10 June 2013

Birding New Ireland - April 2013 Part 1 Kavieng to Karu Village

Sunrise on New Ireland's East Coast


Once the PNG Immigration people had done the passport formalities, we left the "Professor Khromov" and went ashore at New Ireland's principal town, Kavieng. The "Western Pacific Odyssey" had one more day to run, but the sailing was over.

By lunchtime on 12th April the others were away on a day trip, but Jemi and I had a few things to sort out because we planned to stay on later in New Ireland by ourselves.  The bank, Air Niugini, the supermarket (for a phone SIM card) and Kavieng's only internet cafe were all paid a call.  

We also visited the tourist office, and were given a useful little booklet with details of ALL New Ireland's guesthouses and hotels.  It is a small booklet: - New Ireland has few places to stay, and is still "unspoiled" by tourism.  Outside the tourist office the barrel of a large Japanese Naval gun lies among the weeds. 




Later we went down to the seafront market, past a monument commemorating the servicemen and civilians killed during the Japanese occupation. 


Seafront Market, Kavieng

Smoked Fish

At last light we birded the golf course, where 25 or so Pacific Golden Plovers brightened the fairways and the trees held Red-flanked and Coconut Lorikeets. 


Golf Course, Kavieng

Bismarck Crows were a noisy presence, and a pair of Ospreys nested in the telecom tower opposite the hotel. 

At the evening's buffet dinner, farewells were exchanged with the other passengers and staff, most of whom were heading home the following day.

However, nine of us were not flying out, having signed on for a Wildwings "New Ireland birding extension", led by Chris Collins.  Shane Clark, a dedicated surfer, operates the Rubio Plantation Retreat, about 220 km southeast from Kavieng, and met us all early on the 13th.  Rubio, although catering mainly for a clientele of surfers, was to be our base for the next few nights.

We birded the grass between the west end of the runway and the town, where a flock of fifty-or-so western New Ireland endemic Hunstein's Mannikins were the highlight before rain set in. 


Hunstein's Mannikin
Lonchura h. hunsteini


Hunstein's Mannikin
Lonchura h. hunsteini

After breakfast we checked out of the Kavieng Hotel and headed off down the Boluminsky Highway (the road is named after a German Provincial Governor of the early 1900s).  The road is well-maintained and tarred for about 170 km, with another 50km of mostly smooth dirt road to Rubio.  With a couple of birding stops we arrived in mid-afternoon, and after a short break we birded the woods either side of the main road. 



(Edited) Emerald Tree Skink Lamprolepis smaragdina (Thanks, Jeff C.) 

Boluminsky Highway
  

A good variety of new birds included Purple-bellied Lory, White-headed Coucal and Golden Monarch…etc.   Red-bellied Pittas called from the undergrowth, but we were not among the people who got a glimpse of them.


Golden Monarch
Carterornis c. chrysomela




White-necked Coucal
Centropus ateralbus

White-necked Coucal
Centropus ateralbus



Purple-bellied Lory 
Lorius hypoinochrous devittatus

Our first night in Rubio Plantation Retreat we had a delicious mini buffet dinner, with a freshly caught fish shared by a guest who had swapped surfing for angling earlier in the day.  After we did the "day list" most of us followed Chris for spotlighting on the main road.   

A New Ireland Boobook call was played …but despite all the tall trees near the road, only the distant sound of waves along the shoreline could be heard.  Torchlights pierced the dense foliage.  Chris found the first mammal of the night… it was motionless, surprised to be found… a Cuscus.  We saw three of these animals during the session.  



Grey Cuscus
Phalanger orientalis orientalis

Grey Cuscus
Phalanger orientalis orientalis
   
The Rubio people are used to early-rising surfers, so a bunch of birders were no problem. The following day we were up and out early back up the highway towards the Lelet Plateau turnoff. The "plateau" consists of rolling forested hills, cleared in many places for subsistence agriculture. 


Lelet Plateau, New Ireland

Lelet Plateau, New Ireland

Birding the track to Lelet

Access is via a narrow track, but this is the easiest way on New Ireland to get access to habitat at around 1,000m elevation. There is higher ground near the south end of the island, but no roads there. (There will be more about Lelet in the next posting.) 

The third full day of the group trip involved birding a road from Karu Village across the spine of New Ireland to where we could see the sea on the southern/western side.  The road didn't get as high as Lelet, but birds included Violaceous Coucal, Pacific Baza and a few Blyth's Hornbills. 


Pacific Baza
Aviceda subscristata bismarckii


Blyth’s Hornbill 
Aceros plicatus

In the evening we birded along the main road again, where the Pittas refused to play, but decent views of Stephan's Dove and Slender-billed Cuckoo-dove were had. 


Boluminsky Highway, New Ireland

Slender-billed Cuckoo-Dove
Macropygia amboinensis carteretia



Stephan’s Dove 
Chalcophaps stephani stephani


The paths around Rubio had many Hermit Crabs in various shapes, sizes, and shell colours wandering about. It seemed like New Ireland was the world headquarters of Hermit Crabs !





A pair of the New Ireland race of Common Kingfishers whizzed up and down the beach and may have been nesting in a bank near the main road.

Common Kingfisher 
Alcedo atthis hispidoides

Common Kingfisher 
Alcedo atthis hispidoides

Rubio Plantation Retreat

On 16th April we finally said goodbye to our companions of the previous three-and-a-half weeks.  That day, we spent morning and evening in woods at the back of the plantation.  In the morning we had Shining Flycatchers and Black-tailed Monarch. Eclectus Parrots were well seen, too.


Shining Flycatcher
Myiagra alecto chalybeocephala

Shining Flycatcher
Myiagra alecto chalybeocephala


Black-tailed MonarchSymposiachrus v. verticalis


Eclectus Parrot 
Eclectus roratus solomonensis


Eclectus Parrot 
Eclectus roratus solomonensis



In the evening there were perhaps thirty Purple-bellied Lorys in the area.


Purple-bellied Lory 
Lorius hypoinochrous devittatus

Purple-bellied Lory 
Lorius hypoinochrous devittatus



We visited a small island visible from the seafront at Rubio, and added Mangrove Whistler to our trip list. 



Mangrove Golden Whistler 
Pachycephala melanoma dahli



There were also some "good" pigeons on the island..

Red-knobbed Imperial-pigeon 
Ducula rubricera rubricera

Yellowish Imperial-Pigeon
Ducula subflavescens

Island Imperial-pigeon 
Ducula pistrinaria vanwyckii

We took a 4WD and driver from Rubio to go up to Lelet, covering the ground we had covered before with the rest of the group. We found that the modest guesthouse in Limbin village was open.  We decided to move base and stay up there. 

A couple of days later we checked out and said our "Goodbyes" at Rubio.  Eight kilometers northeast of the Lelet turnoff, the coastal settlement of Kimadan had a couple of special birds that Larry Clark had seen with our departing friends a few days earlier. It was around ten o'clock by the time we got there, but Larry knew that during the heat of the day the Mannikins hung around in a shaded vegetable plot behind an outdoor corrugated-iron cooking stall.

A well-recieved gift of tinned fish and rice to the lady householder, and we were welcomed in. And here they are:


Buff-bellied Mannikins and Forbes's Mannakins


Buff-bellied Mannikin
Lonchura m. melaena

After the success of the Mannikins we headed up the hill to Lelet for a five-night stay.

8 comments:

  1. Wow, lots of birds I've never heard of in a place I've never heard of either................

    Except Common Kingfisher. Heard of those.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Stu.

      The Common Kingfishers should be a good candidate for a "Split" in due course, I hope !

      Delete
  2. Wow, those Golden Monarches are stunning! I just love the colours and patterns of birds in that part of the world.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Ayuwat,

      There were lots of good birds in the area, but most of them were shy due to too many boys with catapults !

      Delete
  3. The whole trip seems to have been amazing but this looks rather special. I don't think I could cope with a group trip for such a long time but its probably hard to do this solo. Its probably in a better state economically than Old Ireland.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Andrew,

      Obviously the WPO has to be a group thing but New Ireland is "do-able" independently with the Lonely Planet Guide and "Birds of Melanesia".
      Even independently, though, New Ireland isn't cheap ....
      I'd certainly prefer the Kina to the Euro as a long-term punt !

      Delete
  4. Your lizard is probably an Emerald Tree Skink Lamprolepis smaragdina which is widespread and fairly common.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Jeff,

    As you live in PNG, I'm certainly going to defer to you on this one and the caption has been suitably amended.

    Many Thanks

    ReplyDelete