When my lovely wife, Sue, informed me that she wanted to travel to Bali to take part in a ceramics workshop in Ubud I was delighted as we had never visited Bali before and I knew that it would be a fantastic opportunity for me to do some tropical birding whilst Sue was potting.
I started searching the internet to find a guide or tour that would suit my itinerary, skill level and budget. I came across a blog site called Birding Tours in Bali by Made Surya based in West Bali. I read the reports and comments and sent Made an email letting him know my schedule, interest and budget. Within a day Made responded with a terrific plan and itinerary that would achieve my goal of seeing and photographing as many Bali bird species as possible, with some key species targeted, namely the Javan Banded Pitta and the Bali Starling. Needless to say, I booked the tour immediately.
After arriving in Bali and settling into our villa in Ubud, Made arranged for his driver to pick me up and drive to Blimbingsari Village located on the very edge of the Barat Bali National Park and also the location of Made’s home and guesthouse. I was fortunate to meet both Made’s mum and dad, and his mum cooked us some beautiful meals. We had a great chat in the evening I arrived about the itinerary, Bali, birds, cameras, and life before an early night.
Up at 5:00 am for a cooked breakfast and then headed off into cool morning air to start a busy day of excellent birding. We started the day trying to spot Pittas, but without success, so onto the next site. On the way, near Sumberkelampok, Made spotted Javan and Common Mynas on the roadside and a White Bellied Fish Eagle perched high on an electricity tower, and the species list for the day was started!
|White-bellied Sea Eagle, by Russ|
From this roadside stop, we on to the monsoon forest at Gerokgak. We entered this drier forest ecosystem where the tree height was a lot lower and less dense that the wet rainforest.
Chesnut-headed Bee-eater, by Made Surya
Small Minivet, by Russ
Within a minute or two we stopped the car and the bird life was prolific with us adding Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, White-shouldered Triller, Collared Kingfisher, Green Jungle Fowl, Scaly-breasted Munia, Small Minivet, Greater Coucal, Fulvous-chested Jungle Flycatcher, Scarlet-headed Flowerpecker and Olive-backed Sunbird within minutes!
Bali Myna, by Made Surya
Black-winged Flycatcher Strike, by Made Surya
At this location I was amazed to see the diversity of species in one location. Made has the ability to be able see and hear bird species with an amazing accuracy and resulted in us seeing, and photographing many more species than I had expected. His excellent local knowledge and birding skills guaranteed to get fantastic results. At this location Made was able to spot and call to one of our main target species - the Bali Starling. Within a few minutes the bird came into view. It was a real privilege to see this bird in its natural environment after teetering on the brink of extinction. We were luck enough to get some great photos of this magnificent bird.
|Changable Hawk Eagle, by Russ|
Further down the track in the same location we spotted Black-winged Starling, Black-winged Flycatcher Shrike, Black Drongo, Long-tailed Shrike, Coppersmith Barbet, Zebra Dove, Spotted Dove, Yellow-vented Bulbul and Common Iora. Just before heading back to the main road and then to the guesthouse for lunch, we spotted a beautiful Changeable Hawk Eagle perched close by the road - another highlight!
Javan Banded Pitta, by Russ
|Lemmon-bellied White-eye, by Made Surya|
After lunch we ventured into the teak woodlands behind Shalom Homestay (Blimbingsari Village). After an hour or so of stealth, creeping and whispering in the forest we spotted the Javan Banded Pitta - this was a great thrill, such a beautiful little shy bird and my first pitta!
|Sunda Scops Owl, by Russ|
High fives with Made for the Pitta and then walking back to the guesthouse Made spotted another beautiful bird, the Sunda Scops Owl! This bird has been a regular around the homestay for sometime, but hadn’t been seen in its usual roosting location, but Made found it, more high fives!
After lunch we visited a number of different ecosystems, including Palasari dam, rice fields, tidal ponds and the coastal area at Tuwed. Once again Made’s skill as a guide and photographer were excellent and it was a pleasure to spend the afternoon spotting birds, chatting about Bali and enjoying the wide variety of ecosystems and species associated with them. During the afternoon we spotted Stork-billed Kingfisher, Javan Kingfisher, Small Blue / Cerrulean Kingfisher, Blue-eared Kingfisher, Savannah Nightjar, Sooty-headed Bulbul, Japanese Sparrowhawk, Javan Pond Heron, Lemon-bellied White-eye, Yellow Bittern, Striated Grassbird, Cattle Egret, White-breasted Wood Swallow, Common Sandpiper, Greater Sandplover, Great Egret, Lesser Sandplover, Golden-bellied Gerygone, Striated Heron
|Yellow-vented Bulbul, by Made Surya|
|Golden-bellied Gerygone, by Made Surya|
By 5:00 pm is was time to stop for the day and for me to head back to Ubud feeling very tired, but equally thrilled and pleased with one of my best days of birding ever. This was possible due to Made’s wonderful birding skills and local knowledge, his gentle and thoughtful style and happy nature. He was able to design the tour exactly to suit my objectives and skill level and managed to squeeze in so many birds and locations into one day of birding fun. I would totally recommend Made and his guiding services to anyone visiting Bali and wants to see “real” Bali, and some its birds. I plan to come back again to pick up some of those species we didn’t find in our hectic day in west Bali. Look forward to coming back again.
Thanks Made, I had the best birding day ever.