Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Birding in North Sulawesi

Last year I guided a Dutch lady on a birding, wildlife watching and sightseeing tour in North Sulawesi. This is a province in Indonesia. We spent around two weeks exploring the rainforest of the region. The first place that we visited was a waterfall in the suburban area of Manado city. We walked on the concrete path that was quite slippery to the waterfall and admired its beauty. After that we walked slowly back to the main road while watching birds. Blue-tailed Bee-eater was the one that we saw flying around the open space near the cliff of  waterfall. 
Black-naped Fruit Dove (Ptilinopus melanopilus)
As a walk along the roadside, we began to see more interesting birds such as Common Dollardbird, Green Imperial Pigeon, and Black-naped Fuit Dove. We also saw Sulawesi Spangled Drongo, Sulawesi Crow, Collared-Kingfisher, Little Egret, and Cattle Egret. There were a small group of crake that were walking up a slope above us. They could be Buff-banded Rail or Slaty-legged Crake. The Dutch lady wanted to visit Bunaken. So, I organized a trip to the island. 
Black-faced Munia (Lonchura molucca)
Black-faced Munia

Returning to Manado city, we continued our trip to Doloduo by public bus where we stayed in Tante Mien's homestay. It was far from Manado and took a few hours to reach it.
Ricefield in Doloduo of North Sulawesi
Rice field in North Sulawesi

We walked along the roadside villages, around the rice field and saw a lot of Domestic Pigeon, Red-collared Dove, Sahul Sunbird, Black-headed Munia, Pacific Swallow near a water dam. There were some Black-faced Munia moving inside the branches of a shrub plant. I careful aimed my camera at those birds and shot one of them. 
We continued our trip to Tangkoko Nature Reserve and spent a few days watching birds in the region. I was able to take pictures of Sulawesi Hornbill, Ashy Woodpecker, Sulawesi Dwarf Kingfisher, Sulawesi Hanging Parrot, Grosbeak Myna, White-eyed Spangled Drongo, Spotted Dove, White-rumped Triller, Grey-cheeked Green Pigeon, Knobbed Hornbill and a lot more. In Tangkoko's forest, we saw mammals such as Celebes Crested Macaque and Spectral Tarsier. The trip to Tangkoko is a prolific birding experience.
The highland of Minahasa was in our list of places to visit. By a public bus, we went to Tomohon and stayed in a hotel for a few nights. We went hiking to the crater of Mount Mahawu, enjoyed tea and watching birds in Lake Linow of Tomohon and visited extreme traditional market near the bus station. People sell and buy dogs, snake, fruit bats, mouse as meat. 
Sooty-headed Bulbul in Minahasa regency of  North Sulawesi
Sooty-headed Bulbul (Pynonotus aurigaster)

At the last leg of the tour, we visited Pal beach in North Minahasa regency. The scenery was beautiful. Unfortunately, I did not bring my snorkeling mask, and fins. So, I could not explore its coral reef.
Pal Beach in North Sulawesi
A White Sandy Beach in North Sulawesi

I still had another birding walk in District Sonder where I saw Sulawesi Scoos Owl, Turquoise Flycatcher, Sooty-headed Bulbul, Grey-sided Flowerpecker, Pale Blue Monarch, Sulawesi Malkoha, Black-naped Oriole and a lot more.
At the airport, before flying back to her country, she and I saw Sulawesi Cuckoo Dove. 

If you are interested in visiting the province of North Sulawesi in Indonesia, and want me to organize your trip and guide you, please, contact me by e-mail to: peace4wp@gmail.com or by whatsapp to: -6281332245180.
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Thursday, October 29, 2020

Watching Birds of Paradise in West Papua

Every year thousands of visitors travel to Indonesia to watch tropical birds. One of their destinations is West Papua that is located in the eastern region of the country. There, they can explore the rainforest to find birds of paradise. Several birding sites in West Papua that I recommend are described below:

Tropical Birds in Manokwari

  • Susnguakti forest of Arfak mountains - This is the natural habitat of Lesser Birds of Paradise, Magnificent Riflebird, King Bird of Paradise, Azure Kingfisher, Common Paradise Kingfisher, Yellow-billed Kingfisher, Yellow-capped Pymy Parrot, Rufous-bellied Kookaburra, Eclectus Parrot, Rusty Pitohui, Hooded Butcherbird, Hooded Pitta, Red-bellied Pitta, Papuan Frogmouth, Marbled Frogmouth, Golden Cuckooshrike, Superb Fruit Dove, Pink-spotted Fruit Dove, Frilled Monarch, Black Sunbird, and etc. A simple base camp by a small river has been prepared by local villagers for visitors who want to stay for a few days. In addition to birds, visitors can also find other animals such as Papuan Forest Dragon, cuscus possum, and bandicoot. Birding and wildlife watching is carried out in the mornings, in the afternoons, and at nights. Susnguakti forest has got a lot of kinds of insects from grasshopper to butterflies and moths. 
Western Parotia (Parotia sefilata)
Western Parotia in Arfak range
  • Soyti Forest is located in the high elevation area of Arfak mountains and is the habitat of Magnificent Bird of Paradise, Western Parotia, Black Sicklebill, Vogelkop Bowerbird, Long-tailed Paradigala, and a lot of other birds that live in cloud forest. There are guesthouses for visitors who want to stay for a few days. Big butterflies such as Ornithoptera tithonus and Morphotaenaris schoenbergi schoenbergi can also be seen in the flower garden around the guesthouse. Both Susnguakti forest and Mount Soyti can be reached from Manokwari city. There are regular flights between Manokwari and major cities such as Jakarta, Makassar, Manado, Ambon and Jayapura in Indonesia served by Batik Air, Sriwijaya, Lion/Wings Air. 
Magnificent Riflebird in Klasow valley
Magnificent Riflebird in Klasow valley
  • Klasow valley is located in Sorong regency. There are tens of villages in the valley. Two villages which birdwatchers like to visit are Klatomok and Malagufuk. For elderly people or those who cannot endure long walks, Klatomok village will be the recommended choice. There, they can watch Yellow-faced Myna, Golden Myna, Red-cheeked Parrot, Large Fig Parrot, Double-eyed Fig Parrot, Moluccan Parrot, Magnificent Riflebird, Blyth's Hornbill, Western-crowned Pigeon and etc. The entrance gate is Sorong city. Major airlines in Indonesia have got flights to this destination.
  • Mount Sakofsiah and Ases Valley of Tambrauw regency are very important destinations in Tambrauw regency. Birds and wild animals such as boars, sugar glider, deer, snakes, cuscus possum, frogs, and insects can be found there. Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Palm Cockatoo, New Guinea Vulturine Parrot, Eclectus Parrot, Rainbow Lorikeet, Great Cuckoo Dove, Black-browed Triller, Long-tailed Buzzard, are some of the many birds that we can see in the forest. 
Western-crowned Pigeon in Klasow Valley
Western-crowned Pigeon
  • Raja Ampat islands are important destination for birding visitors because they can watch rainforest as well as sea birds. In general, birding visitors put Wilson's Bird of Paradise and Red Bird of Paradise at the top of their target list. However, there are also interesting birds such as Great-billed Parrot, Violet-necked Lory and Spice Imperial Pigeon and Beach Kingfisher that are also interesting. The White-bellied Sea Eagle and Eastern Osprey are some of the big birds that I often see in tall trees in karst inside Kabui.
The average duration for covering these places are around 3 weeks. Visitors need to travel in a group of at least 3 to 4 people to share the cost of transportation, accommodation and food.
For further info, please, contact me (Charles Roring) by email to: peace4wp@gmail.com or by whatsapp to: +6281332245180.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Old Birding Cameras

There are some birding cameras from old models that are still good for anyone to buy in affordable prices. The one that I used was Fujifilm HS50EXR. It has got 42× zoom lenses that were equal to 1,000 mm lenses in 35 mm format. Because its image sensor was 1/2 inches, it could focus on birds faster than the average point and shoot cameras whose CMOS image sensors were 1/2.3 inches. 

I also used to have Nikon Coolpix P500 and Nikon Coolpix P600. Both were good for taking pictures in distant trees where the light condition is good. The cameras cannot easily focus on birds in lowlight condition.

pinon imperial pigeon
Pinon Imperial Pigeon shot by using Nikon Coolpix P500

On the internet, there are articles from birdwatchers about Canon SX50. They said that the SX 50HS produced bird pictures that are better that its successor the SX60HS. This opinion could be true. Sor, if there are online stores that sell Fujifilm HS50EXR or Canon SX50HS in very good condition. They are buying.

Bridge birding camera cannot be compared with D-SLR camera. The size of image sensor in bridge camera is much smaller than the full frame.

bird picture from Malagufuk in Klasow valley
Yello-faced Myna shot using Fujifilm HS50EXR

I used to take picture of bird using a binocular and a pocket camera. The result was not sharp and bright but was good enough for identification.

Today, universal adapter has allowed people with cell phone spotting scope or binocular to take pictures of birds. So, anyone who cannot buy a birding camera can still enjoy birding photography with his or her cellphone that is embedded to spotting scope or binoculars using universal camera adapter. 

I like to stand on a slope near a tree where a bird sits on to get near eye-level position. Sometimes, I stand on hill looking down at trees and take pictures of birds. 

To enhance the quality or sharpness of the photograph that I take, I usually lean on a tree while holding the camera. Sometimes I use tripod. To eliminate shakes or vibration when I press the shutter button, I apply a 3-second self-timer. The camera will take picture 3 seconds later after I press the shutter button. This was written by Charles Roring

Also read: Birding Cameras

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Bird Watching West Papua

West Papua as a bird watching destination has increasingly become popular among avid birders. A lot of people visit this region to see and photograph birds of paradise. There are a lot of birding sites in this region from Nimbokrang in Jayapura, Mesirrokow forest, Susnguakti forest and Arfak mountains in Manokwari, Mount Sakofsiah and Ases Valley in Tambrauw and Klatomok village and Malagufuk village in Sorong and Waigeo island in Raja Ampat.
Long-tailed Paradigala
Long-tailed Paradigala
The main targets are Twelve-wired Bird of Paradise, Lesser Bird of Paradise, King Bird of Paradise, Magnificent Riflebird, Glossy-mantled Manucode, Magnificent Bird of Paradise, Western Parotia, Black Sicklebill, Vogelkop Superb Bird of Paradise, Long-tailed Paradigala, and a lot more. 
A good pair of binoculars is needed by bird watchers especially when they want to watch birds in distant or tall trees. Famous brands such as Swarovski, Leica, Zeiss, Nikon, Vortex have got binoculars that are offered in a price range from around 200 US dollars to more than 1,000 US dollars.
I use Canon 200D with Tamron 150-600mm G2 telefoto lenses as by birding camera. Well, it is not the best birding camera on the market. There are Nikon 500D, Fujifilm X-T30, and Canon EOS 7D Mark II that are much better than mine. In the past I used Nikon Coolpix P500, Nikon P600 and Fujifilm HS50EXR. Bridge camera are good devices for taking pictures of birds in distant trees and with brighter sunlight. However, these point and shoot cameras have got small sensors. So, in certain cases such as in lowlight condition or when there are some twigs or leaves in front of the birds, the cameras cannot easily focus on the birds. Sony RX10 IV is a bridge camera that is equipped with 1 inch sensor. With 600 mm lens, it can produce high quality photographs and other wild animals. 

Susnguakti Forest - This is a hidden birding and wildlife watching site in lower montane forest of Arfak range. Cuscus possum, forest dragon lizard, toad, snakes, bandicoot, and various kinds of insects can be seen here. For birds, the ones that I see in this forest include Lesser Birds of Paradise, Magnificent Riflebird, King Bird of Paradise, Brown Cuckoo Dove, Superb Fruit Dove, Pink-spotted Fruit Dove, Yellow-billed Kingfisher, Common Paradise Kingfisher, Rufous-bellied Kookaburra, Azure Kingfisher, Frilled Monarch, Shining Flycatcher, Rainbow Lorikeet, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Black-capped Lory, Hooded Butcherbird. 
Arfak Mountains are located in the south of Manokwari city. Its higher montane forest is a very popular destination for visitors who want to watch various species of birds that are endemic to New Guinea (particularly to West Papua) such as Brehm's Tiger Parrot, Vogelkop Melidectes, Mottled Berryhunter, Papuan Flycatcher, Black-breasted Boatbill, Golden Face, Spectacled Longbill, Tit Berrypecker, Western Smoky Honeyeater, Feline Owlet Nightjar, and etc. 
Around the guesthouse where I usually stay, there is flower garden. Red Hibiscus, Rhododendrons, New Guinea Impatience, Orchids plants are planted to decorate the landscapes. They attract small birds to eat their nectar and flower or to just sit inside their tiny twigs.

West Papua is a popular birding destination especially among avid birdwatchers who want to watch paradise birds as well as other tropical birds. 
As a tourist guide, I have accompanied a lot of visitors on various birdwatching and wildlife watching tours from lowland to lower and higher montane forests. Here are the birding sites that I have visited with my clients:
Klasow valley in Sorong regency. There are tens of villages in this valley. 
Klatomok Village is located at the road side. Homestays in affordable cost are available in this village. It is the most recommended place for visitors who want to enjoy easy birding. Some of the birds which birdwatchers can see here include Oriental Dollar Bird, Yellow-faced Myna, Golden Myna, Magnificent Riflebird, Common Paradise Kingfisher, Red-breasted Paradise Kingfisher, Yellow-billed Kingfisher, Blue Black Kingfisher, Azure Kingfisher, Helmetted Friarbird, White-bellied Cuckooshrike, 
Western-crowned Pigeon,  Orange-bellied Fruit Dove, Brown Cuckoo Dove, Wompoo Fruit Dove, Lowland Peltop, and etc.
Malagufuk have got homestays which visitors can choose to stay for a few days. Birds that can be watched are similar to the ones that I mention above with such extra birding target as Northern Cassowary, Lesser Birds of Paradise, King Bird of Paradise, Twelve-wired Bird of Paradise, and etc. 
In addition to birds, visitors can also see flowers such as hibiscus, zinnia elegans and other wild flowers in rainforest. Flower season usually occurs at the end of dry season, i.e. in November and early December. When there are a lot of flowers, butterflies will come to collect their nectar. 
Fef Valley - This is a valley that has now become the capital of Tambrauw regency. It is surrounded by lower montane forest. Because it is in the interior area of Vogelkop region of West Papua, visitors who go there will be able to watch Magnificent Bird of Paradise, Lesser Bird of Paradise, New Guinea Vulturine Parrot, New Guine Harpy Eagle, Long-tailed Buzzard, Sacred Kingfisher, Hooded Pitta, Red-bellied Pitta, 
Mount Sakofsiah and Ases Valley - Located deeper in the interior region of Tambrauw Mountains, they are very important birding sites in West Papua province.  Birds that can be watched in this forest are similar to the ones in Fef but in Mount Sakofsiah and Ases Valley, more wildlife can be seen. In addition a lot of birds, visitors who go to there can see mammals, reptiles, insects and a lot of tropical plants of New Guinea.
To explore the places that I mention above, we need to go by 4WD car. The most popular vehicle here is Toyota Hilux. Before going to those remote forests, we have to buy food and other logistical materials in Manokwari city.
This year, government of Indonesia have closed access for foreign tourists to enter West Papua due to Covid-19 pandemic. We hope that next year (2021), foreign tourists will be allowed to enter West Papua again. This is written by Charles Roring
Kabui Bay of Raja Ampat - I like traveling to this beautiful archipelago because I can enjoy birding and snorkeling. Red Bird of Paradise and Wilson's Bird of Paradise can be seen there. Other interesting species such as Spice Imperial Pigeon, White-breasted Woodswallow, Wimbrel, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Palm Cockatoo, Beach Kingfisher, Moluccan King Parrot, and etc. can be watched there. 
The beaches in Warduwer, Saporkren, Urai and a lot of other small islands in the bay are covered by coral reefs. They are also considered as the tropical rainforest of the sea. Butterfly fish, Boxfish, Anemonefish, Moorish Idol, and a lot of other species of marine animals can be seen in the sea water.
Bring snorkeling gear (mask, snorkel, fins and underwater camera) if you want to enjoy snorkeling in Raja Ampat.
Actually, it is not only Raja Ampat where you can go to enjoy snorkeling. There are other places in West Papua that have got coral reef. Some of them include Manokwari, Tambrauw, Sorong, Kaimana, Fakfak, Wondama Bay, and South Manokwari. 
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Sunday, September 6, 2020

Tanah Papua A Paradise for Birds

Tanah Papua is the Malay words for Papua Land or New Guinea island. It is the natural habitat of a lot of species of paradise birds as well as other tropical birds. As a tourist guide, I have run a lot of birding tours in West Papua for the last 10 years.
Vogelkop Bowerbird (Amblyornis innornatus)
Vogelkop Bowerbird

A male Lesser Birds of Paradise (Paradisaea minor)
Lesser Birds of Paradise in Susnguakti forest
Places that I go with my clients include Kwau village in Mokwam region, Susnguakti forest, Dopi river, Mesirrokow forest, Aiwatar hill, Ayapokiar village, Mount Sakofsiah and Ases valley, Fef, Sausapor, Syuan and Syugrar rivers; Klawos forest, Klatomok village, Malagufuk village in Klasow valley, Kabui bay, Misool, and Waigeo islands.
French tourists were camping and birding in Tambrauw's forest
Most often the places where we go are located deep in the jungle. Hotels or guesthouses are not available. So, we stay in dome tents by a river.
King Bird of Paradise
King Bird of Paradise (Cicinnurus regius)
During the day and night, we explore the forest. In Susnguakti forest of Manokwari, we could see Lesser Birds of Paradise, King Bird of Paradise, Magnificent Riflebird, Glossy-mantled Manucode, Eclectus Parrot, Hooded Butcherbird, Golden Cuckooshrike, Pink-spotted Fruit Dove, Yellow-billed Kingfisher, Rufous-bellied Kookaburra, Common Paradise Kingfisher, Yellow-capped Pygmy Parrot, Brown Cuckoo Dove, Hooded Pitta, Red-bellied Pitta and a lot more.
It is not only birds that attract the attention of visitors. Wild flowers such as orchids, vine flowers are also beautiful. In open area, a long the roadsides and riversides, we may see passion flowersblue trumpet vine. In lowland the size of the flower is smaller than the one in highland.
Vine flower in the forest
Passion flower
Traveling to higher montane forest of Vogelkop region, we will be able to watch such birds as Magnificent Bird of Paradise, Western Parotia that dances like a ballerina, Black Sicklebill, Vogelkop Super Bird of Paradise, Vogelkop Bowerbird, Black-eared Catbird, Western Smoky Honeyeater, Vogelkop Melidectes, Feline Owlet Nightjar, Spectacled Long Bill, Mottled Berryhunter, Golden Face, Wattled Brush Turkey, Masked Bowerbird, Mountain Peltop and a lot more.
Birding in Arfak mountains
Magnificent Bird of Paradise
In Mokwam regions, blinds for watching birds are provided by local people for tourists who want to watch birds. There is a simple bench in each blind that can accommodate 4 to 5 people.
The land mass in higher montane forest is less than in lowland. The population and spread of certain species of birds are very limited. The Long-tailed Paradigala and Black Sicklebill are two examples of rare birds that we may see in higher montane forest of Arfak range if we visit it to watch birds.
Birdwatching in lowland forest of Manokwari
French tourists were watching birds in Manokwari
In lowland forest of Sorong regency, we could find Twelve-wired Bird of Paradise, Red-breasted Paradise Kingfisher, Blue Black Kingfisher, Black Lory, Western-crowned Pigeon, Yellow-bellied Longbill, Lowland Peltop.
We could continue our adventure to Raja Ampat islands where we will be able to see a great varieties of sea birds from Wimbrel to Beach Thick Knee and from White-bellied Sea Eagle to Eastern Osprey. Walking in the forest, we will be able to see birds that are the same as the ones in mainland New Guinea, but we will also have the opportunity to watch Raja Ampat's Red Bird of Paradise and Wilson's Bird of Paradise.
The above places that I mention are some of the many interesting birding sites which tourists can go to if they want to watch beautiful tropical birds of Tanah Papua. Please, contact me by email to: peace4wp@gmail.com or by whatsapp to: +6281332245180 if you are interested in taking a bird watching trip to this beautiful tropical island. This has been written by Charles Roring.
Also read: Tropical Birding Tours in West Papua