3rd AUGUST 2023: Our first morning at Minggre in the Arfak mountains was spent in a hide set up at a Western Parotia lek. The Western Parotia is a bird of paradise endemic to the mountains of the Birds Head region in West Papua. The Parotia is famed for its bizarre and elaborate courtship dance which we briefly managed to witness (see video below). Its often described as being “ballerina-like” but I reckon its more Bhangra than ballerina!
The parotia lek was an area around 2-3 metres wide that the male kept meticulously clear of all vegetation and leaves and we witnessed him breaking off roots to clear as much bare earth as possible. Whilst the cleared area was relatively large, the couple of times he displayed were from the centre of his lek, probably chosen as it was directly below a couple of branches that would afford any prospective females the best views of his display.
This trip was one of my first forays into videography using the long lens – a bit of a steep learning curve! Apologies for the quality of this video where I struggled focussing with the branches in the foreground. Hopefully it still give a good sense of the sighting.
The bizarre dancing grabs the immediate focus but the bird itself was pretty stunning with its striking blue eye, white forehead, head plumes, iridescent chest shields and jet black plumage – I’ll let you judge for yourself…..
Being in a blind is obviously the best way to see the target species but otherwise could be a blessing and a curse – a curse as you could often hear a lot of bird activity overhead with no chance of seeing it but a blessing as occasionally things moved through our area of view. One such sighting was this Common Spiny Bandicoot which bounded across the front of the blind, then fortuitously stopped at the end I was sat at and inquisitively peered in my direction for a good minute or two.
Conditions for photography were pretty challenging. To get a shutter speed of around 1/100, these images were shot at ISO 20,000 with the lens wide open – this was pretty typical for all the morning hide sessions with light only marginally improving as the morning worn on.
The perotia hide/blind was a decent sized which held our party of 7 fairly easily. As with most of the Birds of Paradise leks, we had to be in the hide and set up well before dawn when the birds can start to appear. In this case, that meant a 5:30am start to a pre-dawn, downhill walk of about 45 minutes. We were then in the hide from around 6:15am to 10am ish before a slow walk back hop the hill, which with plenty of birding took around 90 minutes.
The hide was one of the tougher ones to access, further down the mountain from Mingre which meant a bit of a hike back up the hill. There were steps and handrails set up on the steeper sections.
Number of visits to hide: 1
Total time spent in hide: 3 hours and 45 mins
Total time spent getting to/from hide: 2 hours and 15 mins
The afternoon was spent in a hide for the Magnificent Bird of Paradise but the rain came in and the afternoon was a total washout.
Other birds seen on the day: Glossy Swiftlet, Mountain Swiftlet, White-Bibbed Fruit Dove, Papuan Mountain Pigeon, Palm Cockatoo, Papuan Lorikeet, Papuan Treecreeper, Arak Honeyeater, Red-Collared Myzomela, Ornate Melidectes, Large Scrubwren, Spotted Jewel-babbler, Black Fantail, Slaty Robin, Green-Backed Robin
Next day’s report: Vogelkop Superb Bird of Paradise (Arfak Mountains)
Previous day’s report: Vogelkop Bowerbird (Arfak Mountains)