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Seram Birding Itinerary

Seram Birding Itinerary And Diary
Day 2. The group met at Jakarta International Airport for the early morning flight to Ambon. We went directly from the airport to the main birding site on Ambon – secondary forest along Tulahu Road. Here we encountered our first regional specialties including a nice pair of Lazuli Kingfishers close up and individual Ambon White-eyes – endemic to this island – in two places (see here for more). We had a rest at the Hotel Mutiara in Ambon (our base for the trip) before boarding the packed overnight ferry to Buru. We slept in crowded but reasonably comfortable air-conditioned cabins.

Day 3. Disembarking at the Buru capital, Namlea, we headed north-west in 4-wheel drives, birding fragments of secondary growth where nice birds included 100+ Great-billed Parrots, Buru Oriole and Moluccan Cuckoo. We arrived at the village of Waspait on the north coast of Buru and checked into the Waspait ResortBuru, our (surprisingly flash) hotel for the next five nights. In the afternoon we drove up the Wamlana Logging Road (Wamlana Road) to 650m, coming to grips with endemics and specialties such as Buru Friarbird, Moluccan King-Parrot, Buru Raquet-tail, Buru Drongo, Buru Flower pecker, Buru Golden-Bulbul and Yellow-throated Whistler.

Day 4. Our morning began with an unsuccessful pre-dawn search for the Buru race of Hantu Boobook (which we failed to see or hear at all) but nice looks at a co-operative Moluccan Scops-Owl. Our focus for the day was the higher elevation forests (900-1300m) of the Wamlana Road and a relatively new logging road running off Wamlana to Danau Rana (Danau Road). The latter was particularly rewarding; it was along here that we found the Black-lore Parrot, in the heat of the day shortly after lunch. Buru Raquet-tails were surprisingly common. We chalked up Buru Mountain-Pigeon, Buru Leaf-Warbler, Buru White-eye, Tawny-backed Fantail, Wakolo Myzomela, White-naped Monarch and Drab Whistler.

The various distinctive island races of species such as Drab Whistler and Northern Fantail suggest many more splits in future.

Day 5. Back up in the mountains, today birding solely along the Danau Road. Birds included Pale Cicada bird, Buru Cuckoo-shrike, Buru Bush-Warbler, Buru Jungle-Flycatcher and Cinnamon-chested Flycatcher. We heard what we believed was Buru Honeyeater and Merilyn taped its call, although we did not see the bird.

Day 6. We drove west through the lowlands to the coastal villages of Bara and Eruba, where we birded patches of lowland rainforest and secondary forest. We heard Forsten’s Scrubfowl and some of us saw a single Buru Green-Pigeon. Black-tipped Monarch, a snappy lowlands endemic, was seen several times.

Day 7. We returned to the Danau Road, with those in the front vehicle seeing Buru Thrush on the road early in the morning. At the spot where we taped the suspected Buru Honey eater two days earlier, we saw 6-8 Buru Honey eaters feeding in a band of white flowering trees.

Day 8 – We went back to Eruba village for the morning, crossing the river before dawn and calling in a fine Lesser Masked Owl. In the afternoon we drove back to Namlea, calling in at Danua Sawah, a small lake, and boarded the overnight ferry to Ambon.

Day 9. After disembarking we again visited the Tulahu Road, failing to see he white-eye or kingfisher again but adding Seram Imperial-Pigeon to the list.

Day 10. Because of baggage weight restrictions on small planes, most of our luggage was left at Hotel Mutiara before we caught the flight to Saumlaki, the capital of Yamdena Island – the largest of the Tanimbar group. For most of the trip we were in the Moluccas but on Yamdena we were in the eastern Lesser Sundas. Our birding on Yamdena was at various roadside scrub patches along the main road out of Saumlaki, particularly a strip of forest lining the creek at Kebun 45.

During our first afternoon we saw the distinctive regional races of Dusky Cuckoo-Dove, Mistletoe-bird and Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove. The specialties and endemics came thick and fast: Yellow-eyed Imperial-Pigeon, Blue-streaked Lory, Tanimbar Corella, Tanimbar Triller, Rufous-sided Gerygone, Golden-bellied Flycatcher, Loetoe Monarch, Cinnamon-tailed Fantail, Wallacean Whistler, Tanimbar Friarbird, Tanimbar Starling, Scaly-breasted Honeyeater. After the difficult birding on Buru, birds seemed to be everywhere. Our accommodation in Saumlaki was the Harapan Indah Hotel, positioned nicely over the water.

Day 11. In the early morning we taped in a Tanimbar Boobook along the Yonif 734 Road. Further along this road during the morning we had Tanimbar Oriole, Tanimbar Crow, Tanimbar Bush-Warbler, Banda Myzomela, Wallacean Cuckoo-shrike and Tricoloured Parrotfinch.

Day 12. Back to the scrub patches on the main road. At Kebun 45 we saw Long-tailed Fantail, Slaty-backed Thrush and Fawn-breasted Thrush. Along another scrubby trail we had Wallace’s Fruit-Dove and better views of the parrotfinch, while Greater Wallacean Drongo was found along the road.

Day 13. We returned to Yonif 734 Road in the early morning and saw a pair of boobooks and another Long-tailed Fantail. We later flew to Tual, the capital of Kai Kecil Island in the Kai Islands. Our hotel, the Suita Indah, was ordinary but there’s not much choice here. We saw Kai Coucal while driving from the airport and in the afternoon visited a patch of scrub at the coastal village of Ohoililir, where White-tailed Monarch showed.

Day 14. We boarded a chartered boat to take us to Kai Besar Island. Watching from the boat was most rewarding: we saw a juvenile Grey-backed Tern (along with several Bridled Terns), 5 Matsudaira’s Storm-Petrels and 2 Streaked Shear waters. On Kai Besar we easily found Great Kai White-eye, endemic to this island. Kai Leaf-Warbler was spotted after a shortest walk to 370m above the Bukit Indah Mission, where we saw Yellow-capped Pygmy-Parrot and White-tailed Monarch again. In the afternoon we returned to Kai Cecil and drove to Ohoililir, where an Island Whistler – a specialty for this site – was seen.

Day 15. The morning was occupied on the quite new road to the airport (dubbed here the Airport Road) which cuts through some excellent rain forest, with plenty of side-trails to garden plots in the forest. This roadside forest is set to overtake Ohoililir as the prime Kai birding site. We saw plenty of Little Kai White-eyes (endemic to Kai Cecil) as well as Pied Bronze-Cuckoo, Grey-headed Whistler and Red-bellied Pitta. In the afternoon we visited a small lake, Danel Abel, and the coastal village of Namar.

Day 16. We returned in the morning to the Airport Road, seeing Kai Cicada bird, large numbers of Wallace Fruit-Doves and a migrating flock of 18 Channel-billed Cuckoos. In the afternoon we flew back to Ambon. That evening we boarded another chartered boat to take us to Haruku Island, famed for its breeding population of the rare Moluccan Scrubf owl. We saw two birds well about an hour after sunset – a fitting end to a very long day.

Day 17. We caught the ferry from Ambon to Seram, arriving at the port of Amahai and crossing the island along the Trans-Seram Highway, passing through the Manuseli National Park, our primary birding destination for the island. Stopping along the road we saw our first Seram endemics including Streak-breasted Fantail, Seram Cockatoo, Seram Leaf-Warbler and Seram Mountain-Pigeon, along with Blyth’s Hornbill.

Our accommodation in the delightful village of Sawai was the basic but enchanting Lisar Bahari Community Guest-house, where an impressive array of coral marine life can be watched from the balconies.

Day 18. The morning was spent in the highest area (about 1200m) of Manusela along the road closest to Sawai. In a single flowering tree we saw Seram Myzomela, Wakalo Myzomela, Seram Honeyeater and most surprisingly, a flock of Blue-eared Lories. Nearby we had Seram White-eye and for some, Grey-hooded Dark-eye. We drove down to about 900m, seeing Seram Oriole, Seram Friar bird and for some, Rufescent Dark-eye in roadside scrub. We had lunch at a parrot rehabilitation centre operated by Ceisar and his colleagues. Seram’s parrot populations have been severely depleted by the cage bird trade and the centre aims to re-establish wild populations through captive breeding. We saw Seram Crow after lunch and later in the afternoon, near the Sawai turnoff, several Long-crested Mynas and another Seram Crow.

Day 19. Early in the morning on the road up to Manusela we had a calling pair of Hantu Boobooks, with the birds offering brief fly-over views. Boobooks were also heard on the hillside behind our hotel. On the higher stretches of road we again had Blue-eared Lory and Rufescent Dark-eye. Some of us in the afternoon enjoyed a delightful snorkeling session near Sawai, seeing among other things a huge Broad club Cuttlefish.

Day 20. In a hired boat we crossed the water from our hotel to Palau Sawai, where one of us (GR) saw a Forsten’s Scrub owl near its mound. We moved on to the tiny Palau Lusaolde, where about 20 Olive Honeyeaters – a small island specialty species – were seen. Some honey eaters were watched flying out to sea and returning to the island. The boat moved on to the Salaway River, where another Forster Scrub owl flushed from the bank and a sun baking Saltwater Crocodile was a nice find.

Day 21. We drove back to Amahai, stopping once more in high altitude forest in Manuseli where Grey-hooded Dark-eye and Blue-eared Lory were again seen. We caught the afternoon ferry back to Ambon.

Day 22. Everyone left on early morning flights from Ambon to Jakarta or Denpasar.