Saturday, 17 August 2019

pre BORNEO 2019: Introduction and Bali (14-17 August)

Introduction. Although I'd been to Borneo twice before both trips had mainly been to Sabah (in 1987 and 2012). There were a few key birds I was keen to see which were easier in Sarawak so when Paul Noakes asked if I was interested in joining him on a trip there during the second half of August it didn't require much thought. Nick Preston didn't take much persuading either and we started planning dates and a couple of add ons before and after the main trip. At a late stage Lori Szucs came on board, just for Sarawak while Nick and I decided to go out a couple of days before Paul, to look for Bali Starling ...

Wednesday 14 August. Megan dropped me at Shoreham-by-Sea station and I caught a train to Gatwick Airport where I met Nick. We checked in to our Qatar flight to Bali via Doha and left on time at 21:40. Six hours or so to Doha, where we saw 7 Laughing Doves, a two hour wait then nine-and-a-half to Denpasar arriving a few minutes late at 23:20. There were long queues at Immigration but they moved fairly quickly and entered the arrivals hall to find loads of people holding welcoming boards. I'd booked a taxi to take us to a nearby hotel and was about giving up when I saw one with Richard John on it. I approached the driver to see if it was me, mentioned where we were going and he took us to his taxi but after 10-15 minutes it was lclear we were not going to the right place. Despite using and in Latin countries particularly one's first two names are the important ones it was not for us. He took us back to the airport and found our hotel nearby, the very basic and cheap Chillin Homestay.

Thursday 15 August. At 06:00, as arranged, Made Surya (, arrived and drove us to his house in Blimbing San at the western end of the island. He was to be our rather expensive guide for two days. I'd hoped employing him would give me the best chance of finding Java Sparrow but he'd not seen one since a chance encounter over two months ago  and they were now seriously rare. En route we saw Javan Kingfisher by the road and a few other common birds. We arrived at 09:30 and started birding in an area of dry forest. We were there to 12:50 seeing Javan Banded Pitta, Ruby-throated Bulbul, Crescent-chested Babbler, Freckle-breasted Woodpecker and a Javan Cuckooshrike in flight. We returned to Made's house (Shalom Homestay) where his mother gave us a decent lunch, even though it was Nasi Goreng. At 15:00 we wandered behind his house to see a roosting Collared (Sunda) Scops Owl and another Javan Banded Pitta before returning to the area of dry forest. Here we saw the very distinctive red-faced race of Coppersmith Barbet before trying a slightly more open dry area where more barbets included a Yellow-eared. We also saw Ruddy Cuckoo-Dove and Javan Tailorbird. We went to be early after a decent meal, pleased with our first day's birding.
presumed juvenile Javan Kingfisher from the main cross-island highway
nearby adult

another Javan Kingfisher in West Bali
Black-winged Flycatcher-Shrike in West Bali

Javan Banded Pitta in West Bali

Ruby-throated Bulbul in West Bali

Sunda Scops Owl in West Bali

Coppersmith Barbet in West Bali
a quite distinctive red-throated/faced race
Yellow-eared Barbet

Friday 16 August. We had breakfast at 05:30 and left the Shalom homestay at 06:00 to drive for 45 minutes to West Bali National Park. Entering the park we quickly saw a male Green Junglefowl (we ended up seeing 7 males and a female) and 4 Racket-tailed Treepies. We climbed an observation tower and did not have to wait long for our first view of Bali Starling - 3 flying over but out of sight. Another two followed but none were sitting up. We drove around the dry forest stopping to listen but hearing nothing headed to the Bali Starling Sanctuary. Two unringed birds gave reasonable views in trees outside the sanctuary where at least five pairs were in cages, most also appearing unringed. We drove back to Gilmanuk and along towards the Java ferry checking some roadside trees where another pair of Bali Starlings were feeding, but not the hoped for grey-rumped race of Black-winged Starling. We headed back towards Shalom Homestay having lunch in a roadside restaurant although Mrs Made's cooking was nicer. Back at the homestay we packed our bags and had a last look at the Sunda Scops Owl and a Javan Banded Pitta before leaving. On the way back to the main road we stopped by a reservoir outflow which proved to be a good Javan Kingfisher site, we saw three. It was then a 4.5 hour drive back to the Chillin Homestay in Kuta. Despite no Java Sparrow our brief visit had been a success thanks in no small part to Made who knew his area very well and was an excellent birding companion. I'd had five new birds and finally laid to rest not trying for Bali Starling on a stop-over on the way back from Australia in 1986, preferring then to visit Gunung Gede in West Java, a site I've been to twice since. My other four new birds were less inspiring (mostly recent splits of things I'd seen elsewhere) - Javan Cuckooshrike, Ruby-throated Bulbul, Ruddy Cuckoo-Dove and Yellow-eared Barbet.

Green Junglefowl in West Bali National Park

Zebra Doves in West Bali National Park
view of Gunung Ijen in far East Java
Bali Starling in West Bali National Park
not showing much of a crest so perhaps a female?
nice to see in the wild after close encounters at Paignton Zoo

Made Surya was much faster with his camera than I was when one flew directly overhead. Stunning photo, showing the species at its best. Photo: Made Surya (
Chestnut-headed Bee-eater in West Bali National Park
Island Collared Dove
Rufous-backed Kingfisher in West Bali National Park

presumed male Bali Starling near the Java ferry

final look at Made's Sunda Scops Owl
reservoir run-off, a good site for
Javan Kingfisher

Bali Gate
Bali church
Saturday 17 August. I didn't sleep well, jet-lag finally kicking in. We were up at 06:30 and left Chillin Homestay at 07:00 on an exploratory walk to find the best way to the airport. After a couple of false starts we found the shortest route (under 10 minutes crossing only one busy road). We returned to the homestay, showered and then took our bags to the airport. We flew Malindo Air to Kuala Lumpur, a pleasant three hour flight. Paul's flight had landed so we made our way to the EuropeCar desk to meet him, except he wasn't there. They had his booking but hadn't seen him. I was about to start worrying when he phoned to say he'd been directed to the wrong terminal and was on his way back. EuropeCar had helpfully moved his car to Terminal 1 as that was where he's flight came in but had omitted to tell him. We drove to the Genting Highlands arriving, thanks to the car hire delay, at dusk. We checked into Colma Tropicale, a weird French themed resort like a cross between Mont St. Michael and Disneyland. We walked up the mountain finding a superb Blyth's Frogmouth above the resort before returning for a pizza.
view from Denpasar Airport

Cattle Egret from the plane window

leaving Bali

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