A Travellerspoint blog

Day 54: Bali Birding Tour!

sunny 89 °F

Today my dad and I took a fantastic guided bird walk in the rice patty area near Ubud, the closest town to the villa in which we're staying.

We were dropped off by our driver shortly before nine o'clock in the morning at a restaurant in Ubud that had a bird viewing area in the back. We met our birding group there, including my dad, myself, our wonderful guide Su, a guy from Denmark named Bjørn, and Vicky, a gal from San Francisco, California.

After everyone arrived, we saw our first birds from the restaurant bird viewing area including this YELLOW-VENTED BULBUL, an avian species that would prove to be common throughout the morning:


Then we embarked upon our three hour forty-five minute bird walk. Our fabulous guide Su very soon proved to be an amazing bird watcher and an equally great person. She picked out one of the first birds seen when we got out of the restaurant, this STRIATED SWALLOW which proved to be one of the rarer finds of the day:


The first memorable stop was on the top of a small wooded hill where I saw a few interesting creatures such as Golden Orb Spiders, Sunskink Lizards, Plantain Squirrels, and a few fly-over CATTLE EGRETS.

Here is a photo highlighting a massive adult female Golden Orb Spider; it is even larger than your fist (thankfully not poisonous). If you look closely at the photo, you may notice tiny red dots on the same web the female spider is hanging on. These are the male Golden Orb Spiders; they are about one hundredth of the size of the adult female spider. Did you know that after breeding, the female will eat the males still hanging around?! Thankfully, some males are smart enough to skidaddle.


Very soon, we were out of the wooded suburb of Ubud and into the beautiful rice terrace country. One of the first noteworthy birds seen was this GOLDEN-HEADED CISTICOLA, Su's favorite bird of the day.

We also saw many ZITTING CISTICOLAS, including the one below, which proved to be much more numerous than the one golden headed individual I just pictured. These are called "Zitting" Cisticolas because their frequently uttered call sounds like "Zit! Zit! Zit!"

Another great bird we saw was this shy WHITE-BREASTED WATERHEN:

The tour wasn't just about birding; Su proved to be very well versed in the overall natural and cultural knowledge of the land, also. There were quite a few times along the trail when she would suddenly stop and I would expect her to yell out a good bird, but instead she would pick up a leaf and tell us to eat it. We ate everything from ferns to exotic fruits! A couple of my favorite instances were: 1) When a random Balinese farmer came up to us, sliced open a coconut, and we all got to sip free coconut water and eat free coconut flesh right out of the coconut! 2) When the group stopped at a fruit stand along the trail and we ate exotic fruits 3) When Su picked up a few fern leaves that had white spores on the bottom and gave one leaf to all of us. Then, we pressed the leaf against our palms and an imprint of the fern leaf was left on our palms because of the spores. 4) When Su picked certain little red flowers for us and told them to bite into them and suck the nectar out. It tasted like honey! Apparently, this is the same nectar that flower-piercers and sunbirds crave! There were many other unique instances as well as countless times when Su pointed out an interesting plant, bug, or other living creature. I have a bird species and a non-bird species list from the walk at the bottom of the post.

About an hour into the walk, Su pointed out to us this PACIFIC SWALLOW which landed on a branch in the middle of a rice field:

The next birds were beautiful BAR-WINGED PRINIAS, one of which posed nicely for this photograph:

SCALY-BREASTED MUNIAS, a very common species throughout the day:

At one point I ventured off into a rice patty by myself in search of snipes (I did find some, see pictures later in the post) and initially found this RUDDY-BREASTED CRAKE, which sadly didn't show up again so only I got to see it. Here is a photo of this shy bird disappearing into the rice field:

I also saw this JAVAN POND-HERON while in the rice field (this was my dad's favorite bird of the day):

As well as this nice WOOD SANDPIPER:

Next, Su pointed out some interesting flora along the trail including a Banana Tree (sadly, the bananas were not ripe so we couldn't pick them):

And these sweet potato plants:

At this point we were half way through our walk and we had a snack break at the exotic fruit stand which I already mentioned. The fruit was delicious and it was a welcome break from all of the walking since the temperature was in the upper eighties.

The part of the trail immediately after the fruit stand went through a patch of dense forest which provided pleasant shade. We found a few COMMON IORAS in the forest, which surprised Su, because usually they are found in much larger, denser stands of jungle than the one we passed through. Here is a bad photo of one:

After the brief patch of forest, it was back into the open rice terraces where I saw this LITTLE EGRET hunting in a picturesque landscape of rice patties:

I also saw this JAVAN MUNIA:

Then Su pointed a St. Andrew's Spider out to us. She informed us that the reason why it has that name is because the spider weaves a visible cross-like pattern into its web and stands on the cross just like St. Andrew was crucified on a similarly-shaped cross. You can see it for yourself in the picture I took below:

The next bird, which was a real highlight for the walk was this beautiful, albeit far-off JAVA KINGFISHER:

I also got lucky and managed to capture this bad photo of a PIN-TAILED SNIPE:

The trail ended back at the road and it was a short van ride to the restaurant where we had lunch with the rest of the group as well as my mom and my sister. While having lunch, we spotted two fantastic birds including a stunning GREATER COUCAL and this gorgeous male OLIVE-BACKED SUNBIRD:


Here are the "people photos" of the tour:

Su and I studying some photos I took on the tour:

My dad and I in front of the rice patties:

Bjørn and I discussing the coconut:

It was a phenomenal tour, with 28 bird species positively identified, including 17 life birds, as well as many more plants and animals.

Here is the bird list for the tour:

  • *this indicates a life bird
  • *Javan Pond-heron

Cattle Egret
Little Egret

  • *Ruddy-breasted Crake

White-breasted Waterhen

  • *Wood Sandpiper
  • *Pintail Snipe

Spotted Dove

  • *Greater Coucal
  • *Edible Nest Swiftlet

White-bellied Swiftlet
Asian Palm-swift
Java Kingfisher

  • *Blue-tailed Bee-eater

Barn Swallow
Pacific Swallow

  • *Striated Swallow
  • *Sooty-headed Bulbul

Yellow-vented Bulbul

  • *Common Iora
  • *Zitting Cisticola
  • *Golden-headed Cisticola
  • *Bar-winged Prinia
  • *Brown-throated Sunbird
  • *Olive-backed Sunbird
  • *Javan Munia
  • *Scaly-breasted Munia

Tree Sparrow

And here is a list of other flora and fauna Su pointed out to us:

Jack Fruit Tree
Bread Fruit Tree
Banana Tree
Coconut Palm Tree
Rambutan Fruit Tree
Cinnamon Tree
Thumbujia Flower
Morning Glory
Gloria Lily
Strangling Fig
King Fern
Other Plants:
Wild Ginger
Sweet Potato
Great Mormon Butterfly
Swift Peacock Butterfly
Glassy Blue Tiger Butterfly
Giant Crow Butterfly
Glider Dragonfly
Brown Skimmer
Stream Glory Damselfly
Golden Orb Spider
St. Andrew's Spider
House Gecko

I saw so many great birds today that I can't decide which one of the following should be my bird-of-the-day:

Javan Pond-heron
Ruddy-breasted Crake
Pintail Snipe
Greater Coucal
Edible Nest Swiftlet
Asian Palm Swift
Java Kingfisher
Blue-tailed Bee-eater
Striated Swallow
Sooty-headed Bulbul
Common Iora
Golden-headed Cisticola
Bar-winged Prinia
Brown-throated Sunbird

On a final note, email me if you would like to be included on a new photo stream I have made called "Birding Bali and Singapore," which would be another, faster way to see my photos from the trip.

Stay tuned because tomorrow is...well...just another day in paradise!

Good birding,

World Life List: 638 Species (17 life birds today)

Posted by skwclar 05:46 Archived in Indonesia

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Love your blog, Henry! Please include me in your new "Birding Bali and Singapore."

by Phyllis Hill

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