09 October 2015

Kingfisher Crop...INDONESIA (Aug-Sept.)

In August-September 2015, I led a bird tour to the islands of Sulawesi and Halmahera in far eastern Indonesia, which happens to be one of the epicentres of kingfisher diversity. On this trip, (and we even missed a couple), we got 13 species of kingfisher, between the two islands visited. Many of which, of course, were endemic to the region/island, as this is one of global centres of bird endemism. Of all the sites visited, Tangkoko-Batuangus Dua Saudara (better known simply as "Tangkoko"); is the one famed for its kingfishers the most. This reserve sits at the eastern apex of the Minahassa Peninsula, the northernmost tentacle of the island of Sulawesi. We only stayed there for three nights, and in no small part due to the assistance of our excellent local guide Samuel, notched up literally dozens of kingfishers; 24 individual kingfishers were seen there of 7 different species, with 7 species featuring in a single day there! And, we did not see every kingfisher possible in the reserve, which boasts an extraordinary 10 species within its borders.
On our first morning in the reserve we stumbled upon half a dozen different Green-backed Kingfishers, and likewise another six of Lilac-cheeked Kingfisher too, both impressive endemic species to the island of Sulawesi. The next day we racked up all seven species seen by is there, within the Tangkoko forests and mangroves, adding Sulawesi Dwarf, Common, Great-billed, Collared, and Ruddy to those species too.
Moving on to Dumoga-Bone park, well to the west on the same tentacle-like peninsula of Sulawesi we did not add any new ones, but got another Sulawesi Dwarf-Kingfisher and Green-backed Kingfisher, before we birded the flanks of the Mahawu Mountain, near the northern city of Manado, where an epic effort led us, eventually, to a superb young Scaly-breasted Kingfisher, that quite literally just sat there while we ogled it from under 30 feet away!
Lastly, we moved over to the Spice Island of Halmahera, which strangely looks rather like a miniature version of Sulawesi, being tentacled and starfish-shaped too. However, in spite of the short distance from Sulawesi to Halmahera, the birds are very different; here we added 3 more kingfishers to our list, the bleach-headed Beach KingfisherBlue-and-white Kingfisher, and the subdued Sombre Kingfisher.

All of this got me thinking about where in the World is the best tour for kingfishers? This got me thinking back to a few years back in Papua New Guinea where a combined trip between the mainland and New Britain yielded 18 species of kingfisher for us, and we missed a few, meaning you could very likely get a 20-species trip there!