Trip report: Madagascar, The Eighth Continent (Oct 2011) by Tropical Birding

Guided by Charley Hesse.

During this set departure tour we visited a wide variety of habitats, including the bizarre spiny forests of the southwest where we saw the amazing Long-tailed Ground-Roller and Subdesert Mesite, wetlands for endangered waterbirds like Madagascar Pond-Heron and humid forests of the eastern highlands for 4 more species of ground-rollers, asities, Brown Mesite and an array of endemic vangas and Malagasy warblers. The 2 extensions took us to the dry deciduous forests of the north west where we saw the critically endangered Madagascar Fish Eagle, White-breasted Mesite and the incredible Schlegel‟s Asity; and the north east for the legendary Helmet Vanga. We saw all but one of the available endemics, only missing the Yellow-bellied Sunbird Asity which was seen by the other Tropical Birding tour group. Not only did we see the vast majority of avian endemics but we saw them well and the many keen photographers on the tour enjoyed great photo opportunities of most of them. However, Madagascar is more than just birds. Even the most hardcore birders couldn’t help but become enchanted by the lemurs, tenrecs, chameleons, leaf-tailed geckos and even insects. Madagascar is so mind-boggling different from anywhere else on the planet, we were left shaking our heads and saying, “Unbelievable!” on a daily basis. This island of such unique natural wonder is in severe danger. Everywhere we went, we saw the forests burning to produce charcoal and to clear the land for zebu cattle to feed the rapidly growing population. We all felt very privileged to witness these natural wonders that may soon be gone forever.

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