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While only a few of us saw this individual near our cabins, all of us eventually wound up with some decent views of the tiny Buff-faced Pygmy-Parrot, which was the bird of the trip for a few folks. Photo by participant Randy Beaton.
After a scouting trip to New Britain after last year's PNG tour, this year's visit to the island marked our first official extension to this island, the largest island in the Bismarck Archipelago to the east of mainland PNG. Our 4 night stay at the wonderful Walindi Lodge at Kimbe Bay served as an excellent finale to our main tour, the lodge serving as a lovely and comfortable base from which to bird the western end of this beautiful tropical island.
Like on many tropical islands, the overall diversity of birds is quite low in comparison to mainland areas (or in this case the much larger main island of PNG), but the level of endemism is pretty high. Roughly a third of the species we saw were endemic to New Britain or the Bismarck Archipelago as a whole, or are species restricted only to these islands and the Solomon Islands to the east. The other 2/3 of the species included a handful of more widespread PNG species which we'd missed on the main tour, and which are generally much easier to see here on New Britain. And then there's also a few birds represented here by endemic subspecies, some of which may eventually get upgraded to full species in their own right. All in all, the trip netted us about 40 specialty birds for our 4 days here, most of which gave us superb views.
Our visit kicked off with a relaxing first afternoon along a forested ridge near the town of Haella. Here we met up with our first local specialties, with the sunny late afternoon light giving us superb views of the likes of Red-knobbed Imperial-Pigeon, Knob-billed Fruit-Dove, Blue-eyed Cockatoo, and Melanesian Kingfisher. The next morning saw us off to Garu WMA, one of the largest areas of intact lowland forest remaining in this part of the island. Here we tallied more endemics, including the scarce Black Honey-Buzzard, which flew directly over our heads for some awesome views. Also here we saw Pied and Violaceous coucals, both of which are endemic to the Bismarck islands, a trio of endemic New Britain Kingfishers, and had scope views of a scarce Singing Parrot thanks to a great bit of spotting by local guide Terrence. In the afternoon, we made the most of the rainy weather by heading to Numundo Cattle Farm to look for rails, tallying good views of 10 or more Buff-banded Rails, a couple of White-browed Crakes, and most incredibly, sizzling scope views of a pair of Blue-breasted Quail, all of these feeding on the gravel entrance road! We ended this day with a successful search for the rare and poorly known Golden Masked-Owl in the oil palm plantations near the lodge.
The next day was devoted to the small satellite islands in Kimbe Bay, where a handful of small island specialists make their living. Island Imperial-Pigeons moaned constantly from the canopy, Sclater's Myzomelas pursued each other through the treetops, pausing occasionally for a slurp of sweet nectar, and a beautiful pair of Beach Kingfishers patrolled the tidal pools around the edge of Restorf Island. Island Monarch and Black-tailed Whistler were a little less cooperative, but were also spotted by most. We were also offered the chance to do some snorkeling around Restorf, which proved immensely enjoyable for all those that partook, many thanks to Walindi for providing that opportunity. And a wonderful encounter with a a large pod of Spinner Dolphins made the return voyage magical!
Remnant lowland forest along the Kulu River was our destination the next morning, and it delivered big time. We kicked off with a quartet of Spotted Whistling-Ducks, a species we'd missed on the main tour, then continued by notching superb views of a tiny, brilliant New Britain Dwarf-Kingfisher, as well as a pair of Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfishers (this Black-capped form seemingly destined to be upgraded to a good species on its own). A New Britain Pitta played much harder to get, but in the end, everyone had seen at least a part of this elusive bird. In the afternoon we did a steep, sweaty hike up the Kilu Ridge for a look at a handsome pair of roosting New Britain Boobooks before making a run back to the Kulu River for some improved views of the bizarre Nicobar Pigeon. Our final morning saw us make a run back to Garu in hopes of a couple of scarcer endemics. Our hoped for targets didn't show, but clean up looks at Melanesian Scrubfowl, a good Finsch's Imperial-Pigeon, and catch-up views of Buff-faced Pygmy-Parrots all made the trip worthwhile.
Though that morning marked the official end to our birding, a late flight to Brisbane the next morning allowed us to squeeze in a few more hours of birding at Varirata the next morning, so that's what we did. We started off with a return visit to the Raggiana BoP display area in hopes of better photographic opportunities, and we were not disappointed. We were treated to a truly incredible show of displaying males showing off to a bunch of fertile females, at least one of which was impressed enough by what she saw as to allow the choice male the chance to mate. That display alone made the early morning worth it. We then made a concerted attempt to finally lay our eyes on a jewel-babbler, which almost worked, though not quite. Good looks at a Papuan Dwarf-Kingfisher were a reasonable consolation, though. Then, just before we took off, we noted a group of 5(!) Pygmy Eagles flying together, and finally, John spotted a juvenile Papuan Pitta hopping around in the open at the edge of the picnic area! Note that the final day's Varirata birds are not included in this checklist.
This was a fun and fruitful first official extension to New Britain, the first of many, I hope. Thanks to all of you for joining in the fun, and contributing to the trip's success. Thanks too, to all the wonderful folks at Walindi who made our time there so comfortable and enjoyable, with special thanks to our local guides, Terrence and David who really helped us make the most of our time there. I hope you've all enjoyed the rest of your summer, and I look forward to seeing you all on another trip someday soon.
KEYS FOR THIS LIST
One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant
Restorff Island was spectacular, and provided us with views of some amazing birds, and, for those that went snorkelling, some pretty incredible marine life, too!. Photo by participant Randy Beaton.
Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)
SPOTTED WHISTLING-DUCK (Dendrocygna guttata)
PACIFIC BLACK DUCK (Anas superciliosa)
MELANESIAN SCRUBFOWL (Megapodius eremita)
Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)
BLUE-BREASTED QUAIL (Synoicus chinensis)
LESSER FRIGATEBIRD (Fregata ariel)
Sulidae (Boobies and Gannets)
BROWN BOOBY (Sula leucogaster)
Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)
LITTLE PIED CORMORANT (Microcarbo melanoleucos)
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)
BLACK BITTERN (Ixobrychus flavicollis)
GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)
LITTLE EGRET (Egretta garzetta)
Island Imperial-Pigeon is a specialist of the small, offshore islands, but on these islands, it is a common species. This one on Restorff Island was especially photogenic. Photo by participant Randy Beaton.
PACIFIC REEF-HERON (Egretta sacra)
RUFOUS NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax caledonicus)
OSPREY (AUSTRALASIAN) (Pandion haliaetus cristatus)
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
BLACK HONEY-BUZZARD (Henicopernis infuscatus) [E]
VARIABLE GOSHAWK (Accipiter hiogaster)
BRAHMINY KITE (Haliastur indus)
WHITE-BELLIED SEA-EAGLE (Haliaeetus leucogaster)
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)
BUFF-BANDED RAIL (Gallirallus philippensis)
RUFOUS-TAILED BUSH-HEN (Amaurornis moluccana) [*]
WHITE-BROWED CRAKE (Amaurornis cinerea)
The endemic New Britain Dwarf-Kingfisher proved elusive, but thanks to the sharp eyes of our local guides, we finished up with some spectacular views of this little stunner. Photo by participant Randy Beaton.
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
WHIMBREL (Numenius phaeopus) [b]
Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)
BLACK NODDY (Anous minutus)
BLACK-NAPED TERN (Sterna sumatrana)
COMMON TERN (Sterna hirundo) [b]
GREAT CRESTED TERN (Thalasseus bergii)
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
AMBOYNA CUCKOO-DOVE (Macropygia amboinensis)
MACKINLAY'S CUCKOO-DOVE (Macropygia mackinlayi)
STEPHAN'S DOVE (Chalcophaps stephani)
NICOBAR PIGEON (Caloenas nicobarica)
KNOB-BILLED FRUIT-DOVE (Ptilinopus insolitus) [E]
Blue-eyed Cockatoo was among the more common and easily seen of the island’s endemic species. Photo by participant Randy Beaton.
RED-KNOBBED IMPERIAL-PIGEON (Ducula rubricera)
FINSCH'S IMPERIAL-PIGEON (Ducula finschii) [E]
ISLAND IMPERIAL-PIGEON (Ducula pistrinaria)
TORRESIAN IMPERIAL-PIGEON (YELLOWISH) (Ducula spilorrhoa subflavescens) [E]
PIED COUCAL (Centropus ateralbus) [E]
VIOLACEOUS COUCAL (Centropus violaceus) [E]
PACIFIC KOEL (Eudynamys orientalis)
CHANNEL-BILLED CUCKOO (Scythrops novaehollandiae schoddei)
SHINING BRONZE-CUCKOO (Chrysococcyx lucidus) [a]
BRUSH CUCKOO (Cacomantis variolosus) [*]
Normally a nocturnal animal, this opossum-like Common Northern Cuscus was a surprise daytime find at Garu NWA. Photo by participant Randy Beaton.
GOLDEN MASKED-OWL (Tyto aurantia) [E]
NEW BRITAIN BOOBOOK (Ninox odiosa) [E]
UNIFORM SWIFTLET (Aerodramus vanikorensis)
MOUSTACHED TREESWIFT (Hemiprocne mystacea)
BLYTH'S HORNBILL (Rhyticeros plicatus)
COMMON KINGFISHER (COBALT-EARED) (Alcedo atthis hispidoides)
NEW BRITAIN DWARF-KINGFISHER (Ceyx sacerdotis) [E]
NEW BRITAIN KINGFISHER (Todiramphus albonotatus) [E]
SACRED KINGFISHER (Todiramphus sanctus)
BEACH KINGFISHER (Todiramphus saurophagus)
Sunlight glinting off the feathers of this Metallic Starling gives a good indication as to how this bird got its name. Photo by participant Randy Beaton.
MELANESIAN KINGFISHER (Todiramphus tristrami)
BUFF-BREASTED PARADISE-KINGFISHER (BLACK-CAPPED) (Tanysiptera sylvia nigriceps)
RAINBOW BEE-EATER (Merops ornatus) [a]
DOLLARBIRD (Eurystomus orientalis)
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
ORIENTAL HOBBY (Falco severus)
AUSTRALIAN HOBBY (Falco longipennis) [a]
BLUE-EYED COCKATOO (Cacatua ophthalmica) [E]
Psittaculidae (Old World Parrots)
BUFF-FACED PYGMY-PARROT (Micropsitta pusio)
ECLECTUS PARROT (Eclectus roratus)
SINGING PARROT (Geoffroyus heteroclitus)
A happy-looking bunch of birders, and why not, we’ve just seen a dwarf-kingfisher! Photo by participant Randy Beaton.
RED-FLANKED LORIKEET (Charmosyna placentis)
PURPLE-BELLIED LORY (Lorius hypoinochrous)
RAINBOW LORIKEET (Trichoglossus haematodus)
NEW BRITAIN PITTA (Erythropitta gazellae) [E]
ASHY MYZOMELA (Myzomela cineracea) [E]
SCLATER'S MYZOMELA (Myzomela sclateri) [E]
NEW BRITAIN FRIARBIRD (Philemon cockerelli cockerelli) [E]
WHITE-BELLIED CUCKOOSHRIKE (Coracina papuensis sclaterii)
VARIED TRILLER (Lalage leucomela falsa)
COMMON CICADABIRD (COMMON) (Edolisoma tenuirostre heinrothi)
Though we see gorgeous Eclectus Parrots on the main PNG tour as well, they are far more numerous on New Britain. And whereas the majority of the ones we see on the mainland are handsome green males, females, like this striking bird, are much more easily seen here. Photo by participant Randy Beaton.
Pachycephalidae (Whistlers and Allies)
BLACK-TAILED WHISTLER (Pachycephala melanura dahli)
SPANGLED DRONGO (Dicrurus bracteatus laemostictus)
NORTHERN FANTAIL (MELANESIAN) (Rhipidura rufiventris finschii)
WILLIE-WAGTAIL (Rhipidura leucophrys) [N]
Monarchidae (Monarch Flycatchers)
ISLAND MONARCH (Monarcha cinerascens impediens)
SHINING FLYCATCHER (Myiagra alecto)
DULL FLYCATCHER (Myiagra hebetior) [E]
Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)
BISMARCK CROW (Corvus insularis) [E]
PACIFIC SWALLOW (Hirundo tahitica)
Acrocephalidae (Reed Warblers and Allies)
AUSTRALIAN REED WARBLER (Acrocephalus australis)
Participant Randy Beaton got this nice photo of one of the large and spectacular birdwing butterflies we saw regularly on the trip.
Locustellidae (Grassbirds and Allies)
TAWNY GRASSBIRD (PAPUAN) (Megalurus timoriensis interscapularis)
METALLIC STARLING (Aplonis metallica) [N]
SINGING STARLING (Aplonis cantoroides)
LONG-TAILED MYNA (Mino kreffti) [E]
RED-BANDED FLOWERPECKER (Dicaeum eximium) [E]
Nectariniidae (Sunbirds and Spiderhunters)
BLACK SUNBIRD (Leptocoma sericea caeruleogula)
OLIVE-BACKED SUNBIRD (Cinnyris jugularis)
Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)
HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]
Estrildidae (Waxbills and Allies)
BISMARCK MUNIA (Lonchura melaena) [E]
COMMON NORTHERN CUSCUS (Phalanger orientalis)
The Beach Kingfisher was another trip favorite; this one is being chased by a spunky Willie-Wagtail. Photo by participant Randy Beaton.
GREATER FLYING FOX (Pteropus neohibernicus)
BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN (Tursiops truncatus)
SPINNER DOLPHIN (Stenella longirostris)
Totals for the tour: 89 bird taxa and 4 mammal taxa