Saturday 29 August 1992

INDONESIA August 1992: Northern Sulawesi & Halmahera

Northern Sulawesi (17-23 August).  Another mainly travel day.  We flew to Manado via Luwuk on a small turbo-prop plane.  We had an hour on the ground at Luwuk which was long enough to see Spotted Harrier and Ivory-backed Wood-Swallows from the runway.  Nick G had arranged in advance the hire of a vehicle with driver and we soon set off to Dumoga Bone National Park where we spent the next five days.  We started with two nights at Dulodoa, where Lilac and Sulawesi Dwarf Kingfishers stole the show, before moving on to Tambun where we saw Maleo and perched views of Golden-mantled Racket-tailed Parrots during an early morning visit.  We then concentrated on Torout where we saw Maroon-chinned Fruit-Dove, Sulawesi Scops and Sulawesi Owls, Great-billed, Lilac and Sulawesi Dwarf Kingfishers, Purple-winged Roller, Knobbed and Sulawesi Hornbills and best of all a Spectral Tarsiger that lived in a bamboo clump.  Returning to Dolodua eagle-eyed Simon found a superb perched Blue-headed Wood Kingfisher in a particularly thick part of the forest that we all got to see, it was brilliant.  I also caught up with Isabelline Waterhen.  We returned to Manado and were put up by the lady who’d organised the vehicle charter for us.  Like many households in the area she was drying cloves, they are not called the Spice Islands for nothing, and gave me a bag full to take home.

Nick Gardner boarding our flight at Luwuk, about to be handed a ‘lunchbox’ by the stewardess.  Our hopes of a decent meal were soon dashed when we discovered it contained a dry ham sandwich and a carton of indeterminate juice.  A couple of other westerners on the plane complained that they were vegetarians (I wasn't one at that stage) and were promptly handed back their sandwiches without the ham.  
Sulawesi from the air
still extensive forests in some places
flying up the Sulawesi coast
plenty of small islands off-shore
this one was presumably volcanic
forest trail at Dulodoa where I had to settle for imagining seeing a much wanted Red-bellied Pitta hop out in front of me
forest at Dolodua
accommodation at Toraut
Spectral Tarsier
Torout, accessing the primary forest involved crossing the river although 
Knobbed Hornbill at Torout
big, bright
and very impressive
Sulawesi Hornbills, nice in their own right but smaller and very much duller in comparison
Javanese Pond Heron
a smart bird in summer plumage
Manado rooves
Halmahera (24-29 August).  From Manado we got an early flight the short distance across Wallace’s Line to the island of Ternate, the jumping off point for Halmahera.  We made for the docks and just missed a ferry but fortunately didn’t have to wait long for the next one.  From it we saw 50 frigatebirds (of which at least one was a Greater) and 2 Bridled Terns although the best were 3 Beach Kingfishers in the mangroves as we approached Sidoangoli.  There we chartered a taxi to take us to Kali Batu Puti, a small village a few kms inland along the interior road.  Here we found Anu’s house and after some negotiation and a bit of misunderstanding we agreed a price for accommodation, guiding and cooking our food for the next five days.  The misunderstanding came about due to him thinking he was preparing meals for us whereas we assumed, from the price quoted, that he’d provide the food too.  I kept out of it at this stage as I’d a few ‘emergency’ tins of tuna that would see me through.  The accommodation was very basic, although no different from where the locals lived.  We had 3 rooms in a straw hut between us and the roof leaked badly when it rained, which it did frequently.  The terrain was quite arduous and the heat sapping so after a few days we were getting a bit frayed.  After a couple of nights Michael, who wasn’t feeling well, went back to Ternate to find a decent hotel.  Birds seen on Halmahera included Gurney’s Eagle, Dusky Scrubfowl, Grey-headed Fruit-Dove, White-eyed and Cinnamon-bellied Imperial Pigeons, Violet-necked and Chattering Lorys, White Cockatoo, Giant Coucal, Moluccan Hawk Owl, Long-whiskered Owlet-Nightjar, Moustached Tree-Swift, Blue & White Kingfisher, Ivory-breastd Pitta, Rufous-bellied Triller, Golden Bulbul, White-naped and Slaty Monarchs, Paradise Crow and Wallace’;s Standardwing.  We heard Ivory-breasted Pittas calling every day and I saw four including one hoping along a log which was probably my bird of the trip.  Anu showed us an Owlet-Nightjar the first evening, a strange looking bird, while I saw six Standardwings on three days.  Paradise Crow, a bird of paradise not a crow, was harder to come by although I saw 4 one day.  That day acting on information from Anu that the top of the road was the best place to see Azure Roller I got up early and hitched to the top of the road.  There I saw the 'crows' but no end of scanning produced a roller.  Mid morning I started down and met the others, less Michael, coming up.  As luck would have it they’d seen a roller flying over on their way up but I never saw one.  A case of three pairs of eyes being better than one, particularly when mine, I was later to discover, could have done with the help of glasses.
ferry in Ternate harbour
looking back at Ternate, the appearance of forest almost to sea level was very deceptive as we found on our last day when we tried to access it.  Most was plantations and even a road up to a radar station didn't get into any decent habitat
Tidore, sister island to Ternate
approaching Sidangoli
Sidangoli mangroves
Anu's hut
looking back to the coast and Ternate from Kali Batu Puti
new main road inland from Kali Batu Puti, not easy birding due to the gradient, heat and claustrophobic feel, although my feelings for it were probably tainted by not seeing Azure Roller 
On 29th we left Anu early and walked down to Sidangoli with a decent view of a Red-fronted Lorikeet my only new bird.  We caught a ferry back to Ternate, seeing 150 distant frigatebirds, 2 Bridled Terns and a Red-necked Phalarope.  Here we were joined by a refreshed Michael and hired a taxi for the rest of the day to take us around the island.  Attempts to find some habitat up in the hills were unsuccessful and we ended up circumnavigating the island, checking a couple of lakes (Tolire and Laguna) and generally seeing very little.  After a completely unmemorable night in Ternate we flew back to Manado and then Jakarta where we said goodbye to Simon before flying home.  I was generally pleased with what I saw although it was a tougher trip than I had anticipated.  Definitely a destination that I would like to revisit.

[blogged June 2013]

Sunday 16 August 1992

INDONESIA August 1992: West Java & Central Sulawesi

Introduction.  Nick Preston, Michael Grunwell and I joined Nick Gardner and the late Simon Aspinal on a trip to Sulawesi and Halmahera in August 1992.  Simon was working in Indonesia at the time, had a very good grasp of the language, did much of the organisation and was about as laid back about things as is possible without being horizontal - in other words an ideal travelling companion!  Four of us left Heathrow on the evening of 5 August and flew out to Jakarta where we met Simon on 6 August.  We were driven to his house in Bogor.  This blog, written in 2013, is based on very hazy memories, inadequate notebook entries and includes some rather poor digitised images.  Being mainly forest sites it was a hard trip for photography an dI got virtually no bird shots at all.

West Java (07-10 August).  We spent three whole days in Gunung Gede National Park including an uncomfortable night at Air Panas hut.  Unfortunately this coincided with a weekend when the main trail was very busy with local visitors.  I’d visited the park on my return from a trip to Australia in spring 1986 - I’d been very keen to see Lesser Forktail then.  A return visit was very welcome as there were a number of species that I’d not seen, in particular Blue-tailed Trogon.  In our three days I saw Pink-necked Fruit-Dove, Javan Scops Owl (found by Ben King who was leading a group there), Salvadori’s Nightjar, Waterfall Swift, Blue-tailed Trogon, Blue-crowned Barbet, Lesser & White-browed Shortwings, Lesser & White-crowned Forktails, Sunda Blue Robin, Javan Cochoa, Horsfield’s Thrush, Eye-browed & Pigmy Wren-Babblers, Spotted Sibia, Javan Tesia, Blue Nuthatch and Mountain Serin.  My only disappointment was not seeing Chestnut-bellied Partridge.  I’d missed a couple of brief sightings so decided on the last morning to walk the trail early but to no avail.  As luck would have it Michael did some packing, entered the forest some time later and had a party cross in front of him almost immediately.  Birding can seem unfair at times!  We had an afternoon in the Bogor Botanical Gardens where Yellow-throated Hanging Parrots proved elusive although ten Black-naped Fruit-Doves were some compensation.
Gunung Gede, the summit was often obscured by clouds.  We got about half-way up this trip although I made it to the summit in 2005
Stalls along the entrance road to Gunung Gede
National Park HQ Gunung Gede

once inside the entrance to the park the forest was fairly thick
Javan Scops Owl, one of two found roosting together by Ben King (photo Nick Peston)
terracing on the way back to Bogor
Bogor Botanical Gardens, main lake

Central Sulawesi (11-16 August).  Leaving Bogor early on 11th it took all day to get to Palu in Central Sulawesi, flying there from Jakarta via Ujung Pandang.  I noted seeing just four species on what was very much a travel day.  We had arranged to charter a 4WD and driver/guide called Rollex and had five days in Lore Lindu National Park based at the Ranger Station at Kamaroa.  Of all the sites visited this was the one where we felt that a much longer visit would have been needed to fully do the area justice.  Twice we went up to Anaso (on 13th & 15th)  which, due to a broken bridge, was an arduous 2.5-3 hour journey each way on very poor roads.  In hindsight we would have been better off going up once and camping there for a night as I wasn’t alone in feeling that the accommodation and food at Kamoroa wasn't as missable as a full night’s sleep!  The forest patches around Kamoroa seemed very slow going to us, although we didn’t have the time to really persevere, while we visited Danau Tambling on our last day.  Lore Lindu provided me with nearly 60 new birds of which the most impressive were Superb and Red-eared Fruit-Doves, Bay Coucal, Fiery-billed Malkoha, Purple-bearded Bee-eater, Purple-winged Roller, Knobbed Hornbill, Sulawesi Pigmy and Ashy Woodpeckers, Great Shortwing, Sulawesi Mountain Thrush, Chestnut-backed Bush-Warbler, Hylocitrea and Finch-billed and Fiery-browed Mynas.  We also saw Bear Couscous and Anoa (Dwarf Buffallo).  Most memorable were the Purple-bearded Bee-eaters, we saw four, at a roadside bank near Danau Tambling and a Giant Shortwing at Anaso.  We heard three of the latter calling, the most accessible involving a scramble down a steep ravine off the road.  Fortunately it came in to investigate Nick G’s playing of its song.  Perhaps least memorable was the Hylocitrea, known then as Yellow-flanked Whistler but now elevated to perhaps not the most impressive single species family.

south of Palu, heavily cultivated although still quite stunning
Simon Aspinal, Rollex, Nick Gardner, Michael Grunwell (partly obscured) and Nick Preston  by our jeep on a stop on the journey south from Palu

view from our veranda at Kamoroa Ranger Station
scratched slide showing forest in clouds at Kamoroa, 
extensive forest at Kamoroa
dawn at Anaso
early morning above the clouds at Anaso
rather dark image of Anaso
Dongi Dongi
Spot-tailed Goshawk at Anaso
one of the more distinctive accipiters and helpfully named too
juvenile Little Pied Flycatcher on the road at Anaso
an even younger looking juvenile Little Pied Flycatcher
view south from Kamoroa, strange lighting effect probably due to being taken through  a window