As an illustrator, Indigo Blue is one of my favorite colors.
Coincidence or not, the Indigo Flycatcher is one of the Indonesian birds who most impressed me; it’s a real challenge to describe (and even more to paint) its real colors.
When the bird is in the dark shadow of the forest shows indigo blue plumage, but when a sun ray gets into the plumage turns into a stunning turquoise blue.
This species is endemic to the Greater Sundas. Three subspecies are recognized: Eumyias indigo cerviniventris in Borneo, Eumyias indigo ruficrissa in Sumatra and Eumyias indigo indigo in Java. All of them showing bright azure-blue forehead (becoming almost white in strong light), lores and area around eye black, upperparts deep indigo-blue, throat and breast deep blue fading to bluish-grey belly and white base of outer tail feathers. The main distinction between them is the amount of buff color in undertail-coverts, ranging from buffish-yellow in Borneo subspecies to white in Java subspecies.
On 23 of May (Pangrango NP), a couple of Indigo Flycatchers was observed and notes were taken.
One bird (nº1) was seen collecting insects (damselflies). Being in the dark undergrowth this bird showed the typical dark indigo blue. At the edge of the forest, in a tree nearby, his mate (nº2) was in a light area, showing a turquoise blue. This bird was never seen collecting insects during the observation period (±20 min).
I noticed a difference in the amount of black in the face of the two birds.
Nº1 had a small black area (chin, lores and nostrils compared with nº2, who had a much bigger amount of dark area (chin and cheeks, even showing a moustachial stripe).
When nº2 moved to a shadow area this characteristic didn’t changed, the same happen to nº1 when showed up in a sunny area.
Could it be sexual dimorphism? I assumed that nº2 was a male and nº1 a female, but it’s just an assumption…
On 23 of May, in Pangrango NP, me and Santi came across with a Pygmy Tit’s nest ,Java’s smallest bird. With a length of 8 cm’s it surely deserves this distinction and name.
The Pygmy Tit (Psaltria exilis) is placed in the Aegithalidae family but his true relationships remain obscure. The genus Psaltria is endemic to Java and Bali.
Little is known about its breeding biology, and even nowadays the juvenile plumage remains undescribed, although is believed to be very similar to the adult plumage.
Around 1h15 pm we noticed activity around the nest and we took the opportunity to take some notes.
The nest is in a Rasamala tree, around 10 m from the ground. We could see it up close from a Canopy trail.
The nest structure is no more than moss coupled to an epiphyte. The bird took advantage of this structure to build the nest or could it be used as camouflage?
We noticed the birds joining mixed flocks to collect food and returning to the nest each time the flock passed at the area. Seicercus grammiceps and Phylloscopus trivirgatus were the main species on those flocks.
The only prey we saw being taken was small caterpillars.
In one occasion we saw 3 birds around the nest, bringing food. One of them entered into the nest and remained there, while the others were foraging. This strongly suggests cooperative breeding.
The time length between each visit was very long, 18 to 40 min.
We didn’t manage to get views of the nestlings, but they seemed very young, assuming from the noise coming from the nest.
The surrounding area is Primary forest (transitional from sub-montane to montane vegetation), composed mainly by tall Rasamala trees. The nest tree is located in a valley (around 1500 m elevation), with a fast flowing stream passing by.
As a Portuguese birdwatcher, Arctic warbler has been, for a long time, a most wanted bird and one of the rarities that one wishes to tick.
So far there’s only one accepted record in Portugal. In 2009 (September 28) a juvenile was ringed in Santo André lagoon by Carlos Pacheco and others (see here).
This species winters primarily in Malaysia, Phillipines and Indonesia.
I’m currently in Java, and the opportunity to observe and study Arctic Warblers in the wintering grounds seems irresistible.
But here arises a problem…
Arctic Warbler has now been split into three cryptic species due to differences in genetics.
The split was proposed in 2011 in the following paper: “Alström, P., Saitoh, T., Williams, D., Nishiumi, I., Shigeta, Y., Ueda, K., Irestedt, M., Björklund, M., and Olson, U. (2011). The Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis– three anciently separated cryptic species revealed. Ibis 1532: 395–410”, an abstract of which can be seen here and here.
According to this paper distinguish these three species will be impossible by plumage alone, leaving us with calls and songs as the only safe method of ID.
On February 7, 2015 in Bogor Botanical Garden a warbler caught the attention.
Plumage and structure seemed to be typical of Arctic warbler, although much greyish in tone than a previous bird seen at the same place, identified as Phylloscopus borealis (photo here). But as we already know plumage is of little use in the field.
Fortunately it was calling and I managed to get this recording:
Last saturday I went to Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park with my birding companion, Tri Susanti.
After a hiking of 3 hours (to many birds to discover!) we reached the Swamp (a forest clearing with head-high grass and a well known place in here).
Soon as we arrived we detect an adult Crested Serpent-eagle Spilornis cheela soaring.
Then displayed in flight (diving followed by an ascent flight with raised wings, beating them for a few seconds in that position, performed a few times).
We were still talking about this behaviour when a male Javan Hawk-eagle Nisaetus bartelsi (we weren’t able to tell the age of this bird), also started to display above (diving followed by an ascent flight and then gliding, also a few times).
After that a juvenile male Javan Hawk-eagle was seen interacting with an adult female, disappearing behind the canopy.
To end a Spotted Kestrel Falco moluccensis flew overhead with a small lizard as prey…
I know, crappy pictures! Very light sky and impossible to get better… but you get the idea.