Woodpeckers Trip Report September 2017

During 6 days (06 – 11 September 2017) we had a trip looking for three species of woodpeckers around Malang, East Java with Gerard Gorman (authors of Woodpecker of the World the complete guide). This was our first specific trip focused on a separated population of Freckle-breasted Woodpecker, Javan endemic Javan Flameback and Grey-and-Buff “Lilliput” Woodpecker.

On day one, we met at the Juanda International Airport (Surabaya, East Java) around 11.30 AM and headed to Wonorejo Wetland. After walking for 300 meters around the fish-pond we managed the first target, one group-family of Freckle-breasted Woodpeckers. We tried to observe the behavior.

At least we saw two families and managed to take photographs. After that, we changed direction to Malang for the hotel and managed for the rest of the targets.

In the next morning, we began observing at several sites of Tahura R. Soeryo for Javan Flameback. At 05.30 AM we tried to call the bird until one hour later we did not hear and see any responses. So we moved to the next site.

At Watu Ondo waterfall, we waited near a half dead tree. Unfortunately the birding was low, almost quiet. After lunch we moved to Cangar for the same target. The condition was the same as before until the next day. . We didn’t want to waste more time. We finished birding here and heading to Kondang Merak on that day.

Estuary of Kondang Merak

Kondang Merak is located in southern Malang. Here is where the last of the natural lowland rain-forest of Malang still remains. In Kondang Merak, September 08, we will take a couple of nights at home-stay near the beach. Birding will start in the early morning around homestay. Grey-and-Buff Woodpecker and Javan Flameback are our main purposes here.

We must take a fast move, to play the bird calls was the best way to attract them to show up. Sadly we just saw a flash moment of the lilliput. This might be the birds on breeding periods so were not active with calls. We tried in other spots and gave the same poor result.

Until September 10 the birding was tough for us, in the afternoon we drove out to the border of the forest. We called Crimson-winged Woodpecker, and then Afwan saw a silhouette of a woodpecker on a dead palm tree. We were surprised that the woodpecker was a female Javan Flameback, and then the birds flew to another dead palm tree which had many holes.

At that moment we saw a female feeding the chick (Me and Afwan) and male perched on the top of the next dead palm tree. The female flew followed by male. We waited for four hours and they did not show up again. We went back to the home-stay and tried it the next morning.

Woodpecker holes on Dead Palm tree

At 05.00 AM we arrived at the same location as yesterday. While waiting, we played the call of Javan Flameback and Rufous Woodpecker. For a half hour the Javan Flameback finally showed up. A single Rufous Woodpecker came to the Ficus tree near us followed by two other ones.

We enjoyed the behavior, sometimes the birds reacted with the call by ‘drumming’. It’s quite difficult to get a photo because it was always hindered by the leaves. At 07.45 AM the birds flew one by one and left from our scope.

Although birding was low and tough, we finally managed to see four species of woodpeckers, three of which were targets. We drove for five hours to the hotel near Juanda international airport, the next day our Gerard will continue the search for woodpeckers in Sulawesi and Sumatra. Good Luck!

Participant: Waskito Kukuh Wibowo, Gerard Gorman & Afwan Fitria

Additional: On September 17, 2017 I and a few friends revisited Kondang Merak to document the Javan Flameback in the nest tree. Arriving at around 03:15 PM we direct/heading to the nest tree. A few minutes later, no bird activity was observed. I initiated to approach the nest tree to ensure the existence of the bird. We clearly saw the nest-hole of the Javan Flameback. Most likely the young bird has fledged out. Next we headed to the home-stay for staying at night. The next morning we tried to find Gray-and-Buff Woodpecker and Javan Flameback around the home-stay and Jungle Trek.

From 6:30 to 9:00 AM our first trail failed to get the woodpeckers around the home-stay, then we moved to the jungle track. We walked and stopped at some point to play the calls and listen to the respond from the woodpecker. Until we reached the end of the jungle track we heard it was pecking. Soon we scoped the sound source.

Finally we managed to see three Javan Flameback (two males and one female) in one tree. The adults were taking care of the juvenile with a pale red crown. The group was most likely a different family from the other one. We saw their nest in the dead palm trees with a female juvenile.

Systematic List:

1. Anas gibberifrons | Sunda Teal

2. Tachybaptus novaehollandiae | Australasian Grebe

3. Spilopelia chinensis | Spotted Dove

4. Geopelia striata | Zebra Dove

5. Treron griseicauda | Grey-cheeked Green-pigeon

6. Collocalia linchi | Cave Swiftlet

7. Centropus nigrorufus | Javan Coucal

8. Zanclostomus javanicus | Red-billed Malkoha

9. Bubulcus ibis | Cattle Egret

10. Ardea purpurea | Purple Heron

11. Egretta garzetta | Little Egret

12. Charadrius dubius | Little Ringed Plover

13. Charadrius javanicus | Javan Plover

14. Calidris ruficollis | Red-necked Stint

15. Actitis hypoleucos | Common Sandpiper

16. Tringa glareola | Wood Sandpiper

17. Sternula albifrons | Little Tern

18. Spilornis cheela | Crested Serpent-eagle

19. Nisaetus bartelsi | Javan Hawk-eagle

20. Merops philippinus | Blue-tailed Bee-eater

21. Alcedo coerulescens | Cerulean Kingfisher

22. Halcyon cyanoventris | Javan Kingfisher

23. Todiramphus chloris | Collared Kingfisher

24. Psilopogon australis | Yellow-eared Barbet

25. Psilopogon javensis | Black-banded Barbet 26. Psilopogon armillaris | Flame-fronted Barbet

27. Hemicircus concretus | Grey-and-Buff “Liliput” Woodpecker

28. Chrysocolaptes strictus | Javan Flameback

29. Micropternus brachyurus | Rufous Woodpecker

30. Dendrocopos analis | Freckle-breasted Woodpecker

31. Gerygone sulphurea | Golden-bellied Gerygone

32. Pteruthius flaviscapis | Pied Shrike-babbler

33. Pericrocotus miniatus | Sunda Minivet

34. Aegithina tiphia | Common Iora | Heard Only

35. Rhipidura javanica | Sunda Pied Fantail

36. Dicrurus leucophaeus | Ashy Drongo

37. Lanius schach | Long-tailed Shrike

38. Harpactes oreskios | Orange-breasted Trogon

39. Cisticola juncidis | Zitting Cisticola

40. Prinia inornata | Plain Prinia

41. Orthotomus sutorius | Common Tailorbird | Heard Only

42. Hirundo javanica | House Swallow

43. Ixos virescens | Javan Bulbu

44. Pycnonotus dispar | Ruby-throated Bulbul

45. Pycnonotus aurigaster | Sooty-headed Bulbul

46. Pycnonotus bimaculatus | Orange-spotted Bulbul

47. Pycnonotus goiavier | Yellow-vented Bulbul

48. Heleia javanica | Javan Grey-throated White-eye

49. Malacocincla sepiaria | Horsfield’s Babbler | Heard Only

50. Sitta azurea | Blue Nuthatch

51. Eumyias indigo | Indigo Flycatcher

52. Enicurus velatus | Sunda Forktail

53. Enicurus leschenaulti | White-crowned Forktail

54. Ficedula westermanni | Little Pied Flycatcher

55. Arachnothera affinis Streaky-breasted Spiderhunter | Heard Only

56. Lonchura leucogastroides | Javan Munia

57. Passer montanus | Eurasian Tree Sparrow


1. Trachypithecus auratus | Javan Leaf Monkey

2. Callosciurus notatus | Plantain squirrel


1. Varanus salvator bivittatus | Asian Water Monitor

New Birding Site on Sumba Island DISCOVERED!

Only Sumba Buttonquail Turnix everetti and Mees’s Nightjar Caprimulgus meesi were not seen through our binoculars or lenses during the 9 days we were in Sumba. Sumba is an island in southern Indonesia, rich in various ikat weavings, vast grasslands, a strong ethnic culture and an endless list of interesting spectacles for tourists to enjoy. We came here looking for new birding spots to see the island’s endemic birds.

Depart from Juanda International Airport and transit briefly at Ngurah Rai International Airport and arrive at Umbu Mehang Kunda Airport, Waingapu, East Sumba Regency at 11:40 on 17 August. From 18 August to 22 August 2017 we attended the 2017 Birding and Photo Competition held by Manupeu Tana Daru & Laiwangi Wanggameti NP at Praingkareha resort in Billa Village, which was attended by about 55 participants from many regions in Indonesia. After the event was over, we stayed for the next 3 days and nights to watch and take documentation of the birds.

The day before the competition started, we went to Lambanapu village, 7 Km south of Waingapu for a short birding. We met with Pak Kornelis, a woven ikat craftsman who still practices in the traditional style using natural dyes. He kindly let us, with permission, go birding in his garden and rice fields, only 300 meters from his house.

Ikat weaver of Lambanapu village, East Sumba

His garden area contained many plants including Tamarind, Morinda, Kapok Randu, Indigo. We were accompanied by two teenagers, who acted as our guides. For nearly two years, the boys have been diligently documenting the local biodiversity including birds around the Village, so they are well aware of the birds that live there.

Around big Tamarind tree we observed Arafura Fantail, Broad-billed Flycatcher, Indonesian Honeyeater, Sumba Flowerpecker, Thick-billed Flowerpecker, Ashy-bellied White-eye and our main target Asian “Nusa Tenggara” Paradise-flycatcher.
Around 15:00 we continued observations from the edge of the paddy fields that were filled with shrubs along the banks of the river. We saw Pale-headed Munia, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Scaly-breasted Munia, Pied Bush-chat, Paddyfield Pipit, Brahminy Kite and at the end of the session a few flocks of “Timor” Zebra Finch.

That night we stayed at Waingapu then on the following day along with the participants, we left for Billa using local public transport called OTO. OTO is a truck modified in such a way as to transport humans, agricultural produce and even livestock!. It was an epic form of public transportation!

The trip from Waingapu to Billa (110 km to the south) took 4 hours , including about 1.5 hours of fine asphalt road, and numerous stops along the famous Wairinding hill, and several other interesting locations to enjoy views of the picturesque Sumba landscape. The rest of the journey (2.5 hours) was along an ugly 1980s asphalt road that wasn’t in good condition at all, making the ride very bumpy and uncomfortable.

We finally arrived at Praingkareha resort, Billa Village at 15:00, and headed to a river that still runs as a small stream, with some puddles at the end of the dry season. Along the river various kinds of trees grow, the fallen leaves scattered on the rocky bottom, yet the water still flows over them.

During our stay (until 25 August 2017) the river was an ideal place to search for endemic and resident birds.

Birds that we met here such as:

Endemic Chestnut-backed Thrush , which can be found every day, sometimes perched on a branch above the river or looking for insects behind leaves and near puddles. Orange-footed Scrubfowl scavenged busily on the ground oblivious of us despite being in plain sight, from morning to afternoon. Mixed flocks of Spectacled Monarch, Arafura Fantail, Broad-billed Flycatcher often visit the river in the afternoon to bathe or drink. They all got very close to us , all the better to take photographs.

Clear view of Chestnut-backed Thrush

Sumba Brown Flycatcher, Sumba Flycatcher, Sumba Warbler (Jungle)-Flycatcher visited one by one, to perch on small branches and swoop down to catch their prey or simply wait silently on stones.

Sumba Flowerpecker were also seen eating tiny yellow fruits that grow on riverside plants. In the undergrowth, at least two individuals of Elegant Pitta were heard but trickier to catch a glimpse. Little Cuckoo-dove and Asian “Gray-capped” Emerald Dove would appear at the edges of the river to drink, and above female Pale-shouldered “Sumba” Cicadabird move from branch to branch.

We found a big dry tree that in the morning hosted many species such as Great-billed Parrot, Sumba Green-pigeon, Marigold Lorikeet, Green Imperial Pigeon, the endemic race of Yellow ‘Citron”-crested Cockatoo, Red-naped Fruit-dove and even Sumba Hornbill.

The smaller branches were observed being picked by Red-naped Fruit-dove for material to construct their nests.

Jewelry Sumba forest, Red-naped Fruit-dove | Ptilinopus doherty

We visited the Laibola hill on 20 August 2017 at around 06.00, from this location one we enjoyed a beautiful panorama of the landscape around Praingkareha resort. As the sun slowly rose the birds began actively seeking perches, and we managed to see several pairs of Electus Parrot, Red-cheeked Parrot, dozens of Slender-billed Crow and around 40 Sumba Hornbills.

Flock of Sumba Hornbills | Rhyticeros everetti from Laibola hill

Below the hill there is a forest patch, great for seeing Cinnamon Banded Kingfisher especially in the morning before 09:00 this bird can be easily located from their chirping, and seen perched quite low. From this vantage point, it is easy to find Sumba Myzomela, Apricot-breasted Sunbird, Wallacean Drongo, Ashy-bellied White-eye, Yellow-spectacled White-eye, Black-naped Fruit-dove, Helmeted Friarbird, Rusty-breasted Whistler, Short-tailed Starling. Along the forest patch we heard Elegant Pitta calling one to the other.

During our last three days in Billa, especially in the evening, we focused on finding two endemic species of boobooks. We found one only 400 meters from the camping ground, using playback techniques to discover a pair of Greater Sumba Boobook.

Couples of Greater Sumba Boobook

On the final night after observing the Greater Sumba Boobook, we searched for Little Sumba “Least” Boobook. After walking about 3 Km from the camping ground we stopped in a vast grassland, started calling, and scoped around the area. At the far end of grassland in the middle of a tree trunk, we finally saw one individual. We tried to get as close as we could and managed to get a photograph.

The bird flew into the forest so we had to follow it in, looking for the elusive critter. Surprisingly, we soon heard at least fours individuals, managing to get clear and short views better than before. At 23:30 we finished owling, and set off back to the camp.

Little Sumba "Least" Boobook

On the last day prior to Waingapu, we returned to the river. We waited on the other side of the almost dry pool, when at 08:00 an Elegant Pitta, which is usually only heard, came down from behind a bush.

The gorgeous bird started flipping leaf litter with its bill while hopping to the nearest pool. We did not stop pressing the camera shutter while sitting as still as we could behind some rocks. Finally, the bird perched on the highest rock, and in that moment we were amazed at the blend of colour all over its body.

Although we were only in Sumba for 9 days, and only visited two locations we successfully managed to spot 19 endemic species, and 43 resident species, missing only Sumba Buttonquail and Mees’s Nightjar. Although, according to the park ranger, these Lesser Sunda endemics are also present on Billa.

The bird of the last day in Billa, Elegant Pitta

We were amazed by Billa, a place to see almost all endemic Sumba by just sitting waiting by the river, or simply walking around the camp area. We called it One Stop Birding Site, the best place to photograph almost all the endemics! Hopefully we will go to Sumba again to complete the endemic list, and explore more, anyone want to join? Feel free to contact us via e-mail for information about the site and organising a tour.

Sumba Birds List (18 – 25 August 2017)

  • Orange-footed Scrubfowl | Megapodius reinwardt reinwardt
  • Green Junglefowl | Gallus varius | Heard Only
  • Eastern Spotted Dove | Spilopelia chinensis
  • Little Cuckoo-dove | Macropygia ruficepsorientalis
  • Barred Dove | Geopelia maugeus
  • Asian “Grey-capped” Emerald Dove | Chalcophaps indicaindica
  • Sumba Green-pigeon | Treron teysmannii
  • Green Imperial-pigeon | Ducula aeneapolia
  • Black-naped Fruit-dove | Ptilinopus melanospilus melanauchen
  • Red-naped Fruit-dove | Ptilinopus dohertyi
  • Savanna Nightjar | Caprimulgus affinis
  • Glossy Swiftlet | Collocalia esculenta sumbawae
  • Australian “Brush” Cuckoo | Cacomantis variolosus | Heard Only
  • Common Barn-owl | Tyto alba sumbaensis | Heard Only
  • Sumba Boobook | Ninox rudolfi
  • Least Boobook | Ninox sumbaensis
  • Oriental Honey-buzzard | Pernis ptilorhynchus orientalis
  • Brown Goshawk | Accipiter fasciatus tjendanea
  • Brahminy Kite | Haliastur indus intermedius
  • Spotted Kestrel | Falco moluccensis microbalia
  • Sumba Hornbill | Rhyticeros everetti
  • Blue-tailed Bee-eater | Merops philippinus
  • Oriental Dwarf-kingfisher | Ceyx erithaca rufidorsa
  • Common Kingfisher | Alcedo atthis floresiana
  • Collared Kingfisher | Todiramphus chloris chloris
  • Cinnamon-banded Kingfisher | Todiramphus australasia australasia
  • Yellow “Orange/Citron”-crested Cockatoo | Cacatua [sulphurea] citrinocristata
  • Marigold Lorikeet | Trichoglossus capistratusfortis
  • Eclectus Parrot | Eclectus roratuscornelia
  • Red-cheeked Parrot | Geoffroyus geoffroyi floresianus
  • Great-billed Parrot | Tanygnathus megalorynchos sumbensis
  • Elegant Pitta | Pitta elegans maria
  • Indonesian Honeyeater | Lichmera limbata
  • Helmeted Friarbird | Philemon buceroides neglectus
  • Sumba Myzomela | Myzomela dammermani
  • Rusty-breasted Whistler | Pachycephala fulvotincta fulviventris
  • Pale-shouldered (Sumba) Cicadabird | Coracina dohertyi
  • White-shouldered Triller | Lalage sueurii
  • Arafura Fantail | Rhipidura dryas sumbensis
  • Wallacean Drongo | Dicrurus densus sumbae
  • Broad-billed Flycatcher | Myiagra ruficollis ruficollis
  • Spectacled Monarch | Symposiachrus trivirgatus trivirgatus
  • Slender-billed Crow | Corvus enca
  • Large-billed Crow | Corvus macrorhynchos
  • Olive-backed Tailorbird | Orthotomus sepium | Heard Only
  • Yellow-spectacled White-eye | Heleia wallacei
  • Ashy-bellied White-eye | Zosterops citrinella
  • Short-tailed Starling | Aplonis minor
  • Chestnut-backed Thrush | Geokichla dohertyi
  • Sumba Brown Flycatcher | Muscicapa segregata
  • Sumba Jungle-flycatcher | Cyornis stresemanni
  • Sumba Flycatcher | Ficedula harterti
  • Pied Bushchat | Saxicola caprata francki
  • Thick-billed Flowerpecker | Dicaeum agile tinctum
  • Sumba Flowerpecker | Dicaeum wilhelminae
  • Apricot-breasted Sunbird | Cinnyris buettikoferi
  • Scaly-breasted Munia | Lonchura punctulata sumbae
  • Black-faced Munia | Lonchura molucca propinqua
  • Pale-headed Munia | Lonchura pallida
  • Timor Zebra Finch | Taeniopygia guttata
  • Eurasian Tree Sparrow | Passer montanus
  • Paddyfield Pipit | Anthus rufulus albidus