The Ultimate In Birding Tours

Asia

REMOTE SULAWESI, INDONESIA

Gorantalo, Sangihe, Talaud, Banggai, Sula, Togian, Kendari & Wakatobi

Saturday 9th October – Wednesday 3rd November 2021

Leader: Julien Mazenauer.

26 Days Group Size Limit 7
Kendari & Wangi-wangi Extension

Wednesday 3rd November – Saturday 6th November 2021

4 Days Group Size Limit 7

Birdquest’s Remote Sulawesi, Indonesia birding tour is a pioneering tour to the Gorontalo and Kendari regions of the Sulawesi mainland and a series of offshore islands that are almost completely off the Indonesia birding tours map, including Sangihe island and the archipelagos of Talaud, Banggai, Sula, Togian and Wakatobi. These remote, under-explored localities, which we were the first birding tour company to explore, hold a considerable number of little-known endemics.

The huge archipelago of Indonesia has the richest avifauna in the old world (over 1530 species!) and holds more endemic birds (no fewer than 381 at the present time) than any other country. Birdquest offers seven different exciting tours to this magical but still relatively under-birded country, and on this thrilling venture we will explore several rarely visited island groups, flirting with Weber’s biogeographical line in some very remote corners of the Celebes and Molucca Seas.

The Sangihe and Talaud archipelagos are a chain of 77 islands stretching north from the well-known island of Sulawesi in the direction of the Philippines. They are situated at the northern limit of the fascinating Wallacean biogeographical region and are renowned for their white sandy beaches, amazing coral gardens and rich vanilla, nutmeg and clove plantations growing on the very fertile volcanic soil. The region is regularly rocked by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, as the Molucca Sea Plate is being consumed from both sides. Sangihe is quite mountainous, with tops rising to 1320m, but is sadly largely deforested. Talaud, in contrast, is relatively low and still has some fairly extensive patches of undisturbed rainforest.

The almost unknown Banggai archipelago is a group of 120 islands located off the far eastern end of central Sulawesi. The numerous large reefs support a very rich marine life with an incredible biodiversity, which were categorized by the famous naturalist and explorer Alfred Russell Wallace as “the mother of all living coral reefs”. The archipelago consists of two major islands at the entrance to the Tolo Gulf. Peleng, the largest of the Banggai Islands, is well forested and mountainous. Very recent ornithological work has shown the occurrence of several new taxa and others probably still remain to be discovered!

The Sula islands form a prolongation of the eastern peninsula of Sulawesi and the Banggai archipelago and comprise the westernmost island group in the Moluccas. The three main islands of Taliabu, Mangoli and Mangala are long, narrow, mountainous, thickly forested, and thinly populated. Taliabu has mountains rising to 1650 metres. The resemblance between the birds of the Sulas and those of the island of Buru to the southeast have suggested to naturalists that a land bridge existed at one time.

The small Togian (or Togean) archipelago consists of 35 islands, which are spread over a 90 kilometre stretch in the middle of the Gulf of Tomini, off the east coast of central Sulawesi. The islands are situated in a deep water basin and are protected on all sides by the spidery arms of Sulawesi. Its calm and clear waters are full of marine life which attract a growing number of adventurous scuba divers. The islands were formed by volcanic activity and are covered by lush monsoon and evergreen forest where wide-eyed and appealing Tarsiers and enormous Coconut Crabs thrive. The Togians are surrounded by ancient coral reef formations, which provide habitat and breeding areas for turtles. Few people live here and the fabled uniqueness of the Togians still holds true.

We will commence our Remote Sulawesi, Indonesia birding tour at the city of Manado, situated near the extreme northeastern tip of Sulawesi, from where our adventure begins.

The first stage of our journey will see us travelling to Gorontalo province in search of the near-mythical endemic Snoring Rail, the endemic Rufous-throated Flycatcher and the weird Babirusa (a tusked endemic pig). We will also encountere a wide variety of more widespread Sulawesi specialities and we may come across uncommon species like Blue-faced Rail and Sulawesi Ground Dove.

Now our island-hopping starts as we travel north to the small island of Sangihe. The tiny forest remnants that survive on its steep, limestone soils hold seven endemic species. The most inspiring of these is the smart, critically endangered Cerulean Paradise-Flycatcher, a dusky-blue creature that has only been seen a handful of times by western birders. Multicoloured Elegant Sunbirds are still quite common, but Sangihe Shrike-Thrush, Sangihe Golden Bulbul and the inconspicuous Sangihe Hanging Parrot will require some more effort. We probably will not see Sangihe White-eye and Sangihe Dwarf Kingfisher, two species not reliably recorded for decades! At night we will go out in search of the little known Sangihe Scops Owl.

Back on the mainland, we will have an afternoon to look for the secretive Scaly-breasted Kingfisher near Manado.

On the Talaud islands four more endemics occur, including two very secretive, recently-described members of the rail family: the Talaud Bush-hen and the Talaud Rail. The Talaud Kingfisher is a fairly common relative of Collared Kingfisher and along forest edges we should encounter parties of endangered Red-and-blue Lories and the range-restricted Grey Imperial-Pigeon The local race of Philippine Pitta (a likely future split) will require patience as it skulks in the undergrowth.

On the island of Peleng in the Banggai islands, we will concentrate on finding the recently rediscovered Banggai Crow together with other very localized species like the secretive Sula Scrubfowl, Banggai Fruit-Dove, ‘Sula’ White-faced Dove (better treated as a separate species), Sula Hanging Parrot, Banggai Scops Owl, Sula Pitta, Slaty Cuckooshrike, the recently discovered ‘Peleng’ Leaf Warbler, the smart Red-and-black Thrush and the cracking Helmeted Myna. These islands are an excellent place to get to grips with the unobtrusive Henna-tailed Jungle-Flycatcher (endemic to the Sulawesi subregion) and the interesting local subspecies of Black-billed Kingfisher.

Next, on the island of Taliabu in the Sula Islands, which we will reach by our own private charter boat (in order to avoid delays of up to a week getting on or off Taliabu by public transport!), we should locate Sula Fruit-Dove, Sula Scops Owl, the modestly-plumaged Sula Cicadabird and the more extravagant, black-and-white Bare-eyed Myna. We will also be looking for two as-yet-undescribed species, ‘Taliabu Bush Warbler’ and ‘Taliabu Leaf Warbler’. If we are really lucky we will encounter the virtually unknown Taliabu Masked Owl on one of our nocturnal forays. We also stand a good chance of finding the rare Meyer’s Goshawk.

Finally, at the end of the main tour, we will make our way to the Togian Islands, where we will be looking for the Togian Boobook, discovered in 1999, Togian Blue Flycatcher (a potential future split) and the recently discovered Togian White-eye.

Those staying on for the optional extension to our Remote Sulawesi, Indonesia birding tour will be able to visit Kendari and Wangi-wangi island in the Wakatobi archipelago in search of three or four more endemics. Pale-bellied White-eye is endemic to the seldom-visited south-eastern Sulawesi peninsula. Wangi-wangi island became famous in 2019 as scientists from the Trinity College Dublin described two striking new white-eye species, Wakatobi and Wangi-wangi White-eyes. In addition, the island holds the kuehni race of Grey-sided Flowerpecker, probably better treated as distinct species (Wakatobi Flowerpecker).

Birdquest has operated Sulawesi, Indonesia birding tours since 1990.

Important: Our Remote Sulawesi, Indonesia birding tour includes the costly hire of private charter boats, including from Peleng in the Banggai archipelago to Taliabu in the Sula archipelago, and then back to Luwuk. The reason for this large extra cost, which is reflected in the tour price, is simple: while it is possible to visit these islands by public ferry, Taliabu in particular is notorious for waits of up to a week for the ferry, so we feel it is better to enjoy smooth logistics!

In 2021 this tour can be combined with REMOTE ISLANDS OF THE BANDA SEA

Accommodation & Road Transport: Some nights will be spent in hotels of good or medium standard, but most will be spent in basic or very basic losmen (guesthouses). Road transport will be by minibus, cars and 4x4s. Roads range from good to poor.

Walking: The walking effort during our Remote Sulawesi, Indonesia birding tour is mostly easy to moderate, occasionally fairly demanding.

Climate: At this season it should be mostly dry and often sunny, but there will likely be some rain. It will be humid or fairly humid throughout.

Bird Photography: Opportunities during our Remote Sulawesi, 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, boatmen and accommodation/restaurant staff.

We also include these flights: Manado-Gorontalo-Manado, Manado-Sangihe-Manado, Manado-Karakelong (Talaud)-Manado, Manado-Luwuk, Luwuk-Makassar, Makassar-Kendari, Kendari-Wangi-wangi-Kendari and Kendari-Makassar. These flights cumulatively cover a great distance and the total cost is high.

Deposit: Main Tour: £580, $760, €660. Kendari & Wangi-wangi Extension: £90, $120, €100.

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


2021: provisional £5300, $6890, €6130. Manado/Makassar.
Kendari & Wangi-wangi Extension: £680, $890, €790. Makassar/Makassar.

Single Supplement: 2021: £470, $620, €550.
Kendari & Wangi-wangi Extension: £60, $80, €70.

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.

Some of the smaller guesthouses have limited rooms. Anyone having to share unexpectedly at any of these will receive an appropriate refund.

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.

REMOTE SULAWESI, INDONESIA BIRDING TOUR: DETAILED ITINERARY

Remote Sulawesi, Indonesia: Day 1  Our Remote Sulawesi, Indonesia birding tour begins with a morning flight from Manado to Gorontalo, where we will spend three nights.This afternoon we will have time for some initial exploration.

Remote Sulawesi, Indonesia: Days 2-3  We will travel to a specific site to look for the recently sighted Snoring Rail, a species so unknown that its song was only recorded for the first time in 2018! We will spend our mornings looking for this rare Rallid.

We will also have a chance to encounter seldom-seen species like Blue-faced Rail and Sulawesi Ground Dove, as well as Rufous-throated Flycatcher, a Sulawesi endemic species not recorded on any other birding tour, plus an array of commoner Sulawesi specialities.

During our stay at Gorontalo we will also visit the Nantu reserve in Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park to see the fascinating Babirusa, an endemic pig whose canines grow as tusks on males.

Beyond Sulawesi, Indonesia: Day 4 We will take an afternoon flight to Manado, from where the main tour starts the following morning.

Remote Sulawesi, Indonesia: Day 5  Our tour begins this morning at Manado in northern Sulawesi, from where we will fly northwards across the Celebes Sea to the island of Sangihe, lying halfway between the northern tip of Sulawesi and the Philippine island of Mindanao. Upon arrival at Tahunawe will transfer to our small hotel for a three nights stay and will have time for some initial exploration.

Remote Sulawesi, Indonesia: Days 6-7  The Sangihe and Talaud islands constitute Endemic Bird Area 167. Little natural forest is left on the main island of Sangihe (also sometimes called Sangir), which is dominated by the spectacular 1320m high volcanic peak of Gunung Awu. This impressive ‘stratovolcano’ last erupted in 2004. Sangihe is renowned for its white sandy beaches, amazing coral gardens and rich coconut, vanilla, nutmeg and clove (‘brown gold’) plantations growing on the very fertile volcanic soil. The region is regularly rocked by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and is especially known for its fine carved ebony wood, as well as fine embroidered fabrics.

We will concentrate our birding efforts on the slopes of Gunung Sahendaruman, where tiny forest remnants have survived on steep, limestone soils. The sometimes steep and slippery trails will lead us to the habitat of the six endemic species. The forest consists of tall broad-leaved trees covered in lianas and epiphytes with an understorey holding many palms interspersed with some tree ferns, gingers and screw palms (Pandanus).

The principal avian specialty is the amazing Cerulean Paradise-Flycatcher, which was fairly recently (1998) rediscovered here. It was previously known with certainty from a single specimen collected in 1873, followed by two inconclusive field sightings. This bright blue species with its pale blue orbital ring is classified as Critically Endangered by BirdLife International because of its extremely restricted range and its small population size. It has only been seen a handful of times by western birdwatchers, including during our previous tours. With persistence we should be able to get good looks at that cracker.

The commonest endemic is the multicoloured and attractive Elegant Sunbird which is often found flitting from amongst the flowering bushes along the forest edge. Seeing the recently-described Sangihe Shrike-Thrush and the inconspicuous Sangihe Hanging Parrot will require some more effort. The endemic Sangihe Shrike-Thrush was only known from one historical specimen collected in the late 19th century, until it was rediscovered and formally described as a separate species in 1995. It is only known from sub-montane forest above c600 m on the Gunung Sahendaruman ridge. This modestly-clad species is not uncommon (in spite of the fact the total population is thought to be very small), but can be surprisingly elusive. It will require a hike to reach the highest ridges where this species survive (that’s where the pristine forest is!). The endangered, endemic Sangihe Hanging Parrot is regularly seen in small groups flying fast overhead emitting their high-pitched flight calls.

At night we will go out to try to locate the little known, endemic Sangihe Scops Owl, a member of the well-known and widespread genus Otus. It had been collected in the 19th century, but was then considered a race of the more widespread Sulawesi Scops Owl, until research revealed different vocalizations and morphology. This tiny owl was formally described as a species in 1998. It is relatively common in plantations and forest, and is quite easily located by listening for its down-slurred whistle at dusk.

In addition to the endemic species there are a number of very distinctive and rare subspecies. The Sangihe race of the Northern Golden Bulbul is extremely rare but vocal, and appears to be restricted to ridge forest. The two last endemic species, Sangihe White-eye and Sangihe Dwarf Kingfisher, have not been recorded reliably since decades so it would require an infinite amount of luck to encounter them.

Overhead we should see Brahminy Kite, the daunting White-bellied Sea Eagle and some migratory Chinese Goshawks, together with Sulawesi and Glossy Swiftlets and transient, speedy White-throated Needletails.

More skulking inhabitants in the small pockets of forest include the gorgeous Red-bellied and Hooded Pittas and the beautiful local race of the Lilac-cheeked Kingfisher. Mixed-species flocks are regularly encountered and hold Yellow-sided and Grey-sided Flowerpeckers and Brown-throated and Black Sunbirds. The pigeon guild is particularly well represented here as Spotted and Emerald Doves, Slender-billed Cuckoo Dove, Grey-cheeked Green and Pink-necked Green Pigeons, the smart Black-naped Fruit Dove and Elegant (or Yellow-eyed) and Pied Imperial Pigeons all occur. Other species we will look for in these small pockets of forest include Blue-backed Parrot, Black-naped Oriole and the endemic, rather vocal Rosenberg’s Dwarf and Sulawesi Dwarf Squirrels.

At night we will also look out for the wintering Northern Boobook, the endemic race of Sulawesi Small Cuscus and the very attractive and endearing, endemic Sangihe Tarsier.

Remote Sulawesi, Indonesia: Day 8  Today we will take an early morning flight back to Manado. We will have time to explore the slopes of Gunung Mahawu, where we’ll look for the secretive Scaly-breasted Kingfisher, as well as a number of more widespread Sulawesi specialities.

Remote Sulawesi, Indonesia: Day 9  After birding at Gunung Mahawu, we will take a flight from Manado to the island of Karakelong in the Talaud Islands for a three nights stay, giving us time to track down Talaud’s most elusive creatures. We should arrive in time for some initial exploration.

Remote Sulawesi, Indonesia: Days 10-11  The island of Karakelong (sometimes also spelled Karakelang) is the hub of the Talaud archipelago and covers an area of c350 square kilometres. It still holds substantial areas of lowland rainforest and a hunting reserve to protect introduced populations of Banteng and Forest Pigs was established fairly recently.

The Talaud Islands are home to four endemic bird species. Amazingly enough, two members of the so often secretive Rallidae (Rails and Crakes) family have been formally described from Karakelong in recent years. The very shy and retiring Talaud Rail was discovered only in 1996 and is closely related to the also very rarely-observed Bare-eyed Rail of the Northern Moluccas and New Guinea. It is a reticent but probably not uncommon inhabitant of wet grassland and rank vegetation habitats at the edge of forest on Karakelong. This remarkable, yellow-billed and chestnut-headed species has only ever been seen by few western birdwatchers, so we would count ourselves extremely fortunate if we would lay eyes on this truly mysterious bird. In 1998 a large, very dark and robust rallid, the Talaud Bush-Hen was described from this island. Its most interesting feature is a strikingly stout pale green bill and it regularly occurs next to the more widespread and better-known Rufous-tailed Bush-hen, although it is probably more of a forest bird.

Karakelong now supports the only viable population of the stylish Red-and-blue Lory. This noisy species often visits flowering trees and is seriously threatened by habitat loss and trapping. BirdLife International considers this beauty as Endangered. The fourth endemic is the intriguing Talaud Kingfisher, which closely resembles the well-known Collared Kingfisher, which only occurs around the coastline. It inhabits a variety of forested habitats, is favoured by an intriguing scientific name, Todiramphus (or Halcyon) enigma, and is usually found in the mid-storey, often together with its larger relative. Philippine Pitta of the endemic inspeculata race has already been split by some authors and skulks in the undergrowth.

In cultivated areas and forest we should also find Sulawesi Cicadabird, Rufous Paradise-Flycatcher, Grey-sided Flowerpecker, Black Sunbird, Everett’s White-eye, Asian Glossy Starling and Black-naped Oriole. All of these species are represented by fairly distinctive endemic subspecies on Karakelong.

At night we will go in search of Chocolate Boobook, a recent split from the Brown Bookook (or Brown Hawk-Owl) complex, which is largely confined to the Philippines.

The unobtrusive Grey Imperial Pigeon is uncommon here and leads a quiet life in the forest canopy. This threatened small-island specialist is currently known from only ten sites and its status is described as Vulnerable by BirdLife International. The Island Monarch is another small island specialist, small and noisy groups of which are regularly encountered in the forest.

Rails are particularly well represented here, as, next to the two endemic species, we should also encounter Buff-banded Rail, Rufous-tailed Bush-hen and White-breasted Waterhen.

Talaud is the only place in the world where three species of Tanygnathus parrot co-exist: the endangered Blue-naped Parrot, Blue-backed Parrot and Great-billed Parrot!

On our wanderings through the variety of habitats on Karakelong we should also find residents like the modestly-hued Philippine Scrubfowl, Golden-mantled Racquet-tail, Common and Ruddy Kingfisher, and Green Imperial Pigeon, together with a selection of migrant or wintering species like Japanese Sparrowhawk, Grey-faced Buzzard, Sacred Kingfisher, Fork-tailed Swift, Red-throated Pipit, Brown Shrike, Blue Rock Thrush, Gray’s Grasshopper Warbler, Arctic Warbler and Grey-streaked Flycatcher.

Around the coast we may well find Pacific Reef Egret and Pacific Golden Plover.

Remote Sulawesi, Indonesia: Day 12  After some final birding in Talaud we will take a flight back to Manado for an overnight stay.

Remote Sulawesi, Indonesia: Day 13  This morning we fly southwards to the town of Luwuk, situated near the end of one of Sulawesi’s famous peninsulas in the eastern central part of the island. From this hub we will travel by boat southwards to the island of Peleng, the main island of the Banggai archipelago. Upon arrival at the small harbour town of Tataba, we will head for our first base in the foothills, where we will spend three nights. We should arrive in time for some initial exploration.

Remote Sulawesi, Indonesia: Days 14-15  The pristine hill forests of the island of Peleng hold one of Indonesia’s best kept secrets. For many years naturalists had considered the Banggai Crow to be just a race or even an aberrant form of the widespread Slender-billed Crow, but only recently it has become apparent that it definitely is a good species, with a very different morphology, vocal repertoire and biology. The Slender-billed Crows inhabit the varied, quite open habitats of the lowlands, whereas the more elusive Banggai Crow favours the forest interior and travels around in vocal parties, its behaviour more akin to Sulawesi’s Piping Crow. We should encounter several parties of this specialty during our wanderings through the well-preserved primary forest.

We will have to spend some time in dense undergrowth to get to grips with the secretive, endemic Sula Pitta, a close relative of the widespread Red-bellied Pitta. Some authorities still consider it as a race of the latter, while others think it is a good species. Whatever the situation, we will try to get good views as it is quite distinctive with its black face and throat, complete blue nuchal collar and uniquely-marked, iridescent upperparts. The tiny, endemic Sula Hanging Parrot is usually located by its buzzy call when it flies bullet-like overhead. It forages in flowering trees and attracts attention with its distinctive red back. The clownesque Helmeted Myna is endemic to the Banggai and Sula Islands and looks like a large version of the Sulawesi Crested Myna. It is adorned with a magnificent rounded, purplish-blue crest and can usually be located in fruiting trees. The endemic Slaty Cuckooshrike is a typical member of the cuckooshrike tribe with its grey and black colouring and leads a quiet life along forest edges.

At night we will go out, armed with a powerful torch to try to find the endemic Banggai Scops Owl (split from Moluccan) and with a bit of luck we should also find the ghostlike Sulawesi Masked Owl, the endemic, appealing Peleng Tarsier and the endemic Peleng Cuscus. The smart endemic Banggai Fruit-Dove is a recent split from Maroon-chinned, from which it differs markedly in its call, while ‘Peleng Leaf Warbler’ is a likely future split.

Peleng is an excellent place to study the little-known and inconspicuous Henna-tailed Jungle-Flycatcher, another species that is endemic to the Sulawesi subregion, but which is virtually unknown from mainland Sulawesi. Other species we will hope to find in these magnificent forests include Barred Honey Buzzard, Sulawesi Serpent Eagle, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Vinous-breasted Sparrowhawk, the debonair Oriental Hobby, Sulawesi Black Pigeon, Superb Fruit-Dove, the splendid Moluccan King Parrot, Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo, Grey-rumped Treeswift, the distinctive pelingi subspecies of Cicadabird, Sulawesi Triller, Hair-crested Drongo, Flyeater, Pale-blue Monarch, Citrine Canary-Flycatcher, Grey-streaked Flycatcher, Rusty-bellied Fantail, Common Golden Whistler, Ivory-backed Wood-swallow and Olive-backed Sunbird.

Remote Sulawesi, Indonesia: Day 16  After a final early morning’s walk in the foothills we will board our vehicles and drive east to an extensive area of rather degraded lowland rainforest, where we will be based in Salakan for a two nights stay. A stop on the way should produce the unique local race of Great-billed Kingfisher, which shows a lot of red on its bill.

Remote Sulawesi, Indonesia: Day 17  The main reason for our travelling to this tract of lowland rainforest is the regular occurrence of Sula Scrubfowl (or Sula Megapode) in the area. This rufous-plumaged species forages on the forest floor and builds a large nest mound of rotting leaves in a remote area. It is quite shy, but patient stalking should produce good views of this near-threatened species. Another speciality here is the smart Red-and-black Thrush, which, with its bright cinnamon-rufous upperparts, is now often considered as a separate species from Red-backed Thrush. This timid and unassuming member of the famous and much-desired genus Geokichla leads a quiet life inside the forest gloom. The bird is known locally as Balu Sumbang (‘the widow with the ear-ring’). Rustling leaves should betray the presence of this awe-inspiring creature. During our walks we will also find a good selection of species that we should have seen already in western Peleng, but White-throated Pigeon is easier here.

Remote Sulawesi, Indonesia: Day 18  Today we will travel by our private charter boat east to Taliabu, the westernmost and largest island of the Sula archipelago, where we will stay for five nights. Seabirding can be very rewarding en route and we stand a good chance of encountering Bulwer’s Petrel, Streaked Shearwater, Red-necked Phalarope, Long-tailed Skua (or Long-tailed Jaeger), Bridled, Aleutian and Common Terns, and Brown Noddy. There’s also a slight chance of encountering the restricted-range Heinroth’s Shearwater, which has been recently sighted off Taliabu but is not yet known to breed here.

Remote Sulawesi, Indonesia: Days 19-22  The Sula Islands belong politically to the Moluccas (Maluku), but biogeographically they are a transition zone between the Moluccas and Sulawesi. Taliabu, with its peculiar triangular shape is the most varied island of the archipelago, with mountains rising to 1320 m. The avifauna of Sula overlaps a great deal with the Banggai Islands to the west and together they constitute Endemic Bird Area 168 and hold eleven restricted range species. Taliabu used to be covered in primary lowland and hill forest, but has undergone drastic habitat destruction as of lately. It looks as if primary lowland forest has now gone from the island, as very large tracts have been converted to agriculture and coconut palm plantations.

The gaudy and spectacular Bare-eyed Myna is endemic to the Sula Islands and leads a discreet life in the mid-canopy of tall trees in degraded lowland forest. It is closely related to the Sulawesi endemic White-necked Myna, but shows a lot more white in the plumage and has a bright yellow bill. The endemic Sula Fruit-Dove, a recent split from Maroon-chinned, leads a quiet life in the subcanopy, while the slate-grey Sula Cicadabird is also endemic to these islands and is commonly encountered in all forested habitats. The local race of Sula Hanging Parrot is characterized by its orange back colour.

Nocturnal forays should yield excellent views of the recently described Sula Scops owl, a close family member of the Banggai Scops Owl. If we are particularly lucky, we will connect with the rarely encountered and virtually unknown, endangered Taliabu Masked Owl. This species is only known from this island, and seems to be able to adapt to secondary forest. The island also holds the as-yet-undescribed ‘Taliabu Bush-Warbler’ and ‘Taliabu Leaf Warbler’, both of which we will try and find.

While roaming the different habitats of Taliabu we stand more chances to find regional specialties like Sula Scrubfowl, Sula Pitta, Slaty Cuckoo-shrike and Helmeted Myna. Other species we could observe include Little Pied Cormorant, Lesser Fish Eagle, the formidable Meyer’s Goshawk, Spotted Kestrel, White-bellied and Silver-tipped Imperial Pigeons, Yellow-and-green Lorikeet, the very vocal Rusty-breasted Cuckoo, Black-billed Koel, Lesser Coucal, the huge Great Eared Nightjar, Sulawesi Nightjar, Variable Dwarf Kingfisher, Common Dollarbird, Rainbow Bee-eater, Grey and Eastern Yellow Wagtails, Pacific Swallow, Little Pied, Island Verditer and Snowy-browed Flycatchers, Citrine Canary Flycatcher, Island Thrush (of an undescribed race), Mountain Tailorbird, Moluccan Starling, the unpretentious Drab Whistler, Brown-throated Sunbird, Sulawesi Myzomela, Mountain White-eye and Black-faced Munia.

During our stay on little-visited Taliabu, we will have to hike into the foothills, where we will camp. The other nights will be spent in a guesthouse near the coast.

Remote Sulawesi, Indonesia: Day 23  Today we will return by our private charter boat to Luwuk on the mainland of Sulawesi for an overnight stay.

Remote Sulawesi, Indonesia: Day 24  From Luwuk we travel westwards by road and then take a fast boat across the Gulf of Tomin to the island of Batudaka, the westernmost of the Togian Islands for a two nights stay. We will arrive in time for some initial exploration.

Remote Sulawesi, Indonesia: Day 25  The Togian Islands (sometimes spelled Togean) are a small archipelago of c35 islands scattered in the Gulf of Tomini between the northern and eastern peninsulas of Sulawesi. Most of the islands have been selectively logged, but are still covered in a mixture of monsoon and evergreen forest interspersed with gardens of coconut, clove, cocoa and the dreaded durian. The Togian islands hold two endemics. The Togian White-eye was formally described as recently as 2008 and favours scrubby growth, secondary vegetation and mangroves. It has been found moving around in twos and threes and strangely enough, only occurs on a few of the islands of the group. It is considered endangered. In 2004 the Togian Boobook (or Togian Hawk-Owl) was described. This resident of lowland and hill forest is considered as near threatened and emits a gruff, two-to-four syllable croak. Both of these endemics occur in the vicinity of our accommodation and seeing them will be the main objective of our stay. We will also try to find the endemic race of Sulawesi Blue Flycatcher, which is morphologically distinct and may represent a separate species. We will also pay attention to the distinctive subspecies of Brown-Cuckoo Dove, Northern Golden Bulbul and Sulawesi Babbler.

Other species we should encounter during our stay include Great-billed, Little Green and Javan Pond Herons, Little Egret, Osprey, Barred Rail, Eurasian Whimbrel, Grey-tailed Tattler, Black-naped Fruit-Dove, Pied Imperial Pigeon, Ornate Lorikeet, Sulawesi Hanging Parrot, Brush Cuckoo, Bay Coucal, Common Kingfisher, the very smart Knobbed Hornbill, Sulawesi Blue Flycatcher and Yellow-sided Flowerpecker. The local form of the Spectral Tarsier is quite special as its calls are quite different from those of the Sulawesi populations. The beautiful beaches and relaxed atmosphere of the Togians make it an ideal place for a fitting end of our island hopping adventure.

Remote  Sulawesi, Indonesia: Day 26  Today we will return to the mainland and fly from Luwuk to Makassar (formerly Ujung Pandang), where our tour ends this afternoon.

 

KENDARI & WANGI-WANGI EXTENSION

Remote Sulawesi, Indonesia (Extension): Day 1  We will take an afternoon flight from Makassar to Kendari in southeast Sulawesi, where we will overnight.

Remote Sulawesi, Indonesia (Extension): Day 2  The forested lowlands around Kendari are home to the restricted-range, endemic Pale-bellied White-eye, which is fairly common. This distinctive species lacks the black front of the widespread Black-fronted White-eye and has a narrower eye-ring. Along with this main target species, we should also encounter some more widespread but nevertheless interesting species like Knobbed Hornbill, Great-billed Kingfisher (birds here on the Sulawesi mainland have an entirely black bill) and a set of commoner Sulawesi endemics.

After a morning’s birding, we will take an afternoon flight to the island of Wangi-wangi in the Wakatobi archipelago, where we will spend two nights.

Remote Sulawesi, Indonesia (Extension): Day 3  Wangi-wangi island became ornithologically famous after the news broke that two new white-eye species had been described, in early 2019, by a group of scientists from Trinity College, Dublin. White-eyes are known small island colonisers and are speciating much faster than any other bird family. The first one, Wakatobi White-eye, is found throughout the archipelago and had been the subject of debate for some time, before finally being assessed to species level. It was formerly subsumed under the supertramp Lemon-bellied White-eye species, but is distinctive in having a golden face, overall yellower tones and broader eyering. The second one, Wangi-wangi White-eye, is found only on its namesake island, and is one of the most striking species of the genus, having a large orange bill and broad eyering. According to the paper published in April 2019, it has been found to be an ancient species, more than 3050 kilometres (1,900 miles) away from its closest relatives. This species being endemic to an 18kms-long island makes it particularly vulnerable to extinction through habitat loss, as it is too often the case on tropical islands.

As well as those two major specialities, we will also look for the kuehni Grey-sided Flowerpecker, a probable future split as Wakatobi Flowerpecker. We could also encounter Great-billed Heron, Pacific Baza, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Grey-tailed Tattler, Black-naped Fruit Dove, Stephan’s Dove, Grey-cheeked Green Pigeon, White-shouldered Triller, Island Monarch and Black-faced Munia.

Remote Sulawesi, Indonesia (Extension): Day 4  We will take a morning flight to Kendari and an onward flight to Makassar, where our Remote Sulawesi, Indonesia birding tour ends around midday.

BEYOND SULAWESI, INDONESIA TOUR REPORT 2011

by Mark Van Beirs

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Other remote areas of Indonesia birding tours by Birdquest include: