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]

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