My wife and I had an interest in visiting this island with its many endemics and contacted Australian Ornithological Services (email@example.com), a tour operator located in Melbourne, Australia, that we have traveled with before with excellent prices and results. The leaders were Phillip Maher (co-owner of AOS) and Phil Gregory (Sicklebill Safaris <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Both are great birders and are very good at finding birds and using tapes when necessary. I highly recommend both of them. The other participants were: Virginia Reynolds (Tennessee), Elaine Pruett (California), Lee Mixon (Chicago), Trevor Ford (Brisbane, Aust.), my wife Dollyann Myers and myself. Our trip was priced from Singapore to Singapore and was inclusive of everything except the usual (alcoholic drinks, personal tips, etc.). Ill do day by day highlights, with a species list at the end, along with some thoughts and recommendations. I hope some of you find it useful. Ive tried to be as accurate as possible, but there will undoubtedly be some errors. They are mine alone. If there are any questions, just ask (email@example.com).
25 April We arrived in Manado, the largest city in the north, around 1 p.m. We got our first taste of the high humidity that was to be with us nearly the whole trip. We were met by the local tour operators who were to be our ground support for the entire trip. This was Metropole Tour and Travel Services (firstname.lastname@example.org also http:www.metropole.co.id). The leader was a man named Boy Sumual. He was very friendly, spoke very good English, and did an outstanding job taking care of all the small details that can ruin a great trip. We had two 8 person vans to transport us around. They worked well for the most part. They had some of that plastic sun shade stuff that people put on windows to help keep out the sun. It wasnt put on quite right and had some wrinkles in it, making it difficult to look out of. We drove to Tangkoko DuaSudara Nature Reserve, taking about 3 hours to get there, as the roads are very rough in places. On the way in we spotted a female Knobbed Hornbill, our first endemic and a real beauty. We were to see this species very often and very well throughout the entire trip. A couple of other species seen briefly by a few of the group were Barred Rail and Barred Buttonquail. Barred Rails were common along this road every time we drove it. One even took a bath in a puddle after we had driven up on it! We arrived at Mama Roos, our lodging for the night, and got our bags into the room. We then went right into the reserve, joined by the local game warden named Freddie. We picked up Green, White-bellied (E), and Silver-tipped (E) Imperial Pigeons and White-rumped Cuckoo-shrike (E) along with some common species as Brown-throated and Olive-backed Sunbirds, Hair-crested Drongo, Slender-billed Crow, Pacific Swallow, Sooty-headed Bulbul, Collared Kingfisher, and Grey-rumped Treeswifts. The purpose of this late night trip into the coastal forest was to catch a glimpse of one of the worlds smallest primates, the Spectral Tarsier. We got great looks at these cuties before they dispersed for the night. What a unique and fascinating animal!
26 April The next morning we spent about 3 hours in a clearing _ mile beyond the entrance to the reserve. It was great and we picked up lots of new birds (being the first full attempt at seeing them). There was a lot of activity the whole time. Highlights were Purple-winged Roller (E), close-up pair of Buff-banded Rails, S. Black Pigeon (E), Ornate Lorikeet (E), Blue-backed Parrot, Large (E) and Small (E) S. Hanging Parrots, Yellow-billed Malkoha (E), Lesser Coucal, Moluccan Swiftlet (E), S. Triller (E), Golden-headed Cisticola, Grosbeak Starling (E, common here), Yellow-sided (E) and Grey-sided (E) Flowerpeckers, Black-fronted White-eye, and Chestnut Munia. Whew! And we hadnt even gotten to the forest yet! Grudgingly we left and went further along a track that parallels the ocean, taking us eventually into the coastal forest. We hiked a trail that went up to higher elevation (it seemed like a lot, but was probably only a few hundred feet in elevation higher). We came across a Green-backed Kingfisher (E), one of the harder forest Kingfishers, and got a great scope look at it. It was the only one we saw on the trip. Further up the trail, Freddie spotted a S. Dwarf Kingfisher (E), another hard to get forest kingfisher. We got it in the scope and were stunned by how exquisitely beautiful it was. It sat for us for more than 10 minutes. We were told a story that James Clements tried for 3 days to see this species and never got it on that try, so it can be a toughie. Other stunners found in this forest patch were a pair of Ashy Woodpeckers (E), a Maleo nest site, but no bird, Brown Cuckoo-dove, Grey-cheeked Green Pigeon (E), Black-naped Fruit Dove (E) on a nest, Sulawesi Babbler (E one of only 2 babblers found east of Wallaces line), and Black-naped Monarch. On the way out of the forest, we came across a troop of about 25 Sulawesi Crested Black Macaques. They were right beside the road and seemed not to care much about us, even though we were within 20 feet or so of some of them. We then left to drive back to Manado, spotting 7 Barred Rails on the road out. We stopped in several places to check for birds and were rewarded with great looks at a S. Serpent-eagle (E), being harassed by a Spotted Kestrel as it soared and called low over our heads. At another stop we picked up a great look at a Yellow-breasted Racquet-tail (E), S. Cicadabird (E), and White-necked Myna (E). All in all, a great day with lots of new birds. Night was spent at the Manado Century Hotel, an air-conditioned relief from the 98% humidity we had at Mama Roos place.
27 April Our next destination was the Palu valley in the center of the island. Our flight didnt leave until 1 p.m., so we went birding in some mangroves near Manado. We were especially trying to see Great-billed Kingfisher (E), but ended up only catching a glimpse of it as it flew across the water. Around the mangroves we added Black Bittern, Common Sandpiper, Common Kingfisher, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Flyeater on the nest (also called Golden-bellied Gerygone), and White-breasted Wood-swallow.
We flew into the town of Palu and were greeted the our "staff" there, led by Royke (Roy) Mananta (email@example.com), who represented UEDATU Tours. UEDATU was contacted by Metropole to lead this central highlands portion of the trip. Roy was a great worker and good guide. He cooked as well. This was his first trip concentrating solely on birds as a guide. He was a quick learner and knows much more about the birds now. Our transportation this time was 3 regular jeeps. They had seats in the back for four, one on each side facing each other. Our trip to the lodge took us through some rice fields so we stopped in one place and spotted Purple Heron and Javan Pond Heron. Then we noticed some seedeaters moving about and after sorting through a nice sized flock we identified Black-faced, Scaly-breasted, Chestnut, and Pale-headed (E) Munias. Some in the group heard an Isabelline Bushhen (E), a bird that we were to chase for a long time before finally getting a good look at. We added Glossy Swiftlet and Lemon-bellied White-eye (E) on the way up the valley to our lodge. After getting off the main road, the road was so rough that we didnt see much the rest of the way. Our lodge was called Kamorora Guesthouse, in the Lore Lindu National Park. I suppose this is about the only accommodation in the area. The lodge is in the highlands (I think about 3,800 feet or so), is owned by the government (I think), and is very basic. There was a generator, so we had electricity until about 11 p.m. The shower was a tiled room, but you had to scoop cold water out of a reservoir and dump it over yourself to take a shower. It wasnt real convenient, but it got the job done. The ladies who cooked for us did a fabulous job, but they were limited with what they could do. Suffice it to say that there was LOTS of rice with every meal, including breakfast. There were usually some mixed vegetables and chicken or fish. We even had young ferns a few times (sort of like greens). They tasted great! The tour company had already bought a couple of cases of bottled water for us to use, so that was never a problem. We heard a S. Masked Owl (E) just before we went to bed, but never could get it to show itself.
28 April This first day we walked behind the guesthouse into the forest. Within a few minutes Roy spotted an Ochre-bellied Boobook (E). We got it in the scope for a super look. The walking here wasnt too hard, and we ran into a couple of feeding parties. Over a period of 5+ hours or so, we added Bay Coucal (E), another pair of Ashy Woodpeckers, Piping Crow (E), Rufous-throated Flycatcher (E), Citrine Flycatcher, Yellow-vented Whistler (E), Sulawesi Crested Myna (E), and Grey-sided Flowerpecker (E).
The afternoon was pretty hot and muggy (as usual), so we relaxed for a couple of hours and kept an eye out for raptors. This worked, as we were able to add Black and Rufous-bellied Eagles soaring in the afternoon heat thermals. We birded the area around the lodge in the late afternoon. We were able to add another S. Serpent-eagle; we again heard, but did not see, the Isabelline Bushhen; Grey-cheeked Green Pigeon (E), 5 Grey-headed Imperial Pigeons (E), Grey Wagtail, and White-shouldered Triller (E). One of the guides also heard Goulds Bronze Cuckoo, but no one ever saw it.
29 April Today was the first real try for the highland species, but we immediately ran into vehicle problems. One of the jeeps had an electrical problem, and it was to follow us for 3 days. We got up to "the logging road", hung a left, and started up the hill with all 8 of us. This area is called Anaso. About _ way up the hill, around the first plateau, we ran into a good feeding flock walking along that portion of the road. Golden-mantled Racquet-tail (E), Pygmy Cuckoo-shrike (E), Mountain Tailorbird, Sulawesi Leaf Warbler (E), Island Verditer Flycatcher, Little Pied, Blue-fronted (E), and Mangrove Blue Flycatchers, Rusty-bellied Fantail (E), Ivory-backed Wood-swallow (E), Scarlet Honeyeater (possible endemic), Crimson-crowned Flowerpecker (E), a few in the group managed brief glimpses of the mouse-like Chestnut-backed Bush-warbler (E), Mountain White-eye, and Streak-headed Dark-eyes (E), were the new species we added here. Phil caught a glimpse of a couple Mountain Serins flying over. We walked down the hill hoping to find the drivers there to take us to a nearby lake for lunch. We didnt find them at the bottom of the hill and walked about 1.5 miles before we found them right where they thought they should be. There was a slight mis-communication here.
After lunch, we walked down a short trail that took us to a lake called Danau Tambine. There we had our first encounters with Pacific Black Duck, Yellow-and-green Lorikeets (E-the only ones for the trip), 5 Malias (E) cavorting around in the understory, Fiery-browed Starlings (E), and Lesser and Greater Sulawesi Honeyeaters (E). On the way back that night, our jeep ran over what Phillip thought was a Reticulated Python of substantial size. We stopped and went back to check on it, but it had already crawled off the road. We never saw it again.
30 April This day was doomed from the beginning, but we managed to see some interesting stuff. Firstly, we had more jeep problems. After shifting passengers around and some gear, we headed off to the very upper reaches of the logging road at Anaso. The worst news was that the weather was clear and the sun shone brightly all day. That pretty much killed birding. We had very few birds the whole day. The guides and a few others had a Spotted Harrier fly over at the top. We did manage to find a Rusty-breasted Cuckoo. We packed all ten of us in one of the jeeps and drove out as far as the road would take us. The habitat was undisturbed except for the road, appeared to me to be ideal for all kinds of high altitude species, but we hardly had a bird. The guides managed to tape up a Great Shortwing (E) and a few of us got glimpses. What a skulker! Out near the end of the road, we had some orchids and a couple of pitcher plants that were incredible. We had just gotten back to the other jeep and supper, when it started to rain by the buckets. Fortunately the drivers had put up a tarp to eat under out of the sun, or in this case, the rain. If we had gotten caught 10 minutes earlier crammed in the jeep, it would have been a real mess. We stopped on the way back to listen for nightbirds, and Phillip found a Sulawesi Scops Owl (E).
1 May It was back to the highlands again. There were still a few birds we hadnt got onto yet. About 5 km past the Tongoa community area (where the local hikers sleep on the road), we ran into a bone fide flock like the ones you hear about. This one was perfect. Enough new birds to keep you mesmerized, but not so many that you miss some. A cooperative Jerdons Baza thrilled all of us for about 20 minutes, as it hunted under the canopy in front of us, oblivious to our presence. A beautiful adult S. Serpent-eagle showed well for all. Brown Cuckoo-dove, Ornate Lorikeets, Large and Small S. Hanging parrots, Blue-backed Parrot, Yellow-billed Malkoha, Purple-winged Rollers, Knobbed Hornbills, Piping Crow, S. Babbler, Flyeater, Mountain Tailorbird, Ashy Woodpeckers, Hair-crested Drongos, Grey-sided Flowerpecker, and White-necked Mynas all made up parts of the flock. Mixed in with all these were new species as Black-billed Koel (E), 5 Sulawesi Dwarf Hornbills (E), and Sulawesi Pygmy Woodpecker (E). All this in about 2 hours! It was great!
After lunch, we went back to the lake Danan Tambine. We spotted a cute pair of Snowy-browed Flycatchers near the start of the trail. The woods that the trail runs through had some nice activity, including noisy, fueding, Malias. We lucked up on a lovely Red-eared fruit Dove (E), the only one we found. Luckily for us, some Fiery-browed Starlings came down to within 20 feet of us at one point. What a ripper! We left the trail and woods and started walking the road. It would rain hard on us every hour or so, but in between we had lots of activity. On the road above the entrance to the lake we added 6 Caerulean Cuckoo-Shrikes (E), 6 Sulawesi Drongos (E), a huge Sulawesi Thrush (E), and Yellow-flanked Whistler (E). A couple of us briefly saw Sombre Pigeon (E) fly across the road. The rains made the road very wet and soaked the surrounding ground. While we were walking up the road birding, I found an earthworm that had an almost glassine/opal appearance to it. Ive never seen a more unique worm anywhere. It was about 8 inches long when contracted and about _ inch in diameter.
That evening, while working our way slowly back to the lodge, we stopped for some birding. The best find came when Trevor Ford found 3 Purple-bearded Bee-eaters. It was getting foggy so the birds colors didnt show well, but it was one of the most wanted birds of the trip. We also added Short-tailed Starlings and some S. Crested Mynas later. What a great birding day. Great looks at virtually every species we had today!
2 May This was to be our last attempt at the high elevation birds. We still had not come across Pied Cuckoo-Shrikes. Theyre supposed to be in the area, but maybe they were molting or something and didnt want to be found. They did a good job, because despite some intense searching, we never saw this species. We were also trying to come up with Mountain Serrins and a few other things. Our first hit was a drop dead scope look at an exquisite Spot-tailed Goshawk. Wow! What a bird! Next up was another try for the Chestnut-backed Bush Warbler. I swear that this bird is actually a rodent! I finally got a countable look, but the bird was never off the ground. Most of us finally got a glimpse. At the logging camp on top, we had a couple more S. Pygmy Woodpeckers, but no Serrins. Phil and Phillip got us into the woods on the hillside and we had another go for the Great Shortwing. This time it was more cooperative and most of us got a good look at it. Now it really got good. As we were walking back down the trail a bit, we came across one of the areas where water has eroded one side of the roadbank. A couple of Purple-bearded Bee-eaters flew across the chasm and landed on a horizontal branch. This time there was no fog, this time they were in full sunlight with green leaves in the background. I thought the scope was going to melt. I dont think anybody in the group said anything for a while. These two were absolutely stunning! They stayed around for 15 minutes or so, when they flew further away, but landed on another exposed branch. They perched, one facing us and one facing away, allowing a perfect comparison look at front and back. We were feeling pretty good by now and had a good lunch. Phillip, in trying to get all of us on the Great Shortwing, never got a great look at it himself. So while we were finishing lunch, he decided to give the shortwings a go with the tape. He came back to the group a few minutes later and asked that we all gather together and follow him. I knew he had found something, because he likes all kinds of critters, not only birds. I expected it to be something like a python in a tree. What he had done was fortuitously chosen a place to enter the woods to try for the shortwing, and inadvertently spooked two Heinrichs (Satanic) Nightjars. One flew away into the woods, but the other had only moved back a few feet and re-landed on another fallen log. We eventually got the scope set up and could see the minute feathers around its eyes! What a fabulous find and what an even more fabulously beautiful bird this was. Now this is the way to see nightjars! We left the bird there after soaking in its "essence" for about 15 minutes. We may have been only the second group to see the male plumage. We think this one was a male. At any rate, this was a great experience.
We were stopping every so often on the highway back to the lodge, birding when we could, when we came across a flycatcher that was pale below, grey/brown on the back, with a splotched upper breast. We think this was what hopes to become Sulawesi Flycatcher. Were not sure if this flycatcher has been given species status, or if its considered Grey-streaked flycatcher. Our final sighting for the day was a great look at an adult Tonkean Macaque.
3 May We spent the last morning in the woods behind the generator. We added a great look at an adult Sulawesi Goshawk (E), again the only one for the trip. We saw lots of birds, but mostly were getting better looks at birds we had already seen. It was nice. Superb Fruit Dove, Black-naped Fruit Doves, 2 more S. Pygmy Woodpeckers, a group of 20+ S. Crested Mynas, Sulawesi and White-shouldered Trillers, Black and Crimson Sunbirds, and Black-naped Orioles were seen. We then went walking on the road that runs in front of the lodge and came across an adult Small Sparrohawk (E), for another great scope look.
4 May - We tried taping for an hour this morning for nightbirds, but all we got were answered calls and no birds. We did hear though, Great Eared Nightjar, Sulawesi Masked Owl (E), Ochre-bellied Boobook, and our nemesis, the Isabelline Bushhen. After walking around the compound grounds, we were headed back for breakfast, when Phil saw the bushhen on the edge of a field of what looked like pepper plants. Some of the group got a decent look before it disappeared into the taller grasses edging the field. After breakfast we headed back to Palu. The drive back was uneventful (thankfully the electrical problem was finally fixed). We stopped for gas in one small community and the drivers bought some gas. They bought it by the gallon bottle, as there are lots of motorcycles in Sulawesi and this is how they mostly buy it away from larger towns. We got back to Manado fine and stayed again at the Century Hotel Manado. Later we found out that there had been an earthquake in the waters off the central part of Sulawesi while we were in the plane flying back to Manado. There was no damage to Manado or the immediate area.
5 May This day was to be a long drive to the Dumoga Bone National Park. It was definitely long, but we stopped a few times and got snacks and some ice cream. The real thriller came in the form of a funeral in a small community on the way to the park. It seems somebody had killed one of the locals the night before in a dispute over something concerning gold mining. The locals were stopping all the cars on the road and getting small donations of money, cigarettes, etc. It was very uncomfortable for a while, but it soon passed and we were allowed to go on unscathed. Before we got to the park, we came across some flooded rice fields and ponds, where we got our best looks yet at Javan Pond Heron (20+), a Beautiful adult Purple Heron, Little and Great Egrets, Cinnamon Bitterns (5), Wandering Whistling Ducks, Sunda Teal, White-browed Crakes, White-breasted Waterhen, Common and Dusky Moorhens, Purple Swamphen, and a few people got glimpses of Sacred Kingfisher.
Our lodge this time was called the Torout Guesthouse (I think also run by the government). The rooms were fine, but I wish there had been a simple ceiling fan. There was no way to get any air moving and with very high humidity, a fan would have been great. They did have full time electricity and hot showers. That was really nice. The food was more of the same, but again very well prepared. We birded for an hour or two before supper and picked up Great Eared Nightjar flying over a small lake below the lodge around sunset. This lake has a couple of large dead trees in the middle of it and they are home to a raucous group of Grosbeak Starlings. On the way to supper, we found the largest and most unusual Rhinoceros Beetle Ive ever seen. After we had supper, Phillip found a Sulawesi Masked Owl (E), perched in a tall tree in front of the lodge area. He stayed long enough for us to see well in the scope. The beds felt pretty good tonight.
6 May Today we were going into the forest, hoping to find some missed species and maybe pick up a few skulkers. First, we had to get there. This necessitated a short (60 feet or so) ride on a raft made of lashed together bamboo poles. Looked good enough to me when 2 of the helpers who were to pull it across were standing on it. The first bunch (5) got flipped into the water. This included both our guides and one tape recorder. We then tried 4 people and it worked fine thereafter. Our first lifer was a bat! One of the guides found it hanging upside down under a palm leaf. Im not sure of the species, but it was spectacular. The birding was slow when Phillip found an Oriental Cuckoo. Shortly after that we found one of our missing birds, the Maroon-chinned Fruit Dove (E). We had great looks at a pair. We had a few things here and there, until one of the guides found another one of our want birds, the Lilac-cheeked Kingfisher (E). We had to move around a bit, but eventually all had a great look. We again spotted a macaque monkey, but this one was the Dumoga Bone Macaque, species nigrescens. We hiked slowly through the forest and didnt have any new birds, but got looks at Bay Coucal (3), Lesser Coucal, Black-naped Fruit Dove, Green Imperial Pigeon, and Knobbed Hornbills. At one rest stop, I noticed a quick movement that I first thought might be a moth, but it turned out to be another great look at S. Dwarf Kingfisher!
We had a few hours in the middle of the hot afternoon to rest, so I wandered out only to find Trevor already by the lake below the lodge. Our walk up and back on the road turned up a small flock of Purple Needletails, a family of Barred Rails, a few Wandering Whistling Duck, Sunda Teal, and a beautiful flock of Chestnut Munias. We also had our best looks yet at Asian Glossy Starlings. We went out after supper and Phillip found a beautiful Sulawesi Scops Owl at point blank range. There were 6+ Great Eared Nightjars over the lake below the lodge at sunset again.
7 May Today was Maleo day, so we drove for about an hour to a place where there are hot springs and the ground is heated from geothermal sources. The Maleo uses the warm soil to lay its egg in a hole about 18 inches deep, cover it up, and walk away never to see the offspring or take part in its upbringing. Phenomenal! We were only there for 10 minutes when we saw a pair. They were far more attractive than the books show them. We also added a poorly plumaged Plaintive Cuckoo at this site. From here we just birded the road for a while. Lots of Wandering Whistling Ducks and Sunda Teal flying about, another Black-billed Koel, and we found another S. Black Pigeon. Up the road a bit we had a flock of 5 Ivory-backed Wood-swallows, our best look yet. Some of the group added Stephans Dove before we went back to the lodge. I sat behind the lodge after lunch for a couple of hours and had my best look at a pair of hornbills. They are something to behold. While I was at the river, Trevor was gripping us off by spotting a Great-billed Kingfisher (E) at the lake below the lodge. The group looked for it later, but we could not re-locate it. We did manage to tic both Yellow and Cinnamon Bitterns on that lake, as well as White-bellied, Green, and Grey-headed Imperial Pigeons and Asian Palm Swifts in the area.
8 May We tried the forest again. The raft trip was again successful and we wound up in a clearing after a short hike. Here we got great looks at S. Dwarf Hornbills and Purple Rollers. Also seen were: Brown Cuckoo-Dove, Superb and Black-naped Fruit Doves, Ornate Lorikeet, Small S. Hanging Parrot, Bay Coucal, Ashy Woodpecker, S. Cicadabird, S. Babbler, and Crimson Sunbird. Trevor caught sight of another Purple-bearded Bee-eater. Our hike back for lunch was a real killer. We slugged our way through the forest, at times not even on a trail. It was a bit tough going. As the first group of "floaters" were making their way across the river, I saw a Great-billed Kingfisher fly up the river and perch. We eventually got everybody across safely and had a great look at the kingfisher in the scope. Just repeats the rest of the day.
9 May Today we drove about 45 minutes to another part of the park that has the highway to Matayangan going through it. The roadside birding here was pretty good. The road is not too busy with periods of no vehicles at all for several minutes at a time. The morning was busy with our best looks yet at S. Black Pigeon, Glossy Swiftlet (below eye level), Yellow-breasted Racquet-tail, Rufous-bellied Eagle, both hanging parrots, and Yellow-sided Flowerpecker. We had been searching in vain for Sulawesi Hawk-eagle the whole trip. I spotted a large raptor perched in a tree at eye level and close. Despite wanting another endemic, the bird turned out, in fact, to be a Barred Honey Buzzard. Purple Needletails were soaring high up in front of the clouds off and on the whole morning, joined lower down by Uniform, Moluccan, and Glossy Swiftlets. Also seen during the morning was a flock of 13 Ivory-backed Wood-swallows. Some of the group saw a raptor fly over and after watching it land, we got the scopes on it and it was finally the Sulawesi Hawk-eagle (E). We were to eventually see several of them in this area during the 2 days we were here. Back to the odge for lunch. We went out in the late afternoon to the ponds and rice fields we birded on the way in to the lodge the first night. We added Red-throated Little Grebe, 2 beautiful soaring Brahminy Kites, Purple Swamphen, and Yellow and Cinnamon Bitterns. Back at the lodge, we had about 4-5 Purple Needletails buzz down close to the lodge, affording great looks.
10 May We returned to the same area the next morning. We were going to bird until lunch and then drive back to Manado. Unfortunately, the birds were very quiet today. About 1030, it rained a bit and we waited it out in the vans. After that, the raptors got going and we had great looks at soaring Rufous-bellied Eagle, Sulawesi Hawk-eagle, Barred Honey Buzzard, and S. Serpent-eagle. We started to have lunch at a roadside when this truck pulled up. Th entire staff at the Torout guesthouse came and brought our last lunch, including cold drinks and chairs. It was a fun sendoff from a hard working staff. During lunch, we managed so identify a distant Drongo Cuckoo and had a stunning view of a Black Sunbird. The drive back to Manado was torturous. We were going around a sharp bend on a busy road, when the lead van pulled off to the side and everybody started getting out. We joined them and it seems that Phillip spotted an Isabelline Bushhen (E) by the side of the road. Even though the traffic was heavy, we actually got a great look at it. We had tried numerous times to tape it out, only to have it call back but not expose itself, and here one is by the side of a busy highway! I love this stuff!
We were staying at a different hotel tonight because we had changed the itinerary to facilitate a boat trip the next day to some small islands in Manado bay for a try at the Nicobar Pigeon and get in a wee bit of snorkeling. The Hotel Santika was beautiful and empty. Once we got our bags in the rooms, we immediately went out on the grounds and Phillip managed to get a Sulawesi Nightjar (E) in the spotlight. Im not sure if the hotel was empty because of the fighting in Halmahera or if it was just a slow night, but it was the nicest place we stayed.
11 May The plan today was to go by boat to Mantehage 1 island, to see if we might find Nicobar Pigeon or Great-billed Parrots. The trip over was devoid of any seabirds, not even a frigatebird. Before we landed we saw 3 Great-billed Kingfishers on the edge of the mangroves. We met up with the village leader and he hiked us through the palm plantations in search of birds. We saw a gorgeous pair of what we thought were Great-billed Parrots, but later proved to be Blue-backed Parrots. Pied Imperial Pigeons were common on the island. The surprise came in the way of a pair of Black Lories. The nearest place this species nests is the very western end of Irian Jaya. After Phil conversed with both David Bishop and Brian Coates after the trip, they determined the birds were probably escapees. Drat! During the morning we also saw about 10 White-rumped Cuckoo-Shrikes. We boated back to another island nearer the mainland and had a nice lunch of freshly caught fish. After lunch we had our all-to-brief snorkeling time, about 45 minutes. Had I known how terrific the snorkeling was here, I would have liked to spend one full day snorkeling alone. It was fabulous and we werent even in the best part of the island! We got back to the hotel around 4 p.m., and the hotel allowed us to use the rooms to take a quick shower to wash off the salt water. Then we left to drive to Tangkoko Reserve again. Right at dusk, the vans came up on a Sulawesi Masked Owl taking a bath in a large mud puddle in the middle of the road. We watched it for about 5 minutes. Super! Ah, back at Mama Roos for the next 2 nights.
12 May The plan was for the local warden Freddie to pull out all the stops and find some of the missing birds we wanted, as Pied Cuckoo-Shrike, Red-backed Thrush, Sulawesi Ground Dove, and with lots of luck, Sulawesi Hawk-cuckoo. Yeah, right! We struck out all around, adding only a single House Swift, a lone Black Kite, and a young White-bellied Sea Eagle on a nest. 2 Yellow-breasted Racquet-tails put on a very interesting vocal display that was fun to hear. Trip best looks for Yellow-billed Malkohas and Stephans Dove were had as well. Nightbirding produced calls from S. Nightjars, S. Scop Owl, and Great Eared nightjars, but no species seen. Freddie had been seeing a Ruddy Kingfisher around the park entrance in the mornings and evenings, but after a thorough search, we failed to find it.
13 May The final morning we were going to get out early and try to see the Ruddy Kingfisher that Freddie had been seeing by the park entrance. We got to the park entrance about 5 a.m. and waited for it to get light enough to see the kingfisher. Freddie finally spotted it and we all briefly got on it until it flushed. Freddie was able to relocate it and we eventually got it in the scope and got crippling views. We had packed up the vans and thought we were finally finished birding in Sulawesi. Not yet! While driving out, Phillip stopped the van he was in and jumped out in time to get us all a brief but good look at a pair of Barred Buttonquails by the side of the road! Not to be outdone, a Barred Rail took a bath in a road puddle right in front of our van. This ended a great trip to a wonderful and unique island. We got back to the Manado airport and flew back to Singapore. I have to say this at this point. When we landed in Singapore, we got through customs and had our bags in about 10 minutes! That had to be some kind of world record! Its the best and most efficient airport Ive ever been in.
Thoughts, opinions and recommendations.
1 Metropole Tours did a great job with the vehicles, logistics, etc. In particular, Boy Sumual, was definitely "the man". There was never a problem he couldnt handle. I highly recommend him if youre planning to try this island by yourself. When we were at Dumoga Bone park, they insisted on carrying our water and offered to help carry the scopes. The intention was there, but the end result is about 13-14 people on the forest trail trying to find birds. It was too many people. The drivers got bored after a short time and joked around with each other and were smoking cinnamon cigarettes. I dont know if it cost us one skulking species or what, but it was annoying at best. We should have made it clear that only the guide (his name was Stefano) and us would be going into the woods.
2 While Im talking about Dumoga Bone Park (now known as Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park), There was active logging going on while we were at the park, just behind the guesthouse. It was disturbing to hear it drone on all day. The only plus thing about it was that they were cutting the boards with a chain saw too, so this slowed down the overall harvest.
3 I would have preferred to spend 2-3 full days at Tangkoko first (not 2 separate trips; the road in is pretty rough). Its a great place and that way you might have a go at the Scaly-breasted Kingfisher (E). It requires camping at higher elevations of the nearby mountain. This can be organized locally by Mama Roos husband or Freddie the warden. They know how to find this species. The best time of the year for this bird is August-November. Speaking only for Freddie, he was very good at locating birds. I highly recommend him. If your target birds are there, he should be able to find them. Dont forget about the Spectral Tarsier here. That was a great experience.
4 Bring earplugs. It seems that every place we stayed had roosters that crowed at 0430 and barking dogs.
5 Food. I thought it was pretty basic. Salt was not automatically on every table. Prepare for lots of rice, fish, and chicken. We made up a "gorp" mix of nuts and dried pineapple pieces to fill in the blanks. Im glad we did because sometimes lunch was not always on time and there were very few snack opportunities.
6 The weather this time of the year was hot and VERY humid. There were chiggars at Tangkoko, so be advised. I thought there would be leeches, but we never saw one. Biting insects were not too bad for the most part. In the higher reaches of Lore Lindu, it rained every day, but we had some great birding between showers. There wasnt much rain elsewhere that we didnt dodge.
7 Lore Lindu Park. Although the lodge was basic and the 20 minute drive on the way out and back in was very rough, this is a great forest. Plan to spend lots of time here. The trees are monstrous, the birds are active, the weather is cooler, and the habitat is still largely intact. UEDATU tours are worth checking out. Roy is the man you want, but pass on a driver named Oscar. Hes a drunk. You will need 4 wheel drive here, if nothing else, just getting from the lodge to the forest. Camping out up on Anaso road would be ideal also. Then you wouldnt have to make the early morning drive and could be up at dawn.
8 Plan at least one full day for snorkeling. Its easy to do from Manado, and this is world class stuff.
9 I like to take along some extra cash and tip the local people that cook and help us. At least that way the money gets directly in the hands of the ones helping to keep this kind of tourism going. I always tip the local guide directly.
10 Go! This was an interesting and different place. Tons of butterflies, majestic forests, magnificent trees, wondrous insects, tiny primates, macaques, bats, orchids, and even though the density seemed low, lots of incredible birds. I hope Im fortunate enough to return some day. I just saw an email that said there were 27 new species discovered in a park in the southeast peninsula of Sulawesi .good enough reason to return!