Java, Downwards (Days 3 and 4)
Our night spent camping on Gunung Gede after hiking up the previous day was an extremely cold one- far colder than one would think is really necessary for being just a few degrees south of the equator. We woke up before dawn to climb even further up to the second campsite, where we would look for Horsfield's Thrush, a ground-dwelling denizen of the high mountains. The morning was clear and cold, and initially there wasn't much bird activity besides a few Javan Heleias and a heard-only Javan Shortwing. Soon, however, we saw a distant Horsfield's Thrush scratching on the ground on the other side of the campsite, and I was able to get a couple of bad record shots before it disappeared into the forest.
|An orchid (Dendrobium hasseltii) in the campsite|
|The upper campsite at sunrise|
With the thrush seen, we hiked down the mountain towards the first campsite. On the way down we ran into a trio of squabbling male Javan Trogons, and heard a Pink-headed Fruit Dove that once again remained resolutely out of site. I heard a faint in the distance and realized it was a Javan Cochoa, one of the rarer Javan endemics and possibly the biggest target for Gunung Gede. Unfortunately, while it called for a solid five minutes, we were never able to tempt it in closer, and we never re-encountered it, leaving the cochoa as one of the most aggravating "heard only" birds on my life list.
|Calling male Javan Trogon|
Back at the campsite, a Three-striped Ground Squirrel was scavenging for table scraps, while we got excellent views of a female Javan Shortwing. Just before the waterfall, the Tawny-breasted Parrotfinch was still there and showing well. It amazes me how tame those two species are, as they're two of the most difficult birds to see and photograph in the Philippines.
|Female Javan Shortwing|
|Three-striped Ground Squirrel|
As we hiked further down, we ran into similar mixed flocks, although Indigo Flycatcher and Cinereous Tit were nice additions, even if I'd seen both before. After lots of effort and many failed tries, we finally got a good look at a spectacular male Pink-headed Fruit Dove, his brilliant colors just visible in the mist. We also encountered some nice mammals, including a troupe of Javan Lutungs and a Black Giant Squirrel.
|Pink-headed Fruit Dove!|
|Black Giant Squirrel|
|Javan Lutung holding a baby!|
|Some kind of fancy leafhopper|
|A long-legged fly (Sciaponidae sp.) of some kind|
|An impressive fern|
One of my hoped-for birds on Gunung Gede was Mountain Serin, a mysterious resident of several Southeast Asian mountains that probably represents a number of undescribed species. Birders visiting a couple of weeks prior had gotten excellent views of them, as their favorite flowering bush Strobilanthes cernua was in bloom, but by the time I got there the flowers were mostly coming off, and there weren't any to tempt serins out of the canopy. Unfortunately, all we got was a flock of Mountain Serins calling as it flew above us, another frustrating "heard only" bird. We had better luck with a calling Flame-fronted Barbet, and had another encounter with a very friendly Javan Whistling Thrush. We saw a flock of Sunda Minivets, and I got to watch a brilliant red male devouring an insect.
|The remains of the serin flower|
|Javan Whistling Thrush|
We reached the bottom of the main trail, and took a left to get to the waterfalls, the destination of most day hikers on Gunung Gede. The waterfalls themselves were spectacular, but I also had fun watching the local Sunda Forktails dabbling in and out of the water. A Spotted Kestrel (endemic to Indonesia until Pete Simpson discovered them breeding in Mindanao a few years ago) flew overhead and perched in a distant tree.
|The Gunung Gede waterfall|
We waited by the waterfalls until sunset, then set out down the path looking for owls. Almost immediately, we had a calling Javan Scops Owl, which was soon perched only a few feet in front of our faces! Further down, a Sunda Scops Owl was calling, which we managed to get a decent look at after a lot of effort. Javan Owlet called repeatedly from just beside the trail, but we were never able to get a view of it. There were a few Javan Frogmouths calling as well, and we got a view of one of them from below.
|Javan Scops Owl|
|Sunda Scops Owl|
|Some kind of fungus beetle (Encaustini sp.) seen along the trail|
|A weird spider of some sort|
We spent the night at a nice hotel in town, where I almost (but not quite) deleted all my pictures from the past 2 days by accident before realizing my computer was going crazy. The next morning we woke before dawn once more and headed back to the Gunung Gede trailhead to look for Sunda Thrush. Almost immediately we saw a Sunda Thrush hopping along the steps at the start of the trail, and to our surprise it hopped directly towards us, practically at our feet! Very unusual behavior for a bird that has a reputation for being extremely shy and difficult to see.
|An extremely tame Sunda Thrush|
With the thrush successfully seen, we headed to the nearby Cibodas Botanic Gardens, where we got a nice view of a White-crowned Forktail dabbling by an artificial stream. We stopped by a large tree where we finally saw Yellow-throated Hanging Parrot, as well as another Pied Shrike-babbler. I saw a flock of white-eyes that are apparently now called Sangkar White-eyes after eBird's extensive and confusing revision of the zosterops species. A Javan Kingfisher was seen perched in the distance a little further away, and I was able to get a salvageable picture after my picture from Bali was deleted. In retrospect, we should have also visited the area of the botanic garden where the Javan Banded Pitta is seen so that I could get some non-deleted pictures, but I suppose that's something to do on my next visit, whenever that is.
In the end, I think I actually saw more butterflies than birds at the botanic garden:
|Common Line Blue|
|Tailless Line Blue|
|Hill Grass Yellow|
|Great Evening Brown|
My last birding stop in Java in the city of Bogor at the Bogor Botanical Garden, the oldest in Southeast Asia. It was late morning by the time we arrived, and a hot, sunny day. Even so, the birds were there, and in a patch of artificial forest we quickly ran into several new birds: a Grey-cheeked Bulbul, a flock of Grey-cheeked Tit-babblers, a Pale Spiderhunter, and a fabulous male Black-naped Fruit Dove. In a large tree elsewhere I spotted a couple of beautiful Ruby-throated Bulbuls, an unusually colorful bulbul, and a female Black-naped Fruit Dove. The garden was also a good spot for photographing swiftlets, although aside from the obvious Cave Swiftlets I have no idea if I was photographing Edible-nest Swiftlets, Black-nest Swiftlets, or Mossy-nest swiftlets...
|Male Black-naped Fruit Dove|
|Female Black-naped Fruit Dove|
|The world will never know what kind of swiftlet this is...|
After lunch, we walked around the botanic gardens for a while longer before leaving for the airport. We ended up seeing almost no birds, although there were lots of butterflies and dragonflies to keep me occupied. We passed a large group of people, I ended up getting pressured into having my picture taken with approximately 600 Indonesian schoolchildren.
|Green Marsh Hawk|
I ended my trip to Bali and Java with a total of 160 species seen, including about 100 lifers. Khaleb was a great guide and birding companion, and I can certainly recommend the Jakarta Birders for anyone visiting Java. There's lots left to see of course, including a couple hundred more endemics and few thousand more islands, so I'm sure I'll be back sooner rather than later, to Java and to other regions further afield...