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Birding

It is not just for rare and endangered animals and unique plants and trees that the National Parks are famous. Among bird watchers the parks are internationally recognized as the place to see many of recorded bird species and the majority of the endemic birds.
More than 500 different species of bird have been recorded in the National Parks from the species-rich lowland hill forests. But it is in the higher reaches of the parks, that most of endemic birds are found (generally at altitudes above 1000 meters).
The bird lists are still far from definitive and previously unrecorded continue to be seen. Salvadori's Pheasant and Schneider's Pitta were both birds rediscovered in the park in the late 1980s. More recently, the Sumatran Cochoa (1994) and Giant pitta (1996) joined the park's bird list - the latter after more than a century's absence from the bird list. Intrepid birders are hoping to 're-find' the Sunda Ground-cuckoo in the park. The species is known only from museum specimens, the latest of was dated 1912. Hopes that the ground-cuckoo might indeed be in the park were raised in 1998 when two hunters independently described a bird fitting the description and behavior of a ground-cuckoo. Birders visiting the parks are presented with the possibility of making exciting contributions to ornithology as well as the knowledge of the parks.
The mix of bird species changes according to altitude and habitat — a quite different range of birds will be encountered in farmland compared with forest. During the winter months many passage migrants stop in the rice fields (sawah) around Sungai Penuh — where Milky Stork, Schrenk,s Bittern, egrets, Purple Moorhen and other rails and crakes have all been spotted.To get a comprehensive picture of the richness of the park's bird life, visitors should try to spend time at various altitudes — the major species watersheds occur at approximately the following points: 100-500m, 600-1200m, 1300-2500m and above. The most popular areas for seeing the park's specialty species are the trail up Gunung Kerinci and the Gunung Tujuh trail. Birding from the Muara Sako road is also popular. Up to date information on where key species are being seen can be found in the birder's log kept in Subandi's Losman in Kersik Tuo.
Schneider's Pitta and Sumatran Peacock Pheasant are most commonly seen in the forest on the lower slopes of Gunung Kerinci — within 500m of the entrance and 200m to either side of Shelter 1. Sumatran Cochoa has been seen a number of times along this trail near Shelter 2.The best area to see the park's other rare pittas — is along the road below Bukit Tapan, on the road to Tapan (and Muara Sako) at an altitude of around 900 meters. It's call is like a Garnet Pitta but a little bit lower in pitch. Look on steep slopes along small rivers. Hooded and Giant pitta have also been heard along this road. A full explanation on where the species have been seen can be found in Pak Subandi's logbook.Birds can be identified using the comprehensive field guide Birds of Sumatra, Borneo, Java and Bali by John MacKinnon and Karen Phillipps published by Oxford University Press. This field guide is published in both the English and Indonesian languages. The Indonesian version has been up-dated and corrected by Bas van Balen. The English version is not available in Indonesia so buy it before you come. The Periplus Travel guide Birding Indonesia by Paul Jepson provides further information and travel advice on birding in Kerinci and in 100 other key birding sites in Indonesia. It is currently available from most airport and hotel bookshops in Indonesia. Other useful sources of information on birding and bird conservation in the region are the web-sites of the Oriental Bird Club and BirdLife International's Indonesia Program.

Bird watching tips:

Wear drab/dark-colored clothes. The same applies for any guide/companion.
Rain is common in the afternoon. Some birders prefer umbrellas to rain coats because they don't make a noise when walking and keep notebooks dry. Bring waterproof bags to keep equipment, books, and notebooks dry.
Binoculars with a wide field of view (e.g. 8x30) are best for rainforest birding. Larger magnifications reduce the field of view and make it harder to keep on to birds in dense forest.
Bring along a good field guide for identification. The best is Birds of Borneo, Sumatra, Java, and Bali: MacKinnon & Phillipps, Oxford University Press. 1993.
Many small birds move in mixed species feeding parties. Walking slowly and alertly through the forest is the best way to observe these species. For the rarer, endemic ground birds (i.e. pitta and pheasant) found along forest trails, it is better to walk quickly and quietly.
Although the National Parks are extraordinarily rich in species, do not expect to see everything in a day! It can be difficult to see birds in dense rainforest.
Local guides are often familiar with more conspicuous birds and can be invaluable in locating areas where they are found. However, it my be necessary for you to explain that they should keep quite, not smoke, and let you walk in front!
You can help the park by making notes of bird sightings and reporting anything rare or unusual to the park office or bird watching societies.
Old logging trails, open river valleys and farmland at the edge of the forest can be rewarding spots for seeing canopy birds.

 
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