West Papua

West Papua, Indonesia

Birdwatching in Papua (Irian Jaya) is on many people’s wish list. It is also some of the finest birding in Indonesia. From steamy lowland swamp forest, to snow capped mountains, to remote islands, Papua has a huge variety of habitats and a great variety of birds. Birding in Papua is also not as hard as you might imagine. I have designed this tour to maximize on seeing the Birds-of –Paradise.
The areas we cover is as :-

Birding the Arfak Mountains

Summary:Stunning mountain scenery and stunning birds.Key species:See displaying Western Parotia, Magnificent BoP, plus Black Sicklebill, Long-tailed Paradigalla, Arfak Astrapia and much, much more. Magnificent Bird-or-Paradise; Black Sicklebill; Long-tailed Paradigalla; Arfak Astrapia; Arfak Bowerbird; Lesser Bird-of-Paradise; Superb Bird-of-Paradise; New Guinea Eagle; Feline Owlet-Nightjar; Mountain Owlet-Nightjar; Spotted Jewel-Babbler; Chestnut-backed Jewel-Babbler Spotted Catbird; Flame Bowerbird; Magnificent Riflebird; Buff-tailed Sicklebill.Birding locations:The best known birding is around the village of Sioubri, and in the company of one of Indonesia’s best local bird guides Zeth Wonggor. There are great birding sites above and below the village, and the road from Manokwari to reach Sioubri also passes through good forest habitat. To see the range of species present around Sioubri takes a few days and some careful consideration of where to place yourself each day. Most of the key species occupy distinct altitudes and so for example a trip up high is necessary to see Black Sicklebill, Arfak Astrapia and several of the parrot and robin species. A trip down towards Ciraubri is necessary for Flame Bowerbird and Magnificent Riflebird. Other species can be seen nearer to Sioubri, either above or below the village.The village runs a simple guest house that you can stay in, and there is another simple hut higher up the mountain that you can spend a night or two in to access higher altitudes more easily.

Birding on Waigeo

This is a  pilgrimage to see Wilson’s Bird-of-Paradise Red Bird-of-Paradise; King Bird-of-Paradise;. The island of Waigeo are home to Wilson’s,  Red and King BoP, Northern Cassowary, Western Crowned-Pigeon and much more.The islands of Raja Ampat are accessed via Sorong on the mainland. There are four main islands: Batanta, Salawati, Misool and Waigeo, but a trip to Weigeo is usually enough to see the BoPs.·  Waigeo IslandThis is the best place to see th wWilson’s Bird-of-Paradise and the Red Bird of Paradise.

Birding at Nimbokrang

Its hot, sweaty, lowland forest and swamp. Crawling with birds and easy to access.

Key species:

Northern Cassowary; Pale-billed Sicklebill; Blue-and-Black Kingfisher; Brown Lory; Twelve-wired Bird-of-Paradise; Shovel-billed Kingfisher; Victoria Crowned Pigeon; King Bird-of-Paradise; Blue Jewel Babbler; Brown-necked Crow; Hook-billed Kingfisher; Vulturine Parrot; Papuan Hawk-owl; Lesser Bird-of-Paradise; Brown-collared Brush-turkey; Greater Black Coucal; Papuan Nightjar; Grey Crow; Black-sided Robin; Lowland Peltops; White-eared Catbird; Wompoo Fruit-Dove; Coroneted Fruit-Dove.

Birding locations:

Nimbokrang is the name of an old transmigration project site, in which farmers form other parts of Indonesia were encouraged to open up land in more under populated parts of the archipelago. The result is an area of open farmland, much of it overtaken by scrub, surrounded by large areas of intact lowland forest and swamp forest. Nearby the land rises and areas of low hill forest can easily be accessed. From a base in Nimbokrang there are lots of options for birding.

·  Around Nimbokrang

The birding is similar at all sites near to Nimbokrang, and here can be found many species. For some, like Northern Cassowary, Victoria Crowned Pigeon and Brown-collared Brush-turkey, a trip into the swamp forest west of Jalan Korea is probably the best bet, but both species can occasionally be seen in the small patch of forest next to Nimbokrang itself. Twelve-wired BoP and Pale-billed Sicklebill are most commonly seen from the side trails from Jalan Korea, as is Blue-and-Black Kingfisher, Brown Lory and Brown-necked Crow. Hook-billed Kingfisher can be heard calling at many place but can be seen at the edge of the small forest patch. This is also where Papuan Hawk-owl has recently been seen.

·  Km8

This is the name given to a site on the road away from Nimbokrang to the south. Here the land rises into low hills and a different range of birds can be seen. There are a few options of places to look and taking a local guide is the best way to find them! It is here that the best spots for Shovel-billed Kingfisher, Purple-tailed & Zoe Imperial Pigeon, Salvadori’s Fig-parrot, Yellow-bellied Longbill, Green-backed Gerygone and Golden Myna are found, and Papuan Nightjar can be seen from the road at dusk. Dropping down into the valley to the east of the road gives you more chances at Victoria-crowned Pigeon and is good habitat for Blue Jewel-babbler and Hooded Monarch. There are also sites for King BoP nearby and occasionally Vulturine Parrot can be seen, although frustratingly it is more commonly heard calling distantly.

Extension at Birding at Wamena & Lake Habema

These are the high mountains of Papua. Awesome scenery and some awesome birding to match.

Key species:

Salvadori’s Teal; Snow Mountain Quail; Chestnut Forest-Rail; Dusky Woodcock; Goldie’s Lorikeet; Mountain Kingfisher; Macgregor’s Honeyeater; Crested Satinbird; Papuan Grassbird; Greater Ground-Robin; Lesser Ground-Robin; Alpine Robin; Wattled Ploughbill; Northern Logrunner; Papuan Whipbird; Blue-capped Ifrita; Torrent-Lark; Splendid Astrapia; King-of-Saxony Bird-of-paradise; Superb Bird-of-Paradise; Brown Sicklebill; Lesser Melampitta; Archbold’s Bowerbird; Alpine Pipit; Mountain Firetail; Snow Mountain Munia.

Birding locations:

The Wamena & Lake Habema area is superb for birdwatching. A great number and variety of species are present, including some pretty special birds. Most people visiting aim for the Lake Habema track and/or the Ibele trail as these are among the most accessible locations. For the adventurous there are undoubtedly many more sites to be discovered.

·  Lake Habema Track

From Wamena, at around 1,600 m, this track climbs up through forest to Lake Habema at the tree line at 3,300 m. It is navigable by 4×4 in a bumpy ride of 4-5 hours. The track passes through a range of habitats and altitudes much of which is good for birding, and different habitats and altitudes support a different range.

The first good roadside forest appears at around 2,500 m above the last village. Here there is a roadside hut that can be used for a camp. The forest is rather degraded near to the road but this at least makes it quite good for seeing birds like parrots and this is a good area for Goldie’s Lorikeet. In order to see another sought after speciality of this altitude, King of Saxony Bird-of-Paradise it is probably more reliable to drop down into the undisturbed valley to the north via a number of small indistinct trails that descend. A rocky stream bed can be followed along this valley and King of Saxony BoP display in the tall trees above the stream. Other good birds in this area (both along the road and in the valley) include Blue-grey Robin, White-breasted Fruit-Dove, Papuan Mountain-Pigeon, Madarasz’s Tiger-Parrot, Papuan Boobook, Stout-billed & Black-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Lesser Ground-Robin, Rufous-naped Whistler, Lorentz’s Whistler, Slaty-chinned Longbill, Mountain Peltops and Superb Bird-of-Paradise.

Moving higher up on the trail the forest changes in character to dry ridge top forest with scattered pandanas palms. This is great habitat for Brown Sicklebill, Yellow-billed and Orange-billed Parrot, Belford’s Melidectes and Lorentz’s Whistler. This is also the habitat to look for Archbold’s Bowerbird and birds have been seen around a small pond about half way along the track. Splendid Astrapia are also present in this area. Higher up still, within the dry ridge forest before the trail descends slightly towards Lake Habema is a great place to look for some of the high mountain specialities of the region, including Sooty Melidectes, Mountain Robin, Macgregor’s Honeyeater-of-Paradise, Crimson Firetails and Greater Ground Robin.

The track next descends to the plateau of the Habema valley, with the lake visible in the distance. Soon after the descent there is a small hut on the left, known to some (but not all!) as ‘Pondok Tiga’ (“Camp 3”). This is a great place to stay for a few days as from here it easy to access a range of good habitats, including the main track back towards Wamena (as above), the grasslands around Lake Habema itself (more below), and the start of the famous Ibele trail. This trail drops away to the north close to Pondok Tiga. The first section (200m) is a fairly open grass and scrub clearing, from there the trail enters dwarf mossy forest for around 1km, then reaches as small stream and continues down. The first section of this trail, the clearing and the mossy forest, abounds with birds including Macgregor’s Honeyeater-of-Paradise, Northern Logrunner, Chestnut Forest-rail, Wattled Plougbill, Blue Ifrita, Sooty Whistler, Crested Bird of Paradise, Lesser Melampitta, Torrent Lark (on the stream), White-winged Robin, Brehm’s and Painted Tiger-parrot. New Guinea Woodcock and Archbold’s Nightjar are also regularly seen around the clearing, and Greater Ground-robin has also been recorded here.

A trip across the grasslands towards Lake Habema is also a must, to pick up Salvadori’s Teal on the lake and Papuan Grassbird, Snow Mountain Partridge, Snow Mountain Munia and Alpine Pipit in the grassland. A strange isolated population of Australian Kestrel is also found here.

·  Near Wamena

If you have a day or two to kill around Wamena it is worth getting a car or bike ride out of town. One site that birders often visit is the glamorous looking Baliem Valley Resort. This hotel is about 40 mins drive from Wamena and both the approach to it through wet grassland, and the area around it with scrub and a small patch of forest made for quite interesting birding. Here can be found Black-breasted Munia, Golden Whistler, Ornate Melidectes, Buff-faced scrub-wren and Great Woodswallow. The marshland is also a good place to try for Lewin’s Rail and Spotless Crake, and Papuan Harrier. Almost all birders hoping to birdwatch around the Baliem Valley hook up with a local guide outfit. This is the most advisable thing to do as the logistics and bureaucracy involved in getting to places like Lake Habema, or the Ibele trail are quite complex, and camping is really the only accommodation option. There are several guiding options that will take care of you, fix up cars, porters, tents, food etc. but none of them come cheap. Wamena and the Baliem valley is an expensive place.