Observing Gemu Fa Mi Re

As we did not want to be overshadowed by the birders from South Bandung, one fine morning the barista from Jakarta Birder, Aunty Semok and Uncle Oom Came headed to Medan Merdeka Fields, the iconic place of the Republic of Indonesia, Monas. The Birders from South Bandung have their own target species the Javan Trogon, the Birders at Medan Merdeka Fields on this fine morning, had their very own and highly ambitious target species… the Western Tragopan (no objections!)

Medan Merdeka Fields itself has a long history, and over the years its name has changed many times from: Buffelsveld, Champ de Mars, Koningsplein, Ikada Fields, Gambir Fields. The fields from the beginning have been operating for many purposes like: Line exercises, night markets, giant public gatherings for large functions and events (attended by many people, not attended by giants). Currently Medan Merdeka Fields is being used as a public space for recreation and leisure as well as being a spot for bird-watching in Jakarta.

Medan Merdeka Fields is becoming increasing populated by introduced species (escaped pet birds) not commonly found in Indonesia, despite being located in the heart of the capital city of such an overly populated nation. Nonetheless, it is a surprisingly home to many species of wild birds. According to Ady Kristanto, a bird watcher from Jakarta, one can find give or take 30-odd species of bird at this inner city location.

Returning to the 3 birdwatchers earlier, the birding begun at 6am with a target list of 15 bird species (including the Western Tragopan). There were several common species of medium sized birds that were quickly spotted, like: Sooty-headed Bulbul, Pink-necked Green Pigeon, Spotted Dove and Black-naped Oriole but the smaller birds were still shy and hiding despite their active callings.
Talk about noise, several loudspeakers located around Medan Merdeka Fields, failed to remain quiet at any moment in time. Regional songs to accompany certain dances played from beginning to end, it was a bit disturbing actually, nonetheless many of the public are happy to hear these tunes. This noise sometimes ‘covers’ the sounds of the birds within the area.

So why is it that bird sounds are so important to birdwatchers? At this site we found a species of migratory bird from the Northern Hemisphere which was the highlight of this birdwatching trip: The Arctic Leaf Warbler – Seicercus borealis. This bird is split from the two other species: Japanese Leaf Warbler (Seicercus xanthodryas) and the Kamchatka Leaf Warbler (Seicercus examinandus) based on its song or call. Since both the Arctic Leaf Warbler and the Japanese Leaf Warbler are very similar in shape and colour, and both migrate to Java during the Northern Hemispheres winter period, the birds sound/call becomes the only tool to differentiate them. Thus its a bit challenging to hear the bird songs over the sound of the song Ge mu Fa Mi Re (Sweet lady turn left-to the left-to the left-left-left-to the left-to the left and to the lift sweet lady) (*those reading this feel free to dance and sing joyfully*) as the catchy song blarred from loudspeakers.

Another species which was also a highlight of this trip was the Asian Brown Flycatcher – Muscicapa dauurica) which had also fled far from its Northern Hemisphere home during the winter months. Both these two species of migrants looked “well fed” and appeared to be preparing to travel back home to Siberia.

As for the smaller birds it was a little bit dissapointing, they were pretty hard to find this morning, in addition to the small number we found Scaly-breasted Munia, Great Tit, Olive-backed Sunbird, Plain-throated Sunbird and Scarlet-headed Flowerpecker.

Nonetheless, after 3 hours bird-watching, we found 23 bird species. So what about our target species the Western Tragopan? Offcourse not….this species can be found only in Northern India, Pakistan, and Bhutan not at Monas.

Author: Rudyanto

English Translation: Simon Reynolds

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