Day 1 (Thursday, 30th
reason for selecting Bali over other more juicy birding destinations was the
lure of “hunting” for a selection of the snakes on offer on this small island.
Unlike Borneo, which also has a good selection, Bali is a vastly smaller island
and so offers a greater concentration making sightings more likely. Add to that
the existence of Bali Reptile Rescue, who not only conserve snakes (King Cobra
in particular) but also offer tours to look for wild snakes. We were originally
going to use their services for a couple of days at the end of the trip, but
this clashed with a local festival, so we plumped for the first two instead.
Shinta, the organiser for the group, met us at the airport arrivals, and had
also booked us into the Bintang Balian for 2 nights as a base for the snake
hunts. The interest in watching wild snakes overtook the need to look for birds
today – they would have their spot in the limelight later in the week –
although of course we did take any resultant opportunity to find a few species.
Most of the journey from the airport to Balian was in traffic-heavy roads
mainly lining built up streets, leaving little opportunity for birding from the
car. A late lunch stop at a small open ended cafe was conveniently next to an
open field, and from here we saw Zitting Cisticola and a handful of
Scaly-breasted Manakins. Swiftlets overhead were mainly Cave.
The hotel was
in Balian, and while waiting the hour or so for the “snake team” to arrive we
tried to mop up a few of the commoner garden species. In amongst Yellow-vented
Bulbul and now common Cave Swiftlets, a few White-breasted Woodswallows were
overhead, with Plain Flowerpeckers in the garden. The Cave Swiftlets were found
to host at least one Edible Nest congener, with small groups of Pacific Swifts
in the distance.
Shinta and the driver were joined by two more staff from the company, one
impressively wielding a hooked snake handling tool – the excitement began. We
drove for just over 20 minutes from the hotel and parked amongst some tree
lined fields. The trees were the target. It was now dark, and 6 shifty looking
figures made their slow way along one of the metalled tracks, combing through
the lower vegetation as we progressed. These guys had a good mix of experience
and sharp eyesight, since they made finding the quarry look easy. Painted
Bronzeback Tree Snakes were common, being found regularly along the walk.
Shinta had inadvisably boasted that more or less any day they would pick out at
least 3 different species in an hour, and that is exactly what they did,
following up with Rat Snake and Dog-faced Cat Snake. Elated with our findings,
we drove a few hundred metres further along the track, and crossed a small
stream on foot in the forest. The guides proved to be unerringly sharp in their
quest, since one found two separate Lesser Sunda White-lipped Pit Vipers in
branches over the stream. Despite how I might have felt about the potential of
looking for King Cobra the next day, I have to admit that the Pit Vipers were
top of my wanted list, and they didn’t let me down. Just as we were trying to
finally drag ourselves away, the rain started in earnest, and we happily
decided to call it a night, with satisfying views of the band of reptiles we
Herping at night
White-lipped Pit Viper
Dog-toothed Cat Snake