10th/17th - 30th September 2017
Obi, Morotai & Bacan extension: 10-17th September 2017
Leader: Carlos Bocos
Max group size: 7
Wallacea is the fascinating zone of transition between Oriental and Australasian faunal zones in eastern Indonesia, named after the famous explorer Sir Alfred Wallace. While areas such as the Lesser Sundas and Sulawesi are frequently visited, much of the Moluccas or Spice Islands have rarely attracted birders and it is these we will explore in search of some of the lest-seen endemics in Indonesia. We concentrate on four major island groups; Obi, Seram, Buru and the Kai islands, with site trips to smaller islands including Boano and Bacan.
The long island of Seram still supports vast forests, particularly along its mountainous spine within the huge Manusela National Park. It is here that we will spend much of our time, since the vast majority of the islands endemics can now be found from a road which cuts through the park without the need for expedition-style treks into the mountains as used to be the case! Prime target here is the delightful pink-hued Salmon-crested Cockatoo but there are many others to find including Streaky-breasted Fantail, Grey-hooded and Rufescent Heleia, Seram Honeyeater, Seram Oriole, Seram Friarbird, Seram Golden Bulbul, Seram Imperial Pigeon and with a great deal of luck, the rare Purple-naped Lory. Also within the forest we will keep a look out for two likely splits; Seram Leaf Warbler and the Skulking Seram Grasshopper Warbler. Overhead we might find soaring Gurney’s or Pygmy Eagles or catch sight of a Rufous-necked Sparrowhawk passing by, meanwhile both the stunning Lazuli Kingfisher and wacky Long-crested Myna prefer to survey their areas from high, exposed branches. A visit to some offshore islands will hopefully produce the locally abundant, be seemingly nomadic Olive Honeyeater and Forsten’s Scrubfowl. Night-time explorations should locate the recently split Seram Boobook, and possibly even a recently described endemic taxon of Tyto owl.
As an exciting side trip we will be the first ever bird tour company to try and see the critically endangered Boano Monarch, endemic to the small island of Boano adjacent to Seram which we refound here in 2011, more than 17 years since the last sightings. Also on the island is an endemic race of Common Paradise-kingfisher and Seram Fantail (a split from Northern).
This little-visited island hosts more than 20 endemics including highlights such as Buru Racquet-tail, Tawny-backed Fantail, Buru Warbling-flycatcher, Buru Golden Bulbul, Buru Cuckooshrike, Buru Fantail (split from Northern), Buru Friarbird, Buru Oriole, Buru Monarch and Buru Green Pigeon among others, and by driving high into the mountains we will hope to find some of the islands rarities like Buru Thrush, Buru Honeyeater, Buru Myzomela, Buru Leaf Warbler, Buru Grasshopper-warbler, Buru Mountain Pigeon and even a very slim chance of three of the most little-known species in all of Indonesia - Black-lored Parrot, Buru Lorikeet and Madanga Pipit, all of which we’ve seen in the past here. The excitement again continues after dark with Lesser (or Australasian) Masked Owl and Buru Boobook, the latter we recently sound recorded for the first time and found it to be highly distinct from its Seram counterpart.
The islands of Kai Kecil and Kai Besar lying far to the southeast of Seram, form the major part of the Kai archipelago. Most of our birding will be on Kai Kecil where most of the endemics can be found in the remaining scraps of forest; Kai Coucal, Kai (White-tailed) Monarch and Kai Kecil White-eye. A side trip to the hillier Kai Besar is required to find Kai Besar White-eye, plus ‘Kai Leaf Warbler' which like the ‘Buru’ and ‘Seram Leaf Warblers’ still languishes within Island Leaf Warbler despite their very distinctive appearance and songs.
The gateway to the Moluccas, this relatively small island is the regional hub and we will be transiting through the island each time we take a boat or flight to the more exciting, endemic-filled islands. What extra time we have on this island will be spent looking for the islands single endemic, Ambon White-eye. Other possibilities here include a few endemics shared with the surrounding islands, notably Seram Flowerpecker, Seram Fantail, Red Lory and Seram Golden Bulbul.
Pre-tour extension: Obi, Morotai and Bacan
Currently, Obi has just the two endemics – Carunculated Fruit Dove and Obi Golden Bulbul. However, with forthcoming taxonomic alterations this number will soon jump up to at least seven that includes a whistler, drongo, fantail, white-eye, paradise-crow all of which, bar the white-eye, we hope to find. It’s not only the endemics we’ll be looking for, but also some really special birds, with the most exciting being Moluccan Woodcock, known from Obi and a single specimen from Bacan. Bare-faced Rail have also been recorded in the area we will be birding, along with a few North Moluccan endemics like Blue-and-white Kingfisher, Violet-necked Lory (of the endemic race, obiensis and split as 'Scaled Lory' along with the West Papuan race) and Chattering Lory. We may also find the time to bird other surrounding islands.
Bacan holds a distinctive white-eye, that will undoubtably be split from the Cream-throated White-eye complex (and already is the regional field guide), and yet another interesting drongo - Bacan Spangled Drongo!
We will also visit Morotai, a small island to the north of Halmahera. With forthcoming taxonomic arrangements, the island will have three endemics - Morotai (Dusky) Friarbird, Morotai Spangled Drongo and the not-so-easy Morotai White-eye. In addition, the island holds a number of endemic subspecies, including Ivory-breasted Pitta, Chattering Lory, Paradise-crow and Dusky Myzomela. There are several other species possible, including Violet-necked Lory, Cinnamon-bellied Imperial Pigeon, Halmahera Swiftlet, Varied and Halmahera (Moluccan) Goshawks, Moluccan Scops Owl, Moluccan Hanging Parrot, Drab Whistler, Moluccan Cuckooshrike, Halmahera Golden Bulbul and Halmahera Flowerpecker.