Sunday 17 July 2005

INDONESIA 2005: West Java (12-17 July)

The final blog covering a trip to Sumatra and West Java with Jon Hornbuckle, Janos Olan, Attila Simay and Barry Wright. We’d had a successful time on Sumatra, crossed to Java by ferry and arrived at Carita after dark.

12 July. We were up early and walked along the waterfall trail in the dark hoping for nightbirds. Janos spot-lit a Javan Frogmouth but it almost immediately flew off and I wasn’t alone in only having poor flight views. Javan Owlet was even worse - a complete failure - but a Slow Loris was excellent consolation. Once it was light we continued birding along to the waterfall, climbing fairly gently as it went inland. The waterfall was a bit of a non-event but the secondary forest beside the trail was good. We returned late morning and not being impressed with our hotel we packed and moved next door to the Paniisan Hotel. Fortunately it was much nicer. At 15:30 we returned to the waterfall trail and walked further up, to the primary forest at the Reserve entrance. Birds seen during the day included Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle, Plaintive and Drongo Cuckoos, Emerald Dove, Black-banded Barbet §, 2 Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpeckers §, female (Javan§) Banded Pitta, 3 Black-winged Flycatcher-Shrikes, Grey-cheeked Bulbul, 2 Velvet-fronted Nuthatches, 2 White-breasted § and, poorly, a Crescent-chested Babbler, 12 Grey-cheeked Tit-Babblers §, 6 Olive-backed Tailorbirds, Fulvous-chested Jungle Flycatcher, male Javan Sunbird and Streaky-breasted Spiderhunter. We waited until 18:00 then went back down to the pre-dawn frogmouth site but the bird was unresponsive. We returned to the primary forest to try for the owlet and frogmouth. Nothing was calling although a Palm Civet was some compensation. Feeling rather despondent we went back down to the original site and a Javan Frogmouth § called back and was eventually seen well. We felt we’d earned it.
Javan Banded Pitta at Carita (photo: Janos Olah)
Freckle-breasted Woodpecker at Carita (photo: Jon Hornbuckle)
Black-winged Flycatcher-Shrike at Carita (photo: Jon Hornbuckle)
Ruby-cheeked Sunbird at Carita (photo: Jon Hornbuckle)
Javan Frogmouth at Carita (photo: Janos Olah)
Javan Frogmouth at Carita (photo: Janos Olah), I just love this photo.
Javan Frogmouth at Carita (photo: Jon Hornbuckle)
13 July. We chartered a vehicle to take us from Carita to Jakarta via Palau Dua. We left at 05:00, half an hour late, and arrived at Palau Dua at 06:30. We engaged a local to lead us 1.5km through the shrimp farms to the mangroves, seeing three male Savanna Nightjars were chasing each other over the adjacent fields on the way, nice to see in daylight. Once at the mangroves it was 700m to a watch-tower where we hoped to find Javan White-eye. We didn’t despite a thorough search and later learned it wasn’t as reliable a site as we’d been led to believe. The path through the mangroves was expectedly muddy, some opting to do it bare-foot but I didn’t fancy treading on any mangrove spikes and soon had mud in and over my trainers. Three Black-winged Starlings § made my muddy trainers worthwhile but otherwise best I saw were 30 Golden-bellied Gerygones, a pair of Scarlet-headed Flowerpecker and 8 Olive-backed and a Copper-throated Sunbird § although Janos saw a White-capped Munia. We saw 10 Javan Plovers, 25 Island Collared Doves §, 2 Small Blue Kingfishers and a selection of herons and other waterbirds in the shrimp farms on the walk back. At 09:30 we continued to Jakarta airport arriving at 12.00, ate, changed money, then tried to locate a recommended cheap hotel as Jon fancied a night on the town. Barry and I were not at all unhappy that we could not find it, and we went to Maura Angke to look for Sunda Coucal seeing a Milky Stork from the vehicle on the way. Maura Angke was very disappointing as the boardwalk had collapsed, the watch-tower was unsafe, the two rangers/employees were unhelpful and went back to sleep, and a Grey-cheeked Green Pigeon was the best of the very few birds seen. We continued on to Cibodas, taking over 3 hours via Bogor in very heavy traffic. Once there it took a while to find Freddy’s homestay where we got two rooms. We were all pretty tired and somewhat irritable and I was too hard on our driver giving him only a minimal tip, something I subsequently regretted as he’d been on the go from before dawn until mid-evening and still had a long drive back to Carita. Sorry.
Savannah Nightjars at Palau Dua (photo: John Hornbuckle)
unusual to see Savannah Nightjars flying in daylight (photo: John Hornbuckle)
Purple Heron at Palau Dua (photo: John Hornbuckle)
Olive-backed Fantail at Palau Dua (photo: John Hornbuckle)
Pied Fantail at Palau Dua (photo: John Hornbuckle)
Javan Plover at Palau Dua (photo: John Hornbuckle)
Janos and me in the mangroves at Palau Dua (photo: John Hornbuckle)
Palau Dua (photo: John Hornbuckle)
Palau Dua mangroves (photo: John Hornbuckle)
Barry, Attila and Janos in the mangroves at Mauro Anke (photo: John Hornbuckle)
 the mangrove boardwalk at Mauro Anke had seen better days (photo: John Hornbuckle)
me on the boardwalk at Mauro Anke before turning back (photo: John Hornbuckle)
the river at Mauro Anke (photo: John Hornbuckle)
14 July. We were told we had to get permit to enter Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park from the office up the road from Freddy’s homestay. This took a while, not helped by the official seemingly unable to work out how much permits for 5 people for 3 days would cost, but at least we were sorted for our visit. On my two previous visits there had been a kiosk at the start of the trail, which usually opened after I’d gone in so most days I paid when leaving. We entered the National Park (1300m elevation) at 07:45 and walked up to Air Panas (2150m) where Janos spotted an immature Javan Cochoa (Jon’s main target, so he was happy again). A distant Chestnut-bellied Partridge was heard and birds seen included 6 fly-over Yellow-throated Hanging-Parrots §, Oriental Cuckoo, 3 Flame-fronted Barbets, 2 Checker-throated Woodpeckers, 3 Rufous-tailed Fantails, 3 Mountain Tailorbirds, 3 Pygmy Tits, 5 superb Javan Tesias, 6 Mountain Leaf and 6 Sunda Warblers, 3 Chestnut-backed Scimitar-Babbler, Eye-browed and Pygmy Wren Babblers, 4 White-bibbed Babblers, 12 Rufous-fronted Laughtingthrushes,3 White-browed and 3 Chestnut-fronted Shrike-Babblers, 30 Javan Fulvettas, 7 Javan Whistling-Thrush, male White-browed Shortwing, 2 Sunda and a White-crowned Forktail, 15 Javan Grey-throated White-eyes, 12 Blue Nuthatches, 4 Snowy-browed and 2 Indigo Flycatchers and 3 White-flanked Sunbirds. We were at Cibereum waterfalls (1625m) at 17.45 and at dusk, 20 minutes later, a Salvadori’s Nightjar flew and hawked from a rock-ledge. We tried for Javan Owlet on the way out – it called very close but we could not see it. Back at Fredy’s homestay, his son Indra took us into the Botancial Gardens were we spot-lighted a juvenile Sunda Scops Owl §. A good day and nice to be in the mountains again.
Flame-fronted Barbet at Gunung Gede (photo: Barry Wright)
Flame-fronted Barbet at Gunung Gede (photo: John Hornbuckle)
Sunda Cuckooshrike at Gunung Gede (photo: John Hornbuckle). It was not actually something I saw this trip but had before (and since)
 Javan Whistling Thrush were common at Gunung Gede (photo: John Hornbuckle)

Javan Whistling Thrush at Gunung Gede (photo: John Hornbuckle), I saw 12 while we were there
juvenile Sunda Scops Owl in the Botanical Gardens (photo: John Hornbuckle)

juvenile Sunda Scops Owl in the Botanical Gardens (photo: John Hornbuckle)
15 July. We had breakfast at 04:30 and Barry, Jon and I walked up to where we’d heard Javan Owlet the previous evening. It called very close from inside the forest, we went in but it always flew before we could see it, probably not helped by our crashing around in the dark. It moved to 2 or 3 tall trees by the trail as it getting light and after a long tape duel in daylight, Barry spotted the Javan Owlet § perched some 15-20m up where it called for several minutes before flying off at about 06:30. We left it and continued up but it was still/again calling at 09:30 when Janos and Attila reached the area. They’d not been feeling too good, hence the late start, and spent 90 minutes unsuccessfully trying to see it which wouldn’t have improved things. They did have more success with Chestnut-bellied Partridge which again I only heard. I spent the morning on the trail up to the ‘trogon bend’ seeing Javan Hawk Eagle, 2 Spotted Crocias and many of the species seen yesterday including an Eye-browed and 2 Pygmy Wren Babblers, a White-bibbed Babbler, a Sunda and 2 White-crowned Forktails, 8 Blue Nuthatches, 2 Indigo Flycatchers and 4 White-flanked Sunbirds.. In the afternoon I visited the Golf Course/Camp Site to look for and see distantly a Javan Kingfisher § then the Botanical Gardens. Other birds seen included 2 Olive-backed Tailorbirds, 2 Horsfield’s and 6 Crescent-chested Babblers and 3 Little Pied Flycatchers. We abandoned the plan to go owling due to continual rain.
Javan Owlet at Gunung Gede (photo: John Hornbuckle)
Eye-browed Wren Babbler at Gunung Gede (photo: John Hornbuckle)
Eye-browed Wren Babbler at Gunung Gede where we saw then each day (photo: John Hornbuckle)

although not usually as well as this (photo: John Hornbuckle)
Pygmy Wren Babbler at Gunung Gede (photo: Barry Wright)
me having lunch at Gunung Gede (photo: John Hornbuckle)
Gunung Gede (photo: John Hornbuckle)
Brown-throated Barbet at Gunung Gede (photo: John Hornbuckle), another species I didn't see on this trip
Waterfall at Gunung Gede (photo: John Hornbuckle)
Gunung Gede waterfall (photo: John Hornbuckle)
16 July. I woke early and decided to head up towards the summit and see how it went. The previous evening I’d thought about it without attracting much interest from the others who had different priorities, namely Javan Trogon which I’d seen on an earlier trip. I left Fredy’s (1250m) at 03:00 and made steady progress, arriving at the crater rim (2900m) at 08:35. It was a Saturday and there were Indonesian tourists who’d arrived the previous evening camped by the trail and at the picnic areas on the way up. About half way up I heard Dusky Woodcock roding above the canopy several times but couldn’t find a viewpoint in the dark. I should really have sussed likely spots a couple of days earlier when we’d been up to Air Panas but then I wasn’t thinking ahead. I saw 9 Volcano Swifts § over the rim of the crater but failed to find any Island Thrushes, Tawny-breasted Parrotfinches or Mountain Serins in the surrounding forest – the number of people about probably not helping -although I did see 2 Sunda Bush Warblers. I stayed by the crater for an hour until the clouds started rolling in then slowly returned. The very busy trails didn’t help, neither did being caught in a thunder storm towards the bottom, and I didn’t even hear Chestnut-bellied Partridge let alone see one. I saw just 16 species, the others being 10 Cave Swiftlets, Ashy Drongo, 3 Rufous-tailed Fantails, Mountain Tailorbird, Orange-spotted and Sunda Bulbuls, 5 Mountain Leaf and 6 Sunda Warblers, 2 Eye-browed Wren Babblers, 8 Javan Grey-throated White-eyes, 5 Javan Whistling Thrushes, a female Sunda Robin, 2 excellent male Sunda Forktails and 5 Snowy-browed Flycatchers. The others had also been hampered by the number of people on the trails although Barry, Janos and Attila had been successful in their quest for Javan Trogon. Jon had gone out at 05:00 to look unsuccessfully for Sunda Thrush after being woken by me leaving at 03:00 (sorry Jon, thought I was quiet but clearly not) and a Japanese group sometime after. After dinner Jon went to the Botanical Gardens with Indra to look for his “different” Scops Owl – I was feeling pretty wrecked and chose not to go with them. They saw 2 young Scops Owls perched together with obvious yellow eyes then an adult Sunda Scops Owl some way off, so probably not related, with deep red eyes but I’m not sure they were any the wiser. Barry, Jon and I were flying home the following evening and agreed to depart for Jakarta at 10:00 that morning. Janos and Attila were staying on for a few more days.
on the way to Punkak Gede
2km to go
approaching the crater
me at the rim of Gunung Gede
the crater

me well on the way back down
Blue Nuthatch at Gunung Gede (photo: John Hornbuckle)
common on the mountain, not that I saw any today (photo: John Hornbuckle)
Flame-fronted Barbet at Gunung Gede (photo: John Hornbuckle)
Rufous-tailed Fantail at Gunung Gede (photo: John Hornbuckle)
Sunda Scops Owl at Gunung Gede (photo: John Hornbuckle), recovering from my exertions on the mountain I gave the evening owling session a miss
17 July. It was Jon’s turn to head up the mountain early although he managed to persuade Freddy to provide him with a basic breakfast before leaving at 03:30. He trekked upwards until 06:00 hoping for Dusky Woodcock and Sunda Thrush but had no joy. On his return Jon heard a Javan Cochoa and eventually taped in a Javan Trogon in the area the others had seen one the previous day. He encountered hundreds of trekkers coming down the trail so it was possibly even busier than the previous day. Weekends are definitely best avoided at this site but sometimes it is the only time one can fit in. Meanwhile I spent three hours birding around the Camp Site and Botanical Gardens including along a dead-end trail. I was hoping for better views of Javan Kingfisher and saw two, the original at the Camp Site (not the best place to be walking around early morning with binoculars) and another in the Botanical Gardens. Other sightings included Crested Serpent Eagle, Lesser Cuckoo-Shrike, Black-winged Flycatcher-Shrike, 2 Pygmy Wren Babblers, 6 White-bibbed Babblers, 2 Chestnut-fronted Shrike-Babblers, 4 Javan Fulvettas, Javan Grey-throated White-eye and 2 White-flanked Sunbirds. Barry, Jon and I said goodbye to Janos and Attila and loaded our stuff in a taxi to take us to Jakarta. No sooner had we left Cibodas and we were caught up in a traffic jam, taking over 30 mins to do just 1km on the way out to the main road. Although we thought we’d given ourselves plenty of time for what should have been a three hour journey our driver telling us it had taken him seven hours the previous Sunday had us seriously worried as that would take us almost to our departure time. Nail-biting stuff until the police closed the narrow road to traffic coming up the other way. We then made good progress until we had a puncture, more cause for concern, but it was soon replaced and we reached the airport in good time and arrived home the next day, me via KL.

Afterword. Janos wrote to Jon: When you left we climbed to the crater and saw the Volcano Swiftlets, had Tawny-breasted Parrotfinch at three different places plus a family party of Mountain Serins. We also saw a pair of Javan Cochoa brilliantly. We heard the Dusky Woodcock very close twice but could not get a glimpse, very frustrating. The next day we concentrated on Indra’s Sunda Thrush breeding site where Attila had a good but brief view of one but was so happy and excited to tell me that the bird flew...depressing for me. We tried twice more there but not a sniff. On our last two days we tried for the Javan Owlet dawn and dusk but there was heavy rain most of the time, so no success. They also saw different Scops Owls without being any clearer as to what they were.

Acknowledgements. Many thanks to Jon for organising the trip and inviting me along, he, Barry, Janos and Attila were excellent companions and a lot of fun. Thanks too to Jon, Barry and Janos for allowing me to use some of their photos on this blog, they make a big difference. A special mention too to Pak Subandi who looked after us very well during our stay at Kersik Tuo/Gunung Kerinci, gave us very helpful advice and some invaluable guiding. 

[blogged May 2020]