Birdwatching in Waisai – The Bird of Paradise

Another early start and our last chance to get out into the forest to go birdwatching as we were leaving on the 2pm boat to Sorong that afternoon.
This time we were better prepared! Our generous home stay family not only suggested we go bird watching in the forests surrounding their ‘kebun’ (family garden) but they also very kindly lent us the family motorbike. The plan was to head off around 4:30 however I think it was more like 5:00am when we finally did leave! The kebun was off the road to the beautiful home stay we snorkeled at yesterday but nowhere near as far thankfully! We followed a short dirt track to a clearing surrounded by forest. Here you can see the forest edge with a recently logged area in front of it.20131027-092547.jpg
In the clearing, there were several kebun’s, one with watermelon seedlings planted in rows and each plant with two pieces of banana trunk around the base to stop the soil drying out too quickly. 20131027-084713.jpg
We stepped over the seedlings and entered the forest. There was just enough light for us to see where we were putting our feet, so I am glad we hadn’t arrived any earlier. There wasn’t a path, we just made our way in and then stood under the enormous trees listening to the birdcalls. The first birdcall I heard was one I recognised from caged birds in Java and it was the nicest feeling to listen to the bird in the wild. We stood quietly trying to pinpoint where the birdcalls where coming from. Suddenly a male bird of paradise flew across the sky and I could see its beautiful long tail feathers and also the long antennae hanging down over each side of his body. Such a beautiful sight.
Ega then headed off slowly and quietly towards a tree growing near a small creek. He gestured for us to join him so we gingerly made our way over to him.20131027-084908.jpg
The ground was covered in a virulent creeper which I have seen taking over recently logged areas. Being Australian, I wasn’t totally comfortable about plunging my feet into deep creeper growth but had my fingers crossed that it was too early and cool for snakes! When we reached Ega, I was so pleased I had suspended my worry about snakes because we were suddenly treated to the amazing sight of a male bird of paradise dancing to catch the attention of the nearby females. He was perched on a high branch with no foliage obstructing our view and we watched as he leaned forward pointing his head to the ground, opened his feathers and then danced his courtship dance. His wings shook gently and his antennae hung out clearly almost like it was circling the performance. 20131027-092642.jpgsource:National Geographic
I was transfixed watching it and couldn’t believe that we saw it so clearly. Afterwards Ega explained that the birds are usually bigger and was disappointed that the ones we could see were not the bigger species. I explained to him that I was over the moon to have seen not only a bird of paradise in the wild but to have watched it dance. While Ichal had hoped to see another horn bill, I was incredibly excited to have actually seen a candrawasih (bird of paradise). Other birds we saw included cockatoos, huge green parrots, willie wag tails and lorikeets!! 20131027-085118.jpgEga relaxing while we traipse around exploring.
20131027-090638.jpg a frog well camouflaged amongst dead leaves.
20131027-090829.jpgFruit on the ground under the tree we had seen the bird of paradise. What are they?
We headed back to the homestay and soon after we arrived home, one of the teachers from the school we had visited the previous day, arrived to present me with a dress made from the school uniform batik that I had admired when there. It is a gorgeous red colour and I can’t wait to wear it to school next year. 20131027-085617.jpg
What a perfect memento of not only my stay in Waisai, but also of being fortunate enough to see birds of paradise dancing in the wild.
Ega appeared shortly afterwards and took us to his house to meet his wife and 2 children. His daughter, 4 years old, had been pestering him ever since we arrived to meet Tante Bule (doesn’t translate well but is something like; Auntie Western or ‘my’ Australian Auntie)!! 20131027-090329.jpg
Isn’t she gorgeous. We were then unexpectedly served with a delicious lunch of nasi, ikan teri (tiny crispy fried fish), tempeh, and kangkung. It was so delicious, I couldn’t refuse when invited to have seconds! Then Ega surprised me by presenting me with his school shirt which he had only just collected from the tailor as a memento of my time in Waisai. 20131027-085327.jpg
What a wonderful gift and every time I wear it, I will remember his generosity and his determination that we enjoyed ourselves while in Waisai. 20131027-090442.jpgEga’s wife and young son


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