After having a wonderful and productive birding trip with a group from Sweden in Jayapura and Waigeo, I (Oka) and our Swedish good friend Bengt Legnell decided to have an extension to the normal trip of 3 days to be spent in Malagufuk village. This is a small village near Sorong city, which is well known for good chances to see Northern cassowary and Red-breasted paradise kingfisher. We made it happen, we not only saw and photographed those two wonderful species but we managed to connect with many amazing gems that gave us prolonged views and fairly good opportunities for photographs.
We started going to this village at 5 am and we had two stops for birding. First at a beach close to an under-construction bridge where we saw Brahminy kite, Whimbrel, Common sandpiper, Reef egret, Striated heron foraging on a mudflat in front of the beach. Our second stop was under a big fruiting tree with so many species in a feeding frenzy. Species such as Zoe’s imperial pigeons, Coconut lorikeets, Metallic starlings, Palm cockatoos, New Guinea friarbirds, olive-backed sunbirds and few Black-capped lorries flying back and forth.
We arrived at the three-section of the village trail at 6.45. We used 4×4 car, since not all part of the road has been covered by asphalt. From the three-section, Malagufuk villagers were waiting for us. They were porters for carrying our stuff.
Normally it only takes 1-2 hours walk from the main road to the village. But since we were birding along the trail, our walk took 3.5 hours. The trail was very productive. We heard many individuals of the Magnificent riflebird calling frequently. At least 4 parrot species were seen and documented, which were Coconut lorikeet, Black caped lorry, Large fig-parrot, Sulphur-crested cockatoo. Another parrot, Palm cockatoo, was heard and seen also. This majestic cockatoo flew above the canopy and was hard to follow through the dense primary forest in the area.
There are 3 river crossing with no bridges and 2 streams with bridges along the trail to the village. In several open areas we made stops and tried to call for the Papuan and the hooded pittas. Unfortunately, we were not lucky at that time. We met a group from Belgium who were calling Blue jewel babbler but they didn´t get lucky with any views. Some of the birds we found along the trail were Golden mynas, Orange-bellied fruit-doves, Pinon imperial pigeons, Papuan babblers, New Guinea friarbirds, and Yellow-bellied longbills.
We arrived in the village around 11.30. We had some rest and waited for lunch. I could not resist the temptation to have a little walk within the village. Since there was a big tall tree near the house where we stayed, that had a huge number of nests of the Metallic starlings. The tree was about 60 meters tall and more than 50 cm in diameter. Hundreds of metallic starlings made their nests hanging like weaver’s nests. They also produced noisy chirping sounds all the time and strong flying sounds whenever they flew together in a flock.
I saw a raptor flying under that tree, which happened to be a Collared sparrowhawk. It perched on an open branch, not far from the big tree and quite low. Not afraid of me when I tried to get close to take a picture of it.
At 2.30 PM we start walking to the hide for Magnificent riflebird. One of my dream birds to be documented. Since, it was very difficult for me to get its picture all these years. I only saw a glimpse of it previously. It took only 2 minutes’ walk to get to the hide from our homestay. After preparing all our gear, the waiting game, begun.
The bird came to its lek at 3.15 and started calling constantly. Sometimes, preened its feathers and pooped in between. A very nice surprise happened when we were still in the hide and the Magnificent riflebird was still on its lek, we heard Northern cassowary sounds getting closer to our hide. So, from our back door and through a peeking window, we took pictures of the cassowary. After we were satisfied with it, we gave more attention to the “Magnificent one” on the lek.
Then, an amazing thing happened. First, we saw it lowering its head with its eyes looking up several times. Its feet were moving, making small hops on the lek from side to side. I assumed that it was the beginning of its dancing process. It took quite a long time of that scene. He was just repeating the same movements, moving side to side horizontally. At one point, he opened his wings wide. Making a half moon shape with its wings. Its head disappeared, but I could see the bright blue color of its neck-shield.
He kept doing this and suddenly a female appeared and landed on its dancing trunk. The male became more enthusiastic and started moving forward and backward still with the half-moon wing shape. I could see its head moving left and right with every dance step. But it seemed the female wasn´t attracted by all this dancing because she was not moving closer to the male but moving back and flew off.
Even though, there was no mating scene, I was very grateful to witness and documenting such unbelievable moments. Please check the video in our youtube channel. https://youtu.be/2CumkDFfoFI
When the male flew off from its lek, we decided to go back to village and tried to see flying birds that crossed the village sky. We managed to see Yellow faced myna, Black lorry, female Eclectus parrot and Large fig parrot in their nest cavity, Blyth’s hornbill and we ended the day with Papuan nightjar.
That first day was awesome!
We spent the night in a very basic homestay, with thin matrass and mosquito net. We had electricity from a generator from 6-10 PM. So we could charge our batteries. We slept very well with the amazing feeling of seeing those amazing gems.
Early morning at 4.30 am we start walking. We aimed for getting views and photographs of the Twelve-wired and the Lesser bird of paradise in their displaying grounds. During the walk, we saw many wallabies hoping around. We heard Marbled frogmouth and tried to call it, but we missed to see it and decide to continue to the Bops´ leks. When we got to the Twelve-wired display branch, the male was already there. Calling at the very top of the stick. Its lek was very high, perhaps about 60 meters from the ground. A female came twice, but not much displaying happened.
After 30 minutes spent in that place, we continued to Lesser BOP’s place. Located about 10 minutes’ walk from the Twelve-wired place. We could hear their sound, since it was very loud.
We saw the first male lesser bop quite close. Just about 10 meters from the ground. Then when this male flew to its dancing tree, we saw other males. There were 6 males in total calling from 2 different trees. They became very active showing off their dancing skills when a female landed nearby. We were just under their tree without any hides, and they were ignoring us. Very nice seeing them closely.
Satisfied enjoying the lesser BOPs´ dances, we start calling for the Red-breasted paradise kingfisher. Near this lesser bop area. Not for a long, the bird came close. Not only one bird showed but three. One perched close by and nicely on an open branch for quite a long time. We were thanking the bird for that.
Our next target was Common paradise kingfisher so when we got back to the trail we tried to call it several times in different places. It showed many times but was very nervous and hid so well behind the leaves and often high, just a few meters from the top forest canopy.
Our luck wasn´t finished that day. We saw for the first time Pheasant pigeon very close and none of us was ready with the gear. When we started walking back one Western crowned pigeon was also following the same trail about 50 meters in front of us. Bengt with our local guide directly got close to it and succeed to get a good picture with its crest risen.
That morning walk was very productive and boosted our spirit. We saw 6 individuals of black lorries, Northern fantail, Rusty mouse warbler, Papuan pitta, Eastern hooded pitta, and surprisingly a Thick billed ground dove. We heard Red-billed brushturkey calling several time but didn’t see any.
After lunch we were going to the King bird of paradise’s hide. Along the way, we encountered many kingfishers. First New Guinea dwarf kingfisher, that was perched nicely near a stream when we crossed the bridge. Then, Yellow-billed kingfisher showing up nicely and when we got back from the King bop hide a Hook-billed kingfisher was seen and photographed in the open.
When we heard the sound of the Blue jewel babbler, we tried to call it. One bird showed up, but we didn´t see it very well. This species is very active. It never stops moving. But the King Bop was definitely another gem in Malagufuk. We saw it directly when arriving in the hide. Very open. So we spent quite a long time with it. No females came that time.
On the way back to the homestay, we tried several dead trunks which got hollows in them, where the guides recognized as a roosting site of Wallace’s owlet nightjar. But it seemed the bird had already moved somewhere else. Eastern hooded pitta and Papuan pitta were heard and seen during our walk. Rufous bellied kookabura also seen.
The next morning, Bengt followed one guide to search for Rufous owl, Blue-black kingfisher, and I decided to stay in the Magnificient riflebird hide to get more pictures of it. The bird came after a quick shower of rain that morning. But this time no dancing and he left when a branch suddenly fell down near its lek. So I decided to go to King Bop trail again.
On the way, I was very lucky hearing a Blue jewel babbler sound and decided to try and call it. First, there was one. It stayed close for a quite long time then suddenly, there was another showing close by too. I managed to get footages of it but not really good photos. Hooded pitta also appeared in the same spot.
When hiding in King Bop hide, I also managed to see Frilled monarch, Wompoo fruit-dove, Papuan spangled drongo. New Guinea dwarf kingfisher was heard flying by several times. Species that surprised me was a female Twelve-wired Bop having breakfast of a pandanus fruit and a Cinnamon ground dove was seen quite well.
During lunch in the homestay, we got visitors. An adult individual of Northern cassowary and a female adult of Blyth’s hornbill. Villagers told us that those individuals were raised by the villagers since 4-5 years ago. But they never put them in cages nor tied a rope in their leg. The villagers just give them food and let them walk and fly freely wherever they like. After several years, they kept coming to the village but never attacked anyone. We could say, they are wild but tame individuals.
After lunch we tried our luck finding the Blue-black kingfisher again. On the way we saw Red-billed brushturkey nest mount and tried to called. We managed to see it twice. A very sensitive species. We tried the blue-black kingfisher several times but no birds came.
On one canopy we saw Black-billed cuckoo-dove, Orange-bellied fruit dove. Birds like Pinon imperial pigeon, Large fig parrot, Black lorry, Coconut lorikeet, Eclectus parrot, Sulphur crested cockatoo, Blyth’s hornbill, Metalic starling, Golden myna are frequently and daily seen. We also saw female frilled monarch sitting on its nest and blue jewel babbler again. Back to village we saw a Pygmy eagle flying.
The next morning, after breakfast we walked to the main road again then to Sorong.
It was a wonderful and amazing experience in Malagufuk, and can not wait to go to this place again in the future.