03 August 2013

Entering "Wallace's Lab"...INDONESIA (23rd July)

I have yearned to go to Indonesia, and especially the “Wallacean” islands of Sulawesi and Halmahera for years. Eastern Indonesia was where the great biologist Alfred Russell Wallace*1 came up with his theories of evolution that were later made famous by Charles Darwin; and these islands are packed with endemic birds and mammals of the highest order. After my epic journey to the Far East from Ecuador in South America, I had undertaken 5 flights and spent more than 30 hours getting there. So yes, I arrived exhausted, but that did not stop me from birding on that first afternoon. I met fellow “Tropical Birder” Keith Barnes at the airport in Manado, and our experienced local guide, Nurlin. And after changing up enough local currency to be able to call myself a millionaire, we headed west to Tangkoko National Park, on Sulawesi’s northern, Minahasa Peninsula. Bar a Eurasian Tree Sparrow that unceremoniously stole the title of my first bird in Sulawesi, almost the first bird I saw was a super Green-backed Kingfisher shortly after entering the national park. 

Tangkoko is a kingfisher’s paradise, and this was highlighted further when another lifebird showed up in the form of a Sulawesi Dwarf-Kingfisher, then later, at night, when Keith found his lifer Ruddy Kingfisher sleeping in a large palm. 

Other highlights included a spritely group of Sulawesi Dwarf-Hornbill, and then we closed the afternoon/evening by watching the famous “Tarsier Emergence” whereby a team of Spectral Tarsiers emerged from their daytime roost in a massive ficus tree within the park, posing at eye-level, and mere feet away; an intimate and unforgettable encounter indeed. 

We were not done just then though, as on the way out of the park we chalked up our first owl of the trip with the endemic Sulawesi Scops-Owl glaring impressively into our spotlight. I had longed to visit this place indeed, and I was quickly coming to realize that it might just live up to all the hype!

*1 See Alfred Russell Wallace’s acclaimed publication “The Malay Archipelago”

More to come from “Wallacea”, and Tangkoko, soon…

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