weblogUpdates.ping Taneak Jang, Rejang Land, Tanah Rejang http://rejang-lebong.blogspot.com Taneak Jang, Rejang land, Tanah Rejang: Bird of Sumatra

Bird of Sumatra

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Leader: James Eaton

Participants: Björn Anderson, Hemme Batjes, Ron Demey,
Peter Los, Rita Swinnen & Stig-Unö Svensson

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'Sumatran' Owlet, Gunung Kerinci © Tour participant Peter Los

Sumatra, Indonesia

21st July – 4th August 2007

A total of 285 species were recorded on this successful two-week tour of Sumatra. We began the tour in the lowland rainforest at Way Kambas, encountering a range of difficult species including particularly memorable encounters with a White-winged Wood-Duck flying into roost at a secluded forested swamp, several Cinnamon-headed Green-Pigeons, dazzling Banded Pittas, all 4 lowland trogons, Rufous-collared and Banded Kingfishers, Malaysian Hawk-Cuckoo and a daytime Bat Hawk. Though night-birding proved hard-work on this occasion we still had wonderful close encounters with Bonaparte’s Nightjar, Large & Gould’s Frogmouths and Sunda Scops-Owl. Flying north to the huge Kerinci-Sablat National Park we started off on the mighty Gunung Kerinci. Here both Schneider’s Pitta and a family of Salvadori’s Pheasant were seen well by all before our first morning session was over and highlights during the remainder of our time included point-blank views of Rajah Scops-Owl, Sumatran Frogmouth, Barred Eagle-Owl, Sumatran Trogon, both Sumatran & Rusty-breasted Wren-babblers, but Sumatran Cochoa was seen by just one lucky soul. Finally, birding the slopes at Bukit Tapan produced a whole range of species as we descended the forested road, with an assortment of endemics including Sumatran Treepie, Sumatran Drongo, 3 species of bulbul (of the 20 recorded on tour), Sumatran and Blue-masked Leafbirds and not least the superb Graceful Pitta performing as hoped. Our final morning produced in excess of 75 hornbills around a huge fruiting tree including over 50 Rhinoceros and the spectacular Helmeted.

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Large Frogmouth, Way Kambas Gould’s Frogmouth, Way Kambas
© Tour participant Peter Los © Tour participant Peter Los

After meeting in Jakarta from various points of the globe the previous evening, we flew over the Sunda Straits early the next morning and swiftly made our way to the south-eastern tip of Sumatra to Way Kambas National Park, one of the few patches of lowland forest left on this huge island. We spent three full days walking along different sections of the forested road that bisects the park, amassing an impressive list of scarce sundaic species. Babblers are abundant in the forest and we were fortunate to encounter a couple of good feeding flocks containing numerous species, including a small group of manic Chestnut-rumped and Black-capped Babblers creeping along the forest floor, and a fine 10-minute scope view of a singing Black-throated (that was still calling from the same spot 20 minutes later!). However the stars were the fine views of displaying Fluffy-backed Tit-babblers, watching them at close range as they inflated their blue throat pouch and raising their ‘fluffy-backs’ while calling profusely to one another. Other species located more by their vocalisations included a Malaysian Hawk-Cuckoo, which joined in the dawn chorus on one morning, as did both Banded and Rufous-collared Kingfishers. Red-bearded Bee-eaters betrayed their presence in a similar manner later in the day, and of course the broadbills were always a constant source of amusement with cracking views of Green, Dusky, Banded and finally a group of Black-and-yellow - a personal favourite. Some of the shyer forest inhabitants put on performances of various quality, in particular the trogons, with all four lowland species encountered, Cinnamon-rumped, Diard’s, Red-naped and Scarlet-rumped. A male Rufous-tailed Shama also showed itself as did a White-rumped Shama, notably less numerous and shyer here compared to the safer havens (from illegal trapping!) of Malaysia’s national parks. Grey-chested Jungle-Flycatcher and Rufous-winged Philentoma made appearances as did the jewel of the forest, two cracking male Banded Pittas. Keeping an eye to the canopy and above; a Bat Hawk - perched in full view - was a nice surprise on our first afternoon; as was a Black-thighed Falconet. Both Wrinkled and Bushy-crested Hornbills put in appearances along with the vocally impressive Black Magpie and Hill Myna. Eight species of woodpecker ranged from the super-cute Rufous Piculet to the gigantic prehistoric-looking White-bellied Woodpecker. Red-crowned and Brown Barbets were often the forerunners in the frugivores families, which included a plethora of Bulbuls, Dark-throated Orioles, Bar-bellied and Lesser Cuckoo-shrikes and Asian Fairy-Bluebirds.
Way Kambas is renowned for its high-density of night-birds and putting in the time reaped some rewards. The notable highlights were the bizarre sounds emanating from a perched Bonaparte’s Nightjar on two evenings - we were even able to scope this bird, the rarest nightjar in south-east Asia - while Malaysian Eared hawked overhead, and ridiculously close views of Gould’s Frogmouth as it flew into our view without the use of playback! The huge Large Frogmouth, having been unusually quiet during our stay, eventually put on a performance of almost equal quality, but a Sunda Frogmouth remained as a heard-only despite the many man hours put in to finding this canopy dwelling species! Owls were particularly quiet, with just Brown Boobook and Sunda Scops-Owl putting in appearances, though they did show very, very well!
Working our way through a network of forested channels in our little boats we reached a remote swamp one evening, while waiting for our prime target we enjoyed the general wildlife. Wild Pig and Sambar Deer grazed in the open grass as Cinnamon-headed Green-Pigeons sat on exposed branches opposite our viewpoint. Just as dusk began to fall we heard the distinctive ‘honking’ of the White-winged Wood-Duck. Turning to our left we were treated to amazingly close views as the white-headed male headed straight for us before banking left and circling the swamp. Later we heard another duck and found it sat 50 metres up in a distant tree! A memorable experience, that will linger long in the minds of everyone present.
Other species recorded during our stay here included Banded Bay and Plaintive Cuckoo, Lesser Adjutant, a frustratingly brief Storm’s Stork overhead, Crested Goshawk, Red Junglefowl, Crested Fireback, Little, Pink-necked and Thick-billed Green-Pigeons, Blue-rumped Parrot, Blue-crowned Hanging-Parrot, 4 sp of malkoha, Silver-rumped Needletail, Grey-rumped and Whiskered Treeswifts, Blue-eared and brief Rufous-backed Kingfishers, Fiery Minivet, Red-throated Sunbird, Yellow-breasted and Yellow-vented Flowerpeckers and Slender-billed Crow. An ever-present feature of this forest is the high-density of mammals. We had several wonderful encounters with Siamang at close-range, and it was nice just sitting back and listening to their vocalisations. Beautifully patterned Prevost’s Squirrels, a Leopard Cat in our spotlight, as was a Red Giant Flying-Squirrel even gliding in the spotlight. Though most frustratingly a Clouded Leopard was spotted too late crossing the road by the leader, as everyone else was looking the other way watching Black-winged Flycatcher-shrikes!

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Scarlet-rumped Trogon, Way Kambas Cinammon-headed Green-Pigeons
© Tour participant Peter Los © James Eaton/Birdtour Asia

Bidding farewell to this bird-filled forest we connected with our flight back to Jakarta, then after a lunch and some nearby birding which produced Scarlet-headed Flowerpecker, Small Blue Kingfisher, Island Collared Dove and Javan Pond-Heron, we flew back to Sumatra (nothing is simple in Indonesia!), but this time to Padang, situated halfway up on the west coast, in preparation for the following day.
After a comfortable nights stay in Padang we drove south-east along the Barisan Range into the massive Kerinci-Sablat National Park until we reached our friendly homestay for a late lunch at the base of Mt Kerinci, famed as the endemic hotspot of Sumatra. As expected, birding was typically hard going at times and we really had to work hard for our birds. Our first afternoon was a predominately rain-soaked one. Though when a Sun bear crossed the trail in front of us, slowly walking away despite our presence, we didn’t mind so much, and we followed this with a family of Salvadori’s Pheasants including 6 tiny chicks appearing right in front of us before slowly walking away allowing everyone a view of the male. It isn’t normally this easy, but this was our first of three sightings of this species!
Our first morning on the trail proved an eventful one, with a fine run of species early on. First a Salvadori’s Nightjar fluttered back and forth overhead, and shortly after a splendid Sumatran Frogmouth gave us a full-frontal, showing off his obscure mouth-filled face, complete with inch long bristles scattered all over his face! Frustratingly we were overtaken by two groups of independent birders while admiring this beauty, thwarting our chances of searching for the highly elusive Schneider’s Pitta along the trail, or so we thought……for once we began our walk our third bird of the day was spotted perched on a diagonal branch. Before dropping to a more convenient horizontal branch for us all to admire – a dazzling blue-backed male Schneider’s Pitta! Now with two of Kerinci’s most elusive species under our belts we were able to enjoy the birding more. We had four full days walking up and down the narrow summit trail, which at times can be rather monotonous, but we scored with at least one gem each day. The next hoped for species was scope views of a large party of Sumatran Green-Pigeons, busy feeding on ripened fruit overhead. After appearing as mere shapes through the binoculars on our first afternoon, these birds would remain throughout our stay. Rusty-breasted Wren-babbler, the finest songster on the mountain, duetted ‘hot, wet, tea’ at varying frequencies at point-blank range, though the pair of Sumatran Wren-babblers stole the show with their fine performance; sitting on exposed branches above the dense undergrowth until we walked away. The understory also played host to other sought after species; Sunda Blue-Robin regularly presented themselves in front of us, as did a pair of feisty Spot-necked Babblers. Above the understory, regular feeding flocks were splashed with colour by charming Sunda Minivets and cute Sunda Warblers. Quieter inhabitants of the mid-story included a fine male Sumatran Whistling-thrush along with the much more numerous Shiny Whistling-thrushes, Rufous-vented Niltava and, eventually, clown-like Sumatran Trogons. Disappointingly only Björn sighted the rarely-seen Sumatran Cochoa during his marathon like sprint up the mountain on the final morning, a singing immature male, along with a brief Pink-headed Fruit-Dove, a species the rest of us would connect with on Java. Owls were much more co-operative on Kerinci than Way Kambas. Our night-time excursion proved fruitful with stunning point-blank looks at two Rajah Scops-Owls and as dawn approached Dusky Woodcocks rode overhead, appearing as shapes in our strong spotlight. Fortunately we were able to locate a vocal Barred Eagle-Owl perched overhead one morning, and we encountered a fresh-faced juvenile ‘Sumatran’ Owlet twice high-up the trail. This taxon, peritum, is vocally distinct from the rest of the Collared Owlets across Asia and is probably best treated as a distinct species.

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Rajah Scops-Owl, Gunung Kerinci Rufous-chested Flycatcher, Bukit Tapan
© Tour participant Peter Los © Tour participant Peter Los

A side-trip one afternoon took us to a nearby waterfall where we didn’t have to wait long for our targets to arrive. First the little-known Giant Swiftlet, shortly followed by a cute Sunda Forktail along with another male Sumatran Whistling-thrush. A brief stop heading back to Kerinci produced our first White-headed Munia of the tour. Other species recorded on Kerinci included Blyth’s and Changeable Hawk-Eagles, Wedge-tailed Green-Pigeon, Rusty-breasted Cuckoo, Barn Owl, Wreathed Hornbill, confiding Lesser and White-browed Shortwings (the latter of yet another vocally distinct taxon), Sunda Bush-Warbler, Mountain Leaf-Warbler (watch out for this species being split-up!), Indigo Flycatcher, Large Niltava, Blue Nuthatch, Eye-browed and Pygmy Wren-babblers, Temminck’s Sunbird and Mountain White-eye.
Moving to the bustling town of Sungai Penuh, our base for the next three-nights, we were able to bird along the road that bisects the forested hillside on Bukit Tapan. Our 2 ½ days birding here was highly enjoyable as we walked down from the pass at 1250m to 450m a.s.l., noticing the change in avifauna as we descended the mountain. Starting off near the top, Sumatran Treepie appeared at regular intervals, usually betrayed by their distinctive amusing vocalisations. Our next endemic was Cream-striped Bulbul, then a beautiful pair of Blue-masked Leafbirds in a busy feeding flock that contained the equally stunning Long-tailed Broadbill. A flock of confiding Sumatran Bulbuls (distinct from Javan Bulbul previously under the collective name of ‘Sunda Bulbul’) were followed by Sumatran Drongo, Sumatran Leafbirds (previously lumped with Golden-fronted), Spot-necked Bulbul and, having crept into a damp, dark gulley, a pair of Graceful Pitta - easily spotted by their dazzling red bellies seemingly glowing in the dense undergrowth. One bird put on a particularly fine performance as it fed literally under our noses, running towards us and picking at the worms before singing from nearby perches, superb! We would later observe a recently-fledged juvenile in another gulley while looking for Marbled Wren-babblers. The general number of birds is a joy to behold. Walking further down the slope a large feeding flock contained Crested Jay (here of the distinctive brown plumaged, shorter, crested taxon shared with Borneo), a species we would obtain stunning views of as it performed its ‘machine-gun’ call directly at us, Common Green-Magpie, numbers of Black and Chestnut-capped Laughingthrushes with Fire-tufted Barbets again proving numerous. Frustratingly despite hearing Marbled Wren-babblers on three occasions they would only show themselves to some of us in a damp gulley. Sharing the gullies were a confiding male Rufous-chested and a pair of Rufous-browed Flycatchers along with Fulvous-chested Jungle-Flycatchers.
As we ventured further and further down the hill a variety of sundaic bulbuls became more conspicuous. Grey-bellied being noticeably common and eventually so did Scaly-breasted; one of the few bulbul species adding a splash of colour to the flowering trees! The flowering and fruiting trees lower down provided most of the birdlife and not just bulbuls. Flowerpeckers were represented by Crimson-breasted and aggressive Orange-bellied. Plain Sunbirds were common and a fine male Red-throated Sunbird was a surprise, with its green mantle and red wings glowing in the mid-morning sunshine. To round off the tour in style we came across a huge fruiting tree across the valley, packed full of hornbills. Over 80 individuals must have been present, predominately Rhinoceros, though this included fine close views of the more impressive Helmeted. A whole range of other species worth highlighting were recorded along this single stretch of road; including Whiskered Treeswift, Sumatran Trogon, Bushy-crested and Wreathed Hornbills, comic Long-tailed Broadbills, Sunda Cuckoo-shrike, Streaked and Cinereous Bulbuls, Hill Prinia, Horsfield’s and Rufous-fronted Babblers, Brown Fulvetta and both Grey-breasted and Thick-billed Spiderhunters.

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