Birding In My Backyard During Covid-19

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Morning light crosses through the towering trees and bamboos in our backyard. Chestnut-backed Thrush’s call dominates the morning sounds, coming with the rooster’s crows. Warbling White-eyes jumped around on the green fence next to my window. It’s what happened every day, repeatedly for years. They wake me up every morning. So, I felt it is so common then ignored it. But the Covid-19 pandemic changed my view.

At the beginning of 2020, I already had many birding plans for the whole year. Besides the tour schedule as a birding guide, I also had a few birding plans of my own. Some new sites and new species are already on the bucket list. I started well in January. Some tours have gone very well and I participated in Big-Month 2020 event with Burungnesia. In February I was still guiding 11 Days Birding on Sumba and Flores tours. I didn’t think that was the last time for me to go birding far from home. At least until today.


When I went on my tour in February, Covid-19 already begun to spread to many countries including Southeast Asia. Of course, there were worries, especially when seeing the news on television, about how fast and silent the virus spreads. I decided to stop reading and watching the news during the tour to stay sane. Eleven days in the field was a great escape. But it wouldn’t be for much longer! Two weeks after we finished the tour in Labuan Bajo, we got the first Covid-19 case reported in Jakarta.

After finishing the tour, I returned to Ruteng, my hometown in the mountains (1300 masl). I felt the Coronavirus come so close. I can’t believe that less than a month ago I watched how they locked down Wuhan, and it was thousands of kilometers away. Since the day, until I finished writing this story, I have not left this small town. Only moved less than 10km. In this case, I think I’m not alone. I’ve read so many stories about travelers who experienced being stuck at home. This was the first time for me too to stay in this town without going anywhere in more than 3 months.

In the first days of Covid-19 were reported in Indonesia, I am still reading, watching, and sharing news or information about this pandemic as well as important information in preparation for dealing with the transmission of the virus. Some simple and practical preparations were made.

After days, information began to seem increasingly out of control. Lots of hoaxes on social media compared to guidelines from the government. I began to feel stressed by the uncontrolled situations and uncertain information. There was one important thing that I always noticed, is the virus can be guarded against by a fit condition, and of course with a positive mind too, free from stress.

I started to leave social media and stopped reading news related to the pandemic. Occasionally I accessed several official websites (but only once in a few days) owned by government and organizations that I think are credible enough, to get necessary information about the pandemic. My routine is reading, writing,  farming, trace photos and birds sound collection.

Backyard view from our kitchen door, where usually I spend my coffee time and watch the birds playing in a few meters away


What about birding? Luckily for me, I live at the edge of the forest. Only need to walk less than 2 km to get to the Ruteng Nature Reserve, a well-protected forest where can find most of the endemic birds of Flores and more than 100 other species. This is my backyard! So, for birding during Covid-19, it was no matters at all, except I should forget my bucket list of 2020. I have to keep it for next year or anytime when the pandemic is over.

Then on March 19th, the Indonesian government released the official instruction about social and physical distancing. We had to stay at home. After a few days, I really want to go birding but I couldn’t leave the house, and so it was the first day for me to pay attention to my backyard. I woke up in the morning and walked behind the house. This is my backyard. It is a 3ha area of coffee garden with lots of trees. There are Eucalyptus, Orange trees, Avocado trees, Jackfruit tree, Acacia, and many more. Small but a very good variety of habitat.

On the back edge of the garden, a stream (mostly dry, except on rain season) covered by the dense bamboo on its both sides. In this lush bamboo, two nocturnal species, Wallace’s Scops-owl and Moluccan Scops-owl usually perch during the daytime.

In the morning, the backyard is very noisy. Chestnut-backed Thrush dominates. In numbers, Warbling White-Eye is the most here. They are more than 50 individuals


Here are the species list of birds from my Backyard

Common NameScientific Name
Chestnut-backed ThrushGeokichla dohertyi
Warbling White-eyeZosterops japonicus
Five-colored MuniaLonchura quinticolor
Scaly-breasted MuniaLonchura punctulata
Eurasian Tree SparrowPasser montanus
Cinereous TitParus cinereus
Mountain leaftoilerPhyllergates Cuculatus
Russet-capped TesiaTesia everetti
Pygmy CupwingPnoepyga pusilla
Flores Leaf WarblerPhylloscopus floresianus
Black-fronted FlowerpeckerDicaeum igniferum
Flores FlowerpeckerDicaeum rhodopygiale
Olive-backed SunbirdCinnyris jugularis
Scaly-crowned HoneyeaterLichmera lombokia
Flame-breasted SunbirdCinnyris solaris
Sacred KingfisherTodiramphus sanctus
Pied BushchatSaxicola caprata
Rusty-breasted WhistlerPachycephala fulvotincta
Sunda Pygmy WoodpeckerYungipicus moluccensis
Elegant PittaPitta elegans
Wallace's Scops-OwlOtus silvicola
Moluccan Scops-OwlOtus magicus
Savanna nightjarCaprimulgus affinis


There is no feeding station in my backyard, the birds live naturally and safely. To get a photo, I just stand at the kitchen door or behind a window. I also can record their calls during the coffee time! It’s just wonderful!

The pandemic pushed me to explores our own backyard, a place that I had ignored for a long time. When I made the checklist, I could hardly believe it. I realized that I am surrounded by amazing numbers of birds that are playing by my windows all day and sleeping next to my bedroom all night.

Birding Lesser Sunda; Flores, Sumba, Timor, Alor, Rote, Komodo, Sumbawa
1 Comment
  1. Ino says

    What a wonderful world e emad jilis😁

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