Birding on Flores

Birding on Flores

http://burung-nusantara.org/birding-sites/lesser-sundas/flores/

Summary:

Great scenery and great birds. The large selection of endemics ranges from the easy to the very hard.Cinnyris solaris, Flame-breasted Sunbird,  Burungmadu Matari

Key bird species:

Green Junglefowl, Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Flores Hawk-Eagle, Wallace’s Hanging-Parrot, Rainbow [Leaf] Lorikeet, Dark-backed Imperial Pigeon, Black-backed Fruit-Dove, Black-naped Fruit-Dove, Flores Green-Pigeon, Flores Scops Owl, Wallace’s Scops Owl, Moluccan Scops Owl, White-rumped Kingfisher, Elegant Pitta, Flores Minivet, Flores Crow, Flores Monarch, Flores Jungle-Flycatcher, Brown-capped Fantail, Bare-throated Whistler, Russet-capped Tesia, Timor [Flores] Leaf-Warbler, Scaly-crowned Honeyeater, Yellow-spectacled White-eye, Yellow-browed Dark-eye, Thick-billed Dark-eye, Crested Dark-eye, Golden-rumped Flowerpecker, Black-fronted Flowerpecker, Flame-breasted Sunbird, Wallacean Drongo, Pale-shouldered Cuckooshrike

Birdwatching locations:

Labuanbajo

Most people will arrive in the west of the island at the busy town of Labuanbajo. There are several good birdwatching options nearby, all of which can be undertaken as day trips from town, or combined with a move east towards Ruteng.

Dolat wetlands

This seasonal wetland is reached by following the road around 4 km south of Labuanbajo. During the height of the wet season it is hard to miss as chances are the road will simply end in flooded fields. During the dry season the fields will probably not be flooded, but the area is still interesting for a look around. Birds possible include Wandering Whistling-duck, Sunda Teal (look out for the rarer Australian Grey Teal amongst them), Javan Plover, Malaysian Plover and Beach Thick-knee (on the beach), Yellow-spectacled White-eye, Flame-throated Sunbird, Black-fronted Flowerpecker and Black-faced Munia. Rails and crakes should also be a possibility.

Potawangka Road

This area of degraded lowland forest is a short drive east of Labuanbajo. After around 10km from town (on the main East-West road) take a left turn onto a smaller paved road towards Terang (some drivers may only know this site as ‘the road to Terang’). After 2-3 km this road enters degraded forest and continues through it for another 2-3 km. By exploring a bit off the road you may be able to find better condition forest on steeper slopes nearby. One such path heads off to the left near a small stream. Birds possible in this area include Green Junglefowl, Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Bonelli’s Eagle, Black-naped Fruit-Dove, Wallace’s Hanging-Parrot, White-rumped Kingfisher, Elegant Pitta, Wallacean Cuckooshrike, Flores Crow, Flores Green Pigeon, Yellow-spectacled White-eye, Golden-rumped and Black-fronted Flowerpecker, Flame-breasted Sunbird and Zebra Finch. Exploring further along this road could also be rewarding, as degraded forest is found all along the roadside for a further 10-20km.

Puarlolo

This small forest patch lies alongside the main East-West (Ruteng) road around 36 km east of Labuanbajo. It can easily be reached as a day trip from town, or combined with a move east towards Ruteng. Look out for the obvious telecom tower set just back from the road on the right (as you travel from Labuanbajo). Small trails leave from the clearing in front of the tower, and a more obvious trail descends from the main road a couple of hundred metres back from the turn-off to the tower.

Getting into the forest here should get you the sites speciality, Flores Monarch. Look out for these unobtrusive birds in the middle- to lower-story. Other birds possible include Green Junglefowl, Flores Hawk-Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Wallace’s Hanging-Parrot, Russet-capped Tesia, Crested Dark-eye, Thick-billed Dark-eye, Rufous-backed Kingfisher, Chestnut-backed and Chestnut-capped Thrushes, Rufous-chested Flycatcher and Flores Crow.

Ruteng area

The central town of Ruteng, 4-5 hours drive east from Labuanbajo, is the best base for the next few sites; which should see you getting most of the sub-montane and montane specialities of Flores.

Danau Rana Mese

This small lake (Rana Mese) lies around 20km east of Ruteng on the main road to Bajawa. The lake is surrounded by good condition forest which can be accessed by either birding along the main road or from any number of smaller side trails that leave the main road. For a while there was even a track that left from near the lake to the summit of Poco Ranaka (starting about 500m back towards Ruteng from the lake, and stretching 10km to the summit), but this is largely overgrown.

The forest in this area holds many birds, including the possibility of Dark-backed Imperial Pigeon, Black-backed Fruit Dove, Barred Cuckoo Dove, both Flores and Wallace’s Scops-Owl, White-rumped Kingfisher, Pale-shouldered Cuckooshrike, Flores Minivet, Bare-throated Whistler, Brown-capped Fantail, Russet-capped Tesia, Timor (Flores) Leaf-warbler, Yellow-browed Dark-eye, Helmeted Friarbird, Scaly-crowned Honeyeater Golden-rumped Flowerpecker, Blood-breasted Flowerpecker, Five-coloured Munia (in more open areas). The lake itself often holds Pacific Black Duck.

Golo Lusang

This site lies around 8km south of Ruteng, where the road reaches an obvious pass before dropping steeply down through degraded forest in a series of hairpin bends. The best birding is usually had by starting at the pass and walking down through the hairpins for a few kilometres. You can then either walk back up, or plan ahead and get someone to pick you up down lower! Birds here are similar to those at Danau Rana Mese, but the views are more impressive and the dawn chorus of Bare-throated Whistlers is memorable, and Tawny-breasted Parrotfinch is also possible.

Poco Ranaka

Around 8km east of Ruteng an old access road head south from the main road and stretches around 10km to the summit of Mt Ranaka at 2,300m where there is an abandoned telecom station. The road is surfaced, but has into disrepair. It is still possible to reach the summit by motorbike but be careful as the road is slippery, or you may find yourself walking after a while! You may even be able to descend through the forest 10km to Lake Rana Mese, if you can find the trail.

Because of the condition the road is usually very quiet and can make for excellent birding. Many of the same species present at Rana Mese and Golo Lusang are also present here, with the addition of the local race of White-browed Shortwing and Pygmy Wren-babbler, Chestnut-backed Thrush, Tawny-breasted Parrotfinch and Bonelli’s Eagle.

Pagal

Around 20 km North of Ruteng, and at lower altitude, this patch of degraded roadside forest starts around 2-3km beyond the village of Pagal, and continues for 3-4km. Birding is from the roadside or from any interesting looking side-trail you can find. Birds recorded here have included Wallace’s Hanging-Parrot, Flores Green-Pigeon, Ruddy Cuckoo Dove, White-rumped Kingfisher, Elegant Pitta, Brown-capped Fantail, Russet-capped Tesia, Yellow-spectacled White-eye, Crested and Thick-billed Dark-eye, Golden-rumped and Black-fronted Flowerpecker and Flame-breasted Sunbird.

Kisol

The village of Kisol lies around 2-3 hours drive south-east of Ruteng and usually makes for the last stop on many birding itineraries (or the first, depending on which end you start!). The area has several remenant patches of lowland and hill forest, and it is for this reason that most people visit. By basing yourself in Kisol there are a number of local birding options, and some interesting areas to explore.

South of the village a road heads off 12km towards the coastal village of Nangarawa (leaving the Seminary, turn right onto the main road, then cross a small bridge after around 100m, then turn left). The road starts off paved and then becomes rough cobbles. Follow it for a few kilometers through farmland and it then starts to rise and enters nice forest for several more kilometeres. You can either stick to birding the main track or head off to the right towards the forested slopes of Gunung Pacandeki, easily visible to the SW of Kisol village. The main trail leaves the cobbled track just before the track rises and enters the forest, although other smaller trails will no doubt get you there. Other trails also head in this direction from the main road to the west of Kisol. Asking a local where the ‘hutan alam’ (natural forest) is usually works! Alternatively keep heading along the Nangarawa track (by motorbike or on foot) and leave the road whenever you spot an interesting looking patch of forest. Along the coast itself there are several quite large remnant patches of gallery forest in the steep valleys running north-south.

Birds regularly seen in this area include Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Flores Hawk-Eagle, Moluccan and Wallace’s Scops-Owl, Black-naped Fruit-Dove, Mees’s Nightjar, White-rumped Kingfisher, Elegant Pitta, Flores Crow, Russet-capped Tesia, Chestnut-capped Thrush, Brown-capped Fantail, Yellow-spectacled White-eye, Flores Green Pigeon, Flores Crow, Thick-billed Dark-eye, Black-fronted Flowerpecker, Flame-breasted Sunbird.

Kelimutu

Further east in Flores the scenic three crater lakes of Keli Mutu are a popular tourist destination to the north of Ende, along the road to the eastern town of Maumere (which also has an airport serving Kupang and Denpasar). Standing at the top of the mountain at dawn looking other the multi-coloured lakes is a wonderful sight. Walking back along the trail and road to the village follows patches of montane forest with most of the montane endemics, including Bare-throated Whistler. Dark-backed Imperial Pigeon is more numerous here than at Ruteng (presumably as less hunting). Birding above the village in the scrub and degraded forest can also be productive, in season, Flores Green Pigeon is not uncommon along the roadside, and other species such as Ruddy Cuckoo Dove, Crested Dark-eye, Pale-headed and Five-coloured Munia are also present.

East Flores

East of Maumere the mountainous areas of east Flores are little explored and would be worthy of a visit by the adventurous birder wanting more and not following the ‘usual route’. You could then continue to Larantuka at the eastern tip of Flores and continue from there to the islands of Pantar, Alor and Wetar.

Pantar and Alor

These small islands to the east of Flores support a few interesting birds, including it seems an endemic variation of Southern Boobook, plus maybe more… Finding forest here is simply an exercise in looking for it, then trying to get into it!

Access and Accommodation:

The most reliable access to Flores is through the western hub of Labuanbajo. As this town also serves the tourist trade to Komodo and Rinca islands, it has the most flights and the most hotels, restaurants and travel agents. At time of writing Labuanbajo is served by flights from Bali, Kupang and Ende (in central Flores) by Transnusa and Merpati airlines. Ruteng also gets occasional flights from Kupang by Transnusa and Merpati. Alternatively you find it easiest to continue east to Ende, or even Maumere (in eastern Flores), and get a flight out from there (to Kupang, for example). Schedules are prone to change all the time, however, so check the airline websites first, and keep checking them until the day you fly! Labuanbajo is also served by regular ferries from Sumbawa, and less frequent boats to other places like Sumba. Check in town or ask you hotel for advice if you want to travel onwards by boat.

For accommodation, Labuanbajo has plenty to choose from, as does Ruteng. Best to check a guide book like Lonely Planet, or a website like TripAdviser, for something that suits you. In Kisol you options are more limited. Most people stay in the catholic seminary, where a room and food can be provided. Usually it seems OK to just turn up, but perhaps if you were a larger group it might be an idea to contact them in advance (but we have no idea how!).

If you were looking for a local guide, your options for a friendly driver-cum-guide are pretty wide in Labuanbajo; just ask at your hotel or at one of the many agents in town (try Incito Tours perhaps, as they have at least one driver – Pak Marcus – who knows where all the birding sites are). They will know the main places, and you can use the instructions here to find the rest. They won’t know any birds or calls however, and they may not speak much English (try and ask for an English-speaking driver when you get the car?). If you wanted a birding guide you’d be better trying one of the local Indonesian agents listed elsewhere, many of which could arrange a tailor-made tour or Flores, or go through one of the reputable international bird tour companies. Getting places by public transport is also not hard in Flores, as most sites lie along the main East-West road which is served by local buses. Using motorbike taxis (Ojek) is then a useful way to explore places like Ruteng, or even just hire a bike yourself for a few days (ask any Ojek driver!).

If you plan to visit Alor and Pantar, there is surprisingly good information about how to get there and where to stay in the Lonely Planet book!

More info:

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Site map:

To download the Google Earth (.kmz) file, click on the download link below the map

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Flores, Mount Inerie, Bajawa

Flores, Mount Inerie, Bajawa

Click to Enlarge !

Inerie-01-800

Mount of Inerie, Bajawa-Flores

Situated about 15 kms from Bajawa, Inerie is one of the most popular peaks in Flores and its beautiful pyramid shape is clearly visible for many, many miles around. It has not erupted for many centuries but has an impressive crater. It looks incredibly steep and there is indeed a reasonable amount of volcanic scree to negotiate but if hiking up the conventional route it is reasonably straightforward, although gloves are a very good idea because a slip could lead to cuts and grazes on your hands. (source:http://www.gunungbagging.com/inerie/)

Inerie is one of the most popular peaks in Flores and its beautiful pyramid shape is clearly visible for many, many miles around. It has not erupted for many centuries but has an incredibly impressive crater. It looks incredibly steep and there is indeed a reasonable amount of volcanic scree to negotiate but if hiking up the conventional route it is reasonably straightforward, although gloves are a very good idea because a slip could lead to cuts and grazes on your hands.

The 2.5 to 4 hour trek to the summit is usually started in Watumeze village (1,100m) which is just 15 to 20 minutes by car from the nearby town of Bajawa. It is a good idea to start this hike early in the morning (leave Bajawa at 5 am, start hiking at around 5:30 to 6 am) because there is no shade on the hike, and sunny weather can make it very hot as you climb the eastern slope. This is one of the few mountains in Flores where you might actually meet other hikers (apart from Kelimutu of course!) The trail leads past several bamboo houses before ascending up what looks to be grassy hillside but is covered in small rocks making walking a little less easy than you might expect. The grass continues way up the mountainside, getting rougher as you get higher up. You enter a patch of trees at around 1,810 m, but above them the more serious climbing up the side of the rocky cone properly begins. There are some deep ravines either side of the trail but route-finding is straightforward and the climb is not dangerous – at least on the way up.

In about 2 to 3 hours you should have reached the rim of the crater (2,115m) to be rewarded with extensive views. To reach the summit you can follow the edge of the crater in either direction so you might as well do the loop for the full 360 degree view into the crater. In 20 to 30 minutes you should have reached the highest point, marked with three metal crosses.

On the way back down take care to find the same route you came up on because the deep ravines mean that heading down the wrong way requires a long re-ascent to join the correct path – the trail at this point is not so clear so it is quite easy to make this mistake in bad weather! Take care on the descent and take it slowly because it is very easy to slip on the scree and you can easily slip and end up with a few cuts or grazes – this is why gloves are a very good idea. For the most part the descent is slow going but there is one area (approximately 1,880m down to 1,810m) where you can save time by sliding down deep volcanic scree just to the left of the trail. Remember to join the path at 1,810m however and be careful not to send bigger rocks hurtling down towards your companion hikers! Walking poles would be useful for the descent.

Bagging information by Daniel Quinn and Andy Dean

Practicalities

Getting there Ojek can be arranged in Bajawa for the 20-30 minute journey.
Accommodation There are several hotels/losmen in Bajawa.
Permits None required but take a photocopy of your passport photo page just incase.
Water sources There is no water on the hike, or to be purchased at the start of the hike. Buy sufficient supplies in Bajawa the night before you hike.

Flores, Pantai Nanga Panda, Blue Stone beach

Flores, Pantai Nanga Panda,  Blue Stone beach

Flores-Blue-Stone-beach

Near Ende, on the southern coast of Flores, we stop at a beach called Nanga Panda. No white sand here – it is covered by turquoise stones polished by the sea. Several men and women are gathering the stones in large sacks. The collectors sell them – for only Rp 600 per kilogram – to merchants who ship them to Bali and Surabaya, where they make their way to homeware shops for uptown tastes. From the coastal road, we get a glimpse of bizarre Gunung Meja – or Table Mountain – which looks as if a giant with some uptown taste of his own has cut off its top to be able to dine comfortably.

Flores Mbeliling Conservation Area

Flores, Mbeliling Conservation Area

Mbeliling-Conservation-Area

Mbeliling is a forest and bird conservation area, the highest point of Mount Mbeliling is 1.200 meters above sea level, located in west Flores Island – Indonesia near Labuan Bajo.

The area of Mbeliling covers 5.000 Hectare, valley, hills that covered forest and mountain peak provide beautiful landscape overlooking to west Flores Island.

Living some kinds of birds species, according to Birdlife Indonesia Association there are 127 kinds of birds species living around Mbeliling and Puar Lolo forest, dominated by three Flores endemic birds and also endangered birds are: Kehicap Flores (Monarcha Sacerdotum), Serindit Flores (Loriculus Flosculus), and Gagak Flores (Corvus Florensis).

Some  interesting place around  Mbeliling forest are Cunca Lolos waterfall, Cunca Rami waterfal and volcanic crater lake called “Sano Nggoang” and also locals village. All place are located in the middle of  Mbeliling forest provide cool water flow from the mountain and natural forest.

Sano Nggoang crater lake covers 512 Hectare and 600m deep.
These lake is biggest volcanic crater in the east Indonesia, provide savana peak overlooking of lake, three hot spring water with 37 degrees celcius and 100 degrees celcius.

Special for bird watching, a good time are in the morning (06.00am – 10.00am) and in the afternoon (15.00pm – 18.00pm)

Flores, Wawo Muda, Volcano

Flores, Wawo Muda, Volcano

http://www.anysomewhere.com/wawo-muda-the-new-crater-lakes-of-flores/

wawo-muda-01

wawo-muda-02

Wawo Muda: The New Crater Lakes of Flores

Posted on by Rachel

In 2001 a volcanic eruption in Central Flores created a massive crater, changing the skyline of the local area forever and turning a vast swathe of land into volcanic ash dotted with dead, branchless tree trunks defiantly pointing upwards to the sky. Water that entered this gigantic crater formed five lakes.

Like the more famous Kelimutu crater lakes, the Wawo Muda lakes change colour according to the mineral content of the water. Unlike Kelimutu, however, the Wawo Muda lakes sometimes dry up, particularly during the dry season. When I visited in mid-April only two lakes were visible.

Trekking to the Crater

After driving for a short distance up through the town of Bajawa with my guide, Johannes, we paused at the entrance gate to the Wawo Muda area. There was nobody around so we continued on without being able to pay an entrance fee. Parking our motorbike at someone’s house, we continued on foot, uphill and along, and uphill some more. We passed coffee plantations; coffee from this area is exported as far as the US. Some brave locals rode their motorbikes up the steep and narrow country footpath, while others walked up the hill towards their plantations. Many vegetables and fruits are grown here, in addition to coffee, often in mixed plantations.

Johannes pointed out interesting trees and plants along the way. I smelt the crushed up leaves of the eucalyptus tree which, here in Indonesia, is used to make an oil called minyak kayu putih, applied to the skin to relieve numerous ailments. I saw coffee beans before the roasting process, all wet and white, and I learnt how in Flores they plant a particular type of tree before planting the coffee plants; these trees, spread throughout the plantation, improve the quality of the coffee. I smelt the roots of a plant used to make tiger balm, and saw enormous bamboo growing by the side of the path.

This root is used to make tiger balm

As we climbed higher I looked out across a breathtaking vista of the whole town of Bajawa with Mount Inerie in the background and many large hills surrounding it.

Wawo Muda Lakes

It was scorching hot as we climbed the final stretch up to the crater rim. Then, between the trees, I glimpsed Wawo Muda. The large crater area was almost completely bare of vegetation, with only a few brave trees that had grown since the eruption. Dead, blackened tree trunks dotted the area. I could see two light brown lakes.

It is possible to climb down into the crater and get closer to the lakes, but it is a long way back up. Local people sometimes gather sulphur there, which I was told is used to reduce itchiness of the skin.

We walked around the crater edge to see the lakes from several angles. Since Wawo Muda is not a developed tourist destination, there are no handrails and I was careful not to slip on the little stones that line the ground. The view across the volcanic landscape and the two lakes was eerie and other-worldly.

How to Visit Wawo Muda

If you like a short trek through some interesting countryside, visit Wawo Muda before it dries up. The entrance to the area is a short drive from Bajawa, and you face a trek of one to two hours depending on where you start walking. Motorbikes can drive up the footpath so you have less walking, but the hike up through the plantations is pleasant.

Johannes was an excellent guide, extremely knowledgeable about the flora and fauna of the local area, as well as the development of Wawo Muda crater and the surrounding mountains. He also offers tours to other attractions in the Bajawa region, such as to Soa hot springs, climbing Mount Inerie and visiting traditional Ngada villages, and he regularly runs tours across the whole island of Flores. He can be contacted by email at johannes.guide@yahoo.com and by telephone on +62 (0)81 353 061310.

wawo-muda-03

Batu Cermin, Labuhanbajo

Batu Cermin, Labuhanbajo

Batu-Cermin-Labuhanbajo

Batu Cermin is the Indonesian name for Mirror Rock. Shown is the limestone Mirror Rock that gives this outcrop its name. Depending on the time of year the sun shines into the canyon between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. and is reflected on the walls.This creates a spectacular visual effect. What is Batu Cermin and what can you see there? * Located 4 km east of Labuan Bajo, an impressive prominent rock formation near a series of caves * Home to interesting local flora and animals, including monkeys that frequent this area * Provides excellent panoramic view of the mainland area and the islands near Labuan Bajo * Bring a flashlight to view the inverted perches of the bats General information on Gua Batu Cermin Gua = cave; Batu = stone; Cermin= Mirror A white shining rock formation which, seen in a certain light, resembles large mirrors, gives this locale its name. The main cave is located at the centre of Batu Cermin. A ladder walkway connects the central area where the main cave is located. The walkway leads through a series of chambers before opening into the main narrow canyon of the “Mirror Rock.’’ Observe bats and spiders in the caves. While bats are found in abundance, you have to be very lucky to see the local spiders who, when approached, quickly scamper out of sight.

Flores Liang Bua Cave Theodor Verhoeven, a priest and part-time archaeologist 1950-1960

Flores Liang Bua Cave Theodor Verhoeven, a priest and part-time archaeologist 1950-1960

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/features/world/asia/georgia/flores-hominids-text

Hobbit-cave-bones

Photographs by Kenneth Garrett

Diminutive human bones found in Flores, shown with stone tools and stegodont teeth.

At first we thought it was a child, perhaps three years old. But a closer look showed that the tiny, fragile bones we had just laid bare in a spacious cave on the Indonesian island of Flores belonged to a full-grown adult just over three feet tall.

Had we simply found a modern human stunted by disease or malnutrition? No. The bones looked primitive, and other remains from Liang Bua, which means “cool cave” in the local Manggarai language, showed that this skeleton wasn’t unique. It was typical of a whole population of tiny beings who once lived on this remote island. We had discovered a new kind of human.

Back in the lab, where we analyzed the bones and other artifacts, the full dimensions of what we had discovered began to emerge. This tiny human relative, whom we nicknamed Hobbit, lived just 18,000 years ago, a time when modern humans—people like us—were on the march around the globe. Yet it looked more like a diminutive version of human ancestors a hundred times older, from the other end of Asia.

We had stumbled on a lost world: pygmy survivors from an earlier era, hanging on far from the main currents of human prehistory. Who were they? And what does this lost relative tell us about our evolutionary past?

A 220-mile-long (354 kilometer) island between mainland Asia and Australia, Flores was never connected by land bridges to either continent. Even at times of low sea level, island-hopping to Flores from mainland Asia involved sea crossings of up to 15 miles (24 kilometer). Before modern humans began ferrying animals such as monkeys, pigs, and dogs to the island about 4,000 years ago, the only land mammals to reach it were stegodonts (extinct elephant ancestors) and rodents—the former by swimming and the latter by hitching a ride on flotsam. No people could have reached Flores until modern humans came along, with the brainpower needed to build boats. Or so most scientists believed.

Yet in the 1950s and ’60s Theodor Verhoeven, a priest and part-time archaeologist, had found signs of an early human presence. In the Soa Basin of Flores he found stone artifacts near stegodont fossils, thought to be around 750,000 years old. Homo erectus, an archaic hominin (a term for humans and their relatives), was known to have lived on nearby Java at least 1.5 million years ago, so Verhoeven concluded that erectus somehow crossed the sea to Flores.

As an amateur making extraordinary claims, Verhoeven failed to persuade the archaeological establishment. In the 1990s, however, other researchers used modern techniques to date tools from the Soa Basin to about 840,000 years ago. Verhoeven was right: Human ancestors had reached Flores long before modern humans landed. But no actual remains of Flores’s earlier inhabitants had ever turned up.

So we went looking, focusing on Liang Bua, in the uplands of western Flores. By September 2003 our team of Indonesian and Australian researchers, assisted by 35 Manggarai workers, had dug 20 feet into the cave floor. Younger layers were rich in stone artifacts and animal bones, but by this point the dig seemed played out.

Then, a few days before the three-month excavation was due to end, our luck changed. A slice of bone was the first hint. The top of a skull appeared next, followed by the jaw, pelvis, and a set of leg bones still joined together—almost the entire skeleton of Hobbit.

We knew we had made a stunning discovery, but we didn’t dare remove the bones for a closer look. The waterlogged skeleton was as fragile as wet blotting paper, so we left it in place for three days to dry, applied a hardener, then excavated the remains in whole blocks of deposit.

Cradled in our laps, the skeleton accompanied us on the flight back to Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital. There Peter Brown, a paleoanthropologist from the University of New England in Australia, supervised cleaning, conservation, and analysis. The pelvic structure told him Hobbit was a female, and her tooth wear confirmed that she was an adult. Her sloping forehead, arched browridges, and nutcracker jaw resembled those of Homo erectus, but her size was unique.

It wasn’t just her small stature and estimated weight—about 55 pounds (25 kilograms)—but a startlingly small brain as well. Brown calculated its volume at less than a third of a modern human’s. Hobbit had by far the smallest brain of any member of the genus Homo. It was small even for a chimpanzee.

The tiny skull is most reminiscent not of the hefty Homo erectus from elsewhere in East Asia but of older, smaller erectus fossils. Viewed from above, the skull is pinched in at the temples, a feature also seen in the 1.77-million-year-old Dmanisi people from Georgia, in western Asia. And in some respects, such as the shape of her lower jaw, the Liang Bua hominin harks back to even earlier fossils such as Lucy, the 3.2-million-year-old Australopithecus from Ethiopia.

And yet—strangest of all—she lived practically yesterday. Radiocarbon dating of charcoal pieces found next to the skeleton, together with luminescence dating that indicated when the surrounding sediments were last exposed to the sun, revealed her 18,000-year age. By mid-2004 our excavation at Liang Bua had yielded bones and teeth from at least six other individuals, from about 95,000 until as recently as 13,000 years ago.

For a few skeptics, all this is too much to swallow. They argue that the one complete skull must have come from a modern human with a rare condition called microcephaly, in which the brain is shrunken and the body dwarfed. The other small bones, they say, might be the remains of children. But last year’s discoveries include part of a second adult skull—a lower jaw—that is just as small as the first. It simply strains credibility to invoke a rare disease a second time.

Instead, Hobbit is our first glimpse of an entirely new human species: Homo floresiensis. Her kind probably evolved from an earlier Homo erectus population, likely the makers of the tools Verhoeven found. Her ancestors may have stood several feet taller at first. But over hundreds of thousands of years of isolation on Flores, they dwindled in size.

Such dwarfing is often the fate of large mammals marooned on islands. There they generally face fewer predators—on Flores, Komodo dragons were the only threat—which makes size and strength less important. And the scarce food resources on a small island turn a large, calorie-hungry body into a liability. On mainland Asia, stegodonts sometimes grew bigger than African elephants; at Liang Bua they were only a bit bigger than present-day water buffalo.

In the past some anthropologists have argued that even in prehistory humans could adapt to new environments by inventing new tools or behaviors rather than by physically evolving, like other creatures. The dwarfing seen on Flores is powerful evidence that humans aren’t exempt from natural selection. The discovery of Hobbit is also a hint that still other human variants may once have inhabited remote corners of the world.

In spite of their downsized brains, the little people apparently had sophisticated technology. The fireplaces, charred bones, and thousands of stone tools we found among their remains must have been their handiwork, for we found no sign of modern humans. Stone points, probably once hafted onto spears, turned up among stegodont bones, some of which bore cut marks. The little hominins were apparently hunting the biggest animals around. It was surely a group activity—adult stegodonts, although dwarfed, still weighed more than 800 pounds (363 kilograms), formidable prey for hunters the size of preschool children.

The discovery underscores a puzzle going back to Theodor Verhoeven: How could ancient hominins ever have reached Flores? Was Homo erectus a better mariner than anyone suspected, able to build rafts and plan voyages? And it raises a new and haunting question. Modern humans colonized Australia from mainland Asia about 50,000 years ago, populating Indonesia on their way. Did they and the hobbits ever meet?

There’s no sign of modern humans at Liang Bua before 11,000 years ago, following a large volcanic eruption that would have wiped out any Homo floresiensis in the region. But other bands may have hung on elsewhere in Flores. Perhaps modern humans did meet their ancient neighbors before something—maybe a changing environment, maybe competition or conflict with modern humans themselves—spelled the end for the little people. Further excavations on Flores, and on nearby islands that might have had their own hobbits, may settle the question.

In the meantime a clue may come from local folktales about half-size, hairy people with flat foreheads—stories the islanders tell even today. It’s breathtaking to think that modern humans may still have a folk memory of sharing the planet with another species of human, like us but unfathomably different.

The Australian Research Council supported this work; your Society will help sponsor future study.

Could this be the face—shown life-size—of a lost human species that stood three feet tall and inhabited an isolated island world?

Synthetic skin and hair bring to life the cast of an 18,000-year-old skull of a female. Her remains were found with those of six other tiny beings on Flores, where they hunted creatures from giant rats to Komodo dragons and made stone tools—all with brains smaller than a chimp’s.

Miniature beings with skulls far smaller than our own sprang from an ancient line of human ancestors. How did they reach—and survive on—a remote Indonesian island?

Thomas Sutikna of the Indonesian Centre for Archaeology holds a skull that he and fellow scientists believe represents a new human species, Homo floresiensis. Found in a cave on Flores (map), the species existed alongside modern humans as recently as 13,000 years ago, yet may descend from Homo erectus, which arose some two million years ago.

No ancient humans could have reached flores before big-brained modern people—or so it seemed.

The first itinerant humans, Homo erectus, crossed land bridges from Asia to Indonesia. But their trail seemed to end at Java (above), the site of Homo erectus bones at least 1.5 million years old. No one believed these early humans could cross the ocean barrier called Wallace’s line. Scientists thought it wasn’t until 50,000 years ago that people—modern Homo sapiens—made the jump. But 840,000-year-old stone tools found in the Soa Basin on Flores are a sign that Homo erectus crossed Wallace’s line much earlier. “How they managed to get there is still a real mystery,” says Mike Morwood of the University of New England in Australia.

Looking for signs of early humans, archaeologists Wahyu Saptomo and Mike Morwood (below) examine stone artifacts found buried in a limestone cave that the local Manggarai people call Liang Bua. Above its massiveentrance (above right) gray stalactites hang like jagged fangs, but the grim exterior belies an inner beauty. “It’s very much like a cathedral inside,” says Morwood, who has excavated here since 2001. He says islanders have used the cave as a burial ground for millennia. The dirt below its clay floor is riddled with human bones from a range of eras. But Morwood is interested in the cave’s first occupants, Homo floresiensis, who arrived at least 95,000 years ago. The search has involved hauling tons of dirt bucket by bucket to a washing station set up in a nearby rice field (above left), where researchers sifted artifacts and bones from the mud. The work paid off with the discovery of remains from at least seven tiny individuals. The team also found well-flaked stone points—possibly spearheads—that suggest Homo floresiensis, although much smaller than its Homo erectus ancestors, was also smarter.

For millennia the only land mammals on flores were rodents, stegodonts, and humans.

The Homo floresiensis skeleton stands roughly half as tall as a modern adult’s. “I knew within about 60 seconds of seeing the jawbone that this was something entirely new,” says paleoanthropologist Peter Brown, who examined the bones. The premolars are a giveaway, with a root much different from ours. The pelvis of this female is also wider than in Homo sapiens. Her arms hung almost to her knees, says Brown, but her delicate hand and wrist bones imply that “she wasn’t doing a lot of climbing.”

Why were the Flores humans so small? Biogeographer Mark Lomolino, who studies the phenomenon called island dwarfism, says, “We know that when evolutionary pressures change, some species respond by shrinking.” Stegodonts—extinct elephant ancestors—were especially prone to dwarfing, because they often colonized islands. “Elephants are strong swimmers,” he says. Once there, with limited food and fewer predators, they shrank. On Sicily, Crete, and Malta, scientists have unearthed bones from primitive elephants as little as a twentieth the size of mainland forms. But other species, such as rats, tend to grow larger in a place without competitors. Flores yielded remains of giant rats and lizards, as well as cow-size dwarf stegodonts and diminutive human bones (shown above with stone tools and stegodont teeth). Peter Brown says the tiny Homo floresiensis may have evolved from a population of Homo erectus that reached Flores some 800,000 years ago. “The problem is we haven’t found Homo erectus bones,” says Brown. “All we have is these small-bodied people.”

Flores Liang Bua Cave Giant fossil bird found

Giant fossil bird found on ‘hobbit’ island of Flores

http://news.bbc.co.uk/earth/hi/earth_news/newsid_9261000/9261713.stm

By Emma Brennand Earth News reporter

A giant marabou stork has been discovered on an island once home to human-like ‘hobbits’.Hobbit-cave-bird

Fossils of the bird were discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores, a place previously famed for the discovery of Homo floresiensis, a small hominin species closely related to modern humans.

The stork may have been capable of hunting and eating juvenile members of this hominin species, say researchers who made the discovery, though there is no direct evidence the birds did so.

The finding, reported in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, also helps explain how prehistoric wildlife adapted to living on islands.

Tall and heavy

The new species of giant stork, named Leptoptilos robustus, stood 1.8m tall and weighed up to 16kg researchers estimate, making it taller and much heavier than living stork species.

Palaeontologist Hanneke Meijer of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC, and affiliated to the National Museum of Natural History in Leiden, the Netherlands, made the discovery with colleague Dr Rokus Due of the National Center for Archaeology in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Finding large birds of prey is common on islands, but I wasn’t expecting to find a giant marabou stork

Palaeontologist Hanneke Meijer

They found fossilised fragments of four leg bones in the Liang Bua caves on the island of Flores.

The bones, thought to belong to a single stork, are between 20,000 to 50,000 years old, having been found ....  read more

Flores,Tribes,

Ethnic Tribe Minorities of Indonesia

Flores, Komodo, Tribes, flores island,

flores, tribes, suku

a picture from the website :http://www.galenfrysinger.com/flores.htm

Flores Island

Rongga-4.100
South central Flores, between Manggarai and Ngad’a, and south of Wae Rana.
Rongga is spoken by around 4000 speakers, mainly in three villages (Tanarata, Bamo, and Watunggene) in the Flores island Indonesia . However, a small number of its speakers are also found in the neighbou ring village of Waelengga . These villages belong to the administration of Kota Komba sub-district, the regency of Manggarai. It is one of several small undocumented Austronesian languages clustered between Manggarai and Ngadha. Manggarai, the biggest language on the island, with more than half a million speakers dominates the western part of Flores , in West and (East) Manggarai regencies (7136,4 km2 ), almost one third of the island. Ngadha (also called Bajawa) with about 66,000 speakers is spoken in the regency of Ngada, east of Rongga. Other small languages to the north include Waerana, Kepo’ and Manus.
Sikka-210.000
eastern Floresflores, tribe, sikka, suku Island, between Li’o and Lamaholot. Alternate names: Krowe, Maumere, Sara Sikka, Sikka, Sikkanese. Dialects: Sara Krowe (Central Sikka), Sikka Natar (South Coast Sikka, Kanga秬 Tana Ai. Wide linguistic and cultural variation.
So’a-12.000
Central Flores, central Kabupaten Ngada, between Ngad’a and Riung. Alternate names: Soa. Dialects: Similar to Ngad’a [nxg]
Wae Rana-4.700
South central Flores, between Manggarai and Ngad’a. Alternate names: Waerana.

Komodo Islands

Komodo-800
Komodo Island and west coast of Flores. Dialects: Considered a separate language from Manggarai [mqy]