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Birding in Raja Ampat, Why Not?



Morning has just broken when the sun eager to shine. Its light cut into line by lush leaves in the deep of Mayalibit Bay forest in Waigeo Island Raja Ampat Papua. Muddy wet soil under the trees after raining overnight. Demercys was anxiously in solemn sat upon crumpled tree-trunk.
 
Step away from where Demercys sat, a small shack shelter crowded with people. Bended over their knees and silently hold their breath. Curiously waiting to oversee the magnificent, Red Wilson's bird of paradise. A morning betting for Demercys, a volunteer of Conservation International (CI) for Mayalibit Bay area, who accompanied group of scientists who keen on bird-watching. 
 
The Wilson’s bird of paradise (Cicinnurus respublica) is a species of passerine bird. This Indonesian endemic is known distributed from lowland to the hill of rainforest surround Waigeo and Batanta Islands of West Papua. And somewhere up in the hill above Kali Biru river bank of Mayalibit Bay --which is located in the heart of Waigeo Island- there is someplace to watch this beautiful bird, local people said.
 
Wilson’s bird of paradise is small with only 21 cm long. The male is a red and black color with yellow mantle on its neck, light green mouth, rich blue feet and two curved violet tail feathers. The head is naked blue with a black double cross pattern on it. The female is a brownish bird with bare blue crown.
 
The local called this bird 'Belah Lontar', translated into splitted rattan, because of its curlicue tail that look like a splitted rattan. So we were looking for Om Nixon. Pudgy Papuan in his late 50 who is known as the owner of the area where people often saw Belah Rotan playing in the ground every morning. That morning, Om Nixon together with Demercys took the group headed to Red Wilson's.
 
Getting there took 15 minutes by boat, riding from the main gate of Mayalibit Bay againts the current towards Kali Biru estuary. From there, take a short walk to the river bank, pass trough the chrystal clear blue water pond in the upstream then climb up modest hill. “I walk about 1 hour to get there. But for you, it could be one and a half or more,” said Demercys last night explaining how challenging trail they will have in the morning for Wilson.
 
Jeffrey Sayer, proffesor and ecologist of James Cook University, and his scientist wife, Intu Boedihartono, were die to see this bird. He brought along their collegue, John Whittle and Lisa Davenport, who also keen on to see this rare species. 
 
But after another hour in axiously waiting, they just realized the Wilson not coming for the show that morning. It may be the forest that is still too wet after rain all night long.
 
Bird's Heaven
But the morning was not end up in the smoke. “I did not too dissapointed. I saw Beach Kingfisher in blue color, the one I have not see before,” said Lisa without pull a long face.
 
She was not sure if its Azure Kingfisher (Cexy azures) or Little Kingfisher (Cexy pusillus). Both birds are commonly be found in Papua. According to ‘Birds of New Guinea’ book of Pratt and Beehler, this bird distribution spead along Papua Island in Mangrove, lowland, or tidal creek.
 
Azure Kingfisher has deep blue color with evenly dark crown and upperparts, black bill and pale tip. While Little Kingfisher is actually smallest kingfisher species found in this area. It has blue color upperparts and white underpart with black bill.
 
While Lisa excited about birds she just saw, John Whittle took some note about birds he saw along the trip in Raja Ampat Papua. Several paper filled with many birds he describe perfectly; hornbill, lory, parrot, rail, dove, pigeon and many other with different kind of it.
 
“It is amazing lanscape. Full of biodiversity and in-penetrable forest,” said John who came to Papua for the first time.
 
Mayalibit Bay is not the only place for birding. Other place also known for bird-watching is Sawingray Village. This small village is also located in Waigeo island in the coastal area. Here, the sound of the birds can be hear like a rhytm every morning.

In Sawingray, we met Yesaya. He took us a short walk to decent trail leading into forest behind the village. Not a long walk. Red bird of paradise are easily be found here. Hornbill and Mollucan parrot are also be seen quite often.

More than 200 birds are reportedly observed in Raja Ampat. No wonder, Papua and New Guinea Island has recorded 779 founded-species. By far the riches segment is that comprising land and freshwater birds; rainforest, montane, mangrove and savanah. Of this 365 species, according to the book, are the endemic then no found nowhere else. And the birds are such exotic and varied fauna.
 
That you will agree. You literally do not need to go deep inside to the lush forest to have a distictive sight of endemic exotic bird of paradise. Sitting quietly in the river bank will allow you to see several female’s red bird of paradise flying freely between trees. Hop on hop off amongst branches. Easily watching them like that, just like seeing common birds; sparrow in the city. (ran)
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