Monday, October 25, 2010

Birding Papua New Guinea Day 1

Monday, October 25, 2010
4 comments
Coming in to PNG by air, we could see coral reefs in the blue Pacific.

We flew all night from Singapore to Port Moresby, PNG, with a short stop in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (no we did not see any "kuala" bears). Once at the Port Moresby airport, we cleared customs, changed some money, gathered our bags, and hustled over to the domestic terminal for another flight from Port Moresby to Tari in the Southern Highlands Province. We thought our schedule was very tight and did not want to miss the Tari flight. Once through the domestic terminal security checkpoint, we found out that our flight to Tari was postponed for four hours. We were stuck with no chance of going outside to spend the time birding. It was about 9 am.

Waiting out the flight delay in the domestic flights terminal.

So we made the most of our time, talking about our most-wanted birds, getting to know each other, comparing notes on which malaria drugs we were taking. At the tarmac end of the building, there were some large windows through which we were able to spot a few species, including Pacific swallow, Brahminy kite, whistling kite, black kite, Eurasian tree sparrow, and purple swamphen.

The flight was on a small commuter plane and lasted 1.5 hours. As we landed on the gravel airstrip in Tari our group confused our fellow fliers with shouted bird identifications: "Cattle egret on the left!" "Another swamphen!" "I think I have a harrier! Is it a swamp harrier!"

Landing in Tari. Locals lined the fence in the background.

Lining the fence around the airfield were hundreds and hundreds of local people. It was a Saturday and much of the local population was in Tari for the markets.

Market day in Tari.

And clearly the arrival of a plane was something worth watching. There were equal amounts of curious staring going on between our group and the locals.

A Huli man in traditional garb. Most everyone carries a bilam (woven bag), machete, and umbrella.

We met Benson, our guide from Ambua Lodge, and a driver. At the completion of the 45 minute drive to the lodge, I calculated how long I'd been traveling. Here's what I wrote in my journal notebook:

Finally arriving at Ambua Lodge in the rain. It's 4:11 p.m. local time (+14 hours from Ohio) and, if my calculations are correct, I've been traveling for 37 hours—almost a full work week!—to get here! Also am getting a sinus infection from all the airplane air... SO dang tired!

We slogged our way to our cabins (quite nice thatched roof buildings with all the mod cons and a great view of the misty. rain-soaked valley), fought the urge to collapse into sleep and reassembled at Ambua's central building. Huddling under the roof of an open-sided veranda, we did our first non-airport birding of the trip. Despite the rain we spotted New Guinea (or great) wood swallow, yellow-billed lorikeet, glossy swiftlet, mountain swiftlet, Willie wagtail (seriously!), and yellow-browed melidectes (a type of honeyeater).

Birding in the rain our first afternoon at Ambua Lodge.

After a dinner which was good but I can't remember a thing about, we went out owling with Benson our guide. Though the hour was not late (in the tropics dawn and dusk both come very near to 6 o'clock) we were all very tired. Still, no one wanted to wimp out on the first night and this was our best chance at a bird called a mountain owlet nightjar.

My notes remind me that we heard this species, but we could not call it into view. Mostly I remember the exhilarating sensation of falling as I stood in the darkness straining to hear anything birdlike. It was cold and misting. The sensation of falling was quite real—because I was falling asleep on my feet. Fortunately I caught myself before I fell face-first onto the muddy gravel road.

Half an hour later I fell face-first onto my bed and dropped into a deep sleep. Then, seemingly eight seconds later, the alarm went off.

It was 4:15 a.m. Time to go birding!

4 comments:

On October 25, 2010 at 2:44 PM Bob Bushell said...

I should think that you were tired after all that getting there, looks likely your going have a nice trip.

On October 27, 2010 at 2:11 PM Catbird said...

Cool trip! And I can see you rockin' a bilam, the next hip new man purse.

On November 10, 2010 at 7:37 AM Jennifer Boer said...

loved reading your blog. I live in Mt hagen, East of Tari, and we are part of MAF, who fly little planes to remote places. You would love it! I hear lots of birds in my garden , especially in the huge old avocado tree, but have only identified Willy thus far! Some miid sized black birds steal my avocadoes. wish you wd visit and interpret for me.

On April 7, 2011 at 3:28 AM Asraf said...

Hi, thanks for this good information. =) non woven bag


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