I left UK on May 19th for 10 months of freedom and exploration with a Round the World ticket. Will I find New Zealand as perfect as it was fifteen years ago? How has Australia changed? Will I learn any Spanish in S America?

Monday, May 01, 2006

Bali Bird Walk, Ubud

Ducks in the rice fields
Chameleon on coconut tree
Campuan Bridge
I had to go - I reckoned I could rest my foot completely once again after this . It poured with rain this morning for about an hour from 6.30 , the large droplets bouncing off the banana leaves outside my room. I got a ride on a moped down to the Campuchan Bridge which hangs suspended gloriously over the river about half a kilometre from Ubud central. Here I met Ni Wayan Sumadi, or Su for short who is unusual in Bali for three reasons - she has never married , she works independently and not for a tour operator and she is a female guide - men still don't believe that she knows anything about birds when they meet her. I was the only customer which I was very suprised at as there is a big GlobalHealing conference here from May 3rd- 10th( with Walter Cronkite and Desmond Tutu) and I would have thought attendees might fit in a bird walk or two. But business has been very slow all round says Su - down about 40% for the time of year. Only my bungalows seem to be getting fuller and fuller but anything on the outskirts is not filling up.She took a Japanese couple who only wanted to see the Javanese kingfisher on a special trip yesterday and they spent three hours in a hide with tripods and three cameras, digital and film, poking out of three sides waiting for the perfect shot(s).

We saw lots of Javanese kingfishers today - as we walked through the rice fields at the back of the Pura Desa Temple where I saw the kechak a few nights ago. About 8 of these birds all told, very striking large birds , brillant blue purple and darker shades of purple and a stunning thick red beak. In flight and in bad light all you see is the red of the beak and white wing patches and a flash of blue. There are more of them now than usual attracted by the water in the rice fields where they hunt for frogs, snakes etc along with the cattle egrets and java pond herons which had their ginger breeding plumage making them more interesting than usual plain white.
The rice fields were deserted today due to preparations for Gulangal- flocks of ducks in the rice paddies,some still with duckling down pom poms on thier heads , little tents where they lay eggs rigged up inthe rice fields. Lotsof different types and some deginite Daffys. T The water trickles through the irrigation channels which are grass sided - water comes from the mountains near Bedegul in the east.Lots of little crops growing as well as rice along the way- and four types of those - Balinese rice or red rice which gives 2 crops a year but very high in vitamins etc and hybrid white rice and sticky rice and black rice.In some fields the rice has been harvested and so the water has been drained out of them and the stubble burned off. In others the rice is still grwoing adn ripening the little seeds visible. There are Balinese scarecrows ranging from a couple of plastic bags on a stick to a stuffed Balinese man complete with headress and scarey facial features. Noneof these seem to work as the birds are there in abundance - not even the improvised metal sails of windmills which hit tin cans do much to scare them off. Perched on poles, and up on dead bracnhes of trees , on bending staves(?) of rice and in flocks in coconut trees they were everywhere. Lots of little scaly breasted munias.
Su showed me fruit trees - the jackfruit, the breadfruit with distinctive leaves ,the betel nut tree,( looks like a palm with string of \yellow pods round middle) picus fig, the wild hibiscus ( yellow flower ) and the introduced red hibiscus or chinese rose, the white star of bethlehem and mismosa with pinkflowers and the leaves which curl up when you touch them ,long green beans growing by side of the path trailing up bamboo poles, water spinach which is the green ingredient apart from beans in gado gado - the classic Indonesian dish - butterflies everywhere - the cholcolate soldier only one I can remember name of, and dragonflies - the wild blue dragonfly and a red bodied dragonfly.
I have the little illustrated book by Victor Mason who is the bird man of Bali - now in his 70's but his original love was butterflies - and now he has published a guide to the Butterflies of Indonesia- bit of a labuor of love - and Su's brother has done the illustrations - no one expects to make much mnoey from it.
We stopped for a drink of water on a small platform under a roof of alang alang ( grass matting) tied to bamboo structure with rattan , the bamboo held together with sisal cord which is also the grass which the roofs of the pagodas are made fromTthe shelter is the meeting place for the rice growers and there is a big wooden bell to call everyone to the meetings or as an alarm call etc. THe rice workers operate as a co operative with one person responsible for making sure that the water runs through the irrigation channels etc we passed the rice temple, Pura Degul, where farmers make offerings for a good harvest and later on by a field a small brick shrine on top of which a sheaf of rice had been offered to the goddess of fertility and agriculture.
Most amazing birds were the weavers - we passed a whole street of weaver bird nests, made in the banana trees . The yellow headed male makes several half finsished nests and then sings loudly to attract a female - if she likes his nest she will go into it and the male will then complete it -he will take as many mates as he can get. We saw lots and lots of nests in the coconut trees and a tree nearby full of females with the male doing a lot of calling from the top.

Saw the following birds:
Javan Pond heron
Greater Coucal
White bellied swiftlet
Zitting Cisticola
Bar winged Prinia
Golden Headed Cisticola
Brown throated sunbird
Javan Munia
Scaly breasted munia
chestnut munia
java sparrow
streaked weaver
olived backed sunbird


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