Wednesday, 11 August 1993

IRIAN JAYA August 1993: Nimbokrang & Biak

4 August.  A travel day that was best forgotten.  We hung around Wamena airport before finally getting for our flight to Jayapura Sentani.  Once there we checked in with the police and went into town as I wanted to try to replace my ‘sole-flapping’ shoes.  My feet were larger than most Indonesians and the best I could find were an uncomfortable pair of cheap trainers which I thought would be better than nothing.  After a day I realised they weren’t!
Wamena market
Wamena bus and taxi depot
Merpati flight loading on Wamena runway

leaving the Bailem Valley

5-8 August.  We hired a bemo to take us to Nimbokrang, an area of lowland forest where we planned to spend 4 days.  Here we were expecting to find an old logging camp and I imagined sleeping on the shady veranda of a locked building watching birds perched around the clearing.  The reality was somewhat different!  We were dropped at the side of the baking road and shown a track that led into the forest.  We paid our driver and arranged for him to come and pick us up three days later.  A short way down the track was a clearing and in it, being rapidly packed up, were the tents of a Birdquest camp.  The logging camp had long moved on.  Mark van Beirs and Nigel Redman were leading the trip and somewhat surprised to see us, as we were them.  Their brochure indicated that they would be in the Arfaks at this stage and we hadn’t wanted to overlap for fear of treading on their toes.  As they were leaving this aspect didn’t matter, but the local guide Jamil was reluctant to help us for less than the $100/day guiding fees he’d just received from them.  This was beyond our budget, only being split 4 ways.  His assistant offered to guide us for $40/day which was more like it but he wasn’t as good a guide as we’d hoped and in hindsight the extra birds we would have seen with Jamil would have been worth the extra cost.  Birdquest cleared off, we put our tents up and headed into the forest.  The next three days we birded along very damp, sometimes flooded trails through the forest, along the road or around the clearing.  In the heat of the day, and it was very hot, our guide would go into town and come back with bottles of water for us.  We’d wander along the road or around the clearing using umbrellas as parasols when they weren’t needed for the rain.  There seemed to be no respite from the oppressive climate as the tents were too hot to lie in until well after dark.  I was constantly tired and found it hard to get up for dawn despite it being about the only time that the temperature was bearable.  Despite this we saw some good birds including Oriental hobby, Spotted Whistling Duck, Brown-collared Brush-Turkey, Great Cuckoo-Dove, Coronetted and Beautiful Fruit-Doves, Brown Lory, Palm Cockatoo, Eclectus Parrot, Channel-billed Cuckoo, Lesser Black Coucal,  Papuan Spinetail, Rufous-bellied Kookaburra, Azure Kingfisher, Papuan Hornbill, Golden Cuckoo-Shrike, Emperor Fairy-Wren, White-bellied Thicket-Fantail, Golden and Yellow-faced Mynas, Glossy-mantled and Jobi Manucodes, Lesser and Twelve-wired Birds of Paradise and Brown-headed Crow.  Unfortunately I only saw female Twelve-wired BoPs, the site involved crossing a deep (>5 feet) channel on a fallen trunk and after two mornings with a single female to show for them I decided to give it a miss on the third.  Big mistake as Nick and Barry saw a male but by the time I’d crossed the trunk it had flown.  Typically it was back to females only the next day too.  Barry also saw a Pale-billed Sicklebill, which I might have seen flying away, while we had no luck at all with Victoria Crowned Pigeon or much in the way of kingfishers.  Tough birding indeed.  On the afternoon of our final day our driver reappeared and took us along Jalan Korea to km 45 before taking us back to Jayapura after dark.  This was a site for Vulturine Parrot which supposedly flew over to roost.  We did see three so in that respect were successful but my notes indicate I had bad views of one and awful views of the other two!  Views there of Red-flanked Lorikeet, Lowland Peltops and Golden Monarchs were some compensation. 
swamp forest at Nimbokrang
it might have been easier going birding along the main road but was it hot!
the way to the Twelve-wired BoP display tree, the water was at least as deep as a five foot pole I'd hoped would help me cross

9-11 August,  After some delay at Jayapura Sentani Airport we flew to the island of Biak where we found a basic hotel (Losmen Solo), dumped our stuff and hired a minibus, driver and mate for the afternoon to take us to Warafiri, an area with some remaining native forest about an hour or so drive east of town.  Our main target was Biak Paradise Kingfisher and it was a little disappointing not to see it at the first attempt, although we did see Biak Scrubfowl, Claret-breasted Fruit-Dove and Biak Red Lory in our two hours there.  Driving back the minibus kept stalling every few hundred metres and to get it restarted involved hitting the starter motor with a hammer.  Our progress back to the hotel was rather arduous but being reassured that it would be fixed we agreed to charter the minibus for the next morning and for them to pick us up before dawn.  We had a meal and went shopping.  I was still after better footwear and could not resist an expensive pair of white Australian trainers.  Not the most practical colour, but the most comfortable pair I could find, although the main selling feature was their name – MacGregor’s.  They even had a ‘seal’ in the uppers that looked a bit like a facial disk!  The next morning we returned to Warafiri without breakdown, I got red mud all over my new BoP trainers but we saw 7 Biak Paradise Kingfishers, Red-fronted Lorikeet and Biak Black Flycatcher.  Back in Biak town that afternoon I found a cobbler who sewed and stuck the sole back on my walking shoe.  It sorted the flapping sole out but in so doing had made the shoe a slightly tighter fit and more prone to rubbing.  After another night in Biak we returned to the airport for our flight to Mankowari but its delay became a cancellation due to a broken engine.  We returned to the hotel for another night, grabbed normal birding gear without recourse to a repack and returned to Warafri that afternoon.  We saw 5 more Biak Paradise Kingfishers, how we missed them the first afternoon I’m not sure.  Also another Biak Scrubfowl, Grey-headed Cuckoo-Shrike and best of all a Papuan Frogmouth on a telephone wire at dusk as we were driving back.  It gave reasonable views but unfortunately we’d not thought to unpack a torch to take with us.

Geelvink Bay islands
view from our hotel window in Biak
very poor image of an endemic Long-tailed Starling
Claret-breasted Fruit-Dove
possibly the worst photo taken of Biak's most famous bird, the superb endemic Biak Paradise Kingfisher

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