Sunday, March 29, 2015

Indonesia 4: Sumatra

The final leg of the trip was on the island of Sumatra:

I started with Bukit Lawang, a very touristy village on the boundaries of Gunung Leuser NP. The only way into the jungle of the National Park was to go with a guide, so I joined a group for a day of 'jungle trekking'.  Mammals were the stars here, with Thomas's and Silver Leaf Monkeys, White-handed Gibbon and of course Orangutan all giving super views.
White-handed Gibbon
 The experience of watching the Orangutans was tempered somewhat by the knowledge that some were 'semi-wild' having been released into the NP having been made homeless or orphaned elsewhere in Indonesia, but nonetheless it really was a privilege to look into the eyes of such close cousins.

 While having lunch, a male Great Argus Pheasant stepped into a clearing and started picking up scraps left by previous groups. Although I had seen plenty of pictures, I wasn't quite prepared for how incredible this bird was, with its long, wavy tail like some sort of tropical fish, and enormous secondaries covered with eye-spots, crazy. This photo was taken with my phone!

Great Argus Pheasant

Thomas's Leaf Monkey

Before flying out from Padang I spent a few days at Samosir Island and Bukitinggi. Samosir has lost most of its forest, and a small wetland at Amarita provided the best birding, and was pretty much the only freshwater wetland I visited all trip. As soon as I stepped off the road into the paddies, a Watercock flew up, which was a a very unexpected lifer. Pallas's Grasshopper and Oriental Reed Warblers were more predictable and showed well after pishing til I was blue in the face.

Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler
A group of feral dogs roaming the marsh saved me the hassle of getting my feet wet by flushing up Painted and Pintail Snipe and Ruddy-breasted Crake, and White-headed Munia and Baya Weavers were bombing around all over the show.
Painted Snipe
On one day I took the boat from Samosir back to the mainland and a short bus ride down the highway to Taman Eden 100, a nice patch of protected forest. As seems to be standard procedure for rainforest birding, I went ages without seeing a thing, and then suddenly hit a feeding flock containing class birds like Long-tailed Broadbill, Blue Nuthatch, Fire-tufted barbet, Speckled Piculet, Golden Babbler and Black and Crimson Oriole.

At Bukitinggi I had a look around the Rafflesia Flower reserve at Batang Palupuh. Sadly, no flowers were in bloom, but Sumatran Green Pigeon, Blyth's Hawk Eagle, Black and Yellow Broadbill, Blue-winged Leafbird and Black-browed Barbet made the trip worthwhile. Amazingly, after watching the barbet feeding high in a fruiting tree for a few minutes, I turned around and almost stepped on a Sumatran Peacock Pheasant on the path behind me!! I really hadn't expected to come anywhere near this tricky endemic and was almost as surprised as the bird, which quickly hopped into the thick vegetation and disappeared from view.

Sumatran Green Pigeon

Tiger Shrike

Blyth's Hawk Eagle

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