Nusa Penida birding trip (Hemmings, 2009)

Frank Hemmings gives a detailed account of his birding trip to Nusa Penida, Lembongan and Ceningan, June 2009. This report was published on but merits further attention for it is an interesting, informative and well-written article with detailed information on the location where birds were spotted, and other relevant data.

leucopsarrothschildi batumadeg releasecage

Image above: Bali Myna (Leocopsar rothschildi) in release cage at Tembeling forest, Batumadeg, Nusa Penida (FNPF, 2011)


I spent a day on Nusa Penida with a last-minute guide, Anton, who is actually keeper of the birds at the Bali Starling Centre in Ped. I think I was supposed to have an English speaking guide for the day, which may or may not have been Bayu Wirayudha, the director of the Bali Starling Centre. Unfortunately there was a mix up in the timing, and Bayu (whose English is excellent) was absent on the day I arrived, so after some hasty rearrangements, Anton became my guide. In reality Anton's English was good, enough for basic communication for getting around that day, and much better than my Bahasa. Whilst the arrangements were not as planned the day still panned out very well and I would still recommend the experience; I paid 450000IDR for the car for the day and 150000IDR for Anton's guiding services. I probably could have spent more time but had organised a return boat for 2:30, in order to avoid potentially rough seas in a small jukung (boat with outboard), and I arrived at the beach even earlier in the hope that my boat would be early but which turned up a little late due to rougher seas.

Nusa Penida

For birders Nusa Penida is known because it holds a number of birds which are not found on mainland Bali: Black-faced Munia, found elsewhere in Nusa Tenggara; Lemon-bellied White-eye, found on Menjangan Island in the northwest and also on a number of other smaller offshore islands, but also, I believe, found on Lembongan, and Red-chested Flowerpecker are the ones which most spring to mind. I've always wanted to go to Nusa Penida to see these, but recently Nusa Penida has another major birding drawcard. The Friends of the National Parks Foundation ( together with the Begawan Giri Foundation ( have been involved in an ongoing captive breeding and release project for the critically endangered Bali Starling, with the first birds released in November 2006. As of last year, the population currently numbered around 98 free flying birds, but this is no doubt now larger; by March this year there were 58 wild born birds. An article in BirdingAsia {by G.Dijkman] which alerted me to this programme in the first place Further details of the programme and other work of the foundation can be found at their website. And a captive breeding programme is also still ongoing in Bali Barat National park, the natural home of these birds, but the population has remained critically small for decades, largely due to constant poaching.

I spent a day here, travelling across from Nusa Lembongan. I planned my trip initially through Carolyn Kenwrick This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. of the Begawan Giri Foundation and Bayu Wirayudha This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. of the Bali Starling Centre. I organised a boat the day before, which I had thought a better idea than turning up in the morning, but it's possible that organising one in the morning when there is more competition could have resulted in a much cheaper price; I can't bargain but I did get a cheaper price than that quoted by the hotel to organise this for me. Captain Nyoman took me over at 7:00 and I arrived at Banjar Nyuh near Toyapakeh 30 minutes later. Despite all my efforts to practice the necessary Bahasa for organising transport from there to the Bali Starling centre in Ped, it turned out to be unnecessary as I caught an ojek (motorbike taxi) with a driver who spoke some English. Blue-tailed Bee-eaters wheeled above. The confusion however started when I arrived, since there had been a mix up in the dates and I was not expected. Anton the bird keeper and I struggled with his English and my worse Bahasa, but he called Bayu and things were sorted out pretty quickly.

Anton first took me around the various cages, which also held breeding birds of Red-breasted Parakeets and the endangered Mitchells Rainbow Lorikeet, and the large pre-release cages where birds gain strength in flight before their release. Even then I spied the first free-flying Bali Starlings. We walked around in the further grounds of the centre, which includes old coconut plantation and farmland. There we found more groups of starlings, maybe 15 or so in total. Several birds were carrying nesting material, and one male had raised his crest. Other birds seen here included the more typical Olive-backed and Plain-throated Sunbirds, Sooty-headed Bulbul and Spotted Dove, along with Zebra Dove, Black-naped Oriole and a single Lemon-bellied White-eye. After this, we got into a truck and drove through the interior of the island, climbing higher up the slopes of Bukit Mundi, the highest point on the island at 550m alt. We were headed to Tembeling Forest, the largest remaining forest tract on the island which follows a deep valley down towards the ocean. On the drive I saw my first Black-faced Munias; a pretty brief view but the white rumps in flight were diagnostic.

As soon as we got out from the car I could hear fruit doves in a thick tree near the car, and a single female Black-naped Fruit Dove flew into another tree and perched in the open, only metres from the car. We headed through some cultivation, past the area where another pre-release cage had been sited for an earlier release of the starlings. We made our way down slope through scrub and eventually came to a fairly wide track on the upper edge of the forest which wound down into the valley; it was now around 11:00 and quite hot. Several smaller birds were heard, but it was very hard to see them except in flight. There were a few Olive-backed Sunbirds, but at least one Red-chested Flowerpecker flew across in a clearing and another was heard further along the track. As the track entered into the forest proper, the canopy and hillsides climbed above us. Birds were few here, although Black-naped Fruit Doves were heard most of the way along the walk. We had good views of 2 Hair-crested Drongos. Even aside from the lack of bird activity, the forest was a beautiful place. Although probably better to visit earlier in the day, seeing birds here is as difficult as in other closed forests anywhere. Eventually the track dropped down to a beautiful pool near the bottom of the valley, and the ocean pounded on the cliffs nearby. We returned back up the trail, and after a brief rest we got back into the car.


Image above: White-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus), source:

Shortly further along, Anton showed me the nest of a Bali Starling, and before long he located a bird by its call, not far from the road, retreating into the thick foliage in the heat of the day. Further along the road, past the village of Salak, we had nice views of a male Green Junglefowl in roadside scrub, and then great views of 4 Black-faced Munias. We drove on to the end of the road, to a place marked on Google Earth as Tambo Ranch, which had great views of the Penida coast form the cliff tops. The views were fantastic enough as it was, but the 2 White-tailed Tropicbirds in flight pointed out by Anton were the icing on the cake. We then headed back to the centre, where we rang Bayu again. He asked me if I wanted to see any more or stop for lunch, which would have been good but my boat was arriving within the hour and I decided to head back to Toyapakeh to wait for it, thinking that Captain Nyoman might already be there. The trees were now swaying in the strong sea breeze and I was more than a little concerned about the trip back given the legendary reputation of the seas in the afternoon.

Bayu was extremely apologetic about the mix up and that he hadn't been there to see me, but I assured him that it all went fine. He suggested that to see more a longer visit would be necessary and I can understand this; the roads are ok but in some parts are not the easiest and make driving slow so it can take a while to get anywhere. I'd certainly recommend a visit to Nusa Penida, and it was a definite highlight of my holiday. Although the Bali Starlings were THE highlight, seeing the other birds was nearly as good for me. Even aside from the birds, the scenery is completely different from most of Bali, especially in the interior, and it is a little like stepping back in time, since, other than at the beach when I returned to wait for the boat, I saw only 2 other westerners all day. Friends of ours had told us that Lembongan was like Bali 30 years ago, with minimal tourism, but if there is an obvious difference between mainland Bali and Lembongan, there is a contrast between Lembongan, with its western-oriented tourist base, and Nusa Penida

Nusa Lembongan

Obviously for birders visiting Nusa Penida, it would be easiest to stay there rather than on Lembongan, except that most of the accommodation locally is on Lembongan, and incidentally that's where all the associated transport options are located; it was surfers whose patronage started the dramatic rise in the popularity of the area with westerners, and the main surf breaks are around Lembongan, so this is where most accommodation is based.

We spent three nights here. I have only read of one trip report from someone who stayed here so I was interested to see what was around. I had hoped that the absence of certain target species from his Lembongan list was just due to random chance or lack of data points, rather than reflecting an absence of these species on the island, but my brief forays to a number of parts of the island supported the former view. Nusa Penida is separated by a stretch of water less than 1km wide from Nusa Ceningan, and Nusa Ceningan is even closer at one point to Lembongan than it is to Penida, but obviously these gaps exist because some birds just haven't dispersed across them (or have and have died out). I never saw any munia other than Scaly-breasted Munia and I saw no flowerpeckers; white-eyes on the other hand were abundant. I am pretty sure that these are Lemon-bellied White-eyes and not Oriental White-eyes (which are absent from Nusa Penida) with purely yellow undersides, and a paler yellow at that. I only saw one Lemon-bellied White-eye on Nusa Penida, and these appeared to be the same as that bird. Regardless of the identity, they are common and conspicuous on Lembongan, and you can't help noticing them.

I walked on a few foot tracks near the hotel (Coconuts Beach Resort) and also along one of the roads through cultivation and scrub which ended up on the other side of the island and ultimately at the bridge to Nusa Ceningan. Particularly noticeable on Lembongan were Black-naped Orioles and, to a lesser extent, Oriental Magpie Robins, of which I heard far more than I saw. I know that Oriental Magpie Robin is rarer on mainland Bali having suffered from trapping for the cagebird industry. Sadly, I saw more houses with birds in cages hanging from the front eaves on Lembongan than anywhere else during the trip, and the majority of birds were either Black-naped Orioles or Oriental Magpie Robins. So I am not sure how long these healthy populations are going to withstand trapping pressure or, if the market is local, if it is sustainable.

Sooty-headed Bulbuls were abundant on both here and Nusa Penida, whereas Yellow-vented Bulbuls are absent from this island group. Here they could be found just about everywhere and there range of calls had me tricked into thinking that I was hearing another bird on a number of occasions. Cave Swiftlets were generally less common here, but Edible Nest Swiftlets and House Swifts were abundant at times. Black-naped Monarchs were also present in scrub of varying densities and I had good views of a male Green Junglefowl here. Blue-tailed Bee-eaters were present here, as on Nusa Penida. Although this is the time for Rainbow Bee-eaters, all birds which I saw well were Blue-tailed.

I walked up through the village of Jungutbatu and further along the coast to the northern end of the island, and took my bins. There was little else to add although the walk itself was nice (if not hot) but I did see the only White-shouldered Triller of the trip, in addition to hearing a Slender-billed Crow. Near the hotel I also saw Eastern Reef Egret, and had the unusual sight, on a couple of occasions, of 2 dark morph birds accompanying a single white-morph bird landing in the same places; I've always only seen this species as solitary birds before but imagine that there was some family bond between these three. I also saw White-bellied Sea Eagle off Lembongan (as we were departing for Nusa Penida) and saw a Brahminy Kite on the mangroves (technically seen from Nusa Penida).

I kept an eye out for birds the whole time on the outward journey to Lembongan but saw little or than a few Little Terns and some Crested Terns. On the return journey I saw Crested and Black-naped Terns, but I did get 2 individual Wedge-tailed Shearwaters about halfway across and about 1km apart. Murphy's Law that the one tubenose I saw was one that I see most commonly and easily from my own local beach at home. Whilst one was a dark morph the other was pale, which I hadn't seen before.

Nusa Penida Species Lists (Frank Hemmings, June 2009)

From the original list, the birds not relevant to Nusa Penida have been removed. The numbering of below birds was done by Frank Hemmings, who adds: "Species marked with (h) indicate those which were only heard, lifers are underlined."

sturnus melanopteruspycnonotus aurigasterpsittacula alexandri

Images above: Black-winged Starling (Sturnus melanopterus), Sooty-headed Bulbul (Pycnonotus aurigaster), Red-breasetd Parakeet (Psittacula alexandri) on Nusa Penida. Sources: FNPF (

2) White-tailed Tropicbird: 2 birds flying over ocean, seen from coastal view point at 'Tambo Ranch' (= Batumadeg, Banah Point, GD). Stunning views added to the experience.
6) Purple Heron: Single birds seen most days, flying over ocean or parallel to coast, at Seminyak (6-9/6, 14/6), and also single bird flying around the lagoon on Lembongan (9-10/6).
7) Great Egret: Several seen on drive to Benoa Harbour (9/6), and 5 seen in Benoa Harbour on return boat trip from Lembongan (12/6).
11) Eastern Reef Egret: 2 dark morph birds with 1 white flying together around lagoon near hotel on arrival (9/6) and also same seen from hotel in lagoon (12/6), Nusa Lembongan; 1 dark morph bird off Ceningan on return trip from Nusa Penida (10/6).
15) Brahminy Kite: 1 immature, seen from Toyapakeh whilst waiting for boat to arrive for the return trip, flying over mangroves on edge of Lembongan (10/6).
16) White-bellied Sea Eagle: 1 bird flying over ocean, seen from Jungutbatu, Lembongan, when heading out to Nusa Penida (10/6) – distant views but diagnostic pronounced dihedral profile.
18) Green Junglefowl: 1 male seen from car in roadside scrub near Salak, Nusa Penida (10/6), and another male in scrub on Lembongan (11/6).
20) White-breasted Waterhen: Heard at Pura Luhur Batukaru in undergrowth near lake (7/6); several heard in scrub (9/6) and later 2 seen in scrub and on mangrove edge (11/6) at Lembongan; 1 seen on drive to Tembeling Forest (10/6).
23) Crested Tern: Several seen well off beach at Resor Seminyak, with more further out, where flocking with smaller dark tern sp. with white underwings, possibly Common Noddy (8/6); 3 and several more inshore outside of harbour (9/6), and 5 (12/6), Benoa Harbour.
24) Black-naped Tern: A few inshore off Benoa Harbour (9/6); 2 off Ceningan on return boat trip from Nusa Penida (10/6), 3 off beach at northern end of island (11/6) and 2 seen from hotel (12/6), Lembongan; 5 at sea on return boat trip to Benoa Harbour (12/6)
27) Rock Pigeon: 3 at Toyapakeh, Nusa Penida (10/6); several near Lake Buyan (13/6).
28) Pink-necked Green-Pigeon: Several seen in small numbers in coastal scrub between Seminyak and Batubelig on both morning and afternoon walks (6/6); Seen daily on Lembongan where quite common (9-12/6); several seen at Bali Starling centre, Nusa Penida (10/6).
30) Black-naped Fruit-Dove: 1 female in nice open view, with another male hidden in another tree, at the spot where we parked the car to walk into Tembeling Forest; at least a further 10 heard in the forest itself but we couldn't see any of these so the view next to the car was fortuitous indeed.
33) Spotted Turtle-Dove: Common and seen daily everywhere, most abundant pigeon of the trip.
34) Zebra Dove: 1 in 'paddock' behind Batubelig (6/6), and another at the Bali Starling Centre, Nusa Penida (10/6).
39) Cave Swiftlet: The most widespread swift of the trip and generally the most common, this species was recorded daily and from most sites, including both Nusa Penida and Lembongan, although generally outnumbered by other swift spp. on the latter island.
Indeterminate dark swiftlet sp: Batubelig beach (6/6);
40) Edible-nest Swiftlet: A few at Mengwi (7/6); also birds seen daily at Lembongan, where common, (9-13/6) and throughout Nusa Penida (10/6) were probably this species rather than the following species.
42) House Swift: 1 flying high at Mengwi (15/7); several flying high over Resor Seminyak (8/6); common on Lembongan where seen daily, at times in flocks of c.20 (9-13/6) and also seen above Tembeling Forest, Nusa Penida.
45) Collared Kingfisher: Single birds at Batubelig lagoon (6/6); in rice fields at Jatuluwih (7/6); Benoa Harbour (9/6); at hotel (9/6) near bridge to Ceningan and on northern end of island, Lembongan (11/6); in Tembeling Forest, and one roadside near Salak, Nusa Penida (10/6); and 1 seen and another heard in Kebun Raya Bedugul (13/6).
48) Blue-tailed Bee-eater: Few at Batubelig behind beach (6/6); several seen at various sites throughout Lembongan (9-11/6); largeish number (c. 20) around Toyapakeh, also on drive to and around Bali Starling Centre, and also some on drive to Tembeling Forest, Nusa Penida (10/6). Several references indicate that this species is a 'winter' (i.e. northern winter) migrant to Bali, but it does certainly occur on mainland Bali year-round in some places. Rainbow Bee-eater can occur as a southern winter migrant and this would be the time to see it. A list for Nusa Penida also indicates that only Rainbow Bee-eater occurs there. I saw far more bee-eaters on Nusa Penida and Lembongan than on the mainland, but of all that I did see well, these were Blue-tailed Bee-eaters (on both Penida and Lembongan) and not Rainbow's; they lacked the black bar at the base of the throat and had consistently green, not chestnut, flight feathers on the upper surface. It may be that some which I did not see well may have been the latter species, but the former were definitely present.
51) Pacific Swallow: Several in rice paddies at Jatuluwih (7/6) near Resor Seminyak (8/6); seen daily in small numbers throughout Lembongan, usually near water (9-13/6); at Bali Starling Centre, Nusa Penida (10/6): several at Lake Buyan (13/6).
53) White-shouldered Triller: 1 in beachside coconut palm, north of Jungutbatu, Lembongan (11/6).
56) Sooty-headed Bulbul: In the absence of Yellow-vented Bulbuls, these birds are abundant on both Lembongan, where seen daily (9-12/6), and also on Nusa Penida (10/6); heard at Lake Buyan (13/6); 1 at Resor Seminyak and 2 nearby (14/6).
60) Hair-crested Drongo: 2 seen very well in Tembeling Forest, Nusa Penida (10/6).
61) Black-naped Oriole: Fairly common on Lembongan, where seen daily with up to 15 birds seen, and more heard, in a single walk (9-13/6); 1 at Bali Starling Centre, Nusa Penida (10/6); 1 at Kebun Raya Bedugul (13/6).
62a) (h) Slender-billed Crow: 1 heard near Jungutbatu, Lembongan (11/6).
66) Oriental Magpie Robin: Moderately common in thicker scrub on Nusa Lembongan - 2 seen and several more heard (9/6) and 1 seen and several more heard (11/6).
69) Golden-bellied Gerygone: 1 seen in mangroves near bridge to Ceningan, with more heard nearby, Lembongan (11/6).
80) Black-naped Monarch: 1 in mixed flock in shrub layer on foot track to river at Pura Luhur Batukaru (7/6); moderately common on Lembongan where 2 - 3 seen daily in scrub (9-11/6); 1 seen flying across road on drive to Tembeling Forest, Nusa Penida (10/6).
82) White-breasted Woodswallow: Seen daily at Resor Seminyak (6-9/6, 14/6) and also in nearby Batubelig (6/6); seen around Lembongan (9-13/6), and on drive from Bali Starling Centre to Tembeling Forest, Nusa Penida (10/6).
86) Bali Starling (-Myna): Major trip highlight! Maybe 12 or so seen as singles to 2's and 3's, in area around Bali Starling Centre, Nusa Penida (10/6). All birds seen closely had no bands so were wild-born. Some birds were carrying nesting material and one male displayed raised crest. Another bird was seen near a nest hole, near Salak village, close to Tembeling Forest.
87) Plain-throated Sunbird: Widespread and common but less common than the following species, also in singles or pairs. Seen (6/6) and heard (14/6) at Resor Seminyak; seen at Pura Luhur Batukaru and Mengwi (7/6), seen around Bali Starling Centre and heard at Tembeling Forest, Nusa Penida (10/6); at Jungutbatu and the northern coast of Lembongan (11/6).
88) Olive-backed Sunbird: Widespread and common, usually seen as singles or pairs. Seen daily at Seminyak and through to Batubelig (6-9/6, 14/6) and at Lembongan (9-12/6); also seen at Pura Luhur Batukaru and Mengwi (7/6), Nusa Penida including around the Bali Starling Centre and at Tembeling Forest (10/6) and at Kebun Raya Bedugul (13/6).
93) Red-chested Flowerpecker: 1 seen very briefly as it flew quickly overhead in forest edge, and 1 more heard nearby, Tembeling Forest, Nusa Penida (10/6).
96) Lemon-bellied White-eye: Common and conspicuous on Lembongan, where seen daily (9-13/6), also 1 seen at Bali Starling Centre, Nusa Penida (10/6).
98) Tree Sparrow: Abundant and widespread, this bird was seen most days and was present in many areas including Nusa Penida and Lembongan, although appeared to be less common on Lembongan than on mainland Bali. In general, it appeared to be more common in more heavily settled areas and absent from forest, but was recorded from forest edge, Tembeling Forest, Nusa Penida (10/6) and on lawn adjacent to forest edge in Kebun Raya Bedugul (13/6). Also seen at Seminyak (including hotel grounds) and through to Batubelig (6-9/6, 14/6), at Mengwi (7/6), Lembongan (9-12/6) and around the Bali Starling Centre and on drive through to Tembeling Forest (10/6).
100) Scaly-breasted Munia (Nutmeg Mannikin): Everywhere, everyday – easily the most abundant of all the munias, both on mainland and on Nusa Penida and Lembongan, and the only munia recorded for Lembongan; it occurred in forest clearings and edges at Pura Luhur Batukaru and Kebun Raya Bedugul.
101) White-headed Munia: Several seen from roadside around Legian and Seminyak, especially around Jalan Dyana Pura, (6-9/6, 12/6); few in a Bulrush (Typha sp.) bed behind the creek at Batubelig (6/6); few at Mengwi (7/6); 3 seen, 1 with nesting material, in village on drive to Tembeling Forest, possibly Batumadeg, Nusa Penida (10/6).
102) Javan Munia: Few at Batubelig near creek (6/6); Mengwi (7/6); 1 at Resor Seminyak (9/6); 5 on road edge at Toyapakeh, Nusa Penida (10/6); a few at Kebun Raya Bedugul (13/6); few at Seminyak (14/6).
103) Black-faced Munia: 5 seen poorly on drive to Tembeling Forest (but still with diagnostic white rump) and great close views of 4 in roadside cultivation near Salak, Nusa Penida (10/6).

Additional comments (2013)

In a personal email correspondence (July 2013), Frank hemmings commented: "I actually went on a holiday with a dive group event to Bali last year, staying at Candi Dasa. They had boats going over to Nusa Penida from Padangbai each day (18/10/2012). We were moored just off the coast very close to where the Bali Starling Centre is. We didn't even land so almost no chance of land birds. I could hear bee-eaters, which based on previous experience I would have assumed to be Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, even by the call. At the time of the year when I was there (October), there were Oriental Honey-Buzzards migrating through Bali, and I saw 17 of these circling over Nusa Penida, and more travelling directly from Bali to Penida, or soaring in thermals mid-way between the two. Whether these were just passing through, and to where they were going I don't know.

I saw several sea birds in between Nusa Penida and Padangbai on the return boat trip, including a Streaked Shearwater and four single noddies mixing with Black-naped Terns. Personally I was fairly sure that they were Common (Brown) Noddy instead of Black Noddy (Noddy sp), but I saw them from a bouncing boat and officially I just wouldn't like to say 100% as to which they were, so you can put it down as "noddy sp." I also saw frigatebirds but could not say which species."


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