Tropical Birding: The Best in Set Departure and Custom Birding Tours Worldwide
Click on logo to go to TB Homepage

Madagascar: The Eighth Continent
with the Northwest Extension and Helmet Vanga Northeast Extension

3-30 October 2008

Guides: Josh Engel and Ken Behrens
A Tropical Birding Set Departure Tour
Trip report and photos by Josh Engel
All photos taken on this tour

Helmet Vanga at the nest on the Northeast Extension/Josh EngelPitta-like Ground Roller/Josh Engel
We spent several hours watching a HELMET VANGA pair putting the finishing touches on their nest on the Northeast Extension.  This would be a lifetime birding highlight for even the most experienced birders!This was the first ground roller we saw, a PITTA-LIKE GROUND ROLLER that sat in the tree singing while we admired its plumage details in the scope.  And I still had time to digiscope it!


Madagascar has a well-deserved reputation as one of the planet's ultimate natural history destination and this year's tour proved the reputation true.  This year's tour started with a brief morning of urban birding in Tana, followed by a cross-country road trip from the spiny forest of the southwest to the rainforests of the east to the dry deciduous forest of the northwest.  One lucky participant continued on to the spectacular lowland rainforest of the northeast, thus seeing all of the major habitats the island has to offer.  Bird-wise this years tour was hugely successful.  Not only did we see all of the endemic families of bird, we had incredible views of all four asities, four of the five ground rollers (hearing the fifth), all three mesites, and--including the Masoala extension--every single vanga.  Add to this every species of coua, 31 species of mammals including 26 lemurs and a great variety of day geckos, leaf-tailed geckos, chameleons, frogs and snakes and you get the incredible Madagascar tour that we had this year.  

We also introduced a new extension this year to the Masoala Peninsula to look for Helmet Vanga.  Besides the nest-building Helmet Vangas that we found, it was an incredible experience to have daily walks in primary lowland rainforest, practically kicking ground rollers out of the way and having to walk carefully to avoid stepping on the innumerable frogs.  Our lodge was perfectly situated, sandwiched between a remote, deserted beach and a huge tract of primary forest.  Within thirty seconds of leaving our bungalows we could be snorkeling around a coral reef or watching Red-breasted Coua on a rainforest trail!  This new extension is highly recommended.

Day 1: Tana to Ifaty

With an early afternoon flight, we spent the morning at Tana's Lac Alarobia, a wonderful bird-filled oasis.  As usual, the lake was crowded with ducks and the island was full of breeding herons and egrets.  The hoped for Madagascar Pond Heron was quickly located, with the semi-resident African Openbill was eventually found.  We were also met with a fantastic surprise in the form of a female-type Madagascar Harrier, a usually difficult-to-find endemic that harassed the ducks before moving on.  We also has our first looks at several common endemics that would become familiar as the trip continued: Madagascar Coucal, Madagascar Wagtail, Madagascar Munia and Madagascar Brush-Warbler.

We caught our flight to Tulear, boarded our bus and made our way north to our beachfront hotel in Ifaty.  We birded en route, finding a few shorebirds on the mud including Greater Sandplover and a few landbirds as well, including Subdesert Brush-Warbler, Madagascar Lark, Madagascar Cisticola and our first vanga, a Chabert's.

Days 2-3: Ifaty

These days we really began our endemics quest, spending the mornings and afternoons in the strange spiny forest of Ifaty, cleaning up on the area's specialties.  Our very first morning took care of the region's two top birds, with a Subdesert Mesite perched motionless in a Didiera (perhaps the forest's more characteristic plant), and the roadrunner-like Long-tailed Ground-Roller running around under the thorn-filled bushes.  Not to be outdone on the bird-plant interaction front however was a Sickle-billed Vanga who we watched for ten minutes as it probed its remarkable bill into a baobab fruit in search of grubs.

Of course, we also found the forest's other specialties as well, including the often difficult Lafresnaye's Vanga, Thamnornis Warbler, Archbold's Newtonia and Green-capped and Running Couas.  One afternoon just about the first bird we laid eyes on was a cooperative young Madagascar Sparrowhawk, a local and uncommon raptor.  We finally left it perched in its tree but were immediately stopped again by a Banded Kestrel perched atop a Didiera!  Two rare raptors in a matter of minutes!  Of course not everything there is rare, and we took advantage of the openness of the habitat to secure great looks at more widespread species like Chabert's Vanga, Common Newtonia, Ashy Cuckooshrike and the beautiful Madagascar Paradise-Flycatcher.  

One afternoon we took a side trip and quickly found the localized Madagascar Plover.   Unfortunately the wind had picked up, covering the road in sand, so after getting stuck we decided to bird the mudflats adjacent to where we were stuck instead of nearby lakes, our intended destination.  The mudflats proved very productive, producing a clean sweep of Madagascar's plovers for the day, with White-fronted Plover and Greater and Lesser Sandplover in addition to the more common species and the earlier Madagascar Plover.  Saunder's Terns were flitting about over the water, while Lesser Crested and Great Crested Terns rested on a distant sandbank.

Subdesert Mesite/Josh EngelSickle-billed Vanga and baobab fruit/Josh Engel
This SUBDESERT MESITE flew into a Didiera tree and sat motionless while we admired it.  Note the single toe gripping the thorn; this tree clearly offers great protection.  A classic Madagascar scene: A SICKLE BILLED VANGA probing a baobab fruit for grubs in the spiny forest.

Day 4: Ifaty to Tulear.

We started the morning at the lakes which we failed to reach yesterday (reached today not without difficulty!).  It was well worth the effort for the scope views of Baillon's Crake, a real skulker who posed brilliantly for us.  We found the usual assortment of ducks, coots, grebes and shorebirds, and just as we were leaving spotted a group of Hottentot Teal.    Next up was a search for Madagascar Sandgrouse, but unfortunately the field where they often occur south of Tulear was full of zebu, goats and people and a thorough search yielded none of the target species.

After lunch and a rest, we headed to the coastal scrub near La Table in search of two localized endemics, the recently described Red-shouldered Vanga and Verreaux's Coua.  It was hot and the forest was silent when we set out and we were somewhat skeptical of our chances.  Our local guides took us deep into the 'forest' and had us wait, all the while whistling the song of the vanga.  Next thing we know the local guides were talking excitedly, then there it was!  Just a meter in front of us, a pair of Red-shouldered Vangas, occasionally singing very softly and showing of their beautiful plumage.  It was a remarkable effort by the local guides, but unfortunately the coua eluded us (but only for the afternoon).

Day 5: Nosy Ve and Anakao.

We took a short outing before breakfast to search again for Madagascar Sandgrouse.  This time it took only a few minutes to locate a pair.  As we were watching them, another pair flew in, then another...when we left ten were present!  We had stunning views of the huge, spectacular sandgrouse before having to leave to return for breakfast.

After breakfast we headed to the harbor, boarded out boat and made our way through to water south to the small island of Nosy Ve.  The tide was just right for shorebirds and terns to be roosting, and we had soon located our main target among the flock, four beautiful Crab Plovers.  The tern flock contained Common, Lesser Crested and Great Crested, and shorebirds seen included Black-bellied (Grey) Plover, Sanderling, and Ruddy Turnstone.  Back on the main part of the island we enjoyed watching the numerous nesting Red-tailed Tropicbirds, the island's real claim to fame.  

We then headed to the nearby mainland to have lunch at a hotel, but before lunch we took a short walk around the hotel grounds and found another target bird, Littoral Rock Thrush.  After lunch we enjoyed the beach--then had quite an adventure getting back to Tulear.  It involved a mid-ocean boat transfer, a very slow catamaran and a zebu-cart ride in total darkness!  But we made it safe and sound (if tired) having had a successful day of birding.

Red-shouldered Vanga/Josh EngelMadagascar Sandgrouse/Josh Engel
RED-SHOULDERED VANGA was only described less than fifteen years ago from the coastal scrub near Tulear.  The way that our local guides managed to find this individual (the male of a pair that was present) was truly remarkable.Despite persecution and disturbance, MADAGASCAR SANDGROUSE continue to come to this field near Tulear for morning drinks.  This was part of a group of about ten birds.

Day 6: Tulear to Isalo via La Table and Zombitse.

After an early breakfast we set off east, stopping first at La Table to search again for Verreaux's Coua.  After much searching, we had had great views of Madagascar Green Pigeon and Running Coua, but not Verreaux's.  Just as we were giving up, almost back to the bus, Angela spotted one from the back of the line.  The bird fortunately sat long enough for everyone to come back and see it--we ended up leaving with the bird still sitting in the open!  

Back on the bus, we were off to Zombitse Forest.  We arrived as the temperature was rising.  We found our local guides and set off into the forest for what turned out to be an absolutely remarkable two hour walk.  We found all the main specialties of the forest, including the locally endemic Appert's Greenbul, Coquerel's Couas practically walking over our shoes, Giant Coua perched in the scope and a pair of Rufous Vanga.  We also had superb looks at our first lemurs of the trip: a Hubbard's Sportive Lemur sitting at the mouth of its hole and wonderfully cooperative Verreaux's Sifaka.  We also saw the incredible Oustalet's Chameleon and one of the best geckos, Standing's Day Gecko.  Another Giant Coua wandered passed our picnic table as we ate lunch.  

After lunch we went to our gorgeous hotel in Isalo.  While having a rest by the pool we spotted a Benson's Rock Thrush perched on a bungalow roof.  A short walk around the grounds in the evening yielded our first Broad-billed Roller.  We stayed out into the darkness and quickly met success when we found a White-browed Owl, a species that it easily missed, and a short while later we watched a Madagascar Nightjar, faithfully hunting from the same rock as in previous years.  

Day 7: Isalo to Ranomafana via Anjo.

We started the morning walking around the beautiful hotel grounds.  We lured a White-throated Rail out of the dense undergrowth for great looks, then switched to the open areas on the opposite side of the hotel.  As we approached the hotel's pond I noticed movement by the waterside--Madagascar Partridge!  Most people got good looks before these very shy birds disappeared into the grass.  

En route to the rainforest we stopped to eat our picnics at the community reserve of Anja.  We took a short walk in the forest to see the local population of Ring-tailed Lemur, who duly obliged us with great show.  We returned to the road, reaching the roadside forest near Ranomafana in the afternoon.  We soon had located a flock and had our first taste of rainforest birds, including Nelicourvi Weaver and Green Jery.  We also had our first looks at Madagascar Lesser Cuckoo as the sun was setting, after which we settled into our hotel for a three night stay.

Days 8-9: Ranomafana.

The first full day at Ranomafana we took a morning and an afternoon walk on the main park trails.  In the morning we chased around Brown Mesite, which after much effort provided only brief views to part of the group.  Our local guide did whistle out a Crossley's Babbler, which strutted about for incredible views.  Also much more cooperative than the mesite was a remarkable Pitta-like Ground-Roller we watched singing in the scope for ten minutes, soaking in the details of its spectacular plumage.  Some people got good views of a male Common Sunbird-Asity and everyone saw the huge Hents's Goshawk at its nest.  Lemurs showed well as they usually do at Rano, with great views of Red-fronted Brown Lemur, brief but good views of Milne-Edward's Sifaka bounding through the forest, and fantastically cooperative Golden Bamboo Lemur on our way out of the park.  In the afternoon we returned for a night walk, but on the way to the night spot were distracted by a brilliant male Velvet Asity in full breeding plumage who cooperatively perched in the open where we could study it's incredible green facial skin.  The night walk didn't disappoint, with the usual Fanaloka and Brown Mouse Lemurs showing well and three species of frogs and one chameleon on the walk back.

The following morning we headed to the higher elevation forest of Vohiparara.  A Cryptic Warbler was singing at the trailhead but staunchly refused to show itself; fortunately we found one another singing bird along the trail that treated us to scope views.  A short while later our local guide whistled in a responsive Pollen's Vanga who showed off its massive bill wonderfully.  As we reached the higher forest we heard the magic sound--a singing Yellow-bellied Sunbird Asity.  Calling everybody to hurry forward, it stuck around at very close range so everybody got incredible views of this stunning and rare bird.  As we watched the male and female joined it, then as we watched flew a short distance with a piece of moss and added it to its nest!  We could hardly believe our luck.  Soon we were chasing another skulker--Rufous-headed Ground Roller.  This one was supremely uncooperative; it came very close but in a completely impenetrable bamboo thicket down a very steep slope and only one Marta got a brief view.  Continuing on we found a singing Dark Newtonia that showed its dark plumage well.  On our way back down we ran into a pair of Red-bellied Lemurs, then we were back to the bus and retuning to the hotel for lunch.

In the afternoon we took it easy, birding along the road.  We stopped by a cave to see the resident bats, but the real star (and the afternoon's main target bird) came out only after a long search and a lot of whistling--a beautiful male Forest Rock Thrush.

Day 10: Ranomafana to Antsirabe.

When we arrived to Rano two days prior, our local guide had met us with exciting news--he had discovered an easily accessible location to see Meller's Duck,  a very rare bird and a potential lifer for me.  This was our morning to try for it--the trail was conveniently located on the way to our next destination.  It was only a short, easy walk and there they were!  Three Meller's Ducks swimming in a wooded stream among the more numerous Red-billed Teal.  It was wonderful to see this seldom-seen duck and know that it hangs on in that area.  After getting our fill of the ducks we headed down into a nearby wetland to look for Gray Emutail.  After a few Madagascar Swamp-Warblers popped up we found the target species.  It only gave brief looks at first--typical of this skulker--but the our local guide located a nest and after waiting for a little while it showed very well.  With this latest success we headed back to the bus, bid the guides farewell and were off to Antsirabe, stopping en route for a roadside Hamerkop and a bit of shopping in the woodcarving town of Ambositra.   We eve arrived early enough to Antsirabe to visit my favorite local attraction--the candy maker!  

Day 11: Anstirabe to Andasibe-Mantadia.

After spending the morning driving through the vast rice paddies of eastern Madagascar, we finally made it to our hotel adjacent to the rainforest of Andasibe-Mantadia National Park.  We stopped along the way at a marsh to try for Madagascar Rail, which we heard and a couple of the participants had brief views.  We were disturbed to find the wetlands being converted into rice paddies, an serious problem for the continued existence of this endangered species.  Arriving at the hotel, we were greeted at the hotel by a beautiful Madagascar Blue Pigeon eating fruit in a tree on the hotel grounds; during our stat the tree would attract up to six at a time!  We did a bit of birding in the evening, but couldn't find the hoped for Madagascar Crested Ibis or Long-eared Owl.  On a night walk we had good views of  Crossley's Dwarf Lemur (formerly Greater Dwarf Lemur) as well as a Sikora Leaf-tailed Gecko, our first look at these bizarre creatures.

Days 12-14: Andasibe-Mantadia National Park

We had three full days to explore this fantastic park.  We spent the first morning tracking birds and lemurs through the forests of the former Perinet Reserve, famous for its Indri, the largest extant lemur.  It didn't disappoint, we found them before even the mammal trackers did!  It was great to watch them early in the morning while they were active; the energetic baby making its first forays away from its mother was particularly entertaining.  While watching the Indri a mixed flock passed through containing the often tricky Nuthatch Vanga which provided great views of its appropriately nuthatch-like behavior.  Next we heard a Red-fronted Coua, it didn't take long to locate it for truly incredible looks at this beautiful (and often shy) bird.  We were really able to study the details of its plumage as it sat right in the open for an extended period.   A few minutes later our local guide took us straight to a roosting Rainforest Scops-Owl.  Afterwards we were off in search of the shy Madagascar Wood Rail.  We accidentally disturbed group of sleeping Eastern Wooly Lemur comprised of mother, father and baby.  We watched them as they watched us while our local guide tried to locate the wood rail.  Suddenly he was shouting and we were off.  After a bit of maneuvering everybody got good looks; there seemed to be three or four of them scurrying about on the ground, never standing still even for a moment.  As we were making our way back to the bus we came across a mixed flock in a perfect place--we stood on a bridge while the birds fed at the water's edge at nearly eye level.  We were able to obtain proper looks at Madagascar Blue Vanga, seeing not only the shining blue upperparts but also the blue bill and blue eye.  A Nelicourvi Weaver was building a nest over the river, so we had great looks at the male, while a Ward's Flycatcher was flycatching over our heads.  Leaving the flock we heard calling White-throated Oxylabes and yet another usually shy bird posed for us without a care in the world.  It was a fantastic end to a great morning.  

In the afternoon we stuck to areas near the hotel.  With a bit of creative taping everybody had great looks at one of Madagascar's super skulkers, Madagascar Flufftail.  Red-breasted Coua was a no-show, but while we were looking Ken spotted a tenrec, a very strange Malagasy rodent-like mammal.  Along the road we relocated the previous night's Leaf-tailed Gecko, now able to appreciate its bizarre shape and incredible camouflage.  We made further efforts for Crested Ibis and Long-eared Owl--we heard the owl but saw neither.  We did, however, locate a pair of the fabulous Madagascar Pygmy Kingfishers as we searched for the ibis.  Finally we turned in for dinner and a well-deserved rest.

Madagascar Blue Pigeon/Josh EngelShort-legged Ground Roller/Josh Engel
MADAGASCAR BLUE PIGEONS were particularly fond of a fruiting tree on the hotel grounds of our hotel in Andasibe, where this photo was taken.  The strange SHORT-LEGGED GROUND ROLLER was seen very well in Mantadia and was common at Masoala.  In this photo you can even see the bird's purple nape (and, of course, its short legs).  

Our second full day in the area was spent at Mantadia National Park, a much more remote and wild place than Perinet.  What was incredible was after seeing dozens of other tourists searching for lemurs in Perinet, we saw not a single other vazaha the entire day in Mantadia!  We started the morning looking for the park's most famous avian denizens, the ground-rollers.  It didn't take (too) long--our guide miraculously produced a Short-legged Ground Roller that sat long enough for us to make it up the hill to where it sat, then perched motionless on a branch so that everybody got second, third, infinite scope looks at this fabulous bird.  We returned to the road where a Hook-billed Vanga was singing and our local guide was able to whistle it into view where we watched it sing for several minutes.  Now it was time to hit the trails in the forest.   It was slow going at first but we hit real excitement when Scaly Ground Roller was spotted.  Unfortunately the pair was supremely uncooperative.  While trying in vain to relocate them, however, we did get great looks at another Pitta-like Ground Roller and watched a Madagascar Pygmy-Kingfisher catch a frog out of a large Pandanus.  We then returned to the road, where we watched three Madagascar Cuckoo-Rollers displaying overhead on our way to a pond with a resident pair of Madagascar Little Grebes which showed very well.

While we ate lunch and took a post-lunch siesta on the bus, the tireless guide was roaming the forest in search of nightjars.  Incredibly, he was successful, so when all were awake the first order of business was to relocate the roosting Collared Nightjar, one of the world's most beautiful.  Sure enough, there it was, resting on the forest floor, completely unfazed by our presence.  We then held a vigil  near a Scaly Ground Roller nest, but it never appeared.  On our way back to the hotel we made one last stop to try for Madagascar Rail.  Some creative taping allowed everybody to get nice views as a pair crossed an opening in the reeds, one after the other. We finally made it back to our hotel, had a rest and went to have dinner.  Our appetizers were just showing up when in came our local guide--his sister had located roosting Madagascar Crested Ibis just down the road!  We made a quick exodus from the restaurant, boarded the bus, and three minutes later were watching the ibis preening and resting in the trees.  Amazing!  Today really showed why we make an effort to always line up the best local guides well in advance--it really makes a huge difference.

For our third morning in the area, we headed straight to the back of Perinet to search for Rufous-headed Ground Roller.  Unfortunately it was not to be.  We did pause on the way, however, to watch a beautiful Frances's Sparrowhawk eating its breakfast, an equally beautiful Souimanga Sunbird.  We spent the rest of the morning tromping around less visited areas of the park, getting scope looks at a surprisingly cooperative female Common Sunbird-Asity.  A few people got views of a Wedge-tailed Jery with a mixed understory flock, but Red-breasted Coua made like the Rufous-headed Ground-Roller and avoided us entirely.  

After lunch we headed back to Mantadia for another go at ground-rollers.  We started with another search for Rufous-headed Ground-Roller.  While tromping around the hillside looking, we stumbled across another Short-legged Ground-Roller which provided incredible eye-level views, but the Rufous-headed eluded us.  Now it was on to the next one--Scaly Ground-Roller.  We headed straight for the nest.  After half and hour waiting, and still nothing, I got up to check out a strange greenbul vocalization.  Sure enough, it was Gray-crowned Greenbul which those close got a look at.  But we were immediately distracted because there was the Scaly Ground-Roller!  First it was along the river bank, then eventually made its way to its nest.  It paused at the nest entrance for a couple long seconds where we soaked in the intricate plumage, before deciding it would come back later.  We, too, decided it was best to leave so we headed off.  A stop after dark for Long-eared Owl yielded not even a peep, to back to the hotel we were.

Day 15: Andasibe to Tana.

For our final morning we took it easy, taking a very nice walk in the nearby forests of Perinet.  We again enjoyed great looks at Indri, this time getting the full Indri experience--hearing it's ear-splitting song at very close range.  We also enjoyed further good views of Nuthatch Vanga, paused to watch the remarkable giraffe-necked weevil and eventually found a small group of the beautiful Diademed Sifaka.   We bid farewell to our local guide and headed back to the capital, first making an emergency stop when Madagascar Pratincole was spotted circling overhead, then making the planned stop to visit the fabulous 'reptile farm' en route, where a wide variety of Malagasy reptiles are easily photographable.   We had a farewell dinner for the Dolf and Herman--the rest of us were going to the northwest.

Northwest Extension: Ampijoroa and the Betsiboka Delta
Day 1: Tana to Ankarafantsika National Park (Ampijoroa)

Today we made the long drive from Tana to Ankarafantsika (formerly Ampijoroa).  We had great looks at Madagascar Pratincole en route, but we didn't spend much time searching for Madagascar Harrier since we had seen it the first day of the tour.  As we pulled into the park we spotted its most characteristic lemur, the gorgeous and charismatic Coquerel's Sifaka.  We decided to take the evening off and begin the birding in earnest tomorrow.

Days 2-3: 
Ankarafantsika National Park (Ampijoroa)

We had two full days to locate the avian treasures of this dry forest park--it was a clean sweep!  Our first morning was extremely successful.  Our first boon was a pair of Rufous Vanga, but next was even better.  A pair of White-breasted Mesites was calling in the understory; they proved extremely responsive to our local guide's whistling, and in no time at all we had incredible views of these skulkers.  They slowly crossed the path as we watched in amazement before disappearing again into the forest.  A distant spot on the trail in front of us proved to be a Red-capped Coua.  Fortunately one was much closer moments later on a different path and we got great looks at the dry forest specialty.  Our guide then took us to a Van Dam's Vanga next he had located.  A few were lucky enough to see the male mobbing a Madagascar Buzzard, while everybody got to see the female seated on the nest.  As we returned to the parking area we located yet another pair of Van Dam's Vangas, the region's rarest passerine, and this time everybody got great looks at male and female.  And this was all before breakfast!!!

After breakfast we walked a short distance across the street to check out the lake.  A variety of waterbirds were easily located, including our first of the endemic Humblot's Heron, as well as Comb Duck, Glossy Ibis, Black Herons doing their 'umbrella' feeding and a lone African Openbill.  Best, though, was a gorgeous Madagascar Jacana working the lily pads around the lake's edge, a species endemic to wetlands in the west of Madagascar.  A Madagascar Pond-Heron briefly flew past, showing off its bright blue bill, but fortunately the resident pair of Madagascar Fish-Eagles flew around more leisurely allowing for nice looks as they circled overhead.  

In the afternoon we headed a short distance away to a large lake, Lake Amboromalandy.  The normal road was blocked by a large, muddy puddle, but our local guide located an alternative route (partially straight through a mango plantation).  Scanning the lake we found the sought after African Pygmy Goose, and after a struggle everyone got satisfactory views.  Much better views were had, however, of Greater Painted Snipe, as two pairs fed in the open.  A night walk before dinner was really incredible for the clear, prolonged looks we got at all of the lemurs we saw: Fat-tailed Dwarf Lemur, Milne-Edwards Sportive-Lemur, Western Avahi (Wooly Lemur), and Golden-brown Mouse Lemur.  We also saw a Western Tuft-tailed Rat in the treetops.

Madagascar Pygmy Kingfisher/Josh EngelMadagascar Fish Eagle/Josh Engel
MADAGASCAR PYGMY KINGFISHER brightened up our walk one morning in Ankarafantsika, but it was first seen in Andasibe-Mantadia where this photo was taken.The critically endangered Madagascar FISH EAGLE has a nest at Ankarafantsika.

The next day we started in a different part of the park just down the road.  We had two targets in mind: primary was Schlegel's Asity, secondary was Madagascar Buttonquail.  We searched and searched, twice hearing the asity without seeing it.  We did locate two different pairs of Madagascar Buttonquail and eventually everyone got very good views.   Things were getting tense when again we heard an asity sing.  Then our local guide located it--there it was.  An absolutely stunning male Schlegel's Asity, not only present and cooperative but sitting in a tree without a single leaf but full of bright red flowers!  It was an explosion of color, a yellow and olive bird with bright green and blue bare skin around the eye sitting in a tree with red flowers!  And it sat long enough for everybody to get scope views--it was almost too good to be true.  With this ultimate success, we decided to head back to camp for a well deserved rest.

For the afternoon we took a relaxing pontoon trip onto the lake at Ampijoroa.  As we got towards the back of the lake the skipper spotted the pair of Madagascar Fish-Eagles and we were able to get very close views of this magnificent and extremely rare species.  We also found an African Darter at close range besides the innumerable Glossy Ibis, Common Squacco Heron and other waders, including a couple Humblot's Herons.  Just as we were returning to shore we spotted a raptor flying in the distance--a Madagascar Cuckoo Hawk!  Before dinner we took a brief walk near the restaurant to add yet one more lemur to our list: the rare Mongoose Lemur, a pair of which was feeding in a mango tree.

Day 4: Ankarafantsika to Mahajanga.

We had a last morning for birding in the dry forest.  A couple people took a walk into the forest where they had further nice views of Rufous and Van Dam's Vangas as well as a Frances's Sparrowhawk.  The rest of us stuck around the camp where we found the 'usual' camp birds, like parties of Sickle-billed Vangaseveral breeding pairs of Broad-billed Roller, Cuckoo Roller, Madagascar Hoopoe, and Madagascar Green Pigeon.  At one point I went back to get something out of my bungalow and spotted a strange shape flying through the forest.  Fortunately it landed not far away and when I went around to get a better look I couldn't believe what I saw: a Madagascar Buzzard with a Madagascar Pond-Heron in its talons!  Fortunately the bird sat in the same place for over an hour, allowing those who were around to get great views of the spectacle.  After breakfast we were off to Mahajanga, with a brief stop along the way when an adult Madagascar Harrier-Hawk flew across the road.  We took the afternoon to relax at our very nice hotel just outside of town.

Day 5: Betsiboka Delta, Mahajanga to Tana.

This morning we embarked on another boat trip, this time in the mangrove islands and mudflats of the Betsiboka River mouth.  After a speedy ride out to the area, it took no time at all to locate our two main targets: Bernier's Teal and Madagascar Sacred Ibis, two endangered species endemic to wetlands and mangroves in western Madagascar.  We got great views of both as we circled a large mudflat.  A group of seven Crab Plovers was a nice surprise and a couple dozen Lesser Flamingos added a splash of color.  Shorebirds were plentiful, and among the abundant Curlew Sandpipers and Whimbrel were number of Terek Sandpipers and Greater Sandplovers.  Humblot's Heron was also present among the hundreds of both dark and white forms of Dimorphic Egrets.  We returned back to shore, and after lunch and a rest we boarded a plane back to Tana.  It was farewell for most; only Klaus and I were continuing on to the Masoala Peninsula.

Helmet Vanga Extension: The Masoala Peninsula

Day 1: Tana to Masoala.

We had an early flight to Maroansetra where we were met, driven to our boat and on our way around the Bay of Antongil to our lodge, perfectly situated at the edge of primary forest in the incomparable Masoala National Park.  We took the afternoon to rest and ready ourselves for our four night stay.

Days 2-4: Masoala National Park.

Morning one, and its raining.  We wait until it lightens up, and off we go.  The rain is steady and the birds are quiet.  We finally get up to a ridgetop forest where a mixed flock is present.  We hear the extremely rare Bernier's Vanga calling, then we hear the magical call of Helmet Vanga.  Then BANG!  Both of those incredible birds appear at the same moment!  We take a few moments to look at the black-barred brown plumage of a female Bernier's, but after all we're really here after Helmet so we quickly switch to watching an incredible Helmet Vanga, sitting in the complete open on a vine.  It was one of those birding moments that will never be forgotten.  This was also when we decided we should see a Helmet Vanga every day.  We took a short walk in the afternoon and spent some time sitting in the canopy tower, from which we saw Rufous Vanga with a mixed flock and had brief glimpses of Red Ruffed Lemur.  

The following morning we set off again into the beautiful forest.  We had soon found a Short-legged Ground Roller which we watched as it caught a crab, then sat on a branch singing with the crab in its bill.  In the tree tops a gorgeous Red Ruffed Lemur (endemic to the Masoala Peninsula) came to check us out, found us uninteresting and proceeded to lie on a high branch soaking in the suns warming rays while we watched it through the scope.  We were soon distracted, however, when Helmet Vanga sang.  We soon had a pair flying around and this time we were really able to enjoy our views and soak in every detail of their remarkable plumage.  Eventually they moved on, as did we.  A Red-breasted Coua crossed the path who proved extremely responsive, when I softly put on the tape it did an immediate about face and practically walked over our shoes!  A short while later we located a pair of Scaly Ground-Rollers; after chasing them around for a bit we eventually got great scope looks of one singing from atop a rock.  It was time to slowly make our way back to the lodge.  We were approaching a small river when our local guide stopped in his tracks and pointed--a Helmet Vanga was building a nest!!!  Our plans immediately changed; we put ourselves in good positions and spent the next two hours watching as a pair of this most incredible bird brought billfulls of moss and occasional sticks to add to the already substantial nest.  We learned to distinguish the male from female by size and bill size.  Finally it was time for lunch so we worked out way back to the lodge, the indelible memory of Helmet Vangas building a nest seared onto our brain.  We celebrated by taking the afternoon off to enjoy the isolated beach next to lodge.  
After dark we embarked on a short night walk, seeing a practically tame Weasel Sportive Lemur at incredibly close range and a slightly more distant Eastern Wooly Lemur.  

Helmet Vanga at a nest/Josh EngelHelmet Vanga at its nest/Josh Engel
A couple more photos of HELMET VANGA at its nest that we found in Masoala.  It is surely one of the world's top birds--amazing!

For our third morning we headed into the smaller forests on the other side of the lodge.  The birding was indeed rather slow.  We did spot a beautiful breeding plumages Forest Fody and were entertained by a women trying to chase a group of fodies and Madagascar Munias from her paddies by banging a stick and against a machete.  We made it to Tompolo Marine Reserve and spent some time snorkeling around the reefs (and watching Madagascar Pratincoles fly around the rocks), where unfortunately more of the coral was dead than alive.  We took a boat back to the lodge for lunch, then again took an afternoon to relax in the beautiful surroundings of the lodge.  We did another short night walk around the lodge grounds on our way to dinner, easily finding several Brown Mouse Lemurs and a lovely Greater Dwarf Lemur within a few steps of the restaurant.

Days 5-6-7: Masoala to Nosy Mangabe to Maroansetra to Tana.

For our last morning we decided we had to watch the Helmet Vanga nest one more time.  We set off for the nest, and after a fifteen minute wait the pair showed up together.  We watched for an hour as they seemed to be putting the finishing touches on the nest.  After every addition the female would try different positions sitting in the nest, make a small adjustment to the construction of the nest, then try it out again.  On the way back to the lodge we ran into another Short-legged Ground Roller perched cooperatively at eye level, showing off its purple nape, as well as another Red-breasted Coua foraging on the path in front of us.  After our walk it was time to board the boat again and head to the forested island of Nosy Mangabe.  We set up our camp, ate lunch with a couple White-fronted Brown Lemurs keeping us company (including a two-week old infant), had a rest, then took a walk through the forest.  We found five different leaf-tailed geckos, Uroplatus fimbriatus, the largest of the genus, and got to study the intricacies of their camouflage.  We also came across a lone Black-and-white Ruffed Lemur and several beautiful green Mantella frogs.  That night we took a night walk to look for Aye-aye, undoubtedly the most bizarre of all lemurs, but as usual this rare and extremely shy species eluded us.  We did find two snakes (Madagascarophis colubris), got to watch the leaf-tailed geckos while they were active, and found several Brown Mouse Lemurs and another Greater Dwarf Lemur.  For our last morning, Klaus and the local guide took a short farewell walk in the forest, before boarding the boat and returning to Maroansetra, where two Crab Plovers flew by the boat at the river mouth.  We spent the rest of the day enjoying another beautiful hotel grounds.  

Mantella laevigata/Josh EngelFrog in Masoala/Josh EngelUroplatus fimbriatus leaf tailed gecko/Josh Engel
Reptiles and amphibians are an often unexpected bonus of a Madagascar tour.  At left is Mantella laevigata; center is an unidentified and very well camouflaged frog; at right is the incredible Uroplatus fimbriatus (if you can find it!), the largest of the island's endemic genus of leaf-tailed geckos.  The Northeast Extension was particularly rewarding for these creatures and is where these three photos were taken.

We returned in the afternoon to Tana to prepare for our final departures from Madagascar.  It had been an exhilarating month full of incredible birds, wonderful mammals and a wide variety of strange and beautiful reptiles and amphibians.  We really got to enjoy the diversity of habitats that Madagascar has on offer while seeing a great cross-section of Malagasy life.  


Below is the total bird list (183 species seen, 4 heard only marked with an H).  Madagascar endemics are in bold, regional and breeding endemics are in italics.  The mammals list and a partial reptile and amphibian list are also included below.

BIRDS: Endemics; regional endemics
1 Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis  
2 Madagascar Little Grebe Tachybaptus pelzelnii  A pair seen well on the usual pond at Mantadia.
3 Red-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon rubricauda  Many adults and young on Nosy Ve, where they allow close approach and great views.
4 Long-tailed (Reed) Cormorant Phalacrocorax africanus  One on the northeast extension at Maroansetra.
5 African Darter Anhinga melanogaster  
6 Grey Heron Ardea cinerea  
7 Humblot's Heron Ardea humbloti  Several seen well at Ampijoroa and in the Betsiboka Delta.
8 Purple Heron Ardea purpurea  
9 Great Egret Ardea alba  
10 Black Heron Egretta ardesiaca  
11 Dimorphic Egret Egretta dimorpha  
12 Common Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides  
13 Madagascar Pond-Heron Ardeola idae  Seen best in Tana on the first day of the tour; seen again at Ampijoroa.
14 Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis  
15 Striated (Green-backed ) Heron Butorides striatus  
16 Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax  
17 Hamerkop Scopus umbretta  
18 African Openbill Anastomus lamelligerus  One in Tana on the tour's first day; another lone individual at Ampijoroa.
19 Madagascar Sacred Ibis Threskiornis bernieri  Seen very well in the Betsiboka Delta.
20 Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus  
21 Madagascar Crested Ibis Lophotibis cristata  Seen well roosting at Perinet, but seen even better feeding on the trail at Ampijoroa.  Also heard calling at night around the bungalows on the Masoala Peninsula.
22 Lesser Flamingo Phoenicopterus minor  Several groups including juveniles in the Betsiboka Delta.
23 White-faced Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna viduata  
24 Comb Duck Sarkidiornis melanotos  
25 African Pygmy-goose Nettapus auritus  A couple pairs at Lake Amboromalandy near Ampijoroa.
26 Bernier's Teal Anas bernieri  An excellent number seen in the Betsiboka Delta.
27 Meller's Duck Anas melleri  Great views at a newly discovered location near Ranomafana.  A lifer for the guide!
28 Red-billed Teal Anas erythrorhyncha  
29 Hottentot Teal Anas hottentota  
30 Madagascar Cuckoo-Hawk Aviceda madagascariensis  Seen briefly at Ampijoroa.
31 Yellow-billed Kite Milvus aegyptus  
32 Madagascar Fish-Eagle Haliaeetus vociferoides  The usual nesting pair at Ampijoroa, but unusually good views were had this year.
33 Madagascar Harrier Circus macrosceles  We got lucky with a second year bird harassing ducks in Tana on the first day of the tour.
34 Madagascar Harrier-Hawk Polyboroides radiatus  
35 Frances's Sparrowhawk Accipiter francesii  Seen a couple times, but best was undoubtedly an adult eating a Souimanga Sunbird in Perinet.
36 Madagascar Sparrowhawk Accipiter madagascariensis  A very cooperative second year bird was seen at Ifaty.
37 Henst's Goshawk Accipiter henstii  A bird seen well at the nest at Ranomafana.
38 Madagascar Buzzard Buteo brachypterus  
39 Madagascar Kestrel Falco newtoni  
40 Banded Kestrel Falco zoniventris  Seen a couple of times extremely well at Ifaty.
41 Madagascar Partridge Margaroperdix madagascarensis  Seen coming to drink early in the morning at a pond near Isalo.  This species has become increasingly difficult to find.
42 Helmeted Guineafowl (H) Numida meleagris  Heard on the Masoala Peninsula.
43 White-breasted Mesite Mesitornis variegata  Seen incredibly well at Ampijoroa.
44 Brown Mesite Mesitornis unicolor  Seen briefly at Ranomafana after a long chase through the forest.
45 Subdesert Mesite Monias benschi  One seen exceedingly well at Ifaty perched in a Didiera tree.
46 Madagascar Buttonquail Turnix nigricollis  Finally seen very well at Ampijoroa.
47 Madagascar Flufftail Sarothrura insularis  A male seen very well at Perinet.  An extremely skulking species, we lured it into view with playback.
48 Madagascar Wood-Rail Canirallus kioloides  A small group seen in the forest understory at Perinet.
49 Madagascar Rail Rallus madagascariensis  A pair seen well near Mantadia.
50 White-throated Rail Dryolimnas cuvieri  Great views of a lone bird at Isalo.
51 Baillon's Crake Porzana pusilla  Great views of this skulker near Tulear.
52 Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus  
53 Red-knobbed Coot Fulica cristata  
54 Madagascar Jacana Actophilornis albinucha  Seen well a few times at Ampijoroa.
55 Greater Painted-snipe Rostratula benghalensis  Four seen well at a lake near Ampijoroa.
56 Crab Plover Dromas ardeola  This monotypic family was seen three time: Nosy Ve, Betsiboka Delta, and Maroansetra.
57 Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus  
58 Madagascar Pratincole Glareola ocularis  Seen best between Tana and Ampijoroa and at Masoala.  Another bird that has become increasingly difficult to locate in recent years.
59 Black-bellied (Grey) Plover Pluvialis squatarola  
60 Common Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula  
61 Madagascar Plover Charadrius thoracicus  A pair seen very well near Ifaty.
62 Kittlitz's Plover Charadrius pecuarius  
63 Three-banded Plover Charadrius tricollaris  
64 White-fronted Plover Charadrius marginatus  
65 Lesser Sandplover Charadrius mongolus  
66 Greater Sandplover Charadrius leschenaultii  
67 Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica  
68 Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus  
69 Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia  
70 Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus  Good numbers seen in the Betsiboka Delta, the best place in Madagascar to see this species.
71 Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos  
72 Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres  
73 Sanderling Calidris alba  
74 Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea  
75 Caspian Tern Sterna caspia  
76 Lesser Crested Tern Sterna bengalensis  
77 Great Crested (Swift) Tern Sterna bergii  
78 Common Tern Sterna hirundo  
79 Saunders' Tern Sterna saundersi  Several seen along the coast between Tulear and Ifaty.
80 Madagascar Sandgrouse Pterocles personatus  A wonderful group was watched at close range near Tulear in a field where we often find them.
81 Rock Dove Columba livia  
82 Madagascar Turtle-Dove Streptopelia picturata  
83 Namaqua Dove Oena capensis  
84 Madagascar Green-Pigeon Treron australis  
85 Madagascar Blue-Pigeon Alectroenas madagascariensis  There was a tree on our hotel grounds at Perinet that they loved!  Seen close and frequently there.
86 Grey-headed Lovebird Agapornis canus  
87 Greater Vasa Parrot Coracopsis vasa  Our first views were of a group drinking nectar at a flowering tree in Ifaty.
88 Lesser Vasa Parrot Coracopsis nigra  
89 Madagascar Lesser Cuckoo Cuculus rochii  Seen best near Mantadia along the road.  As usual, heard much more often than seen.
90 Giant Coua Coua gigas  Excellent views at Zombitse, including one walking by our picnic table as we ate lunch.
91 Coquerel's Coua Coua coquereli  Great views of two very curious birds at Zombitse.  
92 Red-breasted Coua Coua serriana  Unfortunately we couldn't find any at Perinet, but we had outstanding, close views at Masoala.
93 Red-fronted Coua Coua reynaudii  Incredible views of one at Perinet our first morning there.
94 Red-capped Coua Coua ruficeps  Great views were had a few times at Ampijoroa.
95 Green-capped Coua Coua olivaceiceps  Well seen by those who came on the first afternoon walk at Ifaty.
96 Running Coua Coua cursor  Good views at Ifaty, but seen even better at La Table as we chased after Verreaux's Coua.
97 Crested Coua Coua cristata  Many good views at Ifaty, Ampijoroa and Masoala.
98 Verreaux's Coua Coua verreauxi  It took some hard work, but we eventually had great views at La Table.
99 Blue Coua Coua caerulea  Many good views of this beautiful and common rainforest species.
100 Madagascar Coucal Centropus toulou  
101 Barn Owl Tyto alba  One seen well along the road as we returned to our hotel after dark from Mantadia.
102 Rainforest (Malagasy) Scops-Owl Otus rutilus  Seen roosting at Perinet.  Best considered separate from birds in western Madagascar and surrounding islands. 
103 Torotoroka (Western) Scops-Owl Otus madagascariensis  Seen roosting a couple meters from where we stood at Ampjioroa.
104 White-browed Owl Ninox superciliaris  Nice views of a bird called in at Isalo.
105 Madagascar Long-eared Owl (H) Asio madagascariensis  Despite much effort, we only heard one at Perinet.
106 Madagascar Nightjar Caprimulgus madagascariensis  
107 Collared Nightjar Caprimulgus enarratus  Hard work by our local guide paid off when he located a roosting bird while the group slept in the bus!  We followed him back into the forest and had superb looks at this beautiful nightjar.
108 Madagascar Spine-tailed Swift Zoonavena grandidieri  
109 African Palm-Swift Cypsiurus parvus  
110 Madagascar Black Swift Apus balstoni  
111 Madagascar Malachite Kingfisher Alcedo vintsioides  
112 Madagascar Pygmy-Kingfisher Ispidina madagascariensis  Seen extremely well several times, best at Mantadia and Ampijoroa.
113 Madagascar Bee-eater Merops superciliosus  
114 Broad-billed Roller Eurystomus glaucurus  
115 Short-legged Ground-Roller Brachypteracias leptosomus  Great views at Mantadia.  Also seen extremely well many times at Masoala.
116 Scaly Ground-Roller Brachypteracias squamigera  Good views after lots of trying at a nest site in Mantadia.  In Masoala we watched on e
117 Pitta-like Ground-Roller Atelornis pittoides  Great views of a singing bird at Ranomafana; further good views at Mantadia.
118 Rufous-headed Ground-Roller(H) Atelornis crossleyi  Heard at very close range at Ranomafana and looked for hard at Mantadia, but never seen.
119 Long-tailed Ground-Roller Uratelornis chimaera  Wonderful views at Ifaty.
120 Cuckoo Roller Leptosomus discolor  This bizarre bird was seen well at Mantadia and Ampijoroa.  The family is best considered two species and is endemic to the region.
121 Madagascar Hoopoe Upupa marginata  
122 Velvet Asity Philepitta castanea  Incredible views several times of males at Ranomafana.  A nice female also in Perinet.
123 Schlegel's Asity Philepitta schlegeli  An incredible male in a tree with bright red flowers at Ampijoroa.
124 Common Sunbird-Asity Neodrepanis coruscans  One female seen by the whole group at Perinet; a male seen well by some at Ranomafana.
125 Yellow-bellied Sunbird-Asity Neodrepanis hypoxanthus  Incredible views of a pair at Ranomafana.  
126 Madagascar Lark Mirafra hova  
127 Mascarene Martin Phedina borbonica  
128 Madagascar Wagtail Motacilla flaviventris  
129 Ashy Cuckoo-shrike Coracina cinerea  
130 Long-billed Tetraka (Greenbul) Bernieria (Phyllastrephus) madagascariensis  
131 Spectacled Tetraka (Greenbul) Xanthomixis (Phyllastrephus) zosterops  
132 Appert's Tetraka (Greenbul) Xanthomixis (Phyllastrephus) apperti  Several small parties seen well at Zombitse where it is locally endemic.
133 Grey-crowned Tetraka (Greenbul) Xanthomixis (Phyllastrephus) cinereiceps  
134 Madagascar Bulbul Hypsipetes madagascariensis  
135 Forest Rock-Thrush Monticola sharpei  A male showed well along the road at Ranomafana.
136 Benson's Rock-Thrush Monticola bensoni  Easily located at our hotel in Isalo.
137 Littoral Rock-Thrush Monticola imerinus  Great views at Anakao.
138 Madagascar Cisticola Cisticola cherinus  
139 Brown Emu-tail (H) Dromaeocercus brunneus  
140 Gray Emu-tail Dromaeocercus seebohmi  Very nice views at Ranomafana of this skulker.
141 Madagascar Brush-Warbler Nesillas typica  
142 Subdesert Brush-Warbler Nesillas lantzi  
143 Thamnornis Warbler Thamnornis chloropetoides  
144 Madagascar Swamp-Warbler Acrocephalus newtoni  
145 Rand's Warbler Randia pseudozosterops  
146 Dark Newtonia Newtonia amphichroa  One seen well at Ranomafana.
147 Common Newtonia Newtonia brunneicauda  
148 Archbold's Newtonia Newtonia archboldi  
149 Cryptic Warbler Cryptosylvicola randriansoloi  We watched this recently described species sing from a treetop at Ranomafana.
150 Madagascar Magpie-Robin Copsychus albospecularis  Common; many dark form birds seen at Masoala.
151 African Stonechat Saxicola torquata  
152 Ward's Flycatcher Pseudobias wardi  Seen well at Perinet and Masoala.  This bird is now considered a vanga that happens to behave like a flycatcher.
153 Madagascar Paradise-Flycatcher Terpsiphone mutata  Repeated great views of the species allowed us to appreciate the incredible plumage variation it exhibits.
154 Common Jery Neomixis tenella  
155 Green Jery Neomixis viridis  
156 Stripe-throated Jery Neomixis striatigula  
157 Wedge-tailed Jery Hartertula flavoviridis  
158 White-throated Oxylabes Oxylabes madagascariensis  Great looks at this often skulking bird.
159 Crossley's Babbler Mystacornis crossleyi  One seen very well at extremely close range in response to our local guide's whistled imitation of the song.  This species is now considered a vanga.
160 Souimanga Sunbird Cinnyris sovimanga  
161 Madagascar Green Sunbird Cinnyris notatus  
162 Madagascar White-eye Zosterops maderaspatanus  
163 Red-tailed Vanga Calicalicus madagascariensis  
164 Red-shouldered Vanga Calicalicus rufocarpalis  A definite tour highlight was the seeing this recently described species after a search through the coastal scrub of Ifaty.  Not only was it a beautiful bird but the way in which the local guides got us onto the pair was tuly amazing.
165 Rufous Vanga Schetba rufa  Decent views at Zombitse, better at Ampijoroa, and common at Masoala.
166 Hook-billed Vanga Vanga curvirostris  Great views of a singing bird in Mantadia.
167 Lafresnaye's Vanga Xenopirostris xenopirostris  This rare bird was seen well at Ifaty.
168 Van Dam's Vanga Xenopirostris damii  Another rare vanga, we saw a female on a nest and also a very nice pair at Ampijoroa.
169 Pollen's Vanga Xenopirostris polleni  The last of the uncommon, thick-billed Xenopirostris vangas was seen very well at Ranomafana.
170 Sickle-billed Vanga Falculea palliata  Seen well several times; the best was also the first as we watched it probing its incredible bill into a baobab fruit in search of grubs.
171 White-headed Vanga Artamella viridis  
172 Chabert's Vanga Leptopterus chabert  
173 Madagascar Blue Vanga Cyanolanius madagascarinus  This bird must be seen very well to truly be appreciated; fortunately we saw it just that way in Perinet.
174 Bernier's Vanga Oriola bernieri  This extremely rare vanga was seen well on the Northeast Extension at Masoala.
175 Helmet Vanga Euryceros prevostii  Not only the top bird in Madagascar but surely one of the world's best, we had several increibly views on the Northeast Extension including spending several hours watching a pair build a nest.
176 Tylas Vanga Tylas eduardi  Seen very well at Ranomafana, Perinet, and Masoala.
177 Nuthatch Vanga Hypositta corallirostris  Seen well a couple times at Perinet allowed us to appreciate why this bird was originally called Coral-billed Nuthatch!
178 Crested Drongo Dicrurus forficatus  
179 Pied Crow Corvus albus  
180 Madagascar Starling Saroglossa aurata  
181 Common Myna Acridotheres tristis  
182 Nelicourvi Weaver Ploceus nelicourvi  Seen many times on this year's tour, including several times at nests.
183 Sakalava Weaver Ploceus sakalava  Common in the west where seen well a number of times.
184 Magagascar Fody Foudia madagascariensis  
185 Forest Fody Foudia omissa  
186 Madagascar Munia Lonchura nana  

31 species seen, including 26 lemurs.  All are endemic except Humbacked Whale.
1 Humpbacked Whale Megaptera novaeangliae  Seen from the boat between Tulear and Nosy Ve, it was quite late in the year to find them in this area; we saw a mother and calf, the calf jumping clear out of the water.
2 Eastern Red Forest Rat Nesomys rufus  
3 Western Tuft-tailed Rat Eliurus myoxinus  One seen on the night walk at Ampijoroa.
4 Fanaloka (Striped Civet) Fossa fossana  The usual ones at the night circuit at Ranomafana.
5 Ring-tailed Mongoose Galidia elegans  A couple seen well at Masoala on the Northeast Extension.
6 Brown Mouse Lemur Microcebus rufus  
7 Goodman's Mouse Lemur Microcebus lehilahytsara  One seen while watching Madagascar Crested Ibis going to sleep.
8 Golden-brown Mouse Lemur Microcebus ravelobensis  Seen well at Ampijoroa.
9 Hubbard's Sportive Lemur Lepilemur hubbardi  A recent split, we saw it well at Zombitse.
10 Milne-Edward’s Sportive Lemur Lepilemur edwardsi  
11 Weasel Sportive Lemur Lepilemur mustelinus  Another recent split, we had incredibly close views on the Northeast Extension.
12 Greater (Crossley's?) Dwarf Lemur Cheirogaleus (crossleyi?) major   Yet another recent split, the dwarf lemurs at Perinet are thought to be this species.
13 Greater Dwarf Lemur Cheirogaleus major  Several seen well on the Northeast Extension.
14 Fat-tailed Dwarf Lemur Cheirogaleus medius  One individual seen very well on the night walk at Ampijoroa.
15 Eastern Gray Bamboo Lemur Hapalemur griseus  Amazingly close views of a small group at Perinet, we watched them munching away on their favorite food: bamboo, of course.
16 Golden Bamboo Lemur Hapalemur aureus  The symbol of Ranomfana, we saw a small group surprisingly easily this year and had great views.
17 Ring-tailed Lemur Lemur catta  The most iconic of lemurs, we enjoyed a group at Anja Community Reserve.
18 Mongoose Lemur Eulemur mongoz  One seen well in the evening at Ampijoroa.
19 Common Brown Lemur Eulemur fulvus  
20 White-fronted Brown Lemur Eulemur albifrons  Seen very well ont he Northeast Extension.
21 Red-fronted Brown Lemur Eulemur rufus  Great views of a group at Ranomafana.
22 Red-bellied Lemur Eulemur rubriventer  One pair at the higher elevation forests of Vohiparara at Ranomafana.
23 Black-and-white Ruffed Lemur Varecia variegata  Heard several times in Mantadia, we only saw it on the Northeast Extension on Nosy Mangabe.
24 Red Ruffed Lemur Varecia rubra  This beautiful lemur was seen very well as it sunbathed in the treetops of Masoala National Park, where it is endemic.
25 Eastern Woolly Lemur (Avahi) Avahi laniger  Several daytime views of this nocturnal lemur at Perinet.
26 Western Avahi Avahi occidentalis  Great views of one on the night walk at Ampijoroa.
27 Diademed Sifaka Propithecus edwardsi  A small group was seen well at Perinet, where they have been recently reintroduced.
28 Milne-Edwards Sifaka Propithecus diadema  A small group of this strange looking lemur was seen bounding through the forest at Ranomafana.
29 Coquerel's Sifaka Propithecus coquereli  A particularly beautiful lemur, it is also very easy to see at Ampijoroa where we had many great views.
30 Verreaux’s Sifaka Propithecus verreaui  Seen particularly well this year, they seem to be getting more and more habituated at Zombitse.
31 Indri Indri Indri  Great views of this most charismatic (and loud!) lemur at Perinet.


This is only a partial list--not every lizard and frog was identified.  Many of the English names are made up becuase there are no standardized English names for most of the species.  All species are endemic to Madagascar except Nile Crocodile.  The herpetofauna is an often unexpected bonus to a Madagascar trip and we did very well with them this year.  Masoala was particularly impressive for frogs.
1 Crocodylus niloticus Nile Crocodile,  
2 Calumma brevicornis Short-horned Chameleon  
3 Calumma nasuta Nose-horned Chameleon  
4 Furcifer oustaleti Oustalet's Chameleon  
5 Furcifer lateralis    
6 Uroplatus sikorae Sikora (Mossy) Leaf-tailed Gecko  
7 Uroplatus fimbriatus Large Leaf-tailed Gecko  
8 Chalarodon madagascariensis Three-eyed Lizard  
9 Oplurus cuvieri Cuvier's (Collared) Iguanid  
10 Phelsuma madagascariensis Madagascar Day Gecko  
11 Phelsuma standingi Standing's Day Gecko  
12 Phelsuma guttata    
13 Phelsuma lineata Lined Day Gecko  
14 Phelsuma quadriocellata Four-spotted Day Geckos  
15 Zonosaurus madagascariensis Common Lizard  
16 Mabuya gravenhorstii Gravenhorst's Skink  
17 Mimophis mahfalensis Mahafaly Sand Snake  
18 Madagascarophis colubrina Bright Orange Snake  
19 Boophis madagascariensis Madagascar Tree Frog  
20 Mantella laevitigata Green Mantella  
21 Mantella betsileo Betsileo Mantella