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A Report from

Indonesia, Java and Bali, 16th August - 5th September 2009,

Brendan Threlfall


This was a holiday with my girlfriend rather than a birding trip as such and my first taste of birding in Asia. I did manage to fit a lot of birding in though! We spent most of our time in Java but did skip over to Bali for a few nights.

Birding wise, Paul Jepson’s Birding Indonesia is a fantastic guide and indispensable for any visiting birder. The Mackinnon field guide is also invaluable but as others have said does have its limitations (e.g. on the Babblers).

As we soon found out, going from one end of Java to the other, skipping over to Bali and then back to Jakarta in three weeks by public transport was an ambitious itinerary! Accommodation is well listed in all the guide books so haven’t included much detail in this report. Transport is a different matter though, so I’ve included full details of how we got around at the end of the report. Main bit of advice would be to use trains if you’re travelling any distance. And to avoid any karaoke trains or buses at all costs! Travelling by bus in Java is cheap and character building but can be a bewildering and random experience.

Feel free to contact me at

Bogor Botancial Gardens

Kicked off our trip with a few hours in a packed Botanical Gardens (National Independence Day probably explaining the number of people). Surprising number of birds in this fairly unpromising spot, highlights being:

Night Heron – Only 2 in flight over the lake (the island bushes were being trimmed)

Grey-cheeked Green Pigeon – 2 (1 over the lake and 1 in trees near the café)

Black-naped Fruit Dove – easy here, best place being the bushes bordering the road between the café and the nearest side entrance, we saw 6 together here)

Coppersmith Barbet – 2 by the lake and 1 near the café

Yellow-throated Hanging Parrot – brief flight views of one over the lake

Black-naped Oriole – 2 by the river in the E of the gardens

Gunung Gede

An excellent place and a welcome escape from the chaos of Bogor! Our first experience of Asian forest birding so we took it easy and had no intention of trying an endemic clean-up. The summit was closed while we were there (and any bit of the trail above the hot springs). Apparently it was closed throughout August to prevent people camping up there on Independence Day. Having said that we saw one couple who climbed to the summit anyway and had no problems. Trails were fairly quiet save for the occasional big school party. Stayed at Freddy’s.

Only a couple of days here so not surprisingly didn’t get the Cochoa or Trogon, and we didn’t bother with nightbirds. Seems the sort of place you’d need a week to really do justice. Great birding though, highlights being:

Javan Hawk-Eagle – one seen from the boardwalk before the waterfall

Spotted Kestrel – 1 showed well at the waterfalls

Ruddy Cuckoo-Dove – 1 just above the junction

Orange-fronted Barbet – 1 before the Blue Lake, and 1 above the junction

Sunda Minivet – several flocks just above the junction

Orange-spotted Bulbul – regular from the boardwalk

Sunda Bulbul – 1 just below waterfalls junction

White-browed Shortwing – one seen briefly above the junction

Chestnut-backed Scimitar Babbler – 2 Waterfall to Hot Springs

White-bibbed Babbler – 1 briefly near the Blue Lake

Crescent-chested Babbler – party of 4 just before the Blue Lake

Eye-browed Wren-Babbler – 2 Waterfall-Hot Springs path (just above the junction)

Javan Fulvetta – very common in all the mixed flocks

Chestnut-fronted Shrike Babbler – 1 on a brief visit to the Botanical Gardens

Lesser Forktail – 1 just below the waterfalls junction

Sunda Whistling Thrush – common

Yellow-bellied Warbler – surprised to see one at the Hot Springs

Javan Tesia – only one seen, just above the junction on the path to the Hot Springs

Snowy-browed Flycatcher – two on the trail to the waterfalls

Little Pied Flycatcher – common around Blue Lake

Gray-headed Flycatcher – 2 from the boardwalk

White-flanked Sunbird – easily seen around the junction area

Rufous-bellied Fantail – another common endemic in the mixed flocks

Javan Grey-throated White-eye – fairly common

Yogyakarta area

We visited mainly for the temples rather than the birds but ended up doing a bit of birding at the surprisingly good Prambanan.

Small Minivet – small flock near second temple

Pied Triller – 1 nr second temple

Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker – seemingly common

Striated Grassbird – 1 near main temples

Scarlet-headed Flowerpecker – common

Java Sparrow – easy around the main Shiva temple at Prambanan. At least 4 juvs seen.

Added to that we had loads of more commoner birds – Collared Kingfisher, munias, tailorbirds, White-breasted Wood-Swallow etc.

Borobudur was quieter though Plain-throated Sunbirds were everywhere. Two Red Advadvat by the toilet in the car park was my only sighting of the trip.


Spectacular scenery but the birding was a bit of a write off after I picked up food poisoning on our first night (which later transpired to be salmonella). Avoid Cemoro Indah café at all costs! Mountain White-eye on the hill down to the lava fields and plenty of Long-tailed Shrikes kept things going on the birding front.

Kawah Ijen

We hired a jeep up from Banyuwangi and then walked from Pos Patulding to the crater and back. Given more time it would be well worth birding the forest from Pos Patulding back down to Banyuwangi – looks great.

White-faced Hill Partridge – chuffed with this one. Heard a rustling just above HM11 and before a small shelter on your right. Squeezed into the bushes and spied the partridge shuffling along the floor. Less boldly marked than in Mackinnon – perhaps a female?

Javan Kingfisher – 1 on the way down near Licin

Malaysian Cuckoo Shrike – 2 near HM 22.

Chesnut-backed Scimitar Babbler – surprisingly common

Sunda Bush Warbler – seemingly common nearer Pos Patulding, including one seen very well.

Indigo Flycatcher - common

Little Pied Flycatcher – 1 near Pos Patulding

Golden Whistler – 1 about a third of the way up

Pied Bushchat – several around the crater area

Javan Grey-thraoted White-eye – 1 in with the Leaf Warblers and Mountain White-eyes


Nice walk S along the beach turned up a nice selection of commoner birds –

Javan and Scaly-breasted Munias, Long-tailed Shrike, Collared Kingfisher and Ashy Tailorbird. Highlight a great party of 20 Blue-tailed Bee-eaters that ended up flying over to Bali. We treated ourselves to a bit of luxury here (i.e. a hotel!) Ketapang Indah which would recommend. Got room rate down to 275K and the food is good.


Really good for birding, particularly raptors. We stayed at the guesthouse in Bekol. Infested with ants and mice though (don’t stay in room 3 as that looked to be the mice breeding capital). Cost 35K a night for both of us. Best to bring all your supplies, the park guys do sell a few bottles of water and packs of noodles but there’s not much. You can cook in the kitchen. Bama looked deserted and had been completely taken over by a cheeky Macaque troop.

Lesser Adjutant – 1 off Bama

Great-billed Heron – 1 from the beach c700m north of Bama

Osprey – 1 near Bekol

White-bellied Sea Eagle – 2 from the end of the boardwalk S of Bama

Black-winged Kite – lots of sightings of these birds over the savannah

Besra – great views of one perched in the coastal forest at Bama

Changeable Hawk-Eagle – 1 had a scuffle with the Osprey

Black Eagle – road back to Wonorejo

Spotted Kestrel – road to Bama

Barred Buttonquail – common around Bekol

Small Buttonquail – one of these midgets from the road back to Wonorejo

Green Peafowl – easy throughout the area, particularly by watchtower/waterhole at dusk with up to 9 together.

Green Jungefowl – common

Island Collared Dove – common

Zebra Dove – common

Green Imperial Pigeon – several in forest around Bama

Pink-necked Green Pigeon – 2 from the road to Bama

Small Blue Kingfisher – 1 on mangrove c 500m north of Bama

Chestnut-headed Bee-eater – 4 at water-hole c 500m N of Bama

Blue-tailed Bee-eater – same area as Chestnut-headed

Oriental Pied Hornbill – fantastic birds and easily seen here. 2 from the road back down to Wonorejo; common and easily seen in the coastal forest around Bama

Sunda Woodpecker – common

White-winged Triller – several on road back to Wonorejo

Small Minivet – several flocks seen near Bekol and the road to Bama

Ashy Drongo – by first bridge road back to Wonorejo

Black Drongo – on the savannah near Bekol

Racket-tailed Treepie – 1 from road back to Wonorejo

Grey-cheeked Tit Babbler – easily seen around Bama village

Pied Fantail – seen around Bekol


Our few days here were mainly spent chilling out and snorkelling! Didn’t manage the Starlings but did see a few interesting bits and pieces:

Lesser Adjutant – 1 from the point west of Pemuteran

Javan Pond Heron – regular W of Permuteran

Intermediate Egret – 2 W of Permuteran

Black-naped Tern – great breeding colony on Menjangan island

Green Junglefowl – 1 flew across the road near Labuan Lalang.

Large-tailed Nightjar – 1 flushed from the point W of Pemuteran

White-shouldered Triller – 2 at the point W of Permuteran

Lemon-bellied White-eye – easy to see on Menjangan during a lunch break from snorkelling

Alas Purwo

A fantastic place, one of the highlights of the trip. As soon as we arrived we went out to the vast sweeping beach with only a wild boar running about for company. Probably as remote and wild as it gets in Java. We stayed in the Pesangrahhan in tiny Triangulasi (50K each a night). You can cook in the kitchen for an extra 15K a night on a very good hob (much better than Baluran). The family who live there rent bikes and sell a few soft drinks. Can’t beat a Sprite to wash down a Pop Mie!

It’s well worth a walk along the beach: great scenery and the Eagles and Frigatebirds kept us entertained. Sadengan, and the surrounding forest, is probably the main focus birding-wise though. To get to Sadengan head back along the road from Triangulasi, ignore the first turning on your right, and carry on for about 500m to a second turning on your right. Take this track and you’ll reach the tower after about 1.5kms (there are a couple of trails signed off into the forest which might be worth more investigation and were good for Black-crested Bulbul).

Lesser Frigatebird – great sighting of 4 flying over the beach

Black Eagle – 1 sat motionless in the forest near Triangulasi

White-bellied Fish Eagle – a real feature of the place. We had fantastic views of several birds only a few metres overhead walking along the beach. At least 4 were around the Sadengan feeding grounds as well.

Green Peafowl – even better than Baluran for these. Counted a total of 18 from the Sadengan tower.

Black-naped Tern – several seen from the beach

Green Imperial Pigeon – common

Pink-necked Green Pigeon – single near Sadengan

Chestnut-breasted Malkoha – 1 seen briefly track to Sadengan

Javan Kingfisher – at least two distantly from the Sadengan tower

Chestnut-headed Bee-eater – fairly common in the forest en route to Sadengan

Oriental Pied Hornbill – 2 near Sadengan tower

Blue-eared Barbet – common from the track near Sadengan

Banded Pitta – My first pitta, absolutely superb. Spotted by Suzanna who heard a rustling. We bent down and watched the bird for a minute or two shuffling along the floor. A female but a stunner nonetheless. Seen on the road to Sadengan, c400m after the turn-off. Others were heard in the forest around here.

Malaysian Cuckoo-Shrike – 2 near Sadengan

Grey-cheeked Bulbul – 1 near the junction

Black-crested Bulbul – a stunning bird and seemingly fairly common in the forest around Sadengan (mainly between the tower and the blue bridge). Of the race dispar with the red throat.

Slender-billed Crow – several along the beach

Hill Blue Flycatcher – 1 near the junction for the turn-off to Sadengan

Black-winged Starling – common from Sadengan

Javan Myna – fairly common Sadengan, including 2 on a Banteng

Great place for mammals too: bull Bateng at Sadengan, wild boar, deer and some sort of sea otter type thing on the beach.

From the train from Banyuwangi to Surabaya - Javan Kingfisher was common near Rojojampi, and lots of Wood Sands, egrets and Javan Pon Herons in the rice paddies.

Muara Angke

Not as bad as I was expecting but certainly not the most scenic of birding hotspots – basically a stinking swamp filled with sewage and rubbish and inhabited by chavvy Macaques. Good birding though! Missed the Coucal which was the main target. Note that the viewing tower is now out of action, despite my crazed attempts to consider climbing it (was warned off by a local!). The boardwalk is in decent shape by Indonesian standards though.

Oriental Darter – numerous

Intermediate Egret – 1 flew out from the swamp

Purple Heron – 1 flushed about half-way along the boardwalk

Striated Heron – several seen

White-breasted Waterhen – 4 mainly in the swamp near the tower

Ruddy-breasted Crake – 2 showed superbly near the tower

Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker – several near the tower

Pied Fantail – common

Javan Munia – 4 near the tower

Transport details

Jakarta airport – Bogor: Turn left out of terminal and get Damri bus to Bogor. 35K each, good airconditioned job. Then some guy gave us a lift to Pensione Firman (which is pretty dire) for 50K.

Bogor – Cibodas: We had an absolute nightmare on this one: left too late, bus just stopped for ages, got off, got conned by a bemo dirver who took us the wrong way but ended up getting a lift all the way to Cibodas with a v nice Indonesian guy and his mum! Leave lots of time for this one, takes much longer than the guidebooks say. Probably best to get on any Bandung bus and get out at Cipanas rather than try and get on one which goes to Cibodas like we did. Freddys is just before the mosque on the right hand side (if you reach the rows of market stalls you’ve gone too far).

Cibodas – Bandung: Bemo easy down to Cipanas junction, 5K each. Didn’t have to wait long for a bus to Bandung, 25K each. Freddy will give you the name of the junction to get off at, otherwise you’ll be taken to the bus station which is miles out of town. Hired an angkot from the junction to the train station for 15K each.

Bandung – Yogyakarta: Bandung beats off stiff competition for the worst Javan city award. Complete dump. We only spent a few hours there camped in a Chicken n Donuts before getting the night train to Yogya. It set off at 5p.m., got in at 1:15a.m., and cost 110K each for business (need to get business or executive if you want to get a seat).

Around Yogya – easy enough to get cheap transport to and from the temples (5K each to Prambanan). For Borobudur, need to get to Jombor station which is a fair way out of town. We got a becak for 20K, the guy was absolutely knackered though!

Yogyakarta – Cemoro Lawang – Got the overnight 12:38a.m. train to Surabaya, 130K each in executive. Got off at Gubeng station at 6a.m., then got the 9:15 a.m. to Probolinggo, which cost 50K each in business and takes a couple of hours. We hired a bemo with a couple of others from the train station to the bus station in town. Probolinggo seems a pleasant, clean town at a glance but that hides the true awfulness which lurks beneath the surface. The dire reputation is well deserved: the place isn’t dangerous but is packed with nutters, thieves, scoundrels and weasels. Bemo to and from Cemoro cost 30K each: we endured all sorts of antics including being dropped off ‘tour shops’ and guys trying to steal my camera etc.

Travel to Ijen/Baluran – train from Probolinggo to Banyuwangi left at 11:08 and cost 80K each. We stayed at Hotel Ketapang Indah which was excellent and not too pricey for what it was. Arranged with the hotel to hire a jeep and driver up (they try to sell a guide as well but we resisted) – after some bargaining we got the price down to 600K and a cheaper room rate.

Ketapang – Baluran – chartered a bemo from the near the ferry terminal for 200K. You need to stop at the park gates and pay your 20K entrance ticket. The track to Bekol is a long and bumpy one in a bemo! On the way back we arranged with the guards to get a lift to the ferry terminal (again costing 200K).

Travel to Bali – ferry over cost 5K each. To get buses from Gilimanuk you need to walk out of the terminal, the bus station is then on your left. We got the Lovina bus which cost 20K to Permuteran.

Ketapang –Alas Purwo – we chartered a bemo all the way from Ketapang to Alas P and were very glad we did (you’d need all sorts of buses to get there as our journey back showed!). Huge negotiation in Ketapang but eventually agreed on 350K. Journey took over 3 hours and the road is extremely bumpy near the entrance to the park. For the journey back we arranged ojeks from Triangulasi with the young lad there – they were 50K each and great fun as they tore through the forest (going off road on a forest track at one point!). The ojek drops you at Dambuntung, we then got a bemo to Benculuk (actually two as one broke down!) for 15K each. In Benculuk we got a karaoke bus (avoid!) for 10K each to Banyuwangi and then chartered a bemo to Ketapang.

Ketapang – Jakarta – train from Banyuwangi to Surabaya Gubeng leaves at 9:00. This got into Surabaya at 4, we then got on the 5p.m. to Jakarta via Yogja.

Muara Angke – taxi there from the centre cost us 80K, driver had to stop to ask for the way lots! The directions in Jepson are still good. It’s easy to hail a taxi back from the road just outside the reserve.


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