The Ultimate In Birding Tours

Asia

LESSER SUNDAS, INDONESIA

with Bali & East Java Extension

Saturday 5th September – Tuesday 22nd September 2020

Leaders: Craig Robson and a local bird guide

18 Days Group Size Limit 8
Bali & East Java Extension

Tuesday 22nd September – Sunday 27th September 2020

6 Days Group Size Limit 8
Sunday 19th September – Wednesday 6th October 2021

Leaders: Chris Venetz and a local bird guide

18 Days Group Size Limit 8
Bali & East Java Extension

Wednesday 6th October – Monday 11th October 2021

6 Days Group Size Limit 8

Birdquest’s Lesser Sundas, Indonesia birding tours explore the long chain of islands that form the southern edge of Wallacea, the area to the east of the famous Wallace’s Line that marks the limit of the true Oriental faunal region. Our Lesser Sundas, Indonesia birding tour provides comprehensive coverage of these endemic-rich and scenic islands, rounded off by an exciting Bali & East Java birding tour extension that explores the fascinating island of Bali and adjacent East Java, which lie on the other side of Wallace’s Line to the Lesser Sundas.

Scattered across about 5000 kilometres of tropical ocean, the Indonesian archipelago is remarkable for its cultural and biological diversity. Of all the regions of Indonesia, the Nusa Tenggara (meaning ‘Southeast Islands’) or Lesser Sundas is probably the most varied.

Strung out to the east of the popular holiday island of Bali, the Nusa Tenggara (or Lesser Sundas) contain, in microcosm, a wide range of tropical habitats from the luxuriant cloud forests on the flanks of the volcanoes of Flores to the xerophytic scrub on Komodo, famous for its ‘Dragons’. Better known as the Lesser Sundas in English-speaking lands, they are relatively undeveloped and thinly populated: only 2% of Indonesia’s huge population live in the islands in contrast to the burgeoning millions inhabiting the fertile plains of adjacent Java and Bali, the most densely settled islands of Indonesia. On the road to nowhere in particular, this region of Indonesia is seldom visited and so much remains undiscovered about its birdlife.

Although the small islands that form the Lesser Sundas of southeast Indonesia hold fewer species than an equivalent area of continental Asia, many are endemic and often confined to a single island. This tour represents an enjoyable and not especially difficult adventure for those who want to see the many exciting and little-known endemics of the Lesser Sundas, some of which are becoming harder and harder to find due to habitat loss. Indeed, we can say that of all the endemic-bird-rich places in the world, the Lesser Sundas of Indonesia is somewhere one should hurry to visit.

The most isolated and least often visited of the Lesser Sundas is Sumba. This dry, infertile island is mostly covered with rough pasture, much of it given over to the horse rearing for which Sumba is famous throughout the archipelago and even across Indonesia. Flying into Sumba, it is difficult to believe that the endemic species, all but one of them forest birds, could have survived. Fortunately some patches of monsoon forest remain and in these we have an excellent chance to find some of the world’s most critically endangered species such as Citron-crested Cockatoo, Sumba Hornbill and the very attractive Red-naped Fruit-Dove. Other specialities include Sumba Buttonquail, Marigold Lorikeet, Sumba Boobook, Mees’s (or Sunda) Nightjar, Cinnamon-banded Kingfisher, Sumba Green Pigeon, Sumba Flycatcher, Sumba Jungle Flycatcher, Sumba Brown Flycatcher, the gorgeous Apricot-breasted Sunbird and Sumba Myzomela.

To the east of Sumba lies Timor, the largest and geographically most ancient of the Lesser Sundas, which holds the greatest number of endemics, including that inveterate skulker the Buff-banded Thicket-Warbler and the strikingly-marked Orange-sided Thrush. In contrast to the tropical luxuriance of Bali, Timor more closely resembles those parts of northern Australia that lie not far away to the south across the Timor Sea. Over much of the island dry agriculture and scrub predominate, with indigenous eucalyptus adding strongly to the Antipodean feel. The lowland forests of Timor are highly threatened, as the few remaining patches are unprotected, and so woodcutters and bird trappers do as they please. Several species which were common until quite recently have now become decidedly scarce. Their future looks bleak, so now is the time to see such specialities as Olive-headed Lorikeet and Timor Sparrow.

The many other endemics and localized species we will be looking for on Timor include the exquisite Banded (or Black-backed) Fruit-Dove, Timor Imperial Pigeon, Streaked (or Timor) Boobook, Greater Wallacean Drongo, Green (or Timor) Figbird, the pretty White-bellied Chat, Chestnut-backed Thrush, the tiny Timor Stubtail, Timor Leaf Warbler, the beautiful Timor Blue Flycatcher, the attractive Black-banded Flycatcher, Fawn-breasted Whistler, Timor Friarbird, Streak-breasted and Flame-eared (or Yellow-eared) Honeyeaters, Black-breasted Myzomela, the dazzling Flame-breasted Sunbird, Red-chested Flowerpecker, Spot-breasted Heleia (or Spot-breasted Dark-eye), Tricoloured Parrot-Finch and Black-faced and Five-coloured Munias.

We will also visit the small island of Roti to the south of Timor in search of Olive-shouldered Parrot and Roti Boobook (which is surely a good species rather than a subspecies of Southern Boobook), as well as some other interesting endemic forms.

North of Timor, Flores could hardly be more different. This long narrow island is one of the most beautiful in the Lesser Sundas and indeed Indonesia. Its complex mountainous relief is bisected by deep V-shaped valleys and surmounted by many volcanoes, 14 of them still active. Only the very much larger islands of Java and Sumatra are more volcanically active. Many of the rugged mountains of Flores are still covered with humid rainforest, where we will look for specialities like Flores Hawk-Eagle, Leaf (or Flores) Lorikeet, Wallace’s Hanging Parrot, Wallace’s Scops Owl, the striking Glittering (or White-rumped) Kingfisher, Elegant Pitta, the little known Flores Crow, the diminutive Russet-capped Tesia, Flores Leaf Warbler, Flores Jungle Flycatcher, Brown-capped Fantail, the very rare Flores Monarch, Bare-throated Whistler, Scaly-crowned Honeyeater, Black-fronted and Golden-rumped Flowerpeckers, and Yellow-browed, Crested and Thick-billed Dark-eyes.

West of Flores, in the strait separating it from Sumbawa, lies another strikingly different island, Komodo, which is surely the best known of the Lesser Sundas outside Indonesia, and for good reason. Here among parched hills and dry gullies live the most important surviving populations of the Yellow-crested Cockatoo and of the much more famous Komodo Dragon, a huge monitor lizard otherwise known only from adjacent Rinca and a small part of Flores. The sight of these unique and decidedly antediluvian reptiles in so remote and inhospitable a setting is quite unforgettable. As if to accentuate the barrenness of the land, the surrounding seas are rich in beautiful coral reefs, dolphins, turtles and seabirds.

During the optional extension to our Lesser Sundas birding tour there will be an opportunity to explore the fascinating emerald isle of Bali and adjacent east Java. The peoples of both islands are Malay in origin, but the Muslim faith of the Javanese is in stark contrast to the Hindu beliefs of the adjacent Balinese. Bali’s geographical location and the tides of history have served to isolate it from the Hindu mainstream in the Indian subcontinent, but this very isolation has been responsible for the extraordinary vitality of its culture. From the wonderful costumes and dances to the incredible number of temples (in some districts there seem to be more temples than houses!), Bali and its friendly people constantly fascinate and delight the traveller.

On Bali we will search for the beautiful but sadly extremely endangered Bali Myna, probably the rarest bird in Indonesia, as well as Javan Kingfisher and the endangered Black-winged Myna.

Afterwards we will take the ferry across the narrow Bali Strait to east Java, where we will begin with a visit to Baluran National Park. Here, with the extinct Baluran volcano looming over us, we will explore the dry savanna and open woodland which, with its several species of large grazing mammals, seems strangely out of place on this tropical island in Indonesia. Highlights here include the magnificent but endangered Green Peafowl, Green Junglefowl, Javan Flameback, Javan Banded Pitta and the rather less dramatic Grey-cheeked Tit-Babbler.

From Baluran we will travel a short distance to the south-west, and spend a couple of days exploring the wonderful forests flanking the eastern slope of the Ijen Plateau, famed for its sulphur production. Here we will be looking for the highly distinctive White-faced Partridge, which is only found in east Java, along with the beautiful Pink-headed Fruit-Dove, Yellow-throated Hanging Parrot and Black-banded Barbet.

Birdquest has operated Lesser Sundas birding tours in Indonesia since 2004 (and Bali and Java birding tours since 1984).

Bali & east Java-only Option: If you wish you may take the Bali & east Java section as a stand-alone tour. If you do so, you will join the tour at Denpasar airport.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels/lodges are mostly of good to medium standard, but typically the latter. The hotels at Waingapu and Soe are fairly simple, but all rooms have private bathrooms. The guesthouse at Lewa is fairly basic, with shared bathroom facilities. The guesthouse at Kisol is basic, with shared and quite primitive bathroom facilities. Road transport is by small coach, minibus or car.

Walking: The walking during our Lesser Sundas, Indonesia birding tour ranges from easy to moderate, with some more difficult terrain to negotiate over relatively short distances. During the extension the walking is mostly easy.

Climate: Most days in the lowlands will be hot, dry and sunny, but overcast conditions are fairly frequent and some rain can be expected. In montane areas in this part of Indonesia it will be cool or warm and at the highest altitudes it can be decidedly cold at times. The humidity is often rather high.

Bird Photography: Opportunities during our Lesser Sundas, Indonesia birding tour are worthwhile.


PRICE INFORMATION

Birdquest Inclusions: Our tour prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees.

We also include all tipping for local guides, drivers and accommodation/restaurant staff.

We also include these flights: Denpasar (Bali)-Waingapu (Sumba), Waingapu (Sumba)-Kupang (West Timor), Kupang (Rest Timor)-Ruteng (Flores) and Labuanbajo (Flores)-Denpasar (Bali).

Deposit: Main Tour: £490, $640, €560. Bali & East Java Extension: £180, $240, €210.

TO BOOK THIS TOUR: Click here (you will need the tour dates and deposit amount)


2020: £4680, $5850, €5140. Denpasar/Labuanbajo.
Bali & East Java Extension: £1720, $2150, €1890. Labuanbajo/Denpasar.
2021: provisional £4680, $5850, €5140. Denpasar/Labuanbajo.
Bali & East Java Extension: £1720, $2150, €1890. Labuanbajo/Denpasar.

Single Supplement: 2020: £480, $600, €520.
Bali & East Java Extension: £200, $260, €220.
Single Supplement: 2021: £480, $600, €520.
Bali & East Java Extension: £200, $260, €220.

The single supplement will not apply if you indicate on booking that you prefer to share a room and there is a room-mate of the same sex available.

This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

LESSER SUNDAS, INDONESIA BIRDING TOUR: DETAILED ITINERARY

Indonesia’s Lesser Sundas: Day 1  Our Lesser Sundas, Indonesia birding tour begins in the morning at Denpasar airport on the island of Bali. From here we will take a flight to Waingapu, the principal town on the remote, hot and dry island of Sumba, for a three nights stay.

Sumba is one of the smaller islands of Nusa Tenggara (or the Lesser Sundas), the forgotten and little known south eastern chain of islands of Indonesia, and is famous for its ikats (beautifully decorated fabrics) and its thoroughbred horses. The isolation of this old eroded island has led to a high degree of endemism. Thirteen currently recognised species are restricted to Sumba and all but one of them, Sumba Buttonquail, are confined to the small and diminishing areas of indigenous forest. This afternoon we will spend some time in the Yumbu area, to the east of Waingapu. The dry grassland which occupies large areas on either side of the road here is the habitat of the Sumba Buttonquail, one of the least known endemics. Like most buttonquails it is quite difficult to see, but we should at least flush one or two at close range. With a bit of luck we will be able to watch one walking around. Apart from the buttonquail, typical grassland birds include the widespread Brown Quail, Horsfield’s (or Australasian) Bushlark and Pied Bushchat. Nearby mangroves provide good habitat for Indonesian Honeyeater, which is quite common here.

In addition, we should have time to visit a lovely freshwater wetland where we may well observe Little Grebe, Little Black and Little Pied Cormorants, Intermediate Egret, Wandering Whistling-Duck, Sunda Teal, Pacific Black Duck, White-browed Crake, Common Moorhen, Australian Swamphen, White-headed Stilt, Wood Sandpiper, Whiskered Tern and Australian Reed Warbler. If we are lucky, we will see a rarity or two, such as Australian Pelican, Pied Heron, Glossy Ibis, Hardhead, Swamp Harrier or Australian Pratincole.

Indonesia’s Lesser Sundas: Days 2-3  Much of our time on Sumba will be spent in the Lewa area, and in particular in one of the more extensive areas of accessible remnant forest on Sumba, Langgaliru National Park. In this very interesting part of Indonesia we should find many of the forest-dwelling specialities. A population of the endemic Citron-crested Cockatoo (split from Yellow-crested) still survives in this area, and we will be making a special effort to see this distinctive and critically endangered species. The walk to the forest across the open grassland is a good place to see parrots flying over in the early morning. The magnificent Eclectus Parrot is now rare and the Great-billed Parrot decidedly scarce, but the near-endemic Marigold Lorikeet (split from Rainbow) and Red-cheeked Parrot are still fairly common. The handsome Cinnamon-banded Kingfisher betrays its presence by its distinctive whinnying, and locating this Lesser Sundas endemic will be high on our list of priorities.

Black-winged (or Black-shouldered) Kite, Short-toed Snake Eagle and Blue-tailed Bee-eater hunt over the grasslands, whilst Red-backed Buttonquail, Zitting Cisticola and Red Avadavat can be flushed from cover. Once we reach the forest, we have a chance to see more of the specialities. The rare and exquisite Red-naped Fruit-Dove, one of the most beautiful of its genus, can sometimes be found resting on exposed branches. We will also be looking for Sumba Green Pigeon, the three endemic flycatchers, Sumba Flycatcher, Sumba Jungle-Flycatcher (split from Russet-backed) and Sumba Brown Flycatcher (formerly lumped in Asian Brown), as well as the attractive endemics Apricot-breasted Sunbird and Sumba Myzomela (or Sumba Red-headed Honeyeater). Other species we hope to find include Rusty-breasted Cuckoo, Green Imperial Pigeon, Pale-shouldered Cicadabird, Lesser Wallacean Drongo, Black-naped Oriole, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, and Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher.

We will also visit some forest patches near Lewa where we will concentrate on finding any of the forest endemics that we may have missed so far, notably the threatened Sumba Hornbill, which is frequently found in this area. As night falls in one of the forest clearings, the near-endemic Mees’s (or Sunda) Nightjar (split from Large-tailed) begin to call, and we should hear the endemic Sumba Boobook, though finding it in the dense habitat may not prove easy. We will also be looking for the poorly known endemic Little Sumba Boobook (or Little Sumba Hawk-Owl), which was only described for the first time in 2002. Its monosyllabic hoot will hopefully lead us to its location.

During our forest birding sorties on Sumba, we should also see Brown Goshawk, Black-naped Fruit-Dove, Oriental Dollarbird, Wallacean Cuckoo-Shrike, Cinereous (or Grey) Tit (split from Great), Arafura Fantail (split from Rufous), Spectacled Monarch, Rusty-breasted Whistler (split from Common Golden), the widespread Helmeted Friarbird, Yellow-spectacled and Ashy-bellied White-eyes, and the showy Blood-breasted Flowerpecker (the local form may merit splitting as Sumba Flowerpecker). The much sought-after Elegant Pitta can often be heard calling from cover, but is more difficult to see here than on Flores. In the more open areas, one can often find Black and Brahminy Kites, Spotted Kestrel, Barred Dove, Southern Jungle Crow (split from Large-billed), Short-tailed Starling, Brown-throated Sunbird, and both Black-faced and Five-coloured Munias.

Indonesia’s Lesser Sundas: Day 4  After some final birding near Lewa we shall return to Waingapu and fly eastwards to Kupang in West Timor (not to be confused with the recently independent state of East Timor or Timor Leste) for an overnight stay.

Timor is the largest island of the Lesser Sundas and used to be famous for its sweet-scented sandal wood. Unfortunately, much forest has been removed and only small remnants now remain in West Timor. In the late afternoon, if the tide is low and we have enough time, we will look for a selection of shorebirds close to our hotel, including Grey-tailed Tattler and Ruddy Turnstone. Lesser Frigatebird, Pacific Reef Egret and Greater Crested Tern also occur here.

Indonesia’s Lesser Sundas: Day 5  This morning we will travel by ferry to the small island of Roti (or Rote), situated a short distance to the southwest of Timor, where we will spend one night. Our main purpose in coming to Roti is to look for the increasingly rare but poorly-named Olive-shouldered Parrot (which has a red wing-slash and bright green shoulders, and which is easier to find here than on Timor), and the interesting ‘Roti Boobook’ (an endemic form which seems likely to be treated as a species distinct from Southern Boobook). There are also endemic island forms of Timor Stubtail and Timor Leaf Warbler amongst others, one or more of which might be split in future.

Indonesia’s Lesser Sundas: Day 6  After returning to Kupang this morning for a two nights stay, we will spend the afternoon exploring the Bipolo area. Here, sandwiched between extensive tracts of cultivation, a small area of lowland forest remains where many specialities can be seen. The forest is dominated by a highly peculiar palm (Corypha utan), which dies after having produced a mass of fruit, and the dead palms are often used as perches by a variety of bird species. Sadly the area is unprotected and so its future, and that of several lowland forest birds, looks rather bleak.

In the canopy, Red-chested Flowerpeckers, Streak-breasted and Flame-eared (or Yellow-eared) Honeyeaters, and Black-breasted Myzomelas (or Black-chested Honeyeaters) feed in flowering trees, while the mid-storey holds the very attractive Timor Blue Flycatcher. With a bit of luck an Orange-sided Thrush, one of the islands most attractive endemics, will show itself. Pacific Baza and Oriental Honey-Buzzard regularly soar over the more open places. Fruiting trees attract the exquisite Rose-crowned and Banded (or Black-backed) Fruit-Doves, and we will be keeping our eyes open for Pink-headed Imperial Pigeon, which is now rare here. Green (or Timor) Figbirds are common in the tree-tops, and often gather in quite large concentrations.

The late afternoon is a good time to find parrots flying about. We will have a good chance of seeing Red-cheeked Parrot and Jonquil (or Olive-shouldered) Parrot, but, unfortunately, the endemic Marigold Lorikeet (split from Rainbow) is far from likely.

Bipolo is a remarkably birdy place, certainly by the standards of Indonesia, and as we walk along the road watching the forest edge, we will hope to see Greater Wallacean Drongo (considered separate from Lesser Wallacean), Olive-brown Oriole, Northern Fantail, Plain Gerygone (with its distinctive melancholic song), Fawn-breasted Whistler, Timor Friarbird, Thick-billed Flowerpecker and the dazzling Flame-breasted Sunbird. Pacific Emerald Doves (split from Common Emerald Dove or Green-winged Pigeon) often zoom across the track.

Adjacent to the forest is an area of rice-paddies and an intermediate scrubby zone. A wide variety of Wallacean species enjoy these habitats. Australian Hobby, Rainbow Bee-eater, and White-breasted and Black-faced Wood-Swallows hawk for insects, and sit on exposed perches, while Glossy Swiftlets (the local form of which is a likely future split as Timor Swiftlet), Tree Martins, and Barn and Striated Swallows may be seen feeding overhead. Bushes and small trees attract species like Lesser Coucal and White-shouldered Triller, and in particular, we will be searching for the scarce Timor Sparrow, a relative of the more familiar Java Sparrow. Large flocks of munias gather in the fields in search of seeds, with Black-faced, Five-coloured and Scaly-breasted all likely, as well as groups of Zebra Finches which tag along. Mixed roosting flocks of Eastern Cattle Egrets and White-faced Herons are sometimes joined by a vagrant Royal Spoonbill. Fanning-out across some of the more open areas of fields, we will try to find a Red-backed Buttonquail amongst the commoner Brown Quails, and there are normally quite a few Long-tailed Shrikes, Paddyfield Pipits and Golden-headed Cisticolas to be seen.

On the seaward side of the fields is a discreet area of fish- and shrimp-ponds and a small saltworks. Needless to say, this is a great area to look for shorebirds. Red-capped Plover, Far Eastern Curlew and Marsh Sandpiper are regular and we will be in with a chance of Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Long-toed Stint. Striated (or Little) Heron and Whiskered Tern often occur. A small rushy marsh holds White-browed Crake, and often a few Pale-headed Munias which tend to shun the open fields. At dusk the characteristic song of the endemic Streaked Boobook (split from Southern) is frequently heard, and we should hopefully be able to lure it into view.

Indonesia’s Lesser Sundas: Day 7  We will spend the day birding along the road and trails running through the forest above Camplong. The habitat differs considerably from the Bipolo forest, and quite a few of the specialities of the Timor and Wetar Endemic Bird Area are more readily found here, such as the pretty White-bellied Chat, that notorious skulker the Buff-banded Thicket-Warbler and the tiny Timor Stubtail. Bamboo thickets harbour another much sought-after endemic, the attractive Black-banded Flycatcher, while fast-moving groups of the hyperactive Spot-breasted Dark-eye prefer the thicker mid-storey growth or low canopy. We will have further opportunities to find Cinnamon-banded Kingfisher and Orange-sided Thrush, as well as more widespread species like Brush and Gould’s Bronze-Cuckoos, Little Pied Flycatcher, Spectacled Monarch, and Sunda Bush and Timor Leaf Warblers (both of which are commoner at higher levels).

Indonesia’s Lesser Sundas: Day 8  After another morning birding at either Bipolo or Camplong (depending on what we still need to see), we will travel on to Soe, where we spend the next two nights. In the afternoon we will visit an area of forest at Oelnasi which is similar to that at Camplong. Here, we have a good chance of seeing Black Dove (or Timor Black Pigeon) and Bar-necked Cuckoo-Dove.

Indonesia’s Lesser Sundas: Day 9  Today we will visit the 12,000 hectare Mount Mutis Nature Reserve, which includes Gunung Mutis (2427m), the highest mountain in West Timor and one of the highest in the Lesser Sundas. The unique montane forests here are dominated by stands of the near-endemic Eucalyptus urophylla, and form a crucial watershed for the island of Timor. Birding the access road and clearings early in the morning, we will hear the deep calls of Metallic Pigeon, which is quite easy to see here, and will try our best to track down the rare and elusive Timor Imperial Pigeon, one of the toughest endemics. Island Thrushes are common and easy to see, as are the busy flocks of Mountain White-eyes, along with the occasional Timor Leaf Warbler. The distinctive local race of the Pygmy Wren-Babbler utters its unusual song from rock outcrops, and often shows itself at very close range. Flocks of Olive-headed Lorikeets fly over the ridge here, and occasionally perch momentarily. A narrow trail winds its way towards the summit, and we will follow this in search of the imperial pigeon, as well as certain species that prefer the forest interior, such as the superb Chestnut-backed Thrush and more widespread Little Cuckoo-Dove, Snowy-browed Flycatcher, and Sunda Bush and Yellow-breasted Warblers. We will also explore some forest and clearings at lower levels in search of the tiny and now very rare Iris Lorikeet and the very colourful Tricoloured Parrotfinch.

Indonesia’s Lesser Sundas: Day 10  This morning we will visit Oelnasi again, in search of any species that we have missed so far, or want better views of. After lunch, we will return to Kupang for an overnight stay, stopping en route if time and season permits to look for migrant Oriental Plovers (this species generally passes through Indonesia from late September to October).

Indonesia’s Lesser Sundas: Day 11  This morning we will take a flight to Ruteng, in the highlands of Flores, our fourth island among the Lesser Sundas of Indonesia. Upon arrival we will travel eastwards to the village of Kisol, where we will stay for two nights. We will stop along the way at Rana Mese, in the Ruteng Nature Recreation Park, for some introductory montane birding. During the afternoon, we will begin our exploration of the Kisol area.

Indonesia’s Lesser Sundas: Day 12  The tiny village of Kisol, situated at the foot of the isolated, forest-covered Gunung Pacandeki, will be our base from which to explore the remnant lowland forest close by. Following a rocky track that passes right through the forest, we will soon hear the comical nasal calls of the bizarre Flores Crow, which lives in small groups below canopy level.

This is one of the best places in Indonesia to look for the highly attractive Elegant Pitta, and several can often be heard calling at once, though seeing one takes patience and persistence. Even more efficient at keeping itself out of sight is the Chestnut-capped Thrush, a widespread but usually rare bird in Indonesia, that is a target for unscrupulous bird-traders. Easier to see is the brilliant blue and white Glittering (or White-rumped) Kingfisher, which is readily located by its loud monotonous calls. A rich, rapid outpouring of song betrays the presence of the wild-eyed Thick-billed Heleia (or Thick-billed Dark-eye), which inhabits the thickish mid-storey. Low down, in the tangled understorey, cheeky Russet-capped Tesias utter their jumbled song, and we should eventually all get views of one.

Positioning ourselves at the forest edge, we will scan Gunung Pacandeki in search of Kisol’s most impressive resident, the huge Flores Hawk-Eagle, which regularly patrols the thickly forested slopes. Other forest birds that we will be on the lookout for are Variable Goshawk, Green Junglefowl (more often heard than seen here), Black-naped Fruit Dove, Little Minivet, and Spectacled and Black-naped Monarchs. If we are very fortunate, we will find the scarce Flores Green Pigeon, which visits the area in search of fruit. The forest edge is a good place to see hawking flocks of Edible-nest Swiftlets, as well as Black-fronted Flowerpecker, and the local race of Olive-backed Sunbird.

As nightfall approaches, Sunda Nightjars call from different directions, and we will soon hear the distinctive rude, husky hoots of Moluccan Scops Owls emanating from the forest edge. Just inside the forest, we may also find the stocky Wallace’s Scops Owl, with its deep, creepy call that gets louder and louder.

Indonesia’s Lesser Sundas: Day 13  En route to Ruteng, where we will stay for three nights, we will spend the morning searching for high-altitude specialities in the splendid montane forest at Danau Rana Mese. The surroundings of this small lake are covered in moss-encrusted, orchid-laden and fern-covered trees which harbour many of our target species. Feeding flocks along the roadside often hold Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker, Brown-capped Fantail (with its nasal calls), Flores Leaf Warbler, and both Yellow-browed and Crested Dark-eyes; the latter four all confined to Flores, Sumbawa and Lombok.

Another distinctive species only found here and on Sumbawa, and readily located by its superb, powerful song, is the striking Bare-throated Whistler. The sombre Scaly-crowned Honeyeater, another near-endemic, is attracted in numbers to the many flowering trees. In the undergrowth by the roadside, a beautiful varied snatch of song will betray the presence of a ‘Flores Shortwing’, a highly distinctive form that is currently still lumped in the widespread White-browed.

Several species of pigeon occur in this part of the Lesser Sundas, including the rather scarce Ruddy Cuckoo-Dove. Green Junglefowl can occasionally be seen along the roadside here, and other species that we should see include Sunda Cuckoo, Pygmy Wren-Babbler, Mountain Tailorbird and a yellow-bellied montane race of the Oriental White-eye (a likely future split). If we are very lucky, we will stumble across one of the more difficult species, such as Sunda Thrush or Tawny-breasted Parrotfinch.

In the afternoon we will visit the forested lower slopes below Golo Lusang. Many of the same species can be seen here but, in addition, we will have a good chance of finding the near-endemic Flores Jungle Flycatcher (now considered separate from Sumba Jungle). Bonelli’s Eagle can often be seen soaring above the slopes and the local form is a potential future split as Rensch’s Eagle..

After nightfall, we will search for one of the least known nightbirds of the Lesser Sundas and indeed the world, the endemic Flores Scops Owl, but we really will need to make great efforts, and have luck on our side, to see this one! It was originally only known from three specimens collected 1896 until it was rediscovered near Ruteng in 1995. At first, its voice was misidentified as that of Red-legged Crake, but since this issue was resolved there have been several observations. We will also have more opportunities to try and find Wallace’s Scops Owl.

Indonesia’s Lesser Sundas: Days 14-15  Some of our time in the Ruteng region will be devoted to some mid-elevation forest near the village of Pagal, to the north of Ruteng, where our main target will be the rare and declining Wallace’s Hanging-Parrot. We may well see this tiny psittacid flying like a bullet low overhead, and with a bit of luck one or two will be observed in a favourite fruiting or flowering tree. This is also a very good area to see another endemic parrot, the noisy Leaf (or Flores) Lorikeet (split from Rainbow), and Golden-rumped Flowerpecker is common.

We will also visit the high pass of Golo Lusang. Dark-backed Imperial Pigeon is common here and we will have a good chance of seeing one giving its deep booming call from the treetops. Here, Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagles skirt the ridges, and the dawn-chorus of Bare-throated Whistlers is very impressive. We shall also have the option of more nightbirding.

Indonesia’s Lesser Sundas: Day 16  An early start will take us to some lovely forest at Puarlolo, along the road to Labuan Bajo, where we will spend two nights. Here we will listen for a distinctive ringing whistle that could lead us to the extremely rare Flores Monarch, which was only discovered in 1971 and has still only been seen by very few birders. We will also have more chances to see Elegant Pitta and Chestnut-capped Thrush, as well as Rufous-chested Flycatcher.

Labuan Bajo is located at the western end of Flores and is the gateway to the famous island of Komodo. In the late afternoon we will explore the coastal scrub, fields and bits of mangrove near our hotel, which is a good place to see Lemon-bellied White-eye. Javan Plover can often be found along the beach, and exposed areas of mud attract a variety of commoner shorebirds.

Indonesia’s Lesser Sundas: Day 17  Our boat will leave during the early hours and we will aim to arrive at the Komodo National Park headquarters soon after dawn, where we will team-up with a park ranger who will guide us to the truly impressive Komodo Dragons. Even before reaching the pier, we may already have seen a lone Great-billed Heron standing on a quite stretch of shoreline, or a Beach Thick-knee hunting crabs. Most of the birds will already be familiar to us, but the Yellow-crested Cockatoo, which is rare if not extinct over much of the rest of its range, is still relatively common here. Orange-footed Scrubfowl was once easy to see, but is now difficult, whereas the colourful Green Junglefowl is now relatively tame and confiding. If we are very lucky we will locate a roosting Moluccan Scops Owl.

Apart from the dragons, numbers of Timor Deer are regularly encountered, and Green Turtles can often be seen loafing just offshore. The seas are quite rich in this region of Indonesia and, during the return journey to Labuan Bajo we will settle down to some dedicated sea-watching. Small numbers of Bulwer’s Petrel often pass through the deeper channels, while Lesser Frigatebird, White-bellied Sea Eagle and fishing groups of Black-naped Terns are frequently encountered. With some luck, we will spot Lesser Crested Tern, Bridled Tern or even a wintering Aleutian Tern. Small groups of Indo-Pacific Bottle-nosed Dolphins can also be found, and sometimes we encounter Risso’s Dolphins.

Indonesia’s Lesser Sundas: Day 18  Our Lesser Sundas, Indonesia birding tour ends this morning at Labuan Bajo airport on Flores. Depending on flight timings, we may have time for some final birding. (There are direct flights from here to both Denpasar and Jakarta.)

BALI & EAST JAVA EXTENSION

Bali & East Java: Day 1  After flying back to Denpasar, the capital of Bali, we will drive to the western tip of the island, for an overnight stay at Labuan Lalang, close to Bali Barat National Park. Our journey will at take us through emerald-green rice paddies dotted with exotic Hindu temples, the most evident aspect of Bali’s rich cultural heritage. This exquisite island is everything that has been written about it and far more besides.

Along the way we will look out for the magnificent Javan Kingfisher (endemic to Java and Bali). If we are fortunate we will also encounter the threatened Black-winged Myna (virtually endemic to Java and Bali).

Bali Barat National Park is clothed in open dry woodland with wetter broadleaved evergreen patches, and holds some interesting birds. Our primary objective here will be to see the endemic Bali Myna (or Bali Starling), surely one of the most beautiful birds in the world. Although it is kept widely in captivity, the number of individuals actually living in the wild in the park (its only home) is currently thought to be fewer than 30 individuals. There is a captive breeding centre here, from where small numbers are annually released into the forest. Unfortunately, a combination of high mortality rate (due to being bred in captivity) and on-going illegal capture for the cage-bird trade is making it difficult for the species to build up its numbers again and, at present, the reintroduction project seems to have reached a low ebb. Ideally we would hope to see wild-born offspring from reintroduced birds (no original wild birds have been present for many years now), but even this may be difficult at present.

The contrast here in Bali, with its Oriental avifauna (as we are now west of Wallace’s Line, while the Lesser Sundas lie to the east) is profound. Some of the other birds we may well find at Bali Barat are Crescent-chested Babbler (endemic to Java and Bali) and the Indonesian-endemic Lemon-bellied White-eye, as well as the handsome Black-thighed Falconet, Barred Buttonquail, Spotted, Zebra and Emerald Doves, Asian Palm Swift, Edible-nest Swiftlet, Grey-rumped Treeswift, Chestnut-headed and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, Lineated Barbet, Pacific Swallow, Australasian Bushlark, Malaysian Cuckoo-Shrike, White-shouldered Triller, Common Iora, Black and Ashy Drongos, Grey Tit (split from Great), Crescent-chested Babbler, the uncommon Fulvous-chested Jungle Flycatcher, Black-naped Monarch, Mangrove Whistler, Long-tailed Shrike and Olive-backed Sunbird.

Along the coast, we may also see Great-billed Heron, Pacific Reef Egret, Lesser Adjutant (and perhaps also Woolly-necked Stork) Beach Thick-knee, and Black-naped and Greater Crested Terns.

Bali & East Java: Day 2  After some final birding at Bali Barat we will drive to nearby Gilimanuk and catch the ferry across the narrow strait to Banyuwangi in eastern Java. From here we will drive to Baluran National Park for an overnight stay. In the late afternoon we will begin our exploration of the park.

Bali & East Java: Day 3  Baluran National Park is one of Java’s oldest national parks and contains a variety of mainly dry savanna-like habitats, dominated by the extinct Baluran Volcano.

At dusk and dawn we should hear the loud and unmistakable bugling of Green Peafowl as they venture out of the forest into more open areas. This is probably the most easily accessible site in the world for this spectacular and endangered bird, and we are sure to enjoy some wonderful views. Another speciality of the park is Green Junglefowl, which here occurs alongside the less common Red Junglefowl.

In patches of broadleaved evergreen forest we will search for the endemic Grey-cheeked Tit-Babbler, and we also have a good chance of seeing the endemic Javan Banded Pitta. In addition, Javan Flameback (split from Greater and endemic to east Java and Bali) is quite easy to find here. In open areas with waterholes we will have a good chance of coming across the endangered Black-winged Myna, here of a different form to that found on Bali.

Not surprisingly many of the birds in Baluran are similar to those of Bali Barat National Park, but additional species we may well find include Brahminy Kite, Crested Serpent Eagle, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Spotted Kestrel, Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Green Imperial Pigeon, Island Collared Dove, Plaintive Cuckoo, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Blue-eared and Coppersmith Barbets, Freckle-breasted (or Spot-breasted) Woodpecker, the impressive White-bellied Woodpecker, Common Flameback, Striated Swallow, Black-winged Flycatcher-Shrike, Small and Scarlet Minivets, Sooty-headed and Olive-winged Bulbuls, Olive-backed Tailorbird (endemic to Java, Bali and Lombok), Common Tailorbird, Hill Blue Flycatcher and Ruby-cheeked Sunbird. After dark, we will look for Spotted Wood Owl, which is usually straightforward to find.

Much of the park comprises dry woodland and savanna which is more reminiscent of Africa than Indonesia, and there were formerly large areas of grassland that attracted herds of Banteng, a shy species of wild cattle. Unfortunately Nile Acacia Acacia nilotica, a native of Africa, originally planted in 1969 as a firebreak, has now invaded as much as 70% of the savanna area in the park, to the detriment of the grasslands. It is a very fast-growing species, ironically dispersed in the faeces of herbivores, and can spread at the frightening rate of 100-200 hectares per year! The authorities are currently looking at ways to control it with herbicide and other methods. In the meantime, Banteng are difficult to observe. Fortunately, this sad state of affairs has yet to have any major impact on most bird and mammal life. We should find Javan Langur, Eurasian Wild Boar, Rusa (or Timor) Deer, and Indian Muntjac, and there is an outside chance of seeing a small pack of Dhole (or Asian Wild Dog).

In the late morning we will drive to the outskirts of Banyuwangi for a two nights stay. This afternoon we will begin our exploration of the Ijen region.

Bali & East Java: Day 4  Today we will again drive up towards the Ijen Plateau, which lies to the northwest of Banyuwangi and is situated in the centre of the Ijen-Merapi Maelang Reserve. The reserve protects much of the mountainous region directly west of Banyuwangi and borders on Baluran National Park in the northeast.

The principal touristic attraction at Ijen is the large, sulphurous crater lake at about 2300m elevation, and the tough local men that transport baskets full of sulphur blocks entirely on foot. The mine yields 9-12 tons of sulphur per day, and individual loads of up to 70kg are carried the 17 kilometres down the mountain to a factory near Banyuwangi.

Fortunately for birders, the entire eastern slopes of the volcanoes, above about 1000 metres (3281ft), are still clothed in superb montane forests, through which runs the narrow road up to the plateau. We will spend the whole day birding along this road and its side trails.

Our prime target species will be the restricted-range and highly distinctive White-faced Partridge (endemic to east Java), Javan Bush Warbler (endemic to eastern Java and Bali) and White-bellied Fantail (a Javan endemic that is very hard to see elsewhere).

This is a remote and very birdy area, where we will have a good chance of seeing Ruddy Cuckoo-Dove, Pink-headed Fruit-Dove, the restless endemic Yellow-throated Hanging Parrot and the endemic Black-banded Barbet.

Orange-spotted and Sunda Bulbuls, and Sunda Minivet, are all quite common, Sunda Bush Warblers haunt the roadside scrub and tangles, and Horsfield’s Thrushes feed along shady sections of the road at dawn and dusk.

A number of widespread Javan (or Java and Bali) endemics can be found here, including White-bibbed Babbler, Javan Whistling Thrush, White-flanked (or Kuhl’s) Sunbird, Streaky-breasted Spiderhunter and Mees’s (or Javan Grey-throated) White-eye. More widespread Sundaic species include Sunda Cuckoo-Shrike, Sunda Warbler, Indigo Flycatcher and Javan Munia. We also have real if slim chances here for Javan Hawk-Eagle and Javan Frogmouth, and even Javan (or Javan Barred) Owlet.

Other species that we may see here include Besra, Black Eagle, Little Cuckoo-Dove, Red-billed Malkoha, Orange-breasted Trogon (uncommon), Banded Kingfisher, Wreathed Hornbill, Crimson-winged and Grey-and-buff Woodpeckers, Greater and Lesser Racket-tailed Drongos, Blue Nuthatch, Chestnut-backed Scimitar Babbler, Pygmy Wren-Babbler, Pied and Trilling (or Chestnut-fronted) Shrike-Babblers, Lesser Shortwing, Mountain Tailorbird, Mountain Leaf Warbler, Snowy-browed and Little Pied Flycatchers, Blood-breasted Flowerpecker (found from Java to Timor), and Mountain White-eye.

Bali & East Java: Day 5  Today we will pay a last visit to the Ijen Plateau before returning to Sanur near Denpasar for an overnight stay.

Bali & East Java: Day 6  This morning we will have the opportunity to do some birding in the nearby Benoa Harbour area. At low tide, the mudflats here attract a variety of shorebirds, including the restricted range Javan Plover and near-threatened Far Eastern Curlew. Other waders that we may find include Grey (or Black-bellied), Pacific Golden, Greater Sand and Mongolian Plovers, Eurasian Curlew, Eurasian Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit, Common Redshank, Common Greenshank, Common and Terek Sandpipers, Grey-tailed Tattler, Terek Sandpiper, Red-necked Stint and Curlew Sandpiper. If we are fortunate, we will encounter one of the rarer migrant shorebird species, such as Great Knot.

Large numbers of Javan Pond-Herons dot the mudflats, flocks of Sunda Teal are usually much in evidence in the backwaters, and the attractive Cerulean (or Small Blue) Kingfisher can often be seen perching on posts around the margins of the wetlands. The resident Collared Kingfisher is very conspicuous, and is often joined by a migrant Sacred Kingfisher. Other waterbirds at Benoa typically include Little Black and Little Pied Cormorants, Eastern Great and Little Egrets, Grey, Purple and Striated Herons, and Little and Gull-billed Terns.

The coastal scrub and mangrove patches harbour a nice range of landbirds, with Island Collared and Spotted Doves, Pink-necked Green Pigeon, Savanna Nightjar, Cave (or Linchi) Swiftlet, Pacific Swallow, White-shouldered Triller, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Golden-bellied Gerygone (or Flyeater), Bar-winged and Plain Prinias, Malaysian Pied Fantail, Javan Myna, White-breasted Wood-Swallow, Olive-backed Sunbird, the glowing Scarlet-headed Flowerpecker, Eurasian Tree Sparrow and Scaly-breasted Munia all likely. With luck we will see Racket-tailed Treepie or White-headed Munia.

The tour ends this afternoon at Denpasar airport.

LESSER SUNDAS, INDONESIA TOUR REPORT 2017

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Other key 'building block' Southeast Asia island birding tours by Birdquest include: