I’ll blow the dust off this blog to try to get in an update!
Phil and I have been busy in remote areas working with the wrens and haven’t had access to wifi to update.
The latest entry from Obo back in March briefly described our experimental work there, which I’m glad to say we completed! Using birds made out of card stock paper, we presented territorial pairs in both populations of fairywrens with each other’s phenotype. Concealed nearby, we dictated behaviors into a microphone which we will transcribe back in the US.
Following our trip down the river, we briefly visited a huge section of intact primary forest in the northern Fly River region. None of our grassland loving fairywrens here, but we enjoyed some birding including a few unusual observations, such as the New Guinea Flightless Rail. These huge birds are one of the relatively few remaining flightless rail species, which were once widespread through the southern Pacific island. Rails are notoriously difficult to see and this was no exception. Fortunately, this species has a habit of visiting recently chopped sago palm (a food source featured earlier in this blog) and the locals set up a blind for us to watch and wait for one to come out.
After leaving Kiunga, we took a flight up to Madang on the north coast of PNG. Here, there is another subspecies of fairywrens that are distinct in appearance. This gives them a nice frosty pied appearance and I’ve wanted to visit a population of then for a long time.
Catching birds near Madang was not easy. The region is characterized by extensive forest, so grassland habitats are slim. Eventually we managed to catch sixteen birds in the swamplands here, but these were the result of hard 15+ hour days through some particularly miserable habitat. The data and samples we got from these birds will go towards a project more broadly focused on understanding the variation in birds throughout the island.
Edit: trying to get photos uploaded
The top picture is with the resident hornbill at Binatang Research Station who made substantial contributions to this blog post.