Our tickets said one airport, but the plane landed at another! No-one seemed bothered, and thankfully our host was indeed there to meet us. Kau was one of the Japanese-occupied airports during the Second World War and it was interesting to see the old bunkers dotted around the runway. It was several hours to the resort, so we birded and lunched along the way- and yes, it was certainly hot and humid! The view was spectacular looking across at the volcanic island of Ternate, where we also found a pair of Beach Kingfishers resting in the mangroves. This large blue and white kingfisher is very coastal in its distribution.
Our first morning was a relaxing walk around the property which was situated right on the Halmahera Sea, so we were looking forward to enjoying some ocean time during the heat of the day. By breakfast time we already had a few endemics in the bag, including Rufous-bellied Triller, Long-billed Crow and the noisy and obvious White Cockatoo. Some of us tried to bird during the heat of the day, but to be honest it was hardly worth the while- enforced relaxation and rest in the shade was the order of the day. A boat trip into a beautiful forested cove produced the endemic Blue-and-white Kingfisher, Black-chinned Whistler and a beautiful sunset. What a lovely first day.
There were several “blue riband” birds on Halmahera that we just had to see and the following morning found us tromping through a patch of mature forest to get to the lek of Wallace’s Standardwing AKA Standardwing Bird-of-Paradise. This species, along with the dowdy Paradise-crow are the only species which have managed to push this far west. The male Standardwings did not disappoint and clucked and displayed over our heads, but alas, a female did not appear this morning to send the males into high gear! The stunning (and endemic) Ivory-breasted Pitta was singing all around us, but despite some encouragement, none of the singers would even show themselves – very frustrating.
We went out again in the late afternoon, again to the protected forest areas owned by the resort. The highlights were Moluccan Goshawk and Rufous-necked Sparrowhawk (both endemic), Spectacled (soon to be Moluccan?) Monarch and a closer pair of Blue-and-white Kingfishers. Some owling on the way back produced great views of the Moluccan Scops-Owl and a delightful Moluccan Owlet-Nightjar.
Our accommodation at the resort was delightful with spacious rooms cooled by both the sea breezes and paddle fans – very comfortable indeed. Meals were up the hill in the open-air dining room and were family-style. Delicious and bounteous! Another bonus was the ice-cold beer that was miraculously awaiting our return from our birding excursions…..ah, the life!
Halmahera is a fairly mountainous island with the highest point reaching over 5000’ (1500m) and our full day out found us over 3000’ in the very interesting Araucaria and Casuarina forests. The birdlife was not abundant by any means, but we did find Island Leaf-Warbler, Black-chinned Whistler and a very aggravating Rufous Fantail that just refused to show itself for any length of time. Another fascinating sighting, while not bird-related, was the cattle grazing in the roadside pastures. Apparently these predominantly pale brown cattle with their white hocks and backwards-pointing horns are direct descendants of the now endangered Banteng of SE Asia. This breed is now known as Bali Cattle.
Our last full day at Weda was spent looking for some of those really hard-to-find birds, such as the Invisible Rail, which alas, remained invisible! A wintering Gray’s Grasshopper Warbler near the resort was frustrating as normal, but some of us at least managed glimpses of this very furtive species while others had to be satisfied with just hearing its harsh call-notes emanating from the dense vegetation. An afternoon excursion with our excellent local guide found us sneaking through dark forests trying not to make too much noise as we walked in the carpet of crunchy leaves. Our quest was the very tough-to-see Nicobar Pigeon, which quietly feeds on the forest floor before flying up into the sub-canopy. They tend to feed on smaller offshore islands, under the roost of Imperial Pigeons where they pick up seeds passed by the larger birds. A flurry of wings caught our eyes and yes, we had scope views of this stunning bird quietly watching us from a high limb.
We left the idyllic resort the following morning bound for Ternate and our flight back to Sulawesi with more adventures en route in the shape of fast speedboat rides, spinner dolphins and Lesser Frigatebirds.
Thanks to Rob and Linda and all the folks at Weda Resort for a great stay- we will be back.
Photos from this Trip are on the Ventures Flickr Page Under Halmahera, Indonesia 2015 Album
Birds Seen or Heard on our Tour to Halmahera, Indonesia
December 21 - 26, 2015
Great Crested Tern