Sulawesi and Halmahera:
2nd - 22nd August 2020
Leader: Mike Nelson
Max group size: 7
International arrivals into Makassar (formally known as Ujung Pandang), from where we travel into the mountains for an overnight stay in Malino.
This morning we hike into the Lompobattang Mountains where we hope to see the Lompobattang Flycatcher and Lompobattang Leaf Warbler which are known only from these mountains, Black-ringed White-eye which is known only from the southwestern arm of Sulawesi and with the outside possibility of finding the recently split Black-headed Kingfisher. We can also expected to see our first of some commoner montane endemics like Sulphur-bellied Whistler, Citrine Canary-flycatcher, Snowy-browed and Little Pied Flycatchers, Sulawesi Heleia, Sulawesi Fantail, Lesser Myza and perhaps something rarer like Sulawesi Thrush, or the local races of Hylocitrea or Red-eared Fruit Dove.
In the late afternoon we return to Makassar keeping a keen eye out for the very rare Makassar Myna along the way. Night in Makassar.
This morning we will either visit the limestone karst forest at Karaenta, which is also home to several other endemics including Sulawesi Hornbill, White-necked and Short-crested Myna, Piping Crow and Sulawesi Streaked Flycatcher, or if they have been seen already we will visit the nearby fishponds where Javan Plover is often to be found among a nice selection of other waders. In the afternoon, following a short flight north to Palu in central Sulawesi, we head to one of IndonesiaÍs greatest national parks
We shall base ourselves in the lowlands, making daily forays to the higher reaches of the park for some of the really special endemics of Sulawesi.
It is difficult to know where to start to describe the incredible diversity of species that inhabit the national park, for it is home to the majority of SulawesiÍs remarkable endemics. The higher reaches of the park are accessible along a famed old logging road, the Anaso Trail, which hosts four of the most wanted endemics; Satanic Nightjar, Geomalia, Heinrichia and one of the worldÍs most spectacular bee-eaters; Purple-bearded Bee-eater. The bee-eater breeds in roadside banks and often perches conspicuously, giving great views. Once again, pigeons and doves are much in evidence, with Grey-headed Imperial Pigeons regularly seen, as are Superb and Red-eared Fruit Doves while the inconspicuous Sombre Pigeon is sometimes encountered. Feeding flocks often comprise several more endemics; Maroon-backed Whistler, Sulphur-bellied Whistler, Sulawesi Heleia, Sulawesi Spangled Drongo, Cerulean Cuckooshrike, Mountain Cicadabird, Sulawesi Fantail, Sulawesi Myzomela, Crimson-crowned Flowerpecker, Sulawesi Pygmy Woodpecker and both Lesser and Greater Myzas, and we will pay special attention to find any accompanying Malia for Sulawesi Thrush, which behaves more like a babbler than a thrush! Away from the flocks we may find Sulawesi Brush Cuckoo, HoevellÍs Warbling-flycatcher, Sulawesi Malkoha, and if we are fortunate a Scaly Kingfisher hiding in a forest gully. Overhead we will look for fast-flying MeyerÍs Lorikeet and Sulawesi Racquet-tail while Sulawesi Grasshopper Warblers skulk in the understory, and Sulawesi Babbler is common. In the higher forests we will also be searching for Indonesian Serin and the inconspicuous Hylocitrea which recent studies show not to be at all related to the whistlers and is now placed firmly in its own monotypic family.
Flame-browed Myna are fairly common and Grosbeak Myna can often be found in good numbers in open country where they nest in large colonies. Also in open country we will scan for Sulawesi Swiftlet in the valley bottoms, and Sulawesi Serpent Eagle or Sulawesi Hawk Eagle soaring overhead. The elusive Small Sparrowhawk is a possibility while Vinous-breasted Sparrowhawk is also at lower altitudes and Spot-tailed Goshawk often draws attention with its far-carrying calls. If we have time for birding low down in the valleys then we have our first opportunities to look for Sulawesi Jungle-flycatcher, Lemon-bellied White-eye, Knobbed Hornbill, Sulawesi Cicadabird and Ivory-backed Woodswallow.
As everywhere on this tour there are some exciting night-birding prospects with Cinnabar Boobook the most exciting, but also good chances of Sulawesi Scops Owl, Speckled Boobook and Sulawesi Masked Owl.
Nights at Wuasa.
After a final morning in search of any missing species at Lore Lindu we return to Palu in the afternoon, stopping along the way in search of Red-backed and Barred Buttonquail, Savanna Nightjar, LesueurÍs Triller and the scarce Pale-headed Munia. Night in Palu. Triller
Today is predominantly a travel day as we fly first to Makassar before continuing to Manado on the Minahasa peninsula of north Sulawesi. Upon arrival we will drive south-west to the town of Kotamobagu, our base for exploration for the next four nights. Night in Kotamobagu at the Patra Jasa Hotel.
We will explore several areas of the nearby Dumoga-Bone National Park, including lowland forest areas on the eastern side of this extensive park. Despite large-scale deforestation around the perimeter of the park the birds continue to hang-on and the list of possibilities is exciting. Sulawesi endemics abound, and we will be looking for Bay Coucal, Black-billed Koel and Sulawesi Malkoha in forest tangles while frugivores in the canopy will hopefully include White-bellied Imperial Pigeon, White-faced Cuckoo Dove, Minahasa Racquet-tail and OberholserÍs Fruit Dove. Other local specialities include Ornate Lorikeet, Blue-backed Parrot, Sulawesi Triller, Pied Cuckooshrike, Sulawesi Cicadabird and both Sulawesi and Pygmy Hanging-parrots. We also have further chances at many species which we might have missed thus far including Grosbeak, Short-crested and White-necked Myna, Knobbed and Sulawesi Dwarf Hornbill.
We will also keep an eye to the sky to catch up with Sulawesi Honey-buzzard and endemic hawk eagle and serpent eagle if we havenÍt already. Spot-tailed and Sulawesi Goshawk are both possible but weÍd again need luck to find Vinous-breasted Sparrowhawk, while Spotted Harriers also occur in the area.
One morning we will visit the nesting grounds of the unique Maleo, a large pied megapode that is SulawesiÍs most famed and enigmatic species. Maleos use geothermal heat in the volcanic soil in their communal breeding grounds to incubate their eggs, and the young are able to fly as soon as they dig their way out of the ground after hatching! Unfortunately Maleo eggs suffer from high predation, predominately by humans, but it is hoped that on-going conservation work should help protect the birds at this site. The more open habitat here is ideal for Sulawesi Roller and White-necked and Short-crested Myna while grassy habitats throughout the area might produce the skulking Sulawesi Water-hen.
Once again night birding can be productive and we have a chance of encountering Sulawesi Scops Owl, Sulawesi Masked Owl and both Speckled and Ochre-bellied Boobooks.
To the north of Kotamobagu lies another national park, Gunung Ambang, which will give us access to submontane forests that are equally rich in bird life. Though forest clearance is a severe threat to the park, some excellent tracts remain, holding some of SulawesiÍs least known and rarest species. They include another form of the recently described Cinnabar Boobook, and the local speciality, the rare Matinan Warbling-flycatcher, known only from the hill forests of the Minahasa Peninsula. We will see many of the now-familiar montane species here, plus chances of the rarely observed and skulking Sombre Pigeon and Scaly Kingfisher. Nights in Kotamobagu.
After a final morning seeking out anything we have missed thus far in the Kotamabagu area we will return to Manado in the afternoon for an overnight stay.
We take an early flight directly to Halmahera and in doing so cross the magical WeberÍs line and into Australasia and an entirely different avifaunal region!
From the airport at Kao we transfer to the Weda area which will form the focus of our time on Halmahera. Night at Weda Bay Resort.
Our time at Weda will give us the opportunity to search for some of the most prized species on earth, including WallaceÍs Standardwing and Ivory-breasted Pitta. We should see both, and will hope to observe the standardwing at a display site
Sombre Kingfisher and Common Paradise Kingfishers usually stayed concealed within the forest whereas scanning open perches at the forest edge might find Blue-and-white Kingfisher or even the ultra-rare Azure Dollarbird.
On one day we have to drive higher into the nearby mountains where we should find North Moluccan Leaf Warbler, Gilolo Fantail, Stout-billed Cuckooshrike and with good chances at Moluccan King Parrot which these cooler climes.
Night birding is a must here as we hope to spot-light the bizarre looking Moluccan Owlet-nightjar along with Moluccan Scops Owl and Halmahera Boobook. Nights at Weda Bay Resort.
Leaving Weda, we travel up the north-west arm of Halmahera for an overnight stay in Tobelo, stopping en route to search for Beach Kingfisher. In the evening there will be the option to drive further along the coast to visit the communal breeding grounds of the Moluccan Scrubfowl. With some luck we might hope to encounter one or more of these rare birds as they come down from the forests to lay their single egg on the beach. Night in Tobelo.
We fly back to Manado on Sulawesi this morning and upon arrival we will transfer to the nearby Tangkoko-Dua Saudara National Park in time to enjoy our first birding in the area in the afternoon. Night at Tangkoko.
The wonderful park of Tangkoko with its forest rising from coastal to submontane, supports a large range of the regionÍs endemic birds. A highly sought set of endemic kingfishers are likely; Sulawesi Lilac, Green-backed and Sulawesi Dwarf Kingfisher in the forest and on one day we will take a boat trip into the mangroves to search for a fourth endemic kingfisher, the huge Great-billed. The park boasts the highest density of the brilliant Knobbed Hornbill on Sulawesi and the uncommon Sulawesi Hornbill also occurs, sometimes following troops of Sulawesi Crested Macaque, which patrol the forest likeæminiature Gorillas! A variety of other endemics are possible and itÍs a fantastic place to chase up any species that we might be missing, which might include Sulawesi Roller, White-rumped Cuckooshrike, Ornate Lorikeet, Silver-tipped Imperial Pigeon, White-faced Cuckoo Dove, Sulawesi Malkoha and Ashy Woodpecker to name just a few. Close attention to the forest understory could produce skulkers such as the gorgeous Red-backed Thrush, Red-bellied (Sulawesi Sahul) Pittas, Tabon Scrubfowl and StephanÍs Dove.
On one evening we will visit a roost tree for one of the smallest primates in the world; the Spectral Tarsier. This incredible looking species with its endearing large eyes was the inspiration for Steven SpielbergÍs ñETî and we will watch in amazement as they spring from branch to branch.
Night-time forays should prove rewarding, with the surrounding grasslands and secondary forest home to some great nocturnal endemics; Ochre-bellied Boobook, Sulawesi Scops Owl, Minahasa and Sulawesi Masked Owl and Sulawesi Nightjar among them. On the afternoon or evening or Day 21 we transfer to Tomohon for an overnight stay.
We will leave early this morning to visit the remnant forest patches of Gunung Mahawu in the Minahasa highlands above Manado. Here we will be hoping to locate Scaly Kingfisher, perhaps the most elusive of the endemic Sulawesi kingfishers. In the forest here we might also hope to find other Sulawesi montane species familiar from our time at Lore Lindu including some of the scarcer ones like Sulawesi Myzomela and Crimson-crowned Flowerpecker, before we return to Manado Airport to connect with our international flights.