Wednesday 12 August 2015

INDONESIA 2015: Timor (7-12 August)

7 August.  Our flight arrived in Kupang at 08:15 and we soon collected our bags and went looking for our car and driver which we not immediately apparent.  The Domestic Terminal might have been a good place to wait for a group coming from Sumba but clearly not.  Royke phoned the driver’s wife to discover he was waiting somewhere else but he was soon summoned.  We drove to Bipolo arriving at the forest patch there at 10:00 and, as it turned out, stopping right by a rather smart Timor Blue Flycatcher.  It was an area Royke had seen Orange-sided Thrush previously but none responded to playback. It was very hot despite roadside trees offering some shade as we birded along the road.  Passing traffic feeling it necessary to repeatedly sound their horns did not help and we sought refuge on one of the larger tracks where we had excellent views of a Buff-banded Thicketbird.  After a couple of hours we drove a further 15 km or so to a dry area of open forest that was supposedly good for parrots.  We were unable to find any but our first White-bellied Bushchats were some compensation.  We returned to Bipolo rice fields but failed to find any Timor Sparrows, or much else although Royke saw a Tricoloured Parrotfinch.  Sadly it disappeared before we could join him, it was probably the closest I came to one although it was seen on Timor Leste after I came home.  Despite having had 12 new birds it had been a bit of a disappointing day although with the temperature dropping we decided to try for Orange-sided Thrush again and this time one flew in, landed in view for 2-3 minutes and, having sussed us out, disappeared just as I was thinking I could get some photos.  It had certainly saved the day.  We stayed to dark and heard a distant Timor Bobook calling but it was not responsive.  Currently regarded as part of Southern Bobook it is likely to be split in the near future.  It was an hour’s drive back to Kupang where we stayed in the Hotel Sylvia, visiting an open air restaurant on the quay for a pleasant fish meal.

over suburbs of Kupang
Kupang Airport

male Timor Blue Flycatcher at Bipolo
Rose-crowned Fruit Dove
White-bellied Bushchat
it had white in the tail, not evident in these images, and was singing making it an immature male

we saw adult males but none came close enough to photograph
dry open forest favoured by the bushchats
birding the road, fortunately it was nothing like as busy as at Bipolo
8 August.  We had breakfast at 06:30 (the longest lie in of the trip?) and left the hotel at 07:00 to drive to the ferry terminal.  We boarded the ferry to Roti at 07:50 and Royke managed to get us onto the upper deck which we shared with a couple of presumably off-duty crew members.  Very pleasant with shaded benches and tables.  We departed at 08:20 and had a smooth crossing despite a fairly strong headwind, seeing a few Bridled, Black-naped and Crested Terns.  We arrived at Pantai Baru at 12:00 having been overtaken along the way by the fast speedboat headed for the slightly more distant town of Ba’a.  Getting off the ferry was a bit of a scrum with various touts persistently pestering us, and then Royke when it became clear he was guiding us.  Royke had attempted to visit Roti to make arrangements for our visit before we arrived in Indonesia but had been prevented from doing so as all ferries were cancelled due to bad weather.  Full marks for trying though.  We stayed well out of it while Royke chartered a minibus for our stay but we had to be firm with the driver on insisting that he only had one helper with him leading to one of his mates being ejected.  We then had to stop on the edge of town when it became apparent that he did not know where we wanted to go.  Telling us there was a good hotel in his village and some forest nearby might well have been true but we wanted to find Rems Maku in Bolatena as it was he who knew where to find Roti Bobook.  Like Timor Bobook it is currently regarded as part of Southern Bobook but is likely to be split in the near future, hence our interest.  Royke and our driver finally established where we wanted to go and we set off on a rough dirt road, although probably most roads on Roti were like that.  We arrived at Rem’s house 75 minutes later but were told he was out at sea.  His wife and father gave us drinks and biscuits and we were taken out by his father and uncle, the latter rather more of a hindrance than a help, but fortunatety Rems soon arrived.  We saw a stunning Black-backed and Rose-crowned Fruit Dove, Pink-headed Imperial Pigeon, Pacific Emerald Dove, another White-bellied Bushchat and Blue-cheeked Flowerpecker as well as interesting local races of Sumba Myzomela and Northern Fantail as well as White-bellied Bushcha.  We stayed out until 21:45 with very little reward, not even hearing Roti Bobook.  We returned to a basic meal and accommodation, rather guiltily turning out some of the family for the latter.
Indonesian ferries at Kupang
Royke managed to get us onto the upper deck which we had almost to ourselves, very pleasant
Royke checking the Roti section of Peter Collaerts excellent trip report  
an impressive beast that we shared the upper deck with
no idea what it was
Bridled Terns
being overtaken by the fast boat, it didn't look half as enjoyable as ours
approaching Roti

the landing dock at Pantai Baru
'Roti' Myzomela
Mike checking out our accommodation
Pacific Emerald Dove
Rose-crowned and a superb Black-backed (or Banded) Fruit Dove
one of the most impressive birds we saw
9 August.  We were up at 04:00, our usual time for an owling session, and walked the short distance into the forest where we had tried for the bobook the previous evening.  After some playback we had a response and eventually reasonable views of two Roti Bobooks.  If vocalisations are anything to go by, and for owls you would expect them to be, then this is a different species to the bobooks on Timor, sounding more like Sumba Bobook.  We returned for a quick breakfast, packed and left the village for a nearby degraded area where we saw a lone Jonquil Parrot, a pair of Timor Black Doves and the bright Roti race of Timor Leaf Warbler.  We left Rems and drove to Ba’a stopping at a lake for a few waterbirds (an Australian Darter and some Australian Pelicans) on the way.  We arrived at Ba’a at 10:00 thinking there might be a fast ferry at 10:30 but we had been misinformed and it did not leave until 12:15 (15 minutes late).  It arrived at Kupang at 14:00 and our driver was waiting to take us to Bipolo.  Here we continued to the far end of the rice fields arriving at 15:45.  More birds were evident than on our previous visit and we found 10 Timor Sparrows as well as Avadavats, Five-coloured Munias Zebra Finches, Brown Quail and Bonelli’s Eagle.  We left at 17:45 to return to Hotel Sylvia, passing up on a night birding session (we were finding evening sessions rather unsuccessful).

Timor Black Dove
we only saw a pair
Jonquil Parrot
rather sad to see one on its own, the species is now very scarce on Timor
Rose-crowned Fruit Dove, common but colourful
Rems and daughter
the fast boat at Ba'a harbour
nothing like as enjoyable as our outward passage but it gave us time to revisit Bipolo 
Bipolo rice fields
Timor Sparrow

10 August.  We had breakfast at 04:30 and left Kupang soon after 05:00 to drive to Camplong.  This was perhaps Timor’s main lowland birding site and I was full of anticipation.  We arrived at 06:10 and Royke took us first to an area where he had previously seen Timor Stubtail.  We soon heard one calling in response to playback, or rather the others did and pointed me in the right direction as I couldn’t differentiate between bird and tape.  It soon approached giving good views.  We continued to an area for Black-banded Flycatcher.  Initially only Andy saw one, a male, but after an anxious 20 minutes it reappeared.  It was a really stunning bird, the underparts so white and the thick breast band so black.  Sadly it did not pose for a photo but it was clearly one of the birds of the trip.  We also saw Timor Fig and Friarbirds, Spot-breasted Heleia (a dark-eye) and Black-breasted Myzomela before leaving Camplong soon after 10:00.  We drove into the foothills to Soe and Hotel Bahagia Dua.  We assumed it was, or had been, Chinese owned as it had a relief wall depicting Chinese scenes.  After lunch we drove 15 minutes back down the road to a dry forest area at Oelnasi.  We saw another Timor Stubtail, White-bellied Bushchat and Timor Blue Flycatcher while the others heard a Black-banded Flycatcaher.  We stayed until well after dark hearing a distant Timor Bobook but no nightjars.

strange palms at Camplong
strange fruits at Camplong
view from the Soe road
Hotel Bahagia Dua's Great Wall being ignored by Andy and Mike
trail at Oelnasi
11 August.  We were up at 03:00 and loading ourselves into a pre-arranged 4WD to visit Gunung Mutis which was reached up a rough road.  Our early departure enabled us to fit in another owling session in a clearing beyond Fatumnasi. It rather reinforced our view that early mornings were better than evenings as we saw two Timor Bobooks and heard a Barn Owl.  We continued driving up towards Gunung Mutis stopping at dawn in an area of rather open woodland.  We initially mistook the two Metallic Pigeons for the much scarcer Timor Imperials, being fooled by the race involved lacking the expected white throat.  Pity as it was the closest we came to seeing the Imperials.  Some small lorikeets flew over, most likely Iris, but views were brief and we failed completely to find the larger Olive-headed, supposedly commonly encountered according to some reports.  We spent the rest of the morning walking a track in the area where we found Pygmy Wren Babbler, Island Thrush, a family party of the newly discovered parrotfinch, Snowy-browed Flycatcher and our only Sunda Bush Warbler.  Walking back down the road we found another new parrotfinch family and Timor Leaf Warbler.  After a packed lunch we returned to Fatumnasi and birded a track above the village.  Here we had good views of Iris Lorikeets, an immature male Olive-brown Oriole and a third parrotfinch family.  We were somewhat bemused that a bird we had encountered three times over a reasonable altitude range in well watched areas had remained undiscovered for so long.  We returned to Soe and Hotel Bahagia Dua as it was getting dark.

open forest on Gunung Mutis
Treebeard was home
Metallic Pigeon

areas with undergrowth were more interesting
forest trail on gunung Mutis, our first flock of the new parrotfinches were here
treebeard's friend
forest viewpoint but no pigeons or parrots here

Mike scanning the canopy
back in the open forest

Fatumnasi, note the garden graves
allotment and thatched hut
most houses had them
Iris Lorikeets
Add caption
another two Black-backed Fruit Doves
fast becoming one of my favourite pigeons

12 August. We left the hotel at 05:00 and drove to Oelnasi arriving perhaps a shade too late for nightjars although we had not really sussed out the best place to look for them.  We tried a cleared area in the dry forest but it wasn’t quite te clearing tat we had imagined.  Now we had seen Timor Bobook it was fairly typical that Royke should find one as it was getting light.  We returned to the entrance for breakfast seeing a Cinnamon-banded Kingfisher on the way.  We hoped to see Bar-necked Cuckoo-dove, one of the few endemics that had eluded us, and Timor Imperial Pigeon was a possibility too but it was not to be despite being led down a better trail to a fruiting tree by the local warden.  Here we saw Black-backed and Rose-crowned Fruit-Doves and Pink-headed Imperial Pigeons and a little further on eventually found what was probably the main clearing.  We spent some time there with five Timor Sparrows the highlight. Oelnasi had been rather disappointing but we felt it might have been different if we had been better prepared and known where the clearing was.  We returned to the hotel at 11:30 and after lunch left to drive back to Bipolo.  We spent an hour by a fruiting tree near the road seeing a single Jonquil Parrot and the last hour of the day at the edge of the rice fields hoping to find Royke’s Tricoloured Parrotfinch from our first visit.  No luck but some Sooty-headed Bulbuls mobbing the top of a dead tree had Andy suggesting a Barn Owl might be roosting there.  I walked over and kicked the trunk a couple of times and he was right!  With only half an hour to go before dusk I did not think I had disturbed it unduly. It was my first day without a new bird.  We drove back to Kupang and had a good meal in Hotel Sylvia.
strange presumably parasitic growths on trees at Oelnasi - not parasitic at all but an epiphytic Elkhorn Fern (thanks Colin)

juvenile munia
Bipolo rice fields
13 August.  We had breakfast at 04:00, left the hotel at 04:30 and were dropped at the airport at 05:00 for our 06:00 Trans Nusa flight to Ruteng.  It was 20 minutes late leaving.

departing Timor, next stop Flores


  1. The "strange presumably parasitic growths on trees at Oelnasi" is an Elkhorn fern:

    Please upload your records to E-bird....Photos to

  2. Thanks Colin, so not parasitic at all ...


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