Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Way Kanan 4

The next morning we drove to Way Kanan and took a boat a short way along the river just after daybreak and walked through the swamp forest, passing the first pool until we reached a large clearing and another pool. Waiting quietly for an hour, our reward arrived in the shape of 3 White-winged Wood-Ducks flying by right in front of us. Wow! 

White-winged Duck - mega..!!

After a light shower the sun came out and birds began appearing on the treetops, with Black-headed Bulbul, Lesser Cuckooshrike and a Dollarbird being seen. Some movement in a distant fruiting tree turned out to be a flock of Cinnamon-headed Green-pigeons, a much appreciated lifer for everyone! Close by a pair of cracking Chestnut-bellied Malkohas showed well, and shortly after a Black-bellied Malkoha appeared behind a very close Crimson-winged Woodpecker we were already watching. 

Black-bellied Malkoha

Crimson-winged Woodpecker

The same spot also had Red-throated and Crimson Sunbirds, Ashy Tailorbird and Green Iora. Once we had returned to Way Kanan we had stunning views of a male Malayan Banded Pitta and male Diard’s Trogon to round off a wonderful morning’s birding.

Large-tailed Nightjar

The afternoon was again slow but Ferruginous Babbler was new and a couple of Chestnut-winged Babblers showed well, but a Maroon Woodpecker only showed to some. At dusk we had a Malaysian Eared-Nightjar flyby and close views of Large-tailed Nightjar at Way Kanan. 

Large Frogmouth - one of my best birds of the year.

We followed this with really good views of Large Frogmouth which was a fine way to finish as we only heard a Sunda Frogmouth in the distance, as well as Brown Wood-owl and Barred Eagle-Owl tonight! So that brought us 13 species of night-birds from this one site alone..!

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Gilly Twitching

Have to interrupt the Sumatra story to share some photos of the Brunnich’s Guillemot I twitched today. It is not something I would normally do but buoyed by the high from seeing the White-billed Diver I ventured over to Portland Harbour in Dorset where this magical beastie has been hanging out for several days. And what a bird it is. Despite the light being poor and making photography tricky, it came in close to shore and allowed amazing views, making the twitch totally worthwhile. And isn't this what makes birding so great? This bird should be hundreds and hundreds of miles to the north, and here it is gracing the south coast of England…..

Brunnich's Guillemot

 The White-billed Diver is also still present closer to home and also showing well.

White-billed Diver

 Several Purple Sandpipers were hanging around Brixham Harbour and I particularly like the way the yellow colour of the seaweed compliments the bill and leg colour of the bird. 

Purple Sandpiper

 And these Black-throated Divers were also nice too.

Black-throated Divers

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Way Kambas 3

The following morning we tried in vain for a Great Argus that we’d been hearing the day before and staked out its song-post area at dawn, and then found the rest of the morning to be a little slower that the previous day. But new birds kept coming at regular intervals despite the heat and we had views of Malayan Banded Pitta, Brown Barbet, Rufous-backed Kingfisher, Chestnut-backed Scimitar-babbler, Rufous-tailed Tailorbird, a brief Diard’s Trogon, and a Gould’s Frogmouth at a day roost. 

Rufous-backed Kingfisher

Gould's Frogmouth - good spot Brian!

On the drive back to the lodge for lunch we had point-blank views of a Red-bearded Bee-eater excavating a nest hole beside the road – what a stunner! A flock of Bushy-crested Hornbills were also called in as well. We’d also seen Black-naped Monarch and a couple of Tiger Shrikes during the morning as well.

Red-bearded Bee-eater

The afternoon started slowly but at an open area we had a very busy time beginning with nice scope views of Red-crowned Barbet, followed by Olive-winged and Buff-vented Bulbuls, Greater Green Leafbird, Common Hill-Myna, and some flyover Blue-crowned Hanging-Parrots. Nearby there was a Dark-sided Flycatcher, Crimson-winged, Checker-throated and a huge White-bellied Woodpecker, with a Wreathed Hornbill flying over. 

Sunda scops-owls

Another excellent night-birding session began with a confiding Brown Boobook and a pair of Sunda Scops-owls, and ended with a Blyth’s Frogmouth perched up nicely.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Way Kambas 2

Everyone was eager to be out and birding at first light on our first full day in this wonderful area, so shortly after 5.30am we were already getting to grips with a Leopard Cat crossing the road in the headlights. We followed this with a Red-bearded Bee-eater and a superb pair of Scarlet-rumped Trogons, plus another Dusky Broadbill, Plain Sunbird and Asian Drongo Cuckoo. A fine trio of Black-bellied, Raffles’s and Red-billed Malkohas graced the forest. We also got to grips with more babblers and had really good close views of a pair of Fluffy-backed Tit-babblers, Sooty-capped, Chestnut-winged and Scaly-crowned Babblers. A little later we had a pair of Grey-and-buff Woodpeckers high in the canopy, followed by Whiskered Treeswift, Green Iora, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, several Black Magpies, Hairy-backed Bulbul, Eastern Crowned Warbler, Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Rufous-winged Philentoma and Dark-throated Oriole. As the morning continued and the temperature began to rise we heard Banded Kingfisher, Green Broadbill, Malayan Banded Pitta, Dark-necked Tailorbird and Ferruginous Babbler.

Bonaparte's Nightjar - one of the rarest nightjars in Asia

The afternoon was quieter as usual but our first Black-and-yellow Broadbill gave repeated views high in the canopy, whilst a Rufous-collared Kingfisher showed at point-blank range after a long wait, but unfortunately the light had gone so it wasn’t possible to get any photos. The night-birding again proved to be top drawer with a Bonaparte’s Nightjar perched on a horizontal branch over the road being the highlight - and this is one of the few places to see it anywhere in Asia. 

Gould's Frogmouth

Reddish Scops-owl

We followed this with a Reddish Scops-owl and then a Gould’s Frogmouth - what a place this is!

White-billed Diver in Devon

White-billed Diver - this pic was taken 5 minutes after the shot above, but now in sunlight.
A Change of direction for this blog post as I was very privileged to get crippling views of this White-billed Diver in Brixham Harbour, South Devon this afternoon – just a few miles away from the Zoothera office. A stonking bird indeed and I’ve not seen one since I was in Arctic Norway many years ago. Also present here were 8 Black-throated Divers, 10+ Great Northern Divers and a Black Guillemot.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Way Kambas National Park 1

Following an uneventful ferry journey across the Sunda Strait we drove just under 3 hours to an amazingly good lodge just outside the entrance to Way Kambas. This is an amazing area which protects a huge area of lowland rainforest which is home to some of south-east Asia’s most wanted birds. After a delicious lunch we drove into the park and began walking along the road which is bordered by dense forest either side. A number of birds were calling but not responding at first, however we did get views of Chestnut-rumped Babbler, Yellow-bellied and Cream-vented Bulbuls, Little Green-Pigeon, Red-billed Malkoha, Blue-throated Bee-eater, Bar-bellied Cuckooshrike, Spectacled Spiderhunter, Fiery Minivet and some previously seen species. We also experienced our first period of rain on the tour so far that hampered our birding and we had to take shelter in the cars on a couple of occasions. But whilst doing this a male Crested Fireback appeared right next to us and was later seen walking along the road behind us. Just as it was getting dark a Red-crowned Barbet began calling above us and we had views through the scope.

Crested Fireback

Way Kambas is known for its night birds and it didn’t disappoint us either as a Large Frogmouth was called in and everyone enjoyed cracking views in the spotlight. As if that wasn’t enough, I played a short cut of Oriental Bay Owl call and we got an immediate response. Unfortunately the bird just called back from inside the forest, so we had to walk inside, clambering over fallen trees and trying to be quiet - not really expecting the bird to remain. But due to the diligence of our local guide, Harry, what can only be described as ‘mind-blowing’ views were had of a female perched a mere 10 yards away for several minutes. Wow!

Large Frogmouth

Oriental Bay Owl

Monday, 23 December 2013


This small patch of forest still holds a number of Javan endemics and as our hotel, just opposite the beach, is only a 5 minute drive away we were in a perfect position to explore the area. So on our first afternoon we walked slowly along the forest road and relatively quickly picked up the endemic Black-banded Barbet after something of a game of cat-and-mouse. But what a stunner it was and certainly worth the effort. A pair of endemic Grey-throated Tit-babblers were also found as well to make it a worthwhile afternoon. As the sun set and it gradually got dark the calls of a Brown Boobook led us to nice spotlight views and shortly after a Sunda Scops-owl was found just a few feet off the ground to complete a good day’s birding. Oh and a few of the group returned to the hotel early and had a Javan Banded Pitta in the headlights right at dusk!

Sunda Scops-owl

The following morning we were in the forest at sunrise and in the ever-improving gloom a female Javan Banded Pitta worked its was along the leaf-covered forest road in front of us. Not a bad way to start the day! Within a matter of minutes a male pitta was called in for close views as well. What a way to start the day! We spent the next few hours, before the temperature became too warm, walking through the forest getting more views of previously seen species, including great scope views of a Javan Owlet, Asian Drongo-Cuckoo, more tit-babblers, Black-capped Babbler, Emerald Dove, Banded Broadbill, both Scarlet and Sunda Minivets, Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike, Crescent-chested Babbler, Ruby-cheeked Sunbird, Orange-bellied Flowerpecker, and a bonus of a superb male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher.

At lunchtime a White-bellied Sea-Eagle was seen by a few of the group as they scanned from the beach across the road from the hotel. We finished the day off with another Brown Boobook and unfortunately the Javan Frogmouths were not responding this evening.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Maura Angke

A relatively small area of marsh and ponds situated on the outskirts of Jakarta is the home of Sunda Coucal and we pretty quickly found a couple of birds sat on some distant bushes which looked quite good through the scope. The meandering boardwalk here provided a good view across the marshes where Black-crowned Night-herons, both Grey and Purple Heron and lots of Oriental Darters were sat on the surrounding trees and bushes. A Chestnut-winged Cuckoo showed surprisingly well in the scope and several flocks of flyby Daurian Starlings were also something of a surprise. But it took a while before we got to grips with the sites other speciality, Black-winged Myna. However it was worth waiting for as we enjoyed several great looks through the scope. A few Olive-backed Tailorbirds were present, and a Bar-winged Prinia eventually gave itself up before we set off by 8am on another tedious drive of some 4 hours to Carita.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

A Pitstop at Pamunakan

A series of fish ponds, rice fields and mangroves provide ideal habitat for a few goodies and an early start saw us ticking off White-capped Munia on the drive in. Excellent views were obtained of these beautiful little birds, and at our first stop we also had Small Blue Kingfisher, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Slaty-breasted Rail, Yellow Bittern and some other common birds. Amongst the ponds we quickly picked up a Javan Plover and had a further 3 more later in the morning. But with the temperature already rising we walked quite a way to some mangroves bordering a canal and were quite fortunate to get really good views of the endemic Javan White-eye, a few of which were feeding close by. 

Golden-bellied Gerygone

Also present in the same area were Whiskered Tern, Little Black Cormorant, Oriental Darter, Golden-bellied Gerygone, Pied Fantail, Clamorous Reed Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Striated Heron, Sunda Teal and Island Collared Dove. Leaving here we drove to a great hotel on the outskirts of Jakarta and enjoyed the a/c and cold beers very much!!!