Saturday 30 December 2023

2023 Part 4: Indonesia and Ecuador


The island of Sulawesi must be on the bucket list for any naturalist with a strong interest in biogeography. Though Borneo is situated only a few hundred kilometers to the west, and the Moluccas are not far to the east, the species composition of Sulawesi is significantly different than these islands. Deep water trenches lie on either side of Sulawesi, so that even during times of glacial maxima when the sea-levels are at their lowest, Sulawesi remains an island. This limits gene flow and, over time, many of the species found on Sulawesi have evolved into unique forms. This uniqueness is really evident with the bird life, as almost half of the regularly-occurring birds are found nowhere else in the world. 

I spent a few weeks in September leading a tour for Worldwide Quest on Sulawesi and Halmahera. Halmahera is located further east in the Moluccas, where the species composition is a bit closer to that of New Guinea. 

Green-backed Kingfisher

Walker's Gliding Dragon (Draco walkeri)

Violet Lacewing (Cethosia myrina)

Sunda Teal


Cinnabar Boobook

Black-naped Oriole feeding on a cicada

Robberfly (subfamiy Asilinae) feasting on a leafhopper

Celebes Dwarf Squirrel (Prosciurillus murinus) feeding on bark

Diabolical Nightjar

Yellow Bittern 

Asian Water Monitor (Varanus salvator)

Pale-blue Monarch 


Sulawesi Serpent-Eagle

Pacific Bluetail Skink (Emoia caeruleocauda)

Sulawesi Dwarf-Kingfisher

Milon's Bluebottle (Graphium milon)

Scaly-breasted Kingfisher

Sulawesi Pitta

Wandering Whistling-Ducks

Sulawesi Scops-Owl

Sulawesi Lilac Kingfisher

Knobbed Hornbill

Ochre-bellied Boobook

Gursky's Spectral Tarsier (Tarsius spectrumgurskyae)

Pallid Ghost Crab (Ocypode pallidula)

Sulawesi Bear Cuscus (Ailurops ursinus)

Celebes Crested Macaque (Macaca nigra)

Sulawesi Hornbill

Great-billed Kingfisher

Little Tern

Gray-tailed Tattler 

Blue-and-white Kingfisher

Halmahera Oriole

Halmahera Boobook

Wallace's Standardwing

Moluccan King-Parrot

Chattering Lory

Nicobar Pigeon

Blue-capped Fruit-Dove

Variable Goshawk

Therates sp.

Gasteracantha audouini

North Moluccan Pitta


Much like Sulawesi, the Galápagos archipelago is also a must-visit destination for anyone with an interest in ecology, evolution, or biogeography. I returned this October to lead a tour for Worldwide Quest, with our route focusing more on the western islands, where the nutrient-rich upwellings of the Cromwell Current provide excellent conditions for Galápagos Penguins, Flightless Cormorants and an abundance of sea life. It was an amazing trip, and a special bonus for me was having my parents join me on tour for the first time. 

I scheduled my flights in such a way to take advantage of being in Ecuador; that is, I had a few free days prior to the tour, and a week at the end of the tour. My pre-tour days were spent twitching a Black-breasted Puffleg and birding in the Bellavista area above Mindo. For six nights after the tour, I journeyed to Río Bigal, a reserve situated at around 1000m in elevation in the eastern Andes. This elevation is ideal to find an interesting mix of Amazonian and Andean species. I caught up with some of the specialty birds of the region including Pink-throated Brilliant, Blackish Pewee and (heard-only) Salvin's and Nocturnal Curassows, and found a few surprise species as well (Orange-breasted Falcon, Slate-colored Seedeater, Acadian Flycatcher). Additionally, I found a few interesting mammals, the night-hiking was productive and the mothing was some of the best I've ever done. 

Black-breasted Puffleg

Yellow-bellied Chat-Tyrant

Sapphire-vented Puffleg

Masked Flowerpiercer

Hooded Mountain-Tanager

Othna Skipper (Thespieus othna)

Epidendrum spathatum

Western Santa Cruz Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis niger porteri)

Small Tree-Finch

Medium Ground-Finch

Sally Lightfoot Crab (Grapsus grapsus)


Galápagos Penguin

Santiago Lava Lizard (Microlophus jacobii)

American Flamingo

Isla Rábida, Galápagos, Ecuador

Wandering Tattler

American Oystercatcher

Galápagos Prickly Pear (Opuntia galapageia)

Brujo Flycatcher

Brujo Flycatcher

Blue-footed Boobies

Marine Iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus)

Brown Pelican

Kayaking in Galápagos, Ecuador

Flightless Cormorant

Striated Heron

Galápagos Penguin

Panamic Cushion Star (Pentaceraster cumingi)

Galápagos Land Iguana (Conolophus subcristatus)

Brown Noddy

Galápagos Fur Seal (Arctocephalus galapagoensis)

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

Galápagos Petrel

Spotted Boxfish (Ostracion meleagris)

Galápagos Dove

Blue-footed Booby

Great Frigatebird

Swallow-tailed Gulls

Volcán Antisana

Black-mantled Tamarin (Saguinus nigricollis)

Desmoloma sp.

Colla amoena

Common Lancehead (Bothrops atrox)

Phareicranaus grailis

Broad-headed Woodlizard (Enyalioides laticeps)

Oospila ruptimacula

Cerodirphia sp.

Eulepidotis inclyta

Phrictus hoffmannsi

My cabin at Río Bigal (and front yard moth sheet)

Marañón White-fronted Capuchin (Cebus yuracus)

Gray-breasted Sabrewing

Spotted Paca (Cuniculus paca)

Santa Cecilia Glass Frog (Teratohyla midas)

Metallic Robber Frog (Pristimantis lanthanites)

Herminodes sp.

Auratonota dispersa

Eumarozia sp.

Casuaria armata

Green Manakin

Lemon-tipped Helicopter (Mecistogaster ornata)

Ecuadorian Piedtail

Zaevius calocore

Histioea bellatrix

Zatrephes trailii

Amber Phantom (Haetera piera)

South American Leaftosser

Antirrhea philoctetes

Gray-tailed Piha

Gymnelia eusebia

Viviennea moma

Pseudischnocampa humosa

Grapeleaf Passionflower (Passiflora vitifolia)

Black Caracaras

Rusted Clearwing-Satyr (Cithaerias pireta)

Brown-eared Anole (Anolis fuscoauratus)

Hyperandra diminuta

Prepiella aurea

Rosema apollinairei

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