were got. But lifer-list got bigger with White-bibbed Fruit Dove, Papuan Mountain Pigeon, Moluccan King Parrot, Plum-faced, West Papuan and Fairy Lorikeet, Vogelkop Bowerbird, Rufous-sided and Marbled Honeyeater, Red Myzomela, Ornate and Vogelkop Melidectes, Goldenface, Rusty and Mountain Mouse-warbler, Grey-green Scrubwren, Mid-mountain Berrypecker, Pygmy and Yellow-billed Longbill, Mottled Berryhunter, Black-bellied Cuckooshrike, Rufous-naped Bellbird, Vogelkop and Sclater’s Whistler, Hooded Pitohui, Black Fantail, Drongo Fantail, Slaty and Green-backed Robin and we unfortunately only heard a couple of dream-birds a Crescent-caped Loprhorina and a Magnificent Bird-of-paradise.

Once we were back on the road we found Black-fronted and Capped White-eyes, Mountain Myzomelas, a Brown-breasted Gerygone and a Mountain Honeyeater. Swiflets that were flying on the sky were Mountain Swiftlets.

Capped White-eyeMountain Myzomela

After the lunch we drove to the highest point of the road and started walking back towards the village. Unfortunately weather was cloudy and it seemed it was going to rain soon.

Red-collared MyzomelaArfak Honeyeater

Black-breasted BoatbillBlack-breasted Boatbill

We found a Black-breasted Boatbill with a young bird, a Friendly Fantail, Red-collared Myzomelas, Arfak Honeyeaters, Vogelkop Scrubwrens, a White-eared Bronze Cuckoo and a singing Island Leaf Warbler. One Papuan Mountain Pigeon flew over the road and finally we got some pictures of some birds too. But still many species were just heard or seen briefly.

And then it started to rain very hard, so we had to hurry to our cars and give up for the rest of the day.

In the evening when we were keeping the log I did some sort of record as 26 species that were called in a row were lifers. During the day I had got 50 lifers! I wonder how many more we might have got without the rain?

At night the rain had stopped for a short time and I went out to listen and heard the Feline Owlet-nightjar again. With Sujan we managed to find it with our thermal-cameras but soon it flew away and we went to sleep.

On the 17th of August it was still raining when we woke up. We had been sleeping a little bit longer as we were going to have a tough day. Luckily the weather started to look a little bit better so we decided to stay in ordinary plan. So we packed everything we needed during the day’s birding to back-bags and what we needed for sleeping and for a couple of days trip to other waterproof bags. And after breakfast we were ready to start climbing to a mountain. People from the village were joining us and carried the rest of our stuff and food and so on.

Papuan Leaf Warbler

I still photographed an Island Leaf Warbler in the garden before we started walking. The path started just in front of our cottage. Then it started to rain again so I had to pack my camera to a waterproof bag.

It was raining pretty hard so we just kept on walking. Luckily the rain stopped just before we started to climb very steep uphill. We climbed for a long time and it was so hard that we really couldn’t find many birds. Modest Tiger Parrots were seen but Brehm’s Tiger Parrots were only heard. A couple of Papuan Treecreepers were seen as they came to playback, Yellow-billed Lorikeets were mostly just heard but also seen briefly while they were flying above treetops.

Modest Tiger ParrotPapuan Treecreeper

The climbing was hard and partly dangerous so I was a little bit worried how our group would survive. Again our guides were hurrying so the last ones were leaving behind all the time. Then we had to wait for them and once they had caught us and were able to have a short break, guides were running again.

Cinnamon-browed Melidectes, Perplexing Scrubwren, Black Monarch, Lesser Melampitta, Lesser Ground Robin, Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo, Fan-tailed Berrypecker, Spotted Jewel-babbler, Black Pitohui, Regent Whistler, Ashy Robin and Black-throated Robin were species that we either heard or saw again briefly. Birds that we also saw briefly were Crescent-crested Bird-of-paradise and Western Parotia females. One of the main reasons to climb to the mountain was Black Sicklebill and a couple of birds were first heard and then one bird was also seen a couple of times in flight.

Cinnamon-browed MelidectesBlack Pitohui

We also saw some familiar birds like a very friendly Friendly Fantail and West Papuan Lorikeets that were hiding on the top of tree.

Friendly FantailWest Papuan Lorikeet

Finally the uphill got gentler and then we got to German Camp where we rested a little and then did a short walk nearby before lunch. At midday there weren’t many birds to find but a Mottled Berryhunter was heard.

After the lunch we walked around the top but it was surprisingly quiet. I managed to photograph a Voglekop Whistler, a Black Pitohui and a Cinnamon-browed Melidectes and Andreas found a funny Reclusive Ringtail Possum hiding on a treetop.

BirdingReclusive Ringtail Possum

Then we had probably the most insane episode of the whole trip as Chef and a couple of other men started to build a hide for us – and we just stood there waiting for them to finish. Of course it was important to build another hide for us as we weren’t going to fit to one small hide but now it was very good time for birding – and it wasn’t even raining…

Luckily Sujan was with us so we could identify a Smoky Robin and a Moluccan King Parrot landed above us so I could get a couple of pictures before it flew away. Also a Black-throated Robin stopped for a second to one tree and a Canary Flyrobin was singing and a Rufescent Imperial Pigeon calling.

It took more than an hour before the hide was ready and we kept on walking back towards the camp. We passed one old hide that had an old Vogelkop Bowerbird nest in front of it but soon the first half of our group went into another hide with inhabited nest. Chet moved one decoration which actually was a small blue plastic funnel. He told that it shouldn’t take long before the owner of the nest comes to fix the decoration. We of course waited it to come and move the funnel to the ordinary place, but when the Vogelkop Bowerbird came, it changed the whole decoration of the veranda! It moved all the red chip-bags but also this blue funnel but to a new place. Sujan told that earlier there had been one bowerbird that had decorated its nest garden with spoons. And it had stolen lots of the spoons from the village. Actually also now it had been stealing all the rubbish that it was using as decoration from the village as there was really no rubbish in the forests. And village was quite far away.

Vogelkop BowerbirdVogelkop Bowerbird

It was already quite dark but we managed to get some OK pictures of this Vogelkop Bowerbird. And once we got out from the hide, it was time for the rest of our group to get in – and the same show was repeated.

Finally we were back in our camp and after the dinner we were ready to sleep. We didn’t have the log as none of us had taken any paper or pen with us.

The 18th of August. I slept well in a shack where we all slept on the floor. I had my new very light mattress and sleeping bag with me and it was good as it was pretty cool at night.

We woke up very early and started walking towards the hides. On the way we heard a Papuan Boobook but soon we photographers crawled into the new hide and the rest went to an old one which actually was closer. If someone had told us anything about the hides we had of course done the opposite. The new hide was absolutely awful! It was situated in a steep hill and the bench was tilted and too high so it was impossible to sit. There was also a tree-trunk in the middle of the tent which made everything even more difficult. Somehow Mikko managed to put his tripod up but the lens-hole was too far even for his 600mm lens. Anyway we soon had to keep it quiet and start waiting.

Black Sicklebill

It wasn’t a surprise that Black Sicklebill didn’t come to its lek-tree. It had been calling all the time when men had been building the hide and it sure was wary. We waited for as long as it was possible to sit in the hide even the bench collapsed and made it even more difficult. After all we had to give up as we still needed many other birds too.

We photographers needed some time to pack everything, so all others had left already when we got out from the hide. And then the Black Sicklebill flew to the closest treetop! It was in bad light but at least we saw it well and got some kind of pictures.

While we were taking pictures of the Black Sicklebill a Black-mantled Goshawk flew over us. We had just heard it calling earlier. But soon we had to hurry. The best time of the morning was over soon.

Rainforest

Next we took a long and steep uphill again and climbed to try to see Arfak Astrapias. They were supposed to visit one fruiting tree every day.

Once we reached the tree we found out that the visibility to the tree wasn’t very good as it was behind other trees. We waited and waited for our target-bird to come but saw only several already familiar birds. After a long waiting we heard an Arfak Astrapia calling a few times with its strange clopping voice but we never saw it.

Then it started to rain very hard so we had to walk back to the camp. And soon we had packed everything again and were ready to start walking back towards the village.

In heavy rain the steep path was extremely slippery and dangerous! So we were walking slowly but of course some of us where again much slower. We really didn’t need to worry about birds in this weather at all. Luckily after a long walk the weather started to get a little bit better. Then we found some Dimorphic Fantails, a Black-throated Honeyeater and a couple of Garnet Robins. Then on a flatter part it was raining again but before the village the weather was getting better again and we still heard a small flock of Blue-faced Parrotfinches. Luckily these birds were very close so I also managed to hear their extremely high and thin calls.

Once we were back in the village we had to wait for some time before the last ones arrived. Luckily everyone had survived without any worse accidents and injuries. There had been some close shaves.

The rain had finally stopped and as we still had some time before the lunch, we decided to go somewhere with part of our group. We had been walking our feet death already but anyway we wanted to do some more birding. Chet and Sujan thought that only place to see any new birds was to climb back uphill. Luckily Chet joined us and we still climbed up to the other side of the farmland to the river and still managed to find a couple of new species – a Grey Thornbill and a Crinkle-collared Manucode.

ChetGrey-headed Goshawk

When we were back in the village I still managed to photograph a Grey-headed Goshawk that landed to a tree in our garden. Then it was time to keep a couple of days log and eat well. And then it was good to go to sleep to a proper bed.

On the 19th of August we were very early. When we got out from the cars we thought that we were going to walk 300 meters to a hide. So I took only my camera and head-light with me. I left my poncho, umbrella, mosquito repellent and water to the car. Luckily I changed my sandals to light boots. Mikko of course took his whole camera-equipment with tripod.

Soon it was clear that we hadn’t been told anything about what was going to happen – again. We walked a long time to steep downhill until we reached a river which we crossed by a narrow bridge.

Andreas

Then we were told that we were going to walk to a fruiting tree which was still a long way away. So it was clear that not all could make the walk as we had been walking quite a lot in the previous days too. The sun was already rising so we observed the first birds and a Superb Fruit Dove was a lifer. So a couple of our group stayed in the riverside while the rest of us started to climb steep uphill again

This was the steepest and longest uphill so far and once again our guides were walking too fast. We were sweating a lot and I really started to miss my water-bottle! Luckily we soon heard a Mountain Peltops that I had missed a couple of days earlier and along the path we saw droppings of a Dwarf Cassowary!

It was really a hard climb and again the last ones were far behind when we surprisingly, without any warning, were there next to a fruiting tree. Then Chet’s son who was now leading us, started to point up to treetops and tug from our arms so we could see something there. He didn’t speak any English but we thought that there were Masked Bowerbirds somewhere.

I am probably too kind person so I kept on waiting for the others to come and tried to tell them what was happening and so I missed a beautiful male Masked Bowerbird that at least Mikko managed to see. Soon I was free to start scanning the treetops too and luckily I still found a female Masked Bowerbird and also a female Magnificent Bird-of-paradise which I both managed to take pictures too.

Luckily these bowerbirds were still calling so everyone managed to hear them, but soon the treetops were empty – and I am sure the reason was our chaotic coming. We could have stopped before the place, wait for the whole group and then someone should have explained what was going on, but this is clearly not how things happen in West Papua. It was also easy to say now that we should have started much earlier in the morning as we were now too late.

Masked BowerbirdMagnificent Bird-of-paradise

We waited for a long time for birds to come back but all we saw were some fruit doves and mostly unidentified passerines on the top of high trees.

As there was nothing really happening, we decided to try to see a Spotted Jewel-babbler that was somewhere 400 meters along the path. Of course it was again extremely steep uphill and for sure it was a longer walk than 400 meters but finally we were there. Tape was playing but nothing came or responded.

Grey Whistler

So soon we walked back to the fruiting tree which seemed to be empty again. We were too tired to keep on walking, so we stayed there for some time and surprisingly it was good! Slowly we started to find new birds around us and a Forest Honeyeater, an Arafura Shrikethrush, a Grey Whistler, a Green-backed Gerygone and a Papuan Scrub Robin were observed. And when we were walking back downhill towards the river we still found a Trumpet Manucode, a Fairy Gerygone, a Black-winged Monarch and a Chestnut-bellied Fantail.

Finally we were down by the river and there we immediately saw a couple of black and white birds flushing in front of us. Luckily another one landed to a branch nearby and we could wait for everyone see this stunning Torrent-lark!

Torrent-larkMikko

We rested a little next to the river before started to walk extremely long uphill towards our cars. It was crazy hard walk as it was very hot and sun was burning! Once we were almost up, one of our cars drew down past us. And soon it drove back up with the last ones of our group. It was very good as I am sure they wouldn’t have survived from the walk as I was absolutely tired! But Goddamnit they could have stopped for a second so I could have taken my water-bottle from the back-seat!

Syoubri

When we finally reached our cars I was really badly dehydrated and also sunstroke. I would have loved to know beforehand that we were going to have a morning like this. And after all we hadn’t visited the hide at all – and Mikko had been carrying the tripod all the time. But luckily we had seen some unforgettable birds so there was no reason to complain too much.

We still drove back to Syoubri where we packed our luggage and ate before started driving towards Manokwari. But we managed to drive only 100 meters or so downhill when we got a flat tire! Luckily we just had to park in front of the closest house and soon there were several men changing the tire. And after 10 minutes we were on the road again.

While we were driving up and down on the mountain-road it was soon clear that there was something badly wrong with our car. The brakes weren’t working! So our driver had to drive very slowly and do all braking with the engine. Somehow we managed to get down and finally in Manokwari we parked in front of an exclusive Aston Hotel.

In the evening we got once again bad news as our next morning flight had been moved several hours later. And that wasn’t all – our next destination Malagufuk had informed Sujan that they are not taking any visitors on Sundays. Everything had been agreed already a long time ago but it seems that anything is possible in West Papua! Later I heard that Malagufuk had started to ask visitors to pay 650 dollars per night which probably was the real reason that we had to change our plans. It really wasn’t going to fit into our budget.

But there was no reason to start sulking. We had to adapt the situation. Luckily Sujan had lots of contacts and he is extremely good in solving problems. But it was clear that the next day was anyway going to be a holiday from serious birding as we were going to stay in Manokwari.

Manokwari

Manokwari and Sorong

So the 20th of August was an easy day which was probably more than welcome to some of our group that had been pushed to their limits on our mountain walks.

After a good breakfast we did a short an hour walk near the hotel and beach and managed to find several Scrub Honeyeaters but all the other birds were just familiar species.

During the day we headed to the airport and there we really had to stress if there was going to be any flight for us at all. First there was a sign telling that our flight was late but when some of us checked from the internet, there was no this flight at all – it hadn’t ever left from previous airport. After a long wait there was a call – in some other language than English – that there was a plane coming from Biak for us. And finally at 3:30 p.m. we left towards Sorong.

After an hour flight we landed to Sorong to Domine Eduard Osok airport. While we were rolling on the runway some of our group that were seated on the other side of the plane managed to see a swamphen.

Even though the schedule had changed a lot Sujan had managed to get a local contact and cars to pick us up and soon we drove to Fave Hotel. There all rooms weren’t ready yet so we left our luggage behind the reception-desk and soon headed to eat to Sujan’s contact’s own restaurant. And we had the best seafood that I have ever eaten!

Pipa forest

On the 21st of August our local guide was Absalon and soon we were heading to Pipa forest. When we got there, we started to walk along the road. Pretty soon was it clear that our guide was again something different. He didn’t know some of the calls and did some quite strange mistakes but what was the most important, he knew the real target-birds and of course he had the permit to do birding in this forest. And he was also quite a character!

Right away we heard calls of Red-billed Brushturkeys and soon a couple of Black Lories flew over us calling. A couple of pigeon calls were giving us problems but soon we saw a couple of Stephan’s Emerald Doves that flew across the road.

Roadside birdingSulphur-crested Cockatoo

Absalon was playbacking a lot and after some time we heard an answer of a Red-breasted Paradise Kingfisher. We also heard plenty of Yellow-billed Kingfishers that sounded very similar and a single Hook-billed Kingfisher. We also saw a female King Bird-of-paradise, heard a couple of Magnificent Riflebirds and saw a Pesquet’s Parrot flying over us.

Absalon managed to talk us through a guarded gate deeper inside the forest which was good as soon we found several Yellow-capped Pygmy Parrots climbing on trees and a Spotted Honeyeater was seen very briefly. A couple of Brown Orioles were singing and another one was also seen, a Spotted Jewel-babbler was only heard and two couples of Frilled Monarchs were showing well.

Superb Fruit DoveBrown Oriole

Blyth's HornbillFrilled Monarch

Soon we had to walk back to our cars and drive back to Sorong where we ate at Pizza Hut. Then we went to take our luggage from the hotel and drove to the harbor. There was quite a hassle but luckily we drove straight next to the boat and carriers took our bags to the VIP-cabin.

Waigeo

We were in the boat too early but after a long wait it finally left the harbor. We of course climbed to the front-deck to seawatch. Already in the harbor we saw a plover that looked like a small sand plover, so it could have been a Siberian Sand Plover but it was too far.

In the beginning we saw only Great Crested Terns and some Whiskered Terns and lots of Lesser Frigatebirds but after an hour we saw the first Bridled Terns and then altogether 6 Bulwer’s Petrels.

Lesser FrigatebirdBulwer's Petrel

We also saw a Brown Booby, a Red-necked Phalarope, a couple of Wilson’s Storm Petrels and more Lesser Frigatebirds. Just before Waigeo we still saw a pack of dolphins.

Red-necked PhalaropeWilson's Storm Petrel

Finally we got to Sapokreng, Waigeo to Waisai harbor. There were again cars waiting for us and our luggage was carried for us. Then some kinds of tourist-visas were bought for us before we could start driving towards our accommodation which was Scuba Republic diving resort.

We got nice cottages and then walked a little bit in a yard before it started to get dark. We had a log before the dinner and soon we were ready to get some well deserved shut-eye.

On the 22nd of August we woke up early and soon we were driving along a very small road uphill inside the forest. And soon we were marching along a small track to a hide. On the way we heard calls of a Dusky Megapode. Finally we were in the hide and sat down to wait something to happen.

We didn’t need to wait for long time until we saw a colorful flash behind the vegetation and soon a legendary Wilson’s Bird-of-paradise came to perch to a branch in front of us! It was all the time behind other branches so it was frustrating to take pictures.

Soon there were more Wilson’s Bird-of-paradises coming to lek and there were altogether 3 males and one female-looking bird. We even saw a copulation. It was still very dark and the birds were amazing quick on their movements so taking pictures was incredible difficult. Finally one of the males landed to a branch and stayed openly visible for a long time so I could take some nice shots of it!

Wilson's Bird-of-paradiseWilson's Bird-of-paradise

Then it still landed to a stump to lek and I got some action pictures too.

Wilson's Bird-of-paradiseWilson's Bird-of-paradise

After we had heard a Brown-headed Crow calling distantly and the lek of the Wilson’s Bird-of-paradises had stopped, we started walking back towards the road. Then we drove a little bit and soon started to walk along the road. And then we turned to a small path inside the forest. Our guide Yopi was a former hunter and we were following him and it was the first time during the whole trip that we were really walking slowly and carefully. We were trying to find a very elusive bird. With Andreas we were using thermal cameras and scanning the ground but it was Yopi who first saw the bird we were searching for. Luckily I was right behind him with a couple of others and we managed to see a big blue bird with a crest disappearing behind some trees. I started to show direction to the others and at least one still managed to see it. But unfortunately the last ones didn’t see it. We hurried behind the bird but this Western Crowned Pigeon had disappeared. Usually they flush and fly up to the trees where they can be seen by all but this time it was just running and somehow managed to disappear.

We still tried to find the Western Crowned Pigeon for some time but without luck. But we heard the first Red Bird-of-paradises and saw a smallish Boa that left right under my feet. And almost everyone else had been walking over it already. Then we still photographed a bat and a Marbled Frogmouth that Andreas found with his thermal camera before we continued to the road to walk.

BoaMarbled Frogmouth

Along the road we still managed to see a Raja Ampat Pitohui and finally found a Papuan Pitta visible so that we could also take some pictures of it!

Papuan PittaRaja Ampat Pitohui

When we were back at our accommodation we saw a few Pied Imperial Pigeons flying over us. During the hottest time of the day we stayed inside our room and enjoyed the air-condition.

In the afternoon we had booked a boat and we left to sea. We drove more than an hour to a small Merpati paradise-island. The stranding was made using a strait that led us go through a reef.

Right away on the beach we found Moluccan Starlings, Olive and Varied Honeyeaters from the trees. A few Violet-necked Lories flew over us and soon we heard and saw the first Spice Imperial Pigeons and Island Whistlers.

Beach KingfisherMoluccan Starling

Olive HoneyeaterVaried Honeyeater

We walked along a path inside the forest and found some White-bibbed Fruit Doves and suddenly a Dusky Megapode dropped from somewhere in front of us and stayed in a bush so we could take pictures of it. After some searching we found also Arafura Fantails and while we were walking on the beach we still found a couple of Lemon-bellied White-eyes. Then it started to rain very hard so we had to get under the roof of local people’s hut. Luckily the family let us stay there. One of our group members was feeling quite sick but luckily it was nothing serious and he started to feel better after some time.

Island WhistlerDusky Megapode

Fruit-BatCrab

On the way back we stopped on another paradise island where amazing numbers of fruit-bats were hanging on the trees and flying above the island. We took lots of pictures of bats and walked on the beach where we saw some Bridled Terns and a single Black-naped Tern. In the trees we saw some familiar honeyeaters before we had to hurry to the boat again.

We still saw a distant buoy where were some terns and a Pacific Reef Heron. We asked the driver to get closer to the buoy but he told that we were running out of fuel. And soon the engine started to work badly. It seemed that already our second island-stop had been too much for the well calculated amount of fuel but somehow we managed to get back to our dock.

On the 23rd of August we were again early and driving along narrow and steep roads. Finally we stopped at Warkesi Forest Camp bird-trail parking place and soon started to walk along the path.

Again nobody told us that we were going to walk a long way and very steep uphill. And once again we were walking extremely fast. Even though everyone was feeling OK again the last ones were leaving behind. Somehow we managed to make a local guide to understand that we had to climb slower but once we reached a high hide-tower, we had to wait for some time again before everyone was there. And actually we had been told that there was no hide at all but luckily Mikko had taken his tripod with him anyway.

We climbed up to the tower and of course then it started to rain hard. We soon started to hear calls of Red Bird-of-paradises but because of the rain their lek was cancelled. After a long wait the rain was getting weaker and I put my camera ready and was ready for something to happen. And in a minute a Red B-o-P flew to a branch and started lekking. But then the local guide saw it and started talking and waving his hands and even put his hand out through my photographing-hole and pointed towards the bird and of course the bird got scared and flew away! And I had seen the bird already some time earlier and calmly told about it to everyone else and they were slowly and carefully getting towards their photographing-holes. But now some missed the bird and I was the only one to get a couple of pictures.

Red Bird-of-paradiseRed Bird-of-paradise

After some more waiting one Red Bop flew to the tree but it just perched on the branch and soon it started to rain again and it moved inside the top of the tree so it was hardly visible. And it kept on raining for a long time.

After all we had to start walking back towards the parking place. While we were walking the rain finally stopped and we started to play different kind of playbacks. A couple of Pale-billed Scrubwrens were heard but a Waigeo Shrikethrush came so quickly to playback that only I managed to see it well enough – and then it disappeared.

Once we were back at the parking place we drove next to a small pond and walked to the shore. First we saw a couple of Spotted Whistling Ducks but soon we found also a nice Radjah Shelduck.

Spotted Whistling DuckRadjah Shelduck

The weather was getting warm so soon we saw some raptors flying on the sky. After a couple of Pacific Bazas and Brahminy Kites we saw a Collared Sparrowhawk and then a stunning Gurney’s Eagle! I had managed to get some moist inside my camera so my pictures were really bad. Luckily I got the moist away when I took my lens off.

Collared SparrowhawkGurney's Eagle

In the afternoon we did a boat-trip again. We headed straight to the buoy that we had seen in the distance on the previous evening. On the way we saw a small flock of Red-necked Phalaropes and soon we saw that there were still terns on the buoy. And once we got closer we could see that the birds we had guessed from the bad-quality pictures to be noddies were in fact Black Noddies! There were also Great Crested Terns and Bridled Terns which all were good to get some pictures of.

TernsBridled Tern

Black Noddies and Bridled TernBlack Noddy

Then we still headed to the bat-island to enjoy the beautiful place and warm weather – at least those of us who know the word enjoy – as there were no more new birds to find.

Bat IslandIsland

When we were back at our accommodation we spent some time on the deck and saw Pied Imperial Pigeons, Moustached Treeswifts, Lesser Frigatebirds, Papuan Eclectuses and a Striated Heron and so on.

Moustached TreeswiftPied Imperial Pigeon

On the morning of the 24th of August we still made a short walk near Scuba Republic and it was worthy. We saw a flock of 16 Rusty Pitohuis, heard a singing Waigeo Whistling Thrush and saw 2 Great-billed Parrots flying over us.

Soon we had to pack our luggage to cars and leave towards the harbor. We still stopped at the airport bay as it was a low tide and saw a Grey-tailed Tattler, a Eurasian Whimbrel and a couple of Common Sandpipers.

Soon we were at the harbor again and then in a same VIP-cabin. When the ship left we went to front-deck but now it was very quiet on the sea. The wind was very hard and all we saw were some Lesser Frigatebirds, terns, a Brown Booby, a Bulwer’s Petrel and some flying fish.

Sorong mangroves

Finally we were back at Sorong and there we headed to eat and then to our hotel to relax. In the afternoon we were ready to go birding. Absalon was guiding us again when we headed to huge Sorong mangroves.

Absalon was again walking quite far from us and playing just one call from his phone while there were also some other birds to find. But we managed to find and identify Orange-fronted Fruit Doves and Brown-backed Honeyeaters but some other species were missing. Finally the resilience of Absalon was rewarded when we all heard a Blue-black Kingfisher calling back. And soon I found the bird perched inside a big bush and then after some trying I managed to find one spot where it was possible to get good pictures.

Orange-fronted Fruit DoveBlue-black Kingfisher

We also managed to see a Little Kingfisher in flight before we decided to move to other part of the mangrove. There we were walking along the road when an over-keen guard came to shout to us. There was a gas-pipe next to the road so we probably weren’t allowed to be there. Later we noticed that our cars were missing license plates – they had been removed before the visit in this part of mangrove. After some waiting another guard came and this man looked more like a real guard, but he also was behaving much calmer. But anyway we had to leave this place, but luckily not before we saw an Australian White Ibis flying over us.

Then we headed to our hotel, went to eat to the same restaurant where we had excellent seafood again. And the rest of the evening we just relaxed and packed.

Towards home

On the 25th of August we headed to the airport very early. While waiting for our plane I remembered that some of our group had seen a swamphen from the plane in a ditch near the runway. I checked Merlin and realized that it was a different species here than in Java, it was Australasian Swamphen here. Thanks to determination of Andreas, after checking every corner of the airport, he managed to find a place where he could see the right area and after all he found several Australasian Swamphens.

Finally at 10:45 a.m. our flight left towards Jakarta. And I slept almost all the flight. Then in Jakarta we first had to take a train to the right terminal and then we had crazy long wait for the next flight.

Some of our group went out to see if there were any birds in the parks near the airport but I decided not to go, as I am sure that I will one day come to do real birding in Java anyway. So I decided to rest and do some shopping instead. And after all they saw only familiar species but one lifer I missed as a Spotted Kestrel was seen by a couple of our group through the terminal windows.

Finally at 1:10 a.m. our flight left towards Doha. And again I was sleeping almost all the time. We were in Doha at 5:25 a.m. and there I bought some more souvenirs and at 8:10 a.m. left our last flight towards Helsinki. In the afternoon at 3:15 p.m. we landed to Helsinki-Vantaa airport.

Group

Then it was time to say goodbye to our group and I still had a couple of hours wait for my train. Finally I took a local train to Tikkurila and there I changed to Joensuu-train. I was in Parikkala before 10 p.m. And after a few hours sleep we were going to do some ringing with Hanna.

J.A.