Thursday, July 25, 2019

Watching Birds in Waigeo island of Raja Ampat

Early this month I guided two tourists from the United States. We went birding in the southern region of Waigeo island and also by boat to the karst islets inside Kabui bay. We spent for days walking along the coast and roadside as well as the forest edges to watch tropical birds of Raja Ampat. 
Eclectus Parrot
My guests, Bruce and Paige Harvey brought a very nice Celesteon ED lens spotting scope that could help us see birds in distant trees. With this birding device and binoculars, we were able to watch Blyth's Hornbill, Eclectus Parrot, Palm Cockatoo, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Pinon Imperial Pigeon, Pied Imperial Pigeon, Spice Imperial Pigeon, Beautiful Fruit Dove, Claret-breasted Fruit Dove, Beach Kingfisher, Sacred Kingfisher, Rufous-bellied Kookaburra, Spangled Drongo, White-breasted Woodswallow, Pacific Swallow, Glossy Swiftlet, Dusky Scrubfowl, Torresian Crow, Rainbow Bee-eater, Moustached Treeswift, Singing Starling, Little-pied Cormorant, Red Bird of Paradise, Hooded Butcherbird, Black Butcherbird, Mimic Meliphaga, Lesser crested Tern, Sooty Tern, Olive-backed Sunbird, Black Sunbird, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Brahminy Kite, Eastern Osprey, Long-tailed Buzzard, and a lot more. 
Lesser frigatebirds hovering the sea to catch fish
Lesser Frigate Birds
I brought Canon 200D that was powered by Tamron 150-600 mm G2 lens. It was quite good for taking pictures of birds that were flying or sitting in tall trees. 
Waigeo island or Raja Ampat, in general, is a good destination for birding visitors. They can watch sea birds that live in coastal area such as Eastern Reef Egret, Striated Heron or tropical rainforest ones such as the Common Paradise Kingfisher. 
In addition to birding, I also accompanied my guests on scuba diving and snorkeling excursion. While in the water, we could see a lot of species of fish including anemonefish, trevally, sweetlips, parrotfish, grouper, and a lot more. After spending 4 days in Raja Ampat, we continued our trip to Sorong and Manokwari.
Eastern Osprey
Eastern Osprey
If you are interested in birding and snorkeling in Raja Ampat and want me to be your guide, please, contact me (Charles Roring) by email to or by whatsapp to: +6281332245180.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Paradise Bird that Dances Like a Ballerina

Male Western Parotia was performing his ballet dance
Last week I visited Kwau village in Mokwam region of Arfak range. I guided two birding visitors from the United States at that time. Our targets were Western Parotia, Magnificent Bird of Paradise, Black Sicklebill, and Superb Bird of Paradise. During our 5 days of tour in Arfak mountains, we were able to watch them. For us, watching the dance of Western Parotia was in our list of target. To watch the bird, we had to wake up early in the morning at 04.30 to make preparations such as wearing hiking boots or sport shoes, putting all our birdwatching equipment. After drinking tea/ coffee and eating some biscuits, we left our guesthouse in Mount Soyti. We used flashlight because it was still dark. First we walked along the unpaved road for five minutes and then did hiking up steep slopes for fifteen to twenty minutes. When we arrived at the birding ground, we still had to enter a birding hut that had been constructed from corrugated metal roofs for birdwatchers by villagers. To increase our chance of watching the bird, villager put red pandanus fruit on a wooden frame around 5 feet above the ground. 
In less than 2 minutes after sitting inside the observation hut, we saw a bird landed on the red fruit. It was a female Superb Bird of Paradise. She began to eat the grains of the red fruit as we turned on our digital cameras and aimed them at the bird. Sunglight had appeared in the sky but had not fully reach the forest floor. In such low light condition, I carefully adjusted my camera and pressed its shutter button several times to shoot the bird. Later, more birds came. They were female Western Parotias. They also ate the fruits. 
Western Parotia (Parotia sefilata)

A dark bird showed up in higher branch of a tree in front of us and started to make calls. It was a male Western Parotia.
Most of his body, tail, and head were covered by black feather. His breast was covered by metalic breast shield. Forehead was triangular white. He had crystal blue eyes and six wire head antennas. Three on each side. He was a beautiful paradise bird.
He hopped to lower branches and hanging vines and then to the ground. He picked up fallen leaves and twigs. While clearing his dancing stage, he did some rehearsals. Suddenly he flew towards the red fruit. The female parotias jumped to nearby by branches. The male parotia ate some grains of the fruits and then returned to his dancing ground again. He picked up some more dry leaves and started to perform his ballet dance. When doing his performance, he expanded his feather to look like skirt. He walked, shaked his head, and did a little jump. In the avian world he is considered as the best ballet dancer.
Western Parotia (Parotia sefilata)
Male Western Parotia
I made tens of photographs of the paradise bird when he was in the tree, or on the dancing ground. I was amazed by the beautiful dance performance of the male Western Parotia. However, the female Western Parotias that were watching him from higher branches were not so impressed with the performance. They returned to the red fruit, ate its grain and then flew away leaving the male Western Parotia in despair. He called them to come back but they did not. He flew to the fruit, had his breakfast and then disappeared into the thick forest of Arfak mountains. There were still other birds that landed on the same fruit such as the female Black Sicklebill (mother and daughter). Later the female Western Parotias returned to the red fruit, they were chased by a young male Western Parotia and by an adult one. 
Our watch indicated that it was 09.10. We decided to wait a little longer with hope that we could watch another dancing show. The male Western Parotia landed on his dancing ground again but he only did some clearing works. We were satisfied with the performance and were happy to leave the birding hut that morning. It had been a fantastic show. - written by Charles Roring

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Red Hibiscus and White Passion Flowers

Red Hibiscus
Red Hibiscus Flower
I spent approximately 12 days in the forest of West Papua early this week with two tourists from the United States. We explored the islands of Raja Ampat, the lowland and hill forest of Sorong, and the tropical rainforest of Arfak mountains in search of flowers, birds and other interesting animals. The early part of the trip was quite challenging because we experienced strong wind and waves in Raja Ampat. The rainforest tours in Vogelkop region went well. We were able to see a lot of flowering trees, shrubs and vines.
There was one red hibiscus shrub plant near our birding ground in Sorong regency. We stopped in front of it to take pictures. Its petals look different from the Red Hibiscus that I saw in coastal area of Tambrauw regency and in Arfak range. Because I do not have field guide book of tropical flowers, I could not identify the scientific names of the flowers that I saw.
Pygmy Passion Flower
We also saw small beautiful passion flowers at the sides of the road. Its petals were white. The inner part of its corona filaments was pink. It was smaller than the red hibiscus. We also saw other flowers such as Crepe Ginger and Terrestrial Orchid in the same area.
While traveling in Arfak range, we saw Rhododendron shrub plants. They were Rhododendron konori. The flowers were emitting soft fragrant smell.
New Guinea has got a lot of flowers that grow in the coastal, forest edge and in the middle of densed tropical jungle. They are beautiful and are often used as decorative plants in cities and towns. Flowers that emit fragrant smell have not been developed as raw material for essential oil.
Well, when I travel again into forest area, I will take more pictures of flowers and upload them into this blog.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Morning Bird in Waigeo of Raja Ampat

Red Bird of Paradise (Paradisaea rubra)
Red Bird of Paradise
I had a nice birding walk in Waigeo a few days ago. I guided two tourists from the United States. We went hiking early in the morning to watch Red Bird of Paradise in southern area of the island. We left Raja Ampat Dive Resort at 04.45 by a small motorized boat for the birding ground. The boat landed at a narrow beach. We continued our trip by hiking for around 1 hour 30 minutes. When we arrived, the rain began to fall. We were very determined to watch the birds so, we decided to wait.
As the sun light slowly appeared in the east, the sounds of bird calls could be heard in from all direction of the forest. I could recognize some of them including Hooded Butcherbird, Yellow-billed Kingfisher, Common Paradise Kingfisher, Pinon Imperial Pigeon, Red-cheeked Parrot, and Helmetted Friarbird.
Thirty minutes later, the rain stopped for a while but continued again for half an hour. At around 07.45, the rain fully stopped. The red bird of paradise rushed to their "poles" and proudly showed their colorful feather while performing courtship dance. We were very lucky that morning. We saw them mating.
White pigeon in Waigeo island
Pied Imperial Pigeon
After watching the Red Bird of Paradise, we walked back to the beach. While walking down the slope, we saw some birds such as Blyth's hornbill, Beautiful Fruit Dove, Claret-breasted Fruit Dove, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Palm Cockatoo, Eclectus Parrot and a lot of other tropical birds.
The coral reef of Raja Ampat is very beautiful. So, we decided to take a dive excursion the next day. We dived in Mioskon. The coral reef is very beautiful and the marine life is abundant.
We continued our birding excursion by exploring the karst in Kabui. Here, we saw Spice Imperial Pigeon, Little-pied Cormorant, Striated Heron, Singing Starling,  Moustached Treeswift, White-bellied Sea Eagle, White-breasted Woodswallow, Lesser Frigate Bird, Lesser-crested Tern, Sooty Tern, Brahminy Kite and a lot more.
We also enjoyed snorkeling at a beach in Gam island during the bay tour. It was a nice adventure trip and I plan to return to Raja Ampat again soon.
Birding Equipment
Palm Cockatoo, kakaktua raja
Palm Cockatoo in Raja Ampat
In my previous birding trip to the same birding site last year, I brought my very old and outdated digital camera Fujifilm HS50EXR. This time I used Canon 200D with Tamron's 150-600 mm lens. The reach of Tamron's lens was shorter than the HS50EXR's 1,000 mm Fujinon lens. However, due to its larger sensor, the picture quality is better.
Visitors who plan to visit Raja Ampat for birding, snorkeling or even scuba diving need to make adequate preparations before the trip. Basic tools such as binoculars, camera, extra batteries, flashlight, snorkeling set, t-shirts, and flip-flops should be added into their bags. Some food supplements and multi-vitamins can also be included to make sure that during the tour travelers can get enough supply of energy and vitamins in their body. Bringing those food supplements is not a must but could greatly enhance one's health condition. Fruits are available in local market. Ion supply drinks can also be bought in shops both in Sorong city and Waisai town.