Yann Muzika (Japan): Lake Sano Nggoang, New Birding Location in Flores
In April 2014 (22/04 to 26/04), I made a short trip to Flores (then on to Timor). I had planned on making a trip report out of this but a few weeks later I lost my laptop (and its backup) with all the notes, so instead of struggling to try to put together something incomplete and possibly inaccurate, I opted for a short note on the main outcome of this trip, the very short (24 hours) visit I made to Lake Sano Nggoang, south of Labuan Bajo. The lake is located 30-35 km as the Flores Crow flies South-southeast of Labuan Bajo. To get there you have to drive the Flores highway toward Ruteng for around 20km from Labuan Bajo. Then, there is a smaller (and mostly unsealed) road to the South that leads to the lake. It is a 500 ha lake at an elevation of circa 650 m. Time wise it’s no more than 2-2.5 hours in normal conditions, but the road can be pretty poor when approaching the lake. It’s a crater lake with some volcanic activity, and there is a village on the southern shore called Nunang This place has been put on the ecotourism map of Flores a few years ago, thanks in part to a great grassroots work by the local NGO Burung Indonesia. Local travel agents, drivers, Ojeks, etc., all know about the lake and how to get there, even though the number of tourists actually visiting the location remains pretty low. Basic Homestay accommodation is available in the village for individual travelers or small groups. I was told that up to 20 persons can be accommodated in the village in several houses. Basic meals are provided too. I don’t recall the exact figure, but 1 night + 2 meals was around 200,000 IDR (15 EUR). I have visited the place with local guide Sam Rabenak who has good local knowledge. However, self-arranging your trip there (car, ojek) is definitely possible. Birding wise, as we arrived after dusk we started with night birding. In a thicket just behind a house in the village we were able to hear and see all 3 Scops-owls occurring on Flores in a matter of 1 hour: Moluccan, Wallacean and Flores Scops-owl. We spent the next day birding around the village until our departure around 4pm. Notables were :
- Pacific Black Duck (several hundred birds, possibly one of the largest populations in Lesser Sundas. With no fish, and no fishermen, the Sano Nggoang Lake is quite undisturbed. Sunda Teal and Wandering Whistling-duck are also said to occur, at least seasonally, but i did not notice any).
- Black-naped Fruit Dove: A small flock of unusually confiding birds feeding in a fruiting tree just outside the village.
- Glittering Kingfisher: Common by voice, and unusually easy to see.
- Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher (Rufous-backed form): one bird in the forest.
- Elegant Pitta: Common by voice, and unusually easy to see. We got amazing views of one bird in the backyard of a house in the village.
- Rusty-breasted Whistler: common.
- Wallacean Drongo: noted a few times.
- Asian Paradise Flycatcher: noted a few times.
- Yellow-ringed White-eye: one bird with nesting material.
- Chestnut-capped Thrush: two birds seen. They come foraging in the open on the village trail at dawn.
- Golden-rumped and Black-fronted Flowerpecker: a few noted in gardens.
- Flame-breasted Sunbird: a few noted in gardens.
Notable dips (on birds that are said to occur in the area): Flores Crow, Flores Hawk-eagle, Flores Hanging-parrot, Flores Green Pigeon. Flores Monarch occurs in the area but at a higher elevation, which means walking 2-3 hours from the village. Nearby Puarlolo is an easier location for the bird. Most interestingly, birds in general appeared rather abundant and confiding—a very unusual feature anywhere in Indonesia. The place is very pretty too, with large fruiting trees at the edge of the village, gardens full of flowers, and some good forest habitat at walking distance from the village. And the scenery around the lake is striking. Talking with the homestay owner people here seem quite motivated by conservation actions. In conclusion, I do encourage future birdwatchers visiting Flores, including groups, to try this location, which appears a very good and convenient alternative for low/mid elevation birds to the Kisol area, both in terms of transport and in terms of birding. It’s rare enough in Indonesia to find a village community that cares about nature conservation, so they deserve to be supported with more people visiting them.*