did you see the birds in Bali When you were staying there
last year, Or was your time assigned entirely To seeing
sights and swilling beer, Sifting sand or shifting gear?
hobby of bird watching is above all a delightful recreation,
and no longer merely the province of collectors and academics.
And what better place than Bali to indulge the urge? What
pleasanter island, what wilder domain, and what fresher
air in which to nurture it?
are lucky in Indonesia. The zoogeographic range embraces
not only both hemispheres but also the Oriental and Australian
regions, which are divided by the Wallace Line running between
the islands of Bali and Lombok. Extending from the mountain
forests of Sumatra to those of New Guinea, there rests a
largely unpeopled clime and an unrivalled diversity of avian
alone boasts something like 300 different bird species,
including of course migrants, from massive Hornbills and
Storks to diminutive Sunbirds and Spider hunters - to say
nothing of one of the world's rarest and most beautiful
birds, the Rothschild's Myna (also known as the Bali Starling),
which occurs only in Bali.
view of such marvels, moreover, need not be confined to
the aviary. There lies the wild, readily accessible to all,
even to those who inhabit, for example, the crowded tourist
beach resorts or the city of Denpasar whence an hour's drive
at most to Ubud or Bedugul and indeed there is more than
enough to feast the eyes here without the need to venture
beyond the garden gate.
my very own garden situated in the central foothills of
Bali, I have seen something like eighty different types
of bird. On one side, there extends a dense curtain of greenery,
mainly of flowering shrubs, coconut palms and fruit trees,
with here and there a shady acacia and clump of bamboo,
the whole surmounted by a towering cotton tree. This is
the resort of a host of arboreal birds, the most remarkable
being the Black aped Orioles and Ashy Drongos; the former
a glorious golden-yellow with a broad black band through
the eye to the nape, and the latter an unrelieved dark gray
with deeply forked tails, always prominently perched and
admirable for their acrobatic hawking of insects.
the canopy, the Magpie Robins endlessly disport and vent
a rich vocabulary of imprecations and sweet fluting calls,
whilst the restless Pied Fantail dashes to and fro, pirouettes
and trips the light fantastic, characteristically flirting
its tail the while. Always in evidence are the ubiquitous
Yellow-vented Bulbuls, chattering and chortling, as they
race each other from palm to palm.
the smaller birds, the most commonly occurring are the Bar-winged
Prinias and Ashy Tailorbirds, alternately creeping and darting
through the bushes in search of grubs; the vivid Scarlet-headed
Flower peckers and metallic blue-throated Olive backed Simbirds,
busily rifling the hibiscus blossoms to sate their appetite
for minute insects and nectar; and the cheerful green yellow
Common Iora, which hops about in the thick crown of a rambutan
tree, now and again betraying its presence with a long drawn-out
mellow whistle, slowly increasing in pitch and ending abruptly
on a lower note: tweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-tyou.
the east is an open expanse of terraced rice fields, gently
ascending to a ridge. Andhere, according to the season,
is the haunt of Watercock and Cinnamon Bittern, of Ruddy
breasted Crake and flocks of stately snowy white Plumed
and Little Egrets. Consorting with the latter and usually
distinguishable by the buffy-rufous patches of their nuptial
plumage, are the Cattle Egrets; while scattered about in
frozen attitudes, some Javan
Pond Herons stare warily at passers-by, the breeding birds
richly adorned in buff and cinnamon and black, which is
curiously transformed to white when they erupt into flight.
flying the fields are Swift lets and Swallows, and tiny
tumbling Fantail-Warblers, whilst swarms of marauding Munias
wheel this way and that to escape the clappers, before descending
in a mass to ravage another patch of unguarded grain. There
patiently sits the little Pied Bushchat, rather resembling
a miniature Magpie Robin in appearance, and likewise perched
and keenly espying its prey, is the spectacularly caparisoned
Javan Kingfisher, whose radiant presence makes such an indelible
impression on all who behold it. Like others of its tribe,
it may be found along the river-beds of verdant ravines,
but it also frequents the paddy-fields where it may more
readily be observed, perched atop a slender pole or the
thatched roof of a small shrine, sacred to Dewi Sri, goddess
of agriculture and fertility.
live thus, surrounded by birds, not to say invaded by them,
is a joy and an ever lasting revelation. Other regular visitors
include the Magpie Robins, those conspicuously pied and
vocal denizens of all the gardens of the East. In pops the
Ashy Tailorbird, insignificant mousy gray thing, refocus
face peering inquisitively about, tail cocked vertically.
The coast is clear. Bounding
sprightly gaited over the boards, it hops on a cushion,
inserts its narrow pointed bill, and extracts a scrap of
kapok stuffing. A cautious backward look, more poking and
prodding till the bill stuffed with white fluff, for all
the world like the thief that it is and sporting instant
whiskers and a beard in order to avoid detection. A final
and away to add some comfort to a miraculously stitched
leafy nest in the hedgerow.
what are those elegant little olivegrey-brown birds, clambering
about in the variegated copper-leaf and croton bushes yonder,
every so often emitting a plaintive: twee-wee-wee, succeeded
by utterances of quite explosive force? Notice the long
white tipped tail feathers, white throats and upper breasts,
twin white wing bars, amber eyes and lemon-yellow bellies.
They are the Bar winged Prinias or Wren-Warblers, which
seem to thrive in any habitat from montane forest to coastal
mangrove, and especially in ornamental gardens. Yet their
geographic range is confined to Sumatra, Java and Bali.
Nowhere else may they be found