Sunshine Coast Birds

Birding and other wildlife experiences from the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere in Australia - and from overseas - with scribblings about travel, environmental issues, kayaking, hiking and camping.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

In Search of the Enigmatic Moluccan Scrubfowl

Moluccan Scrubfowl - Picture by Merilyn Browne

One of the memorable experiences from our recent trip to Indonesia was connecting with the enigmatic Moluccan Scrubfowl on the island of Haruku, off the coast of Ambon. Haruku is one of only two major breeding grounds remaining for this endangered species. The birds land at night in sandy clearings in the rainforest, not far from the beach. They dig a hole 1 metre-deep and deposit a single egg before flying off back into the forest. Sometimes the birds fly considerable distances to reach their nesting places, even crossing water.

On the boat

We had already had a long day, being up at 4am for an early morning birding session in the Kai islands, then catching a flight to Ambon before unpacking at our hotel and making the long drive to the harbour, where we boarded our chartered speedboat after dark. After tiptoeing our way around an army of cockroaches aboard the boat, we were off across the waters to Haruku Island.

Moluccan Scrubfowl
After a wet and slightly tricky landing, we were met by some locals with torches and led through the outskirts of the village of Keiololo to a strip of forest. A short distance further brought us to a wide, sandy clearing. As a full moon shone through the tree tops, we watched the shadows in anticipation. After perhaps a 2-minute wait, a shape appeared abruptly on the sand 10 or so metres away. My torch revealed an impressive bird, relatively brightly patterned for the usually drab megapodes. It didn't hang around. A second bird flew in after another 20 minutes or so, this one about 50 metres away.

Most megapodes build large mounds of sand or vegetation in which to lay eggs, carefully adding to or removing the material so eggs are incubated at the appropriate temperature. The young hatch and dig their way to the surface.The fully fledged chicks that emerge from the mound receive no assistance from their parents; they are expected to manage on their own. The Moluccan Scrubfowl is unusual in not building a mound. Its egg weighs about 100g, or 20 per cent of the weight of the adult.

Haruku Island
On Haruku, the scrubfowl population is carefully managed by the people of Keilolo. Villagers are allowed to collect a stipulated quantity of the much sought-after scrubfowl eggs each year. The right to harvest the eggs is determined by auction, with the village chief issuing a licence to the successful applicant.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Southern Moluccas of Indonesia - Scenery and People

View from Palau Sawai, Seram
Following a series of birdy posts from our trip to the southern Moluccas and Tanimbar islands of Indonesia, some general shots of scenery, habitat and people.

Boarding the Ambon-Seram ferry

Coast on Buru Island

Aboard the Ambon-Buru ferry

Children on Buru

Pitcher Plant

Birding group on Buru
Fisherman - Yandema Island

View from our Saumlaki hotel, Tanimbars
Kai Kecil Island

Aboard the bus, Kai Besar

Kai Besar Island

Beach on Kai Cecil

Rice farm in forest, Kai Cecil

Beach on Kai Besar
Haruku Island

Bringing in the boat, Palau Lusaolde

Palau Lusaolde

Salaway River

Bathing time - Sawai Village

North Seram coast

Preparing durians - Sawai

Our lodge in Sawai Village 

Palau Sawai

Sawai Village

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Blue-eared Lory and Other Birds on Indonesia's Seram Island

Blue-eared Lory - Merilyn Browne
Seram was the last island to be visited during our three-week tour of the southern Molucca and Tanimbar islands of eastern Indonesia. As elsewhere, we did extremely well here. Overall, our trip to this part of Indonesia has been one of the most successful undertaken by any group. The finding of Blue-eared Lory on Seram was icing on the cake; we are only the second group to encounter this species on previous visits. To see the lory in addition to Black-lored Parrot (see here) - along with a host of tricky species such as Purple-naped Lory, Buru Honeyeater, Lesser Masked Owl , Lazuli Kingfisher, Buru Green-Pigeon, Buru Thrush, Fawn-breasted Thrush, Tricoloured Parrotfinch, Grey-backed Tern and Rufescent and Grey-hooded Dark-eyes - was an extraordinary experience. Many thanks to our Indonesian operator, Ceisar Riupassa  (email - for his excellent work in organising this trip, and his amiable and highly capable assistant, Vinno.

Blue-eared Lory -Merilyn Browne 

Blue-eared Lory

We saw a flock of up to 14 Blue-eared Lories on three consecutive days in the same flowering trees near the summit of the Trans-Seram Highway at 1250m on Seram, where our birding was centred on the forests of the Manusela National Park. The birds were extremely difficult to photograph but in the two images from Merilyn Browne, the diagnostic blue ear patches can clearly be discerned. The diagnostic blue belly patch can be seen in the third image. Normally this species (a Seram endemic) is not encountered by birding groups because it occurs at much higher altitudes. The only Seram endemic that we failed to find was Seram Thrush. Others that we saw included a Purple-naped Lory at 900m, seen well in flight as it crossed the road and flew through the sub-canopy. This is another rarely encountered Seram endemic.

Blyth's Hornbill

More widespread species such as Blyth's Hornbill, Eclectus Parrot, Oriental Hobby, Grey Plover and Superb Fruit-Dove were nice to see.
Eclectus Parrot

Grey Plover

Long-crested Myna
En route to offshore islands
Olive Honeyeater
We took a boat ride to two offshore islands - Palau Sawai and - Palau Lusaolde - and up the Salaway River. We encountered Forsten's Scrubfowl both on Palaw Sawai and along the river, where a nice Saltwater Crocodile was also seen. Good numbers of Olive Honeyeater were present on Palau Lusaolde.

Oriental Hobby

Seram Cockatoo
Other endemics that we saw included Seram Cockatoo (quite common at higher altitudes), Streak-breasted Fantail, Seram Leaf-Warbler, Seram Honeyeater, Seram Mountain-Pigeon,  Seram Myzomela, Seram (Violet) Crow, Seram Oriole, Seram Friarbird and Long-crested Myna. Rufescent Dark-eye was seen twice and Grey-hooded Dark-eye on four occasions.

Ashy Flowerpecker
 Other species shared with Ambon Island included Ashy Flowerpecker, Seram Drongo and Seram Imperial-Pigeon.

Seram Honeyeater

Seram Oriole

Streak-breasted Fantail

Superb Fruit-Dove

Wakalo Myzomela
Regionally distinct races such as the dark-bellied form of Wakalo Myzomela were encountered. Hantu Boobook took a lot of effort; in the end we had to make do with brief fly-over views. We visited the parrot rehabilitation centre near the village of Sawai, where Ceisar, Vinno and others have done excellent work in attempting to rehabilitate wild population of species such as Seram Cockatoo and Purple-naped Lory, which have been severely depleted by the trade in cage birds.

The group in Manusela National Park

Ceisar and Vinno at the Sawai Parrot Rehabilitation Centre

Saltwater Crocodile
See the following posts for accounts of our visits to the Kai Islands as well as Yandema Island in the Tanimbars, Buru Island, and our base for the tour, Ambon.