The Kingfishers of Baluran NP

With the large number of kingfishers (8 of 14 kingfisher in Java) in one area (we called “One Stop Birding”), making Baluran more attractive and valuable to visit, especially for birding and bird-photography.

Kingfisher has wide distribution around the world, though concentrated in the Southern Hemisphere continents, the kingfishers are well-known as fish-eaters, but despite their name, most members of this family take a wide variety of vertebrate and invertebrate prey. Characteristics are cartoon include a relatively large head with a long dagger-shaped bill, short legs and weak feet, in which the second and third front toes are fused at the base. Beside the unique it forms, all kingfishers has colorful feathers made this creatures are one of photogenic birds in front of lenses bird-photographer. One example, Alan McFadyen a wildlife photographer from Scotland has spent patience for six years since 2009 (about 4200 hours and produced 720 thousand photos) to get the perfect photo of Common Kingfisher.

At the end of 2016, Heru Fitriadi photographed Ruddy Kingfisher in Baluran National Park for the first time. Heru is local residents who live in the Wonorejo village, directly adjacent to the National Park. Increasingly the number of birds in Baluran National Park added from the record of Ruddy Kingfisher, as well as the number of species of kingfisher. Heru meet this bird in Bama beach while searching for Mangrove Blue Flycatcher. Did not find it, suddenly he saw a red figure perched on a branch that is not too high from the ground. Then he approached the object, and with his camera he took some portraits and eventually knows that a red figure is Ruddy Kingfisher. The next day he revisited the area again but the bird did not appears until today. Besides Ruddy Kingfisher, Baluran National Park has seven others, there are:

1. Collared Kingfisher

The most common Kingfisher on site

Undoubtedly the commonest kingfisher in Indonesia, and probably the whole of south-east Asia, this species is a familiar sight on overhead wires and telegraph poles in cities, towns and other anthropogenic habitats. In Baluran, it is almost annoyingly abundant, occupying every available habitat, although it is rarely seen in the savanna. Its raucous call, usually given from an exposed tree perch, betrays its presence throughout the day. On the coast, at low tide, is often seen perched on isolated rocks or tree stumps on mudflats, habitats shared with the somewhat similar, migratory Sacred Kingfisher.

2. Sacred Kingfisher

Regular kingfisher visitor, Sacred Kingfisher

A breeding resident of Australia, this species migrates north and west during the austral winter to New Guinea and much of Indonesia, including Java and Bali, but only occasionally reaching as far as Sumatra. In Java it is common along the coast from April to September, and in Baluran, is mainly associated with mangrove forests. It typically perches on low branches and aerial roots of mangrove trees, but also often alights on mudflats and sandy beaches, as well as moored boats and poles.

3. Cerulean Kingfisher

The endemic Cerulean or Small-blue Kingfisher

Also called Small Blue Kingfisher, this species is endemic to Indonesia, being found only from Sumatra to Sumbawa. In Baluran, it is common in coastal mangrove forests as well as fish ponds, and is often seen perched low on mangrove stilt roots or on the top of stumps or poles in the middle of ponds, from whence it dives into the water to catch aquatic invertebrates and small fish. In such open habitats, it can also be seen flying from one location to another, like a bullet travelling just above the water surface.

4. Blue-eared Kingfisher

Another small sized kingfisher on site, Blue-eared Kingfisher

This species has the largest geographical range of the local dwarf kingfishers, stretching from India to Sulawesi and Lombok. In Baluran, however, it is not an easy bird to find due to its small population and restricted distribution, apparently limited to the dense littoral forest at Bama and along Bajulmati River. Here it perches unobtrusively on horizontal branches or roots just above the water, periodically plunging into the water to spear small fish, which are then carried to another perch, bashed against the substrate until dead, then swallowed head first.

5. Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher

Eye catchy kingfisher also small sized, Oriental-dwarf Kingfisher

Ranging from Peninsular Malaysia through the Greater Sundas to Sumba, this beautiful species is one of the latest additions to the Baluran checklist. It was first found in Baluran in 2011, when one individual was seen on Curah Uling, a rain-fed river in evergreen forest, and in Manting block coastal forest. This species normally lives in the vicinity of streams and pools within lowland forest, where it feeds on aquatic insects and small fish. As with other dwarf kingfishers, while watching for prey this bird often jerkily bobs its head, while keeping the rest of the body perfectly motionless. As the Rufous-backed Kingfisher hybridizes with the more widely-distributed ‘Black-backed Kingfisher’ in several parts of its range, both are now usually treated as subspecies of a single species, the Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher (C. erithaca).

6. Banded Kingfisher

The only member of its genus, this species is unusual among kingfishers in that the female has a completely different plumage to the male. A denizen of lowland and hill forest, it ranges from Thailand through the Greater Sundas, but is generally rare in Java and entirely absent from Bali. In Baluran, it is possibly the rarest of the kingfishers, having been recorded only from the crater of Mount Baluran. It prefers undisturbed forest with a dense canopy, where it perches at a range of heights, and feeds on various grounddwelling invertebrates and lizards.

7. Javan Kingfisher

The most wanted kingfisher on region

This beautiful and most elusive kingfishers is found only on Java and Bali, yet is surprisingly common in wetlands and fields throughout these islands. Widely-distributed in Baluran, it is easiest to observe in open habitats such as paddy-fields, yet is also occurs in forest with dense canopy such as in the crater of Mount Baluran. Perching on a low branch or at the top of a pole or thatched roof of a pondok (cottage), it swoops down on its prey, which consists of eels, frogs, lizards and large insects (Mason and Jarvis 1989).

Camping and Birding in Ngungap Cliff

On 7 January 2017 my friends and I visited Ngongap cliff for camping and birding. Ngongap cliff is located in District Girisubo, Gunung Kidul regency, Yogyakarta province. Gunung Kidul landscape is hilly, known as the “Gunung Sewu” (Thousand Mountains), as well as the beautiful southern coastal region. Ngungap cliff is not a sandy beach, but a cliff of rock long, directly adjacent to the deep blue sea and the waves were malignant. Around the Ngungap cliff, green hills covered with natural vegetation and teak. Steep cliffs, blue sea and the cool breeze make this wonderful place to fill a vacation while birding.

Because there is no public transportation to the site, we use a motorbike to get there. We decided to set up tents in order not to lose many moments, both observations and the scenery. Departing at 04:00 pm, the trip takes approximately two hours from the city center to get the location. Along the way, on the right and left of the road looks green hills accompany the trip. It incredibly spoils the eyes.

Arriving at the location, we immediately set up tents in a flat spot near the cliffs. Hot coffees accompanied us for chatting and telling stories on cold nights. From a distance, we hear the night birds shout at each other. It seems Sunda Scops Owl has already started looking for prey. There was the sound of other birds that are very familiar, but not a night bird. Soon we had coffee, picked up a camera and started birding. Behind the dense bushes the sound was very loud and clear, over and over. We point the flashlight at the source of the sound, but not visible form and motion, just its sound. The dense bush blocks us to go deeper, finally we await the appearance of the owner of that sound. The sound was like a Red-legged Crake but we’re not sure because we have not seen it. After an hour we waited, and the bird did not appear. Finally, we recorded the sound for later identification.

Fishing activity around the site

The sun was rising on the eastern horizon, a red tinge gradually disappearing. Green Junglefowl heard crowing in the distance. Sooty-headed Bulbul and Yellow-vented Bulbul were seen foraging together near our camp. Our equipment set up and immediately started birding. A hill near our camp where we observed at night, into the first place to explore. From a distance, a flock of Pink-necked Green Pigeons was feeding on a tree. At shrubs below, Island Collared Dove was busy sunbathing and cleaning its feathers. About ten meters to the right, Racket-tailed Treepie foraging noisily. The last two are birds that are not often encountered in Yogyakarta.

Then we move toward a rice field area that is not too wide. We met with Javan Munia, White-capped Munia and Scaly-breasted Munia in considerable numbers, and were eating rice grains that had yellowed. Teak flowers that grow on the edge of rice fields become a favorite place for Olive-backed Sunbird and Scarlet-headed Flowerpecker. Other bird species observed in this area such as Lesser Coucal, Sunda Coucal, Long-tailed Shrike, Common Taylorbird, Plain Prinia, Javan Kingfisher, Collared Kingfisher and more.

After four hours of birding around the rice paddies we went to the cliff edge. Halfway there we met Peregrine Falcon flew past quickly and disappeared behind the hill. Around 10:00 am, we began to observe on the edge of the cliff under the blazing sun. Not long to wait, from a distance White-tailed Tropicbird fly closer to the cliffs to the west of us. These birds use the holes in the cliffs to nest and lay their eggs. It’s not difficult to see this bird, sit on the edge of a cliff while drinking coffee, these birds will be out of the nest hole and fly around the cliffs. The best time to see this bird is in the afternoon when it returns to the nest hole.

These birds will fly quite a long swirled around the cliffs before entering the nest hole. Other birds that use cliff holes for nests are the Black-nest Swiftlet and Edible-nest Swiftlet. Local residents around the coastal region will harvest these bird’s nests every year for sale. These birds also fly around the edges of the cliffs along Cave Swallow, Pacific Swallow, and House Swiflet. We also found Javan Myna and (Indonesian) Spotted Kestrel that were perched on the cliff. Birding closed with the presence of White-bellied Sea-eagle soaring long enough. Landscape and beautiful birds completes unforgettable vacation.

Malang Bird-Photography Trip

I had the opportunity to visit Raden Soerjo Greater Park Forestry, Malang. The area is a mountainous forest on the slopes of Arjuno-Welirang-Anjasmoro mountains. This place is one of the best locations to birding/bird watching and bird photography typical Javan mountain birds I have ever visited. There are two birding sites I’ve visited, Watu Ondo waterfall and hot spring baths Cangar. Visiting this place always makes eyes amazed with the beauty of the landscape and the colorful birds hopping among the leaves.

This second chance to visit the area, I was accompanied by a courtier of Birdpacker, Waskito Kukuh Wibowo, Nurdin Setio Budi, Swiss Winnasis, Ahmad Yanuar, Arif Budiawan and M. Hilmi. Thanks are the highest and lift the cap for those who have guided observation wholeheartedly. For nearly a week of observation, 31 species can be observed very well. Of the 31 species observed, I’ll tell you the highlights from day to day.

Day 1, Monday, December 19, 2016

I arrived at the Watu Ondo waterfall at noon, too bad. Fortunately, my observations at the very special place. Though it was daylight, there were still a lot of birds that could be enjoyed. Flame-fronted Barbet is one bird that is very easily found and photographed on the first day. A kind tree from the family piperacea that was bearing fruit became its favorite food and we can find these birds easily very closely. This bird is one of the endemic birds of Java with the dominant color green, very pretty.

Flocks of Sunda Minivet break my focus while observing and photographing barbets. Dominant orange contrasting strongly with green leaves around, makes it such a beautiful flower that broke-fracturing. This bird is endemic to the highlands of Sumatra and Java, very easy to seen in this place.

Later I was invited to the site, not far from the parking lot Watu Ondo waterfall and its location is easy to reach. After waiting a while, finally a Javan Hawk-eagle appeared and perched on a tall tree. I tried to take pictures with a 400mm lens, but it was still very far to reach.

Not long from the first encounter with the Javan Hawk-eagle, it persistently reappeared. This time perched lower than before. Even had flown right over our heads. Even had flown right over our heads. Finally I succeeded in photographing Javan Hawk-eagles from a short distance. Yeay!

On the first day I was also guided to observe the Mountain Leaftoiler’s nest. The Nests laid on top of the plant that are not too high. Several times the birds were seen carrying food into the nest. Most likely the eggs had already hatched a few days ago and now in parenting by both parents. I succeed in shots when the birds return to the nest.

Day 2, Tuesday, December 20, 2016

I was very lucky because the next night I stayed in the area, so I could birdwatch and photograph birds earlier than before. Luckily the weather was quite bright despite the night it rained. Some birds appear gathered in the courtyard of the pavilion which is filled with grass. Interestingly, among the flocks, there are several Common Myna. Its population in several places in Indonesia is the result of the introduction, mainly from domestic birds loose. Distribution of Common Myna is actually in Afghanistan to Western China, Southeast Asia and the Malay Peninsula.

After breakfast, I continue the observations in the park around the hot spring Cangar. Several kinds of small to medium sized birds such as the Little-pied Flycatcher, Indigo Flycatcher, Blue Nuthatch, Ruddy Cuckoo-dove can be easily found here. Even photographing Ashy Drongo that can be found in the tree behind the public toilet of this hot spring. Similarly, along the small stream close to the hot spring, it could meet with Grey Wagtail and Lesser (Sunda) Forktail.

From the park area I continue observations to the jogging track. Footpath through the woods located behind the hot spring Cangar. The sounds of Lesser Shortwing very loud along the way. However, to observe and photograph it took extra patiences. Besides small size, agile movements, and the color of the body is brown perfect for camouflage in the thick bush.

There are also birds that hide in the bush, but more easily observed and photographed on this path, b. Small-sized brown with white eyebrows can be found easily along the jogging track. The bushes along the track have become a favorite location for hunting small insects or spiders.

Day 3, Wednesday, December 21, 2016

I was accompanied by Waskito and Nurdin to birding in Watu Ondo waterfall. The three main targets are the Pink-headed Fruitdove, Lesser (Sunda) Forktail, and Lesser Shortwing. For the first target, I headed to a large tree that bears fruit.  Waskito and Nurdin said that the tree is visited by a Pink-headed Fruitdove every day. A Pair of Pink-headed Fruitdoves foraging on that tree which the fruits are drying up. Endemic birds to Sumatra and Java, seen very pretty with a head purple and green dominate the body. Flame-fronted Barbet also foraging at the same tree. Combo!

The second target is easier than before. The location right behind the canteen, a small river crossing on the edge of the canteen is a good habitat for Lesser (Sunda) Forktail. We can wait for the birds to arrive while enjoying coffee or tea in the canteen. Camouflage tent did not need to be photographed. We can use the canteen kitchen as a safe place to observing or photograph the birds.

As we were chatting and drinking tea in the canteen, a Pied-Shrike Babbler perched on one of the trees near the canteen. This bird was seen eating a caterpillar. Likewise at the same time, the group of small birds such as Javan Grey-throated White-eye, Blue Nuthatch, Sunda Bulbul, and Sunda Minivet arrive. I get confused about which one should be photographed first.

Although I already saw Lesser Shortwing on the second day, to photograph these birds needs extra effort, patience and being smart. Waskito and Nurdin guide me to photograph Lesser Shortwing in the nest. Incidentally they’ve been monitoring the nest for a few days. I was lucky to have been guided  by them. However, I am only able to photograph these birds while in the nest. I succeeded in getting a few frames before the birds left the nest for food. I was also able to photograph Sunda Warbler.

Day 4, Thursday, December 22, 2016

There are two kinds of birds being targeted on the fourth day, Orange-spotted and Sunda Bulbuls. Although both are easy to find, for 4 days of observation I have not gotten a chance to photograph it from an ideal distance. To fulfill this desire we return to Watu Ondo waterfall.

Shortly after enjoying a coffee in the cafeteria, I heard the sound of Orange-spotted Bulbul and moved to the trees near the parking area, where the birds were singing. Several Orange-spotted-Bulbuls were eating the fruits from that Piperacea’s tree. Finally, I managed to get several frames of these endemic birds.

Next we move towards the bridge Watu Ondo, not far from the waterfall to photograph the Sunda Bulbul. Soon, targets were found. Several Sunda Bulbuls were eating the fruit that was right near the bridge. They were not sensitive to the presence of us who were close enough around less than 10 m from where the bird was eating. Just like the previous target, I succeed to get a photo of Sunda Bulbul.

Malang Bird List (19 – 22 December 2016)

  • Javan Hawk Eagle| Nisaetus bartelsi 
  • Black Eagle | Ictinaetus malayensis 
  • Japanese Sparrowhawk | Accipiter gularis 
  • Ruddy Cuckoo-Dove | Macropygia emiliana 
  • Little cuckoo-dove | Macropygia ruficeps 
  • Pink-Headed Fruit Dove | Ptilinopus porphyreus 
  • Spotted Dove | Streptopelia chinensis 
  • Mountain Tailorbird | Orthotomus cuculatus 
  • Ashy Tailorbird | Orthotomus ruficeps 
  • Sooty-headed Bulbul | Pycnonotus aurigaster 
  • Orange-spotted bulbul | Pycnonotus bimaculatus 
  • Sunda Bulbul | Iole virescens 
  • Javan Bush Warbler | Locustella montis 
  • Sunda Bush-warbler | Cettia vulcania 
  • Lesser shortwing | Brachypteryx leucophrys 
  • Pied Shrike-babbler | Pteruthius flaviscapis 
  • Trilling Shrike-Babbler | Pteruthius aenobarbus 
  • Long-tailed Shrike | Lanius schach 
  • Common Myna | Acridotheres tristis 
  • Indigo Flycatcher | Eumyias indigo 
  • Little Pied Flycatcher | Ficedula westermanni 
  • Snowy-browed Flycatcher | Ficedula hyperythra 
  • Grey Wagtail | Motacilla cinerea 
  • Lesser (Sunda) Forktail | Enicurus velatus 
  • Sunda Minivet | Pericrocotus miniatus 
  • Blue Nuthatch | Sitta azurea 
  • Flame-fronted Barbet | Meglaima armillaris 
  • Ashy Drongo | Dicrurus leucophaeus 
  • Sunda Warbler | Seicercus grammiceps 
  • Javan Grey-throated White-eye | Lophozosterops javanicus 
  • Cave Swiftlet | Collocalia linchi

Menoreh Mountains, Birding in Javanese Traditional Village

Birding in this nice and beautiful scenery of Javanese traditional village, Menoreh mountains provide you a chance to see many lowland birds. The hilly landscape (300–800 meters asl) covered with an agroforestry ecosystem proves to be a good habitat for birds. If you’re in Borobudur, then facing to the south you’ll see the shape of the Menoreh mountains like a figure who sleeps in the mountains. Local residents believe that the figure is Gunadharma, the architect of Borobudur.

Menoreh Mountains are located in the northwest end of Kulon Progo district of Yogyakarta province (borders Central Java province), part of the ridge line east of the zone “oblong domes/ridges”. Birding site in the village Jatimulyo, just about an hour’s drive west of Jogja city (32 km). Also an hour’s drive south of the famous Borobudur (36 km).

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