Saturday, 29 February 2020

Northern Thailand January 2020

After a great couple of weeks birding in Central Thailand I flew up to Northern Thailand for a few weeks really enjoyable birding. The list of highlights was very long, and included Mrs Hume's Pheasant, Giant Nuthatch, a lifer in the form of Mongolian Short-toed Lark (about the 5th Thai record I think), and an exceptional number of thrushes, with highlights including Dusky Thrush (another lifer), Scaly Thrush, Chestnut Thrush, Grey-sided Thrush, Black-breasted Thrush, Grey-winged Blackbird, and lots more... Other quality included Green Peafowl, Rusty-naped Pitta, Pied Harrier, Siberian Rubythroat, Ultramarine Flycatcher, White-crowned Forktail,  and tonnes more....

Trip reports on Cloudbirders soon... Here are some photos of some of the highlights...

Mrs Hume's Pheasant

Ultramarine Flycatcher

Dusky Thrush

Scaly Thrush

Black-breasted Thrush

Siberian Rubythroat

White-crowned Forktail

Blue-eared Barbet

Chestnut Thrush

Collared Owlet

Eastern Marsh Harrier

Green Peafowl

Green-tailed Sunbird

Grey-backed Shrike

Grey-winged Blackbird

Himalayan Shortwing

Long-tailed Shrike

Mongolian Short-toed Lark

Mountain Bulbul

Olive-backed Pipi

Slender-billed Oriole

Striated Bulbul

White-browed Laughingthrush

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Central Thailand January 2020

Had a great tour in Central Thailand in January, got some of the best views of Spoon-billed Sandpiper I've had for years, had a really cool Blue Pitta sighting and got to watch a range of cool and secretive birds coming to a waterhole in the forest. Seeing a Wreathed Hornbill flying up to its nest tree was very special too. Here are a few of the photos of some of the highlights.... look out for trip reports coming soon to Cloudbirders etc...

Spoon-billed Sandpiper

Blue Pitta

Black-capped Kingfisher

Black-crested Bulbul 

Chinese Egret

Common Emerald Dove

Common Green Magpie

Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush

Greater Yellownape

Green Malkoha

Green-legged Partridge

Grey-headed (Black-naped) Woodpecker

Hainan Blue Flycatcher

Heart-spotted Woodpecker

Large Scimitar Babbler

Malaysian Plover

Painted Stork

Racket-tailed Treepie

Red-headed Trogon

Siberian Blue Robin 

White-faced Plover

White-rumped Shama

Wreathed Hornbill

Monday, 24 February 2020

Sulawesi Trip Report February 2020

Here's a summary of my week in Sulawesi in February 2020. What an amazing place! Some pics and words below. More pics after the report too.


We had been spending a few days relaxing in Bali, Indonesia and decided to take a flight to Makassar, southern Sulawesi and on to Luwuk, Central Sulawesi. From there we took a boat across to Peleng Island where we based ourselves for a few days for some quality birding. After our time on Peleng Island we took a boat back to Luwuk and then on to Taima to look for the highly-sought Maleo, before flying back to Bali via Makassar. It was a great trip with loads of fantastic birds and I can’t wait to be back in Sulawesi in July 2020 for my tour.

Spolier Alert! We saw MALEO!!!

DAYS 1-2

Flights between Bali and Sulawesi. After our arrival into Luwuk an hour birding near our hotel produced the rare Sulawesi Goshawk, Yellow-billed Malkoha (one of the best looking malkohas on the planet), Slender-billed (Sulawesi) Crow, Hair-crested (Sulawesi White-eyed) Drongo, Grey-sided Flowerpecker, Yellow-sided Flowerpecker, Black-faced Munia, Peregrine Falcon, and Great (Sulawesi) Hanging Parrot.

Sulawesi Goshawk

The boat ride between Luwuk and Peleng Island gave us around 140 Red-necked Phalaropes, Streaked Shearwater, and Great Frigatebird.

It was almost sunset when we arrived in Peleng and as the sun disappeared over the distant Sulawesi landmass we heard a Ruddy Kingfisher giving its dusk chorus. An hours birding at night was incredible, we first found, and easily saw Sulawesi Scops Owl, of the Banggai subspecies and likely split to Banggai Scops Owl. We then pushed our luck further and found Sulawesi Masked Owl, of the rare and very local “pelegensis” subspecies, and another possible future split.

Sulawesi Scops Owl/Banggai Scops Owl

Sulawesi Masked Owl/pelengensis Masked Owl


An exciting day dawned on Peleng Island. We were all up nice and early, ate breakfast and jumped on the back of some motorbikes for about an hour all heading up hill. Glad we weren’t walking!

Our first stop yielded the rare Sula (also called Solilonggon here) Cuckoo-Dove, Sulawesi Cuckoo-Dove, and Sulawesi Drongo. Moving onwards and upwards we got to our jump off point, where we were greeted by a female (Western) Superb Fruit Dove on a nest. Starting out our walking we were suddenly watching lots of amazing birds, some of these included Sula Hanging Parrot, Sulawesi Serpent Eagle, Banggai Fruit Dove, and Black-naped Fruit Dove. A brief rain shower in the early morning was unexpected and luckily we were able to take shelter in a disused hut. After the rain the bird activity went nuts, and there were birds everywhere. We hadn’t seen a Golden-mantled Racket-tail until this point, but after the rain these gorgeous parrots were everywhere we looked, along with the tough Moluccan King Parrot, Northern (here Banggai) Golden Bulbul, Grey-rumped Treeswift, and Black-naped Oriole. Here the Black-naped Orioles are like nowhere else, totally different: white eye, much more black on their heads, wings, back, tail, etc. Really interesting to see and a possible split as Sulawesi Golden Oriole – or maybe even further, the “stresemanni” subspecies we were watching is endemic to Peleng Island. Then one of our main targets, the incredibly rare endemic Banggai Crow, a species only recently rediscovered after a 100 year absence flew in! After enjoying views of two birds were amazed to see 10 of them come into a tree to dry off after the rain.

The Banggai Crow was discovered in the 1880s (2 specimens). It is endemic to Peleng Island, Sulawesi. After discovery it was not seen for over 100 years! BirdLife International consider it to be Critically Endangered with a population estimate of 50-249 birds.

Banggai Crow

Waking around a little more we found yet more of our key target species, such as the recently described Peleng Fantail and Banggai Leaf Warbler. With a pretty awesome supporting cast of Yellow-throated Whistler, Drab Whistler, and Pale-blue Monarch, Citrine Canary-Flycatcher, Black-capped White-eye, and another big target Banggai Jungle Flycatcher.

Our afternoon birding session was about a couple of birds, we heard the tough Red-and-black Thrush, and saw the endemic to Peleng (and stunningly gorgeous) Sula Pitta. A total trip highlight bird for Andy and the perfect way to end a phenomenal days birding. However, the views of the pitta were brief and no photo opportunities, so better views were required… and we really wanted to see the thrush!


We again headed straight up the mountain after breakfast, the motorbikes helping make easy work of what otherwise would be a bit of a trek! We enjoyed repeat views of many of the same species seen the previous day, which was great given the rarity of many of these birds. We searched for Red-and-black Thrush again but just couldn’t get close enough to see it. A stroll around a clearing got us one of our big targets, the local endemic Slaty Cuckooshirke and this was followed up with Common Cicadabird (or Foxy/Banggai Cicadabird depending on authorities etc), and Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo.

We made some more time for the inexplicably stunning Sula Pitta and it was well worth the wait in the hot and sweaty forest when the bird finally hopped into view for us. WOW. Way better view than the previous day. It’s hard to look beyond that bird for its shear beauty and it shot right to the top of my favourite pitta list!

Sula Pitta

Sula Pitta

We took a drive to a different area in the late-afternoon where we found a fruiting tree stacked out with Black-naped Fruit Dove, Grey-cheeked Green Pigeon, Moluccan Starling, and Sula Hanging Parrot. A few other bits and pieces to end the day included Black, Brown-throated, and Olive-backed Sunbirds (all of very local and distinct subspecies), Hair-crested (Banggai White-eyed) Drongo (different subspecies to that seen a few days prior in Luwuk), and Barred Rail.


We took a small boat from our base on Peleng Island to a small islet (near Bangkalan Island) where we hoped to find Sula Scrubfowl. Unfortunately, the tidal situation wasn’t helpful which meant we couldn’t land where we wanted to. When we did manage to land at another spot we could only hear one bird calling, but weren’t able to get to see it unfortunately, the vegetation and slope just made the area impenetrable. However very concerning news from locals was that a couple of months earlier at least 20 had been killed to eat.

We did however find several Island Monarchs and Drab Whistlers, along with Black Sunbird, Collared Kingfisher and Sula Hanging Parrot. Two of the best birds however were Great-billed Kingfisher (of the very local and rarely seen “dichrorhyncha” subspecies endemic to Banggai and a possible split) and Spotted Kestrel. Always great to see. After enjoying our picnic lunch and fresh coconuts straight off the tree on the beautiful palm-fringed beach we commenced our journey back to Peleng Island, where we spent the late afternoon resting up.


Essentially a travel day as we left Peleng Island and our wonderful hosts and took the ferry back to Luwuk where we thoroughly enjoyed the plush hotel for the night. We’d had an incredible time birding in Peleng Island. We’d not got close to hearing or seeing Blue-faced Rail and had only heard Red-and-black Thrush but most other targets had fallen nicely into place with incredible views of the gorgeous Sula Pitta, along with Banggai Crow and loads more.


We made a day trip across to Taima in Central Sulawesi where we had one bird we wanted to see. The majority of the day was spent in the car but when in Taima we had the incredible experience of watching over 40 Maleo going about their nesting activities. We also had the lucky opportunity to chat with the Maleo Conservation director for the site. It was a fascinating learning experience and great to be able to watch these bizarre-looking (and behaving) birds.

Maleo - wow what a cool bird!

We flew out of Luwuk back to Bali via Makassar.


Black-naped Oriole/Sulawesi Golden Oriole

Drab Whistler

Golden-mantled Racket-tail

Great-billed Kingfisher

Grey-sided Flowerpecker

Peregrine Falcon

Ruddy Kingfisher

Slaty Cuckooshrike

Spotted Kestrel

Northern Golden Bulbul/Banggai Golden Bulbul

Sulawesi Serpent Eagle

Hair Crested Drongo/Sulawesi White-eyed Drongo