East Timor birding trip

To: "Steve" <>, "Birding Aus" <>
Subject: East Timor birding trip
From: "Peter Madvig" <>
Date: Thu, 25 Jul 2013 21:53:16 +1000
Hi all,

Following on Steve Clark's detailed report of a trip to Timor-Leste recently, 
like to add a few bits and pieces from our visit there in mid-June. I'll try 
to avoid echoing Steve.... 

Penny and I went up to visit our daughter, working in Dili, but naturally we 
were keen to get some birding you do. Spending just over 2 weeks we 
were able to get about a bit in Annette's 4WD - the most difficult driving 
was in Dili, traffic wise!! Talk about 'dodgems' - we relied on lifts here!
We had visited previously in March, 2004, visiting Atauro Island, Maubisse 
up in the mountains, and Baucau, east of Dili. On that occasion I listed 37 
species, including a few endemics; now added another 41 new birds, 65 for the 

We had a very constructive meeting with one of the managers of an 
Eco-tourism firm. For sure, you can do 'your own thing', armed with the 
excellent Lonely Planet guide as well as the field guide by Colin Trainor  
et al. However, you might like to check-out what is available through this 
sort of tour and trekking firm for advice and for getting to 
places...scuba-diving set ups seem well established out of Dili, but tour 
operators as such are very thin on the ground. Road maps as we know them are 
just not available. Feel free to contact me off line if interested.
And, oh yes, when getting puzzled looks from villagers, say you are "Buka Manu 
Fuik", looking for wild birds! 

Birds around Dili, are as mentioned by Steve. We did have three excellent early 
mornings atop a ridge with splendid views over Dili and the coast, down to 
the airport, across the water to Atauro, and down to the Tasitolu lagoon. At 
the big round-about where one turns off to the airport, turn left instead 
and pass seven lanes on the rhs before taking the next turn up to a "Grotto 
shrine". Park, and then climb up the ridge line following the "Stations of the 
Cross". We were hoping for a glimpse of Timor Sparrows which are known to 
show up here, but had no luck with this species. However, Little Swift and 
Glossy Swiftlet, White-breasted Woodswallow, Tree Martin and Rainbow 
Bee-eaters hawked, and an unexpected, single Timor Imperial Pigeon briefly 
showed before dropping out of sight. Also seen, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, 
Brown Honeyeater, several calling Brush Cuckoo, Richard's Pipit, Wallacean 
Drongo, Zebra Finch, Scaly-breasted Munia, Long-tailed Shrike, 
White-shouldered Triller, and more.

Down at Tasitolu lakes, + Australian Pelican, Red-capped Plover, 
Black-winged Stilt, Redshank, Red-throated Little Grebe, Sunda Teal, a 
Masked Lapwing, Whiskered Tern.

A morning's walk in the forested hills near Dare (pronounced dar-ey), near the 
Australian - Timor War Memorial, showed us Helmeted Friarbird and Yellow-eared 
Honeyeater, while a 'different' fruit dove called from the canopy.Views down to 
Dili and the coast magnificent.   

We travelled east with our daughter, heading for Tutuala and Jaco Island...I 
had high hopes for this area, part of the Nino Konis Santana National Park. 
The scenery along the coast is pretty spectacular, with savannah type 
vegetation and woodland, changing into flooded rice paddies, where Cattle 
Egrets mingled with wallowing Water Buffalo and pretty, Banteng 'wild' 
cattle.We spent two nights at a basic guesthouse in Com, but there is other 
Past a wharf and a large ruined house, we were able to follow a track leading 
past some fields and up into forest - an area that would have been good to 
explore further. Com and surrounds gave us a Lesser Frigatebird, Pacific Reef 
Egret (both morphs), Emerald Dove, Collared Kingfisher, Rose-crowned Fruit-dove 
(heard), a type of Pheasant Coucal calling... sounded very familiar (??); 
lovely Striated Swallows, a Wallacean Cuckoo-shrike, Olive-brown Oriole (lovely 
call), Little Pied Flycatcher, Timor Friarbird, Streak-breasted Honeyeater, 
Red-chested Flowerpecker, and Black-faced Munia. 

Heavy rain overnight, but we back-tracked to Lautem and climbed up rather 
slippery roads to the Lospalos tableland, heading for Tutuala. On arriving 
here, the heavens opened, the downpour threatening to wash the road away and 
forcing us to beat a hasty retreat. Out of the rain, we were able to take a 
side track to flooded paddocks by Lake Iralalara, which looked very promising. 
The usual egrets were there, as well as Black and Brahminy Kites, Aus. Pelican, 
Pacific Swallow, Whiskered and Gull-billed Tern, and a Rufous Night Heron. 
Saltwater Crocs are reputed to be in this lake. Back on the main road, just 
beyond Mehara, Annette shouted, 'Stop - something different':- our 
"non-birding" daughter got us on to a Timor Coucal, which fluttered between two 
dead trees, giving us great bino-views, and a hazy photo!! This predominantly 
white bird is endemic to Timor Island, but I'm not sure if it's considered a 
sub-species of the Pheasant Coucal?? Still, an exciting 'twitch' it was.

We settled for a night in Lospalos, with the rain again pouring down. As we 
left in the morning, we witnessed some rather severe flooding...and still, 
uniformed children hastened to school!! Back on the north coast, west of  
Lautem, we were anticipating a flooded river to cross, as the bridge was being 
replaced. The queue of waiting vehicles confirmed this, as did a ute half on 
it's side over a small fall in the swiftly moving current. A long line of men 
actually pulled this vehicle out by rope, supported by cheers from all us 
on-lookers!! After watching the conditions carefully and preceded by a couple 
of other cars, we successfully forded the river and headed to Baucau for a 
couple of rain-free days....further east, the deluge continued. A mob of 
Large-billed Crows greeted us, and from our 'Pousada' hotel, I enjoyed a flock 
of Pale-headed Munia. 

On the last week-end, visiting the rather curiously-named "Jesus' Backside 
Beach" beyond Cape Fatucama (on account of it being behind the huge statue of 
Christ, 'Christo Rei', east of Dili), - we 'twitched' Malaysian Plover. Various 
finches/munias were joined by a Zitting Cisticola. Going west to Maubara, we 
found a couple of very pale looking (juv.?) Wandering Whistling Duck on the 
nearby lake, but it was the cry of "whale"  from a beachside café that excited 
us, when a scuba diver confirmed it was a Blue Whale - several having been 
sighted the last few days, but, out of season!

Upon taxying out for take-off at Dili airport, we fittingly flushed a few 
Australian Pratincole.





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