4 Nov 2022

4 Nov 22 - Indonesia - Banda Sea Cruise Day 9 - An Early Start On Leti

We arrived offshore of Leti in the early morning. We were up about two hours before first light for a quick breakfast, before we were ferried ashore to a village to look for the moae subspecies of Southern Boobook. We were keen to see all the various subspecies of the Southern Boobooks in the Banda Sea, as other Boobook species have been split over the last decade or so. After a few minutes walk, we were on the edge of the village & walking along a dirt road to some nearby coconut trees alongside rough fields.
Southern Boobook: This is the moae subspecies that is restricted to Moa, Leti and Romang Islands to the East of Timor in the Lesser Sundas. Several other subspecies are found in the Lesser Sundas, with others in the Kai Islands, New Guinea & Australia
Southern Boobook: Initially, we only had brief views, but then it settled down in & we could see the amount of wear to the wings
It wasn't long before the dawn chorus started. We were looking for Kisar Friarbird which is restricted to Kisar, Leti and Moa Islands in the Banda Sea. There was a reasonable selection of other species, while we were looking for the first Kisar Friarbirds in the trees alongside some fields on the edge of the village. However, like many small islands around the world, the overall number of species that occur on these small Indonesian islands is never that large compared to mainland South East Asia. But the number of range-restricted endemic species in Indonesia is about as high as anywhere in the world.
The habitat looked interesting considering we were still fairly close to the village
Another view of the habitat
Brown Goshawk: This is the wallacii subspecies which occurs on Lombok, Sumbawa, Flores & the Banda Sea Islands as far West as Babar Island
Yellow-throated Golden Whistler: This is the compar subspecies of Yellow-throated Golden Whistler that is restricted to Leti & Moa Islands. Clements and IOC consider it a subspecies of Yellow-throated Golden Whistler. Whereas, the Birds of the Indonesian Archipelago split it as Fawn-breasted Whistler with two other subspecies, on the basis of mDNA and shared colouration where the males look similar to the females. The males are very different to the bright golden-yellow bellied males we saw on Babar & Damar Islands
Snail sp.: These impressive-looking Snails were well over an inch long
The interesting looking habitat continued
Several of us stopped to take some photos of some large Crabs and I hung on after the others left to get some low to the ground photos. When I finished, I could see the others were now the best part of a hundred metres ahead on me. But they weren't looking at anything, so no panic. I started to walk fast to catch them up.
Indonesian Crab sp.: We saw quite a few of these Crabs well over a mile from the sea. They are clearly comfortable living on the land, although like other land Crabs, they will end up having to return to water to spawn
As I caught up with Raja, who had also dropped behind the group, a small Quail ran across the sandy track & into the vegetation at the side of the track. I didn't get the bins on it while it was in the open, but I was surprised at how small it was. I lifted the camera & started to take some photos, as it disappeared further off the track. I mentioned the small size to Raja, who said it was a Brown Quail. But we had seen some Brown Quails on Tanimbar & they were larger & bulkier. I stopped to check the photos & I was pleased to have my thoughts confirmed about the size when I found it was my first Red-backed Buttonquail. It was only my seventh Buttonquail species in a family of seventeen species & a family that I've struggled to see abroad. It was one of my top Birds of the Banda Sea Cruise.
Red-backed Buttonquail: Female. This is the nominate maculosus subspecies which also occurs on Rote, Semau, Timor, Wetar, Moa and Kisar. Other subspecies occur in Sulawesi, other parts of the Lesser Sundas, New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago, the Solomons and Northern Australia
Red-backed Buttonquail: Female. The bright colouration indicates this is a female. This is one of the few species of Birds where the females are much brighter than the males
I finally caught up with the others & found they had just located the first of the Kisar Friarbirds.
Kisar Friarbird: They are restricted to Kisar, Leti and Moa Islands in the Banda Sea
Kisar Friarbird: An underwhelming Tick
The team relax after seeing the Kisar Friarbirds
We had seen our main target species in a busy hour & a half since dawn and we still had more Birding time left on Leti. But first it was time for a quick coffee break. I will finish off the rest of the morning on Leti in the next Blog Post.
Richard: Richard practiced the secretive ancient art of eating boiled eggs with salt, having specially bought a Himalayan rock salt grinder with him as part of the ceremony. I never managed to get a photo of the salt grinder in action