Over the past week and a half I’ve begun to settle in at Serena’s in the village of Porotona. Porotona is a small village on the northern slope of Milne Bay Province and is not our primary study site in the area. For the past five years we have worked in a nearby village, Garuahi, but El Nino has shaken things up here. This part of the world has been subject to a particularly harsh drought over the past year and Papua New Guinea is facing the worst drought since 1997 (another El Nino year where apparently ~7% of the country’s population died). If you google Papua New Guinea drought, you will see a long list of stories describing villages that are running out of water and food.
For a little perspective, the last time that I visited Porotona in 2014 there was a raging river right outside the house that would occasionally rise so high it would block traffic from the road. This year there is only a dry riverbed and the local residents inform me that they have not seen the river empty since 1997. The river and springs in the area provide the water for drinking, cleaning, and bathing and this year most of these are dried up. In nearby Garuahi, there is only one small water source that is supplying the entire village (several hundred people) with water. Here in Porotona there are still several springs with water and water is tight, but readily available. Notably, there is a communal spring where the locals go to bathe and do their laundry.
The main pool you see is where people go to bathe and the water is slightly discolored from soap. The small holes you see in the front left are where the spring water emerges and you can fetch drinking water from here. Amazingly the pool is teaming with crawfish, shrimp, freshwater eels, fish, and crabs, at least at the points where fresh water is coming out of the spring.
This is the first visit I have made at this time of year, which apparently is the season of the mangos. I’ve noticed before that mango trees are quite common here, but I have never seen them bearing fruit (during my visits May-August). This time mangos are literally raining out of the forest around me. Local kids often gather to throw rocks at mangos that haven’t fallen yet and everyone is eating mangos right now.
I enjoyed Christmas with Serena and her family. There wasn’t too much excitement, but she did bake a big loaf of delicious bread Christmas morning!
This post is lacking in biology and bird related items. In brief, I am enjoying being here this time of year to see Palearctic migrants coming through. Each night large groups of White-throated Needletails (50-60) gather over the village and forage amongst the local swiftlets. Oriental Cuckoos are also a common sight right now. Of local interest, I flushed a group of King Quail this morning, which is a tough to come across bird just about anywhere they occur. Here is a baby Large-tailed Nightjar to top things off tonight!