Easy birding in the islands of the Geelvink Bay. Loads of endemics, some of them easy, some of them hard!
Long-tailed Starling, Biak Black Flycatcher; Biak Paradise-kingfisher; Biak Lory; Geelvink Pygmy-parrot; Biak Scops-owl; Biak Monarch; Biak Coucal; Biak Scrubfowl; Biak Gerygone; Biak White-eye; Numfor Paradise-kingfisher.
Most birders just visit Biak, attracted by the easy access and large number of endemics that can be seen in a short space of time. Very few birders visit Numfor, largely as it is a lot more time consuming to get there for just one endemic as a reward (but it’s a good one!).
All the endemics of Biak can be seen within a couple of hours drive of Biak town. The habitat in the vicinity of Biak town is a mix of cleared land and scrub and patches of degraded forest.Probably the best area to visit is to the east of Biak town near the village of Warafri. here a surfaced road cuts through forest and scrub and numerous footpaths branch off into more intact forest s short distance form the road. The birding is good along the road itself and along any of the footpaths. This area is pretty reliable for most of the endemics, including Biak Scops-owl, and is where Biak Monarch and Biak Scrubfowl is most regularly seen. Probably the only endemic it is not good for is Biak White-eye which seems to prefer more open scrubby areas. A second site to try is closer to Biak Town, accessed by taking a left turn off the road to Warafri (see map). This is another surfaced road that cuts through about 5km of mixed scrub and degraded forest. It is here that Biak White-eye is more common, and the site also holds Biak Coucal, Biak Gerygone and Biak Black Flycatcher. It is also a good place to visit in the evening when lots of parrots and pigeons are flying around. Biak Monarch has also been seen here once. If you’ve got longer to explore on Biak it may also be worth heading further east from Warafri where there is more quite intact looking forest and some strange flooded forest areas and lots of mangrove. You could also try driving to the north of the island where more extensive tracts of intact forest still remain and where Victoria Crowned-Pigeon can still occasionally be seen.
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Access, accommodation & timing:
Many of the airlines flying between Jakarta and Papua stop over at Biak (Garuda, Merpati) so it is a convenient place to visit on either the way in or out. It is also pretty easy logistically, and most, if not all, species can be seen within 2-3 days. For these reason it also make a nice starting point for a trip to Papua as you can get into the swing of things before visiting sites that are logistically more challenging! It is also a good place to make your obligatory visit to the local police station to arrange a ‘Surat Jalan’ for other places (for more information on Surat Jalan visit here).To get around you need a car. You could simply hire a taxi from Biak Town or there are a couple of local guys that know the birding sites, including Pak Rustan (+62-852-444-93000) a local minibus driver that knows the sites but not the birds, and Benny Lesobar email@example.com that knows a bit of both. The are lots of hotel options in Biak Town. Many people stay at the Arumbai Hotel in town (www.arumbaihotel.com) as it is convenient. Numfor is a harder spot to get to. There are occasional flights from Biak, but their availability and schedule changes frequently. Best bet would be to check at the airline offices at Biak airport to find out what options exist when you arrive. Numfor is also served by overnight ferries from Biak 2-3 times a week, but again the schedule changes frequently and the only way to get reliable information would be to visit the ferry port in Biak Town and check. Biak and Numfor can be visited year round but expect rain showers at any time.