East Timor birding trip report, July 2013

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: East Timor birding trip report, July 2013
From: Steve <>
Date: Sat, 13 Jul 2013 11:52:57 +1000
G'day all

Here is a report on the birding side of a recent trip to East Timor.  There's 
not much online for this country's birds so I hope this will be useful to 

I follow the latest IOC taxonomy...

Steve Clark
Hamilton, Vic

East Timor trip report
July 1 to 9, 2013
Steve Clark

Jenny and I paid our first visit to East Timor.  This was a general holiday 
where we planned to do a bit of sight-seeing, relaxing, some snorkelling and 
hopefully see a few new birds as well.  I had a copy of Colin Trainor's 
excellent field guide and some advice from Colin.

We spent three nights in Dili, two on Atauro Island, two at a hotel in remote 
Viqueque and a final night in Dili.


The first species recorded was Australian Pratincole in good numbers at the 
airport. Here we also saw a White-breasted Woodswallow.  There are few birds of 
interest in Dili itself.  Indonesian Honeyeater, Streak-breasted Honeyeater, 
Pied Bush Chat, Barred Dove, Pacific Swallow and Spotted Dove were seen in 
small numbers.  We saw a Pacific Reef Heron in the harbour on several occasions 
and a possible Osprey once.  Introductions include the ubiquitous Eurasian Tree 
Sparrow and the common Sooty-headed Bulbul.  Not in the field guide is 
Yellow-vented Bulbul.  There were several of these at our hotel (the Esplanada 
- a couple outside the airport terminal.

Lake Tasitolu

This is a short taxi ride along the coast to the west of Dili.  It is a large 
salty lagoon and often holds good numbers of migratory waders.  We found a 
solitary Red-capped Plover and small numbers of Black-winged Stilts, Little 
Egrets, Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants.

Atauro Island

This is about an hour in a water taxi across from Dili.  The crossing is over 
the extremely deep waters of the Wetar Strait (over 3,500 m).  A small number 
of seabirds has been recorded on the crossing.  Going over I saw one bird - a 
Bulwer's Petrel.  Coming back I saw one bird - either Brown Booby or Red-footed 
Booby.  Unfortunately the usual call of 'stop the boat' doesn't work with water 

On the island we stayed at "Barry's Place" (  The 
first bird was a Malaysian Plover on the beach in front of the lodge.  The 
lodge gardens had Indonesian Honeyeaters, Ashy-bellied White-eyes and Barred 
Doves.  Behind the lodge are steep hills with a rough road winding up and away 
through Eucalyptus alba grassy woodlands and rainforest patches.  Lots of good 
birds here including Zitting Cisticola, Arafura Fantail, Helmeted Friarbird, 
Zebra Finch, Scaly-breasted and Pale-headed Munia, Collared Kingfisher, 
Fawn-breasted Whistler, Timor Green Pigeon, Olive-headed Lorikeet, Rainbow 
Bee-eater, Horsfield's Bush Lark, White-shouldered Triller and Blue-cheeked 

The only seabird seen on the island was a lone Great Crested Tern roosting on a 

Up until now the trip had been most leisurely.  That was about to change with a 
marathon travel day to Viqueque.


We were booked in for Sat and Sunday nights at the Wailakurini Hotel 
( in Loi Huno village, Viqueque district.  This is in the 
mountainous east of the country. We had a 4WD booked in Dili.  All we had to do 
was take the water taxi across, pick up the car and head for the hills via the 
coastal city of Baucau.  A few things went wrong.  The water taxi left in its 
own sweet time, was in no hurry on the crossing and got us to Dili buy about 
1300.  Our contact at the car hire place (Toll - had knocked off for the day and 
no-one there knew anything about our arrangement.  Our saviour was Seb - a Brit 
- who sorted us out with a better car than originally booked.  So about 1400 we 
finally left Dili in our big, solid Mitsubishi 4WD.

We had been advised the drive to the hotel would take 6 hours for the 150 km 
trip.  We decided we couldn't drive the last two hours in the dark and planned 
to stay overnight in Baucau.  Baucau was booked solid.  So with a bit of 
daylight left we decided to push on and sleep in the car if necessary.  As it 
was we kept going in the dark, then fog, then rain over some of the roughest 
roads I've ever encountered.  Only the fact that I had a GPS point for the 
hotel worked in our favour.  If not for this we would never have found it in 
the dark.  So we arrived at the hotel about 2000 totally zonked.

The next morning we woke to beautiful mountain forest scenery with wild rocky 
gorges. A pre-breakfast explore of the hotel grounds revealed several 
hysterically calling Brush Cuckoos.  I've never heard the demented display call 
in Australia.  There were also several Pied Bush Chats on the lawns and 
Edible-nest and Glossy Swiftlets whizzing around. 

A long walk up the steep road past the hotel turned up some nice forest birds.  
The Bush Chats suddenly turned into White-bellied Bush Chats.  We also had 
Olive-brown Orioles, Orange-sided Thrush, Broad-billed Flycatchers, Northern 
Fantails, Sunda Cuckoo and a banded Fruit Dove.

After lunch we headed down into the village with plans to walk the lowland road 
for a few km.  The rain came and we scuttled back to the hotel to wait it out.  
Next morning when we left it was still raining.

Driving back along the road in daylight we were stunned to see some of the 
places we could have come to grief in the fog on the way in. We shouldn't have 
done it!

The journey back to Dili was long but not too stressful and we saw some nice 
birds.  The best areas were the rice paddies with Great and Cattle Egrets, 
White-faced Herons, Australian Pratincoles, Long-tailed Shrikes, Tree Martins, 
Red Avadavats.  The only raptors seen in the week were along the road today.  
First was a Bonelli's Eagle in the mountains and the second was a Brahminy Kite 
along a coastal cliff section.  Two Little Terns were seen flying along a beach 
at one point.

Finally, the grassland adjacent to the airport terminal had Long-tailed 
Shrikes, Scaly-breasted Munia, Rainbow Bee-eaters and House Swifts.

All in all we identified 56 species including 3 introductions - 23 species were 
new for me.

East Timor is a difficult place for birding with its poor road network.  Small 
boys put a lot of pressure on birds.  All carry slingshots.  In a short visit 
you can't expect to do much better than our effort unless you spend less time 
in Dili and have more luck with rain.  Plan so that you don't have to drive at 
night.  We were lucky - you might not be.

That said, East Timor is a lovely place with friendly people, a fascinating 
history and uncertain future.  Its tourism industry is tiny but so important 
for the future with revenue from oil and gas already peaking.  Go and see it 
for yourselves.

Steve Clark
Hamilton, Victoria


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