Birding Without Borders

Day 339: Birding Hard and Long

A guide in Papua New Guinea is as obsessed with birding as Noah.

December 5, 2015: Rondon Ridge, Papua New Guinea — “You only have one day here, so I want to show you as many birds as possible,” said Joseph Ando today as we walked the trails above Rondon Ridge Lodge. This was music to my ears. I’ve had occasional trouble on this adventure with local guides who can’t keep up my pace, so I’m always glad when someone is motivated to spend the whole day afield! This year wants no three-hour siestas or early afternoons. We were walking into the forest by headlamp at 5 o'clock this morning and returned to the lodge just before dusk.

Joseph and I spent the day on foot, exploring the rural highlands. This part of New Guinea was completely isolated, and generally thought to be uninhabited, until gold miners first penetrated these mountains in the early 1930s and discovered a large population of indigenous people. It’s amazing to think that, even today, some of the local elders were born before the outside world made contact. A lot can happen in one generation.

Rondon Ridge is at nearly the same elevation as Ambua Lodge, where I spent the past two nights, and the two places aren’t very far apart on a map.

Most of the birds are the same, so today was a clean-up mission aimed at finding a few remaining highland species. We had good looks at a Rufescent Imperial-Pigeon and several Black Fantails, and Joseph even spotted a roosting Papuan Frogmouth which, on closer inspection, appeared to be sitting on a nest! It was fun to see more King-of-Saxony Birds-of-Paradise, too, even if I’d already watched them at Ambua. Despite the year list, I try to soak in every bird, and birds of paradise merit a lot of soaking in.

New birds today: 14

Year list: 5574

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