Home stretch 2018 – Live, from Obo!

10 hours by dinghy south of Kiunga (or 1 hour by MAF (Mission Avian Fellowship) flight), we arrived in Obo Village last week after stranded in Kiunga for 8 Days. We planned on being here quite sooner, but the entire town (and neighboring Tabubil) ran out of the fuel for the boat motors. Because of course it did. With over 100 kgs of cargo, we needed that dinghy. Luckily, our friends arranged for 300 liters of fuel to come to Kiunga from Obo Village (but unfortunately still twice the cost of what it would cost in Kiunga). Nonetheless, with the arrival of Doka from his Australia trip (huge thanks to the red-backed fairywren crew in Samsonvale for making his trip incredibly meaningful for him), we departed after only a little bit of engine problems.

Terrible selfies

Obo’s airstrip can be found on Google Earth – just north of where the Fly River meets the Strickland in Western Province PNG. Follow the winey river south of Kiunga (along the Papuan border with Indonesia). Fun fact, we got off the dinghy on the Indonesian side of the river. Doka was excited to step foot in another country. Lacking cameras (thanks to an earlier post about Garuahi…), we were unable to take pictures of all the birds we saw on our trip. But Sea Eagles, Brahminy kites, and Magpie Geese were a plenty.


Here in Obo, the swamps are dried up (as it is currently the dry season), mosquitos are prevalent (but only during the dawn chorus), fires sweep through my field site (I’ve had to put out a few already since arriving last week), and fairywren females are brown (pictured above). Unlike Milne Bay Province, female ornamentation out here is all but absent. Likewise, immature birds (sub 1 year of life) are also brown in appearance, which leads to some pretty neat looking males when they start finally molting in their ornamented state (below).

Young male trying his best

Obo, for me, is home when I’m in PNG. The village is quite welcoming and happy to watch us while we wonder throughout their grasslands. The family that owns the majority of the land (and our guest house) provides great company and logistical support for when things break down (like our generator which has gone down twice since we arrived). Not to mention the ground is soft enough that I can run barefoot and its totally normal around here (well, except for a white man running around and through the village, that is). This place, although a challenge to arrive too, is where I feel the best when in PNG.

Not to mention that my favorite fairywren species is very abundant at the forest edge – Emperor fairywrens.


With only two weeks and change left to go this field season, we are hard at work with conducting the Western Province half of my behaviour experiment I mentioned previously. We are about 1/3 of the way done with our 90 behavioural assays after catching nearly 50 birds since our arrival. This year has been an interesting one, to say the least. I’m excited to see what comes out of the results of this experiment.


This female is BOO. She is 5 years old (at least, we’ve only been based out of this site for 5 years) and is the first white-shouldered fairywren I ever held – 2 years ago. I’m glad she’s still alive and doing well. Her offspring have set up their own territories in nearby areas too! Oh, fairywrens.





Author: John Anthony Jones

Fairywren researcher, extraordinaire(ish)

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