LORE LINDU NATIONAL PARK
Around midday we flew to Palu in central Sulawesi on the next leg of our adventure. Our guide Roy met us at the airport and we departed for Lore Lindu NP, a few hours south of Palu. The Palu area is one of the driest parts of Sulawesi and was a contrast to the Manado area. A hot dry wind blew as we stepped from the plane.
A scrubby area along a dry creek about 20 kilometres out of Palu produced some different birds including several beautiful Blue-tailed Bee-eaters. These are about a third bigger than Rainbow Bee-eaters and perhaps even more beautiful. The area was also good for Munias with Chestnut, Black-faced, Scaly-breasted and Pale-headed, all present in good numbers. Further along in rice paddies we had our first Javan Pond Heron including some nice adults in breeding plumage. Overall there were few waterbirds on the rice fields. Apart from another Spotted Kestrel and Common Kingfisher, not much else en route to Kamarora in Lore Lindu National Park.
Arriving at dusk we were greeted by the sounds of Orche-bellied Boobook and Sulawesi Masked Owl. We made some effort for the S. Masked Owl but the bird eluded us on this occasion. We had another five nights at Kamarora and thought we would catch up with it eventually but it rarely called again and we never did see it at this locality. Such is the fickle nature of owls. The next morning we birded the trails around Kamarora and had only gone a short distance when a Orche-bellied Boobook was flushed and sat well for us. There was one we wouldn't have to spotlight! Further along the trail we had a pair of Rufous-throated Flycatchers - only another two were seen on the tour. During the morning we added Bay Coucal, Citrine Flycatcher, Crested Myna and the vocal Piping Crow - surely the world's most attractive Corvid.
Raptor watching at Kamarora produced a lovely adult and an immature Rufous-bellied Eagle, our one and only Black Eagle, and another Sulawesi Serpent-Eagle. A late migrating Grey Wagtail was also present at the lodge.
High altitude birding along the Anaso Road the following morning produced some delightful endemics. These included the skulking Chestnut-backed Bush-Warbler and the plainish Yellow-vented Whistler. Our first Malia were seen. This is a bird with loads of character and is enchantingly vocal. Feeding flocks of Little Pied Flycatcher, not an endemic but so cute; Mountain Tailorbirds, Blue-fronted Flycatcher, the spectacular Fiery-browed Starling, Pygmy Cuckoo-shrike and Streak-headed Dark-eye. Drab looking Sulawesi Leaf Warblers saved by a nice song were seen further along the road, plus Mountain White-eye, Sulawesi Myzomela and Crimson-crowned Flowerpecker.
After lunch, back near Lake Tambing environs, a flowering tree produced both Greater and Lesser Sulawesi Honeyeaters. Around Lake Tambing, itself, several Yellow and Green Lorikeets were feeding in flowering trees. A solitary long tailed pigeon with the characteristics of the elusive Sombre Pigeon flew over the lake. A lone Black Duck appeared just to remind me of home. Returning to our accommodation, after dark that evening, the road ahead seemed to be blocked by a log. Closer inspection revealed a gigantic Reticulated Python. A fitting end to an exciting day.
Up the Anaso Road the next morning, our one and only Spotted Harrier of the trip came cruising over heavy montane forest. Very different habitat to that favored by the species in Australia - perhaps just passing through. That this species occurs in only two places, Australia and Sulawesi is a mystery. The individual we saw, which appeared to be an adult male, was much paler underneath than Australian birds but as we only saw one bird it may not be typical of the Sulawesi race.
Higher up Anaso Road, around the old logging camp, birds were sparse. More Malia were seen and nice looks at more Greater and Lesser Sulawesi Honeyeaters. Glossy Swiftlets were common at higher altitude and their backs glistened beautifully in the sun as they flew past us at eye height The bird of the day was a Great Shortwing seen at the top of the Anaso Road. Several others were calling well in the late afternoon at this locality in low stunted growth. We planned to spotlight for Satanic Nightjar that evening but rain put a finish to that idea. We did, however, spotlight a gorgeous pair of Sulawesi Scops Owl in the Tongoa area on our way back to Kamarora.
The mid altitude rainforest, near the village of Tongoa, produced some impressive birding the following morning. Good numbers of White-necked Mynas with their incredibly lengthy tail feathers; and a fairly tame Jerden's Baza put on a great display. More Ashy Woodpeckers, Ornate Lorikeets, Small Sulawesi Hanging Parrots and our first Sulawesi Dwarf Hornbills and a Sulawesi Pygmy Woodpecker put in a brief appearance. Better views were had of Piping Crows, Knobbed Hornbills, Blue-backed Parrots, Purple-winged Rollers and a perched Sulawesi Serpent Eagle. Later, near Lake Tambing, a huge long tailed Bear Cuscus lumbered across the road - an aptly named beast. Also in that area was the only pair of Snowy-browed Flycatchers we were to see; and we had an excellent close-up view of a spectacular Red-eared Fruit-Dove, one of only two seen. Our first Yellow-flanked Whistler was seen along the road with a feeding flock, an odd looking whistler in a genus of its own. Another feeding flock produced several of the attractive Cerulean Cuckoo-shrike, more Malia and our one and only Sulawesi Thrush, feeding in mid storey; an odd looking thrush - a nice pick up by Trevor.
A roadside stop in the Dongi Dongi area gave us some unanticipated goodies. Lots of White-bellied Imperial Pigeons were roosting in the treetops, Grey-rumped Tree Swifts flew overheard, several Sulawesi Crested Myna sat up nicely, and our first Barred Honey Buzzard flew past. Several flocks of Short-tailed Starling allowed close scrutiny to discern the short bill and different jizz from Asian Glossy Starling. The pièce de résistance was a pair of Purple-bearded Bee-eaters. Having not seen this species along the Anaso Road on the previous two days, it was good to see them. To cap a great day, a fine looking Tonkean Macaque scrutinized us from the treetops
A candidate for the world's most beautiful Accipiter, the Spot-tailed Goshawk, was seen the next morning along the Anaso Road. The bird was docile and allowed us scope views for some time. More Great Shortwings were seen although not by everyone - which was to prove fortunate later in the day. Better views were had of Sulawesi Pygmy Woodpecker and more Yellow-flanked Whistler were seen. A brief view of what must have been a Sombre Pigeon; then an excellent view in the sun of a pair of Purple-bearded Bee-eaters. A tiny squirrel, terribly cute, probably a Northern Dwarf Squirrel, was watched at close range chiseling lichen off the bark; and a large red bushy-tailed squirrel ran across the road. The bird of the day was Satanic Nightjar, a pair observed at close range (c5 m), roosting on a log on the roadside. The birds were flushed when one of our party, frustrated at inadequate looks at Great Shortwing, was rummaging around during the lunch break. One bird flew a couple of metres out of view but the other flew a short distance and landed in full view. A surprisingly tame nightjar which we were able to study in the scope to our fill.
A roadside stop in regrowth forest, back in the Dongi Dongi area, produced a pair of small streaky flycatchers. Happily, they were the so-called Sulawesi Flycatcher, a species only recently known to science. A fitting end to another fine day.
We spent our final day in Lore Lindu NP, birding the lower altitude forest at Kamarora which produced excellent birds including two splendid Accipiters: Sulawesi Goshawk and Small Sparrowhawk - both birds seen perched through the scope.
Fruiting trees in this area attracted numbers (c20) of the odd looking Sulawesi Crested Myna as well as Black-naped and Superb Fruit-Doves. Both Black and Crimson Sunbirds were present; another Sulawesi Flycatcher was seen, and a pair of Sulawesi Serpent Eagles with a juvenile, soared overhead. We were pleased to see another Crimson-crowned Flowerpecker at this locality as some of us had not seen it up at Anaso. We had assumed it only occurred at high altitude.
Great-eared Nightjar and Sulawesi Scops Owl were calling well at night
Some of us the next morning had brief views of Isabelline Bushhen wandering around the corn fields at Kamarora. The journey back to Palu gave us more Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, Javan Pond Herons and plenty of Munias. From Palu we flew back to Manado city and pretty damn pleased with ourselves too.
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