Thursday 9 August 2018

West Java - August 2018 : Part 2

Day 3 - 3rd August 2018:

We were suppose to wake up at 4am, but in reality we were all awake way before that, as everyone was so cold that we couldn't get any proper sleep. I dragged myself out of the tent and started the fire again.

Our plan was to walk up to the upper campsite and try to look for the Javan Scops Owls again along the way predawn. We couldn't quite get our feet to work before 5am, although it was still dark when we started our ascend. No scops owls were heard but Javan Shortwings and Javan Whistling Thrushes were singing. We walked slowly and quietly, when all of a sudden Boas said "Woodcock!", that was when I looked up to where his torch was pointing at a Javan Woodcock right ahead of us on the footpath! I was gobsmacked and wasn't quite able to react, by the time I got my act together the bird was already turning around slowly, that's when I managed a few record photos, the bird filled the frame in my camera and I couldn't quite get the focus right...It was way too close! After a few seconds it fluttered off. Everyone had good views of this extremely elusive endemic, this is likely to be the most difficult endemic at Gede to get good views, and we had fantastic views!

Javan Woodcock - probably our most amazing encounter on the trip!

It got brighter soon after, the upper campsite was much bigger, Boas stated that this is far more popular than the lower campsite and it gets extremely busy during weekends. As we approached the campsite there were a few Snowy-browed Flycatchers along the footpath, at least one of which was a juvenile, foraging in the leaf-litter early morning. Further along we also spotted a pair of Horsfield's Thrush, a species now split from the Scaly Thrush complex and is considered endemic to Indonesia.

Snowy-browed Flycatcher - juvenile

Horsfield's Thrush

Orchids were a common sight at Gede, and there were a few flowering orchids at the campsite, I believe this is Dendrobium hasseltii. Sunda Bush Warblers sang in the bushes and soon revealed itself, I've seen them several times at Mt. Kinabalu, but always a joy to see these friendly birds.

Dendrobium hasseltii

Sunda Bush Warbler

It wasn't long until Adun and Yuen spotted something in the trees, which turned out to be a pair of Javan Cochoa! Another bird high on my wish list! This species is a west and central Javan endemic, and only occur in montane forests at higher altitude, therefore it's now listed as vulnerable, as habitat loss and bird trapping continues to be a huge problem. We were blessed with extremely good views of this rare endemic, as the pair fed on some fruits on a low tree.

Javan Cochoa - female & male, one of the most sought after endemic at Gede!

Adun and Boas spotted a few Chestnut-bellied Partridges foraging in the undergrowth. This endemic partridge had learnt that campsite equal easy food, therefore they often forage around the edge of the campsites. As long as you don't do any sudden movements they are quite approachable. We had incredible views of at least four birds!

Chestnut-bellied Partridge - another good looking endemic!

Before we left the upper campsite, a Tawny-breasted Parrotfinch gave quite a show as it foraged on grass seeds. All Parrotfinches are sometimes tricky to see, they are not rare but you just have to be at the right place at the right time, and Gunung Gede is probably one of the easiest place to see this species.

Tawny-breasted Parrotfinch

We walked back to our own campsite for breakfast, feeling rather contented with the early morning findings! We returned to find that even more Chestnut-bellied Partridges were foraging near our campsite, and these were not shy at all! We observed them as we waited for breakfast. A very friendly Javan Whistling Thrush also gave quite a good show.

Chestnut-bellied Partridge - even more right next to our tents!

Javan Whistling Thrush - Boas call them the 'fat cochoas'

After breakfast we packed up our stuff and started our descend at around 9:30am. It was already much warmer by that time. A few Indigo Flycatchers made an appearance, including juvenile which perched directly ahead of us. While a male Javan Shortwing foraged out in the open near one of the hot springs, this species seems to like hot springs for some reason...

Indigo Flycatcher - juvenile

Javan Shortwing - male feeding out in the open

Just before we crossed the hot springs a male White-flanked Sunbird made an appearance, they are endemic to Java. The white flanks contrasts nicely with it's dark olive green belly, hence the name!

White-flanked Sunbird - male, another pretty looking endemic

The descend was pretty quiet to start off with, but things started to get more exciting as we heard the calls of Spotted Crocias nearby. This treetop skulker didn't make it easy for us, it took us a long while before we even caught a glimpse! But it was quite clear what we were looking at, with the dark helmet and maroon on the back and flank with white spots. Due to it's highly restricted range, Spotted Crocias is now a near-threatened species, bird trapping in the country doesn't help at all.

Spotted Crocias - another one high on my wish list!

Further down the trail we added the newly split Javan Yellownape, a species split from Checker-throated Woodpecker. Why they are called Yellownapes when they have even less yellow on their nape than their cousins remains a mystery to me...A few more Fire-tufted Barbets along the way made things exciting, they were feeding on a fruiting tree at eye-levels.

Javan Yellownape

Fire-tufted Barbet

We encountered a mixed feeding flock with Pied Shrike-babblers, males have much darker back than Blyth's Shrike-babbler which look similar. They have now split and Pied Shrike-babbler is endemic to Java, although females look pretty similar between the two species.

Pied Shrike-babbler - male

Pied Shrike-babbler - female

There was also a Flame-fronted Barbet foraging with the flock, this good looking endemic barbet usually stays high up near the canopy, making them difficult to observe. While Mountain Leaf Warblers were quite abundant, their songs can be heard throughout.

Flame-fronted Barbet

Mountain Leaf Warbler

At around noon we encountered a small group of Javan Gibbons, also known as Silvery Gibbons. This is an endemic species to Java is now an endangered species due to habitat loss and collecting for the pet trade. We felt blessed that we were able to observe this group at close range, I truly hope they will continue to thrive in these Javan forests.

Silvery Gibbon - endemic to Java

It was well past mid-day when we encountered what was probably the largest mixed feeding flock of the trip. Other than Javan Cuckoo-shrikes, Ashy Drongos and Javan Fulvettas, a Crimson-winged Woodpecker was also spotted. Lesser Racket-tailed Drongos hawked from branches to branches, whereas at least a dozen of Blue Nuthatches climbed along tree trunks at close range!

Crimson-winged Woodpecker

Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo

Blue Nuthatch - a fabulous looking bird!

A Flame-fronted Barbet also decided to come lower down to join in the flock, allowed great views. Sunda Minivets were also present but mostly stayed higher up near the canopy.

Flame-fronted Barbet

Sunda Minivet - male

After lunch we headed to the waterfall, here we scanned the cliff faces for Spotted Kestrels but had little luck. The view of the waterfall itself was quite a sight, here we also added Waterfall Swiftlets which were flying high above the waterfall. A Java Flying Frog (Or at least I think it is) rested on a banana leaf just below the waterfall.

Waterfall Swiftlet - also known as Giant Swiftlets

Java Flying Frog

It was already 4pm by the time we reached the blue lake and everyone were knackered from the hike, plus none of us had good sleep the night before. There was a mixed flock with quite a few male Trilling Shrike-babblers amongst the birds, while Mountain Tailorbirds hopped around in the tall grass below.

Blue Lake

Trilling Shrike-babbler

Mountain Tailorbird

On our final leg of the journey, a group of Javan Langur were spotted foraging above, this species is also endemic to Java and is now listed as vulnerable, much of the same reason with the Gibbons. There were quite a few young Langurs in the group, they were pretty curious about us and eyed us cautiously. A little further ahead me and Yuen spotted a Black Giant Squirrel, they are called 'giant' for a reason, this guy was well over a metre in length and certainly quite beautifully marked.

Javan Langur

Black Giant Squirrel

We celebrated our successful hike with a bottle of coke. Although the celebration was interrupted abruptly by Adun as he spotted a Javan Kingfisher in a distant tree! It wasn't a close view but what a colourful bird!

Javan Kingfisher

We picked Henry up from the hotel of which he stayed and rested, it was good to know he is OK. We drove into Cibodas Botanical Garden, here we waited for the elusive Sunda Thrush, which was not keen to show up for us. After dark we also waited around the Salvadori's Nightjar, a species endemic to Indonesia, we got some pretty good fly-by views but the bird never perched for us to get a better look. The Javan Frogmouths gave distant calls but did not budge, so we decided to try again the next day.

Waiting for the Sunda Thrush

Day 4 - 4th August 2018:

I woke up at around 5:30am, before breakfast a quick stroll outside our hotel room yielded Orange-spotted Bulbuls and Javan Munias.

Orange-spotted Bulbul

Javan Munia - juvenile & adult

We were all feeling rather tired after the hike, so it was decided that we will stay in the Cibodas Botanical Garden and around the golf course. We had breakfast at around 6am and headed into the botanical garden. The botanical garden was founded in 1852 by dutch botanist Johannes Elias Teijsmann, it is quite large and also very well thought out.

Boas and Adun led us to a large fruiting ficus tree, at first glance there wasn't much birds around, but once you look closely at the canopy there were actually quite a few Flame-fronted Barbets feeding on the fruits. We also added Yellow-throated Hanging Parrot, a species endemic to Java and Bali. One of the female gave really good views on a nearby tree while a male gave fairly good scope views.

Flame-fronted Barbet

Yellow-throated Hanging Parrot - female

Yellow-throated Hanging Parrot - male

While we waited around at the ficus tree a Spotted Kestrel flew past us! I am glad we picked this one up after having missed them at the waterfall the day before. A flock of Pygmy Bushtits came along, this tiny little endemic is placed into Aegithalidae, they do resembles the Black-throated Bushtits somewhat.

Spotted Kestrel

Pygmy Bushtit - adult & juvenile

We walked around in the garden, weather was glorious and the park was reminiscent of the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden in Cape Town. Spotted Doves were regularly seen here, there were also a few Javan Munias feeding nearby and Black-winged Flycatcher-shrikes above.

Spotted Dove

Javan Munia

Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike - male

An endemic Blood-breasted Flowerpecker was seen briefly, while a few confiding Little Pied Flycatchers foraged under a tree.

Blood-breasted Flowerpecker - male

Little Pied Flycatcher - male

A pair of Rusty-breasted Cuckoo made an appearance, an adult along with a juvenile bird foraging together. The call sounds slightly similar to the alternative call of the Plaintive Cuckoo. Adult had orange underside while the juvenile had barred underside.

Rusty-breasted Cuckoo - adult & juvenile

We saw very little else at the botanical garden, so we decided to head towards the old Cibodas Golf Course to look for other birds. The golf course now act more as a camping ground for campers, you can see both the summit of Gunung Gede and Pangrango from afar. We tried for Brown Prinias but none responded, probably because this was not during their breeding season. It took a lot of effort to get a single Olive-backed Tailorbird, an endemic species, although we only got fairly brief views.

Olive-backed Tailorbird

By that time it was midday, everyone was still quite tired from the hike, so we headed for lunch and rested up in the hotel for a few hours. I only slept for a little while before sitting outside waiting for birds to come in, Cave Swiftlets were everywhere but as always they are tricky to photograph. Javan Munias were quite common at the hotel, I noticed a few were nesting in the tree right outside our room. Finally, a pair of Javan Kingfishers added some excitement and chased each other around, although they didn't stop both me and Yuen got pretty decent flight views at close range.

Cave Swiftlet

Javan Munia

We headed back into the botanical garden at 3pm. Things were quiet to begin with, partly to do with the Saturday crowd in the park I suspect, the park was packed with tourists, but we pushed on. At this point Boas was trying everything he got, he played a recording of the Javan Banded Pitta randomly, but to our amazement a pair responded within the thick bamboo thickets! We found an opening and walked into the thickets, ground was damp and very dark in there, perfect location for a Pitta! We waited and soon a shadow hopped along the forest floor. A male Javan Banded Pitta came into view! The bird kept it's distance but gave fairly decent views for a few minutes. This easily topped all the other birds on the day!

Javan Banded Pitta - male

It was pretty quiet afterwards, the Rusty-breasted Cuckoo showed well again near the same area, while we spotted a few Chestnut-breasted Malkohas, one of which finally gave us a good look as it perched for more than a minute in full view!

Rusty-breasted Cuckoo

Chestnut-breasted Malkoha

At dusk we returned to the Sunda Thrush stakeout, we waited and waited until Boas suddenly called us from below the slope, he got a view of the bird! We rushed there but only saw two cats strolling across the lawn...not a good sign, the Thrush was probably spooked by the cats. Having missed this one we went looking for Salvadori's Nightjar, but none called! Having missed this one as well, we focused on the Javan Frogmouths which were calling constantly, our hopes were high as they seemed pretty active, we got very close to a few individuals but every time we turned on the torch they weren't there! It was frustrating, but that's how birding is sometimes.

To be continued...


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  2. Thanks for putting the effort into writing this up - more great birds, and the Gibbons and Langurs certainly add to the atmosphere. Oh, and my favourites here are the Partridges...

    1. Thanks John, it was certainly a very good trip and one of the most interesting birding trip I've been on!

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