INDONESIA BIRDING TRIP REPORT
2016 Bali & Sumba Island Scouting Trip
I had about a week between my birding tour to Sulawesi and Halmahera and an 11-day upcoming tour to West Papua, Indonesia. To fill the time I arranged a limited scouting trip to Bali and Sumba Island in the Lesser Sundas chain. Bali is filled with tourists, especially on the south side of the island. The national park in the north is much less traveled. Due to time constraints, I did not visit the highlands of the interior, which would certainly be worth birding.
Sep 25: I had a morning flight from Makassar to Denpassar, at 8:25am. I had a morning of brief panic when I awoke at 5:52am and had to catch the 6:00am shuttle to the airport. My alarm didnt wake me up. Anyway, after some reservation confusion about whether I would be allowed to use the shuttle or be forced to use a taxi, I reached the airport via shuttle in good time. With no lines at check-in, I even had time for breakfast. I met my guide in Denpassar, only to learn he was not a birding guide. He was simply an organizer who would be using local guides throughout the tour. This sort of thing is why I do scouting trips before offering tours to a destination. I wanted to do some snorkeling on the reefs off Bali, but the best reefs require sufficient time to take a boat out from shore. We went to a heavily touristed area in the south, where I paid the exhorbitant amount of $50 for an hour of snorkeling within a roped off area not far from a permanently parked boat, one of many many boats. The reef was a huge disappointment, hardly worth half the money. After a late lunch, we drove to the far west end of the island for an overnight stay in a guesthouse not far from Bali Barat National Park.
Sep 26: After early breakfast we met with a park ranger who would be my birding guide for the next couple days. The guide was reasonably competent but not at the skill level I normally would hire. First up was a site where the critically endangered Bali Myna had been re-introduced. This species was extinct in the wild until the re-introductions. As of my visit, just 24 individuals exist in the park. We saw a pair actively building a nest inside a hole in a dead tree. We also saw two Dollarbirds and Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker. More notable were the Balinese Black Monkeys. We then proceeded to nearby Segara Rupek, a temple area on the western coast. We had excellent views of Black-naped Fruit-Dove there. We then drove through the Hindu community near the park boundary and into the park.There we had very good views of Blue-eared Kingfisher, Javan Kingfisher, and Chestnut-headed Bee-eater. We also had a partial view of Sunda Scops-Owl peering out of a tree hole. That afternoon we went to a dry forest area within the park. There we picked up Green Junglefowl, Pink-necked Pigeon, Collared Kingfisher, Black-thighed Falconet, Scarlet Minivet, Ashy Drongo, and the critically endangered Black-winged Starling. The latter species is a specialty of the area. Its gregarious but very scarce and not readily seen.
Sep 27: We left early for the same dry forest in Bali Barat National Park, hoping for better photo ops. I got more photos of Green Junglefowl but no decent photos of Black-winged Starlings like I had hoped. We then left the park to explore some nearby areas. I had a rather poor view of Javan Banded-Pitta. We also saw Malaysian Pied-Fantail, Black-capped Bulbul, and Olive-backed Tailorbird. That afternoon we went along the coast and back into the park. We picked up Crested Serpent-Eagle soaring above, distant Black-naped Terns, Pacific Emerald Dove, a roosting Large-tailed Nightjar, Savanna Nightjar, and Small Minivet. After lunch we took a small outrigger boat out to a nearby uninhabited island covered with mangroves. We saw lots of crabs on the mudflats. We also saw 7 Lesser Adjutants and a White-bellied Sea-Eagle. Back from the boat trip we did some birding in the park where we saw male and female Javan Banded-Pitta hopping quickly through underbrush. At nearby salt ponds we picked up Javan Plover and a few other common species.
Sep 28: We left the hotel about 5:30am and drove a half hour to a nearby plantation. We didnt see much of anything new so we moved on and soon picked up Black Eagle . In some dry woodland we found Collared Kingfisher, Ashy Drongo, Malaysian Pied-Fantail, Olive-backed Tailorbird, and Crescent-chested Babbler. In a beach area we picked up Small Blue Kingfisher and Golden-bellied Gerygone. That afternoon we drove back to Denpassar for an overnight stay.
Sep 29: We had a morning flight from Denpassar to Sumba Island. We arrived on Sumba about noon and then drove to our very basic lodge near the town of Waigapu. We had some heavy rain so the ground was very swampy around the lodge. The rooms have no showers, only a bucket for bathing in a shared bath down a walkway. We went out about 3:30pm and encountered more rain. We did see a major target, Sumba Green-Pigeon, which is a very difficult bird to get. Other birds seen that afternoon included Black-naped Fruit-Dove, Cinnamon-banded Kingfisher, Helmeted Friarbird, and Black-naped Oriole. We heard Elegant Pitta quite close and scrambled 10ft up a rock formation looking for it, but it was gone. Just before dark we found Orange-footed Scrubfowl.
Sep 30: We were out birding by 5:45am and quickly found Elegant Pitta singing on a tree branch for very good views. Along the roadside we soon found Cinnamon-banded Kingfisher, Wallacean Drongo, Arafura Fantail, and Yellow-spectacled White-eye as well. In a dead tree we had very good views of another Sumba Green-Pigeon. Along a forest trail through dry woodland we picked up a stunning Chestnut-backed Thrush. Other birds we saw included Red-naped Fruit-Dove, Red-cheeked Parrot, a lovely white morph male Blyth's Paradise-Flycatcher, Sumba Brown Flycatcher, and Blood-breasted Flowerpecker. That afternoon we birded roadsides and found Blood-breasted Flowerpecker, another pair of Blyth's Paradise-Flycatchers, and Sumba Jungle-Flycatcher. Near dusk we found a Sumba Boobook.
Oct 1: After early breakfast we departed the hotel at 4:30am and met a park ranger at 5:10am. We walked through wet grassland along a muddy trail where we heard and eventually flushed Brown Quail. We had distant views of a pair of Citron Cockatoos flying across a valley from our vantage point along the road. In dry forest we saw Rusty-breasted Cuckoo and Sumba Flycatcher. The guide saw Chestnut-backed Thrush again, missed by me. We then drove into Tanadaru National Park where we birded pine forest along the road. These are introduced trees but offer a different habitat. Birds seen included Little Cuckoo-Dove, Marigold Lorikeet, Sunda Honeyeater, Sumba Myzomela, Pale-shouldered Cicadabird, Broad-billed Flycatcher, Ashy-bellied White-eye, Short-tailed Starling, Blood-breasted Flowerpecker, and Apricot-breasted Sunbird. After lunch we went drove 15km to Yumbu, where we were able to flush two Sumba Buttonquail from the sparse grassland.
Oct 2: We took a morning flight back to Denpassar, where I caught a connecting flight to Makassar. I stayed overnight in Makassar before flying to Sorong in West Papua on a flight that departed at 3:15am. My tour in West Papua is described on a separate trip report.