2 Nov 2022

2 Nov 22 - Indonesia - Banda Sea Cruise Day 7 - Co-finding A Third For South East Asia

In the previous Blog Post, I covered the Cetaceans we had seen on the boat crossing between Babar and Damar. While the Cetaceans had been good throughout the day, the Seabirds had been disappointing. There had been around hundred Frigatebirds, at least some of which were Lesser Frigatebirds: but generally I didn't bother to try to figure out their identification, as they weren't close. There were at least thirty Red-footed Boobies, sixty Brown Boobies, plus a few Common Noddies and a couple of White-winged Black Terns. As we got closer to Damar, we had the unexpected sight of a distant Royal Spoonbill high over a forested island. But I didn't see any Shearwaters, Petrels or Storm-petrels.

Just before 09:00, I nipped down to top up my travelling coffee cup and had a natter to Steve who was on the lower deck. While we were talking, a medium-sized Seabird flew past fairly close to the Lady Denok. I said Tern & raised the bins. There was probably an expletive before I immediately changed it to Sabine's Gull. I was wondering how many records there were in Indonesian waters as I raced for the steps to the upper deck. I got on there to find the others were already on it. While they had probably found it before me, under the Punkbirder Self-found rules, as I had found and identified it independently of them & with no prior knowledge of its presence, then it countable as a Self-found record. It stayed around for about ten minutes, but moved away for some of that time. After a while, we noticed, that Wilbur had disappeared, but fortunately, he reappeared as we were about to go looking for him. At this point, it flew around for a final pass, before disappeared. Bird Tour Asia have now confirmed this was the second Indonesian & third South East Asian record. All the Australian-based Birders were very happy with this record, whereas, I would have gladly swapped it for the Abbot's Booby that was seen on the James's Banda Sea Cruise.
Sabine's Gull: The grey back indicates it is an adult winter individual
For me, the sighting of the day was not the Sabine's Gull, but the Longman's or Immature Cuvier's Beaked Whale covered in the previous Blog Post.
Sabine's Gull: eBird records show that they travel down the West coast of the Americas with records as far South as Peru. However, there are very rare on the Asian side of the Pacific with only a handful of scattered sightings in the Kamchatka Peninsula, the Southern end of Eastern Russia, Taiwan & Thailand. There are also a few few Australian records
Finally, we could see Damar Island. We stopped on the reef & Steve & I had the chance for PADI dives, while the others were snorkelling. A better dive for Fish & Coral, but no more Green Turtles.
There was another dive boat moored on the reef
Damar Island
After the snorkelling and PADI diving, we headed off to the bay where we would be anchoring overnight. This allowed Raja, our Mr Fix It, to go ashore that evening & ensure we were cleared by the police & we had local guides who were ready for the following morning to escort us. While Raja knew the way, we did need the local guides to ensure ease of access to the path, without upsetting any of the local leaders.
We could see volcanic activity on the island
A closer view of the volcanic activity
A close up of one of the sulphur plumes
The Christian village: In the smaller islands, there are Christian & Muslin villages and the two populations don't appear to mix. We were told that had been fights between the two communities in the past
The smaller Muslim village, where we would be landing at first light on the following morning