RFI: Birding Timor Leste

To: "David Adams" <>, "Birding-Aus" <>
Subject: RFI: Birding Timor Leste
From: "Peter Madvig" <>
Date: Sun, 6 Dec 2009 12:51:27 +1100

Firstly, get "The Birds of Timor-Leste" (As Aves de T -L) by Colin Trainor
(done enormous work and surveys there), as well as Coates and Bishop of
'Birds of Wallacea' fame. Published by Birdlife International and Dove
Publications. Got mine from A.Isles.

We went early 2004 and loved it - not all birding, either. The local
Directorate of Environmental Services were also helpful, refered to by
Colin, and my daughter's Tetun knowledge was invaluable. Enjoy the trip - I
hope many more will follow.
Peter Madvig.

I wrote the following then, which might still be of some help:-

Peter Madvig

At the beginning of March, 2004, Penny and I were able to pay a week's visit
to our daughter in Dili, Timor-Leste, travelling via Darwin. Annette was
there as a volunteer with Oxfam/CAA and although she was our main reason for
the trip, doing 'a spot of birding' was not to be ruled out!

Kind offers were made to borrow a field guide on the birds of western
Indonesia, but this proved inadequate for East Timor. Time was spent at the
Mitchell Library before, and especially AFTER the trip, perusing "A Guide to
the Birds of Wallacea" by Coates and Bishop (Dove Publications), a most
useful book. Kind assistance and information on future development was given
at the 'Environment Directorate' in Dili, together with a preliminary bird
list. Our daughter's linguistic skills in 'Tetun' proved invaluable here and
everywhere else we went (the other major languages being Portuguese and
Bahasa Indonesian).

Everywhere we went people smiled and said 'Bon dia' or 'Bo tardi' depending
on the time of day, and one replied in the same way. There is an air of
optimism and a desire to move forward and make things work. The country is
really starting from scratch in so many ways - there was a conference on
Justice while we were there. Education is also being worked on - every child
goes to school but because there are not enough places they go in shifts.

There is much work in progress on building sites around the city but there
is still plenty of evidence of the terrible rampage of destruction in 1999,
both in Dili and in the rural areas.  There are still UN troops and many
NGO's but not as many as a couple of years ago. There are Internationals
present from many different countries and, of course, there are the
entrepreneurs.  Major Embassies stand cheek by jowl along the waterfront.

Yes, we were in the tropics and it was hot! But what we saw of the island
was attractive and the scenery varied. The mountain range providing Timor's
backbone was impressive.

On arrival in Dili - first observations were of Eurasian Tree Sparrow and
Spotted Dove.

Girls went swimming at Cristo Rei, below an enormous statue of Christ on the
city's eastern beach, while I got in half an hour or so with the binocs: -
Zebra Finch, Scaly-breasted Munia (our Nutmeg Mannikin), Pale-headed Munia,
and the first of many Pied Bush-chats.

At Maubisse (1800m) up in the mountains, we stayed at the Pousada, a former
Portuguese government rest-house perched on a steeply sided hilltop,
surrounded by a spectacular valley. In the flowering shrubs, and even more
so in some sort of flowering gums at the start of the village below the
Pousada, we found Red-rumped Myzomelas (end.), a most exquisite,
Sunbird-like flying jewel. Also in those trees were very vocal Yellow-eared
Honeyeaters (end.). In the late afternoon of the 2nd day we spotted a
Monarch doing its flycatcher hawking bit - Timor Blue Flycatcher (end.)!

Apart from the Pied Chats, there was a "Jackie Winter" like bird at
Maubisse - white-front and belly, Grey-brown back, white supercilium, black
tail, Robin type behaviour - female White-bellied Bush-chat.

Scaly-breasted Munias also up there, Mountain White-eye, Large-billed Crow,
Helmeted Friarbird, and Brahminy Kite. Down in the valley along the
riverbed, a Common Sandpiper flew in, and also a Wagtail, but I am unsure if
Grey or Yellow. Also Pipits.  And a nice, Oriental Cuckoo.

Atauro Island next stop. We were on a supply boat where balance was tricky
and I couldn't shift around - managed to have my head out, but couldn't get
the binocs properly onto some typical Gannet/Booby diving activity against
the sun - just "dark" birds, and I presumed Browns. The skipper was not in
the mood to slow down for me!! Passed a nice pod of Pilot whales, tho'.

Staying at the Eco village of Tua Koin was an experience, and we enjoyed the
two Munia types and loudly 'zitting', Zitting Cisticolas. Pacific Swallows
were all about, coming in to perch on the stays of an anchored vessel.
Rainbow Bee-eaters flashed around, and the Zebra Dove (i.e. Peaceful) was
evident. Brown Honeyeaters around behind the village. Along the coast
towards a rocky headland, we had a Common Sandpiper, White-shouldered
Triller, Ashy-bellied White-eye and Collared Kingfisher.

Our final excursion was along the spectacular, hairpin bended coastal road
eastwards to Baucau.

Our rented Thrifty vehicle had 'scratches' on either side - the result of
"close passing" oncoming traffic?! On the way were numerous bino-stops,
picking out among others Long-tailed Shrike, Black-faced Woodswallow
(white-tipped full width of tail), White-breasted Woodswallow and Barn
Swallow. Also the short-tailed, Green Rainbow Lorikeet. And of course, those
we failed to I.D...

In Baucau - Streak-breasted Meliphaga, (end.) several seen in and around the
vegetation in the divided, main road, near our café. A 'fitting', final bird
to pick up.

Perhaps someone will publish a Field Guide some day?

Colin Trainor, from the Charles Darwin University of N.T., is doing major
research and recording of bird life in Timor-Leste. Together with his team
in Dili, I hope their final results will lead to awareness and protection of
this aspect of Timor's inheritance, for its future generations to enjoy and

And, for birdwatchers like us - to go and point our binoculars at!!

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