Hitting the 800 mark in Bali, July 8th-14th

Bar-winged Prinia, a Java/Bali endemic, at Uluwatu, July 12th.
Bar-winged Prinia, a Java/Bali endemic, at Uluwatu, July 12th.

Thanks to an unsatisfactory recent Air BnB stay, my wife Jenna and I were compensated with a free $150 voucher, which we decided to spend on a week in a cute little apartment in the back streets of Seminyak. I’m fairly divided in my opinion of the southern Bali beach resorts. On the one hand, there are plenty of excellent restaurants, the beaches are pretty nice, and several interesting birding spots are close at hand. On the other hand, the area is very urbanised and busy, there are pushy touts and vendors and all the ugliness of mass tourism, and traffic can be a nightmare.

To get around, I rented another car from BaliCarFinder, a made-in-Indonesia Toyota people carrier, which was a whole lot of car for $22 per day including delivery to and pickup from my accommodation.

I didn’t spend a huge amount of time birding, but I did take a few mornings to visit the local hotspots of Nusa Dua settling ponds, Serangan Island, and Uluwatu. Leaving Seminyak before it got light avoided the worst of the traffic, and I was home by mid morning to maximise beach time.

Nusa Dua settling ponds is a small area of lakes near the Nusa Dua complex of high-end resorts; the ponds provide a source of irrigation for the gardens and golf courses. It’s an extremely pleasant place to spend a few hours, with a wide track around the perimeter of the lakes and plenty of easy birding. Highlights during my visit included a beautiful Cerulean Kingfisher, Olive-backed Tailorbird (these two species are Java and Bali endemics), a Wandering Whistling-Duck, a few pairs of Sunda Teal, crowd-pleasers such as Blue-tailed Bee-eater and Pink-necked Green Pigeon, and plenty of herons including Striated and Purple.

I was less lucky with the birds at Uluwatu, a scenic clifftop temple on the far south-west edge of Bali. Famed for its world-class surfing, Uluwatu features imposing limestone cliffs which occasionally host White-tailed Tropicbird, while all three species of Frigatebird are also seen here from time to time. However, I saw almost no seabirds apart from a few passing Great Crested Terns. The clifftop scrub was a little more interesting, with easy-to-view Bar-winged Prinia and Olive-backed Tailorbird, two rather common Bali specialities.

Finally, Serangan Island produced quite a few birds for the year list, and left me wishing I had brought my telescope! Serangan is a restricted-access island south of Denpasar, accessible via a causeway. Shortly after the causeway, there’s an entry barrier and booth on the right. Here, visitors must pay 5,000 rupiah and leave some ID at the gate. Apparently cameras are banned here, but my bag wasn’t searched. After checking in, visitors are free to drive the network of dirt roads. It took me several visits to find the best birding area, where there were lots of waders – but unfortunately many of them were too distant to identify with binoculars. Among the ones I did get a closer look at were several Javan Plovers (a recent split from what we used to call Kentish Plover), and a nice group of Far Eastern Curlew, which is a rare bird further west in the region and one of the few waders I missed at Pak Thale/Laem Pak Bia in Thailand earlier in the year.

Other birds seen at Serangan Island included some very showy Cerulean Kingfishers, a lone Glossy Ibis (an East Asia tick for me), a Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo, and finally, just as I was about to give up hope, a beautiful male Scarlet-headed Flowerpecker which gave prolonged views on a bare branch – the perfect way to hit 800 bird species for the year.

Seminyak itself produced rather an odd sighting. I was outside our apartment doing my usual early morning workout, when I happened to glimpse what I could have sworn was a Nicobar Pigeon flying past low over the garden. I am sure it has been many years since wild Nicobar Pigeons inhabited these parts, so my first thought was that it was probably an escape – this endangered species is sadly a popular cage bird in the region. In any case, definitely not something I can add to my list ….that one will have to wait until I can visit one of the few remote islands off SE Asia where this bird still occurs in the wild.

Serangan, Nusa Dua and Uluwatu lifers: Bar-winged Prinia, Olive-backed Tailorbird, Cerulean Kingfisher, Wandering Whistling-Duck, Sunda Teal, Javan Plover, Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo, Scarlet-headed Flowerpecker.

East Asia tick: Glossy Ibis.

2015 Year Ticks: Far Eastern Curlew, Little Pied Cormorant, Pink-necked Green Pigeon (total 800).

Cliffs and big surfable waves - but sadly no White-tailed Tropicbirds - at Uluwatu, on Bali's south-west coast.
Cliffs and big surfable waves – but sadly no White-tailed Tropicbirds – at Uluwatu, on Bali’s south-west coast.

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