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A Report from

Birding Trip to Indonesia - Java & Sumatra  2001,

Jens Hjerrild Hansen

Jens Hjerrild Hansen, Nødebovej 77 A, 3480 Fredensborg, Denmark 


A.         6.-   7/7, Jakarta  (boat trip to Medan 8.- 9/7)
B.       10.- 12/7, Mt. Sibayak and Berastagi city
C.       11/7 , Mt. Sinabung
D.       12.-14/7 & 16/7, Gunung Leuser National Park  -  Ketambe village and Gurah Recreation Area     
E.       15.- 16/7, Gunung Leuser National Park  -  2 day trek to Waterfall and Hot Springs
F.       17.- 20/7, Gunung Leuser National Park  -  Alas River (Muare Situlen to Gelombang)
G.       21.- 27/7, Singkil city and Banyak Islands (P. Asok, Balai, Telana) 
H.       29/7 - 2/8, Lake Toba
I.          4.- 5/8, Kerinci-Seblat National Park  -  Mt. Kerinci Trail    (2x1 day) 
J.        6.- 7/8, Kerinci-Seblat National Park  -  Mt. Tujuh Trail      (1x2 day)       
K.        9.- 15/8, Carita Bay and  Sunda Strait (12/8)                                                                
L.        16.- 19/8 , Ujung Kulon National Park  -  3 day trek to Karang Ranjang and Kalejetan          
M.       21/8, Bogor Botanical Garden          

Check List

Little Pied Cormorant
Christmas Island Frigatebird
Grey Heron
Purple Heron
Cattle Egret
Pacific Reef-Egret
Intermediate Egret
Little Egret
Javan Pond-Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Cinnamon Bittern
Wandering Whistling-Duck
Brahminy Kite
White-bellied Fish-Eagle
Crested Serpent-Eagle
Black Eagle
Blyth's Hawk-Eagle
Black-thighed Falconet
Barred Buttonquail
Great Argus
Salvadori's Pheasant
White-breasted Waterhen
Common Sandpiper
Beach Thick-knee
Whiskered Tern
Roseate Tern
Black-naped Tern
Bridled Tern
Great Crested Tern
Lesser Crested Tern
Pink-necked Green-Pigeon
Black-naped Fruit-Dove
Pied Imperial-Pigeon
Barred Cuckoo-Dove
Little Cuckoo-Dove
Spotted Dove
Zebra Dove
Emerald Dove
Red-breasted Parakeet
Yellow-throated Hanging-Parrot
Red-billed Malkoha
Chestnut-breasted Malkoha
Lesser Coucal
Buffy Fish-Owl
Brown Hawk-Owl
Edible-nest Swiftlet
Glossy Swiftlet
Cave Swiftlet
Brown-backed Needletail
Silver-rumped Swift
Little Swift
Asian Palm-Swift
Whiskered Treeswift
Diard's Trogon
Blue-tailed Trogon
Scarlet-rumped Trogon
Common Kingfisher
Blue-eared Kingfisher
Rufous-backed Kingfisher
Stork-billed Kingfisher
Banded Kingfisher
White-throated Kingfisher
Collared Kingfisher
Blue-throated Bee-eater
Wreathed Hornbill
Asian Black Hornbill
Oriental Pied Hornbill
Rhinoceros Hornbill
Great Hornbill
Helmeted Hornbill
Fire-tufted Barbet
Black-browed Barbet
Black-banded Barbet
Red-throated Barbet
Coppersmith Barbet
Brown Barbet
Rufous Woodpecker
Buff-rumped Woodpecker
Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker
Grey-capped Woodpecker
Grey- & Buff Woodpecker
Maroon Woodpecker
Greater Yellownape
Banded Broadbill
Long-tailed Broadbill
Pacific Swallow
Bar-winged Flycatcher-Shrike
Black-winged Flycatcher-Shrike
Lesser Cuckoo-Shrike
Grey-chinned Minivet
Sunda Minivet
Scarlet Minivet
Green Iora
Comon Iora
Greater Green Leafbird
Blue-winged Leafbird
Black-headed Bulbul
Black-creasted Bulbul
Grey-bellied Bulbul
Sooty-headed Bulbul
Orange-spotted Bulbul
Yellow-vented Bulbul
Cream-vented Bulbul
Grey-cheeked Bulbul
Yellow-bellied Bulbul
Hairy-backed Bulbul
Sunda Bulbul
Ashy Bulbul
Black Drongo
Ashy Drongo
Bronzed Drongo
Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
Black-naped Oriole
Green Magpie
House Crow
Slender-billed Crow
Great Tit
Velvet-fronted Nuthatch
Blue Nuthatch
White-browed Shortwing
Black-capped Jungle Babbler
Horsefield's Jungle Babbler
Rusty-breasted Wren-Babbler
Large Wren-Babbler
Eye-browed Wren-Babbler
Pygmy Wren-Babbler
Golden Babbler
White-breasted Babbler
Grey-throated Babbler
Grey-headed Babbler
Chestnut-winged Babbler
Grey-cheeked Tit-Babbler
Striped Tit-Babbler
Long-tailed Sibia
Sunda Laughingthrush
Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush
White-browed Shrike-Babbler
Magpie Robin
Lesser Forktail
Chestnut-naped Forktail
Shiny Whistling-Thrush
Sunda Whistling-Thrush
Orange-headed Thrush
Sunda Warbler
Yellow-bellied Warbler
Mountain Leaf-Warbler
Eastern Reed-Warbler
Sunda Bush-Warbler
Common Tailorbird
Ashy Tailorbird
Olive-backed Tailorbird
Mountain Tailorbird
Hill Prinia
Yellow-bellied Prinia
Bar-winged Prinia
Fulvous-chested Jungle-Flycatcher
Verditer Flycatcher
Indigo Flycatcher
Snowy-browed Flycatcher
Grey-headed Flycatcher
Rufous-vented Niltava
Malaysian Blue-Flycatcher
Hill Blue-Flycatcher
Mangrove Blue-Flycatcher
White-throated Fantail
Pied Fantail
Black-naped Monarch
Mangrove Whistler
White-breasted Wood-Swallow
Long-tailed Shrike
Grey Wagtail
Richard's Pipit
Short-tailed Starling
Asian Glossy Starling
Asian Pied Starling
Common Myna
Hill Myna
Javan Myna
Plain Sunbird
Plain-throated Sunbird
Ruby-cheeked Sunbird
Purple-naped Sunbird
Purple-throated Sunbird
Olive-backed Sunbird
Javan Sunbird
Temminck's Sunbird
Little Spiderhunter
Spectacled Spiderhunter
Grey-breasted Spiderhunter
Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker
Scarlet-headed Flowerpecker
Orange-bellied Flowerpecker
Plain Flowerpecker
Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker
Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker
Oriental White-eye
Black-capped White-eye
White-rumped Munia
Javan Munia
Scaly-breasted Munia
White-bellied Munia
White-headed Munia
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Wild Pig
Flying Fox
Banded Langur
Thomas Leaf Monkey
Pig Tailed Macaque
Long Tailed Macaque
Black Monkey
White Handed Gibbon
Black Gibbon
Most of the basic information is accessible in the literature:
- Jepson, P. (1997). "Birding Indonesia - A bird-watcher's guide to the world's largest archipelago"
- MacKinnon, J. & Phillips K. (1993). "A field guide to the birds of Borneo, Sumatra, Java and Bali"
The following information is based on my own experiences. Sometimes the birdwatcher's guide was quite out of date, even though it's rather new. I'll try to bring some more up to date information here. 
All prices is in Indonesian Rupiah.
A.      Jakarta and boat trip to Sumatra. From the budget accommodation area on Jalan Jaksa, where we had some pleasant nights, it is easy to reach the Monas Park, via bus number 15 going to Gambir Station (5 min.). The park is best in the early morning before it gets too crowded by lokal people. Many bats in the evening but few swifts!. We also visited Muare Anke, mentioned in the guidebook. Take a train from Gambir Station to Kota Station. From here it is reachable in 20 min. with lokal bajaj. The area is almost completely transformed into fishing ponds and highly polluted slum. I can't recommend going there, but it's still better than doing nothing on Jalan Jaksa. Two species, Yellow-bellied Prinia and Eastern Reed-Warbler, I was only able to find here. The 42 hour boat trip from Jakarta through the Strait of Malacca to the port of Belewan near Medan, was a bit disappointing. No seabirds at all, but a few terns and some pleasant calm waters.
foto Kim Aaen, Denmark - Ruby-cheeked Sunbird
B.      Medan, Berastagi and Mt. Sibayak (2300 m.). From Tobali Tur in the center of Medan, there are one or two daily direct busses to Bukit Lawang. We had to turn around 10 km. from the rehabilitation center at Bukit Lawang, as a lokal gang was blocking the road. From Medan it took us 2 hours with a small lokal bus to reach the city of Berastagi in the mountain range. The village is a god base for exploring the to volcanoes- Sibayak and Sinabung. There are several accommodation possibilities in the center. In the circus, at the monument named "Tugu Perjuangar" we found a little breeding colony of the neat Little Swift. The trek to the crater of Sibayak is easy going and a guide is not really necessary. From the circus you can either take a minibus or walk the 2 km. uphill to the entrance (a little shelter at the forest edge, where we had to check in with full name and address and pay 1000 rp.). Just 100 m. past the entrance, at the first bambu vegetation I saw and heard several Pygmy Wren Babblers. The first 2/3 of the track up to an artificial water-reservoir is quit wide an accessible for a 4WD. This part of the track, is the most wooded and rewarding part in terms of birds. From the reservoir, the track continues uphill by a small cement pawed path on your left side. From here the vegetation is changing into sub-alpine bush. A god place to see the Orange-Spotted Bulbul.                                    
C.      Mt. Sinabung (2450 m.). Exploring Mt. Sinabung is a bit more demanding than Sibayak, and you'll need a full day. The track to the summit was tough, as it was steep and slippery. In regards of birds the volcano, is not as good as Sibayak, as the farmers has cut their way far up the hill sides. The crater of Sinabung is not even more active, than the one of Sibayak, but the view from the top is quit impressive.  I can only recommend to go with the local minibus from the bus station in Berastagi to the village of Singgarang Garang as early as possible. The "bus ride" took 1 hour and the trek to the summit from the village and back again, took us 7 hours. Ask your way, in the village or better - hire a boy/guide in the local village, who can lead the way, through the endless small field tracks, leading uphill to the forest edge. Reaching the forest you can´t miss the track, as it is going straight up to the bushy sub-alpine zone. The last past of the track to the summit, is a bit more challenging as you have to fight your way through dense bush and further more the track divides several times. In misty weather you´ll be better of sticking to the forest.  In the nice mountain forest here, I was lucky to see a group of 8 Long-tailed Broadbills.  
foto Kim Aaen, Denmark  - Whiskered Treeswift
D.      Gunung Leuser National Park  -  Ketambe Village and Gurah Recreation Area (300-500 m.). From Berastagi to the junction of Kabanjahe (½ hour). Kabanjahe to Kutacane (4 ½ hour). Kutacane to Ketambe (1 hour). We stayed one night at the "Pondok Wisata" but moved to the opposite and more relaxed bungalow. The area around Ketambe is very nice and beautiful. Also very divers and productive in bird species. Behind "Pondok Wisata" there is a small track leading up the hillside. The first part of the track is pretty steep, but very nice wooded. After ½ an hour walk, the hill flatten out and the vegetation transforms gradually into farmland. The paved main road in northern direction, through the park, is quit good and easy going. Opposite the sign "Gurah Recreation Area" posed near the very first buildings, there is a vanished mosque on your right hand coming from Ketambe. Behind the mosque there is a small track leading into the forest following a small creek. This track is very very nice and continues for several kilometers. It's advisable to go the same way back, as it is quit difficult to find one's bearings without a guide. On the left side of the road, coming from Ketambe, between "Gurah Recreation Area" and "Gurah Bungalow" there are several short distance tracks into the forest, which all leads back to the main road. Further up the road, approx. 2 km. from Ketambe, you'll reach a big green sign on the right side, just were the road starts descending. At this point I found some very rewarding trail-systems into the virgin rainforest, starting at both sides of the road. In this area we found wild Orangutans. 
foto Kim Aaen, Denmark -  Pied Fantail
E.       Gunung Leuser National Park  -  2 days trek to Waterfall and Hot spring.We took on an arranged trip with a friendly guide with good "birdeyes" by the funny name: "John F. Kennedy". The trip was rewarding but uncomfortable, as we had to carry a tent and a lot of other equipment. I can only recommend to go on one or more of these trips with a guide.
F.       Gunung Leuser National Park  -  Alas River from Muare Situlen to Gelombang. The trip downstream the Alas River on a rubber raft was supposed to be a highlight on our journey to the national park of Gunung Leuser, but the trip was only rewarding in terms of Hornbills. 31 birds spread out on 6 species was a memorable sight. At the time being (the dry season), the water flow was very slowly. In quit long parts of the journey, we had to paddle to get any further at all. The distance between Muare Situlen and Gelombang could not have been done on less than 3 days. The Alas river from Ketambe and southwards is actually making the national park boundary. The land on the on protected eastern side of the river, was disappointingly deforested. Heavy ongoing illegal logging inside the national park boundary was recorded several times every day. Huge loads of hardwood was shipped out from the reserve downstream the Alas river !!. All the cutting and the extreme danger by floating, in an area, where the trees suddenly fall from the riverbanks and into the river, didn't made the journey more amusing. The area around the so called "Soraya Camp" which is said to be very rich in birds, is no longer of special interest. We stayed there 2 nights and did a full day trek into the forest from this point. First of all. All the buildings at the Soraya Camp has been burnt down by local loggers which didn't like the presence of the naturalists. Secondly the forest is no longer an unspoiled primary lowland forest. All of the big hardwoods is gone, and the forest is therefore very dense by young and fast growing pioneer trees. We payed 2.8 mio. Rupiah for the 4 day journey with two guides and all included.
G.      Singkil city and Banyak Islands (P. Asok, P. Balai and P. Telana). To reach the Banyak Isl. you need to go to the port of Singkil via the junction of "Subulus Salam". From Singkil there are almost daily public boat's going to and from the central island - P. Balai. We only explored the small islands named P. Telana, P. Asok and P. Balai, which all are of little interest as regards of birdwatching. Even though I managed to add two new species to the checklist for the Banyak Islands. Nice birds like White-bellied Fish-Eagle, Pied Imperial Pigeon, Collared Kingfisher, Black-naped Tern and Pacific Reef-Egret is quit common. Some interesting birding could be done on the bigger Bangkaru and Tuangku Islands, which should hold rather big undisturbed coastal forests. If you plan to go to the islands you must expect to be self-sufficient on the islands, as there are no places to stay and eat outside P. Balai. If you plan to stay more than a few days you should bring some food from Singkil, as it is only possible to buy the very basic things on P. Balai.               
foto Kim Aaen, Denmark - Collared Kingfisher
H.      Lake Toba. Only of little interest for birdwatchers. I did'nt see any wildfowl at the lake at all, but I found a small mixed breeding colony of Purple Heron and Little Egret, at the tourist spot named Simanindo on Pulau Samosir. Best birds around the tourist hot-spot "Tuk-Tuk" was 3 Cinnamon Bittern, 5 Pink-necked Green-Pigeons and 1 Coppersmith Barbet.
I.         Kerinci -Seblat Nationalpark  - Gunung Kerinci Trail. We stayed at the nice and pleasant "Pak Subandi Homestay" in Keresik Tua. We payed 40.000 Rupiah for a room, 6000 for a proper meal and it was possible to rent a sleeping bag for 15.000 a day. The food is good and it is served punctually when ever you want (also before sunrise!). All of the mentioned (Jepson 1997) treks in the area - G. Kerinci, G. Tujuh and the small "Letter W" excursion is all easy going and it is not necessary to hire a guide.
G. Kerinci Trail. If you want to explore the lower forest in the early morning, you'll have to get up very early, as the forest edge is about 5 km. away, behind the huge tea fields. The best way to do the trip is to hire Pak Subandi to take you on the "ojek" motorcycle to the PHPA post and then walk your own way back in the afternoon. I only explored the trail up to "1. Shelter" at approx. 2500 m.. Consulting the bird log kept at Pak Subandi, you'll find that most of the birds is seen at lower altitudes up to "Air Minum". After this point it gets more steep. I also found my best birds in the area around Air Minum and downwards. E.g. Salvadori's Pheasant, Rusty-breasted & Eye-browed Wren-Babbler, Snowy-browed Flycatcher, Sunda Laughingthrush and Green Magpie. Contrary I only found Sunda Bush-Warbler and White-browed Shortwing above Air Minum. Blue-tailed Trogon, Shiny Whistling Thrush and Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo is also more frequently seen in the higher parts of the forest. According to the bird log the rare Sumatran Cochoa is also most likely to be found above Air Minum and the Red-billed Partridge should only be possible to see above the first shelter. (see map for further details).
J.       Kerinci -Seblat National Park  - G. Tujuh Trail. Reaching the trail. From the east going road in Pelompek, there is approx. 2 km. to the closed PHPA office. On your left side a gravel road leads to an area with some burnt down PHPA guesthouses. Behind the buildings on your left side, a small track will lead you to the forest edge through the latest clearing. Reaching the forest, the track is infallible. It is going up the volcano to the crater edge in one straight line without any side-tracks. From the crater edge, the track is descending 2-300 meters to the crater lake at a very short distance. The under story vegetation is not as good for the forest floor  birds, compared to the Kerinci Trail. Contrary the very steep terrain, gives a good view to the treetops of the trees below. At the crater lake there are suitable deforested camping grounds with plenty of freshwater. Our morning descending from the crater edge and back to the forest edge, was the most enriching day, in regards of bird species, on the hole holiday. Several species I only recorded here. E.g. Blyth's Hawk Eagle, Brown Hawk-Owl, Greater Yellownape, Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush, Sunda Whistling-thrush and Rufous-vented Niltava. The trail can only be recommended.
K.      Carita Bay and Islands in Sunda Strait (Krakatau & Rakarta). A nice, quiet and cheap place to stay with swimming pool and a small breeding colony of Cave-swiftlets, is the Niguadharma Hotel in the northern outskirts of Carita. Even thought the hole area is strongly effected by tourists and agriculture I found the bird fauna to be surprisingly good. The best birding area in the vicinity of Carita is the so called "Recreation Forest" and the area around the Curug Gendang Waterfall within. In Carita there are no signs telling you where to find the forest, as a lot of young local guides, has a strong desire to earn some money, by showing you the way. If you keep an eye for the only paved side road in Carita, you'll probably find the site (see the map below). Once in the forest I discovered an excellent birding area, even though most parts of the forest, now is degraded. The area holds many skulky and exciting Jungle-babblers. You can easily spend a full day here. An other area worth while exploring is the heavily reduced forest south of the Recreation Area. Here I was very lucky to find a little group of the rare and endemic White-breasted Babbler, in a small patch of forest scrub along the small river. Boat trip in Sunda Strait. Safe, fast and convenient speedboats can be hired for 1.2 mio (6 pers.) or 1.5 mio (8 pers.) through the tour-agencies in Carita. I can only recommend avoiding a weekend trip as hundreds of Indonesian tourists fill the beach with a strong desire of hiring a boat for a short cruise in the bay. On a Saturday or Sunday your boats man will have a really good reason to hurry back and shortening your trip with  several hours. There are very few birds present on the active volcano - Anak Krakatau. After  visiting the amazing volcano, you'll have a good opportunity to visit the unspoiled nabor island - Rakarta. Around the dense forested Isl. there is some good coral reefs. A short ½ hour walk in the forest revealed birds like Short-tailed Starling, Mangrove Blue-Flycatcher and Yellow-throated Hanging-Parrot.  
L.       Ujung Kulon National Park  -  3 day trek to Karang Ranjang and Kalejetan. For the birder with a tight budget the best starting point is the village of Tamanjaya. A direct bus to the village is leaving Labuan daily at 11 AM. Once in Tamanjaya I can highly recommend to stay or pay the owner of the "Wisma Wisata Alam" a visit. (35000,- incl. free hot drinks). Being a very helpful and a good english speaking guide, he is your best chance of making an enjoyable trip into the National Park. It is not necessary to hire a guide (50000,- a day), but at least you have to take a porter (20000,- a day plus food and cigarette) as you are not allowed to walk around unattended. Most of the porters don't speak any english, but they know the forest, and will carry all the food and cooking gear, as well as leading the way, when the trail is lost in coastal scrub etc.. I only explored the 3 day trek to Karang Rangjang, Keljetetan and  back to Tamanjaya. I can't really recommend this circuit, as most of the day trip from Karang Rangjang to Keljetetan is spend finding a way through the birdless coastal scrub forest here. The first morning is also of low value, as it takes about 3 hours of fast walking, to reach some proper birding habitats. Further more the primary forest here seemed surprisingly birdless and low in diversity. The most interesting part of the circuit, is the stretch from Keljetetan to Tamanjaya. After three days I was pretty tired of encountering the three very common Bulbuls; Black-headed Bulbul, Cream-vented Bulbul and Grey-cheeked Bulbul. The under story is not as good for Babblers as in Carita. You'll probably come out with a better result, visiting the more remote and geographically diverse western part of the reserve.
foto Kim Aaen, Denmark - Little Spiderhunter
M. Bogor Botanical Garden. The garden is a nice and relaxing place to visit, as a final destination on your birding trip. Here you can combine the beautiful and bird rich garden, with some good food and comfortable accommodation in the city. Seven species of birds I only came accrose here. E.g. Black-naped Fruit-Dove, Orange-headed Thrush, Hill Blue Flycatcher, Pied Forktail and Little Spiderhunter. Due to the high diversity of flowing trees and bushes, the garden host a lot of flowerpeckers as well as, a lot of Black-naped Orioles wich filles the air with a gloomy atmosphere in the morning.

End of story. I'll hope that some of the information in the report, actually will contribute or improve the outcome and make your future journey to the exciting forests of Sumatra and Java to an enjoyable experience.

Jens Hjerrild Hansen

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