On our first day in camp, we set up our mist-nets and started working. One of the first birds we caught was this male King Bird-of-Paradise. I personally think that this is the most drop-dead gorgeous bird in the forests of New Guinea. The red feathers on the head and back sparkle in the light like spun glass, and the mouth is colored day-glow green. They perform an amazing display dance, all to impress the females, and the BBC was able to capture some of this on film.
There are lots of caves in the area, and in caves you can find Amblypygids. This one was the size of a smallish tarantula, with these long spiky recurved palps. They don’t seem to bite us, but I would hate to be a small insect wandering along the wall in front of him.
This Beautiful Fruit-dove (Ptilinopus pulchellus) was caught in our nets. We have also been watching and filming its nest, that has a single egg balanced on a climbing palm frond. It has always been seen on the egg, ever since the first time we flushed it, and the egg should be hatching any day now.
We think that this bat is Hipposideros wollastoni. These horse-shoe bats regularly fly around the top of our work and mess tents at night hunting for insects that are drawn to the lights. They echo-locate by sending focused pulses of ultra-high frequency sound from their elaborate faces, and then picking up the rebounding sounds with their large ears. Alanna Maltby is on our team, and she has been studying the echo-location calls of these and other bats in the area. Because of her work, I have been able to sample many bat species for viruses and get some fantastic photos of their echolocation equipment. (Photo by Jack Dumbacher and Alanna Maltby)
This tube-nosed bat (genus Nyctimene) is actually a small “flying fox.” These bats are still active at night, but they are not insect eaters (they are mostly frugivores or nectarivores) and they cannot echo-locate. Instead, they have large eyes and they navigate by sight.
A small team of us went to a nearby cave to explore the birds and bats living there. We set up camp on a slope above the cave entrance, and we slept in Hennessey Hammocks that are built for the tropics, and are sort of like hanging tents. (Photo by Alanna Maltby)