Birding at Gunung Ambang

Summary:

Montane birding in north Sulawesi. Not as many species as Lore Lindu, but a few things are easier to see here.

Key bird species:

Sulawesi Serpent-Eagle; Bare-faced Rail; Cinnabar Hawk-Owl; Speckled Hawk-Owl; Pale-blue Monarch; Matinan Flycatcher; Malia; Fiery-browed Myna

Birdwatching locations:

Gunung Ambang in one of a range of mountains to the east of the city of Kotamobagu, about 5-6 hrs drive west of Manado. Some good forest remains on the hill tops, at altitudes of between 1,000 and about 1,700 m. Gunung Ambang used to form part of Bogani Nani Wartabone (Dumoga Bone) National Park, but now forms a nature reserve in its own right. Despite the protected status the forest is pretty degraded, and illegal logging continues virtually unchecked. Despite the degraded state of forests on the lower slopes, Gunung Ambang remains an excellent site to go birding, not least for the chance to see Bare-faced Rail, Cinnabar Hawk-Owl, Matinan Flycatcher and a species of Muscicapa flycatcher that is not yet fully described (“Sulawesi Flycatcher”).

Access to the birding is via the city of Kotamaobagu, and then the village of Sinsingon. From here there is a walk across potato fields and clove plantations of around 2km, before the trail enters forest and heads up. The trail then rises another couple of kilomteres, with many side trails branching off left and right. Birding can quite good for common and open-country birds on the walk in, but gets better when the path starts to lie alongside the forested slopes of the hills above. Here at the forest edge you can see Malia, Fiery-browed Myna and occasionally the sought after flycatchers. Once the trail enters the forest things just get better. In addition to more of the above, this is the best spot to look (and listen) for Cinnabar Hawk-owl at night, and it is along here that Bare-faced Rail has been seen.

Access and Accommodation:

To get to Gunung Ambang, travel first to Kotamobagu (by car, bus etc). From there you need to head towards the village of Sinsingon, up in the hills to the east of the city. By car this is straightforward, just follow the winding road up (through quite good forest in places…) until it comes out at Sinsingon Village, just beyond the highest point. By public transport make your way to the bus terminal ‘Sinsingon-Ambang’ in Kotamobagu, and get a minibus from there to Sinsingon.

When you arrive in Sinsingon aim for the house of Pak Julius, the local forestry department ranger. Just ask anyone in the village to direct you. You will need to report to Pak Julius before you enter the forest, and he can also guide you to the site, and is pretty good at finding birds. It is also usually possible to stay at Pak Julius’ house, or if it is not possible, he may be able to help you with an alternative (in someone else’s house!). If you don’t want to stay in Sinsingon itself, it is also easy enough to visit Gunung Ambang as a day trip from Kotamobagu, where there are numerous hotels to suit all budgets.

More info:

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