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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
OBSERVATIONS IN LOMBOK, INDONESIA, 19 - 29 August 1997,
The visit was based at the Holiday Inn, on the west coast of the island on the shore of the Lombok Strait about 5 km north of the resort town of Senggigi. Travel to and from Lombok was by Silkair Fokker 70, the journey time from Singapore being 2.5 hours.
Travel in Lombok was by rented Suzuki jeep. The sturdiness of the vehicle was an asset on the dirt tracks into the forest . However, the main roads are good tarmac although road markings and road signs are few. Signposting is particularly inadequate. The local driving is of an exceptionally poor standard (driving licences are bought and no driving test exists) and the large number of horse-drawn "taxis" (bemos) and cyclists are a hazard, especially at night since they are generally unlit. The coast road circling the Rinjani massif is now good tarmac and only one bridge was in disrepair; in the past they have apparently often been washed away by the rains but the replacement bridges are robust and likely to endure. The missing bridge was not a problem in the dry conditions prevailing, the road having been diverted through the dry river bed (although there were no signs to show this !).
The island is densely (over)populated, with apparently some 2.3 million people now inhabiting its 4,739 km² (about 5,000 people/km²). The population is unevenly distributed and clearly concentrated in the lowlands comprising the southern two thirds of the island. The forest reserve and massif of Mt Rinjani is sparsely populated and the fringe of rain forest is important and extensive, although it is clearly being eroded locally by illegal felling. The inhabited areas are dominated by traditional agriculture and few extensive areas of indigenous vegetation were noted there although scattered small patches of forests were seen from the main Mataram/East Lombok highway.
The areas visited were;
1. The east, north and
west coasts, following the coast road around Mt Rinjani amd returning across
the centre of the island via the principal highway to Mataram. The road from
the hotel to Pemenang passes through coconut palm groves and there are numerous
small villages and huts, with adjacent subsistence farming on the (then) rather
dry hillsides. Some people keep goats but these were not numerous. Small herds
of water buffaloes were also characteristic. North of Pemenang the area is lusher
and crossed by small rivers. Here there are paddyfields and more open fields
generally. The area along the north coast was the driest visited, with no paddyfields
and dusty open hillsides and scrub, but still inhabited by large numbers of
people. The north-east was the least populated, with scrubby dry forest reaching
the sea and covering large tracts of the Rinjani foothills. The whole of the
region fringing the main road across the island is densely inhabited, with paddyfields,
coconut palm and banana groves and tobacco plantations being characteristic.
2. The secondary forest, paddyfields, riverine scrub and primary forest fringe at Tetebatu, on the south-central slopes of Mt Rinjani. A lot of time was wasted on finding a way through the labyrinth of tracks and in retrospect the offer of a local guide should have been accepted. There is good access to the forest proper from Tetebatu apparently if one asks for guidance to the "monkey forest".
3. The tracks entering the Rinjani forest reserve from the east coast road, near Tanjung and Godang. Tarmac here eventually gives rise to dirt but this was not a problem The roads pass through tracts of forest interspersed with fields and plantations.
4. The principal access to Mt Rinjani, from the northern part of the coast road at Senaru. A good tarmac road leads to the reserve. From there is a steep footpath across grassy and scrubby hillsides into the rain forest. The path leads eventually above the treeline and to the volcano summit itself but only the forest was visited.
5. The road ascending the Rinjani forest reserve to the plateau at Sembalunlawang and nearby villages, in the northeast of the island. The road passes through rainforest and open country, crossing a little of the rhododendron zone and montane grassland before reaching a col between Gunung Rinjani and Gunung Nangi. From here the road descends to the southern side of the island, passing through rain forest again. The road was good tarmac throughout.
6. The road through the Monkey Forest, which links Pemenang to Mataram directly, bypassing the coast. The road snakes up and down through the forest but there are few sensible stopping places and considerable lorry traffic was a hazard. The abundant monkeys are the small Long-tailed Macacques, although Black Monkeys no doubt also occur as elsewhere in the rain forest.
7. Seawatching was done over the Lombok Strait, from the hotel grounds.
The southern half of the island was not visited.
The principal reference used was the newly-published avifauna, "A guide to the birds of Wallacea", by B J Coates, K D Bishop & D Gardner (1997, Dove Publications,Alderley, Australia). This is a fieldguide as well as a regional avifauna and it proved indispensable. The quality of the information provided, including the excellent plates, is first-rate. Trip reports by Alan Wakeford (year ? but clearly some time ago) , Peter Lansley (1986) & Tim Andrews (1988) were also obtained from Steve Whitehouse's Information Service. They provided some guidance although they were out of date and the Wakeford account is full of errors, with some unlikely species identified.
The island offers interesting birding in the Mt Rinjani reserve. The area is very extensive and much of it is difficult of access. It would reward anyone with the time and perseverance to visit zones off the beaten track. The accessible areas nonetheless provided a good and representative variety of species.
The densely-populated lowlands proved disappointing, perhaps unsurprisingly given the numbers of people and the occurence (apparently) of hunting and trapping for the bird trade. Birds were hard to come by in many areas and the variety was limited.
Sea-watching was rewarding although numbers of birds seen were small. The potential is high and better results might be obtained at other times of year. The south coast might also be worth visiting with seabirds in mind.
Observations from Bali suggest that significant raptor migration from that island towards Lombok and the Lesser Sunda chain may occur in October especially.
In all, 60 species were identified, a low total for a tropical location.
The climate in August was hot (c30ºC) but not unduly humid. Mornings were almost invariably calm, with a flat-calm sea. Onshore sea breezes tended to develop in the afternoons, once reaching near gale-force. The afternoons also tended to be overcast, especially over Mt Rinjani. There was no significant rain during the visit, although rainfall may be heavy at other times of year.
Great Frigatebird Fregata minor
Four on Aug 28 a.m. flying north in the Lombok Strait just off the hotel; 1m & 2 imms together and later 1f.
Five on Aug 28 a.m. flying north. They included 2m feeding inshore over shoaling fish.
Unidentified frigatebirds were seen on a number of occasions far offshore, usually in ones and twos but a flock of c100 was soaring far out over the Lombok Strait at sunset on Aug 24.
Ten flying north at extreme range over the Lombok Strait on Aug 25. Some showed a pied appearance. Three flew north there on 29 Aug, again at extreme range; two of these were pied, with black secondaries and primaries, and the third was brownish, paler below. Birds flew at moderate height, occasionally swooping low over the sea. Probably Red-footed Boobies S.sula.
Javan Pond Heron
Widespread in small numbers in paddyfields. Usually seen in ones and twos but also in groups of up to 8 near Pemenang. Ten flew to roost at sunset over the airport on Aug 29.
Oriental Honey Buzzard
One light phase bird flying inland over the hotel on Aug 20, apparently having just arrived from the Lombok Strait. Perhaps an early migrant.
Four on Aug 25, 3 in the northern coastal lowlands and one on the plateau. All were on conspicuous perches, at dusk.
Seen in all areas, usually singly.
Four hunting over montane grassland above the Sembalunlawang plateau on Aug 25. One over grassland at the forest edge above Senaru on Aug 27.
One near the hotel on Aug 20, seen scrambling up a scrub-covered hillside at least 100m from the nearest stream.
One by a small rivermouth north of the hotel, on Aug 20.
Up to 11 together feeding over shoaling fish offshore from the hotel on Aug 29. Seen at about the same range, time and in identical wind/light conditions to the Black-naped Terns seen the previous day. Black caps were clearly noticeable as well as greyish backs. Plunge-dived often. Looked larger than Black-naped and heavier in flight.
A party of 14 seen offshore from the hotel on Aug 28. They were present all day, alternately feeding over fish shoals and resting on a rock at Senggigi headland. They were strikingly very white indeed but some limited black could be discerned on the head. They were at least 25% smaller than nearby Bridled Terns. Their flight was distinctively buoyant, more so than the Common Terns seen next day. Feeding was chiefly by swooping and snatching fish near the surface but plunge-diving also occurred in the afternoon when the sea was choppy.
Seen in the Lombok Strait off the hotel. Up to 10 offshore at once, feeding by snatching fish from surface shoals, on Aug 28 and Aug 29. On the first date two birds came within 300m of the beach. Ten additional birds flew north far offshore on Aug 29.
Frequent in the Lombok Strait off the hotel. Seen singly and in groups of up to 5.
Seen in ones and twos on the fringes of cultivated areas and near settlements. Not numerous.
One flushed from the ground in forest on Mt Rinjani, above Senaru, on Aug 27.
Single birds seen in dense coastal scrub north of the hotel on Aug 20 & Aug 22.
Small flocks of all-dark swiftlets were over forest on the NW foothills of Mt Rinjani on Aug 22.
Seen over all habitats, from the coast to the forests. Small groups of 3 or 4 were commonly encountered but up to 50 together were feeding over fields on the Rinjani plateau at Sembalunlawang on Aug 25. The white-bellies were very noticeable.
Widespread in small numbers over all habitats. Seen feeding low over burning rice stubble.
Asian Palm Swift
Two were seen over a coconut palm grove south of Pemenang on Aug 20. They were observed at very close range, from both above and below. Dark brown, with paler chins and "hooked" primary tips. The deeply cleft, long pointed tails were obvious. This species has not apparently been recorded on Lombok previously. However, I was already acquainted with it (from Singapore) and also with its African congener. Identification was certain. On Aug 22 at least two were present at each of two coastal sites north of the hotel and c10 were just south of Pemenang. Apparently locally established.
Grey-rumped Tree Swift
Three feeding over scubby slopes north of the hotel on Aug 20. Two over forest edge in the NW foothills of Mt Rinjani on Aug 22.
Widely but sparsely distributed in coastal areas and in open habitats up to the fringes of the Mt Rinjani forest reserve. Seen singly or in pairs.
Two present throughout in the hotel grounds and several others seen in similar coastal habitats. Australasian migrant.
Two on wires near the NW coast on Aug 23.
Frequent on wires near the western and northern coasts, in groups of up to 10. One hawking over a grass fire on the Rinjani forest edge above Senaru on Aug 27. Australasian migrant.
One in dry pastureland near the north coast on Aug 23.
Small numbers noted on passage on several dates.
Small numbers widespread in all areas.
Locally common near the west and north coasts in flocks of up to 10, feeding low over paddyfields and pastureland. Ten were at a grass fire on Mt Rinjani above Senaru on Aug 27.
Three on a grassy hillside above Kembar.
Widespread and characteristic, seen singly or in pairs in all habitats visited except the interior of the rain forest.
Two males and one female gave excellent views as they foraged in the rain forest canopy on Mt Rinjani, above Senaru, on Aug 27. Another female was seen later on the edge of gallery forest in the same area.
Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus
Common in all vegetated areas except the forest interior, in small groups of up to 4.
Two in a forest patch on the NW slopes of Mt Rinjani on Aug 25. Two in trees in cultivation below the forest at Tetebatu on Aug 26 and one in similar habitat above Senaru on Aug 27.
One in forest edge on the NW slopes of Mt Rinjani on Aug 22.
Sparsely distributed in all areas. Seen in pairs.
Locally common in ones and twos in gully scrub and forest edges on the northern flanks of Mt Rinjani. Also seen in similar habitat at Tetebatu.
One adult and two juveniles feeding on the forest floor on Mt Rinjani above Senaru on Aug 27. Recalled juvenile European Robins in jizz, appearance and behaviour. Juveniles were tame and confiding.
One flushed from the forest floor on Mt Rinjani above Senaru on Aug 27.
Common in open areas, especially in dry cultivated country. Males seen singing in flight as well as from conspicuous perches.
Sunda Bush Warbler Cettia
One seen well in roadside undergrowth near forest edge above Sembalunlawang on Aug 25.
Widespread in ones and twos and groups of up to 4 in open habitats and forest edges.
Two with white-eyes in scrub on the plateau at Sembalunglawang on Aug 25.
Several in dry cultivated areas on the north coast.
Two, male and female, in the forest canopy on Mt Rinjani above Senaru on Aug 27.
White-breasted Wood-swallow Artamus
Common in small flocks in open areas with scattered trees. Several pairs nesting in coconut palms at the hotel where a pair were seen feeding pulli about to fledge on Aug 28.
Common in open areas, especially near the west and north coasts. Seen in pairs and in loose groups of up to 5.
Ten on fruiting trees at Senaru on Aug 27.
Present on the west coast. Two at the hotel on Aug 20 and two further north, near Pemenang, on Aug 22.
Two in coastal gully scrub above Kembar on Aug 25. Common in mixed cultivation and gardens at Senaru on Aug 27.
Common in small numbers in all areas providing flowering shrubs and trees.
Four in forest on the northern slopes of Mt Rinjani on Aug 25. Two at Tetebatu. Six in forest above Senaru on Aug 27.
Two, m & f, in coastal gully scrub above Kembar on Aug 25.
Two seen well at high altitude on Mt Rinjani above Sembalunlawang on Aug 25. They were grey-bellied.
Common in all vegetated areas, in groups of up to eight.
Present in small numbers near habitation. No flocks larger than c10 seen.
Three, including one male, seen on the plateau above Sembalunglawang on Aug 25.
Two flocks, of 6 and 4 birds, seen in grassy areas near the north coast.
Six in scrub at Tetebatu on Aug 26.
Locally common on cultivated slopes above Kembar and on the north coast, in flocks of up to 20.