Sulawesi and Halmahera Tour Report 14 August - 7 September 2010
|This really was a splendid and very enjoyable tour; however, it was not an easy tour, as we had some very early morning starts and a few mountains to climb, and more than one muddy track to negotiate! The rewards for our efforts were simply magnificent; we saw over 100 endemic species of birds that only occur in the Sulawesi-Halmahera region, as well as a supporting cast of a further 130 species of more widespread, but still very colourful, tropical birds. We enjoyed splendid looks at the big 3 important birds of this region; the remarkable Maleo, surely the strangest member of the megapode family, the superb Wallace's Standardwing, one of the most spectacular of all the birds-of-paradise and superb, close views, of the bizarrely named Diabolical Nightjar, at its daytime roost. We even managed to find a selection of very interesting mammals, with perhaps the Spectral Tarsier, being the most appreciated. A couple of things worked in our favour; firstly, the weather, we lost no birding time due to heavy rain, which even in the dry season, is so easy to do in this part of the world, and secondly, we had great local support from a superb team of cooks and local bird guides, all working together to ensure we had a very enjoyable time, they were all under the expert leadership of Darwin Sumang, from Vacation Indonesia Tours. We would not have seen half the total number of birds without the organisational and birding skills of Nurlin Djuni, head ornithologist of the team, and his very able assistant, the indomitable Eddie Sunardi. |
After a long and tiring flight from Australia we arrived in the attractive coastal town of Manado, in the far north of Sulawesi. Our first bird of the tour was a Purple Heron, which was in grassland, alongside the runway, at the airport. Here we were met by the team from Vacation Indonesia Tours, as well as several pairs of Pacific Swallows and Eurasian Tree Sparrows, who were nesting in the airport terminal. We were then taken to a beautiful waterfront hotel, where some of us tried out the very inviting swimming pool. This was no ordinary hotel, it had a very well built boardwalk leading from the hotel and down into a substantial patch of coastal mangroves, which enabled us to look at mangrove birds, without getting our feet muddy, it's a pity we could not say the same about the rest of the tour! In the shrubs and bushes of the hotel we found Zebra Dove, Sooty-headed Bulbul, Olive-backed Sunbird, White-breasted Woodswallow, and Chestnut Munia. In the mangroves we enjoyed watching a flock of Pied Imperial-Pigeons, a trio of kingfishers, Collared, Sacred and Common; we enjoyed watching a family party of White-rumped Cuckoo-shrikes and a few Sulawesi Trillers. Small flocks of Glossy and Moluccan Swiftlets flew overhead, as did a few Slender-billed Crows. Along the coast, at the end of the boardwalk we watched a few Striated Herons, a couple of Greater Sandplovers, a solitary Whimbrel, plenty of Common Sandpipers and a small group of Grey-tailed Tattlers, who were preparing to roost in the mangroves for the night.
The following day was very much a travel day, as we drove south from Manado to Kotamobagu. The edges of the roads were lined with large numbers of cloves, which had been put out to dry. The fences of the homes along the roadside were painted the same colours of the political party, which was in power at the time. The local people were very friendly and waved to us wherever we went. During the drive, we did a little birding in some rice paddies, where we watched Little and Cattle Egrets, several Javan Pond-Herons in spectacular breeding plumage, a Buff-banded Rail, our only Common Moorhen of the tour, good numbers of Wood Sandpipers, a Lesser Coucal and small flocks of Barn Swallows, which had recently arrived from their breeding grounds in China and we also saw a small flock of Scaly-breasted Munias. We saw our first of many Brahminy Kites and a couple of Barred Rails ran across the road in front of our vehicles. In a patch of wooded farmland we added Feral Pigeon, Spotted and Emerald Doves, Slender-billed Cuckoo-Dove, White-bellied Imperial Pigeon, Grey-rumped Treeswift, Black Sunbird, Yellow-sided Flowerpecker, Black-fronted White-eye, Hair-crested Drongo, and two spectacular species of endemic starlings, Fiery-browed and Grosbeak Starlings.
This morning we had an early start to ensure that we were in position in the Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park, by sunrise. Just before dawn we arrived at the area where we needed to be and were greeted by several loudly calling Great-eared Nightjars, who were swooping overhead. At dawn we were in position sitting on chairs watching an area of open forest, where we were hoping to spot a Maleo up a tree, where it had roosted for the night. We were served tea and coffee and then we began to wait and watch. Unfortunately, the Maleo was a no show! However; our time had not been wasted as we saw a great many other beautifully coloured birds, which included an immature White-bellied Sea-Eagle, a magnificent Black Eagle, which was skimming the tops of the trees of the rainforest which lined the hillside, a ghostly white, immature Sulawesi Hawk-Eagle flew by, we saw Sulawesi Black Pigeon, Pink-necked and Grey-cheeked Green-Pigeons, Green Imperial-Pigeon, a small flock of Yellowish-breasted Racquet-tails flew overhead and a Small Sulawesi Hanging-Parrot perched long enough for us to enjoy good scope views of it. Suddenly a Black-billed Koel popped into view, a pair of Yellow-billed Malkohas showed well, we enjoyed super scope views of the very attractive Black-naped Oriole and a pair of White-necked Mynas flew by. We also encountered our first mammal of the tour here; we enjoyed watching a Sulawesi Dwarf Squirrel, which would prove to be the commonest mammal we would observe during the tour. We now changed to plan B; we would search for the Maleo by walking the forest trails. We were joined by three local bird guides, which meant we now had a total of five bird guides, as we searched for the Maleo, surely the strangest of all megapodes. Suddenly, our guides heard a Maleo calling from the tree tops and all the guides disappeared into the depths of the forest. Some time later, one of the guides reappeared and told us to follow him; the other guides had treed a Maleo! Our guides repeated this on four separate occasions, until all of us had seen the Maleo very well indeed. This had been a great team effort, by Nurlin and the team of local bird guides and it was to be repeated throughout the whole tour, over and over again. Following our picnic lunch, we were taken to the nesting area of the endangered Maleo, these bizarre birds nest in volcanically heated soil. A member of the conservation staff dug up an egg from one nest which was removed to be artificially hatched at a nearby secure location. We were then taken to a pen which held a few Maleo chicks, ranging from one to three days old. These chicks are born with the ability to fly and are totally self sufficient, not requiring any parental guidance. If only my four had been the same! We were then allowed to release a couple of the birds that were three days old, and somewhat reluctantly, they flew off into the forest.
In the afternoon, we did some more birding in the forest, where we saw huge birds such as the Knobbed Hornbill, to tiny little birds, like the Sulawesi Dwarf Kingfisher. Despite the attention of several biting Green Tree Ants, we also saw Wandering Whistling-Duck, Green-backed and Blue-eared Kingfishers, Sulawesi Babbler and Grey-sided Flowerpecker. In the late afternoon, we were taken to a very old tree were hundreds of Grosbeak Starlings had excavated nest holes in the soft decaying timber of the tree. It was an amazing spectacle and quite remarkable behaviour for a starling. As we drove back to our lodgings, it coincided with one of the five times per day, when Muslims our required to pray at the Mosque. All the people inside the Mosque knelt on the ground in neat rows, the men and boys at the front and the women and girls at the rear, all the women were dressed in white, from head to toe. It was quiet a spectacle, for those of us who had not seen this before.
Another early start found us walking along a mountain trail which climbed steadily upwards, into the upper reaches of the Gunung Ambang National Park. The trail became more like a trench, in some areas it was over 2 metres in height and very muddy. Slowly we managed to prize the birds out of the forest; a superb Spot-tailed Goshawk responded well to tape playback, allowing us fine looks at this superb endemic. A Superb Fruit-Dove showed well momentarily and then a Scaly-breasted Kingfisher, one of Sulawesi's least known endemics, was seen wonderfully well, a splendid Purple-bearded Bee-eater showed very well and higher up the mountain we managed to find Snowy-browed Flycatcher, Citrine Canary-Flycatcher, Rusty-bellied Fantail, Mountain Tailorbird, Sulawesi Leaf-Warbler, Malia, Yellow-vented Whistler and Golden-bellied Gerygone.
We later found out that the deep trench in the trail had been gouged out by people dragging illegally logged trees along the trail. Encroachment of national parks is a worldwide problem, which unfortunately is getting steadily worse. Encroachment upon national parks in Asia is greater than in any other part of the world and we were to experience it in all of the protected areas that we visited, in both Sulawesi and Halmahera. The encroachment on national parks is orchestrated by men of influence, usually with high political connections, who often hire thugs, who intimidate and threaten national park staff, into allowing the encroachment. In the afternoon, we did a little birding in some nearby farmland, where we added Spotted Kestrel, Large Sulawesi Hanging-Parrot and Golden-headed Cisticola. We then taped in the normally very shy Isabelline Bush-hen, which very uncharacteristically, strutted around on the track, in front of us! As we drove back to our lodgings we could not help but notice hundreds of red-and-white flags lining the roadside. It was Independence Day in Indonesia, and they were celebrating 65 years of independence from their Dutch colonisers. On our return to our hotel, we were asked to leave our muddy boots outside. The following morning our boots were returned to us and our wonderful local guides had cleaned them for us. This was an unexpected treat, for which we were all very grateful.
The following morning we did some birding in rice paddies, close to the township of Kotamobagu, which proved a little easier birding than the dense rainforest, where we spent most of our time during the tour. In and around the rice paddies we found both Black-crowned and Rufous Night-Herons, White-browed Crake, Black-backed Swamphen, Dusky Moorhen, Little Bronze-Cuckoo, Black-faced Munia and Java Sparrow. In the afternoon we birded an area of secondary forest, where we enjoyed good looks at the endemic Bay Coucal and Brown-throated and Crimson Sunbirds. At dusk we tried a little spotlighting, we were not having much success when Nurlin received a phone call from a friend who owned an orchard on the outskirts of Kotamobagu; Nurlins friend told him that he had Sulawesi Masked-Owl and Sulawesi Scops-Owl calling in his orchard. We then jumped into our four-wheel drive vehicles and sped off in the direction of the orchard. A short time later we were able to watch both Sulawesi Masked-Owl and Sulawesi Scops-Owl in the spotlight.
The next day of our adventure was very much a travel day, as we drove northwards to Tangkoko National Park, taking most of the day to get there. During the first part of our journey we experienced heavy rain, but after a couple of hours it slowly began to abate, and the rain was replaced by brilliant sunshine. For part of the drive we drove alongside the Tarout River, when we were close to Amurang, some members of the group saw a pair of Sunda Teal flying above the river. Approximately 40 kilometres south of Manado we stopped for a brief leg stretch, along the coast. During the rest stop Rob pointed out a dark morph Pacific Reef-Egret flying out in the bay. On our arrival in Manado we enjoyed a very pleasant lunch in a restaurant overlooking the bay. While having lunch we all enjoyed our only look at a small flock of House Swifts, which were flying around close to the restaurant. By mid-afternoon we had arrived at our destination and settled in to our somewhat rustic homestay. Once the heat of the day had passed, we ventured out into Tangkoko National Park, which is situated on the side of a forested volcano. There was nine clients plus myself, plus another six local birding guides in the party. Once we started walking the trails of the national park, two of the local guides stayed with us and the others disappeared into the forest. As we walked the narrow trails of the forest, we came across a few Sulawesi Crested Macaques, which look more like small apes, rather than macaques. We then came across an Ashy Woodpecker, a huge species of woodpecker, which we enjoyed watching, pecking away in a large tree, directly above us. Then Nurlin received a phone call from one of the guides who had disappeared into the forest, he had found a very interesting bird. In no time at all, we had joined the local guide who pointed out the superb and endemic Ochre-bellied Boobook, sitting at eye level in a small sapling. Continuing along the track, a second phone call produced the stunning and endemic Lilac-cheeked Kingfisher. We were then taken to a large tree in the forest, by now it was getting dark, and no less than three Spectral Tarsiers popped up from a large hole in the tree. They are the smallest primates in the world and this incredible looking species with its endearing large eyes, was very much the inspiration for Steven Spielberg's `ET`.
|Following breakfast we birded an open area in Tangkoko National Park, which proved very productive, new birds here included Blue-breasted Quail, Uniform Swiftlet and Rainbow Bee-eater. We then found a large fruiting tree, which had large numbers of birds visiting the tree, to feed on the fruit. Here we enjoyed good looks at the often difficult to find Silver-tipped Imperial-Pigeon, the beautiful Ornate Lorikeet, a single Blue-backed Parrot and small numbers of Golden-mantled Racquet-tails. For the rest of the day we birded deep inside the forest, together with our six local guides. New birds for our ever growing list included a pair of Black-naped Fruit-Doves building a nest, a stunning pair of Purple-winged Rollers, the unobtrusive Sulawesi Cicadabird, a pair of recently split Pale-blue Monarchs and a pair of stunning Sulawesi Crested Mynas. Perhaps the highlight of today's birding was the very uncommon and endemic Red-backed Thrush. This stunning bird was found by our local guides and using their great skill they shepherded this bird towards the group, so that eventually, we all managed to enjoy good looks, at this seldom seen speciality. We also found two new species of mammals today; we enjoyed good close looks at the Whitish Dwarf Squirrel and once again, our local guides found a Small Sulawesi Cuscus, rolled up in a ball, asleep in the treetops. We were able to enjoy good scope views of this attractive, nocturnal animal. We stayed in the forest until it got dark, we then enjoyed good looks at a fairly responsive Sulawesi Nightjar, who responded fairly well to tape playback. During the night there were torrential downpours of rain, which kept us awake for a while. |
The following morning dawned sunny and bright and free from rain, the volcanic soil had drained very well and all that was left from the tremendous overnight rain were a few puddles along the roadside. We did some pre-breakfast birding on top of a high ridge, which looked down on the valley below. This meant that we had the luxury at looking down on the birds in the canopy of the rainforest, rather than looking up at them, as we usually did, from the forest floor. We saw a large number of species very well indeed, including our best looks at some of the birds we had already seen, as well as new birds for the tour, which included a perched Peregrine Falcon, in the scope, beautiful scope views of the uncommon Grey-headed Imperial-Pigeon and best of all, tremendous scope views of the endangered Sulawesi Dwarf Hornbill. Following breakfast, we walked some of the forest trails, where we had a few quick looks at the very shy Philippine Scrubfowl. Before lunch, our guides still had one last rabbit to pull out of the hat; they enabled us to enjoy very close looks at the shy, but very beautiful Ruddy Kingfisher. For our afternoon entertainment we donned our life vests and went out to sea in two boats, which traveled along the coast. Our first stop was a small sea cave, which had two Sulawesi Masked-Owls roosting at the entrance, which we saw superbly well. Our boatman then turned into the mangrove lined Sanpiran River, where he paddled slowly up the creek. Our main quarry here was the extremely localised Great-billed Kingfisher, but apart from Striated Herons, there was very little to see. We did find a flock of Asian Glossy Starlings, which was new for us and as we were about to give up, a Great-billed Kingfisher flew across the front of the boat and disappeared up a small creek. Once again we had tremendous amounts of rain during the night.
Once again, the day dawned sunny and bright and free from rain. Our final morning in Tangkoko produced a Great Frigatebird, a fairly obliging Barred Buttonquail and a not so obliging Stephan's Dove. In the mid-afternoon we returned to the forest and found a small clearing where we enjoyed good scope views of an immature Sulawesi Hawk-Eagle. We also enjoyed good scope views of a displaying Green Imperial-Pigeon, who would raise and lower the rufous feathers on its nape, which formed a shaggy main. The Sulawesi race paulina is the only race of Green Imperial-Pigeon that has this rufous shaggy main! We also found a beautiful Sulawesi Black Pigeon who did not want to be outdone by the Green Imperial-Pigeon and every time we played a tape of its call, it would fly above our heads, displaying as it did so, with its wings and tail outspread as it flew overhead. We then played hide-and-seek with a Red-bellied Pitta, but try as we may, we could only manage a fleeting glimpse of it. However, we did much better with a pair of Pied Cuckoo-shrikes, which eventually, we all saw very well indeed.
The following morning we drove back to Manado airport and took a short flight to the small island of Ternate. From here we took a boat across to the nearby island of Halmahera, here we saw a Lesser Frigatebird and in the mangroves in the small harbour we added the very uncommon Beach Kingfisher and a White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, before driving to nearby Sidangoli, for a three nights stay. In the afternoon we birded areas of forest close to Sidangoli. It was interesting to see large flocks of Rainbow Bee-eaters here, which would shortly be leaving, to fly to their breeding grounds in Australia. The birding was very enjoyable and the birdlife varied; new birds here included super scope views of the attractive Cinnamon-bellied Imperial-Pigeon, a few Dollardbirds, great looks at the very large Blyth's Hornbill, lots of Willie Wagtails, several Long-billed Crows and large noisy flocks of both Metallic and Moluccan Starlings.
A very early start was required this morning; for this was the morning we had set aside to go and see Wallace's Standardwing, a species of bird-of-paradise. The males display at first light, hoping to attract the attention of a female, this goes on for approximately one hour and then these shy birds simply melt away into the rainforest and become very hard to find. It required a two hour walk in the dark to reach the display area. The first half hour went well and then we came to a river we had to cross, normally the river is very shallow, but unfortunately unseasonably heavy rain during the last few days had turned the river into a waist high, raging torrent. It was decided that it would be too dangerous to cross the river. As it was, Rob lost his footing on the steep descent down to the river and fell off the track and into the forest. Putting his hands out to break the fall, rob injured one of his wrists. On returning to Australia, subsequent x-rays revealed that Rob had unfortunately broken his wrist. However, all was not lost the surrounding rainforest proved very productive and new birds for the tour came thick and fast. They included Dusky Scrubfowl, Grey-headed Fruit-Dove, Spectacled Imperial-Pigeon, White Cockatoo, Chattering Lory, Red-cheeked and Eclectus Parrots, Moluccan Hanging-Parrot, Goliath Coucal, Blue-and-white Kingfisher, Common Cicadabird, Rufous-bellied Triller, Northern Golden Bulbul, Spectacled Monarch, Flame-breasted Flowerpecker, the endangered Dusky Friarbird, Spangled Drongo and Paradise Crow.
Fortunately, no rain fell during the night and we set off at three o'clock in the morning, with high hopes that the river would have dropped overnight, enabling us to cross it and visit the Wallace's Standardwing site. A very bright full moon shone overhead and we took this as a good omen, as we set off for the river. Fortunately for us, the river had dropped overnight and was only knee deep and we were able to cross the river and walk in the dark to the viewing site. We were in position before dawn and the raucous cries of the male standardwings filled our ears. We sat silently and watched the incredible display of this most spectacular of birds, unfold before our eyes. A total of six males displayed before a solitary female, flinging themselves into the air before fluttering down to a well used branch, where the breast shield would be extended and the white pennants were thrust upwards and outwards. It was well worth the effort. Other new species in the rainforest close to Sidangoli included a very close pair of Gurney's Eagles, which had a juvenile bird with them, Oriental Hobby, the rarely observed Azure Kingfisher, a stunning Ivory-breasted Pitta, Halmahera Cuckoo-shrike, Golden Whistler and Dusky-brown Oriole. At dusk a Large-tailed Nightjar flew around us, to round off a very fine day in Wallacea.
Today we were on the move again; we slowly birded our way from Sidangoli to Tobelo, further to the north. There is still a good area of rainforest a little to the north of Sidangoli and this is where we concentrated our efforts. Here we enjoyed super scope views of a perched Variable Goshawk; we could clearly see the grey throat, which is distinctive of the Halmahera race of this species. We also enjoyed fine scope views of the very attractive Blue-capped Fruit-Dove and this was followed by good scope views of the colourful Violet-necked Lory. Close to the town of Katana we paid a visit to a coconut plantation where we were hopeful of finding the endemic but very elusive Sombre Kingfisher. Once again our luck continued and one bird responded well to tape playback, ensuring that we had very good looks, at this seldom seen species. Here we also added Shining Flycatcher and the endemic Cream-throated White-eye. On our arrival in Tobelo we drove to a very fine hotel, which would be our home for the next three nights and we ate at a particularly fine Chinese restaurant, where we enjoyed the best food of the tour.
As we set off the following morning the Mamuya Volcano that towered over the town, had a long plume of smoke trailing away to the east. We spent the morning birding in an area of mangroves and rainforest, where we saw a good number of birds. New birds included a flock of four Pacific Bazas, which flew right past us and finally, we got good scope looks at a Brush Cuckoo, after having heard it on many occasions and glimpsed it on a couple of others. In the afternoon we visited Lake Paca, near Katana. One of the highlights here was watching an Oriental Hobby for a long period of time. The bird had a favourite perch high in a very tall palm tree; where we enjoyed very good scope views of it. From its favourite perch it would launch itself into midair and start chasing the recently arrived Barn Swallows, who were flying around the edge of the lake. Following one or two near misses, the hobby managed to catch one of the swallows, which it took to its favourite perch and began eating it. We even found new birds for the tour, which included a few Little Grebes on the lake, we watched up to 20 flocks of Red-flanked Lorikeets, all flying in the same direction, presumably to their roosting site. We would have seen up to 200 Red-flanked Lorikeets that afternoon. Once it had got dark, we managed to tape in a splendid Moluccan Scops-Owl, which was a real treat. We also watched a tremendous display of Fireflies, all in one tree, which was lit up like a Christmas tree. Today we also added a new mammal for the tour; I had an Eastern House Mouse in my hotel room that evening!
Our final day in the Tobelo area produced only one new bird, the endemic and attractive Slaty Flycatcher, which we all saw very well. It was time to move on.
Another travel day; we birded our way from Tobelo to Sidangoli, on the island of Halmahera, without adding any new birds to our list. On reaching Sidangoli we did a little birding in the harbour, where we found two new birds for the tour, a solitary Pacific Golden-Plover, in full breeding plumage, as well as a couple of Greater Crested Terns, both of which, were in non-breeding plumage. During the ferry trip from Halmahera to Ternate a solitary Bulwer's Petrel was glimpsed by myself. On our arrival at the port on Ternate Island, we were met by the usual four, four-wheel drive vehicles and sped away to a very comfortable hotel, where we spent the night.
Ternate Island is situated 23 kilometres west of Halmahera; it is only 15 square kilometres in size and is made up entirely of one active volcano, named Gamalama, which is 1,271 metres high. The volcano has three distinct peaks and has been active since the 15th century, the worst eruption occurring in 1763 and stones from Gamalama's eruptions are scattered across the landscape. With smoke billowing out of the volcano we spent the following morning birding at Tolire Lake, a crater lake situated on the side of the volcano. Coconut plantations dominate the lowlands of the island, but the upper reaches of the volcano including the area around Tolire Lake, are cloaked in luxuriant rainforest. We found two new birds here, Ted pointed out a Little Pied Cormorant, which was perched on a branch overhanging the lake, drying out its wings, and a search in the rainforest revealed a recently arrived Arctic Warbler. We then drove to the airport on Ternate for lunch. Unfortunately, we were still in the month of Ramadan, and on this deeply devotedly Muslim island, the only food they would prepare for us was two minute noodles, over which they poured boiling hot water! We then flew to Makassar Airport, in the far south of Sulawesi and as we were taxiing to the airport terminal, we admired two beautiful Woolly-necked Storks, feeding in grassland, along the edge of the runway. We had some time to kill before taking the flight to Palu, in central Sulawesi, so we did some birding around the airport. Somewhat surprisingly, we added no less than four new species to our trip list; these included White-shouldered Triller, Pied Chat, Zitting Cisticola and Pale-headed Munia.
We decided to do some birding in Palu Bay, before commencing the long drive to Lore Lindu National Park. Amongst the many Little Egrets here, we managed to pick out a solitary Grey Plover, which was still in breeding plumage. This is a very uncommon winter visitor and passage migrant, to Sulawesi. On the outskirts of Palu, we made a birding stop in some rice paddies, where we enjoyed good looks at Blue-tailed Bee-eaters and Lemon-bellied White-eyes and a frustratingly small glimpse at a Rusty-breasted Cuckoo. The road to Lore Lindu was very pot-holed, and it was slow going. We broke the long drive with lunch, at a small roadside restaurant, where the food was surprisingly good. We arrived at our lodgings in Lore Lindu National Park by mid-afternoon and then did some birding along the main road in the park. We appreciated the higher altitude at Lore Lindu; it was much cooler here while we were birding and the nights were much cooler, making it easier to sleep. Lore Lindu is the best birding area in the whole of Sulawesi and new birds were plentiful. Small flocks of Yellow-and-green Lorikeets flew overhead, we enjoyed good looks at a few Island Verditer Flycatchers, saw a few Mountain White-eyes, enjoyed a solitary Sulawesi Honeyeater, got to grips with a few Sulawesi Drongos, we very much enjoyed watching the beautiful and endemic Piping Crow and best of all we were very fortunate to find a new species of flycatcher, which has still not been officially described, which is referred to as the Sulawesi Flycatcher.
One of the most sought after birds in Lore Lindu National Park is the Diabolical Nightjar, which was rediscovered in 1998, following a 60 year absence. Nurlin was confident he could find a roosting bird during daylight hours, on the upper stretches of the famous Anaso track. An early morning start was required, so we set off before sunlight to try for another not yet officially described bird, the Cinnabar Boobook. Although the bird responded well to tape playback, we only saw the bird in flight, before it became light. In the early morning light we played tape of the rarely observed and endemic Great Shortwing, to our surprise a female responded by flying into the middle of the road, where we all saw it well. The endemic Sulawesi Thrush was then lured into view and performed well for us and this was followed by a fleeting glimpse of the Sulawesi Blue Flycatcher, a recent split, from Mangrove Blue Flycatcher. One of the features of today's birding was the large clouds of bright blue butterflies that adorned the main road, through the national park. Following a picnic breakfast we started slowly up the Anaso track, the only real access to the moss encrusted montane forests of Lore Lindu National Park. One of the first birds that we encountered was a Barred Honey-buzzard, soaring above the forest, a pair of Red-eared Fruit-Doves then showed amazingly well, even allowing close scope views of them. A mixed species feeding party provided us with two new birds for the trip, Cerulean and Pygmy Cuckoo-shrikes. As good as his word, Nurlin then found a superb Diabolical Nightjar, roosting on the ground, in full daylight. We had now seen the big three birds of the region and we were all delighted. We then walked slowly down the Anaso track and drove back to our lodging for a well deserved lunch and siesta. In the afternoon we enjoyed a leisurely stroll along the main road in the park which produced a trio of new birds, Speckled Boobook, Sulawesi Pygmy Woodpecker and Little Pied Flycatcher. We also saw a couple of Sulawesi Giant Squirrels.
We decided to have an easy day today and just birded along the main road that cuts through the lower section of the park. It was a very productive and enjoyable day, which produced great scope views of a perched Sulawesi Serpent-Eagle, similar scope views of a perched Small Sparrowhawk, a seldom seen denizen of the dense forest, a pair of stunning Blue-fronted Blue-Flycatchers, a delightful Lesser Sulawesi Honeyeater and quick looks at an Ivory-backed Woodswallow. Tremendous shepherding by our local guides enabled us to see very well indeed, the extremely shy and seldom seen Chestnut-backed Bush-Warbler. We also found a solitary adult male Tonkean Macaque and a species of squirrel with no common name, whose scientific name is Prosciurillus topapuensis.
A final morning in Lore Lindu National Park saw us divided into two parties; one party who wanted to climb up the Anaso track once again and those who wanted to bird along the main road. The mountaineers were rewarded with new birds including Yellow-flanked Whistler, Streak-headed Dark-eye and Greater Sulawesi Honeyeater. The lowland group also found the Greater Sulawesi Honeyeater and a new bird for the tour, a Crimson-crowned Flowerpecker. In the late afternoon we combined together, where we enjoyed goods scope views of the Short-tailed Starling.
On the last day of the tour we reluctantly left Lore Lindu National Park and headed back to Palu. We made a birding stop in farmland close to Palu, where we added Red Collared-Dove and roosting Savanna Nightjars, this gave us a grand total of 11 nocturnal birds for the tour. We were then all delighted to enjoy very good scope views of the previously only glimpsed Rusty-breasted Cuckoo. In the middle of the afternoon we enjoyed a quick look at the Palu Shrimp Ponds, where new birds included a recent coloniser to Sulawesi, the Javan Plover, with a supporting cast of Common Redshank, Marsh Sandpiper and Red-necked Stint. In the bay itself, offshore from the Shrimp Ponds we added the last new birds for the tour a Black Kite and an immature Common Tern.
The following day we flew from Palu to Makassar and then onto Manado, where we stayed in a very comfortable hotel. That evening we met up with some of our crew from earlier in the tour, who came to dinner with us, at a superb Chinese restaurant, overlooking the bay. We all let our hair down, completely took over the restaurant and Doris even managed to get me on to the dance floor. We toasted the success of the tour with fine food and a few `cold ones`. We had had a wonderful tour and seen some marvelous birds, including 100 endemic birds, in what has to be one of the worlds most threatened regions, where the wonderful birdlife faces a very uncertain future.