Saturday, 22 August 2020

Flores, Indonesia Birding Trip Report

Here's a trip report from my birding on the island of Flores, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia from 6-12th August 2020. I've been in Bali now for about 5 months during the global lockdown and Flores is just a short flight to the east across the Wallace Line so a prime locations to visit. 

This was my first travel or birding for that matter for 5 months with Covid-19 grinding everything to a halt. This pandemic has put a firm stop to all my tours (work) and personal birding trips for 2020 - so far I've had to postpone tours to Vietnam, Sulawesi, Halmahera, West Papua, and Australia (x4), plus personal trips to the US (x2), Brazil, and others... I can't really complain I guess, there's worst places to be stuck, and at least I've managed to remain relatively healthy so far. But I am gutted from a birding point of view as I was getting started on going for a year list of 4,000 this year!  

Once Indonesia opened up again for internal travel in early August I decided to take a brief trip to the west side of the island of Flores (*I've been in lockdown and social distancing for practically the whole past 5 months, Bali has opened up to tourists from the rest of the archipelago - meaning more people from the cities like Jakarta, Surabaya etc around so good reason to leave Bali for a weekend, did a covid test before going, continued social distancing practices, and wore masks and bathed in hand sanitizer etc so was as careful as possible*), my main target was Elegant Pitta to go with my pitta collection. 

Traveling in this new age of Covid-19 was a bit unnerving at times, typical disorganization - like make you stand 2 meters apart all round the airport, lots of health checks etc (good), then push all of you onto a bus like sardines to go get on the plane (not good!).

I'd only got a few days on the island, it was more of a holiday with a few work meetings thrown in rather than an outright full-on birding trip. I contacted a couple of friends who I know had visited recently, so thanks for the gen and sound files Jerry, Annie, and Matt, much appreciated. Flores was much hotter than Bali is at this time of year, and much drier too.  

I basically visited two sites - unfortunately Komodo Island was still closed to westerners... so that was off the cards immediately but I knew that before going. I'll have to go back for my dragon fix, it is only a 50 minute flight away I suppose so not too difficult. So, my birding was restricted to the coast at Labuan Bajo city (area around my hotel - some 1 hour morning walks in the grounds before breakfast and sitting by the pool in the late-afternoon) and about an hours drive inland near Puralolo (where I stayed a Mbeliling Mountain Ecolodge - a great change of scenery to the hot and dusty city). Spent about 2 hours on the trail at Puarlolo and then the rest off the time was sat on the balcony or in the gardens of the lodge. I ended up on 70 species which I thought was OK from a couple of brief birding sessions. Interesting to see lots of very distinctive sub-species of widespread birds so definitely lots of potential for several armchair ticks....

Straight away on my first morning I heard my main target and after the usual pitta-cat-and-mouse I managed to get onto the bird, just as the sun was coming over the ridge and of course out of all the places it could choose... you guessed it! Over the course of the few days we were at the coast I heard several of them and saw at least three individuals. Managed to get an ok photo (below) but it was quite tough given the acacia-like dense vegetation. I was more than satisfied with my views. This was the 18th species of pitta I've seen, 16 of these have been photographed (see the pitta photo bar on the right of the blog)

Elegant Pitta

I also picked up plenty of other interesting birds at the coast, with highlights including Barred Dove, Island Collared Dove, Barred Buttonquail, Tenggara Swiftlet, Collared Kingfisher, Rainbow Bee-eater, Spotted Kestrel, Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker, White-shouldered Triller, Golden-bellied Gerygone, Rusty-breasted Whistler, Black-naped Monarch, Lemon-bellied White-eye, Yellow-ringed White-eye, Black-fronted Flowerpecker, Thick-billed Flowerpecker, Zebra Finch, Cinereous Tit, Olive-backed Sunbird, Pale-headed Munia, Five-colored Munia, Black-faced Munia and the stunning Flame-breasted Sunbird. Some photos below of a few of these.  

Barred Dove

Black-fronted Flowerpecker

Collared Kingfisher

Flame-breasted Sunbird

Golden-bellied Gerygone

Lemon-bellied White-eye

Rusty-breasted Whistler

Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker

Yellow-ringed White-eye

Up around the Puarlolo and Mbeliling Ecolodge area I found a different set of birds including some really great ones. The trail at Puarlolo was great, nice and easy walking and the grounds of the ecolodge were good also at times. Some of the highlights in this area included Flores Crow, Flores Monarch, Flores Hawk-Eagle, Black-naped Fruit Dove, Chestnut-capped Thrush, Chestnut-backed Thrush, Wallacean Drongo, Wallace's Scops Owl, Little (Flores) Minivet, Blyth's Paradise Flycatcher, Glittering Kingfisher, Russet-capped Tesia, Rufous-chested Flycatcher, Helmeted Friarbird, Golden-rumped Flowerpecker, Leaf Lorikeet, Red-cheeked Parrot, Ruddy Cuckoo-Dove, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Elegant Pitta, Bonelli's Eagle, and Black-naped Oriole. Again, a few photos below of some of these species.

Black-naped Oriole

Blue-tailed Bee-eater

Blyth's Paradise Flycatcher

Chestnut-backed Thrush

Chestnut-capped Thrush

Flores Crow

Flores Monarch (honest!)

Red-cheeked Parrot

Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker

Wallacean Drongo

It was an enjoying few days and looking forward to some more Lesser Sundas birding soon... keep tuned for more details. 

Monday, 25 May 2020

Lockdown Birding in Bali - LOCKDOWN LIFER!!!

Amazing week on lockdown in Ubud, Bali when I got an unexpected LIFER! I was sat at my desk working on a range of new and exciting tours when all of a sudden I noticed a shape on the next door villas roof, this wasn't the usual Javan Munia or Eurasian Tree Sparrow, this was bigger, more colourful... I leaned back so I could see round the blind and almost fell off my chair when I realised I was watching a stunning JAVA SPARROW! Too quickly it dropped out of view into a garden and as I tried to get in a position to photograph it two birds were flushed by a motorbike and flew off high calling. Hopefully they will be back, but pretty amazing to get this very cool tick!

Also this week I finally (after 62 days) got a photo opportunity for the Javan Kingfisher. Each morning they are very vocal flying back and forth over this part of Ubud, often quite high and sometimes doing a bit of a display flight which has been cool to watch but frustrating in terms of trying to get a photo. Well, yesterday one finally landed close by. After a bit of work I was able to get myself into a position to take the following photo on my neighbours roof. What a stunning bird.

Javan Kingfisher

I've had a couple of 'new' lockdown ticks this week such as Barn Swallow, and the Java Sparrow, but also pretty high up there was Sunda Scops Owl that appeared outside the villa in the rain one evening while I was waiting for my pizza delivery! Not new but always nice to hear/see Savanna Nightjar and Black-crowned Night Herons going over at night too.

At 37 species now I think for my lockdown list!


Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Lockdown Birding in Bali - Camera Out and New Birds

Got a few new lockdown birds the last couple of days since my last blog update, and I even (finally) unpacked my camera to take some photos of some of the common birds I'm seeing, as and when time permits.

Here's a couple of pics of the gorgeous Grey-cheeked Green Pigeon, a common sight but most often sat in the tops of dark trees, was nice to finally get one at more-or-less eye-level out in the open! Beautiful bird.

Grey-cheeked Green Pigeon

Grey-cheeked Green Pigeon

A few new birds have included Plain Prinia, Common Emerald Dove, House Swift, and Common Iora.

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Lockdown Birding in Bali - An update!

I've had a few new birds during the last week of my lockdown here in Ubud, Bali including Rusty-breasted Whistler, Scarlet-headed Flowerpecker, Little Spiderhunter, Pink-necked Green Pigeon, Olive-backed Tailorbird, White-headed Munia, and Feral Pigeon! These have take me up to 32 species! Not bad from my little patch of urban land. 
  1. Javan Kingfisher
  2. Spotted Dove
  3. Zebra Dove
  4. Plaintive Cuckoo
  5. Yellow-vented Bulbul
  6. Javan Munia
  7. Eurasian Tree Sparrow
  8. Cave Swiftlet
  9. Intermediate Egret
  10. Eastern Cattle Egret
  11. Javan Pond Heron
  12. Pacific Swallow
  13. Grey-cheeked Green Pigeon
  14. Orange-bellied Flowerpecker
  15. Olive-backed Sunbird
  16. Pied Bush Chat
  17. White-nest Swiftlet
  18. Striated Swallow
  19. Scaly-breasted Munia
  20. Chinese Sparrowhawk
  21. Large-billed Crow
  22. Collared Kingfisher
  23. Black-naped Fruit Dove
  24. Black-crowned Night Heron
  25. Savanna Nightjar
  26. Rock Dove (Feral Pigeon)
  27. White-headed Munia
  28. Olive-backed Tailorbird
  29. Pink-necked Green Pigeon
  30. Little Spiderhunter
  31. Rusty-breasted Whistler
  32. Scarlet-headed Flowerpecker 

Monday, 20 April 2020

Lockdown Birding in Bali - Nocturnal Birding...

A couple of bonus birds this evening added two species to my lockdown birding list in Ubud, Bali. These were:

24. Black-crowned Night Heron
25. Savanna Nightjar

First time I think I've recorded the Black-crowned Night-Heron in Bali, maybe. The Savanna Nightjar was less of a surprise as I have had them from several restaurants in the town, but these were the first ones from the actual villa.

Today was the #BirdTheFeckAtHome BIG (Sun) DAY with the Eastern Hemisphere competing against the Western Hemisphere in a lockdown bird race of sorts. I was able to add the following 5 species to the Eastern Hemisphere list from my spot in Ubud.

1. Javan Kingfisher
2. Javan Munia
3. Javan Pond Heron
4. Cave Swiftlet
5. Black-crowned Night Heron

All good fun! 

Saturday, 18 April 2020

Lockdown Birding in Bali - NEW SPECIES UPDATE

Had a big bonus today when a Black-naped Fruit Dove flew over the garden into the nearby fruiting tree, that is lockdown number...

23. Black-naped Fruit Dove.

I finally also got round to checking out the #BirdTheFeckAtHome Facebook group and added this species and one other (Striated Swallow) to their cumulative bird list from all of the people reporting sightings from their places of lockdown around the world...

Amazingly my record of Black-naped Fruit Dove was the 2,270th species logged on the site!

Friday, 17 April 2020

Lockdown Birding Bali Style

Well like most of the rest of the world I'm currently in lockdown and self-isolating due to Coronavirus (Covid-19). Hope you're all staying safe and well at these difficult times.

I'm taking a little (forced) break from birding at the moment. I should have just completed a 3 week trip in the United States of America looking for Grouse and Chickens etc (birding in Colorado, Nebraska, and South Dakota) and should have just started a 2 week Vietnam trip. I know also that my spring birding trip to the United States (for Biggest Week in American Birding) and a subsequent trip to Colombia and Ecuador is also off (as is the British Bird Fair in the UK in August). Sad but will catch up with those all next year I hope. No decisions as yet on my Sulawesi, Halmahera, West Papua, and Australia tours for later in the year thus far....

So currently I'm in Bali, not really birding as I said, doing lots of computer work improving itineraries etc to come back stronger after this is all over. However I am a birder of course so I'm always noting the birds that are around my villa, which is right in the town center of Ubud, so not necessarily the best place for birdwatching... but here's what I've had so far in no particular order...

  1. Javan Kingfisher
  2. Spotted Dove
  3. Zebra Dove
  4. Plaintive Cuckoo
  5. Yellow-vented Bulbul
  6. Javan Munia
  7. Eurasian Tree Sparrow
  8. Cave Swiftlet
  9. Intermediate Egret
  10. Eastern Cattle Egret
  11. Javan Pond Heron
  12. Pacific Swallow
  13. Grey-cheeked Green Pigeon
  14. Orange-bellied Flowerpecker
  15. Olive-backed Sunbird
  16. Pied Bush Chat
  17. White-nest Swiftlet
  18. Striated Swallow
  19. Scaly-breasted Munia
  20. Chinese Sparrowhawk
  21. Large-billed Crow
  22. Collared Kingfisher

I wonder if I'll get anything else while I'm here?... keep tuned!

Javan Munia

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

eBird Update

I've been adding a lot of data to my eBird account: https://ebird.org/profile/NjE1MzA1/world, all of my photos from my time in Thailand and Indonesia in 2020 are now online!

So if you're interested please take a look! (Lots of other information on there too!).


Friday, 20 March 2020

Southern Thailand March 2020

Just finished up my March 2020 Southern Thailand tour and we saw loads of incredible birds and got some fantastic views of many of the specials of the region. Hot and humid birding at its best! Plenty of kingfishers, hornbills, broadbill, bulbuls, malkohas, raptors, spiderhunters, and a few quality pittas. Here are a few photos...

Malayan Banded Pitta

Mangrove Pitta

Green Broadbill

Banded Kingfisher

Black-and-red Broadbill

Black-and-yellow Broadbill

Blyth's Frogmouth

Brown-winged Kingfisher

Buffy Fish Owl

Bushy-crested Hornbill

Collared Kingfisher

Great Hornbill

Great Hornbill

Green-backed Flycatcher

Lesser Adjutant

Lesser Fish Eagle

Malayan Banded Pitta

Mangrove Pitta

Maroon-breasted Philentoma

Northern Hawk Owl

Orange-breasted Trogon

Oriental Pratincole

Painted Stork

Red-bearded Bee-eater

Red-throated Barbet

Ruddy Kingfisher

Scarlet-rumped Trogon

Sooty Barbet

White-crowned Hornbill

White-crowned Hornbill