Birding Without Borders

Day 333: Sweet Day in Bali

Noah discovers Balinese strawberries on a quick island hop—and adds 23 new birds to the list.

November 29, 2015: Denpasar, Bali — I landed on the Island of the Gods, otherwise known as Bali, at about 8 this morning. A birder named Yudi picked me up and we threaded our way out of Denpasar’s maze of streets, taking side roads to avoid the morning traffic. “We call this the ‘mouse way,’” said Yudi. “Like you’re a mouse scrambling down narrow corridors.”

Bali is nothing like Sulawesi, though both are islands within the same country of Indonesia. Mosques are replaced here by Hindu temples with the complicated architecture I recall from parts of India and Myanmar. Bali is also a resort hotspot; the Denpasar airport was packed with more foreigners than locals, and it was strange to walk past Hard Rock Cafe and Gucci stores instead of the hole-in-the-wall noodle shops I’ve been used to lately. Culture shock again!

We left the city as quickly as possible because time was short: I had a layover of less than 13 hours today before my next flight took off. How many birds could Yudi and I spot before dusk?

The central part of Bali rises into cool, misty highlands, and we headed straight for a place called Bedugul, where, within minutes, new birds started racking up. I saw a Javan Whistling-Thrush, Blood-breasted Flowerpecker, and Freckle-breasted Woodpecker before lunch, and the hits just kept coming: A nearby golf course held Short-tailed Starlings, Yellow-throated Hanging-Parrots, and Javan Gray-throated White-eyes.

We elected to skip lunch in order to keep birding, though I did eventually stop us for strawberries. Who knew that central Bali is a strawberry-growing paradise? Dozens of roadside stands sold nothing but strawberries, and all you have to do is roll down the window to have five vendors pushing dirt-cheap berries in your face. I polished off a pallet in no time flat. Can’t even remember the last time I saw a fresh strawberrywhat a nice surprise!

We closed out the afternoon at a lowland lagoon where Beach Thick-knees and Javan Plovers highlighted a swarm of shorebirds. The day went by in a hurry. After sunset, I walked straight from the field onto another plane, for another redeye, and flew east into the night.

New birds today: 23

Year list: 5419

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