"Smoke me a kipper, I'll be back for breakfast"


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September 1st 2011
Published: September 3rd 2011
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another puppyanother puppyanother puppy

his name was Prabu. I just called him delicious.
After posting the last blog entry, I returned to camp out at Lake Ranamese for the night. Outside the gates was a large troupe of the introduced crab-eating macaques. Maybe I should stop looking for tarsiers and rats and look for crab-eating macaques instead -- I can always find them! The ducks and grebes were all still on the lake, and I spotted some more birds for the trip list in the trees around the buildings (pale-shouldered cicadabird, great tit, pigmy woodpecker, black-naped monarch and helmeted friarbird). There seemed more activity in the forest this night than the last night, although I still didn't see what I was looking for. There were certainly rodents about, just not of the Giant variety. I saw what I at first took to be a large mouse running across a branch, of which I had no idea of the identity. I had a list of the rodents found on Flores and I doubted that either the introduced House Mouse or the Ryukyu Mouse would be found up in the branches of a forest tree. Later (in 2017!) I discovered that the endemic Hainald's Rat is a very small rat, only the size of a large mouse. There was a bit of noise from other rats in the undergrowth as well, which were probably Long-nosed Rats (which are the size of regular Brown Rats). Most excitingly-slash-frustratingly, twice there was the noise of sizeable animals rushing off into the night before I spied what they were. If it wasn't caused by Giant Rats then the only other creature I can think of would be the introduced Common Palm Civet.

In the morning I tried my hand at actual birding for once. I really am making a complete hash of Flores. Its one thing to be able to blame a lack of bird-finding ability on concentrating on finding specific mammals, but when one actually goes out looking for birds and can't find any its just sad! I tried first in the forest around the lake but almost literally nothing could I find. I returned to pack up my tent, chasing away the macaques that were intent on destroying it, then headed off along the road towards Ruteng to see what could be found in the forest alongside. To cut a long (several birdless hours) story short, apart for the ducks and grebes on the lake, the morning's haul was, er, pale-shouldered cicadabird, Wallacean drongo, glossy swiftlet, brown-capped fantail, mountain white-eye and short-tailed starling. How embarrassing.

That night I tried the Golo Lusang road outside Ruteng for giant rats. I got dropped off at the top of the pass in the afternoon and walked down the road on the other side through the forest for an hour and a half looking for birds (which didn't actually go too badly for a change; I even found a new bird for myself, the Flores jungle-flycatcher) and then after dark walked all the way back up again. It was a beautiful night, warmish with not a cloud in sight, and the sky was awash with a veritable mass of twinkly whatsits, like the eye-shine from a million giant rats looking down upon the earth. Of actual giant rats there was not a sign. Back at the Rima Hotel I met a birder from France called Marc whom, as we discovered while we were talking, I had met at Lore Lindu in 2009 ("You were in Lore Lindu in 2009 - so was I. Maybe it was you we met at Lake Tambing? There was a guy there travelling alone; he had just come from seeing babirusa....." Definitely me). He has been to the island of Obi and seen the Obi cuscus; I am jealous.

Marc was travelling with his girlfriend and her twin sister, and they had just come from a village called Kisol a couple of hours away from Ruteng. I had never been there (in 2009 I had heard of it but didn't know how to get there) but I had since heard that the hanging parrot was there and the owner of the Rima told me the giant rats are also common there in the coconut plantations, although both pieces of information turned out to be wrong. Anyway,on the strength of those two things I headed off there for two nights. Kisol is very easy to get to from Ruteng. They have vehicles here called "travel cars" which are the same as the "public cars" of Sulawesi. I'm not sure I understand the financial aspects of running a travel car because they are about the same price for a seat as in a bus but they fit fewer people and their upkeep must be much more than the local buses which are just held together with pieces of string and sticky tape. Anyway, I just took a travel car to Borong about 1.5 hours away, for 20,000 rupiah, and then a bemo (mini-van) to Kisol for 5000 rupiah. At Kisol I stayed at the Seminary where Father Fabi reminded me of Laurence Fishburne (he wasn't Laurance Fishburne though, just to be clear). The Seminary was great, not least because it was filled with tokay geckoes. There really is something a bit surreal about eating your dinner while watching a gecko the length of your forearm scuttle up the wall or wander nonchalantly upside-down across the ceiling.

There is little lowland forest left in Flores and the small area at Kisol is one of the more accessible bits. Its about a 3km walk from the Seminary. I set off there in the late afternoon and arrived drenched in sweat. The forest is very nice there, but my run of staggering ineptitude at finding Floresian birds continued unabated. I have a short list of the speciality birds of the island which I hadn't seen in 2009. I'd done all right back then finding most of the endemics -- I honestly don't remember it being this hard to
frog at Kisolfrog at Kisolfrog at Kisol

haven't identified the species yet...
find the birds!! On the list were, among others, the thick-billed dark-eye, the white-rumped kingfisher and the elegant pitta. The later two in particular are supposed to be very common here and easy to find. Yeah right! I could hear them calling left right and centre, but see them I could not. Main track, nothing; side trails, nothing; I would have burrowed through the leaf-litter if I thought it would have done any good! Being charitable on myself I decided the reason was because even in the late of the day it was still very hot and the birds were tired. Tomorrow morning would be different.

Dawn in the forest brought more bird invisibility. This was getting ridiculous. Finally after two hours I spied an adult thick-billed dark-eye with two younger ones moving rapidly from tree to tree. It took half an hour but eventually I got good enough views of them to satisfy myself. An hour later some rustling in the dry leaves carpeting the ground attracted my attention. There are great numbers of skinks here and their movements always cause similar noises but this sounded like something larger. I crouched down and peered down the slope and
and the frog's nestand the frog's nestand the frog's nest

the eggs are laid in a foam nest out of the water to protect them from fish
after ten minutes or so spotted an elegant pitta hopping quietly along looking for food. I do like pittas, and they're even better when I actually get to see one! This one turned out to be one half of a pair which was better again. But not as good as when I returned to the forest in the afternoon after lunch and a pitta flew up onto a branch not ten feet away and perched there in full view for half a minute. Later in the day I saw a fourth one, which for me and my pitta repelling device was quite unprecedented. Even better was to come a little bit later towards the end of the day when I chanced upon a white-rumped kingfisher. What a mind-blowing bird that one is! In the field-guide it looks all right, just a kingfisher really, but in life it is just fantastic. I was super-pleased to have seen it finally. And it's really big too -- it sort of made me wonder why I hadn't seen any up till then! When dark fell the forest rang to the popping calls of Moluccan scops owls and tokay geckoes. Unusually I even managed to see an owl when one flew through the torch beam and landed on a nearby branch. There are Wallace's scops owls here too but I didn't even hear one call let alone see one.

As for giant rats, on the first evening here I spent some time wandering under coconut palms looking up into them. While eating dinner earlier there had been large animals dashing around in the ceiling space above me which I could only imagine in my rat-fevered state must be giant rats, so after the coconut plantations proved fruitless (so to speak) I figured I'd see if I could get up into the roof of the building and check it out....then one of the girls there told me the animals were actually cats. I guess that explains why they sounded like they were the size of cats then! The next day I learned from the local farmers that while they did know the rat, there were none in this area so that was a bit annoying. Still, I found three of the birds I was looking for and all were superb species so I think that definitely deserved a kipper for breakfast.

And that's about it for Kisol. There's nothing too exciting to write about because nothing unfortunate or interesting happened. It rained on me once, some dogs barked at me, and I sort of fell out of a tree while checking out an interesting-looking cavity. And that's really all. I did find out about a place further north called Riung where there are big lizards described to me as like Komodo dragons but smaller that can change colour, which must be sail-finned lizards (Hydrosaurus) I guess. Very tempting. But for now I have already gone back through Ruteng (pouring down when I got back so no chance to look for the rat again then) and now I'm back in Labuanbajo; I may or may not have time later to head over Riung way and see what I can see. This morning I went to a place called Puarlolo and found a very nice bird called the Flores monarch flycatcher. In 2009 I only had one afternoon to visit Puarlolo and I couldn't find the monarch so now I'm happy. Tomorrow I go to Komodo with Marc and company -- I'm pretty excited because last visit I couldn't get there due to cost etc, and only made it to Rinca.


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Nephila at the SeminaryNephila at the Seminary
Nephila at the Seminary

all the little ones around it are parasite spiders that live in the web and steal the big spider's food, but are too small themselves to be eaten by the Nephila


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