Trip to Fakfak and Bombarai region 16 to 22 October 2017 By: Mehd Halaouate

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The aim of this exploratory trip was mainly to document the parrot species of the Fakfak and Bomberai regions especially the Rajah Lory.
Bob Jackson and I have been deciding where to go depending on the species we wanted to see the most. After our trip to the Sulas to see the Yellow and Green Lorikeets we came to Bali and had time to visit the birdmarket before Bob’s flight back to the UK. In the market we found 2 Rajah Lories that look so beautiful that we decided then that the next trip would be to travel to see them in the wild.
This region is situated South-east of the Vogelkop in Papua. (Used to be called Irian Jaya)
Apart from 2 to 3 trip reports from many years ago there is next to nothing written about the flora and fauna of this region and that what made this trip very interesting and exciting for us. We read the latest report written about a visit to this region, Frank Rheindt’s trip report from September 2008 and we decided to give the lowland and the village mentioned in this report a chance so Woos village became our primary destination.
The trip:
The trip started with a short flight from Sorong to Fakfak city. In Fakfak city we checked in one of the 2 hotels and straight took a taxi to the market. Usually the markets are the best place to get more information about the species of birds sold in these and where they were caught. We asked around and most of the locals we talked to mentioned Bombarai region as the origin of most of the birds that were being sold in the market. We asked about the Rajah Lories but not many could provide any information related to the species. As usual the most popular species for the locals and those that fetch high price are the cockatoos, Sulphur-crested and Palm, the Black-capped Lories for their ability of imitating the human sound, the Rainbow Lorikeets for their rainbow colours and the Eclectus parrots for their beauty. The Black, the Dusky and the Brown Lories are considered as stupid birds (burung bodok) and are not favorable as pets. This might work for these species when it comes to the trapping numbers for the pet trade but they are still shot with air rifles for food in many parts in Papua.
We had few hours left after the visit to the market so we decided to spend them in the nearest forest behind the airport. There is a new road cutting through some patches of forest and some gardens. The birding was slow at first but soon we started seeing familiar species such as Tawny-breasted Honeyeaters, Papuan Hornbills, Rufous-bellied Kookaburras, Variable Pitohuis and our first small flock of Rajah Lories. We started to get excited about this trip as common sense states that if there are few birds close to a city the forests further in remote areas will hold more birds.
After arranging a car to take us to Woos village we were ready for our adventure the next day.
After a quick shopping for some food and water to be consumed during the trip we started leaving the city. The first reasonably good patches of forests we saw at a place called Taman Angrek which translates to Orchid Park. This is situated between 750 and 800 meters above sea level. During our drive this forests were covered with fog or mist and the air was chilly. Plenty of terrestrial orchid species were encountered thus the name of this location. After driving through this cloud forest for about 20 minutes we decided to have breakfast while scanning the areas around us for the famous species mentioned in Frank’s trip report, the Greater Mellanpitta. Our luck was similar to Frank’s, no sighting and not even a sound that might have been similar to the call of these birds. Few other species were seen such as Palm cockatoos, Eclectus Parrots, Meyer’s Friarbird, Great Cuckoodove and the Pitohuis both Variable and Hooded.
It is very important if one is to travel to this village to write down the name and shows it to the driver. There is another village closer to Fakfak which name is Us and when pronounced can be confused with Woos.
We ended up going to Us village but when we started talking to the locals we soon understood that it was the wrong village as the locals in this village didn’t know anything about the Rajah Lories.
From that village it took us at least 3 more hours to get to our destination, Woos village.
The road was fairly good and still being fixed in few locations. It cuts through some of the best forest I have seen with some huge trees still standing tall. This is very promising as these trees are very important for nesting large species such as the Palm and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Pesquet’s and Eclectus Parrots and Papuan Hornbills.
Photo of forest carpet
The village was deserted as all the inhabitants were working in their gardens. It is a very small village with no more than 9 houses. We met one person in this village and we informed about our plans. We asked about the head of the village to report our presence and our plans but we were informed that he was staying in another village few kilometers away, Metimber village.
We drove to this village and met with the head person. It was decided that we would stay with Domingus, the person we met in Woos and he will see to it that we get food during our 3 nights stay.
As soon as we dropped our luggage in a room in Domingus’ house we started birding the road. There were plenty of tall trees and few species around. On a tree just by the small road one pair of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos decided to nest. The male was perched on a neighbouring tree, sounded the alarm as soon as he saw humans passing by. The Papuan Hornbills were everywhere, flying from a fruiting tree to another. The Lesser Bird of Paradise sounded from a distance.
We were faced with one problem, the forest floor around the village was flooded making any treks deep inside a challenging task. We probably visited this region in the wrong time of year as the rainy season, according to one of the locals, has just started. There was one trail behind the village that was dry so we focused our search on this one in combination with the road cutting through some decent forests.
There is plenty of shooting going on in the region. We met so many people carrying air rifles either on foot or on motorbikes. A very negative development and a horrible future for the fauna of these forests. We were forced to show our disapproval of what was going on by walking to those locals and trying to intimidate them to move away from fruiting trees.
The first morning birding the road we had an amazing experience that got us so amazed. We had one Cassowary calling just few meters from the road in a dark forest. The sound was loud enough to get us a bit nervous but we didn’t manage to see the bird. After few calls we could hear the steps fading away deeper in the forest. Probably the Cassowary heard or smelled us. Other excitements that morning were the sights of so many Large Fig parrots, a pair of Orange-breasted Fig Parrot perched in the open too far to get any decent shots and the reason for our trip, few flocks of Rajah Lories flying across the road but never landed for better views.
Close to the first bridge on the left side of the road direction Fakfak we found a fruiting fig tree and there we had all kind of birds including Superb and Orange-bellied Fruit Doves, both Large and Orange-bellied Fig Parrots, Glossy-mantled Manucodes, Lesser Bird of Paradise, Brown Orioles, Mimic and Yellow-gaped Meliphagas and few Papuan Hornbills. We stayed close to this tree for sometimes enjoying the sights.
It started getting dark so we walked back to our accommodation but the birds were still active close to the village. A Western Crown Pigeon kept calling very close and we could hear clearly for more than half an hour. The species, according to the locals, is still common even though it is hunted for food intensively.
The next day we birded the trail going deep into the forest. We were amazed by the presence of few birds of paradise so close to the houses, both the Lesser and the Twelve-wired birds of paradise could be seen without venturing far. The same here there were plenty of Pitohuis, both species, the Manucodes, all the parrot species found in this region including Palm and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Red-cheeked, Eclectus parrots, Red-sided and Coconut Lorikeets, 3 species of Fig Parrots and few Frilled and Golden Monarchs to name but few species. I managed to scare a Cassowary from the same location and managed to get a look at it while running loudly between the trees and the thick bush. This has been by far the best location in nowadays to see this species as in many other birding spots the Cassowaries had and still being hunted intensively mostly for food. The hunters use dogs to track these birds and in many cases manage to separate the male from the chicks. Chicks then raised in the villages until they get big enough to be slaughtered.
I heard a Western Crown Pigeon close to the trail so I entered the forest looking for it. It got nervous so it started running away deeper into the forest giving me just few glimpses. Usually when Crown Pigeons get scared or flushed they fly up to the highest tree branches giving great views and fairly good possibilities for photographs but this one kept on to the thick vegetation in the ground.
The afternoon was spent birding the road with same results.
We were stopped by a policeman traveling from Fakfak to Bombarai and were asked if we had reported our presence to the Bombarai district office. We informed him that we thought it was enough reporting to the head of village in Woos. It seemed that it wasn’t enough so we had to travel to Bombarai village to report the next day. We were curious enough about the Bombarai region so we decided to do what we were asked. He took a photograph of us with his mobile phone and asked where we lived in Indonesia. I gave him my address being the nice guy I am.
Later that day, in the evening, we managed to locate the only perched Rajah Lories of the trip from a distance. We could watch a pair with 2 chicks moving between the branches. The same evening we connected with a pair of Palm cockatoos showing strong social band between each other with so much grooming and raising of the crests showing so much love. This show of affection ended when another pair flew by and all 4 cockatoos took off together probably to their roosting tree.
Photo of Palm and Rajahs
The next day we hitched a ride to Bomberai village with a Bank manager visiting his office in the same village. We weren’t impressed by this village as it looked like a scene from a western or Cowboy movie, dry and treeless. All the forest around Bomberai was cleared for miles and miles and we heard the planned for this region which involved palm oil plantations.
We decided, after reporting to the police office, that we had to leave this horrible place. We went back to the bank manager and not only asked buy begged to hitch a ride with him back to the Fakfak. He agreed to help us and even better didn’t want any payment from us.
We found room in the back of the truck and left Bomberai in the evening. The trip back to Fakfak wasn’t that productive apart from few Brahminy Kites, a Long-tailed Honey Buzzard, few parrots but not a single Rajah Lories.
The trip was a successful when it comes to connecting with the parrot species in this region especially the species we decided to travel to this location to see, the Rajah Lory. We saw so many flocks and all of them were fly byes except the pair we saw late the last evening with 2 chicks the parents were feeding. We watched the chicks playing for some time while the parents were feeding.
When it comes to getting decent photographs of the Rajahs that’s another story.
Because of the short time we had we didn’t manage to get more information about this species apart from the fact that it is still common and not much trapping of it is going on as it is not one of those favorable species as pets.
We had one last subspecies of the Black Lories left to see in the wild but that’s another trip we did after this one and another story all together.
Bird list of the trip:
1. Northern Cassowary Casuarius unappendiculatus – I was amazed by how common this species was in this region. We heard it daily few times and managed to see it once when scared it on a trail close to the village. Once birding the road we heard its strange bass-call within few meters from us.
2. Red-billed Brushturkey Talegalla cuvieri – Heard few times
3. Orange-footed Scrubfowl Megapodius reinwardt – Seen once but heard many times
4. Wandering Whistling Duck Dendrocygna arcuata
5. Australasian Grebe Tachybaptus novaehollandiae
6. Raja Shelduck Tadorna radjah
7. Dusky Moorhen Gallinula tenebrosa
8. Lesser Frigatebird Fregata ariel
9. Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida
10. Crested Tern Thalasseus bergii
11. Common Tern Sterna hirundo
12. Little Black Cormorant Phalacrocorax sulcirostris
13. Little Pied Cormorant Microcarbo melanoleucos
14. Australasian Darter Anhinga novaehollandiae
15. Striated Heron Butorides striata
16. Nankeen Night- Heron Nycticorax caledonicus
17. Intermediate Egret Ardea intermedia
18. Cattle Egret Ardea ibis
19. Eastern Great Egret Ardea modesta
20. Pacific Baza Aviceda subcristata
21. Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus
22. Eastern Osprey Pandion cristatus
23. White- bellied Sea-E agle Haliaeetus leucogaster
24. Gurney’s Eagle Aquila gurneyi – Seen twice
25. Grey- headed Goshawk Accipiter poliocephalus
26. Collared Sparrowhawk Accipiter cirrocephalus
27. Variable Goshawk Accipiter hiogaster
28. New Guinea Harpy-Eagle Harpyopsis novaeguineae – Heard only
29. Long-tailed Buzzard Henicopernis longicauda
30. Brown Falcon Falco berigora – Probably the first record of the species in this region.
31. Red-necked Crake Rallina tricolor
32. Buff-banded Rail Gallirallus philippensis – Very common
33. Black- billed Cuckoo- Dove Macropygia nigrirostris – Very common
34. Brown Cuckoo- Dove Macropygia amboinensis
35. Great Cuckoo- Dove Reinwardtoena reinwardti
36. Stephan’s Emerald Dove Chalcophaps stephani
37. Pheasant Pigeon Otidiphaps nobilis – Heard only few times
38. Western Crowned Pigeon Goura cristata – Common, seen only once but heard many times even very close to our accommodation in the village
39. Wompoo Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus magnificus – Seen only once in a mixed flock feeding
40. Pink- spotted Fruit- Dove Ptilinopus perlatus
41. Orange-f ronted Fruit- Dove Ptilinopus aurantiifrons
42. Superb Fruit- Dove Ptilinopus superbus
43. Coroneted Fruit- Dove Ptilinopus coronulatus
44. Dwarf Fruit- Dove Ptilinopus nainus
45. Orange-bellied Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus iozonus – The most common fruit dove species
46. Pied Imperial Pigeon Ducula bicolor
47. Purple- tailed Imperial Pigeon Ducula rufigaster – Seen twice
48. Papuan Mountain-P igeon Gymnophaps albertisii – We were very surprised to see few flocks of this species flying around late evenings.
49. Zoe’s Imperial Pigeon Ducula zoeae
50. Pinon’s Imperial Pigeon Ducula pinon – Very common
51. Eclectus Parrot Eclectus roratus – Very common
52. Palm Cockatoo Probosciger aterrimus – Not as common as I hoped it will be, probably trapped for the illegal pet trade
53. Sulphur- crested Cockatoo Cacatua galerita – Very Common
54. Red- flanked Lorikeet Charmosyna placentis – Seen in flight few times but not common
55. Black- capped Lory Lorius lory – Not common, trapped for the illegal pet trade in big numbers. Very popular species with the locals as pets
56. Rainbow Lorikeet Trichoglossus haematodus – Very Common
57. Black or Rajah Lory Chalcopsitta atraThe reason for the trip. Because they are called stupid birds as they cannot imitate the human voice the trappers tend to catch them only if there is a demand from a collector or such. We found them to be fairly common and most of the time flying in small flocks in silence.
58. Red- cheeked Parrot Geoffroyus geoffroyi – Fairly common
59. Moluccan King-Parrot Alisterus amboinensis – Uncommon, seen only twice
60. Large Fig-Parrot Psittaculirostris desmarestii – Common, seen daily in good numbers
61. Yellow-capped Pygmy Parrot Micropsitta keiensis – Uncommon in the site we visited, seen few flybys.
62. Double-eyed Fig- Parrot Cyclopsitta diophthalma – Common
63. Orange-breasted Fig- Parrot Cyclopsitta gulielmitertii – less common than the Large Fig Parrot
64. Lesser Black Coucal Centropus bernsteini
65. Greater Black Coucal Centropus menbeki
66. Channel-billed Cuckoo Scythrops novaehollandiae – More heard than seen, still fairly common
67. Blyth’s Hornbill Rhyticeros plicatus – Very common. Surprising as there is a lot of shooting of birds with air rifles going on.
68. Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo Cacomantis castaneiventris – Not common
69. Brush Cuckoo Cacomantis variolosus – Very common
70. White-crowned Cuckoo Caliechthrus leucolophus – Fairly common
71. Little Bronze Cuckoo Chalcites minutillus
72. Shining Bronze Cuckoo Chalcites lucidus
73. Long-billed Cuckoo Rhamphomantis megarhynchus – Seen few times, probably resident pairs
74. Dwarf Koel Microdynamis parva – A pair was breeding behind the village in some disturbed forest
75. Papuan Frogmouth Podargus papuensis – I was surprised how common this species was. Within a small forested area I found more than 6 birds perched in the open
76. Marbled Frogmouth Podargus ocellatus
77. Papuan Boobook Ninox theomacha – Heard only
78. Papuan Nightjar Eurostopodus papuensis – We had one of these in an open area close to the village.
79. Large-tailed Nightjar Caprimulgus macrurus
80. Glossy Swiftlet Collocalia esculenta
81. Moustached Treeswift Hemiprocne mystacea – Common
82. Papuan Spinetailed Swift Mearnsia novaeguineae – According to literature the region we visited is not included in the distribution of this species but we saw it few times
83. Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica
84. Common Paradise-Kingfisher Tanysiptera galatea
85. Oriental Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis
86. Rainbow Bee-eater Merops ornatus – We saw huge flocks of this species flying high one late afternoon.
87. Rufous-bellied Kookaburra Dacelo gaudichaud – Common
88. Hook- billed Kingfisher Melidora macrorrhina – Very common by sound but seen just once
89. Sacred Kingfisher Todiramphus sanctus
90. Yellow-billed Kingfisher Syma torotoro – Common
91. Red-bellied Pitta Erythropitta erythrogaster – Seen once but heard very often. We didn’t use playback in the whole trip
92. Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida – Only heard
93. Blue Jewel-babbler Ptilorrhoa caerulescens – Only heard, nearly impossible to see without playback
94. Rusty Mouse-Warbler Crateroscelis murina – Seen twice, very common
95. White-s houldered Fairywren Malurus alboscapulatus – Common
96. Emperor Fairywren Malurus cyanocephalus – Very common, seen few times
97. Ruby-throated Myzomela Myzomela eques – Seen feeding on Malay Apple flowers
98. Green-backed Honeyeater Glycichaera fallax – Seen few times
99. Plain Honeyeater Pycnopygius ixoides
100.Streak-headed Honeyeater Pycnopygius stictocephalus
101.Long-billed Honeyeater Melilestes megarhynchus
102.Helmeted Friarbird Philemon buceroides
103.Meyer’s Friarbird Philemon meyeri – Common
104.Tawny- breasted Honeyeater Xanthotis flaviventer – Common
105.Yellow-gaped Meliphaga Meliphaga flavirictus – I was surprised to see this species daily. Not a common species elsewhere but here it was fairly common
106.Yellow-bellied Gerygone Gerygone chrysogaster – One of the 2 species of Gerygone we saw. This one was more common than the Fairy
107.Fairy Gerygone Gerygone palpebrosa
108.Black Sunbird Leptocoma Aspasia
109.Olive-backed Sunbird Cinnyris jugularis
110.Spectacled Longbill Oedistoma iliolophus
111.Yellow-bellied Longbill Toxorhamphus novaeguineae
112.Olive-crowned Flowerpecker Dicaeum pectoral
113.Lowland Peltops Peltops blainvillii
114.White-breasted Woodswallow Artamus leucorynchus
115.Hooded Butcherbird Cracticus cassicus
116.Black Butcherbird Cracticus quoyi
117.Black-browed Triller Lalage atrovirens – Fairly common and showing more black coloration on the wing
118.Golden Cuckooshrike Campochaera sloetii – Uncommon
119.White-bellied Cuckooshrike Coracina papuensis – Fairly common
120.Black-faced Cuckooshrike Coracina novaehollandiae – Seen only twice
121.Boyer’s Cuckooshrike Coracina boyeri – Uncommon, seen only once
122.Common Cicadabird Edolisoma tenuirostre
123.Black Cicadabird Edolisoma melas – Seen few times
124.Northern Variable Pitohui Pitohui kirhocephalus – Very common and very vocal
125.Hooded Pitohui Pitohui dichrous – The other Pitohui species that is very common. Can easily confused with the Northern Variable Pitohui (the black and brown morph)
126.Little Shrikethrush Colluricincla megarhyncha – Fairly common and vocal. Seen many times in the company of the Pitohuis
127.Papuan Babbler Garritornis isidorei – Seen very few times in small groups
128.Grey Whistler Pachycephala simplex – the only whistler of the trip
129.Shining Flycatcher Myiagra alecto – Very common in all habitats
130.Spot-winged Monarch Symposiarchus guttula – Seen once in a mixed flock
131.Hooded Monarch Symposiachrus manadensis – Seen twice
132.Frilled Monarch Arses telescopthalmus – Seen feeding with the Spot-winged
133.Golden Monarch Carterornis chrysomela – The most common Monarch species encountered
134.Yellow-breasted Boatbill Machaerirhynchus flaviventer – Seen few birds but all of them lacked the intensive black coloration in the back, females and juveniles
135.Northern Fantail Rhipidura rufiventris – Fairly common. We missed out on the Chestnut-bellied Fantails
136.Willie Wagtail Rhipidura leucophrys – Very common in all habitat and in villages
137.White-bellied Thicket- Fantail Rhipidura leucothorax – The only Thicket-fantail species of the trip. Fairly common and heard constantly.
138.Glossy Manucode Manucodia ater – Fairly common and not shy. We didn’t manage to find any Crinkle-collared Manucode Manucodia chalybatus. Probably due to the fact that we birded most of the time in the lowland and not the hills and montane forests
139.Grey Crow Corvus tristis – Common and always seen in small groups
140.Magnificent Riflebird Ptiloris magnificus – Heard only once, not seen
141.Twelve-wired Bird of Paradise Seleucidis melanoleucus – Very common species
142.King Bird of Paradise Cicinnurus regius – Seen once
143.Lesser Bird of Paradise Paradisaea minor – Common
144.Black-sided Robin Poecilodryas hypoleuca – Fairly common
145.Olive Flycatcher Kempiella flavovirescens – Seen twice in the same tree in 2 different days
146.Grey-streaked Flycatcher Muscicapa griseisticta – Seen daily in the same spot
147.Green-headed Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis taivana – Seen once in a riverbank
148.Golden-headed Cisticola Cisticola exilis – Common
149.Spangled Drongo Dicrurus bracteatus – Common
150.Singing Starling Aplonis cantoroides – Common
151.Metallic Starling Aplonis metallica – Common
152.White-eared Catbird Ailuroedus buccoides – Heard very often but not seen
153.Brown Oriole Oriolus szalayi – Common
154.Golden Myna Mino Anais – Rare, seen only once
155.Yellow- faced Myna Mino dumontii – Very common
156.Streak-headed Mannikin Lonchura tristissima – Uncommon
You can see the pictures in here

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