Sumatra, March 27th - April 12th 2002

Published by Surfbirds Admin (surfbirds AT


Gavin McClean (Southampton, UK), Andy Mears (Bath, UK), Paul Pearson (Southampton, UK) and Andy Rhodes (Southampton, UK).

2-centred trip - Way Kambas (4 days) and Mount Kerinci (6 days). Also visited Maura Angke, Jakarta (1 hour only); the Tapan Road, a 2 hour drive from Kerinci (1.5 days and requires a 4-wheel drive vehicle); and the Letter W Waterfall, a 30 minute drive from Kerinci (half a day).

Birding Highlights:

SCHNEIDER'S PITTA Pitta schneideri

Everyone had tickable views of this very elusive endemic at Kerinci. It was most reliable at dawn on the main forest trail, giving tantalisingly brief views. GM managed to get crippling views of a perched female for 20 seconds on one occasion. Very few calling birds were heard. Some were tape responsive & some were not (and one responded but silently, being flushed unexpectedly at very close range).


Good views were had by all after just 2 hours birding at the start of the trip. A calling bird revealed itself from the Way Kambas access track – a truly amazing sight, and without doubt one of the birds of the trip.

GRACEFUL PITTA Pitta venusta

A bird eventually "seen" after calling virtually continuously for 3 hours at the Tapan Road. Did not give good views and was not calling on a return trip 2 days later.

WHITE-WINGD DUCK Cairina scutulata

Possibly bird of the trip after much initial scepticism - after all, it's a duck! Superb views eventually had by all at "Elephant Swamp", Way Kambas after some near misses, and a memorable canoe ride (bailing essential) & leech-infested forest treck in monsoon conditions. White-winged Duck in flight actually looks damned good with a tropical marsh and forked lightning as a backdrop! Two adult birds were seen with notably two ducklings.

STORM'S STORK Ciconia stormi

A last minute hit at Way Kambas as we waited for our transport to pick us up prior to departing the site. Two birds flew down river giving brief but excellent views to all from the Way Kannan clearing.


Seen very well and with relative ease once we'd located the birds' favourite haunt at Kerinci.

BLUE-TAILED TROGON Harpactes reinwardtii

Seen at Kerinci by GM and AR only.

LARGE FROGMOUTH Batrachostomus auritus

Heard several times and seen well twice at Way Kambas, on one occasion perched close giving excellent prolonged views - a fantastic bird. No other frogmouths were seen although we came close with Pale-headed (at Kerinci) and Gould's (Way Kambas), which were both heard calling at close quarters.

SALVADORI'S NIGHTJAR Caprimulgus pulchellus

Seen hawking at the forest edge on two occasions at Kerinci (also heard).

BONAPARTE'S NIGHTJAR Caprimulgus concretus

Seen in flight in the forest on one occasion at Way Kambas, and also heard.


A couple seen and heard at Kerinci.

WRINKLED HORNBILL Aceros corrugatus

Several seen flying over the river at Way Kannan.

GIANT SWIFTLET Hydrochous gigas

Seen easily from the Letter W waterfall near Kerinci.

SUNDA (LESSER) FORKTAIL Enicuruc velatus

Seen well at the Letter W waterfall near Kerinci. Pak Subandi can take you to see these birds.

BLUE-MASKED LEAFBIRD Chloropsis venusta

Seen only poorly from the Tapan Road, and not by everyone.

BUFFY FISH-OWL Ketupa ketupu

One seen well from a boat at Way Kambas but not by everyone.

Over 150 species were seen or heard in total - a relatively low number, which reflects accurately the difficulty of birding these areas.


SIAMANG Hylobates syndactylus

Often very vocal and sometimes seen well in treetops at Way Kambas.

BANDED LANGUR Semnopithecus species

Often seen in the canopy at Kerinci.

VERVET MONKEY (? species)

One species common in riverside trees at Way Kambas.


What was probably this species was seen well at the Kerinci forest edge at dusk. Three feet long and an incredible sight as it glided 80m laterally whilst loosing just 15m in height.

SAMBAR DEER Cervus unicolor

Several seen at Way Kambas.

WILD BOAR Sus scrofa

Common in and around the clearing at Way Kannan (some semi-domesticated?).


A large dark grey civet seen well in the canopy at Kerinci.

STOAT SPECIES Mustela species

A highly distinctive and large species of "tree-stoat" seen well in the forest at Kerinci. Rich red-brown foreparts with white throat and breast and dark brown rear parts.

Notable Misses:

SUMATRAN COCHOA Cochoa beccarii - None seen and our biggest miss, although may have been heard once or twice. It seems that no one has seen this species at Kerinci for some months now. This is probably a reflection of its dependence on fruiting trees coupled with low numbers of birders rather than any population reduction. If there are few suitable trees close to the trail at any one time, these birds are bound to be hard to find. Tracing a calling bird is by far the best hope for a birder.

LONG-BILLED WREN-BABBLER Rimator malacoptilus - None seen or heard at Kerinci.

GREAT ARGUS Argusianus argus - None seen or heard at Kerinci. Heard but not seen at Way Kambas.

SUMATRAN PEACOCK PHEASANT Polyplectron chalcurum - None seen or heard at Kerinci. There is a strong likelihood that the species has been hunted to extinction in the areas surrounding the trail.

RED-BILLED PARTRIDGE Arborophila rubrirostris - None seen or heard at Kerinci but we spent little time at the required altitude.

RUFOUS WOODCOCK Scolopax saturata - None seen or heard at Kerinci despite watching for roding birds.

SUNDA COUCAL Centropus nigrorufus - None seen at Maura Angke during a 1-hour visit.

BANDED AND HOODED PITTAS Pitta guajana/sordida - Notably absent from Way Kambas (not even heard). Were we just unlucky or are they overly secretive at this time of year??

SCOPS OWLS Otus species - None seen.

HORNBILLS Aceros and Buceros species - A few were seen, including Wrinkled, Wreathed and Great, but only one perched bird was observed during the whole trip. None were seen from the potentially productive Tapan Road.

SUMATRAN TIGER Panthera tigris - neither seen nor heard and no tracks noted. Disappointing but maybe just as well!

Accommodation, transport and tips:

We thoroughly recommend the simple bungalow accommodation at the Way Kannan clearing, deep in the Way Kambas national park. Take your own food and water, and be on site for dawn and dusk. That way you'll avoid the horrendous 40-minute drive along the deeply pot-holed access track every day (and your chances of connecting with Storm's Stork are also boosted!). The rangers seemed very happy to cook for us, which they did admirably, and the final bill was minimal. Take a mozy net, plenty of insect repellent and leech-proof socks. The leeches in the forest were voracious during our visit, even forcing us to abandon some of our forest birding.

Allow anything up to 12 hours to travel over land (and sea) from Jakarta to Way Kannan. The ferry seems unpredictable, one crossing taking us 6 hours in total (should be just a 2-hour crossing!). We suspect that a good run could get it down to 8 or perhaps 7 hours if the ferry was quick and the eastern coast road open. If flying to Bandar Lampung, allow a further 2.5 hours to travel over land to Way Kannan.

We also recommend very highly Pak Subandi's home-stay, which is just 50m from the start of the 5km access road to the Kerinci forest, in the village of Keresik Tua. Pak and his family will supply your every need (including transport) at incredibly low prices! A very useful logbook with recent sightings is also kept here (although unfortunately not all visiting birders appear to contribute). For the best chance of seeing Schneider's Pitta, walk the forest trail silently at dawn, scanning as far ahead as possible, preferably on one's own or maybe with one companion. You have a chance of flushing a Pitta onto a low perch or of pushing one along the trail ahead of you, perhaps obtaining brief views before it moves into cover. With a lot of luck, you could spot one far enough ahead to get decent views of it feeding on the trail, something we never quite achieved.

Allow 5 - 6 hours to travel over land from Pedang to Keresik Tua.

Regrettably, we paid little attention to learning any Indonesian before our trip. A few basic phrases would definitely have been of help and we found ourselves having many "elliptical" conversations with the local people. This led to confusion over some transport and food arrangements. Birding Indonesia (see below) includes some basic phrases and these would be well worth learning or transferring onto crib cards prior to a visit.

Essential reading:

Birding Indonesia, Paul Jepson (Periplus, 1997) - can't recommend this highly enough, although one or two details given are now out of date.

A Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo, Sumatra, Java and Bali, John MacKinnon and Karen Phillips (Oxford, 1993) - this allowed us to identify virtually all of the birds we saw.


...and lots more on the web.

Special thanks:

Special thanks are due to AIDAN KELLY for supplying us with invaluable information and advice in planning our trip.