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, 25 February 2012

Relaxing - with a touch of birding - on Bali

After a full-on effort in the field in the Lesser Sundas (we missed just 4 of the 100+ regional and endemic specialty bird species) it's time to lay back and relax at our hotel, the Grand Balsani Suites, north of Seminyak on Bali. These White-headed Munias feed in the palms outside our room.
Streaked Weavers are here also, busily building nests in the palm fronds although it's the tail end of the wet season.
 Anyone contemplating a holiday in Bali ought to avoid Kuta and head to the beach areas north of Seminyak, as we did. Right on the beach here, quiet and with all the island's attractions nearby.
A bit of luxury doesn't go astray after some of our at times basic accommodations in the Lesser Sundas.
The scene from our hotel balcony.
The beach behind our hotel.

 Sunset from a beachside cafe doesn't go astray.
We went up to the highlands centre of Bedugul for the day, visiting a lakeside temple.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Komodo Dragon in the Wild

Indonesia's Komodo Dragon is on the "bucket" list of all serious nature lovers, so our birding group touring the Lesser Sundas was keen to see it on the final day of our trip.
We headed off at 5am from Labuan Bajo, a port town on the island of Flores, for our 4-hour boat journey to Komodo Island.
Our boat snaked its way through a series of islands before arriving off Komodo, where the vegetation was an odd mix of verdant, grassy savannah and pockets of monsoon forest.
A Large-billed Crow joined us on the boat just as we were approaching our landing point.
 It wasn't long before we spotted our first Komodo Dragon, the world's biggest lizard. It was dozing beneath the verandah of the national park office. We were given a briefing by a ranger, who warned us about the perils of approaching these critters too closely. These animals do in fact occasionally kill and devour people.
 We embarked on a short hike through the hills behind the park headquarters, seeing another dragon (actually a species of monitor or goanna) and enjoying some fine coastal scenery.

When we returned to the park office we were taken to the restaurant where four huge dragons were hanging about. This image gives a perspective of the size of these extraordinary animals.
 And another:

Occasionally one of the animals would seemingly eye us with interest and move in our direction, when the rangers would promptly deter them with the aid of forked staffs.

There were plenty of Timor Deer, the natural prey of the Komodo Dragon, about.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Birding Flores in Indonesia

Flores is well-known for the mysterious "hobbit" prehistoric man but the birds are noteworthy as well. We flew from Kupang to Labuan Bajo and were soon in a remnant patch of rainforest at Puarlolo, where we scored the endangered Flores Monarch along with Thick-billed Dark-eye, Crested Dark-eye and other island specialties. We drove on to the highlands town of Ruteng. The first day saw us on the Pagal road, pictured above. Nice birds included White-rumped Kingfisher, Black-fronted Flowerpecker and Wallace's Hanging-Parrot.
One of our group, Marie, gets up close and personal with the locals.
We had three days in the nice highlands rainforest around Ruteng, visiting Lake Ranamese, pictured here, and Poko Ranaka. Highland specialties such as Dark-backed Imperial-Pigeon and Yellow-browed Dark-eye showed but the Bare-throated Whistler was a struggle as it wasn't calling; it took three efforts and many hours to score the bird. Barbara and I came close to seeing Flores Scops-Owl but a vocal pair kept out of sight.
Long-tailed Macaques were a regular presence on the Trans-Flores Highway which cuts through the Ruteng forests.
We moved on to the lowland centre of Kisol where we did well, with owls, scoring Wallace's and Moluccan Scops-Owls as well as brief views of the quaint Flores Crow.

This great gecko was the only saving grace of the otherwise grotty seminary we stayed in at Kisol.
However, the staff here redeemed themselves by making this nice banner to welcome us.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Birding West Timor

We've had a highly successful if exhausting trip to see the birds of  West Timor. Bird pictures later but a quick rundown on how we went here... We started off at Bipolo in the ricefields near the village before moving on to Bariti, where the group is pictured here. We quickly ticked off many of the endemics and specialties including White-bellied Chat, Timor Friarbird and Fawn-breasted Whistler, with the highlights being Olive-shouldered Parrot and Cinnamon-banded Kingfisher.
The next morning saw us in the remnant monsoon forest at Bipolo. More goodies included Apricot-chested Sunbird, Olive-brown Oriole and Black-chested Myzomela. Then on to more monsoon forest at Camplong, where we had Timor Black-Pigeon. We returned to Camplong the following morning for great views of, among other things, Buff-banded Thicket-Warbler and Black-banded Flycatcher.

We moved on to the village of Oenasi, where we met with the villagers who are the custodians of the forest there. We formally sought permission to enter their forest at a little ceremony.
The next day saw us in strange, park-like forest on the slopes of Gunung Mutis, West Timor's highest mountain. Here was an odd mix of Australian-type eucalypts and Africa-type acacias, with birds including abundant Yellow-eared Honeyeater and Timor Leaf-Warbler. Great scenery.
Our last day saw us back at Oenasi for a great morning's birding with Black-banded Fruit-Dove and Spotted Dark-eye among the species added. Then a final visit to the ricefields near Bipolo, where we finally connected with Five-coloured Munia and Timor Sparrow. In all, we missed just a small number of the endemics and specialties.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Birding Indonesia's Sumba Island

Our group of four Australian and three American birders had a fine four days birding on Indonesia's Sumba Island in the Lesser Sundas. Our group scored 11of the island's 12 endemic species and a good smattering of other Lesser Sunda specialties. We stayed at the People's House in Lewa, our base for birding at various points along the main road transecting Sumba through remnant forest patches which have been cobbled together to form the Langgalin National Park. Bird pictures will be posted later.
The staff at the People's House were top-rate, happily getting up at ungodly hours to meet the needs of birders. Nice species recorded on Sumba included Apricot-breasted Sunbird, Lesser Wallacean Drongo, Sumba Green Pigeon, Sumba Flycatcher, Pale-shouldered Cicadabird, Citron-crested Cockatoo, Red-naped Fruit-Dove, Great-billed Parrot, Elegant Pitta, and in the dry grasslands near Wainpapu, Sumba Button-quail. The only endemic that we  missed was Sumba Brown Flycatcher.

We were ably helped along the way by our Indonesian crew including local guide Freddie, left in the foreground, and to his right Darwin Sumang, highly recommended to organise your visit to Indonesia.

Just to disprove the theory that birders only care about birds, a touch of culture. We stopped by some rice paddies on Sumba, west of Lewa, when the women workers in the field suddenly started up some sort of traditional dance, singing and chanting with considerable vigor and rhythm to match as they moved through the rice. Very nice.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Green Junglefowl & West Bali Bits

West Bali is one of the best places to see Green Junglefowl, a close relative of the better-known Red Junglefowl. As you can see, the cock bird is quite a picture, especially the nice blue of the comb. We heard lots in the savannah woodlands of Bali Barat National Park but they were shy and difficult to approach. In the drive into the Menjangan Resort, however, we saw about 10 birds close to the road.
The hen is a tad more drab, rather more like a barnyard chicken.
Timor Deer showed well in several spots in and around Bali Barat National Park, as did Barking Deer. The two species were the predominant prey of the Bali Tiger before it become extinct early last Century. Debate continues about whether a handful of Leopard survive on the island.
A sign greets us upon arrival on Menjangan Island, a short distance from the mainland town of Labahan Lalang. There are few western tourists in this part of Bali, adding to the attraction of the area.
Nice coastal scenery on Menjangan Island, and we had an excellent morning snorkelling from this boat at several sites along the coast. Great fish and great coral, with little of the bleaching apparent in parts of the Great Barrier Reef and elsewhere in the south-west Pacific.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Bali Starling in the Bag

Bali Starling has long been on my want-to-do list and it finally was ticked off that list today.
After a long drive from Denpasar, Bali, last night, I headed off this morning from the West Bali town of Labuhan Lalang with birding friends Bill Watson and Barbara De Witt, and our guide Hery, a park ranger at Bali Barat National Park. It was a 30-minute boat ride to a sandy bay in the national park.
Hery explained that there are only about 15 free-flying Bali Starlings left in their natural environment in the national park. A captive breeding program has worked well - about 100 birds are nesting in captivity and several pairs are released annually into the park. Poaching for bird collections was the initial problem, but following a successful crackdown on poaching, the worry now is predation by the likes of monitors and palm civets, numbers of which may have risen to unnaturally high levels. Two weeks ago, the last of the truly "wild" Bali Starlings in the national park was killed and eaten by a civet.
It took us about an hour to find our first Bali Starling, the bird above. It was unbanded, so it was either raised in the wild by captive-bred parents, or it was a genuinely "wild" bird that had escaped the notice of park authorities. Either way, it was impressive.
We saw a second bird briefly, then found a third, this one with rings on its legs, clinging to the wire of a large cage which park authorities have established to facilitate the reintroduction of captive-bred birds to the wild. Two pairs of starlings were in the cage during our visit, undergoing a kind of adjustment phase before being released into the park.

One of the rangers holds up a sign outside the park headquarters. They are a dedicated bunch battling against the odds. Let's hope their efforts succeed in saving this beautiful bird.