Live, from Garuahi!


Greetings, from Garuahi Village, Papua New Guinea. Just in time for another brief update from the ground. Currently, I’m writing this from the beach of Garuahi (the only place with consistent internet service), but we’ll start our update in Porotona.


The rain season is officially upon us here in Milne Bay. It’d be tranquil, under most circumstances, to sit on a porch to work under the rain to work on your prospectus while in the tropics. Too bad I had birds to catch that day (that had to be caught). It rained hard enough to make the river impassible, which is unfortunate because my wrens were on the other side. Luckily, river levels have since returned back to normal, although the river bed itself is quite a different shape than it was pre-flood.


My field technician, Ian Hoppe, has officially arrive to PNG (above: he’s on a roof with Tobudi. For fun, I think?). Ian is returning for his second trip to PNG to aid in completing both of my projects this year – we’re lucky to have him. The locals have surely missed him just as much as he missed them in return. Maybe he’ll join us for year three? Well, in any case, with his arrival, we’ve set off for Garuahi Village. Here, we have our work cut out for us as we try to complete a behavioural experiment, more implantation sampling (below), and pilot some other fun things out to attempt next year.


Did you know that backwards binos make a nice magnifying glass? I needed one to really see the details of the pin feathers of the wren’s scapular feather patch. Speaking of which, the preliminary results of my first chapter are in and they’re not too terribly conclusive, but they are quite exciting. Like many things during field work, it only has me more excited to keep collecting samples. I’ll share more when I obtain a greater sample size from Garuahi. Also, during sampling efforts in Porotona, I’ve realized that if you play a female song of a divergent population of unornamented females (recorded in Obo, Western Province), the females here in Milne Bay province will ‘switch’ their songs and start to sing a song that closely resembles that of the other population. I should note that, structurally speaking, these birds normally sing songs so differently, if I didn’t know better, I’d assume they’re separate species. So, the fact that a Milne Bay bird sounded like a Western Province bird is exciting – but I’ve yet to see this effect in Garuahi. Strange.


Doka (our local Papuan assistant; pictured above), Ian, and I have been in Garuahi for a little over a week now. Above is a snapshot of the gear/food we brought for our stay as well as a lovely mountain view from the grass below (mountain photo being the first photo in this update). In this time, we’ve managed to catch individuals from 22 groups (totaling near 50 birds captured). We’re well underway with my behavioural experiment and somehow ahead of schedule. It’s an exciting time. We’re using a playback design like Erik’s before me, where we present a mount and a song pair to elicit a behavioural response. However, unlike Erik, here we are broadcasting only a female song and only a female mount. And we’re given them mounts of differing phenotypes to investigate the signaling function of the white scapular patch in this species. Just like with the first experiment of the summer, the results are still ongoing but I’ll keep you posted when there are updates to share. In the meantime, bird pictures.

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Until next time,







Author: John Anthony Jones

Fairywren researcher, extraordinaire(ish)

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