Bali September 2009
Not a birding holiday at all, the purpose of the visit was my parents' wedding anniversary. I had been to Bali on my own for a flying three-night visit before and, as I absolutely loved the place, had decided that we, my wife, my parents, and I should meet there.
As we all live, or have lived for a considerable time, on beaches, we gave Bali's shorelines a miss and spent the entire week in and around Ubud in the center of Bali (with the exception of the day trip to Taman Nasional Bali Barat) and pretty much all of the birding was opportunistic.
We obviously explored around the resort we stayed at, the Komaneka at Tangayudda. After arriving quite late the previous night, my wife and I walked around this lovely Resort prior to breakfast. The Drongo Cuckoo we heard all night was still calling (actually, we would hear it virtually throughout our stay) but we did not manage to see it. A Lesser Coucal was a lot more obliging as it perched in a tree over our private pool. Both Spotted Doves and Yellow-vented Bulbuls were everywhere and, dare I say it, we soon grew tired of it. Olive-backed Sunbirds and Cave Swiftlets were also all over the place, though not in the same numbers as the 2 previous species. There were also other Swiftlets about but flight identification was impossible.
Later in the day we went to Ubud which was great for my wife as she managed to catch up with Javan Munia. Great for both of us were the Orange-bellied and Scarlet-headed Flowerpeckers we managed to pick up right in town, whilst we also ticked a few Striated Swallows overhead.
The same routine next morning: meandered around the hotel, adding Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike, Grey-cheeked Bulbul and Scaly-breasted Munia to our list.
Lunch saw me desperately searching for an organic restaurant I had gone to last year. Getting lost did produce Pacific Swallows still on the nest and, eventually, the path that leads to the restaurant, Warung Bodag Maliah. Highly recommended, apart from great food they also have Storm Beer, arguably the best beer on Bali. Enjoying a wonderful walk through the paddies we soon enough came upon another target bird, Javan Pond Heron. Even better were a pair of Javan Kingfishers not far from the trail. During lunch we had Zitting Cisticolas all around as well as another endemic, Bar-winged Prinia. Walking back, we crossed a very friendly dog that wanted to play. Unfortunately, it did nip me and we visited the hospital as Bali recently recorded its first Rabies cases. The doctor on duty assured me however that Rabies was so far limited to Kuta, much to my relief.
The next couple of days were spent on various excursions, including Monkey Forest (devoid of birds, but full of aggressive Macaques, saw a guy getting bitten), and Petulu, the village of “White Herons” [sic]. The trees here were full of Cattle Egrets, a handful of Javan Pond Herons, and a single Little Egret. A hike at the outskirts of Ubud produced Pied Bushchat, Olive-backed Tailorbirds and a whole tree full of Grey-cheeked Green Pigeons.
We finally got our act together and organized a trip to Bali Barat National Park. A few words on costs and logistics: we did it as a day trip from Ubud after the receptionist told us it was about 2 hours drive. Turns out that the guy had never been there and it was actually 4 hours, meaning that even with a 4 o’ clock start we arrived later than we would have liked. It is actually only 150 kilometers one way but the narrow roads combined with all the truck traffic to and from Java made it a tedious, and at times, harrowing journey. We stopped of at the Head Quarters in Gilimanuk to pay and pick up our guide, Mr. Ecko (spelling?).
I was a little surprised at the prizes for everything, but then maybe I have been living in Vietnam too long. The car was USD 160.00, admittedly it was a hotel car and I am sure I could have found cheaper in Ubud. National Park fees were 500,000 Rupias for the entrance for both of us, 360,000 Rupias for the boat, and 300,000 Rupias “Park Development Fee”, a cool USD 120.00!!
The good thing about sorting out all this money was a stunning male Green Junglefowl walking by whilst we waited, as well as a couple of Lineated Barbets, White-breasted Woodswallows and Small Minivets.
Cash sorted out we piled back into the car to travel to the port of Labuhan Lalang where we took the boat for a 30-minute ride to the Myna Release Center. Once on the water, we first came across a few Terns feeding in the deeper parts of the bay, with a handful of Great Crested Terns and a single Gull-billed Tern. Coming closer to the shore we watched a Great-billed Heron feeding and could not possibly miss the numerous Collared Kingfishers that were everywhere. The first highlight upon hitting the beach was a pair of Beach Stone Curlews; I absolutely love those rather bizarre-looking birds. We watched them forever and almost missed the 5 Bali Mynas that had quietly settled in a bare tree behind us. I don’t know what to think about those birds: on one hand we had very much wanted to see them, on the other hand ticking them must surely be a stretch as they are all of captive origin? Anyway, we enjoyed their good looks before moving on.
Trying very hard to track down a Fulvous-chested Jungle Flycatcher, we did manage, accidentally, to flush a Savannah Nightjar. Walking along the shoreline, we saw numerous White-shouldered Trillers as well as another target bird, Lemon-bellied White-eye. Ha spotted a Woodpecker that turned out to be a Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker; she also spotted a Black-thighed Falconet perched in the open near the Bali Myna enclosure. There are plenty of feeding trays around the enclosure, and apart from the Mynas and a single Lineated Barbet these tables also attracted a group of Long-tailed Macaques and a single Barking Deer. The Wild Boar that we flushed from underneath a bush was probably also hanging around for the spoils from the tables.
By now it was getting incredibly hot and we gave up any hope of seeing Black-winged Starling. Instead we headed back to the boat, due to the low tide a much longer walk this time, and returned to the mainland. As we reached the port, a Lesser Adjutant started soaring right above us.
Back in the car, we drove just a couple of kilometers before stopping and following a trail into the forest. One of the first birds we came across, and that gave us good views, was a Fulvous-chested Jungle-Flycatcher, a welcome sight after we had spent quite some time trying to track one down earlier in the day. A Rufous-bellied Eagle gave great views, but the single Chestnut-breasted Malkoha was extremely retiring. After my visit last year I had told Ha how easy those Malkohas were as they were everywhere, but this year we just saw the one.
A troop of Ebony Langurs was, just like us, overcome by the heat and just hanging out in a huge fig tree that also attracted a Black Giant Squirrel. Ecko and I had very good views of a Rufous-backed Kingfisher but Ha was extremely upset at missing it (not that she is competitive, or anything). Luckily, she did manage to see what was probably the same bird on the way back. Also walking back, Ha decided to take a short-cut under a fallen tree, with Ecko and me taking the long way round. We heard something that sounded suspiciously like a Pitta working the litter but couldn’t get views of it; rejoining Ha she had, of course, nailed the Banded Pitta. Darn!
That was pretty much it, but we did have another stop on the way back to the Park HQ and a good thing we did as it produced another bird on our wish list, a Sacred Kingfisher.
All in all, not a bad trip. Apart from the rather limited birding, Bali is just very nice, with mostly good food and some of the friendliest people I have had the pleasure to meet.
List of Birds seen: