We reached a site for the Flores Scops-Owl shortly after sunset and quietly waited for one to call. This little-known owl has only recently been rediscovered and we hoped to see one. We waited—not a sound from the owl. After a while, we drove to another section of the forest. As we stepped out of the car, a Flores Scops-Owl called nearby. I taped the call and played it back to the bird. He called a bit more and then flew deeper into the forest, resuming calling at a distance. Fortunately, we were able to find a way into the forest and approached the owl. Playback of his call initially elicited vocal response and eventually we saw him fly into the trees above us with the aid of bright moonlight. The foliage was quite dense and he was high in the tree. We moved under a less dense tree and played the tape again. Soon he was calling from above us but still high up and not visible. We repeated this scenario several times in the next half hour. Finally he flew in low and perched in the open just six meters from us for an excellent view. Whew, a good look at this rare little fellow at last!
Additional special birds were: Bulwer’s Petrel, Great-billed Heron, Wandering Whistlingduck, Sunda Teal, Sunda Goshawk, Flores Hawk-Eagle, Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Green Junglefowl, Sumba Buttonquail, Javan Plover, Beach Thick-knee, Metallic Pigeon, Ruddy, Bar-necked, and Slaty Cuckoo-Doves, Barred Dove, Sumba Green Pigeon, Black-backed, Red-naped, Rose-crowned and Black-naped Fruit-Doves, Pink-headed and Timor Imperial Pigeons, Olive-headed Lorikeet, Yellow-crested Cockatoo, Great-billed, Eclectus and Olive-shouldered Parrots, Wallace’s Hanging-Parrot, Sunda and Rusty-breasted Cuckoos, Gould’s Bronze-Cuckoo, Moluccan and Wallace’s Scops-Owls, Streaked Boobook, Sunda Nightjar, Cave Swiftlet, White-rumped, Cinnamon-collared, and Cerulean Kingfishers, Sumba Hornbill, Elegant Pitta, Wallacean and Sumba Cuckooshrikes, Flores Minivet, White-bellied Bushchat, Chestnut-backed and Orange-banded Thrushes, Russet-capped Tesia, Timor Stubtail, Buff-banded Bushbird, Timor Leaf-Warbler, Flores, Black-banded and Timor Blue Flycatchers, Plain Gerygone, Flores Monarch, Brown-capped Fantail, Fawn-breasted and Bare-throated Whistlers, Golden-rumped, Black-fronted, Red-chested, Blood-breasted, and Scarlet-headed Flowerpeckers, Apricot-breasted and Flame-breasted Sunbirds, Orange-fronted, Lemon-bellied, and Ashy-bellied White-eyes, Eye-browed, Dark-crowned, Streak-breasted, and Pale-fronted Ibons, Scaly-crowned, Sunda, and Yellow-eared Honeyeaters, Sumba and Red-naped Myzomelas, Streak-breasted Honeyeater, Timor Friarbird, Javan, Black-faced, Five-colored, and Pale-headed Munias, Timor Sparrow, Timor Oriole, Timor Figbird, Wallacean Drongo, and Flores Crow.
Other treats were: Lesser Frigatebird, Little Black and Little Pied Cormorants, Australian Pelican, White-faced Heron, Pacific Reef-Egret, Javan Pond-Heron, Royal Spoonbill, Pacific Black Duck, Oriental Honey-Kite, Short-toed Eagle, Brown Goshawk, Bonelli’s Eagle, Spotted Kestrel, Brown Quail, Red-backed Buttonquail, Red-capped Plover, Far Eastern Curlew, Terek Sandpiper, Siberian Tattler, White-headed Stilt, Red-necked Phalarope, Australian Pratincole, Little Cuckoo-Dove, Rainbow Lorikeet, Red-cheeked Parrot, Asian and Australian Koels, Barn Owl, Edible-nest Swiftlet, Blue-tailed and Rainbow Bee-eaters, Javan Kingfisher, Sunda Woodpecker, Australasian Bushlark, Striated Swallow, Australian Pipit, White-shouldered Triller, Island Thrush, Sunda Bush-Warbler, Broad-billed Flycatcher, Northern and Rufous Fantails, Golden Whistler, Thick-billed Flowerpecker, Helmeted Friarbird, Red Avadavat, Zebra Finch, Short-tailed Starling, and Javan Myna.
Our bird species total was 223 seen plus 3 heard only. Superb close-up views of the Komodo Dragon, world’s largest lizard, were had on Komodo, where the Timor Deer is also common. A great trip with bright, friendly and fun participants and excellent birding.
2006 LESSER SUNDAS TOUR
26 August – 17 September
On our first morning birding on Sumba, we started out at dawn on a trail off the main road into the forest. We had gotten about 150 meters when we stopped to watch and listen. We didn’t immediately see anything, but there was lots of song, so we just waited. Soon Eric Sticklen spotted a Chestnut-backed Thrush in a tree. We had superb views of this shy and exquisitely marked bird as it fed on fruits. Soon a large dark pigeon flew in – Metallic Pigeon! We had excellent views of this bird and later another one. Then a male Apricot-breasted Sunbird flew in, followed by another pigeon. We got the pigeon in our scopes – Red-naped Fruit-Dove! We watched, agape, as this beautiful bird preened for about 10 minutes. Soon a fine male Black-naped Fruit-Dove dropped by to give us a good look. We then spotted a Flores Flycatcher which allowed us to see him well. A beautiful white male Asian Paradise-Flycatcher visited for a while, then a Golden Whistler, a Rufous Fantail, and a couple of Black-fronted flowerpeckers. Several Orange-fronted White-eyes and Sunda Honeyeaters, as well as some Wallacean Drongos spent some time with us. All this in just an hour in one spot. We were aglow.
In late afternoon on the same day, we set ourselves up to watch a couple of forested ridges in hope of seeing a Sumba Hornbill. Soon, a flock of 4 pigeon-sized birds flew toward one of the ridges – Sumba Green Pigeon! We watched the pigeons in our binoculars until they landed and then set up our scopes. While distant, we had long, leisurely and fairly good views of them. Then suddenly, a hornbill flew along the ridge and perched in a large tree. We quickly trained our scopes on him and had brief but good views. Later, after dark, we spent two hours tracking down and seeing the Sumba Boobook and the recently described Small Boobook (Ninox sumbaensis), which was first discovered by Dennis Yong and me in 1987. A grand day indeed!
Some of the other special Lesser Sunda species we saw are: Sunda Teal, Sunda Goshawk, Sumba Buttonquail, Javan Plover, Bar-necked Cuckoo-Dove, Barred Dove, Black-backed Fruit-Dove, Dark-backed Imperial Pigeon, the Flores, Sumba and Timor races of Rainbow Lorikeet that are all likely splits, Olive-headed Lorikeet, Yellow-crested Cockatoo, Great-billed Parrot, Olive-shouldered Parrot, Wallace’s Hanging-Parrot, Sunda Cuckoo, Moluccan and Wallace’s Scops-Owls, Streaked Boobook (Ninox fusca), Sunda Nightjar (Caprimulgus meesi), White-rumped, Cinnamon-collared and Cerulean Kingfishers, Elegant Pitta, Wallacean and Sumba Cuckooshrikes, Flores Minivet, White-bellied Bushchat, Orange-banded Thrush, Russet-capped Tesia, Timor Stubtail, Buff-banded Bushbird, Timor Leaf-Warbler, Sumba Brown Flycatcher (building a nest), Black-banded Flycatcher, Timor Blue Flycatcher, Plain Gerygone, Flores Monarch, Brown-capped Fantail, Fawn-breasted and Bare-throated Whistlers, Golden-rumped, Black-fronted, Red-chested, Blood-breasted and Scarlet-headed Flowerpeckers, Apricot-breasted and Flame-breasted Sunbirds, Lemon-bellied and Ashy-bellied White-eyes, Eye-browed, Dark-crowned, Streak-breasted, and Pale-fronted Ibons, Scaly-crowned and Yellow-eared Honeyeaters, Sumba and Red-naped Myzomelas, Streak-breasted Honeyeater, Timor Friarbird, Ticolored Parrotfinch, Five-colored and Pale-headed Munias, Timor Sparrow, Timor Oriole, Timor Figbird, Wallacean Drongo, and Flores Crow.
Interesting species that are more widespread were: Bulwer’s Petrel, Great and Lesser Frigatebirds, Little Black and Little Pied Cormorants, Australian Pelican, Pied and White-faced Herons, Rufous Night-Heron, Wandering and Lesser Whistlingducks, Short-toed Eagle, Spotted Harrier, Bonelli’s Eagle, Spotted Kestrel, Australian Hobby, Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Brown Quail, Green Junglefowl, Barred Buttonquail, Dusky Moorhen, Oriental Plover, Far Eastern Curlew, Great Knot, Beach Thick-knee, Island Collared Dove, Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove, Red-cheeked and Eclectus Parrots, Rusty-breasted Cuckoo, Shining and Gould’s Bronze-Cuckoos, Australasian Grass-Owl, Cave Swiftlet, Sunda Woodpecker, White-shouldered Triller, Island Thrush, Sunda Bush-Warbler, Yellow-breasted Warbler, Spectacled Monarch, Broad-billed Flycatcher, Northern and Rufous Fantails, Golden Whistler, Thick-billed Flowerpecker, Helmeted Friarbird, Red Avadavat, Zebra Finch, Black-faced Munia, Short-tailed Starling, and Javan Myna.
1997 LESSER SUNDAS
The highlight of this trip was seeing the Flores Monarch, the first tour group to do so. We saw 5 individuals quite well over a period of an hour. This species was first described in 1973 and, only in the last few years, been seen by a handful of birders. Only slightly less exciting was again finding the Wallace's Hanging Parrot and Sumba Buttonquail, which were seen for the first time by a tour group on KingBird's 1995 Lesser Sundas Tour.
The hanging parrot seems to be rare while the buttonquail is probably fairly common. We had wonderful close scope views of the highly endangered Sumba Hornbill. A pair of Sumba Boobooks - copulating while illuminated by flashlight was quite surprising.
Other interesting birds were: Bulwer's Petrel, Australian Pelican, Sunda Goshawk, Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Metallic Pigeon, Ruddy Cuckoo-Dove, Sumba Green-Pigeon, 4 fruit-doves (Black-backed, Red-naped, Rosecrowned and Black-naped), 3 imperial pigeons, 9 parrots (including Olive-headed and Iris Lorikeets, Yellow-crested Cockatoo, and Great-billed and Olive-shouldered Parrots), 6 owls (including the unidentified scops-owl which Dennis Yong and I first discovered on Sumba in August 1987), 5 kingfishers (including White-rumped and Cinnamon-collared), Elegant Pitta, Wallacean and Sumba Cuckooshrikes,' Flores Minivet, Chestnut-capped, Chestnut-backed and Orange-banded Thrushes, Russet-capped Tesia, Timor Stubtail, Buff-banded Bushbird, Black-banded Flycatcher, Asian Paradise-Flycatcher, 3 fantails, 3 whistlers, 5 flowerpeckers, 4 sunbirds, 8 white-eyes, 5 honeyeaters, Five-colored Munia, Timor Sparrow, Timor Figbird and Flores Crow. It was a very pleasant trip.