Thursday, 22 February 2018

22nd February 2018 Padang to Gunung Kerinci, Sumatra, Indonesia

We caught our 7.25am Air Asia flight from KL to Padang arriving on-time at 7.35am. We were met by two of Dwi's brothers (Pak Subandi's sons) and safely driven the 7 hour mostly rural route to Kerisik Tua where we enjoyed our first views of the somewhat-daunting Gunung Kerinci being an active volcano. We were shown to our spacious room complete with new mattresses and an ensuite western-style w/c. Pak Subandi soon appeared to greet us with a plate of fried bananas explaining that his elderly Mother-in-law was very poorly downstairs. Dwi soon arrived and took us to the shop next door to ensure he bought provisions to our liking. Cloud was largely engulfing Kerinci but we were soon on our way to the forest edge as Dwi had seen a Salvadori's Nightjar performing at dawn there the last two days. Whilst traversing the fields to the forest edge we saw the first of several Long-tailed Shrikes of the form bentet. With enough light we walked the trail to the first clearing where Dwi told us that in the morning he had heard a Sumatran Frogmouth pre-dawn but he explained that in a subsequent search he had failed to find it. Undeterred he set off into the forest and returned 10 minutes later to say that he had found it! With light rapidly fading we hurried to the spot and enjoyed eye-level views of a roosting adult female often gently swaying - a brilliant and memorable start to the trip! Fog had closed-in and combined with light rain we didn't see or hear any Nightjars before returning to Pak Subandi's homestay. We arranged a pre-dawn departure for the following morning to try again for the Nightjar, enjoyed a great evening meal, and were pleased to call it a night. The travelling was over and the birding had begun in style!

Mountain Imperial Pigeon h
Plume-toed Swiftlet 6
Eastern Cattle Egret 30
Grey Heron 1
Long-tailed Shrike 4
Barn Swallow 30
Pacific Swallow 6
Scaly-breasted Munia 2
Tree Sparrow 6

Gunung Kerinci from Kerisik Tua

trail from the car drop off to the forest edge at Gunung Kerinc

Adult Long-tailed Shrike at Gunung Kerinci

Adult female Sumatran Frogmouth at Gunung Kerinci

Adult female Sumatran Frogmouth at Gunung Kerinci
swaying to presumably resemble a dead leaf moving in a breeze

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

21st February 2018 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

After very kindly receiving a copy of the excellent Lynx Birds of the Indonesian Archipelago from my parents for Christmas and after a chance meeting in KL a year ago with Andy Paul, the owner of The Owl House in Ba'kelalan, Sarawak, we decided to investigate the possibility of planning a trip combining a visit to Ba'kelalan with visiting Gunung Kerinci in Sumatra and the Kinabatangan River at Sukau in Sabah. I had previously visited Sabah with JFC enjoying a great time at Danum Valley Field Centre, Mount Kinabalu and Poring Hot Springs.

I contacted the tour operators resident at each site being Dwi Wahyudi at Kerinci, Sumatra, Andy Paul at Ba'kelalan, Sarawak and Romzi Awang at Sukau, Sabah and received prompt and very encouraging replies from all three. In the meantime I had read that Garnet Pitta occurred at Lambir Hills National Park in Sarawak, that being within a 30 minute drive of Miri Airport which was the the jumping-off point for a flight into Ba'kelalan, was too tempting to ignore - it proved straightforward to book a chalet within the National Park online. In a matter of a few days we had booked our flights from Shetland to Kuala Lumpur and then onward flights with Air Asia and MASwings. 

We received brilliant personalized service throughout from Dwi, Andy and Romzi to whom we are very grateful for making all of our ground arrangements including being met at the various airports and transported to the sites and then guiding us in the field. We cannot recommend all three, and their respective teams, highly enough. Two taxi booths present inside Miri Airport ensured a smooth transfer to Lambir Hills where the husband of the resident cook in the dining hall was enlisted to drive us back to Miri airport a few days later.

With the trip falling at the traditional start of the dry season it soon became evident that a number of species were already paired and nest-building. However, for some species, especially Pittas, it still proved a good time to hear them vocalizing. We encountered a single wet day at Kerinci and a few showers on other days, an occasional brief shower in the afternoons at Ba'kelalan and just a couple of brief afternoon showers at Sukau.

We arrived on-time into Kuala Lumpur courtesy of Loganair and British Airways and walked to the conveniently situated Tune Hotel where we slept well.

Swiftlet sp. 5
House Crow 1
Common Myna 8

Saturday, 17 February 2018

17th February 2018 Unst SW4 Clear

A nice Spring-like day to do the WeBS counts that produced a juvenile Glaucous Gull and a 3w Iceland Gull at Skaw, the two Mealy Redpolls still lingering at Norwick, only my second Song Thrush of the year at Westing, a Whooper Swan and a Pintail at Dam Loch. In recent days I've seen the drake Surf Scoter now alone from the ferry between Unst and Yell, c.30 Long-tailed Ducks off Belmont, a pair of Goosander on Yell, a juvenile Iceland Gull at Mid Yell, my first Lesser Black-backed Gull of the year and Freda very kindly told us about a Blue Tit in her garden that we subsequently saw.

Iceland Gull at Skaw
Adult-like it shows a dark subterminal band to its bill and a slightly greyish tail suggesting it's a 3w.

Mealy Redpolls at Norwick

Friday, 16 February 2018

16th February 2018 Uyeasound Up Helly Aa

The annual mid-winter fire festival to mark the end of the yule season took place this year on a calm starlit evening ...

the burning galley

the galley

the galley shed bar staff

the guizers assembling into squads in the galley shed

the procession dragging the galley from the galley shed

look who's dragging the galley this year

the themed torchbearers of the procession

the procession heading for Easter Loch at Uyeasound

the return of the galley to Easter Loch

the squads circling the galley

the Guizer Jarl?

torches thrown into the galley

the burning galley

wot not birding!

Saturday, 3 February 2018

3rd February 2018 Yell Calm & sunny

The drake Surf Scoter was seen from the ferry between Unst and Yell and the female King Eider was seen in fading light this afternoon at Mid Yell.

Female King Eider at Mid Yell

King Eider, Otter and Hooded Crow at Mid Yell

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

31st January 2018 Unst Calm with passing showers

A Song Thrush at Norwick was an addition for the year this week and the scatter of Fieldfares and Redwings remain. A tour of the island today revealed a large influx of Gulls into the bays that included a Glaucous Gull and 2 Iceland Gulls at Norwick and 2 Glaucous Gulls at Haroldswick. There was also an adult Whooper Swan at Dam Loch, 20 Snow Buntings at Caldback and the drake Shoveler at Hillsgarth.

Juvenile Glaucous Gull at Norwick

Iceland Gulls at Norwick

Part of the flock of Gulls at Haroldswick ...

... included a couple more juvenile Glaucous Gulls

Snow Buntings at Caldback

Oystercatcher at Baltasound