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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Bali and Flores – 28th May to 8th June 2011,
Indonesians are genuinely incredibly friendly and good-natured people which makes it a great country to visit. I arranged all of my trip through Eco-lodges Indonesia (contact person Nyoman firstname.lastname@example.org) – it would have been possible to do it on my own – but Ecolodges offered friendly and good service and it saved me a lot of hassle and allowed for more birding time.
To visit both Bali and Java you will need two field guides. For Bali – the MacKinnon and Phillips guide to Java, Sumatra, Borneo, and Bali and for Flores – the Birds of Wallacea by Coates, Bishop and Gardner. The Birds of Wallacea is out of print and I could only see copies for >$300 on Amazon. However, I did manage to get hold of the Bahasan version in Flores at the Ecolodge in Labuanbajo for IDR150K (US$17) – it includes English names so it is a workable field guide.
There are a growing number of internal airlines in Indonesia. Indonesia does not have a good reputation for air safety. I flew on Aviastar (which had a rather run-down aeroplane and which I will try and avoid in the future) and Lion Air operated by Wings. My Wings flight was on a modern and well-maintained ATR and I would recommend this airline.
Gardens of Uduyana Lodge
My base in Bali was Udayana Kingfisher Lodge 20 minutes from the airport run by Eco-lodges Indonesia. It is a great spot surrounded by woodland. Birding in the gardens of the lodge is good and includes Bar-winged Prinia, Scarlet-headed Flowerpecker, Brown-throated, and Olive-backed Sunbirds as well as the ubiquitous Glossy Swiftlet.
Santos, the friendly driver from the lodge dropped myself and Noyman (an employee of Ecolodges Indonesia who is keen on birds) at a track near the famous Hindu temple at Uluwatu. On a walk through some good woodland and thicket habitat that led to some cliffs where the White-tailed Tropicbirds are reported from included Sooty-headed and Yellow-vented Bulbul, Common Iora, Scaly-breasted Munia. We arrived at the famous Uluwatu Hindu temple and here we had Fork-tailed Swift.
I managed to sneak in a few hours afternoon birding at the botanical gardens in Bedugul – in the Bali highlands. Here I added Chestnut-backed Scimitar-babbler and Mugimaki Flycatcher. Orange-fronted and possible Blue-eared Barbets were calling but it was not possible to get visual on these.
Nusa Dua settlement ponds
This is a great birding location with some good fringing woodland habitat. Here I had Pink-headed Green Pigeon, Javan Pond Heron, Small Blue Kingfisher, Pied Fantail, Egrets, Striated Heron.
Ubud – with Bali Bird Walks and Ni Wayan Sumadi
Alex Anderson, a birding colleague from Townsville, Australia suggested that I take a birding trip around Ubud with Sumadi who has now been the guide for the Bali Bird Walks for some time – and Sumadi and the birding outing were phenomenal. I had picked up a nasty stomach bug from the night before at a fancy Indonesian restaurant at the Galleria Mall in Kuta – but thanks to lots of Imodium I was able to still make the trip with Sumadi. We started at a rice field in Ubud called Juwuk Manis shortly after dawn. Sumadi’s skills at picking up birds was incredible. In no time we had Streaked Weaver, Javan Munia, Javan Kingfisher, Chestnut Munia (the white-headed form) a group of Moss Nest Swiftlets together Edible Nest Swiftlets and Glossy Swiftlets. During our two hours on the rice fields we also had Grey-cheeked Green Pigeon, Zitting Cisticola, Pacific Swallow, Collared Kingfisher and Striated Swallow. Sumadi grew up near Ubud in a rice-farming family, and birding with her and hearing her stories from her childhood, and the insights she gave into the timeless scenes of men tending their fields was a great part of the experience. Back in Ubud town we also heard Ashy Tailorbird and Scarlet-headed Flowerpecker – but could not get visual on either.
Our next stop was the little road through some good forest at 600m a.s.l. near the village of Susut, Payangan. This is a great quiet little road that tracks through some beautiful forest. Here we had some great birds that included Ashy Tailorbird, Bar-winged Prinia, a couple pairs of Scarlet-headed Flowerpeckers, Brown-throated Sunbird, Orange-fronted Barbet, Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, Plain-backed Sunbird, Crested Serpent Eagle, Oriental Magpie Robin, and Black-naped Oriole. We also added Horsfield’s Babbler, Grey-throated Bulbul, and Little Spiderhunter to our heard list for the day.
Sumadi can be contacted on +62 81 747 33318 and email@example.com.
Flores – 30 May to 7 June
Labuanbajo and Komodo Island
Labuanbajo and gardens of Bajo Komodo Ecolodge
I arrived on a morning flight from Bali and was transferred directly to Bajo Komodo ecolodge run by Ecolodges Indonesia. I found Golden-bellied Gerygone and Black-faced Munia in the lodge gardens. I made sure that my plans for the next days outing to Komodo island were in order and I spent a few hours sorting emails in the lodge office.
The day after my trip to Komodo island (described below) I did some early morning birding in the lodge gardens before heading up to the mid-altitude Flores montane forests for Flores Monarch (also described below). The gardens were teeming with birdlife and front onto a beautiful beach. In the gardens I added Yellow-spectacled White-eye, Golden-headed Cisticola, and Large-billed Crow to my trip list. The following day I added Blood-breasted Flowerpecker.
I departed at 5am from the lodge for the 3 and a half hour boat trip to Komodo island. I would recommend that birders try and connect with a faster boat – such as the one that Dive Komodo run. That can get to Komodo island from Labuanbajo harbour in 40 minutes. And being the tropics – it is best to be there at dawn. However, the boat I was on was great in all other respects and my capable and friendly guide Hendrick (+6281331364926; firstname.lastname@example.org) was good value. En route I had Great Crested Tern, a pair of Reef Egrets and Whitebellied Sea Eagle. Yet, the general absence of sea birds in this exquisite island-dotted seascape was remarkable – although I must say the tropical Pacific island of Vanuatu had a similar paucity.
I was on the edge of my seat by the time we got to Komodo – to search for the Dragon and the Yellow-crested Cockatoo. The park guide on Komodo took me straight to the kitchen area where three Dragons were hanging out. I spent a good 45 minutes relishing these beasts. Other than when there are Dragons hanging around the kitchen area – Rincha island which is closer to Labuanbajo is apparently much better for the Dragons at present. Whilst watching the dragons, I enjoyed Flame-breasted Sunbird and Brown-throated Sunbird in the trees above. As we started our walk up to the mountain track to Sulphur hill (Bukit Sulphurae) – I picked up on a pair of Green Junglefowl. Not long after leaving the lodge gardens we crossed a small rise and there it was – Yellow-crested Cockatoo squawking from a tall dry tree! Also present, was Helmeted Friarbird. We saw a very young Dragon a little further on the track – apparently a rare sighting. It looks just like a monitor lizard! And I guess the adults look just like extravagantly over-sized monitor lizards – to which they are related. Bukit Sulpharae offers gorgeous views over this divine land and seascape. Other species seen on the walk were Oriental White-eye, and a group of White-eyes with white bellies. According to the field guides the Mountain White-eye which is the only white-bellied form that occurs in the region is not found at sea level where I found this group. The Ashy-bellied White-eye which occurs at sea level is not meant to be on Komodo island. As elsewhere in the tropics the taxonomy of similar-looking Zosterops seems a bit of a mess. I also found Green and Pied Imperial Pigeon, and Wallacean Drongo
Flores Monarch and Flores mid-altitude forests
The evening before my trip up to these forests I organised a motorbike for hire from the lodge security guard for IDR150K. It was a lot cheaper than chartering a car and driver from the lodge (and also more fun!) I would however recommend hiring a motorbike from a more reputable dealer in town, as mine gradually stopped working throughout the day and this may have cost me Wallace’s Hanging Parrot on the road to Terang in the late evening as once I got it restarted and driving after engine failure I thought it best to get straight back to the lodge and quit my search for the Parrot… I did however have a successful day.
At the famous Paurlo communications tower (also called Paurlolo on some maps) I took the road that heads up at right angles to the main Labuanbajo – Ruteng road into the forest. The tower is easy to find – as it is the first large tower once you leave the outskirts of Labuanbajo and start climbing the mountains. Along the first kilometre or two of track I found Golden-rumped Flowerpecker. At the top of the ridge there is a path that enters into the forest on the right – it was pointed out to me by one of the very friendly locals. The track splits after a while but I stuck to the main one that kind of follows the ridge and then heads down. It was about 1km along this track that I located a Flores Monarch. Also along here I had Thick-billed Darkeye, Crested Darkeye, Wallacean Drongo, and Russet-capped Tesia. Here I also saw my first of many Common Golden Whistlers – although I must say that this species looks fairly different, and also calls differently, compared to the Common Golden Whistlers I am used to in Australia – although as I understand they are the same species. Possibly a future split?
Labuanbajo to Ruteng
I left after breakfast for the scenic road to Ruteng with chartered car and driver organised by Ecolodges Indonesia. At the second communications tower in the mountains (the first one after the Paurlo one described above) I had Crested Darkeye, Golden-rumped Flowerpecker, and Flame-breasted Subird. A few kilometres after this tower we came across some good-looking Eucalypt woodland reminiscent of mountainous tropical north-eastern Australia. And the bird species were here to match. Loud parrot-like squawking is what made me pull the vehicle to a halt – and after extensive search all I could find amidst the noise was the plain-breasted form of Rainbow Lorikeet and some noise Helmeted Friarbirds. Species-wise I may as well have been in Australia! Our next stop was the so-called Rice SpeederWik in the village of Cacca. It seems a standard tourist stop and is a cultural attraction. I could not see a difference between this village on the hill and most of the other villages I passed through – but it was good to walk inside one and take a closer look. We walked to the top of the hill which provides for great views over a valley of extensive rice-fields. Here, in the bamboo, I stumbled across a group of White-headed Munias as well as the rather ubiquitous Chestnut-capped Tesia, Rainbow Bee-eater, and Olive-backed Sunbird.
We overnighted in the catholic monastery which has a hotel/accommodation wing in this forlorn-looking highland town. Ecolodges Indonesia arranged the accommodation with the monastery. There is another slightly grubbier hotel 100m from the monastery where I used internet services.
There was time in the late afternoon for a short birding sortie up Poco Ranaka. Drove as far as we could and then I walked up. Here, I added my first Brown-capped Fantail to my list and in the dying day light an interesting but unidentified Thrush flushed from the path ahead of me.
Golo Lusang Pass
A 6am departure from the monastery has us at the top of Golo Lusang pass at dawn. I started where the good forest starts on the southern side and birder my way down and back up on foot. There is a lot of forest clearing here – but some good patches remain – for now, at least. The glorious song of the Bare-throated Whistler echoed across the valley. It took some time to get a visual though, they do not seem to respond to a recording of their call and I finally found one male about two kilometres down calling from the top of a dead tree. Other species recorded in the forest here: Scaly-crowned Honeyeater (a couple of sightings), Mountain Tailorbird (common here), Little Minivet (one sighting), Thickbilled and Yellowbrowed Darkeye (both fairly common), Timor Leaf Warbler, a stunning male Little Pied Flycatcher, and Brown-capped Fantail.
A stop-over at Lake Rana Mese en route to Kisol delivered Red-cheeked Parrot and Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker on the walk from the car park to the lake. This is one sight for the rare and elusive Flores Scops Owl – and it is a pity I did not have the time to spend a night here searching for this specialty. Further down to Kisol I found a large group of Barred Cuckoo Doves.
In Kisol we overnighted at another grandiose Catholic monastery. Fabian, the friendly priest in charge (and guitar player extraordinar) can be contacted on +62 81339883080. Fabian put me onto the local guide Sebastian (direct nr +62 8525310783).
Kelimutu Crater Lake and Area
Kelimutu EcoLodge run by Ecolodges Indonesia is situated in the river valley below the Kelimutu National Park and the town of Moni. It is an idyllic-looking lodge and the lodge’s operations manager Marianus, is a lively, and wonderfully friendly individual who has a great enthusiasm for birds.
Kelimutu Crater Lake National Park and Arboretum
As is the norm, we (Marianus and I) left Kelimutu lodge at 0430 (actually we were a little late and left at 5am) and dashed to the top sunrise viewing platform before dawn. Watching the sun rise over this magical island surrounded by the three ‘changing’ crater lakes was a memorable experience. Orange-footed Scrub Fowl was calling from the heathy scrub. We located a handful of Pied Bushchats in the scrub on the way down from the top viewing platform. We then entered the forest. Compared to the forests around Ruteng and Labuanbajo, the forests in this national park looked really good, and the infrastructure in the national park is well maintained. Just above the Arboretum we had a group of Barred Cuckoo Doves. We then went down into the Arboretum proper which provided for great birding. A bird party as we entered provided my first Yellow-breasted Warbler in a party that included Yellow-browed and Thick-billed Darkeye, Oriental and Mountain White Eyes, and Timor Leaf Warbler. The rich, melodious call of the Bare-throated Whistler was omnipresent. Further down the Arboretum’s network of tracks we added Brown-capped Fantail, Wallacean Drongo, Scaly-crowned Honeyeater, Flame-breasted Sunbird, Yellow-spectacled White Eye, Russet-capped Tesia and Black-backed Fruit Dove (heard) to our day list. On our walk down from the Arboretum we had Long-tailed Macaques (fairly common on Flores), many Glossy Swiftlets (common throughout Flores), and also added Crested Darkeye to our day list. About 1 kilometre above the ranger station we finally got visual of a Black-backed Fruit Dove.
Walk from Kelimutu Ecolodge
On my second full day in Kelimutu I had to spend some time catching up with work – so I set myself up in the exquisite restaurant of the Kelimutu Ecolodge and worked to the songs of Golden-rumped Flowerpecker, Elegant Pitta, and Flame-breasted Sunbird, whilst Glossy Swiftlets passed by overhead. I did make sure that I got a few hours of birding in before breakfast, and took a walk up river from the Ecolodge. Thick-billed Darkeyes were calling in a number of places. I also finally managed to connect to a pair of Elegant Pittas after some searching and a pair showed really well out in the open. Other birds seen were fairly common in other parts of Flores – Black-naped Oriole, Flame-breasted Sunbird, Brown-throated Sunbird, Golden-rumped Flowerpecker, Wallacean Drongo, and Helmeted Friarbird. After a lunch break and work session I was dropped off at the turnoff to Kelimutu Crater National Park from the main road just above the tourist bungalows. I walked up to the first creek crossing and in the forest here I added Rufous-chested Flycatcher and shortly thereafter the exquisite Chestnut-capped Thrush to my list. Despite many good looking trees, some with fruit, I could not locate any Flores Green Pigeons, or any other Pigeons or Fruit Doves – nor any other new species in this area. In the evening we searched for Wallace’s Scops Owl that Marianus said he had seen in a nearby village – but had no luck. The following day it was time for my flight from Ende to Labuanbajo and then back to Denpassar
Trip report compiled by:
Specialist Bird and Eco-Expeditions
Africa, Asia & Australasia
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