21 September 2015

The Land of Owls...SULAWESI (21st-22nd Aug.)

Islands are great places to be for fans of owls, as they often boast a few species of their own. The large Indonesian island of Sulawesi is an endemic hotspot, claiming more than 80 bird species all of its own, with some pretty spectacular ones among them. This impressive number of birds found nowhere else includes no less than SIX owls; fantastic for someone like me. Earlier on the tour, in Lore Lindu, we had seen the Cinnabar Boobook, an undiscovered owl until 1999, when a dusty specimen was examined more closely, but curiously now rather straightforward to find. We had also seen, if only poorly another owl endemic to this starfish-shaped island, the Speckled Boobook. However we had hopelessly failed in our attempts to find the powerfully built Sulawesi Masked Owl, a relative of the widespread Barn Owl. After our time in Lore Lindu in Central Sulawesi, we travelled north to the Minahassa Peninsula of North Sulawesi, and arguably one of Asia's finest reserves for birding, Tangkoko. I was looking forward to this greatly, as the combination of open forests, and an excellent local guide, who I admire greatly, by the name of Samuel, usually yield impressive bird lists. On top of that there are a few quirky endemic mammals to find there too, and for whatever reason, it is also an extraordinary place for kingfishers, boasting an incredible 10 species within its borders!
We arrived late in the afternoon, on a windy afternoon that prevented us from seeing too much, but still saw a Sulawesi Scops-Owl (YES, another endemic species!) at close range in our lodge garden before we slept that night. The next day was one of my best day's birding in Asia ever, and that is not an exaggeration. I will mention more on the other birds of that day later, but first to owls...
After stumbling into a Red-backed Thrush early on and walking our way through the forest from one kingfisher (first Green-backed Kingfisher) to another (then Lilac-cheeked), both of which followed a Ruddy Kingfisher in the garden of the lodge at dawn; we were interrupted by the sound of Samuel's mobile phone. Normally I might be offended by such urban sounds in the jungle, but I knew better than to be offended. I knew, more often than not, a ringing phone meant birds at the other end of the line. For in Tangkoko, often guides work in tandem, and you regularly do not realise another guide is working hard for you, until you are led to them standing by an extraordinary find.  The news at the end of the line was that our fellow guide, hidden somewhere else in the jungle, and unbeknown to us where, had walked into a day roosting Sulawesi Masked Owl! This was great news and we changed our course in the direction of this other guide that at least Samuel knew where he was! As we walked with our minds on a large owl waiting for us deeper into the forest, one of the group voiced a thought that I had daren't mention out loud. Dave remarked "Is he sure it is not a Minahassa Masked Owl?!" To explain there are 2 species of Barn Owl-like owls on Sulawesi, the aforementioned, and reasonably widespread Sulawesi Masked Owl (typically found outside deep forest), and the much rarer, tawny-coloured, and smaller, Minahassa Masked Owl. At this point, I confessed to Dave that this thought had indeed crossed my mind, and that I merely did not state it for fear of jinxing this or raising the bar on our expectations. Samuel, intriguingly, admitted that the junior guide waiting with the owl may well not be familiar of the subtle differences between these two closely related species. I think that it is quite possible that our pace quickened with this new found knowledge. Finally, after sweating our way up and down hills, and being made all the more nervous as we approached by Samuel's admission that birds like this found roosting can easily be unintentionally disturbed, so could flea the scene before our arrival -  - Panic!
As we approached this "junior" guide, who of course seemed anything but "junior" following this magnificent find, he casually pointed towards a tawny, exposed owl sitting almost at eye level! Having never seen one before, I was slow to say it, but Samuel was quick to confirm my incredulous thoughts: "Minahassa, Minahassa!" he exclaimed excitedly. Shockingly, we were face-to-face with a daytime Minahassa Masked-Owl and it was a simply wonderful view. The great view, the rarity of seeing one, let alone during the day, led this to be a popular entry into the TOP FIVE BIRDS OF THE TOUR. For me anyway, being an unashamed "owlaphile", this was the BIRD OF THE TRIP standing head and shoulders above all else, including the Geomalia, which I thought could not possibly be beaten. However, I had not counted in seeing this species at all! We closed the morning with another, thought more regular and predictable, day roosting owl (Ochre-bellied Boobook), and then in the evening, following a surprise flyover from a Sulawesi Masked-Owl lit up by the torch, could not resist another look at our local Sulawesi Scops-Owl at the lodge again. Through the day and night we had actually seen SIX different owls (1 Minhassa Masked Owl in the day, 3 different day roosting Ochre-bellied Boobooks, 1 Sulawesi Masked Owl in the evening, and a Sulawesi Scops-Owl). Thus, I find myself referring to Sulawesi as "The Land of the Owls", and who could argue after a day like that!

4 comments:

John Holmes said...

Great shots of great birds !

Margaret Stone said...

Fantastic! It's strange, though, that all of them have different eyes position while being caught in the picture. I always thought their eyes must be open widely, but as I see, it's only in the night time.
Margaret from http://au.essay-writing-place.com/

IBU SUNARTI DI KALIMANTAN said...

Ass...saya tidak menyanka kalau saya sudah bisa sesukses ini dan ini semua berkat bantuan MBAH RAWA GUMPALA,saya yang dulunya bukan siapa-siapa bahkan saya juga selalu dihina orang dan alhamdulillah kini sekaran saya sudah punya segalanya,itu semua atas bantuan beliau.Saya sangat berterimakasih banyak kepada MBAH RAWA GUMPALA atas bantuan nomor dan dana ghaibnya,alhamdulillah kini saya sudah bisa membuka usaha kembali yang dulunya pakum karna masalah faktor ekonomi dan kini kami sekeluarga sudah sangat serba berkecukupan dan tidak pernah lagi hutang sana sini,,bagi anda yang punya masalah keuangan jangan sungkan-sungkan untuk menhubungi MBAH RAWA GUMPALA karna insya allah beliau akan membantu semua masalah anda dan baru kali ini juga saya mendaptkan para normal yang sangat hebat dan benar-benar terbukti nyata,ini bukan hanya sekedar cerita tapi inilah kisah nyata yang benar-benar nyata dari saya




(((( BUKA BLO DANA GHAIB DAN NOMOR GHAIB MBAH RAWA GUMPALA ))))







Ass...saya tidak menyanka kalau saya sudah bisa sesukses ini dan ini semua berkat bantuan MBAH RAWA GUMPALA,saya yang dulunya bukan siapa-siapa bahkan saya juga selalu dihina orang dan alhamdulillah kini sekaran saya sudah punya segalanya,itu semua atas bantuan beliau.Saya sangat berterimakasih banyak kepada MBAH RAWA GUMPALA atas bantuan nomor dan dana ghaibnya,alhamdulillah kini saya sudah bisa membuka usaha kembali yang dulunya pakum karna masalah faktor ekonomi dan kini kami sekeluarga sudah sangat serba berkecukupan dan tidak pernah lagi hutang sana sini,,bagi anda yang punya masalah keuangan jangan sungkan-sungkan untuk menhubungi MBAH RAWA GUMPALA karna insya allah beliau akan membantu semua masalah anda dan baru kali ini juga saya mendaptkan para normal yang sangat hebat dan benar-benar terbukti nyata,ini bukan hanya sekedar cerita tapi inilah kisah nyata yang benar-benar nyata dari saya.

pak slemett said...

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jangan putus asah HUBUNGI AKI NAWE 085-218-379-259
tak ada salahnya anda coba
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saya jamin AKI NAWE tidak akan mengecewakan








saya PAK SLEMET posisi sekarang di malaysia
bekerja sebagai BURU BANGUNAN gaji tidak seberapa
setiap gajian selalu mengirimkan orang tua
sebenarnya pengen pulang tapi gak punya uang
sempat saya putus asah dan secara kebetulan
saya buka FB ada seseorng berkomentar
tentang AKI NAWE katanya perna di bantu
melalui jalan togel saya coba2 menghubungi
karna di malaysia ada pemasangan
jadi saya memberanikan diri karna sudah bingun
saya minta angka sama AKI NAWE
angka yang di berikan 6D TOTO tembus 100%
terima kasih banyak AKI
kemarin saya bingun syukur sekarang sudah senang
rencana bulan depan mau pulang untuk buka usaha
bagi penggemar togel ingin merasakan kemenangan
terutama yang punya masalah hutang lama belum lunas
jangan putus asah HUBUNGI AKI NAWE 085-218-379-259
tak ada salahnya anda coba
karna prediksi AKI tidak perna meleset
saya jamin AKI NAWE tidak akan mengecewakan