Tales from the field: New Guinea's secret species

Written by Jonny Keeling, producer, Expedition New Guinea for BBC News

An international team of explorers and scientists is on an expedition to the forbidding jungles of New Guinea. They plan to survey a lost world of volcanoes, caves, mountains and rivers in search of the strangest animals on the planet. They will have to endure one of the toughest jungles on Earth to step where no scientist has set foot before. A successful expedition could result in this unique forest being safeguarded forever.

In this weekly diary, the BBC Natural History Unit crew accompanying the researchers will share their adventures.

New Guinea is the land of the bizarre: kangaroos that climb trees, carnivorous mice and giant rats bigger than domestic cats.

Our first find was a strange one; the smallest parrot in the world. Buff-faced pygmy parrots, no bigger than your thumb, do not eat fruit and nuts but lichen and fungi, and they nest in termite mounds. As I write, our cameraman is in a mosquito-infested hide staking out their nest hole to see if he can glimpse this peculiar petite parrot and record its calls; "pieces of two" rather than "pieces of eight".

The expedition's bird expert has been setting his nets. On day one, he caught the most exquisite king bird of paradise, with crimson feathers, violet-coloured feet and a pair of tail streamers each ending with a perfect emerald disc. Everyone in base camp stopped their work and, for the next hour, the king bird was given paparazzi treatment.

By tracking bats, the team hopes to learn more about the flying mammals

Evening time in base camp and the air is full of bats. They flutter through the dining area feeding on insects drawn to our lights. We've managed to catch one and stick a miniscule transmitter on its back to see if we can track it to its roost in order to learn more about that species. Each animal we find makes us realise just how little is known about the extraordinary creatures of New Guinea. In the coming weeks, we hope to uncover some of those secrets.

Keep up to date with the team at BBC News

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