MADAGASCAR

The Eighth Continent

Helmet Vanga Marojezy NP

Helmet Vanga...worth every penny and sweat bead of the way!

27 Sept – 24 October 2007

Leader: Christian Boix

All photos taken on tour with TB 

Itinerary:

27 Sept

Johannesburg - Antananarivo

Arrival in Tana and visit of Lac Alarrobia/Tsarasaotra

28 Sept

Antananarivo - Ifaty

Birded Tulear mudflats and marshes en route to Ifaty

29 Sept

Ifaty

Birded Spiny forest at Mangily and nearby marshes

30 Sept

Ifaty

Birded Spiny forest at Mangily and nearby estuary

1 Oct

Ifaty - Tulear

Birded La Table, Sarodrano and Tulear mudflats

2 Oct

Tulear – Nosy Ve Island - Tulear

Visit to Nosy Ve Island and Anakao

3 Oct

Tulear - Ranohira

Birded Zombitse-Vohibasia NP and Relais de la Reine

4 Oct

Ranohira - Fianar-Ranomafana

En route stop at Anja Reserve near Ambalavao

5 Oct

Ranomafana

Birded Ranomafana NP

6 Oct

Ranomafana

Birded Ranomafana NP

7 Oct

Ranomafana - Antsirabe

Birded Ranomafana NP

8 Oct

Antsirabe- Andasibe

Birded Mangoro River and night walk at Perinet Special Reserve

9 Oct

Andasibe

Birded Mantadia NP

10 Oct

Andasibe

Birded Mantadia NP and Perinet Special Reserve

11 Oct

Andasibe

Birded Perinet Special Reserve

  12 Oct   Andasibe - Tana   Birded Perinet in Am and returned to Tana in PM

13 Oct

Tana - Mahajunga - Ampijoroa

Birded en route and Ankarafantsika NP

14 Oct

Ampijoroa

Birded Ankarafantsika NP

15 Oct

Ampijoroa - Mahajunga

Birded Amboromalandy Lake and sailed up Betsiboka Delta

16 Oct

Mahajunga - Tana

Flew back to Tan and took afternoon off 

17 Oct

Tana- Sambava- Andapa

Birded en route to Marojejy NP ( Camp 1)

18 Oct

Marojejy NP

Hiked and birded Camp 1 – Camp 2

19 Oct

Marojejy NP- Sambava

Hiked and birded Camp 2 - Andapa

20 Oct

Sambava - Tana

Birded the shores of Sambava and flew in the afternoon back to Tana

21 Oct

Tana - Anzozorobe

Birded en route to Anzozorobe Corridor Reserve

22 Oct

Anzozorobe

Birded at Anzozorobe Corridor Reserve

23 Oct

Anzozorobe - Tana

Birded en route on way back to Tana

24 Oct

Tana - Johannesburg

Flew back to JHB

 
Trip Report  

 Day 1

The flight into Antananarivo from Johannesburg turned out to be exciting thanks to the use of a new British Aerospace Aircraft which was faster, smoother and with the uncanny ability to kiss runways on touchdown rather than grope them like the old retired Boeing's of yesteryear. The excitement to get back to the red island must have been obvious as both the Captain and a Malagasy Lions Administrator gravitated to our seats to chat about birds and birding in Madagascar.

 

Upon arrival and whilst confirming our next day flights we realized that one of our coupons to reach Tulear had been mistakenly ripped off by the ground staff in Johannesburg.  The wait for the local ground staff from lunch was spent birding for airports’ specials at the nearby rice paddies. Madagascar Wagtail, Mascarene Martin, Dimorphic Egret and Squacco Heron were soon enjoyed and views of two elegant Madagascar Bee-eaters (an allospecies of Blue-tailed and Blue-cheeked Bee-eater) were eventually relished.  Once the ticket issue was sorted out and our flights finally confirmed, we drove into Tana, but soon noticed how the afternoon rush hour traffic was thickening up and decided to detour and spend "rush hour" at Lake Alarrobia.

 

Within the confines of Tana, this lake offers a daylight safe haven for large flocks of waterfowl and herons. The lake was carpeted with White-faced Whistling Ducks, Redbilled Ducks, and several Comb Ducks.  By carefully scanning the shores a small group of Fulvous Whistling Ducks was also found.  Along the shoreline we added Common Moorhen (ssp pyrrhoroa) and a triple endemic whammy, a stunning Madagascar Kingfisher, a pair of Madagascar Grebes and perched on exactly the same spot as last year our first Madagascar Pond Heron - a breeding endemic, recently returned from Kenyan shores in immaculate plumage condition.

 

Sieving through the groups of egrets and herons we enjoyed Great, Dimorphic (both morphs), Squacco and Cattle Egret as well as thousands of breeding Black-crowned Night Herons overhead.  After a while we located a resting Openbill Stork (ssp madagascariensis), a good find since this subspecies is endemic to Madagascar.  A walk around the adjacent scrub and forest produced a plethora of other endemics such as Madagascar Coucal, Madagascar Brush Warbler, Madagascar White-eye, Madagascar Black Swift and fleeting views of Madagascar Red Fody who were yet to acquire their crimson breeding plumage. All in all a most enjoyable “rush hour” and with the roads now clear we ambled casually into our hotel.  Later that night the remainder of participants joined the group after landing with the Air France flight.

Mad Kingfisher Lac Alarrobia

MADAGASCAR POND HERON - a breeding endemic in immaculate plumage

MADAGASCAR KINGFISHER - a stunning gem that never fails
to impress


Day 2

The day started earlier than usual, as Air Madagascar changed the departure time of our Tulear flight, by 2 hours, however, the joys of ticket reconfirmation (a stone age ritual, kept well in vogue to this date by the national carrier) had allowed us to avert disaster.

   

The flight to the southwestern corner of the island was smooth and painless, the temperature as we stepped off the plane was far more tropical than what Tana had greeted us with. We decided to pay a brief visit to the Tulear harbor, stopping on the way to enjoy a pair of mating Madagascar Kestrels, several Namaqua Doves (ssp hova) and our first glimpses of Sakalava Weavers.  The tide was very low and the flats looked remarkably empty, nevertheless spirits were high and a brief walk along the flats was son rewarded with a pair of feeding Madagascar Plovers.  An odd sight ? since these birds are more commonly found feeding near inland salt pans were Salicornia abounds.  Funnily enough this year all sightings of this species were along the shore, and not once at the salt pans or Salicornia fields ???.  Other shorebirds sighted included Black-bellied, Kittlitz and Common Ringed Plover (ssp C.h.tundrae), Whimbrel (ssp N.a.arquata), Greenshank, Curlew and Common Sandpipers, Green-backed Heron (ssp B.s.striatus) and strained distant scope views of Greyheaded Gull (ssp L.p.poliocephalus) and Greater Crested Terns (S.b.enigma).

Sakalava Weaver (Ifaty) Madagascar Plover (Ifaty)
SAKALAVA WEAVER - a male in full breeding regalia

MADAGASCAR PLOVER - an endemic in desperate need of suitable habitat

 

After lunch, we drove north towards Ifaty, stopping en route to enjoy Madagascar Larks and Madagascar  Cisticolas, which were plentiful along the road. A brief stop at a roadside water body added some views of Grey-headed Lovebirds flying by, as well as breeding Blackwinged Stilts and the colorful Three banded Plover, represented in Madagascar by the endemic subspecies (C.t.bifrontatus)

 

With the heat dying down we set off on a walk around the lake. On reaching the reeds edge,  we were met by a melodramatic Madagascar Swamp Warbler staking out his property, soon after, brief but definite views of the endemic subspecies of Little Bittern (ssp I.m.podiceps) were had. The next remarkable sighting was undoubtedly an extravagant spectacle provided by not one, but several Baillon's Crakes (ssp P.p.intermedia), which in rather “non-rallid” fashion paraded, undisturbed of our presence, offering unbeatable views of this generally skulker species. Other additions to our incipient list included Redknobbed Coot, Little Grebe (ssp T.r.capensis), Purple Swamphen (ssp P.p. madagascariensis) and a very vocal Allen's Gallinule. The spiny desert scrub around us produced our first encounter with the bizarre sounding Madagascar Hoopoe, thousands of clicking Sub-desert Brush Warblers our first flushing of Madagascar Buttonquails and brief glimpses of Madagascar Nightjar flying over the road.

 

Before we parted for the lodge a pair of Whitethroated Rails burst out singing next to the vehicle, but with the light dying on us, we took a GPS point and set up a meeting with the for the following day.  After settling in at the lodge we were all individually blessed with one or other wildlife encounter, Stuart was serenaded by a Torotoroka Scops Owl, whilst Don had to flush off the path a Madagascar Nightjar and Christian heard the honking and flapping wings of Greater Flamingos cruising by along the shore.

Day 3

A frighteningly fast, productive and great morning, where just about every target we set off to see was bagged almost effortlessly.  It all started with the usual joyful reunion with Musa and his team. Shortly after we were proudly ushered into the forest through a newly laid down network of white shell decorated trails...an impressive display of effort and pride. The familiar overture cast of species met us at the forest edge and  we were soon sweeping from one great view, to a better one of great looking birds such as Chabert's Vanga, melodious Magpie Robins treed up on spiny Didieras, darting Madagascar Turtle Doves, ornate and rather un-african looking Crested Drongos, busy "chittering" Souimanga Sunbirds, branch-weaving Common Newtonias, mega busy Common Jery's and “hypochondriac” Sub-desert Brush Warblers.

 

The second family quarry of the morning came up in the form of a Crested Coua, which in the southern spiny deserts is represented by the larger sized (ssp maxima) bearing fawn under tail coverts.

 

A manic moment ensued soon after, as on one side of the path an Archbold's Newtonia approached us in response to playback, and on the other side of the path a pair of Hookbilled Vangas were being whistled into close quarters, nifty hip work was required to get the best of views on both sides of the path...and whilst the show had not yet ended, Latsa one of our trackers burst out from the bushes muttering… NAKKA!!!.  Our gentle stroll had officially reached an end, it was time to briskly bundu-bash through the scrub till we reached the rather unimpressive sight of a lonely gray Euphorbia.  Perched on its lower branches, defying crypsis, a female Sub-desert Mesite stared at us trying its best to avoid detection.  Crippling scope views were enjoyed by all as well as a grand photographic chance- the third endemic family had been tilled.

 
Sub desert Mesite Ifaty Greencapped Coua Ifaty

SUB-DESERT MESITE - Conspicuously Cryptic!!

GREEN-CAPPED COUA - an iconic sound of the spiny forest

   


Back on the path, a Green-capped Coua growled nearby drawing our attention to some close up and personal views of this great looking Coua.  The heat was building up and the first raptors started soaring, a Madagascar Harrier Hawk doing a territorial display flight, as well as a vocal pair of Madagascar Buzzards swapping incubation turns at the nest.  Whilst watching the buzzards an immaculate white morph of Madagascar Paradise Flycatcher captivated everyone’s attention.

 

Next we visited an active Lafresnaye's Vanga nest, a species that can sometimes be tricky to locate, but which we fortunately succeeded to see several times over the course of the morning, even found a nest building pair.  The anticipated views of Long-tailed Ground Roller were everything we had expected for. The bird stood for ages in front of us, holding its tail semi opened donning a pair of amazing sky blue outer tail feathers, trying to figure out what our next move would be.

On the way out, several other species made a welcome appearance, first was a perched Running Coua, next a highly desirable Thamnornis Warbler which was almost to close to focus on, a flock of Sicklebilled Vangas, steered in by our whistles an immaculate black and white Whiteheaded Vanga landed next to us for a quick scan, before taking off again.  The grand finale came in the form of a Banded Kestrel perched atop a Didiera, ignoring our presence.  Before parting for the lodge a nearby Sakalava Weaver colony provided our first sightings of males in full breeding colors.

 

Just before reaching the lodge, Christian rounded up a pair of Madagascar Buttonquails and got them to walk in front of the car, allowing everyone to get their best views of the species.  An aperitif at the veranda yielded another pair of Madagascar Plovers...at low tide ...in the beach...again??

 
The afternoon was set-aside to search for Crab Plovers a species most desired by the entire group.  We we headed back towards Tulear scanning mudflats, mangroves and small estuaries. Thorough scanning added Greater Sand (ssp C.l.crassirostris) and White fronted Plover (ssp C.m.tenellus), Terek Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Little Stint, Caspian and Lesser Crested Tern and a great opportunity to compare and enjoy Grey and Humblot's Heron. But no Crab Plovers, where found...which was a bit surprising and unnerving.

 

Later in the afternoon we persevered in search of White-throated Rail, and although their calls were plentiful, finding a good opening to bring them out proved hard...eventually an opening was found and minutes later we were all enjoying exposed views of a pair of this chocolate brown rallid delicacy.  We returned to the lodge hoping to entice Stuart's Torotoroka Scops Owl out...but the bird in question never replied again, and we headed for dinner.

Day 4

With the previous day success under the belt we had to plan for a “seconds” outing into the spiny forest, one designed to enjoy all and other aspects of the forest as well as to try and get some pictures of some of the more iconic species.

 

The morning displayed a similar cast of sightings as the day before. Definite and most enjoyable views of a flock of Lesser Vasa Parrots feeding on flowers and fruits at a flamboyant tree were relished.  We took some time to enjoy the dexterity of Sickle-billed Vangas maneuvering their bills inside  Baobab fruits in search of weevils. A more relaxed Archbold's Newtonia was taped in. Great views of Running Coua were had again. Palm Swifts (ssp gracilis) and Madagascar Spine-tailed Swifts were among the few new additions. The best part of the morning was undoubtedly the time spent with another Long-tailed Ground Roller, which had been maneuvered to fairly open country, much to the delight of the photographers.

Longtailed Ground Roller Ifaty Longtailed Ground Roller Ifaty

 

LONG-TAILED GROUND ROLLER- arguably the most striking Ground Roller in Madagascar !!

Before returning to the hotel, we drifted down to the same mudflats as yesterday to search once more for Crab Plovers, but once again they were nowhere to be seen. 

 

On our way to give Torotoroka Scops Owl another try, we spotted a falcon perched in a stand of Casuarinas. Elation overcame us as we realized it was a juvenile Eleonora's Falcon, a common summer visitor to the island, but one that generally only reaches here in December. The sight of this trans-african migrant known to breed in the Mediterranean and some north Atlantic isles was unexpected this far south and early in the year.  We scoped it and enjoyed it until a pair of Chabert's Vangas pestered it off its perch.

 

With dusk well upon us, we walked for the last time into the spiny desert. During our walk we came across a feeding Grey Mouse Lemur...and scoped it too just for kicks. Soon after, the first distant calls of a Torotoroka Scops Owl were heard, and so we marched towards it, but on arrival it called a few more times and flew overhead and away, leaving us empty handed.  We waited for long minutes  and then heard it back where we had started walking...so returned. We tracked and missed the owl for a good half an hour...until eventually as we were about to leave a soft muttering  was located nearby and spotlighted...in the center of the light, was a Torotoroka Scops Owl, very aware of our presence toning down his musical repertoire to near subsonic levels.  With the owl in the bag we returned to our hotel, well chuffed of our days' pickings. The day ended with silhouetted flocks of Greater Flamingos flying and honking past the lodge, over a moonlit ocean.

Day 5

Today’s targets required a pre-dawn start in order to reach the odd sclerophyllous scrub that grows around the massif of “La Table” in good time.   As soon as we reached the site we walked into the scrub, listening for the whistles of Red-shouldered Vanga and huffs of Verreaux's Coua. Following on last years trend, the bird did not call for the first 45 minutes, thus had to extend our search, deeper into the scrub and into uncharted territory. Eventually, we picked up the thinnest of whistles and with sheer doggedness we hounded our way through the dusty, tangled scrub until we reached the source. First, a curious female made an appearance, showing off her rusty shoulders and distinct pale eye, and shortly after a colorful male popped out, adding music and a lot more color to the spectacle. The moments that followed were spent following the pair and getting first class, close up views of this recently discovered Vanga. 

 

Whilst still re-counting the experience, a Verreaux's Coua huffed right behind us. Sunken in the scrub we stretched ourselves above the surrounding vegetation to get better views. Initially our position was dreadful, but as we imitated and teased the bird, it weaved its way to the top of a bush where everyone was able to enjoy decent scope views.

Redshouldered Vanga Tulear Verreaux's Coua Tulear
RED-SHOULDERED VANGA - always a great bird to start the day!

VERREAUX'S COUA - another of La Table's secretive gems

   
 

With both targets logged in, we decided to give the Sandgrouse a late morning bash, it was getting hot, but the tides were wrong anyway to go wader watching. Approaching the car we came across a walking Green-capped Coua and near the car another perched  Banded Kestrel.  We glided down the hill and headed for Sarodrano stopping en route to scan for flocks of flying Madagascar Sandgrouse.  As soon as we reached the first likely spot and stepped off the car, a large quail flushed meters from us, pale cream below, well streaked above and a visible white supercillium, IT left little room for error....Common Quail, a bird rarely reported in Madagascar.

 

More effort could have gone into re-flushing it, but the distinct “katrr-katrr” calls of Madagascar Sandgrouse filled the air, over the grass plains and a flock of 12 Sandgrouse was wheeling and gliding, prospecting for an adequate landing site. The excitement embraced all of us and we hoofed our way across the plains to get closer views. Soon we were all positioned meters away of several huge, sandy colored, stunning Sandgrouse, watching them creep and inch their way to water.  It sure felt GREAT!! to see so many in one flock in the area, especially when numbers had been steadily dwindling over the past years. 

 

After some wonderful views we slowly returned to the car, but Bob whom had stayed behind watching them summoned us back. The oddest behavior had called his attention, and on inspection we discovered that two Sandgrouse were caught on a nylon line of nooses that had been set out specifically to trap them at the waters edge.  Maddened by this discovery we released the birds and scanned all the other water points for more trapping lines, finding a few more trap lines and disposing of them. It was disheartening to face the reality that still plagues Madagascar, namely peoples subsistence living practices and the plight of very threatened species to survive.

 

The rest of the morning was spent at the mudflats, but not much was added just better views of Eurasian Curlew (ssp orientalis) and Bar-tailed Godwit.

 

In the afternoon we returned to the grassy plains near Sarodrano, partly to look after the Sandgrouse flock which might have come back to drink again, but mostly to see if we could hook up with any other falcons that frequent this spot searching for a shorebird take-away. No falcons were found, but we enjoyed more views of Madagascar Plover, came across several Aepyornis (an extinct ratite) eggshell fragments, and flushed a Greater Painted Snipe several times, a welcome lifer and quasi bogey bird to most present.
 

Day 6

Shortly after breakfast we boarded a bedraggled truck contraption which the Hotel Le Prince D'Anakao proudly calls the transfer vehicle, and spluttering and spattering through town, we drove through to the harbor...As soon as we arrived we were offloaded onto a “flotilla” of ox carts that negotiated the rising tide and sticky mud, dropping us safely on our vessel, ready to part for the island of Nosy Ve. The boat ride was smooth and with a gentle breeze on our backs. We reached the island of Nosy Ve at high tide and on approach the first Red-tailed Tropicbirds obviated themselves over the island.  On shore a large tern roost was evident, further scanning produced the quarry most wanted here...some standing against the white sands, others lying down…nine Crab Plovers!!, the majority in juvenile or sub-adult plumage, but donning their massive black bills and black wing bars.  For most this was a new family tick and un-arguably one of the best species to start any ones’ day list. We decided to approach the birds from the boat rather than on foot, and this allowed for closer up views.  When the tide receded, the group flew south and was never re-sighted again.

 

Closer inspection of the tern roost revealed Crested Tern and Lesser Crested Terns mostly, and one shy Roseate Tern. However, there was no sign of last years Sooty Gull, a bird that a week later was sighted by another Tropical Birding tour here at Nosy Ve, confirming a second consecutive wintering season in Madagascar. 

 

A brief inspection of the scrub on the island had us soon kneeling and lying in the sand like kids, playing with our cameras trying for that ultimate shot of Red-tailed Tropicbird landing, taking off, feeding chicks or just flying by. As always the experience of being so close, to such tame and stunning creature was pretty overwhelming, and as some remarked...there are not many places in the world where one can enjoy Tropicbirds at such close range as here.

Redtailed Tropicbird Nosy Ve Island Litoral Rock Thrush Anakao
RED-TAILED TROPICBIRD - starring great memories of the trip  LITORAL ROCK-THRUSH - the bird that never crossed the Onilahy river


Before lunch we raided the hotel grounds around Anakao in search of Littoral Rock Thrush, a bird was sighted soon enough and the only worry remaining was the light angle and from where could we get better pictures
.

A pleasant lunch was enjoyed at the hotel and shortly after we opted to return to Tulear.  The ride back was bumpier and slower, only yielding a few flying fish along the way. When we reached Tulear everyone was fairly tired from the sun and boat ride and since there were no birds to chase in the neighborhood, we all opted for a rest, in anticipation of tomorrow’s early start.

Day 7

In order to make the most of Zombitse-Vohibasia Forest we slinked out of Tulear under cover of darkness.  Shortly after sunrise we reached the magnificent Baobabs that herald the outskirts of Zombitse.  After picking up our local guide and paying our dues we set off into the forest. We had not yet taken cognizance we were inside the forest when the first of our targets , Giant Coua, peered at us in disbelief from a branch above our heads.  Unfortunately the views were not as prolonged as one would have hoped for, before this massive and largest of all Couas took off.  The next breath taker came in the form of an Oustaledt's Chameleon, as we gazed in disbelief a massive specimen two foot long clinging cryptically from a vine next to the path.

 

The lemur jackpot of Zombitse fell effortlessly soon after, as we encountered a sunning and fairly relaxed group of Verreaux's Sifakas in a Tamarind tree.  It was hard to peel off from them, since they are such photogenic and charismatic creatures, but Zombitse has very distinct active windows and very long hot mid days, and we needed to move on. The forest teams with other species of lemurs other than birds and reptiles, and a few steps ahead we were again captured by the looks of a White-footed Sportive Lemur perched at the edge of its cavity taking in the first light rays before heading off to sleep. Lured by the calls of a male Coquerel's Coua calling nearby we dashed ahead.  Using playback and standing very still we caught a calling males’ interest that approached within meters of the group allowing everyone to enjoy exquisite views of this rather vocal and good looking species.

Verreaux's Sifaka Zombitse Giant coua Zombitse
VERREAUX'S SIFAKA - mankinds closest bipedal prosimian

GIANT COUA - Madagascar's largest Coua and star attraction at Zombitse.

Choosing our trails carefully, still searching for Giant Coua we moved through the forest stealthily. By now Cuckoo Rollers had started claiming their territories and their far carrying calls had become part of the atmosphere we were birding in. Every now and then a shadow and a glimpse of their stoops and fly-byes cold be seen through the dense canopy overhead.... eventually we scored the perfect fly-by, across a clear canopy opening.  Everyone enjoyed the odd looking “floating” motion this species utilizes to cruise above the forest, its size, loquaciousness, behavior and taxonomic uniqueness. The moment was however stolen by the distinct shape and odd flying behavior of a Madagascar Cuckoo Hawk overhead.

 

A few flocks encountered through the morning yielded several great views of Longbilled Greenbul, Red-tailed Vanga, our first views of the rather good looking Blue Vangas as well as Rufous Vanga, which delighted us with a rather virtuous bill clacking display. As the morning coolness waned we located the soft chirps of our last and most desired target, the highly range restricted, Appert's Greenbul. The ensuing moments were spent with a most confiding pair, feeding peacefully next to the trail, allowing everyone to study the bird at ease.

 

Fairly chuffed with ourselves we tried luring in more Giant Couas, but being very weary birds, their stealthy approach outdid our best efforts every single time and as the heat of the day built up, their calls became more infrequent and we started planning in our heads an afternoon plan for its search.

 

As we trudged up the hill along narrow forest trails the territorial calls of Madagascar Crested Ibis were heard, but the attempt to lure them in seemed futile as they went quiet on us. Alas, a few meters up the trail we encountered a pair that was diligently throwing a b-line towards us, but as soon as they saw us coming round the corner slammed on ankers, turned around and "scurried" beyond the next bend ducking for cover...leaving most of us with variable backside, orangey views of two Ibis clearly not wanting to be seen. Further attempts to spot them were fruitless and we decided to break off for lunch. 

 

Before exiting the forest, meters away from our first Coua sighting we came across our second and definite sighting of Giant Coua as a hot bird, crawled its way into a tangle and stood in the shade for ages. Great scope views were had and everyone felt contempt with this final view.

 

At the parking lot, a whirlwind thermal swept by bringing in all four possible swifts in the region, Alpine, Black, Palm and Madagascar Spine tailed Swift in the same flock.  Lunch was had under the trees, and fortunately Giant Coua had already been seen for the tell-tale of a Giant Coua hunt by a Fossa, was strewn all over our pic-nic site, which would have been a bit too much to stomach had we not seen it yet. Soon after lunch a brief foray into the forest to look for Whitebrowed Owl roosts offered a second chance to enjoy Verreaux's Sifaka, as well as more views of Coquerel's Coua, Rufous Vanga and perched male and female Cuckoo Rollers.  With the bulk of the main diurnal targets seen, the heat bearing down on us and the forest enduring its quietest hour, we opted to reach Isalo in daylight and maximize our chances at Madagascar Partridge.

 

On arrival we were met by a rather tolkienesque scene, the grandiose reception hall that normally greets one on arrival at Le Relais de la Reine was burn to cinders.  Fortunately, our rooms had not, dining arrangements had been transferred to the nearby Jardin du Roy...but more importantly at least one wall of the reception/restaurant stone wall remained erect and on top of it, reliably as always, was our loyal Benson's Rock Thrush.

 

Walking around the premises we were encouraged by rather fresh Madagascar Partridge footprints around a water point and whilst still debating a "modus operandi" on how to position ourselves in the morning to view them coming in to drink, we stumbled upon a covey which literally exploded at our feet and allowed us to watch two females and three males glide over the grasslands until they settled.

 

At the dam itself we picked up the endemic subspecies of Purple Heron (A.p.madagascariensis), fleeting views of a single Helmeted Guineafowl (ssp N.m.mitrata) scurrying away, a flock of Madagascar Munias and great views in superb light of a pair of Madagascar Greebes. From our rooms at dusk Torotoroka Scops Owl and White-throated Rails calling from the Pandanus forest serenaded us.  After super and before calling it a day, we drove a short distance to give Whitebrowed Owl a try. Just a single playback hoot was enough to elicit the most almighty allergic response from a nearby individual which flew in and perched on the tree above us, for everyone to enjoy.

   

Day 8

Today we endured the mild tediousness of driving across the massive grasslands that dominate the central plateau, searching for harriers and other raptors as well as the odd partridge, quail or buttonquail venturing across the road.

 

The highlight of the day was a stop at a small roadside community project, where we had the chance to walk up a stream and into some riparian vegetation and enjoyed several troops of the charismatic Ringtailed Lemur. Here, “fady” and a life long tradition of water collecting at the stream, has protected the Ringtails from the pot and almost completely habituated the troops. We came across several groups, some resting, some feeding others on the move, most bearing babies, some playing...and always oblivious of ones' presence without altering their natural spirit.

 

After lunch, we drove on to Ranomafana NP, a feat that is now possible to do in one day, thanks to the excellent new tarred road the government has build to give access to this ambassadorial park as well as the coastal communities and ports of the South eastern shores of the island.

 

The light was fading and dusk was well upon us, but having reached the upper portions of Ranomafana NP it felt right to just stop and take a breathe, be welcomed by the forests after a whole day of driving through grasslands and rice paddies.  Forest Rock Thrush, Madagascar Starling, White-throated Oxylabes, Magpie Robins were calling at dusk.... so we tried to play a few owl calls to see what was about...no Eastern Scops Owls replied, but MUCH to our surprise it only took one burst of Madagascar Long-eared Owl tape to get a straight reply from an individual that flew in and started calling without wasting time. Startled by the response and scrambling for a torch we watched its great shadow leave down into the valley our hearts with it.  A quick second burst of playback, brought back this magnificent owl to where we were standing, and kindly perched itself on a limb above the road, allowing grand and prolonged close scope views.  Tingling with excitement we rolled down the hill to our accommodation for the night, had supper and went off to bed looking forward to our next birding day.

   

Day 9

Whilst we sorted out park entrance formalities a small flock flew past the parking lot offering some first views of Nelicourvi Weaver, Madagascar White-eye, Madagascar Green Sunbird and Madagascar Brush Warbler. Loyally perched in their favorite twigs and bursting their lungs with melodious abandon were Rand's Warbler and Green Jery, of which we enjoyed scope views and had a chance to compare their vocalizations.  A Madagascar Starling flew into a nearby Strelitzia and gorged itself on nectar, whilst we enjoyed taking pictures of Comet Moths attracted to the park lot lights.  Scanning for Blue Pigeons we came across a far better quarry perched in the open, Madagascar Sparrowhawk, a shy and elusive species hard to get good views off.

Madagascar Groundhunter
Eastern Avahi Ranomafana NP

MADAGASCAR GROUNDHUNTER - An exciting and quizical looking species.

EASTERN AVAHI - Ever watchful and ever resting!!

 

Permits sorted we trickled down to the forest, stopping briefly to admire one of the tiniest chameleons in Madagascar. Most of us moved on across the bridge, but Don who stayed behind taking pictures of it got thoroughly inspected by a passing Ring-tailed Mongoose, a stunning red, nearly incandescent forest viverrid.  As we climbed up the trails of Ranomafana towards Belle Vue, an Eastern Forest Rat traipsed across the path whilst our first pair of Spectacled Greenbuls made a placid appearance whilst we trawled the area listening for the slightest cue of Brown Mesite.  Soon, enough a pair of Brown Mesites, broke into call, they were far but worth a try.  Our efforts did not pay as the birds moved around and below us skillfully out of sight for most, and eventually calling our bluff….we moved on.

 

On reaching the summit a Velvet Asity male, almost completely off its dull winter plumage, was feeding on berries near a clearing, a bird much enjoyed by everyone and a new family to celebrate once more.  Not far from the clearing we walked straight into a flock where were greeted by several Tylas Vangas, a pair of Redfronted Couas and later a very responsive Pollen's Vanga.

 

Our Lemur scout intercepted us breathless and excited as he had found a troop of Golden Bamboo Lemurs not far from where we were, and so without wasting a second we descended down the hill till we reached a bamboo stand that contained three adults resting and feeding. Staring at this magnificent creatures and realizing how recent ago such new species had been discovered, made one think of how much more is still out here waiting to be discovered.  For the remainder of the morning we were blessed with sighting after sighting of the most charismatic lemur denizens of Ranomafana. Next in the program was a rather cute group of nocturnal Eastern Avahi sleeping, followed by a troop of handsome Redfronted Brown Lemurs, a complete family unit of the stunning Red-bellied Lemur and a most photogenic troop of Greater Bamboo Lemurs.

 

Soon after this “stellar” Lemur safari we got our noses back into feather tracking mode and a few minutes later located a roost of Collared Nightjar- by most standards one of the finest nightjar in the world. The “siamese” pattern or effect that this particular pair produced was most captivating.  Trying several gullies we eventually located a Pitta-like Ground Roller staking his claim and which eventually was spotted perched up allowing for several minutes of clear sighting and a full rendition of its distinct “popping” call.  Elated we trotted down the path on our way out, when all of a sudden a short “nyaak” froze our step and cautioned us of a nearby Wood Rail. With a little bit of playback we soon had this forest rallid, walking in the open, sourcing us out and eventually foraging in some leaf litter meters away from us.

Pittalike Ground Roller NP Collared Nightjars Ranomafana NP

PITTA-LIKE GROUND ROLLER - defying color physics from the understorey

COLLARED NIGHTJAR - a siamese illusion!

 

The show was yet not over, as a Crossley's Babbler was enjoyed and photographed at will by all of us as it foraged through the understorey a few centimeters off the path and merely half a meter away from our faces.

 

After lunch we launched another dedicated search for Brown Mesite.  Soon after reaching the territory we heard a group calling and positioned ourselves. As we anticipated their approach we noticed they had already worked out our whereabouts and were taking a wide berth, so we quickly changed position once more and lured them onto a better viewing area. After a few minutes of rather tense communications between us and the birds, a male decided to show face and started approaching us.  The first clear sightings started reeling in, happy faces cropping through the group, others decomposing in anguish as they were unable to either focus or locate the bird in the understorey. Perseverance and position shuffling eventually got everyone on the bird which finally crossed the path in front of everyone and proceeded to walk, eye level along the path allowing everyone to crack “first choice” views of this fascinatingly odd looking species. 

 

With a smiling heart we all wandered off for our next quarry, Henst's Goshawk, which after a long walk had little trouble locating and eventually enjoyed spectacular scope views of it whilst perched out on a limb.

 

From here we returned to Belle Vue, where the momentum of many years of feeding carnivores and lemurs for the enjoyment of tourists persists among the attending neighborhood despite the ban on animal feeding.  Its nearly two years that no one has fed this animals and yet they still behave like clockwork when it comes to put up a show, sightings of Ring-tailed Mongoose, Brown Mouse Lemur and Striped Civet or Fanaloka were secured and enjoyed by all.  Walking back in the dark we also encountered the draconian looking Uroplatus phantasticus one of the leaf tailed geckos, as well as an Eastern Scops Owl.

 


Satanic Leaf-tailed Gecko Three-eyed Lizard

SATANIC LEAF-TAILED GECKO- a phantastic encounter!!

THREE-EYED LIZARD - a common denizen of southern sands.

 


Day 10

The day kicked off with a roadside stop below the falls en route to Vohiparara, our target, Forest Rock Thrush. It took a short while to pick up its thin whistles, but as soon as we tuned into them we located one, although too high up in the slope and canopy to appreciate it well.  Later, another one was located closer to the van, lower down and in far better light, paying full honors to the species charm.  In the bushes below we had a prolonged views to study call, plumage and pupil differences of Common and Dark Newtonias.

 

After an unproductive search for Meller's Duck and Rock Pratincole along the river, we entered the higher forest reaches of the park.  We walked slowly trying for several species in the area, namely Yellow-browed Oxylabes, White-throated and Rufous-headed Ground Roller. Without wasting too much time on a number of old conventional stakeouts we headed for a new territory our local guide had recently found.  The “naivety” of its owner blessed us with several, close up and crippling views of one of the most elusive and undeniably beautiful ground rollers in the island – Rufous-headed Ground Roller!  Whilst enjoying a succession of grand views, a pair of Blue Couas flew in and a further brief distraction in the form of Grey-crowned Greenbuls was also enjoyed. The relief of having had such quality and diverse views of this ground roller permeated the groups’ mood for the entire day.  A few minutes later, we found ourselves below a snag discussing the etiology of “Cryptic Warbler”, whilst one of this rather indistinct and newly discovered warblers called incessantly and conspicuously above our heads.  The remainder of the morning was fairly quiet with brief and unremarkable views of Cuckoo Roller, Common Sunbird Asity, Madagascar Blue Pigeon and Ashy Cuckooshrike.

 

In expectation of a possible sighting of the rather tricky Yellowbellied Sunbird Asity, we climbed to the highest reaches of the forest and waited patiently over lunch, scanning and policing several Bakerella and other flowering clumps, hoping for a flash of yellow to dash in. Every now and then the clearest and cleanest of notes made it our way, excitement grew, but slowly waned as no bird followed.... we really felt on the wrong side of the “trap-line”.  Suddenly, our  guide called us from below. We could hardly believe his news when he told us he had found the NEW nest...meters away from last years.  We shuffled into position and no sooner had we found a comfy stance, a full blown adult male flew in, sitting above the nest for less than a few minutes, inspecting it, showing its belly staring at us with its eclectic wattles, working the crowd up and with an alarming “tseeet” vanished as fast as it had appeared, but not as fast as the sweet taste of success lingered within us.

 

With a spring in our step we descended the highlands and birded the swampy reaches below. The highlight of the afternoon was a pair of Wedge-tailed Jery’s which were being slowed down by a begging chick, allowing us to pre-empt every time the adults were about to show up thanks to the chicks quivering wings. The views could not have been better and we were all pleasantly surprised to have enjoyed the bird that much, considering how drab are the illustrations in most guides.

 

On exiting the forest we struck it very lucky!! as a troop of Milne Edwards Sifakas were spotted at the forest edge. Unperturbed by our presence we enjoyed a regal chance to photograph and appreciate their fine coats and agile finesse.  Content, and on our way to the van a Madagascar Fluftail burst into song nearby, it was not hard to track its whereabouts, and by making some skillful use of playback we got the bird to pop out in a sun fleck, inside the bush, where everyone relished top views of this rallid, possibly the easiest fluftail to observe in the world, but none the less an endemic and unique chance to enjoy this  rather skulkey bird.

 

The rest of the afternoon was spent at the marshes of Vohiparara, where several views of Madagascar Swamp Warbler were had, as well as fleeting and poor views of a rather uncooperative and distant Grey Emutail which we chose to ignore for the time being.  We were nonetheless blessed with phenomenal views of at least three different Madagascar Snipes that took off  and flew towards and past us, in perfect light conditions.

 

Day 11

The morning had a simple target design…finding Yellow browed Oxylabes or Yellowbrow. We returned to the higher forest reaches of Ranomafana, again scanning every inlet of the river for Meller’s Duck and Rock Pratincole to no avail. We trawled the trails, patiently and silently minding every step, listening for the frail chitters of this species.  We were distracted a few times by a very co-operative Rufousheaded Ground Roller that kept on popping out in the open, in the middle of the trail foraging for worms. As enjoyable and uncanny as it was…it was seriously unnerving on how this stunning “critter” was starting to impinge on the necessary efforts required to locate Yellowbrow…but as distractions go, it was rather enjoyable and filling.  Eventually the first set of chitters of Yellowbrow were heard nearby and as we closed on the birds, only scant flashes of this skulking warbler were had.  After repositioning ourselves and with some skilful enticing techniques, a family unit of three approached the group “mouse-ing” their way through the understorey and eventually perching out in the open for brief moments and flying across the path allowing everyone to have several good views of this rather hard species, much celebration followed.

 

A second visit to the marshes at Vohiparara yielded better, more relaxed and complete views of a very accommodating male Grey Emutail that had no issues perching up.

 

The rest of the day was spent driving to Antsirabe to overnight.  The only addition to our burgeoning list came in the form of a Hamerkop.

   

Day 12

Today we drove through to Antananarivo and enjoyed a delicious lunch at La Varangue.  We stopped at the Mangoro River to search for Madagascar Pratincole, but once again this classic stakeout failed dismally to produce the goods and one could not help but wonder if the increased fishing and washing activity in the area has not affected the return of this species to the rocky outcrops.  The habitat remains as good as ever, but the sightings have become increasingly rare over the past two years.  We reached our lodge at dusk and were greeted by a flying Madagascar Nightjar, had supper did the list and retired in expectation of a long day at Mantadia NP.

Day 13

It soon became fairly evident that Short-legged Ground Roller was going to demand an extra effort, as not one response was attained from well over 6 different territories on our way down into Mantadia. The early hours of the morning were however amenized by more views of Cryptic Warbler, Blue Pigeon, Madagascar Starling, Henst’s Goshawk, Greater and Lesser Vasa Parrots.

 

By far the most remarkable bird of the morning was Scaly Ground Roller whom we found next to last years nest,... feeding.  We watched the birds work the understorey and in the open at a small sandy beach next to the river, flying across to the opposite bank and eventually freezing scant meters away from us.  The checkering of its markings did the usual magic on the group and it became the undisputed bird of the day.

Scaly Ground Roller Mantadia NP Diademed Sifaka Mantadia NP

SCALY GROUND ROLLER Simply magnificent!!

DIADEMED SIFAKA - the most colorful and dearest of all Lemurs

 

   

 

Walking down the road we were serenaded for the first time by Indris, and a moment was spared to take the entirety of this atmospheric event in. We could have spent many more moments, but a White-throated Oxylabes called from a nearby bank and we resumed our birding.  Next, along the road was Ward’s Flycatcher, a stunning pied flycatcher that showed very well.  Whilst looking for Broadbilled Rollers, we re-scored Madagascar Grebe, White-headed Vanga, Spine-tailed Swift and a fig tree bursting through the seams with Blue Pigeons.

 

Back in the forest we missioned for a Redbreasted Coua, as it took more than an hours work to obtain looks of a male.

 

The walk up to the higher reaches of the forest and realm of Brown Emutails was spiced up by intercepting a troop of Diademed Sifakas - arguably the most colorful and stunning of all Sifakas in Madagascar.  The mossy ridges of Mantadia NP produced the best views of Common Sunbird Asity, but not a peep from our quarry - Brown Emutail, Fortunately during our descent we crossed paths with a large flock that produced the very desirable Nuthatch or Coral billed Vanga. Perched still, it graciously provided long scope views, unlike most other sightings of this species where it is generally seen constantly wood creeping, flitting and on the move.

 

The rest of the afternoon was spent trawling a plethora of Short-legged Ground Roller territories without much luck. By dusk everyone was fairly tired and a slow spotlighting drive back was opted instead of a night walk. Still in Mantadia a moth hawking Broadbilled Roller was seen flying over the road and we all got out of the vehicle to enjoy a the flybys. 

 

Closer to our lodge the distinct shape of an owl flew in front of the car, and by imitating the squeaking sounds of a rodent, our guide managed to bring in the owl scant meters away from where we were …at barely 3 meters from us standing on the ground we were able to appreciate why this subspecies of Barn Owl is called punctatissima.

   

Day 14

A very early dawn arrival at Mantadia NP was designed to maximize on our chances of hearing Short-legged Ground Roller, the monotone hoots of this magic species were conspicuously absent and truth be told hope and luck seemed to wane rapidly as a silent hour ticked away.  A decision was taken to split the leaders and try listening at different valleys…whilst doing so we enjoyed superb views of an unperturbed White-throated Rail feeding next to the road and were even lured momentarily by a Forest Fody calling nearby. Suddenly and fortunately, the hoots of a Short-legged Ground Roller male where picked up…but they were coming from a not so accessible valley above us.  The chase started in earnest, scurrying through trails that narrowed at first and eventually thinned into oblivion, scrambling up hillsides and sliding down into gullies, all the while keeping the calls bearing and direction, with our hearts fixed on its tempo and missing a heart beat every time the bird delayed the next hoot. The effort invested to get to the right spot was arduous and brimming on insanity at times…but the determination was blatant and empowering.

 

On reaching the calling area, we blatantly overshot the perch and the whirring sound of fleeing wings was heard overhead.  Just as we thought it was all over, the bird started to call again below us. We split the leader team once more to get a better feeling of the calls' bearing as well as the shortest route towards it. After a few minutes we had tracked down the tree…branch…. and FINALLY the BIRD...which thankfully was still calling. Scopes were trained on it, and sublime views dished out for everyone.  The show was not yet over...as we were rewarded by the discovery of a nearby nest, and watched one of the individuals burrowing into a nearby cavity and then pop out and sentry the entrance for a long while.

Shortlegged Ground Roller Mantadia Np

SHORT-LEGGED GROUND ROLLER

sentrying a nest cavity at Mantadia NP

PARSONS CHAMELEON - the worlds largest chameleon

 

Ecstatic as well as exhausted we started our walk back along the ridge coming across another troop of Diademed Sifakas. As we descended the hilltop we trawled for Brown Emutail and eventually a bird replied from behind us. No sooner had we arrived to its bamboo clump, this generally shy and skulkey bird...confidently strolled across the trail, under our noses, barely a meter away from our faces making its way to my Ipod, as if annoyed and confident it would be able to switch it off. It was rather an exhilarating and quizzical sighting as we enjoyed the longest, clearest and best views ever experienced on tour of this species.

 

With unbeatable views of this last ground roller safely tucked in we chose to return to Perinet Special Reserve, for second looks at a few species as well as spending some time with the Indris.  On the way to Perinet, we enjoyed the calling display and furry beauty of a troop of Black and White Ruffed Lemurs.

 

Walking through Perinet in the afternoon is always a joy, especially in the afternoon when the throngs of Indri-seeking tourists have left and silent peace cloaks the forest. We walked beyond the trails into denser un-transited tracks taking a few minutes to locate a magnificent Red-breasted Coua that very compliantly crossed the path and carried on with its foraging up the hill.  Next we found a group of Indris, unfortunately they could not have been very far from its overnight perch and the entire group was very lethargic, nevertheless fluffy and impressive as always.  We sat for a long while enjoying the few interactions that took place and admiring their green glassy gaze.

 

On returning towards the parking we had a unit of Madagascar Wood Rail cross the trail and a brief visit to a nearby lake produced the best views of the trip of Madagascar Crested Ibis as two placid birds, poked the banks for worms and grubs, regardless of our proximity.

 

A night walk at the nearby Mitsinjo Forest produced several chameleon species and great views of Eastern Scops Owl.  Back at the lodge we were notified of a roost of Madagascar Pigmy Kingfisher closing the day with a bundled flash of color.

   

Day 15

Today we spent most of the morning struggling to get a view of Madagascar Rail, a generally non issue species that today had decided to have a lie-in and ignore us flatly, but the challenge was welcome and after a while we finally maneuvered a pair into view. The rest of the morning was spent walking through Perinet in search of a somewhat more active group of Indris. These were found eventually and followed for most of the morning, watching them interact, perform their eerie calls and leap from tree to tree with their characteristic grace.

 

A family group of White-throated Oxylabes moving with a flock was also located and with patience and perseverance everyone got better views.  In the afternoon we drove to a nearby lodge, where recent sightings of Meller's Duck had been reported, but after a considerable amount of effort scouring the river and banks upstream and downstream...nothing other than Meller's Duck feathers were located.

Day 16

On return to Tana we stopped once again at the Mangoro River, which we scoured thoroughly including some adjacent tributaries boasting loads of suitable habitat but regrettably no Pratincole.

 

A stop at the reptile and butterfly farm in Mandraka offered everyone a great opportunity to get close to several canopy dwelling species of insects, reptiles, moths and butterflies that are otherwise impossible to access but awesome to admire namely stick insects, praying mantis, leaf bugs, leaf tailed geckos, chameleons, etc. Even a rare chance to see a chameleon striking and feeding on locust. Sure, its a bit zoo-like but it allows for a very unique chance to both photograph and continue to admire the bizarreness of forms, shapes and colors that prevails throughout Madagascar's amazing diversity.

 

A stop for a traditional Malagasy meal outside Tana, gave us a good chance to sample some local dishes and to systematically comb through a flock of mostly Brown-throated and Mascarene Martins with a single Barn Swallow amidst.

 

The chance to do some errands, catch up on the news, phone home and do some emails was fully exploited for the remainder of the evening in Tana.

   

Day 17

The flight North to Mahajunga was on time and as soon as we landed and got hold of our bags we drove uninterruptedly towards Ankarafantsika, more popularly known as Ampijoroa.  En route we stopped briefly at Amboromalandy Lake to scan through the large flocks of Redbilled Teals and the odd Hottentot Teal. The rice paddies held good numbers of Black Egrets performing their “canopy” technique to attract, or, hunt fish. At the paddies, good numbers of the lustrous Glossy Ibis were spotted.

 

As soon as we had been shown to our accommodations we took lunch and shortly after headed for the woods.  It was still hot and sunny, but our local guide new exactly where to best endure this part of the day...in even better company.  Soon enough we came across a Red-capped Coua feeding in the scrub and later making its  way ahead of us along the sandy path...bringing to a sad end our quest for more Coua species as this one capped the list of extant Couas. And I say sad, because the thought-to-be extinct Snail-eating Coua of Ille Ste. Marie is just too gorgeous to bury and forget.

Scleggel's asity Ampijoroa NP Redcapped Coua Ampijoroa
SCHLEGGEL'S ASITY - One sexy looking beast! RED-CAPPED COUA - a flash of color to Ankarafantsikas' sandy tracks.


Fortunately happier thoughts were logged in soon after as we reached a small fruiting fig tree, and in it were a few quarrelsome Schleggel's Asities, intermittently feeding and chasing each other, in full breeding colors, virtually glowing and donning their vibrant wattles. This species again, sealed with honors another endemic family and filled with joy and pride both leaders and participants.

Coquerel's Couas, scurrying Madagascar Buttonquails, Newtonias, Jery's and Paradise Flycatchers amenized the walk, until a distant two note call, infused that semi-panicky/excitement state that is prelude to a great twitch.  The bird was indeed a Van Dam's Vanga, a shrike looking Vanga that can be challenging to locate and track down given the nature of this tall woodland.  However, thankfully we were in low scrub and it took a bit of select playback to get the bird responding.  After a while the first bird flew in, landing however in a tangle, completely obscured to all, even after scoping the tangle and where it flew out when we tried to change our position.  Its retreat was not far, and after relocating to a better area and choosing a likely perching tree for it, we resumed playback and like clockwork a male Van Dam's Vanga, landed in full view of everyone.

 

With the taste of excitement still in our mouth, our ears were drawn to the shuffling of leaves nearby...and as if the afternoon had not provided enough...we encountered a group of relaxed Whitebreasted Mesites digging, scratching and tossing leaf litter in search of invertebrates. The sexual dimorphic features that differentiate them were well studied. Yet, another family had been completed.

 

Walking back to camp an Accipiter, most likely Madagascar Sparrowhawk flew between the leaders and the participants, we tracked the wake of mobbing passerines but never caught sight of the bird itself.  We did however find a roosting Western Scops Owl in a tree hollow.  Later on we were serenaded by at least three pairs of Rufous Vanga that had converged in the same area with their females in tow and were giving it their best, displaying an inordinate array of sounds that ranged from soft melodic whistles, to loud single notes, gratings and powerful bill snaps and rattles. It was hard to figure out whether we were witnessing a territorial display at a territories corner...or a display arena.... a lekking event, whatever it was, it was hard not to applaud when it subsided....BRAVISSIMO!!

 

By now dusk was slowly dimming on us, and since some team members were busy enduring a cold, we returned to camp, for an early beer some supper and celebrate our productive afternoon.

   

Day 18

The day started walking the shores of Lake Ravelobe in search of Madagascar Fish Eagle, which was not hard to locate, as the pair was busy attending a second clutch, since this years first one was addled.  A good-looking male perched on top of a nearby snag, whilst glimpses of the female at the nest were visible with the scope. Through the course of the morning we had several chances to scope the male at different perches around the lake as it prospected for unwary fish. An African Darter was also spotted perched on a snag above the water, another interesting endemic subspecies (A.m.vulsini).

 

The cries of a Madagascar Harrier Hawk lured us into the forest, where we found a hungry youngster perched and screaming its head off. On exiting the trail we encountered a researcher emptying Sherman Traps and whom was kind enough to let us take a peep at her quarry and local lemur specialty...the newly discovered Golden Brown Mouse Lemur.

 

The shores of Ravelobe were teeming with Nile Crocodiles, more so than I had personally witnessed or given the lake credit for.  With caution we birded the Hyacinth covered shores and got reasonable good views of Madagascar Jacana as well as a single Madagascar Pond Heron.  For brief seconds a Purple Swamphen peered out of the reeds but ducked for cover on seeing us, not allowing many of us to see it properly.  A new bird list entry was clocked,  Wood Sandpiper.

 

Shortly after lunch and whilst everyone endured the midday heat, a Frances Sparrowhawk hunting in the campsite was enjoyed.

Mad Jacana Amboromalandy Mad Pratincole Betsiboka River
MADAGASCAR JACANA - male in full breeding plumage at Amboromalandy MADAGASCAR PRATINCOLE - AT LAST!! at the Betsiboka River.

 

With little else to target in Ampijoroa and a general consensus to seek any chances of viewing the now elusive Madagascar Pratincole that so blatantly had avoided us at Mangoro, we set off for the upper reaches of the Betsiboka River.  After a longish drive we reached the impressive rocks of the Betsiboka River and it took only a few minutes till we were all locked into great views of Pratincoles flying and resting on the rocks.  A flock of Comb Ducks was also spotted.  Perhaps most interesting was an entire colony of Madagascar Flying Foxes roosting at some snags in the middle of the river, which was a first for our local guide.

By the time we got back to Ankarafantsika, it was late but still indulged in a quick nocturnal whip around the forest that claimed us a few great lemur sightings such as Milne-Edward's Sportive Lemur, Fat-tailed Dwarf Lemur, Western Avahi and White-footed Sportive Lemur.

  

Day 19

Before parting for Amboromalandy we had one more appointment scheduled, one that had inexplicably languished, but that fortunately flew into camp, perched and sunned to our utter delight, Madagascar Green Pigeon.  Whilst waiting for it, we were treated to the plethora of species that frequent the Ampijoroa Forest Station with stupendous views of Hookbilled, White-headed, Sickle-billed, Chabert's and Redtailed Vanga, Lesser and Greater Vasa Parrots, Greyheaded Lovebirds, Broadbilled Rollers, Madagascar Hoopoes, Crested Drongos and Green Sunbirds moving through.  The local troop of Coquerel’s Sifaka was gorging itself on green mangoes as per usual this time of the year.

 

As soon as everyone was packed and ready we drove to lake Amboromalandy for a wetland birding session.  The lake was looking good, fuller than other years and offering the necessary mosaic of habitats needed to chase our targets.  The first target, African Pigmy Goose, was spotted without complications and later re-sighted on numerous occasions along the shore, enjoying top scope views of brightly colored males.  Little Grebes were ubiquitous, and loads of Redknobbed Coots bobbed in the lake with the odd Moorhen working the reedy edges.  A small flock of Whiskered Terns wheeled over the shallows and a near full house of herons and egrets worked the shores and tranquil waters of the lake namely Grey, Black, Green-backed, Common Squacco and Purple Heron as well as Great, Dimorphic and Cattle Egret.  Waders such as Curlew Sandpipers, Greenshank and Kittlitz Plovers where just about everywhere. Several pairs and family units of Madagascar Jacana were approached and better views obtained, including flight views, chasing displays and  a few males in full breeding colors.  The cherry came in the form of a male and female Greater Painted Snipe spotted in the shade of a Phragmites stand, cryptically posing for us and garnishing our morning with some unforgettable scope views.

 

Walking through the dryer scrub surrounding the lake we flushed a Harlequin Quail, an uncommon and sporadic vagrant to the island, but not the first time sighted at this lake and particular habitat. 

 

On reaching Mahajunga, we had lunch and a short rest before heading out to the Betsiboka Delta, the boat however overheated an engine and had to be re-moored...but fortunately we were able to transfer onto another boat and proceed upstream.  The afternoon did not proof as scenic or productive as the early morning ones, but given the tides and booking schedule of the boat we were left with little option.

 

One of the first birds clearly identifiable as we approached the mudflats was Madagascar Sacred Ibis, of which we enjoyed several views both flying and foraging.  Next was Bernier's Teal that at this time of the day were all feeding on the muddy shores and of which we must have sighted in excess of 40 birds.

Mad Sacred Ibis Betsiboka Delta

Bernier's Teal Betsiboka Delta

MADAGASCAR SACRED IBIS- a stunning breeding male atthe Betsiboka Delta BERNIER's TEAL - AT LAST!! at the Betsiboka River.


A bag of waders and terns identical to what had been previously sighted on the trip was present, but since the light was dying on us, the tide was dropping and we had bagged what we had come looking for, we chose to return with light rather than in the dark.

   

Day 20

The tour concluded for some today, thus shortly after reaching Tana several members of the party were transferred to the airport. Those continuing with the extension to Marojezy spent the night in Tana due to flight connections to Sambava, however the prospect of the next leg to search for Helmet Vanga was excitingly palpable. 

   

Day 21

The flight to Sambava was most interesting.  Flying over Lake Alaotra one could not help the mind wander and realize that the waters and shores below are home to a bizarre Papyrus specialized lemur a supposedly extinct grebe. The lush forest of the eastern board of the escarpment often makes one wonder how lush the mountains south of Tana had once been, and how many more weird and wonderful critters must they have held. But for now, the sight of unbroken forest seemingly in good shape was simply superb.

 

The approach to Maroantsetra airport over the bay of Antongil, offered an unexpected sighting for the trip, but one hardly to miss or confuse, as views of a White-tailed Tropicbird flying below the plane against a smooth lead gray sea stood out like a sore thumb.

 

On arrival at Sambava we were greeted by a waft of vanilla perfume, as this is indeed one of Madagascar's top vanilla producing regions. We had a flavorsome take away meal en route to Marojejy National,about 1.5 hrs drive from Sambava.  Whilst driving we scored a Sooty Falcon flying over the road.  The rivers looked excellent for Pratincole but we had little time to play with. Initially we had planned to spend the night in Andapa  before walking up to camp 1, but a change of  flight schedule by Air Madagascar had imposed upon us the challenge of getting to Camp 1 on the first day, or otherwise forfeit a full morning of birding in good Helmet Vanga habitat. We chose the birdiest option and headed for Camp 1 without delay

 

On arrival at the headquarters everything was ready and everyone was set to go, food for the next few days, cook, porters and local guide. With 8 km of trail to tame ahead of us, and half a day to do it, the pace was brisk to say the least.  At first we winded our way through local villages and rice paddies, enjoying a the pretty and majestic sight of the rugged and alluring contours of forested summits and massive cliff faces of Marojezy. Once inside the forest light conditions changed as this is a very lush forest. The proximity to water always made listening for bird calls challenging, however a lot was calling...except the flute like tunes of Helmet Vanga.

 

The walk was undeniably long, and required a good level of fitness and general condition. The trail itself climbs gradually but consistently, with the odd steep climb, several bridges and rock hopping river fords are required.  Technically its not difficult and the trail itself is well marked and maintained . Done the way we had been imposed to do it, in such a rush it was unarguably tiring.  The light dimmed on us eventually and for the latter portion of the walk it was fairly dark as this is a rather lush forest. We were only required to walk under torchlight for less than an hour but it did slow us down.  Marojejia Camp is basic, but excluding the toilet and shower facilities, which could be improved, the rest was comfortable enough.

 

Before hitting the sack we found a Black morph Magpie Robin sleeping near camp.

Day 22

After a fairly cold night getting out of bed early was not so difficult, breakfast was copious and soon enough we were back on the trail closing the gap on Camp 2, which allegedly was near two territories of Helmet Vanga. Blue Pigeons, Madagascar Coucal, Blue and Crested Couas, Whiteheaded, Tylas and Red-tailed Vangas were seen along the trail. But not a hint of a Helmet Vanga throughout the entire morning. Sitting, standing and staring for any movement in the canopy at the core of so called territories failed to yield the bird. Pressure and tension mounted on its own throughout the morning as our efforts seemed futile. To make matters worse a pair of Silky Sifakas had been spotted further up the trail and we were torn deciding whether to stay and carry on trying for the Helmet Vanga or go bag the Sifakas. We chose the latter as we were assured the Sifakas were also at a potential territory for the species. 

 

A few gullies ahead a flock of skulkers moved through the brush Longbilled Greenbul, White-throated Oxylabes, Nelicourvi Weaver and suddenly a remarkable oddity crept in!!! A small greenbul/tetraka the size of an Appert's Greenbul, with a stocky bill, dark above and bright yellow lower mandible, a lemony yellow throat and nearly upper breast massively contrasting with a dark olive brown body coverts including the flanks with the exception of a paler belly area, a noticeably stumpy short tail and working a thick tangle of leaves and stems with a determination never experienced or witnessed in other Tetrakas, I could hardly believe it, we were watching the mythical Dusky Greenbul.

 

The adrenaline was still rushing when we got to the Simponas or Silky Sifakas, and in a way having seen such a good bird, dampened slightly the excitement of meeting one of the rarest pro-simians in the world with an estimated population of less than 600 individuals worldwide. A group of three Sifakas, male, female and youngster were relatively unafraid of our approach and  we had ample chance to follow them for a short while and observe them. But there is a limit to the level of entertainment a  white Lemur with a pink nose can offer when there is still a Helmet Vanga out there waiting to be found, and so we resumed our quest.

 

This time we adopted a new search pattern and targeted bird parties, it had warmed up and hopefully any flock moving through a territory could drag a Helmet or two.  At our second bird party, I started whistling in a few Tylas and Whiteheaded Vangas, every time they replied I whistled back and… so on, the first birds dropped by inquisitively, shortly after I realized I had tuned into whistling back something that was neither a Tylas or a Whiteheaded call, and before I could mention anything, a dark, floppsey, moth hawking creature dropped from the canopy above me and perched on a liana. Speechless I managed to draw Stuarts attention to our first Helmet Vanga and within seconds we had it scoped, digiscoped, relished and ravaged. There are hardly no words to describe this chunky elegant piece of a bird that takes your breath straight away and which took me right back to birding days in Papua New Guinea, this is in my books one of the sexiest birds in the Afro-tropics and worth every effort.

Helmet Vanga eating a Cicada Marojejy NP Helmet Vanga Marojejy NP

HELMET VANGA - Undoubtedly....BIRD OF THE TRIP...cos' can one really get enough of this bird ??

The rest of the morning was spent birding the area between Camp Marojejia and Camp Simpona where we enjoyed a good hour watching a pair of Scaly Ground Rollers claiming a territory, calling, perching in the open, walking across the trail, chasing each other and even brushing past one of the participants hands as we stood motionless watching this mayhem develop. The most stunning part of this display was the fact that the birds being so worked up, held their tails splayed open and wings drooped, allowing for a gamut of colors often hard to see to be enjoyed. 

 

Not far from here, we lured in a Redbreasted Coua, whom in good Coua fashion strutted by us only meters away.  Madagascar Wood Rails were heard again just before our cook found us in the forest and splayed out a magnificent chicken and rice pic-nic meal.

 

After lunch, activity toned down considerably and a search for Bernier's Vanga at the ridges was exasperatingly silent and unfruitful with just Dark Newtonia, Common Sunbird Asity and Forest Fody’s in breeding plumage, Madagascar Pigmy Kingfisher and several Redfronted Couas.  Also a fascinating time was had watching a  Ring-tail Mongoose work some bird nest ferns and later in the evening visiting the kitchen for scraps at Camp Simpona.

Mad Pigmy Kingfisher Marojejy NP Vevet Asity male

MADAGASCAR PIGMY KINGFISHER - simply stunning !!

VELVET ASITY - the utmost expression of metamorphosis in the avian world.

At night we were lullabied to sleep by a nearby Eastern Scops Owl.

   

Day 23

Today we planned a repeat of yesterday’s strategy, to try for second views of Helmet Vanga as well as another bash at Bernier's Vanga. As we reached the site of our first Helmet Vanga sighting, a flock was moving nearby. Doing exactly what we had done the day before, we lured in the flock drivers Tylas and White-headed Vangas... this time the single languid call of a Helmet Vanga was recognized immediately and for a second day in a row the bird was brought in and thoroughly enjoyed once more. This day, the pair congregated on the same branch and so we had a perfect chance to study the differences in bill coloration between the male and the female...whilst keeping heart rate and breathing under control. The perch was not good for Digiscoping and they were too close to get a full bird frame, so all we did was enjoy, enjoy and enjoy and soaked every minute in until they parted.

 

Sitting still, a family of Redbellied Lemurs moved above our heads crossing from one tree to the next, allowing for great views.  Later a pair of Nuthatch Vangas flew in and worked a snag and some creepers unperturbed, showing every field mark beautifully. A pair of Tylas Vangas building a nest was also observed, as were a pair of Redtailed and Blue Vangas.  A female Velvet Asity was spotted great views of Ashy Cuckooshrike were also had.  The usual cast of polychrome Paradise Flycatchers entertained us through the lulls of inactivity, including  a fascinating moment where a male paradise flycatcher sat frozen at its nest whilst a Ringtailed Mongoose strutted below it, barely a foot away from each other.

Ashy Cuckooshrike Marojejy NP Mad Blue Vanga Male
ASHY CUCKOOSHRIKE - stealthy hunter of the canopy

MADAGASCAR BLUE VANGA - an unexpected bolt of blues



Beyond Camp Marojejia, whilst chasing some Common Newtonias with a call reminiscent to that of Red-tailed Newtonia, we bumped onto another Helmet Vanga, perched fairly high in a tangle, static and exploring its surroundings. It did not twitch to playback, and perched still as it was it became evident why this bird can be impossible if it’s not on the move or giving away its whereabouts whilst calling.

 

Further on we bumped into a troop of the rather good-looking White-collared Lemur. We had lunch on the trail as we headed out, sitting near an old Helmet Vanga nest where some porters had seen some nest building activity, but for over an hour nothing came in or called nearby.

 

The afternoon was mostly spent getting out of the forest and back to headquarters adding little else to the list... the final count showed a score of 55 bird species in two days, including Helmet Vanga and Dusky Greenbul  as well as  4 Lemur species sightings inclusive of Silky Sifaka and White-collared Lemur...which we felt was quite good.

 

There is no arguing that Marojejy bears an incomparable raw beauty that few other parks can match. It’s well endowed with good birds and mammals, but more importantly young and enthusiastic guides willing to make a difference for themselves and for the park.  Long chats about which target birds needed to be guaranteed, and which others sought or found to add to the bag of enticing species that would make Marojejy an obligate stop on the Malagasy birding route was discussed as well. It is however a tough destination requiring a decent level of fitness and tolerance regarding accommodation and toilet facilities.

 

We beckoned goodbye to the craggy contour of Marojejy and descended to Sambava for the night.

   

Day 24

Before boarding the flight back to Tana we spent some time birding along the beach at Sambava, a stunning beach, rimmed by tall coconut palms and shaped by the beating of cyclones. A flock of Redbilled Teals flying over the sea was spotted, as well as several Greater and Lesser Crested Terns. Scanning about during intermittent bouts of rain we caught glimpses of a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins and a solitary Hawksbill Turtle...but by far the greatest finding of the morning was an sms from home declaring South Africa had won the Rugby World Cup.

 

The flight to Tana was delayed and had an unscheduled stop at Tamatave, we reached Tana in the evening and headed straight for the hotel.

  

Day 25

After breakfast we drove to Anzozorobe where we were bound to stay for the following two nights. The drive to Anzozorobe is short and painless, and the last bit of the route allows one to scan for Madagascar Harrier, a species that has been sighted here but is by no means common. 

 

On arrival at the grounds of the lodge, a ripping shadow through the underbrush next to the parking and some scolding from Brush warblers gave away the presence of a raptor, it was a Frances Sparrowhawk that perched beautifully meters away from Stuart allowing him every chance to reacquaint himself with the bird he had previously seen at Ampijoroa

 

As soon as we arrived we tried our luck at a nearby lake and indeed a good measure of luck accompanied. Flying over the lake a large flock of ducks wheeling over it had two large mallard- like ducks that appeared to be Meller's Ducks. Their id was confirmed on landing, but a second alighting of the flock due to a loud driver playing his car radio sent the Meller's on a wider loop and away in search of quieter waters. Rather annoyed we asked the driver to switch off his radio, which he duly did. Scanning the hordes of Redbilled Teals we found yet another two Meller's duck and this time enjoyed prolonged and soaking scope views of this rare, but rather dull looking duck.

Meller's Duck Anzozorobe
Frances Sparrowhawk Anzozorobe
MELLER'S DUCK - Dull, drab and dreadful to find anywhere else in Madagascar! FRANCES SPARROWHAWK - A pleasant parking lot special at Anzozorobe

 


A brief interlude was offered by a nearby Madagascar Fluftail who called to close to us to be ignored, thus after predicting where it would come from and show itself, a short burst of playback was played and seconds later a male Madagascar Fluftail strutted into stage, showed itself from all angles and scuttled back into deep cover.  Sticking to the fluftail theme, and since it was the lure of one of Madagascar's hardest birds that had brought as here, after lunch we headed straight for a nearby marsh to try for Slenderbilled Fluftail. No trace or sign of the fluftail was picked up, but a female Madagascar Partridge did show up fairly well as it landed slap bang in the middle of the marsh, but yet again only showing in flight. A Madagascar Snipe was flushed and a Madagascar Rail that never popped out, got rather excited. 

 

With rain threatening in the horizon and a plan to try another marsh the following day, we tracked back to the lodge for some cover. It was odd to flush on the way back a Redfronted Coua through some ericoid scrub, not that it should not be there, but one is so used to view them in forest, or forest edge.  Arriving at the lodge we were notified by some workers that we had miss the local covey of Partridges, but a bit of perseverance and patience paid out and a pair popped out again onto the road allowing us to follow a male and female, along the road whilst feeding.

 

We ended the day down by a stream teasing a Madagascar Lesser Cuckoo to perch out in the open.  After several fly by's, we managed to get it perched on a visible snag and finally scoped.

 

As the rain started we called it a day.  Supper was delicious and the rooms with their own fireplace had a unique charm seldom encountered in Madagascar.

   

Day 26

Last night's rain dripped constantly till the early hours of  the morning and although everywhere was wet and soggy, this could well help us fool those Slenderbilled Fluftails into believing that breeding time was round the corner. The general feel from both local guides was that we were being over optimistic trying for a bird that they had only ever heard calling as early as mid December. But doggedness and a pinch of lunacy saw us on our way to a different marsh to try our luck. 

Playing bursts from the edge of the marsh yielded very little at first, we played intermittently for nearly half an hour. Listening more rather than playing.  As soon as every sound in the marsh had been logged in our heads we started picking up the nuances of a distant tone, and as soon as we recognized its tempo we could hardly believe our luck. The expression in our local guides face was priceless and short lived as he realized how deep inside the marsh the call was emanating and how unrealistic it would be to tape it in.  Reading its mind we stripped our shoes, pointed to the marsh and commanded...LEAD ON.  Sloshing away knee deep in clean brown waters we reached the area where the calls came from, played, listened, listened again and nothing replied, not once.  After a while of trying and not getting a reply, frustration with a touch of sadness crept in.  This was quite ironic however, considering that above our heads a group of at least three different Madagascar Snipes were putting on a full aerobatics display whilst  “drumming” over our heads, Madagascar Rails were inquisitively closing on us the more we played for the Fluftail and we had had at least 2 pairs of Meller's Duck fly by, whilst a Blue Coua on the hill stared at us...HOW COULD THIS BE A BAD MORNING??

 

We took a rest back at the edge of the marsh whilst our local guide tried his playback at a series of other spots. Whilst waiting, a pair of Madagascar Rails paid us a visit, perching up and waltzing by meter away from where we stood. We managed to take some pictures of them in the open.

 

In the meantime the Slenderbilled Fluftail started calling again, and in no time we found ourselves standing barely 2 meters away from it, appreciating the guttural nuances of its bizarre call, personally I could have walked home a happy man as hearing this mythical bird call was sheer magic. But the bird clearly started moving towards us and we were torn between making a clearing for better viewing or just trying to lure it into an existing open space...we tried the latter only catching a glimpse of it as it darted across. A  new approach was needed...we waited and listened to relocate where had it moved towards and as soon as we heard it again overshot its position, made a narrow clearing in the reeds and let a few playback strophes rip...what followed is  history.  The bird darted in wasting no time and weaving its way along the edge of the clearing exposing itself and ducking back for cover, showing itself clearly enough to stop anyone breathing. As it reached almost the end of the clearing we scurried along and playing one last burst of its call managed to get the bird to come into full open view again, flick its stumpy tail twice, whirl around and jerkily melt back into the reeds.

 

Before starting any celebration of what had to be the ultimate finale to any Madagascar Birding Tour, we took a few seconds to take stock of the situation, back up our sighting, burn a few extra neurons and embed the sighting well and deep in our memory banks before euphoria got the better of us… inevitably.

 

The rest of the day we roamed about with a perma-grin the size of Texas.  Birding in the forest in the afternoon was fairly quiet except for several sightings of Yellowbrowed Oxylabes and stunning views of Pitta-like Ground Roller, before the rains started again.

 

Our last meal on tour was celebrated with a scrumptious Malagasy dish and a befitting pitcher of the best wine available.

   

Day 27

Today we drove back to Tana, spotting a fleeting Banded Kestrel whilst exiting the lodge and trying again for harriers. With time in hand we did a whirlwind tour of Xmass supplies through Tana, stocking up on locally cured vanilla pods, some of the finest dark chocolate produced in the afro tropics, a variety of spices such as cinnamon and clove and last but not least some delicious duck pates to remember many a great times cherished back in the RED ISLAND.

 

BIRD LIST

Taxonomy and nomenclature follow: Clements, James F. 2000. Birds of the World: A Checklist. Fifth Edition. Vista, CA: Ibis Publishing Co. Includes recent updates.  99 ENDEMICS and 25 regional endemics were recorded on this tour, the total includes all the possible splits frequently mentioned in other trip reports. All endemics in Bold and near endemics seen in itallics.

 

1

Little Grebe

Tachybaptus ruficollis

2

Madagascar Grebe

Tachybaptus pelzelnii

3

Red-billed Tropicbird

Phaethon aethereus

4

White-tailed Tropicbird

Phaethon lepturus

5

Darter

Anhinga melanogaster

6

Gray Heron

Ardea cinerea

7

Humblot's Heron

Ardea humbloti

8

Purple Heron

Ardea purpurea

9

Great Egret

Ardea alba

10

Black Heron

Egretta ardesiaca

11

Dimorphic Egret

Egretta dimorpha

12

Squacco Heron

Ardeola ralloides

13

Madagascar Pond-Heron

Ardeola idae

14

Cattle Egret

Bubulcus ibis

15

Striated Heron

Butorides striatus

16

Black-crowned Night-Heron

Nycticorax nycticorax

17

Little Bittern

Ixobrychus minutus

18

Hamerkop

Scopus umbretta

19

African Openbill

Anastomus lamelligerus

20

Madagascar Sacred Ibis

Threskiornis bernieri

21

Glossy Ibis

Plegadis falcinellus

22

Madagascar Crested Ibis

Lophotibis cristata

23

Greater Flamingo

Phoenicopterus ruber

24

Fulvous Whistling-Duck

Dendrocygna bicolor

25

White-faced Whistling-Duck

Dendrocygna viduata

26

Comb Duck

Sarkidiornis melanotos

27

African Pygmy-goose

Nettapus auritus

28

Bernier's Teal

Anas bernieri

29

Meller's Duck

Anas melleri

30

Red-billed Duck

Anas erythrorhyncha

31

Hottentot Teal

Anas hottentota

32

Madagascar Cuckoo-Hawk

Aviceda madagascariensis

33

Black Kite

Milvus migrans

34

Madagascar Fish-Eagle

Haliaeetus vociferoides

35

Madagascar Harrier-Hawk

Polyboroides radiatus

36

Frances' Goshawk

Accipiter francesii

37

Madagascar Sparrowhawk

Accipiter madagascariensis

38

Henst's Goshawk

Accipiter henstii

39

Madagascar Buzzard

Buteo brachypterus

40

Madagascar Kestrel

Falco newtoni

41

Banded Kestrel

Falco zoniventris

42

Eleonora's Falcon

Falco eleonorae

43

Sooty Falcon

Falco concolor

44

Madagascar Partridge

Margaroperdix madagascarensis

45

Common Quail

Coturnix coturnix

46

Harlequin Quail

Coturnix delegorguei

47

Helmeted Guineafowl

Numida meleagris

48

White-breasted Mesite

Mesitornis variegata

49

Brown Mesite

Mesitornis unicolor

50

Subdesert Mesite

Monias benschi

51

Madagascar Buttonquail

Turnix nigricollis

52

Madagascar Flufftail

Sarothrura insularis

53

Slender-billed Flufftail

Sarothrura watersi

54

Madagascar Wood-Rail

Canirallus kioloides

55

Madagascar Rail

Rallus madagascariensis

56

White-throated Rail

Dryolimnas cuvieri

57

Baillon's Crake

Porzana pusilla

58

Purple Swamphen

Porphyrio porphyrio

59

Allen's Gallinule

Porphyrio alleni

60

Common Moorhen

Gallinula chloropus

61

Red-knobbed Coot

Fulica cristata

62

Madagascar Jacana

Actophilornis albinucha

63

Greater Painted-snipe

Rostratula benghalensis

64

Crab Plover

Dromas ardeola

65

Black-winged Stilt

Himantopus himantopus

66

Madagascar Pratincole

Glareola ocularis

67

Black-bellied Plover

Pluvialis squatarola

68

Common Ringed Plover

Charadrius hiaticula

69

Madagascar Plover

Charadrius thoracicus

70

Kittlitz's Plover

Charadrius pecuarius

71

Three-banded Plover

Charadrius tricollaris

72

White-fronted Plover

Charadrius marginatus

73

Greater Sandplover

Charadrius leschenaultii

74

Madagascar Snipe

Gallinago macrodactyla

75

Bar-tailed Godwit

Limosa lapponica

76

Whimbrel

Numenius phaeopus

77

Eurasian Curlew

Numenius arquata

78

Common Greenshank

Tringa nebularia

79

Wood Sandpiper

Tringa glareola

80

Terek Sandpiper

Xenus cinereus

81

Common Sandpiper

Actitis hypoleucos

82

Ruddy Turnstone

Arenaria interpres

83

Sanderling

Calidris alba

84

Little Stint

Calidris minuta

85

Curlew Sandpiper

Calidris ferruginea

86

Gray-headed Gull

Larus cirrocephalus

87

Caspian Tern

Sterna caspia

88

Lesser Crested Tern

Sterna bengalensis

89

Great Crested Tern

Sterna bergii

90

Roseate Tern

Sterna dougallii

91

Whiskered Tern

Chlidonias hybridus

92

Madagascar Sandgrouse

Pterocles personatus

93

Rock Dove

Columba livia

94

Madagascar Turtle-Dove

Streptopelia picturata

95

Namaqua Dove

Oena capensis

96

Madagascar Green-Pigeon

Treron australis

97

Madagascar Blue-Pigeon

Alectroenas madagascariensis

98

Gray-headed Lovebird

Agapornis canus

99

Vasa Parrot

Coracopsis vasa

100

Black Parrot

Coracopsis nigra

101

Madagascar Cuckoo

Cuculus rochii

102

Giant Coua

Coua gigas

103

Coquerel's Coua

Coua coquereli

104

Red-breasted Coua

Coua serriana

105

Red-fronted Coua

Coua reynaudii

106

Red-capped Coua

Coua ruficeps

107

Green-capped Coua

Coua olivaceiceps

108

Running Coua

Coua cursor

109

Crested Coua

Coua cristata

110

Verreaux's Coua

Coua verreauxi

111

Blue Coua

Coua caerulea

112

Madagascar Coucal

Centropus toulou

113

Barn Owl

Tyto alba

114

Malagasy Scops-Owl

Otus rutilus

115

Torotoroka Scops-Owl

Otus madagascariensis

116

White-browed Owl

Ninox superciliaris

117

Madagascar Long-eared Owl

Asio madagascariensis

118

Madagascar Nightjar

Caprimulgus madagascariensis

119

Collared Nightjar

Caprimulgus enarratus

120

Malagasy Spinetail

Zoonavena grandidieri

121

African Palm-Swift

Cypsiurus parvus

122

Alpine Swift

Tachymarptis melba

123

Madagascar Swift

Apus balstoni

124

Malagasy Kingfisher

Alcedo vintsioides

125

Madagascar Pygmy-Kingfisher

Ispidina madagascariensis

126

Madagascar Bee-eater

Merops superciliosus

127

Broad-billed Roller

Eurystomus glaucurus

128

Short-legged Ground-Roller

Brachypteracias leptosomus

129

Scaly Ground-Roller

Brachypteracias squamigera

130

Pitta-like Ground-Roller

Atelornis pittoides

131

Rufous-headed Ground-Roller

Atelornis crossleyi

132

Long-tailed Ground-Roller

Uratelornis chimaera

133

Cuckoo Roller

Leptosomus discolor

134

Madagascar Hoopoe

Upupa marginata

135

Velvet Asity

Philepitta castanea

136

Schlegel's Asity

Philepitta schlegeli

137

Sunbird Asity

Neodrepanis coruscans

138

Yellow-bellied Asity

Neodrepanis hypoxanthus

139

Madagascar Lark

Mirafra hova

140

Plain Martin

Riparia paludicola

141

Mascarene Martin

Phedina borbonica

142

Barn Swallow

Hirundo rustica

143

Madagascar Wagtail

Motacilla flaviventris

144

Ashy Cuckoo-shrike

Coracina cinerea

145

Long-billed Greenbul

Phyllastrephus madagascariensis

146

Spectacled Greenbul

Phyllastrephus zosterops

147

Appert's Greenbul

Phyllastrephus apperti

148

Dusky Greenbul

Phyllastrephus tenebrosus

149

Gray-crowned Greenbul

Phyllastrephus cinereiceps

150

Madagascar Bulbul

Hypsipetes madagascariensis

151

Forest Rock-Thrush

Monticola sharpei

152

Littoral Rock-Thrush

Monticola imerinus

153

Benson's Rock-Thrush

Monticola bensoni

154

Madagascar Cisticola

Cisticola cherinus

155

Brown Emu-tail

Dromaeocercus brunneus

156

Gray Emu-tail

Dromaeocercus seebohmi

157

Madagascar Brush-Warbler

Nesillas typica

158

Subdesert Brush Warbler

Nesillas lantzi

159

Thamnornis

Thamnornis chloropetoides

160

Madagascar Swamp-Warbler

Acrocephalus newtoni

161

Rand's Warbler

Randia pseudozosterops

162

Dark Newtonia

Newtonia amphichroa

163

Common Newtonia

Newtonia brunneicauda

164

Archbold's Newtonia

Newtonia archboldi

165

Cryptic Warbler

Cryptosylvicola randriansoloi

166

Madagascar Magpie-Robin

Copsychus albospecularis

167

African Stonechat

Saxicola torquata

168

Ward's Flycatcher

Pseudobias wardi

169

Madagascar Paradise-Flycatcher

Terpsiphone mutata

170

Common Jery

Neomixis tenella

171

Green Jery

Neomixis viridis

172

Stripe-throated Jery

Neomixis striatigula

173

Wedge-tailed Jery

Hartertula flavoviridis

174

White-throated Oxylabes

Oxylabes madagascariensis

175

Yellow-browed Oxylabes

Crossleyia xanthophrys

176

Crossley's Babbler

Mystacornis crossleyi

177

Souimanga Sunbird

Cinnyris sovimanga

178

Madagascar Sunbird

Cinnyris notatus

179

Madagascar White-eye

Zosterops maderaspatanus

180

Red-tailed Vanga

Calicalicus madagascariensis

181

Red-shouldered Vanga

Calicalicus rufocarpalis

182

Rufous Vanga

Schetba rufa

183

Hook-billed Vanga

Vanga curvirostris

184

Lafresnaye's Vanga

Xenopirostris xenopirostris

185

Van Dam's Vanga

Xenopirostris damii

186

Pollen's Vanga

Xenopirostris polleni

187

Sickle-billed Vanga

Falculea palliata

188

White-headed Vanga

Artamella viridis

189

Chabert Vanga

Leptopterus chabert

190

Blue Vanga

Cyanolanius madagascarinus

191

Helmet Vanga

Euryceros prevostii

192

Tylas Vanga

Tylas eduardi

193

Coral-billed Nuthatch

Hypositta corallirostris

194

Crested Drongo

Dicrurus forficatus

195

Pied Crow

Corvus albus

196

Madagascar Starling

Saroglossa aurata

197

Common Myna

Acridotheres tristis

198

Nelicourvi Weaver

Ploceus nelicourvi

199

Sakalava Weaver

Ploceus sakalava

200

Red Fody

Foudia madagascariensis

201

Forest Fody

Foudia omissa

202

Madagascar Munia

Lonchura nana



MAMMALS
Taxonomy follows Mammals of Madagascar (1999) by Nick Garbutt
1. Madagascar Flying Fox  Pteropus madagascariensis , Betsiboka River
2. Commerson’s Leaf-nosed Bat Hipposideros commersoni, Ankarafantsika NP
3. Eastern Red Forest Rat Nesomys rufus, Ranomafana NP
4. Black Rat Rattus norvegicus, Lake Alarrobia
5. Fanaloka (Striped Civet) Fossa fossana, Ranomafana NP
6. Ring-tailed Mongoose Galidia elegans, Ranomafana NP and Marojejy NP
7. Gray Mouse Lemur Microcebus murinusAnkarafantsika NP
8. Reddish-gray Mouse Lemur Microcebus griseorufus, Ifaty
9. Brown Mouse Lemur Microcebus rufus, Ranomafana NP
10. Goodman's Mouse Lemur Microcebus lehilhytsara, Perinet Special Reserve
11.Golden Brown Mouse Lemur Microcebus ravelobensis, Ankarafantsika NP
12.Furry-eared Dwarf Lemur Cheirogaleus crossleyi, Perinet
13.Fat-tailed Dwarf Lemur Cheirogaleus medius, Ankarafantsika NP
14.Greater Dwarf Lemur Cheirogaleus major, Ranomafana NP
15.Red-tailed Sportive Lemur Lepilemur ruficaudatus, Ifaty, Zombitse
16.Milne-Edward’s Sportive Lemur Lepilemur edwardsi, Ankarafantsika NP
17.Eastern Gray Bamboo Lemur Hapalemur griseus griseus, Ranomafana NP
18.Greater Bamboo Lemur Hapalemur simus, Mantadia NP
19.Golden Bamboo Lemur Hapalemur aureus, Ranomafana NP
20.Ring-tailed Lemur Lemur catta, Anja Reserve
21.Common Brown Lemur Eulemur fulvus, Mantadia NP
22.Red-fronted Brown Lemur Eulemur f. rufus, Ranomafana NP
23.Red-bellied Lemur Eulemur rubriventer, Ranomafana NP and Marojejy NP
24.Black-and-white Ruffed Lemur Varecia variegata variagata, Mantadia NP
25.Eastern Woolly Lemur (Avahi) Avahi laniger, Ranomafana NP
26.Western Avahi  Avahi occidentalis, Ankarafantsika NP
27.Diademed Sifaka Propithecus diadema edwardsi, Mantadia NP
28.Milne-Edwards Diademed Sifaka  Propithecus diadema diadema, Ranomafana NP
29.Coquerel's Sifaka Propithecus verreauxi coquereli, Ankarafantsika NP
30.Verreaux’s Sifaka Propithecus v. verreauxi, Zombitse-Vohibasia NP
31.Indri Indri Indri Perinet Special Reserve and Anzozorobe
32.Bottlenosed Dolphin Staenella caeruleoalba, Sambava Beach

 


REPTILES
1. Nile Crocodile Crocodylus nloticus. Lake Ravelobe
2. Radiated Tortoise Geochelone radiata. Sells discarded in Anakao, captive individuals in Ifaty and Ampijoroa
3. Plowshare Tortoise Geochelone Yniphora. Individuals being sorted for reintroduction at Ampijoroa Forest Station
4. Spider Tortoise Parachnoides sp Semi domestic individual at Ifaty home
5. Sikora (mossy) Leaf-tailed Gecko Uroplatus sikorae. Ranomafana NP
6. Satanic Leaf-tailed Gecko Uroplatus phantasticus. Ranomafana NP
7. Giant Leaf-tailed gecko Uroplatus fimbriatus. Anzozorobe
8. Oustalet´s Chameleon Calumna oustaleti. Zombitse Forest and Ampijoroa Forest Station
9. Parson's Chameleon Calumna parsoni. Ranomafana NP and Perinet Special Reserve
10. Short-horned Chameleon Calumna brevicornis. Ranomafana NP and Perinet Special Reserve
11. Nose-horned Chameleon Calumna nasutus. Perinet Special Reserve
12. Pygmy Stump-tailed Chameleon Brookesia minima. Perinet Special Reserve
13. Horned Leaf Chameleon Brookesia superciliaris. Perinet Special Reserve
14. Band-bellied Chameleon Calumma gastrotaenia.Perinet Special Reserve
15. O'Shaughnessy's Chameleon Calumma oshaughnessyi. Ranomafana NP
16. Warty Chameleon Furcifer verrucosus. Ranomafana NP and Mantadia NP
17. Rhinoceros Chameleon Furcifer rhinoceratus. Anzozorobe
18. Three-eyed Lizard Chalarodon madagascariensis. Ifaty and Zombitse Vohibasia
19. Cuvier´s Iguanid Oplurus cuvieri. Ampijoroa Forest Station
20. Madagascar Day Gecko Phelsuma madagascariensis. Ampijoroa Forest Station
21. Lineated Day Gecko Phelsuma lineata. Perinet Special Reserve
22. Standing's Day Gecko Phelsuma standingi. Zombitse Vohibasia NP
23. Brown Day Gecko Phelsuma mutabilis.
24. Moreau's Tropical House Gecko Hemidactylus mabouia
25. Pale-bellied Gecko Phelsuma leiogaster
26. Elegant Skink Phelsuma elegans
27. Common Lizard Zonosaurus madagascariensis. Widespread
28. Common Skink Mabuya gravenhorsti Widespread
29. Gravenhorst's Skink Mabuya gravenhorstii.
30. Madagascar Tree Boa Sanzinia madagscariensis. Mantadia NP
31. Giant Hog-nosed Snake Leioheterodon madagascariensis. Ampijoroa Forest Station
32. Mahafaly Sand Snake Mimophis mahfalensis. Ampijoroa Forest Station
AMPHIBIANS
33. Madagascar Tree Frog Bophis madagascariensis.
34. Green Tree Frog Boophis viridis
35. Painted Mantella Mantella madagascariensis
36. Mascarene Grass Frog Ptychadena mascareniensis
37. Madagascar Tree Frog Boophis madagascariensis
OTHERS
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38. Hissing Cockroach Gromphadorhina hopardi. Ifaty
39. Leafhopper sp Gascardia sp. Mantadia NP
40. Orb-web Spider Nephilia madagascarensis. Widespread
41. Green Pill Millipede Sphaerotherium sp. Mantadia NP
42. Uraniid Moths Chrysiridia madagascariensis. Perinet Special Reserve
43. Flatid leaf-bugs Phromnia rosea. Zombitse Vohibasia Forest Reserve