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Madagascar 15th - 30th July 1998,
David Cooper & Brenda Kay
This is a report of a birding trip we made to Madagascar, 15-30th July 1998.
Madagascar is well known for the very high level of endemism with an incredible half of the regularly breeding species endemic to this large island.
Madagascar is home to three endemic bird families being the Mesites, Ground-Rollers and Asities (as well as the Couas included with Cuckoos) and shares Cuckoo-Roller and the Vangas only with the nearby Comoros.
Although the austral Winter is not always recommended as the best time to visit Madagascar we saw two of the three Mesites, all five Ground-Rollers, three of the four Asities, eight of the nine remaining Couas, Cuckoo-Roller and eleven of the fourteen Vangas and this was without visiting any of the sites to the north of Antananarivo e.g. Ampijoroa which is essential to try to see the Mesite and Asity which we had no chance of seeing.
In addition to the above species many other spectacular species including Madagascar Crested Ibis, Banded Kestrel, Madagascar Flufftail, Madagascar Plover, Madagascar Sandgrouse, three species of Owl, both Emutails, Ward's Flycatcher, both Oxylabes and Crossley's Babbler made for an unforgettable trip.
Unfortunately over 80% of the country's forest has already been lost and the ever-expanding population will only increase the pressure on the remaining areas. Although Perinet seemed to be well protected, at Mantady we encountered grazing zebu (cattle) and the road leading to the graphite mine has opened up the area not only for visiting birders but also for the locals with a sizeable village being located at the entrance to the Reserve with associated encroaching banana plantations etc. Berenty is becoming a smaller and smaller 'island' of natural riverine gallery forest with the surrounding Spiny Didierea Forest being rapidly cleared to make way for the dreaded sisal plantations which are spreading across the entire landscape in this area, at the Mora Mora Spiny Diedierea Forest (this area is unprotected) zebu and goats were being grazed, firewood was being collected and charcoal being produced and at Ranomafana the banana plantations are spreading up the hillsides, zebu were grazed along the forest trails and orchid collectors and woodcutters were also encountered within the Reserve. 'Birds to Watch 2 - The World List of Threatened Birds' by Collar et al. (1994) lists 5 Critical, 5 Endangered, 18 Vulnerable, 1 Extinct and 16 Near-threatened species from Madagascar. Of these we recorded 1 Endangered, 13 Vulnerable and 10 Near-threatened species.
Although we were expecting poor roads and basic accommodation this is no longer the case when visiting the south of Madagascar. Virtually all roads are now tarmac surfaced and lacked the potholes found so commonly in the Third World. In fact the one remaining stretch of unsurfaced road between Isalo and Ranomafana was being surfaced and some impressive machinery was seen at work so clearly further improvements will be enjoyed by future visitors.
15th July 1998 :
After a 4 hour stop in Moscow we left with Aeroflot bound for Antananarivo via Cairo and Nairobi. We arrived at Antananarivo at 3pm and were met by our Aventour driver 'Vonjy' and taken to the Aventour Office to pay and collect Internal Air tickets, accommodation vouchers etc. We left the Office at 4.30pm and were driven to the 'new' Vakona Lodge situated between the Perinet and Mantady Reserves arriving around 7.30pm. It was dark by 6pm. (9 species seen, 3 new for DC). Dry at Tana but raining by the time we arrived at Vakona.
16th July 1998 :
Vonjy picked us up at 5.45am so that we could arrive at Perinet at dawn (6am) picking up our guide 'Maurice' from his house in Andasibe on the way. Spent until midday walking the trails with Maurice when he went for 'lunch'. We stayed in the Reserve meeting him at the Green Lake at 2.30pm from where we tried some more trails before walking a section of the road back towards Andasibe spending the evening at the Orchid Garden. I then went spotlighting in the Reserve with Maurice until 7.30pm. (42 species seen, 36 new, highlights Mad. Little Grebe, Mad. Long-eared Owl, Cuckoo-Roller &Crossley's Babbler). Drizzle in the morning becoming dry and sunny in the afternoon.
17th July 1998 :
Vonjy and Maurice due to meet us at 6am but failed to appear until 7am with an excuse about the car getting stuck in some sand. Drove to Mantady 'Log' Trail where spent a couple of hours before climbing the steep slope up to the Ridge Trail before descending about midday. Slowly drove the road back to the 'Sacred Waterfall Trail' which had only been cut 10 days before our visit. Walked the trail and then headed back late afternoon to the Vakona Marsh. (30 species seen, 12 new, highlights Mad. Flufftail, Scaly Ground-Roller & Nuthatch Vanga). Dry until 3pm when drizzle set in for rest of the day.
18th July 1998 :
All day at Perinet concentrating on trails until late afternoon visit to the Orchid Garden. (31 species seen, 4 new, highlights Mad. Wood Rail, Short-legged Ground-Roller & Forest Rock Thrush). Dry and sunny all day.
19th July 1998 :
Left Vakona 4.30am driving to Tana Airport for morning flight to Fort Dauphin via Tulear. Lunch in Fort Dauphin before driving through some Spiny Forest habitat to Berenty arriving at sunset. Nocturnal Lemur walk before dinner and then out spotlighting for half an hour or so. (26 species seen, 7 new, highlights Banded Kestrels, Malagasy Scops and White-browed Owls). Dry and sunny all day.
20th July 1998 :
All day Berenty spending the early morning along the Mandrare River and then walking the dry forest trails. (34 species seen, 9 new, highlights Mad. Sandgrouse & Giant Couas). Dry and sunny all day.
21st July 1998 :
Walked trails until 8am then left Berenty at 8.15am for drive back to Fort Dauphin stopping in Spiny Forest habitat several times. Caught midday flight for Tulear being met by Vonjy and Mesa (our two drivers), then visiting the Tulear Airport Hanger Pool before driving north along the sandy track to the Bamboo Club at Ifaty. (41 species seen, 4 new, highlights Mad. Cuckoo Falcon, Mad. Partridge & Mad. Plover). Dry and sunny all day.
22nd July 1998 :
Met Mosa at his house at the start of the entrance road to the Mora Mora Hotel at 6am spending until 10.30am in Spiny Forest before taking it easy until 3pm. when again set out into the Spiny Forest until dusk. (25 species seen, 6 new, highlights Subdesert Mesite, Red-capped Coua & Long-tailed Ground Roller). Dry, hot and sunny all day.
23rd July 1998 :
Met Mosa at 6am and set off into the Spiny Forest until 10am. Left Bamboo Club at 10.30am driving to La Mangrove Hotel spending 3.30 to 6pm birding the coatal rag. (30 species seen, 3 new, highlight Sickle-billed Vanga). Dry, hot and sunny all day.
24th July 1998 :
Birded La Mangrove from 6am until 9.30am before driving to Zombitse Forest birding the Football Pitch trail from midday to 3.30pm before driving on to Relais de la Reine Hotel, Isalo arriving at 4.30pm. (35 species seen, 3 new, highlights Coquerel's and Verreaux's Couas & Rufous Vanga). Dry, hot and sunny all day.
25th July 1998 :
Birded the vicinity of Relais de la Reine 6am. - 9.30am. before the 7 hour drive to Ranomafana and the Hotel Domaine Nature. (21 species seen, 2 new, highlight Benson's Rock Thrush). Dry all day until arriving at Ranomafana where raining.
26th July 1998 :
Spent from 6.15am. to midday walking the trails at Ranomafana with Jean Clare and from 1pm to 5pm walking the trails at Vohiparara. (32 species seen, 7 new, highlights Mad. Crested Ibis, Pitta-like Ground Roller & Yellow-browed Oxylabes). Dry all morning but raining all afternoon.
27th July 1998 :
Spent from 6.30am to midday walking the trails at Vohiparara then lunch at the entrance to Ranomafana until returning to Hotel for afternoon. (9 species seen, 3 new, highlights Pitta-like and Rufous-headed Ground-Rollers, Yellow-bellied Sunbird-Asity & Brown Emutail). Some drizzle in morning with rain from early afternoon.
28th July 1998 :
Walked trails at Ranomafana from 6.30am until 10.30 am then drove to Vohiparara walking down road until midday. Again spent afternoon at Hotel but evening drive up to minor road between Vohiparara and Ranomafana. (25 species seen, 3 new, highlights Brown Mesite & Pollen's Vanga). Dry morning.
29th July 1998 :
Left Ranomafana at 8am for 7 hour drive to Anatananarivo staying at the Hotel Colbert. (13 species seen). Wet morning at Ranomafana but dry elsewhere.
30th July 1998 :
A brief visit to Lac Alarobia on the way to the airport before catching Aeroflot flight to London via Nairobi, Cairo and 5 hour wait in Moscow. (11 species seen, 1 new, highlight Meller's Duck !). Dry sunny morning.
31st July 1998 :
Arrived back at Burgess Hill at 1.30pm leaving to see the Stanpit 'Egret with John King at 3pm - Dimorphic ? !
Currently the only option is Guide to the Birds of Madagascar by Olivier Langrand, published by Yale University Press, 1990. I was fortunate to be able to borrow a complete set of photographed plates from Richard Fairbank to take to Madagascar and I took some notes I had prepared from Langrand to help with the identification of the trickier species.
At the time of preparing this report two new guides are being advertised being Birds of the Indian Ocean Islands by Ian Sinclair and Olivier Langrand, 1998 and Birds of Madagascar: a photographic guide by Peter Morris and Frank Hawkins, 1998.
At present the only published Site Information is the section in Langrand (1990) and a section on Madagascar in Where to watch birds in Africa by Nigel Wheatley, 1995. A few articles have also appeared in the African Bird Club Bulletins. This may well be suplemented by information contained in the two 'new' guides mentioned above.
Again I was fortunate in being able to borrow copies of Trip Reports from my father, John Cooper, who visited Madagascar in 1995. Aidan Kelly also kindly sent me copies of Trip Reports he used for his trip in July 1997 and I also obtained some information from searching the internet. The following were used in preparation for our trip:
Richard Bosanquet, Simon Aspinal, Nick Gardner & Alan Greensmith's Systematic List 23/9/91 - 14/10/91.
John Cooper & Richard Fairbank's Trip Report 2/8/95 - 31/8/95
Nick Gardner's 'A Birder's Guide to Travel in Madagascar' 1992
Jon Hornbuckle's Trip Report 20/10/95 - 1/12/95.
Aidan Kelly and Dermot O'Mahony's Trip Report 7/7/97 - 1/8/97.
Birding with Lyn Mayr Madagascar 97.
Ronald Orenstein's Video Birding in Madagascar 1/7/97 - 16/7/97.
David Thorns's Trip Report 28/3/88 - 16/6/88.
Jan Vermeulen's Trip Report 26/11/95 - 15/12/95.
David Waugh's Trip Report 21/9/87 - 25/10/87.
No doubt most of these (and others) are available from Steve Whitehouse's Foreign Birdwatching Reports and Information Service 01905 454541.
Travel Guides & Maps
Before leaving the U.K. we referred to the Lonely Planet Guide and a Hilary Bradt Guide but did not feel they were worthwhile taking with us as our itinerary was fixed beforehand. We were given a basic map by Aventour.
I have listed the daily weather in the itinerary. July is in the middle of the austral winter and the locals clearly feel the temperatures. However to us most days were pleasantly warm but not at all humid. In July although one of the drier months it is typical to encounter rain whilst at the 'eastern rainforest sites' - at these sites it was cool in the evenings and a jumper was desirable.
At Berenty, Ifaty and Relais de la Reine clear blue skies with high midday temperatures was the norm.
At both Perinet and Ranomafana the guides told us it was drier in September and October when it is unusual to encounter any rain.
French is spoken widely and it is beneficial to be able to speak the basics. However our drivers understood some English and the guides all speak good English so it is possible to get by even if no French is spoken.
Vaccinations against hepatitis, polio, typhoid and yellow fever are recommended and we took Larium as a prevention against Malaria. In fact we encountered no mosquitos during the entire trip presumably due to being mid-winter ? Similarly there was no leech problem to speak of with Brenda finding 5 minute leeches on her (without suffering any bites) on our first day at Perinet but thereafter thankfully none.
Whilst we chose not to venture out in Antananarivo after dark we felt perfectly safe in all other areas visited. I can honestly say that I found the local people the most genuinely friendly people I have ever encountered. We were not hassled anywhere and the only begging we encountered was a mother and baby at a petrol station near Finarantsoa. Long may this not change !
We changed £300 into Malagasy Francs at the airport receiving an exchange rate of nearly 10,000Fmg to the £1 - instant millionaires. This was the best rate of exchange we saw. We took another £300 in French Francs which we did not use. We did not try using credit cards.
The best rule is that a little extra money goes a long way in Madagascar and we decided to make use of virtually the best accommodation available at each site. All accommodation was in small chalets each with en suite facilities and was booked through Aventour by fax from the U.K. prior to our departure.
For Perinet and Mantady we stayed at the 'new' Vakona Lodge (run by French) which proved very plush with excellent restaurant and spacious chalets (with heaters useful for drying boots and clothes etc).
Visitors to Berenty stay in the Reserve again in spacious chalets with en suite facilities. Again there is a good restaurant.
At Ifaty we stayed at the Bamboo Club which is run by some French again with a good restaurant but smaller chalets. Some new chalets were being built.
La Mangrove Hotel chalets were on the beach. Again a good restaurant.
Relais de la Reine is probably the best Hotel in Madagascar in a spectacular setting. The whole place is very plush.
At Ranomafana the Hotel Domaine Nature is somewhat more rustic in that the chalets are a little older than at the other Hotels. However our chalet had clean en suite facilities. The restaurant was a little more basic but the staff very helpful and would happily cook alternatives to the set menu.
The Hotel Colbert in Antananarivo was extremely plush.
The two internal flights, airport transfers, full board accommodation, Reserve entry permits, insurances and taxes cost around £550 per person.
We chose Aeroflot as this was considerably cheaper than the alternatives by some £300 each. Unlike their image they proved efficient and on time throughout and the meals were really very good. On the downside there is a 4/5 hour stop in Moscow and from there you fly via Cairo and Nairobi making for a long journey time. However the seats were comfortable and we arrived in pretty good shape on both the outward and inward journeys. On both journeys the luggage was booked through for the entire trip and always turned up safely.
Our flights were booked through Wildwings 0117 984 8040.
We took two internal flights with Madagascar Air. Again we feared the worst but were pleasantly surprised with modern jets and a professional service. Internal flights are cheap and prove an economical way of getting around. These flights were booked through Aventour.
As with all internal arrangements we booked our car and compulsory driver through Aventour prior to our departure from the U.K. It cost around £800 for the trip. Whilst we flew from Tana to Berenty and from Berenty to Tulear our driver made his way from Tana to Tulear. Our drivers Vonjy and Mesa proved extremely reliable and can be recommended. Vonjy has driven for birders in the past which helped in that he knew most of the sites e.g. the Airport Hanger Pool at Tulear and the Football Pitch trail at Zombitse etc, and perhaps more importantly he knew the birding guides and where they lived. This mean't on arrival at each site he would take us to our Hotel and then set off to arrange the best available guide for the following morning. Although they did not look for a tip we felt they had given extremely good service in effect 'making' the trip run so smoothly. Our car for Perinet was a Volkswagen Polo and for the remainder of the trip an extremely large spacious Peugeot 405 Estate. Both cars were relatively 'new' and we encountered no mechanical problems. In fact the roads were of such good condition we never suffered a puncture. Although only 2WD we never felt we required a 4WD although the car did get temporarily stuck in the sand along the track between Tulear and Ifaty a couple of times.
We obtained very good service from Aventour who are a leading travel agency in Antananarivo. All arrangements were made by fax with Mrs. Yolande Ralidera00261 2022 27299 several months before the trip. Their address is Aventour, Galerie Marchande ARO, Ampefiloha, 101 Antananarivo, Madagascar. We chose Aventour as they have previously dealt with organising other birder's trips and their quote was two-thirds of that of Madagascar Airtours who also have previous experience of dealing with arrangements for birders.
We also obtained a competitve quote from Setam Fax 00261 2022 34702 but did not pursue this on having already heard back from Aventour.
Wildwings obtained a quote on our behalf from Madagascar Airtours Fax 00261 2022 34370 but this proved considerably more expensive although I guess you have the security of dealing with Wildwings on your return to the UK if any problems are encountered during the trip (not that we encountered any).
We also gave Reef and Rainforest Tours (located in the UK) the chance to quote but unbelievably they did not do so as we had c.c. the same fax to the travel agencies in Madagascar, their representative telling me in no uncertain terms that he was not prepared to waste his time ! No doubt they could not compete on cost and due to the service received I would not recommend anyone to waste this gentleman's time in the future !
For Perinet and Mantady try to arrange for Maurice or his brother Patrice to act as your guide. Both worked with Olivier Langrand in the work preceding publication of 'Guide to the Birds of Madagascar' and they both have a verygood knowledge of where to find the most of the sought-after species. Maurice used his own tapes and was good on recognising calls and very sharp. Both brothers live together and asked if birders intending to hire them could possibly write in advance of their trips giving them the dates they intend to visit and the name of the hotel they intend staying at in order that they can meet up with them on arrival. The other guides at the park entrance are somewhat jealous of the brothers and will often tell birders that Maurice and Patrice are busy or unavailable (rather than pointing them in the right direction) in the hope of cashing in on the business. Fortunately our driver knew where Maurice lived. Their address is Ratsisakana Na Besoa Maurice, Andasibe (Perinet), C.P:514, Madagascar.
At Berenty a guide is allocated to each 'group' on arrival at Faut Dauphin. All the guides had some knowledge of the birds in the area and ours took us to see Scops Owl although we chose not to accompany him the following day as he was also acting as guide to several others who were mainly interested in seeing the Lemurs (which was not too difficult !).
At Ifaty arrange for Mosa (or his father Masindraka) to act as guide. Mosa was brilliant and found us just about everything we could hope to see. His fieldcraft has to be seen to be believed as he literally looks for tracks in the sand before chasing up the 'required' species. He lives in one of the shacks where the track leads of the Tulear 'road' to the Mora Mora Hotel. Again our driver knew where to find him and made the arrangements for us.
LOCAL GUIDES ....
At La Mangrove, Zombitse Forest and Relais de la Reine no guide is currently available (as far as I am aware) although this situation is soon likely to change at Zombitse (see African Bird Club Bulletin Vol.5 No.1).
At Ranomafana we hired Jean-Clare (Fidi's brother) as Fidi was acting as guide for a Japanese tour group and then let us down as he was suffering from a hangover (no doubt a large tip from the Japanese !). Jean-Clare did not have tapes but knew where the birds were and persisted in order to find us most of the species we wanted to see. He did not possess the real interest of Maurice or the brilliance of Mosa but he did work hard for us. Again our driver knew where Fidi and Jean-Clare lived.
We paid our guides the same rate being the equivalent of £8 per day although they received bonuses for finding us Scaly Ground Roller, Sickle-billed Vanga and Rufous-headed Ground Roller respectively.
Being British we required a visa which we obtained in person from the Consulate of Madagascar, 16 Lanark Mansions, Pennard Road, London, W12 8DT (telephone 0181 746 0133, fax 0181 746 0134). It is expensive at £35 per person for a thirty (or ninety) day Visa. The Consulate dealt with our visit whilst we were present with the formalities taking around half an hour (although we had already completed the Visa Application Form which Wildwings had sent us on booking our flights).
Thankfully it is no longer necessary to obtain entry permits before arriving at any of the sites we visited. At the entrance of Perinet, Mantady and Ranomafana it was necessary to obtain permits costing 50,000 Malagasy Francs (£5) although these seemed to last for the duration of your stay. This cost was met by Aventour as previously agreed by them. It is also necssary to obtain a permit if visiting Zombitse. We failed to do this necessitating a bribe being paid to a 'guard' on leaving the site. The entry permits are administered by the 'Associatrion Nationale Pour La Gestion Des Aires Protegees' (ANGAP) who can be contacted by phone 22 305 18, fax 22 319 94 or E-mail email@example.com
Perinet is a small rainforest National Park located just over two hours drive (on a good tarmac road) east of Antananarivo (c.145km). It is home to the Indri, the largest Lemur, and due to it being readily acessible from Tana it is a popular tourist destination (although few other tourists were around at the time of our visit). We spent two full days (and one evening spotlighting) in which time most of the hoped-for specialities were found. There is a wide overlap in species with Ranomafana although personally we found the birding somewhat easier at Perinet and our guide Maurice was nothing short of brilliant. The accomodation (Vakona Lodge) we used at this site is far superior to any to be found at Ranomafana.
Specialities we saw at Perinet Reserve which we did not see elsewhere were Madagascar Little Grebe, Madagascar Wood Rail, Madagascar Blue Pigeon, Madagascar Long-eared Owl, Short-legged Ground-Roller, Forest Rock Thrush, Madagascar Brush Warbler, Ward's Flycatcher, Crossley's Babbler, Long-billed Green Sunbird and Madagascar Starling. Of these we probably had no chance of finding either the Grebe or the Owl at any other site we visited.
Specialities we missed on our trip which I know others have seen at Perinet include Madagascar Sparrowhawk (probably our most surprising miss and often seen by Maurice), White-throated Rail (which we heard in a small marshy clearing between the Feon Nyala Hotel and the entrance to Perinet), Red-breasted Coua (frequently seen by Maurice), Collared Nightjar (often Maurice can find one at a daytime roost or on his spotlighting trips in the forest - beware of the Madagascar Nightjars that appear at dusk over the forest at the entrance), Madagascar Pygmy Kingfisher (frequently seen by Maurice either at a favourite daytime haunt or spotlighted at a known roost site) and Dusky Greenbul (which Maurice told us he rarely finds).
Mantady is a rainforest National Park located very close to Perinet (a few kilometers). On entering the Park along the road leading from Andasibe (passing the Vakona Lodge) and eventually leading to the graphite mine you soon reach good forest on both sides of the road with apparently the forest cloaked hills to the right being protected but alas not those to the left which at present are also covered in pristine forest. In our opinion this was the largest and most intact area of pristine habitat we encountered in Madagascar. The Park has only recently been officially opened to tourists and the 'Sacred Warterfall' trail had only been 'cut' 10 days prior to our visit. We encountered no other tourists in the Park and Maurice is the only guide who is currently actively 'working' the Park and at the time of our visit even he has only visited it a few times. We spent a single day at this Reserve but we could have happily spent a lot longer here. In hindsight I would have spent an extra day at this site trimming the time at Ranomafana by a day.
Specialities we saw at Mantady Reserve which we did not see elsewhere were Scaly Ground Roller, White-throated Oxylabes and Nuthatch Vanga. Of these we probably had no chance of finding the Ground Roller at any other site we visited.
In due course much more will be 'staked out' at Mantady and sought-after species which have already been recorded include Madagascar Serpent Eagle (along the road), Madagascar Red Owl (heard by Maurice at the entrance to the 'Log trail'), Red-tailed Newtonia and Helmet Vanga (along the ridge trail that leads up from the 'log trail). Despite the lack of time our target species - Scaly Ground Roller was found within a few minutes of walking the 'log' trail
MAP OF PERINET
The Vakona Lodge is situated roughly half way between Perinet and Mantady and is reached by turning right form the road on a small track that leads to the lodge. Opposite from where the track leaves the road is a small stream bordered by a marshy fringe and a few hundred metres towards Mantady is a small reedbed with a couple of sizeable lagoons opposite a small village. We made a brief early morning visit to the stream area while waiting for our driver to take us to Mantady and the spent the same evening at the reedbed.
The only species we saw in this area that we did not see elsewhere was Madagascar Swamp Warbler which was seen in vegetation bordering the stream (and heard at the reedbed).
However Maurice said the fringes of the reedbed were a regular place to see Madagascar Rail which we searched for in vain.
To reach this Reserve we flew from Tana to Fort Dauphin from where we were met by the 'Berenty team' who transported us the 80km to the Reserve - all of which was a very smooth operation. The last part of the drive was particularly interesting as it ran through a sizeable area of Didierea Spiny Forest although unfortunately the area is being cleared at a seemingly alarming rate to make room for the dreaded sisal. The Reserve itself consists of a small area of riverine gallery forest situated along the Mandrare River. The Reserve is well known as home to five species of lemur which attract tourists from around the world although only around 20 were staying at the time of our visit and needless to say were rarely encountered on any of the trails.
Specialities we saw at Berenty Reserve or along the road to Faut Dauphin which we did not see elsewhere were Madagascar Cuckoo Falcon, France's Sparrowhawk, Madagascar Sandgrouse, Giant Coua, Malagasy Scops Owl, White-browed Owl and Stripe-throated Jery (not to mention Ring-tailed Lemur and Verreaux's Sifaka).
The only speciality we missed on our trip which I know others have seen at Berenty was Madagascar Sparrowhawk.
TULEAR AIRPORT HANGER POOL
A small track leads off the road opposite the only hanger situated along the edge of the runway at Tulear Airport to a sizeable pool. The margins are attractive to a variety of waders.
Madagascar Plover is regularly found at the pool and we located a pair with little difficulty not far from the end of the driveable track leading to the pool. We only briefly visited this site but it deserved longer.
LA MANGROVE HOTEL COASTAL RAG
The thicket covered hillsides near the La Mangrove Hotel situated just south of Tulear and accessed by a track leading south from just east of the Tulear Airport Pool is home to Verreaux's Coua although we struggled to connect with this species and otherwise found the habitat pretty birdless.
It is also sometimes possible to hire a boat from the Hotel to take visitors to Nosy Be to see the expanding colony of Red-tailed Tropicbirds and on to Anakao to see Littoral Rock-Thrush. However the tide and windy weather unfortunately often prevent such a trip being possible.
MORA MORA SPINY FOREST
The spiny forest along the opposite side of the sandy track (leading from Tulear) to the Mora Mora Hotel is well known to visiting birders as being home to several species unlikely to be found elsewhere in Madagascar. Our guide Mosa worked extremely hard for us to which we were extremely grateful as finding the 'required' species in this area as without his help we would have been left struggling.
The specialities which we never encountered elsewhere were Madagascar Partridge, Subdesert Mesite, Madagascar Buttonquail, Greater Vasa Parrot, Red-capped Coua, Long-tailed Ground Roller, Thamnornis Warbler, Archbold's Newtonia, Lafresnaye's Vanga and Sickle-billed Vanga. We had no chance of finding the Mesite, Coua or Ground Roller at any other sites we visited.
The only speciality not seen which has been recorded by others at this site was again the Madagascar Sparrowhawk (although utv's obtained by DC here)..
This is an area of dry forest bisected by the Tulear to Tana road. We used the Football Pitch trail which gives good access to the forest. It has recenty been granted protected status as described by the article in the recent African Bird Club Bulletin Vol 5 No 1. We only spent 3 hours at this site from midday onwards. However clearly the area deserved more time and we unfortunately paid the penalty of leaving without finding Appert's Greenbul.
The specialities we did find were Coquerel's Coua and Rufous Vanga neither of which we had any chance of seeing elsewhere at the sites we visited.
Specialities listed for the Zombitse - Vohibasia National Park which we did not see whilst in Madagascar are Madagascar Pond-heron, Madagascar Sparrowhawk, White-throated Rail, Madagascar Pygmy Kingfisher and Appert's Greenbul.
RELAIS DE LA REINE HOTEL
We stayed one night at this rather upmarket Hotel with a limited time for birding in the evening and a bit longer the following morning. The Hotel is situated amidst breathtaking scenery but cleverly blends in to its surroundings on the rocky plateau near the HQ of the Isalo National Park. It is less than an hours drive to Zombitse so would serve quite well as a place to stay in order to reach Zombitse at dawn.
The speciality of this area is the Benson's Rock Thrush which we saw on the roof of one of the chalets where they are known to breed and not far from the Hotel we found a Reunioin Harrier hunting over a marshy gulley cutting across the vast dry grassland that surrounds this area.
White-throated Rail has been seen by others along the stream at the back of the Hotel but just prior to our visit the streamside vegetation had clearly been cut and we found no sign of the Rail.
This rainforest National Park is located 450km south of Tana taking around 7 hours to drive. Similarly it is a similar length drive from Relais de la Reine Hotel. Like Perinet it is situated on the eastern escarpment and there is a considerable overlap in the species found at both sites. The trails are located on sometimes steep hillsides and we generally found birding here tougher (although very rewarding) than at Perinet.
Specialities we saw here but not elsewhere in Madagascar were Henst's Goshawk, Brown Mesite, Red-fronted Coua, Dark Newtonia, Yellow-browed Oxylabes and Pollen's Vanga whilst those species shared only with Vohiparara were Madagascar Crested Ibis and the stunning Pitta-like Ground Roller.
Specialities seen by others but unfortunately not by us include Madagascar Sparrowhawk, Collared Nightjar, Madagascar Pygmy Kingfisher, Dusky Greenbul and Wedge-tailed Jery.
This area is part of Ranomafana National Park but is situated at a higher elevation so yields a different selection of birds. It is an area of trails mainly through forest although by its nature less tall and less dense than at Ranomafana. It takes around 15 minutes to drive here from the entrance to Ranomafana along a poorly maintained road.
Specialities we saw here were Rufous-headed Ground Roller, Yellow-bellied Sunbird Asity, Brown Emutail, Cryptic Warbler and in an area of paddies just 'above' Vohiparara Grey Emutail.
This lake surrounded by a high wall is situated between the Airport and the centre of Tana. A gate onto the road appears to be left open allowing access. The lake itself is somewhat reminiscent of a park pond but attracts a good assortment (and good numbers) of waterfowl and also plays host to an impressive heronry.. Presumably the waterfowl rest during daylight hours at the lake and feed in the paddies surrounding Tana by night.
The hoped for Meller's Duck was found quite readily and although we only saw one individual, several had been seen a few days prior to our visit, and our time was short being on our way to the Airport.
Although I did not appreciate it at the time White-throated Rail has been seen by others and I would guess with the limited habitat this would prove a good place to see this speceies if it still persists there. Later in the year it is also possible to find Madagascar Pond Heron breeding at this site.
Unless otherwise noted the order and nomenclature of this list (and the numbers applied to each species) follows 'Guide to the Birds of Madagascar' by Olivier Langrand, Yale University Press, 1990.
11. Madagascar Little Grebe - Tachybaptus pelzelnii
Two males in full breeding plumage were seen on different small lakes within the Perinet Reserve on the 16th. The second individual frequented the 'Green Lake' and was readily viewed from the visitor's observation point (complete with an information board illustrating a few likely species of bird to be seen including Madagascar Little Grebe). Maurice estimated that 4 - 5 pairs frequented the various lakes in the immediate vicinity of Perinet. This species is treated as Vulnerable by Collar et al. (1994) who state 'it has suffered a considerable decline in certain areas and the total population is now judged to number between 5,000 and 10,000 birds, facing threats from reduction in habitat, introduction of exotic fish, and competition with the Little Grebe T. ruficollis, by far the greatest of these threats being the loss of habitat.' In my opinion a far better illustration of a breeding plumaged adult appears in 'Seabirds' by Harrison, Croom Helm (1983) than in Langrand (1990).
18. Reed Cormorant - Phalacrocorax africanus
A party of 4 were seen both in the morning and evening along the stretch of the Mandrare River viewable from the Berenty Reserve on the 20th.
24. Black-crowned Night-Heron - Nycticorax nycticorax
Only seen on three dates with 3 immatures seen on a lake near the centre of Antananarivo on the 15th, around 50 were seen in the trees alongside the Mandrare River at Berenty on the 20th and around 20 were seen at the 'mixed' heronry at Lac Alarobia, Antananarivo on the 30th.
25. Squacco Heron - Ardeola ralloides
Around 5 were seen frequenting paddies in the immediate vicinity of Antananarivo on the 15th.
27. Cattle Egret - Bubulcus ibis
Seen on eight dates in fair numbers being recorded near Antananarivo, Berenty, during the drives from La Mangrove to Antananarive and at the 'mixed' heronry at Lac Alarobia, Antananarivo with a daily maximum of 50 recorded on the 30th.
28. Green-backed Heron - Butorides striatus
Seen on seven dates in small numbers being recorded at Perinet, near Antananarivo, Berenty and La Mangrove with a daily maximum of 4 recorded on the 19th.
30. Dimorphic Egret - Egretta dimorpha
Langrand states that 'some authors treat Dimorphic Egret as a simple subspecies of the Little Egret E. garzetta'. However Howard and Moore (1984) treat it as a subspecies of Western Reef Heron E. gularis. Thus the taxonomy of this Indian Ocean Egret is far from clear. Seen on eight dates in various habitats in fair numbers being recorded at the Mandrare River at Berenty, along the coast near Tulear, on the mudflats at La Mangrove, in paddies on the drives in to and out of Ranomafana and at the 'mixed' heronry at Lac Alarobia, Antananarivo where the daily maximum of 40 was recorded on the 30th.
31. Great Egret - Casmerodius albus
Seen on seven dates in fair numbers being recorded between Antananarivo and Perinet, Berenty, on drives between La Mangrove and Antananarivo and Vohiparara with a daily maximum of 40 recorded on the 15th.
32. Purple Heron - Ardea purpurea
At the 'Green Lake' at Perinet 1 was seen on the 16th and 2 were seen together in flight there on the 18th. At the nearby 'Vakona' marsh 1 was seen on the 17th.
33. Grey Heron - Ardea cinerea
Only seen twice with 1 seen near Tulear on the 21st and 2 seen on the mudflats at La Mangrove on the 23rd.
35. Humblot's Heron - Ardea humbloti
A single individual of this large but little known species was seen at the Mandrare River, Berenty on the 20th, 2 were seen on the mudflats at La Mangrove on the 23rd and 1 was seen in flight there the following day. This species is treated as Vulnerable by Collar et al. (1994) who state 'the total numbers may be well below 5,000 individuals (although this is considered unlikely by O. Langrand in litt. 1994) and are certainly likely to fall with persecution at breeding sites as the human population of the region increases'.
37. Hamerkop - Scopus umbretta
Only seen during drives between sites with singles between Antananarivo and Perinet on the 15th and 19th, 2 near Ihosy on the 25th and 6 seen between Ranomafana and Antananarivo on the 29th.
42. Madagascar Crested Ibis - Lophotibis cristata
A superb pair were watched walking and running ahead of us along a trail for around 150 yards until they eventually flew near the 'first' lookout at Ranomafana on the 26th and later the same day another pair were flushed from near a forest pool along Trail B at Vohiparara although on this occasion only poor flight views were obtained. This species is treated as Near-threatened by Collar et al. (1994).
46. Fulvous Whistling Duck - Dendrocygna bicolor
Around 10 were seen on the island in the middle of Lac Alarobia, Antananarivo on the 30th.
47. White-faced Whistling Duck - Dendrocygna viduata
Around 200 were seen at Lac Alarobia, Antananarivo on the 30th.
48. Knob-billed Duck - Sarkidiornis melanotos
A party of 11 were seen on the Mandrare River, Berenty on the 20th and 21st and around 20 were seen at Lac Alarobia, Antananarivo on the 30th.
51. Meller's Duck - Anas melleri
A single individual was seen during my brief visit to Lac Alarobia, Antananarivo on the 30th. A Japanese tour group had seen 7 at this site a few days before my brief visit. I was expecting to see a female Mallard-type Duck as described (and illustrated) in Wildfowl, Madge & Burn, Helm (1988) but was pleasantly surprised as this species has an exceptionally long slender grey bill and a very dark head (closer to the illustration in Langrand) making the species much more appealing and interesting than anticipated. It proved to be my final 'new' species of the trip. This species is treated as Near-threatened by Collar et al. (1994).
52. Red-billed Teal - Anas erythrorhyncha
Around 60 were seen on the 'Airport Hanger Pool' near Tulear on the 21st and around 800 were seen at Lac Alarobia, Antananarivo on the 30th. The Japanese tour group had counted 2,400 at Lac Alarobia a few days previously.
56. Madagascar Cuckoo-Falcon - Aviceda madagascariensis
A single individual was watched for some time being pursued by Pied Crows Corvus albus over a small stretch of riverine forest around half way between Berenty and Fort Dauphin on the 21st. Both Birdquest and Wings tour groups have seen this species in the Berenty area in the previous 12 months, surely making this area one of the most likely places in the country to encounter this difficult-to-see species.
57. Black Kite - Milvus migrans
Only seen on three dates with up to 30 on all three days at Berenty, around 15 on both the drives from La Mangrove to Ranomafana, and around 10 on the drive from Ranomafana to Antananarivo on the 29th.
61. Madagascar Harrier-Hawk - Polyboroides radiatus
An adult was seen briefly in flight from the Ridge trail at Mantady on the 17th and another adult allowed prolonged views in flight over a ridge on the drive from Berenty to Fort Dauphin on the 21st.
62. Reunion Harrier - Circus maillardi
After untickable views of a male seen briefly from the car which disappeared by the time we had stopped around half way between Tulear and Relais de la Reine on the 24th we were relieved to obtain prolonged views of another hunting over a marshy area around 60km east of Relais de la Reine on the 25th albeit a female. This species is treated as Near-threatened by Collar et al. (1994).
63. Henst's Goshawk - Accipiter henstii
A very impressive male was watched at close range calling from its perch close to its nest located not far from the 'first' lookout at Ranomafana on the 26th. Needless to say this site is well known by the local guides. This species is treated as Near-threatened by Collar et al. (1994).
(64. Madagascar Sparrowhawk - Accipiter madagascariensis)
DC obtained untickable views of an Accipiter identified by Mosa as this species in the Mora Mora Spiny Forest on the 22nd. Suprisingly we never got another chance with this species which is treated as Near-threatened by Collar et al. (1994).
65. France's Sparrowhawk - Accipiter francesii
A superb adult was seen perched and in flight at close range in the riverine forest at Berenty on the 20th.
66. Madagascar Buzzard - Buteo brachypterus
Seen on six dates with 4 at Perinet on the 16th, 6 at Mantady on the 17th, 1 on the drive between Fort Dauphin and Berenty on the 19th, 1 in the Mora Mora Spiny Forest on the 23rd, 3 at Zombitse Forest on the 24th and 2 over the river at Ranomafana on the 26th.
67. Madagascar Kestrel - Falco newtoni
Seen on ten dates in fair numbers being recorded at Antananarivo, up to 12 daily at Berenty, Mora Mora, La Mangrove, Relais de la Reine and on the drives to an from Ranomafana.
68. Banded Kestrel - Falco zoniventris
A superb Falcon first encountered in an area of Spiny Forest on the drive from Fort Dauphin to Berenty on the 19th where a pair were watched hunting flying locusts. The Kestrels would perch in a prominent position until taking flight to catch a locust before returning to a perch. A female was seen in the Mora Mora Spiny Forest and a male was seen in the small patch of Spiny Forest along the entrance track to the Bamboo Club on the 22nd and a pair were seen in the Mora Mora Spiny Forest on the 23rd. The male seen near the Bamboo Club would perch at close range with its eyes closed (bright yellow skin) which it seemed loathe to open appearing to prefer to remain blind.
71. Peregrine Falcon - Falco peregrinus
A single adult was watched for some time in flight over the road near Vohiparara on the 28th.
72. Madagascar Partridge - Margaroperdix madagascarensis
A party of 3 were seen feeding on the sandy track connecting Tulear and Ifaty during the evening of the 21st.
75. Helmeted Guineafowl - Numida meleagris
A party of 12 were seen on the opposite bank of the Mandrare River from Berenty on the morning of the 21st.
77. Brown Mesite - Mesitornis unicolor
On the 28th a superb individual was surprised on a minor trail leading from the 'first' lookout at Ranomafana where it froze for a couple of minutes before quietly creeping off the trail and disappearing. Earlier the same day a pair had responded to a tape of their calls but we only obtained untickable views before they lost interest. The bird most closely resembled that captioned as 'atypical' illustrated by Langrand (1990) although the bird showed a white line leading back from behind the eye rather than just a restricted 'greyish' spot on the rear of the ear coverts as illustrated. This species is treated as Vulnerable by Collar et al. (1990) who describe it as 'a cryptic and retiring rail-like ground-dweller patchy in range and to prefer lower-lying habitat, which is being depleted very fast.'.
78. Subdesert Mesite - Monias benschi
A female was 'treed' by Mosa in the Mora Mora Spiny Forest on the 22nd and another female was seen dashing around on the ground in different directions in the Spiny Forest the following morning. This species is treated as Vulnerable by Collar et al. (1994) who state 'it is restricted to a 70-km wide coastal strip and is subject to predation by dogs and trappers and to habitat destruction. It occurs in no protected area, tree removal for charcoal production is increasing, and rats are also believed to be a threat.'
79. Madagascar Buttonquail - Turnix nigricollis
A pair crossed a track in front of us in the Mora Mora Spiny Forest on the 23rd. Somewhat surprisingly no more were seen.
(81. White-throated Rail - Dryolimnas cuvieri)
Heard in a marshy clearing between the Hotel Fyon Nyala and the entrance to Perinet during the evening of the 18th but sadly not seen despite much effort. In the past they have been seen along the stream at the back of the Relais de la Reine Hotel but unfortuately a lot of the undergrowth had been removed from this site just prior to our arrival with the area looking unfortunately no longer suitable. Rather annoyingly I did not have time to look for them at Lac Alarobia, Antananarivo where they have been seen in the past and where I suspect they may be rather easier to see.
82. Madagascar Wood Rail - Canirallus kioloides
After untickable views of a bird crossing the trail in response to tape playback up the steep hillside at Mantady on the 17th we were relieved to obtain good views of an individual that quietly walked past us in the forest at Perinet on the 18th.
85. Madagascar Flufftail - Sarothrura insularis
Heard along the road near the entrance to Perinet on the 16th and 18th but taped in to view at the entrance to the 'log' trail at Mantady on the 17th where it was watched stationery, bill raised in the air calling back at us - stunning. Brenda saw another that crossed a gap in the undergrowth along Trail B at Vohiparara where Rufous-headed Ground Roller can sometimes be coaxed into view. Finally a couple were heard in the evening along the small metalled road where Collared Nightjar is sometimes seen between the entrance to Ranomafana and Vohiparara during the evening of the 28th.
87. Common Moorhen - Gallinula chloropus
Only seen around the lakes at Perinet where 8 were seen on the 16th and 1 on the 18th.
93. Black-winged Stilt - Himantopus himantopus
A single individual was seen on the Tulear Airport Hanger pool on the 21st and 4 were seen on nearby pools when leaving La Mangrove on the 24th.
100. Madagascar Plover - Charadrius thoracicus
A pair of these superb waders were seen at the Tulear Airport Hanger Pool on the 21st. This species is treated as Vulnerable by Collar et al. (1994) who state 'it is generally rare, and greatly outnumbered (and perhaps outcompeted) by Kittlitz's Plover C.pecuarius and/or White-fronted Plover C.marginatus.'
101. Kittlitz's Plover - Charadrius pecuarius
Around 12 were seen at the Tulear Airport Hanger Pool on the 21st and a pair were seen at nearby pools when leaving La Mangrove on the 24th.
102. Three-banded Plover - Charadrius tricollaris
A pair were seen on pools when leaving La Mangrove not far from Tulear Airport on the 24th.
104. White-fronted Plover - Charadrius marginatus
A single individual was seen at the Tulear Airport Hanger Pool on the 21st.
110. Common Greenshank - Tringa nebularia
A single individual was seen along the Mandrare River at Berenty on the 20th and around 50 were seen on the Tulear Airport Hanger Pool on the 21st.
119. Curlew Sandpiper - Calidris ferrugine
A party of 5 were seen at the Tulear Airport Hanger Pool on the 21st and 1 was seen on the nearby pools on the 24th when leaving La Mangrove.
140. Madagascar Sandgrouse - Pterocles personatus
A male arrived to drink on the far bank of the Mandrare River at Berenty at 7.30a.m. on the 20th and remained for around 10 minutes before being flushed by a local farmer. In the next hour I obtained flight views of a party of 4 and then a pair in the vicinity of the small airfield at Berenty (perhaps all were flying to drink at the river ?). The following day a pair were seen in flight over an area of spiny forest between Berenty and Fort Dauphin.
142. Madagascar Turtledove - Streptopelia picturata
Singles were seen at Perinet on the 16th and 18th, up to 6 were recorded on two dates at Berenty, 10 in the Mora Mora area on the 22nd and 4 at Ranomafana on the 26th. At Perinet their habits reminded me of a Quail-Dove Geotrygon sp. although less so at other sites.
143. Namaqua Dove - Oena capensis
Seen on six dates in fair numbers being recorded near Berenty, Tulear, Mora Mora, La Mangrove and near Relais de la Reine.
144. Madagascar Green Pigeon - Treron australis
Suprisingly only seen on three dates with 1 seen at Berenty on the 20th and 3 there the following morning and a party of 6 seen at La Mangrove on the 24th.
145. Madagascar Blue Pigeon - Alectroenas madagascariensis
Only seen at Perinet where 6 were seen in flight somewhat distantly on the 16th and 1 was seen in flight and perched along the entrance track on the 18th which unfortunately was the only occasion the red tail was seen.
146. Greater Vasa Parrot - Coracopsis vasa
Only identified at the Spiny Forest at Mora Mora where 3 were seen and more importantly heard in flight on the 22nd. The call seemed noticeably louder and more raucous than that of Lesser Vasa which often gives a melodic flight call quite unlike any other Parrot I have ever heard.
147. Lesser Vasa Parrot - Coracopsis nigra
Seen on seven dates in fair numbers being recorded at Mantady, Perinet, Berenty, Mora Mora and an impressive 30 at Zombitse Forest on the 24th.
148. Grey-headed Lovebird - Agapornis cana
Surprisingly only seen on three dates with 6 seen at Berenty on the 20th and 4 there the next day and a pair seen at Relais de la Reine on the 25th being the only other occasion the species was encountered.
152. Giant Coua - Coua gigas
A stunning species that was only seen at Berenty where superb views are the norm with two pairs being seen on the 20th and a single bird the following morning. On separating the first pair one of the birds went completely mad running around at high speed in a clear figure of eight - quite amazing.
153. Coquerel's Coua - Coua coquereli
A single individual walked quietly past us just off the trail in Zombitse Forest on the 24th.
155. Red-fronted Coua - Coua reynaudii
Untickable flight views were obtained with Maurice at Perinet on the 16th and another was heard at Perinet on the 18th so we were relieved to obtain superb views of one hopping around on the steps just beyond the entrance leading to the river at Ranomafana just after dawn on the 26th.
156. Running Coua - Coua cursor
A Coua which walked across the road at some distance in an area of Spiny Forest along the road between Fort Dauphin and Berenty on the 19th was identified by the guide as this species but only seen fore sure with Mosa in the Mora Mora Spiny Forest where singles were seen on the 22nd and 23rd with the second bird allowing prolonged views of it perched in a small bush. Superb.
157. Red-capped Coua - Coua ruficeps
Another superb species which was only seen in the Mora Mora Spiny Forest where 3 were seen on the 22nd and 2 the next day. Again superb views were obtained of a couple of birds sunning themselves in the early morning sun.
158. Crested Coua - Coua cristata
At Berenty 8 were seen on the 20th and 1 the following morning on the drive to Fort Dauphin and in the Mora Mora Spiny Forest 4 were seen on the 22nd and 2 the next morning.
159. Verreaux's Coua - Coua verreauxi
We struggled to find this species in the La Mangrove area walking quite a way south along the road on the evening of the 23rd and then up and over a ridge just south of La Mangrove from dawn the following morning but finally saw 1 around 50 yards south of La Mangrove hotel in the 'garden' of a new house that has been built on the opposite side of the track from the hotel. The gardener was watering the garden which was attracting quite a few birds from the surrounding dry habitat and may have been responsible for the Coua's presence. This species is treated as Near-threatened by Collar et al. (1994).
160. Blue Coua - Coua caerulea
At Mantady 2 were seen along the 'log' trail and 1 was seen in the Orchid Garden at Perinet the following evening. Seen more readily at Vohiparara where 1 was seen on the 26th and 2 on the 28th. Sounded to me like a loud Moorhen Gallinula chloropus which usually gave away the prescence of this species.
161. Madagascar Coucal - Centropus toulou
Seen on eight dates in small numbers being recorded at Perinet, Berenty, La Mangrove, Relais de la Reine and Vohiparara with a daily maximum of 4 seen at Berenty on the 20th.
164. Malagasy Scops-Owl - Otus rutilus
Only seen at Berenty where a pair were spotlighted along one of the trails leading to the Mandrare River during the evening of the 19th and where 1 was spotlighted near the chalets the next evening. Superb.
165. White-browed Owl - Ninox superciliaris
Only seen at Berenty where a pair were spotlighted along the track between the restaurant and the chalets during the evening of the 19th and where 1 was seen at dusk near the airfield and 1 of the pair from the previous evening was again spotlighted near the restaurant on the 20th.
166. Madagascar Long-eared Owl - Asio madagascariensis
A superb individual was spotlighted for several minutes as it sat above us calling near the entrance to Perinet with Maurice on the evening of the 16th after he had heard the bird call wherupon he imitated it and in it flew ! Brilliant !
(167. Marsh Owl - Asio capensis)
Untickable brief views of a bird seen in the light of the car's headlight's between Perinet and Antananarivo before dawn on the 19th was almost certainly this species.
168. Madagascar Nightjar - Caprimulgus madagascariensis
At Perinet 1 was seen briefly in flight over the entrance on the evening of the 16th, at the Bamboo Club Brenda saw 1 during the evening of the 21st and the following evening 1 was found perched before dusk in the area of Spiny Forest leading to the Bamboo Club and a pair were seen displaying and 'singing' from the aerials on top of the restaurant for most of the evening and finally the species was heard at La Mangrove on the 23rd.
171. Malagasy Spine-tailed Swift - Zoonavena grandidieri
A pair were seen flying over forest at Mantady from the Ridge Trail on the 17th with 1 seen from the Ranomafana bridge on the 26th and 1 seen along the road leading down from Vohiparara on the 28th.
172. African Palm Swift - Cypsiurus parvus
At Fort Dauphin 1 was seen on the 19th and 4 on the 21st and at Zombitse Forest 4 were seen on the 24th.
175. Malagasy Kingfisher - Corythornis vintsioides
At the Perinet fishponds 2 were seen on the 16th and 1 on the 18th, and singles were seen at paddies during the drives on the 25th and 29th.
177. Madagascar Bee-Eater - Merops superciliosus
At Perinet 1 was seen along the entrance track on the 16th, 3 were seen at Berenty on the 20th and at Ranomafana around the entrance 3 were seen on the 26th and 1 on the 28th.
179. Short-legged Ground-Roller - Brachypteracias leptosomus
A superb male was finally found in a ravine at Perinet late morning on the 18th being reward for having spent all morning looking for this stunning species. It was watched perched low in trees and then from time to time flying down to the ground to attempt to catch prey before returning to a perch. Brilliant. This species is treated at Vulnerable by Collar et al. (1994) who state 'it is generally rare and threatened by habitat destruction.'.
180. Scaly Ground-Roller - Brachypteracias squamiger
A superb pair were found at Mantady immediately after crossing the log bridge around 3 minutes after arriving at this site. They were watched on and off for around an hour being constantly attracted to tape playback. Proved much larger than I was expecting and their plumage and bright orange legs have to be seen to be believed - forget the illustration in Langrand (1990) ! This species is treated as Vulnerable by Collar et al. (1994) who state 'almost everywhere it is rare and localized, and threatened by habitat destruction, possible predation by village dogs and exploitation by man for food.'
181. Pitta-like Ground-Roller - Aterlornis pittoides
At Ranomafana 2 were seen well along trails in the vicinity of the 'first' lookout on the 26th and at Vohiparara 1 was watched on Trail B for around 20 minutes on the 27th. Another stunning species and responsive to tape playback seemingly less shy than other species of Ground-Rollers. This species is treated as Near-threatened by Collar et al. (1994).
182. Rufous-headed Ground-Roller - Atelornis crossleyi
A superb individual was finally seen late morning at Vohiparara on the 27th having all but given up on this species as we had not had any response to virtual continual tape playback all morning or the previous afternoon at this site. Finally one called back but much to my despair from a considerable distance down a steep slope, however the bird quickly approached us to a range of around 5 yards from where it started calling completely differently so much so that I felt certain a Madagascar Wood Rail Canirallus kioloides was about to appear. However our final species of Ground-Roller finally gave itself up by jumping up on to a low branch in full view but for only around 30 seconds before returning to the forest floor and promptly disappearing. This species is treated as Vulnerable by Collar et al. (1994) who state 'it is rare (the rarest of its family) and threatened by forest destruction.'
183. Long-tailed Ground-Roller - Uratelornis chimaera
A superb individual was literally tracked down by Mosa in the Mora Mora Spiny Forest on the 22nd. This species is treated as Vulnerable by Collar et al. (1994) who state that it 'is subject to hunting, trapping and habitat destruction. It occurs in no protected area, tree removal for charcoal production is increasing, and introduced rats are also believed to be a threat.'
184. Cuckoo-Roller - Leptosomus discolor
A pair were watched displaying on and off for a couple of hours over the Perinet fishponds on the 16th, 1 was heard at Mantady on the 17th and suprisingly our only other encounter was seeing 1 and hearing several at Zombitse Forest on the 24th.
185. Hoopoe - Upupa epops
At least 3 were seen in the Mora Mora Spiny Forest on the 22nd, 1 was seen in Zombitse Forest on the 24th and a pair were seen around the Relais de la Reine Hotel on both the 24th and 25th.
186. Velvet Asity - Philepitta castanea
Females were seen along the Ridge trail at Perinet on the 16th, feeding on small white fruits along the Sacred Waterfall trail at Mantady on the 17th and at Vohiparara on the 26th and a male in non-breeding plumage was seen at Vohiparara on the 27th.
188. Sunbird-Asity - Neodrepanis coruscans
At Perinet they could be readily seen visiting the pale yellow flowers bordering the fishponds where 1 was seen on the 16th and 4 (including 1 male complete with metallic blue coverts but no wattle) were seen on the 18th. At Mantady 4 were seen along the Sacred Waterfall trail (which at first Maurice confidently identified as Yellow-bellied Sunbird-Asitys although was happy to concede were Sunbird-Asitys on obtaining good views).
189. Yellow-bellied Sunbird-Asity - Neodrepanis hypoxantha
A single male was seen at Vohiparara along Trail B where it follows the ridge on the 27th with a couple of others heard nearby. A bird seen by Maurice (but only glimpsed by DC) in the 'cloud forest' at Mantady on the 17th was probably this species but see note under Sunbird-Asity relating to other Sunbird-Asitys seen nearby. This species is treated as Endangered by Collar et al. (1994) who state the species has 'a localized distribution in montane forest relicts (under serious threat from clearance).'
190. Madagascar Bush Lark - Mirafra hova
Generally only see whilst driving when sometimes common, 4 were seen on the drive from Berenty to Fort Dauphin and 8 were seen along the sandy track from Tulear to Ifaty on the 21st (with 6 on the return journey on the 23rd), 10 were seen on the drive from La Mangrove to Relais de la Reine on the 24th and around 40 were seen on the drive from Relais de la Reine to Ranomafana on the 25th.
191. Brown-throated Sand Martin - Riparia paludicola
A single individual was seen over the Perinet fishponds on the 16th, 6 were seen over the Vakona Marsh on the 17th and at Vohiparara up to 15 were seen on the four days there often feeding over the river.
193. Mascarene Martin - Phedina borbonica
Up to 3 birds were seen in the vicinity of Antananarivo airport on three dates and a pair were seen just south of the La Mangrove hotel on the 23rd.
195. Madagascar Wagtail - Motacilla flaviventris
Seen on ten dates in small numbers being recorded at Perinet (always around the fishponds where the daily maximum of 5 was recorded on the 18th), Antananarivo, Relais de la Reine and Ranomafana.
196. Ashy (Madagascar) Cuckoo-Shrike - Coracina cinerea
At Perinet 4 were seen on both the 16th and 18th, at Ranomafana 2 were seen on the 26th and 28th and at Vohiparara 1 was seen on the 26th. This species was always found as part of multispecies feeding flocks.
197. Long-billed Greenbul - Phyllastrephus madagascariensis
At Perinet 2 were seen on the 16th and 4 on the 18th, at Zombitse Forest 4 were seen on the 24th and at Ranomafana 4 were seen on the 26th and 2 on the 28th.
198. Spectacled Greenbul - Phyllastrephus zosterops
A pair were seen along the Sacred Waterfall trail at Mantady on the 17th and 6 were seen at Perinet Orchid Garden on the 18th.
201. Grey-crowned Greenbul - Phyllastrephus cinereiceps
A pair were seen at the base of the Mantady Ridge Trail on the 17th and 4 were seen at Perinet the following day. This species is treated as Vulnerable by Collar et al. (1994) wo state it is 'being threatened by habitat loss '.
202. Madagascar (Black) Bulbul - Hypsipetes madagascariensis
Seen on fourteen dates in good numbers being seen at every site visited.
203. Madagascar Magpie-Robin - Copsychus albospecularis
Seen on eleven dates in small numbers being recorded at Antananarivo, Perinet, Mantady, Berenty, Ifaty and Ranomafana with a daily maximum of 4 recorded at Berenty on the 20th.
204. Stonechat - Saxicola torquata
Seen on eight dates in small numbers being recorded at Perinet Fish Ponds (where the daily maximum of 4 was recorded on the 16th), Vakona Marsh, Berenty, on the drive from Relais de la Reine to Ranomafana, Vohiparara and on the drive from Ranomafana to Antananarivo.
205. Forest Rock-Thrush - Pseudocossyphus sharpei
Maurice found us a single male in the Short-legged Ground-Roller ravine at Perinet on the 18th. This species is treated as Near-threatened by Collar et al. (1994).
207. Benson's Rock-Thrush - Pseudocossyphus bensoni
A pair were located on the rooftops of the chalets at Relais de la Reine Hotel where superb views were obtained on the 25th. This species is treated as Vulnerable by Collar et al. (1994) who state that 'the national park (Isalo) in which it occurs is burnt regularly and total numbers of the species may prove small.'
208. Madagascar Swamp-Warbler - Acrocephalus newtoni
A single individual was seen 'downstream' of the Vakona Marsh on the 17th.
209. Madagascar Brush-Warbler - Nesillas typica
This skulking species was only seen at Perinet where 4 were seen on the 16th and 1 was seen on the 18th with several others heard. Pishing worked although persistence was still required to obtain good views.
209a. Lantz's Brush Warbler - Nesillas lantzi
This 'form' has recently been granted specific status from Madagascar Brush Warbler N. typica, see the Bulletin of the African Bird Club Vol5 No.1 pp 41. At least 4 were seen in an area of Spiny Forest between Fort Dauphin an Berenty on the 19th and 2 were seen just south of La Mangrove Hotel on the 24th. This species proved much easier to obtain good views of compared to the last species.
210. Thamnornis Warbler - Thamnornis chloropetoides
Only seen in the Mora Mora Spiny Forest where 4 were seen on the 22nd and 1 the next day. This species seemed to prefer foraging on the ground which I was not expecting.
211. Madagascar Cisticola - Cisticola cherina
Suprisingly not that many seen with 1 seen just 'downstream' of the Vakona Marsh on the 17th, 1 just south of La Mangrove Hotel on the 23rd, 2 at Relais de la Reine on the 25th and 2 at paddies near Vohiparara on the 26th.
212. Brown Emutail - Dromaeocercus brunneus
A stunning ground loving species taped into view at Vohiparara on the 27th which circled us at close range around three times. This species is treated as Near-threatened by Collar et al. (1994).
213. Grey Emutail - Dromaeocercus seebohmi
Fidi located a single individual in a marsh a couple of kilometers 'above' Vohiparara which was seen in flight several times and perched briefly on a couple of occasions on the 26th.
214. Rand's Warbler - Randia pseudozosterops
A pair were seen along the entrance track at Perinet on the 16th and 1 was seen at Mantady the following day. This species is treated as Near-threatened by Collar et al. (1994).
214a. Cryptic Warbler - Cryptosylvicola randrianasoloi
Only described in Ibis (1996) Vol. 138 pp 153-159, a pair were seen along the road just 'below' Vohiparara on the 28th.
215. Dark Newtonia - Newtonia amphichroa
Heard at Mantady with Maurice on the 17th and a pair were seen near the 'first' lookout at Ranomafana on the 26th.
216. Common Newtonia - Newtonia brunneicauda
Seen on eight dates in fair numbers being recorded at Perinet, Mantady, Berenty, Mora Mora Spiny Forest (where the daily maximum of 20 was recorded on the 22nd), Zombitse Forest and Ranomafana.
217. Archbold's Newtonia - Newtonia archboldi
Heard with Mosa in the Mora Mora Spiny Forest on the 22nd and in the same area a single individual was taped in to view from a considerable distance on the 23rd.
219. Common Jery - Neomixis tenella
Seen on nine dates in good numbers being recorded at Perinet, Mantady, Berenty (where the daily maximum of 20 was recorded on the 21st), Mora Mora Spiny Forest, La Mangrove, Zombitse and Vohiparara.
220. Green Jery - Neomixis viridis
Maurice found us a pair along the entrance track at Perinet on the 16th and 1 was seen at Vohiparara on the 26th.
221. Stripe-throated Jery - Neomixis striatigula
Heard at Perinet with Maurice but only identified at Berenty where a pair were seen on the 20th. May well have been overlooked at other sites.
223. Ward's Flycatcher - Pseudobias wardi
Only seen at Perinet where 6 were seen on the 16th and 4 on the 18th although heard at Ranomafana on the 28th. This species is treated as Near-threatened by Collar et al. (1994).
224. Madagascar Paradise Flycatcher - Terpsiphone mutata
Seen on eight dates in fair numbers being recorded at Perinet (where the daily maximum of 10 was recorded on the 16th), Mantady, Berenty and Vohiparara.
225. White-throated Oxylabes - Oxylabes madagascariensis
Heard with Maurice at Perinet on the 16th, 1 seen after responding to tape playback at the foot of the steep slope leading to the Ridge Trail at Mantady on the 17th with another heard nearby and finally heard at Ranomafana on the 26th. An extremely skulking species which was only seen after much persistence.
226. Yellow-browed Oxylabes - Crossleyia xanthophrys
A superb species with a pair seen extremely well at Ranomafana on the 26th. This species is treated as Vulnerable by Collar et al. (1994) who state that it occurs 'at a small number of sites (many under pressure from habitat clearance).'
227. Crossley's Babbler - Mystacornis crossleyi
A brilliant species which we only saw along the road at Perinet when 1 was repeatedly taped in to view in a small ravine during the late afternoon of the 16th. We also heard a couple at Ranomafana on the 28th.
228. Souimanga Sunbird - Nectarinia soumanga
Seen on eleven dates in fair numbers being recorded at Perinet (where the daily maximum of 10 were seen on the 18th), Mantady, Berenty, Mora Mora, La Mangrove, Zombitse and Ranomafana. The birds in the SW of Madagascar (N.s. apolis) are much drabber than those at Perinet and may pay further research.
229. Long-billed Green Sunbird - Nectarinia notata
Only seen at Perinet where 8 were seen attending the pale yellow flowers bordering the Fish Ponds on the 16th. Somewhat suprisingly not seen elsewhere.
230. Madagascar White-Eye - Zosterops maderaspatana
Only seen on five dates and in small numbers with 6 at Perinet on the 16th and 18th, 4 at Mantady on the 17th, 2 at Berenty on the 20th and 6 at Vohiparara on the 28th.
232. Red-tailed Vanga - Calicalicus madagascariensis
Seen on six dates with 8 on the 16th and 2 on the 18th at Perinet, 2 at Mantady on the 17th, a female in the Mora Mora Spiny Forest on the 22nd, a male at Zombitse Forest on the 24th and finally 4 at Vohiparara on the 28th.
233. Rufous Vanga - Schetba rufa
A single female was watched motionless for around 5 minutes at Zombitse Forest on the 24th.
234. Hook-billed Vanga - Vanga curvirostris
Singles were seen with Maurice at Perinet on the 18th and much better in the dry forest at Berenty on the 20th.
235. Lafresnaye's Vanga - Xenopirostris xenopirostris
In the Mora Mora Spiny Forest Mosa found a male in the morning and a female in the afternoon of the 22nd.
237. Pollen's Vanga - Xenopirostris polleni
A pair were seen in a multispecies flock at Ranomafana on the 28th. This species is treated as Vulnerable by Collar et al. (1994) who state 'habitat loss, though extensive, is not enough to explain its very patchy distribution and abundance.'
238. Sickle-billed Vanga - Falculea palliata
Heard with Mosa in the Mora Mora Spiny Forest on the 22nd and Mosa found us a party of 4 which were watched feeding in the peculiar trees of the region on the 23rd. In my opinion by far the best Vanga that we saw.
239. White-headed Vanga - Leptopterus viridis
Another good Vanga with 1 seen at Perinet on the 16th, a pair seen at Berenty on the 20th, 1 seen in the Mora Mora Spiny Forest on the 22nd and 2 there the following day and 2 seen at Ranomafana in a multispecies feeding flock on the 28th.
240. Chabert's Vanga - Leptopterus chabert
Seen on seven dates in small numbers with 3 at Mantady on the 17th, 1 at Perinet on the 18th, 6 in the Mora Mora Spiny Forest on the 22nd and 2 there the next day, 2 at La Mangrove on the 23rd and the 24th and 10 at Vohiparara on the 26th with 1 there on the 28th.
241. Blue Vanga - Cyanolanius madagascarinus
Another superb species which was often to be found in multispecies feeding flocks with 4 seen at Perinet on the 16th and 2 on the 18th and 2 seen at Ranomafana on the 28th.
244. Nuthatch Vanga - Hypositta corallirostris
A single male was watched climbing several trees at the base of the steep slope leading to the ridge at Mantady on the 17th.
245. Tylas Vanga - Tylas eduardi
Another multispecies feeding flock species with 4 being seen at Perinet on the 16th and 4 being seen at Ranomafana on both the 26th and 28th.
246. Crested Drongo - Dicrurus forficatus
Seen on eleven dates in fair numbers being recorded at Perinet, Mantady, Berenty (where the daily maximum of 8 was seen), Mora Mora, La Mangrove, Zombitse Forest, Relais de la Reine and Ranomafana.
247. Pied Crow - Corvus albus
Seen on seven dates in fair numbers being recorded at Berenty (where the daily maximum of 60 was recorded on the 20th), Tulear, between La Mangrove and Ranomafana and between Ranomafana and Antananarivo.
248. Madagascar Starling - Hartlaubius auratus
A flock of 15 were seen in trees along the road at Perinet on the evening of the 16th.
249. Common Myna - Acridotheres tristis
Seen on seven dates in fair numbers being recorded at Antananarivo, Berenty (where the daily maximum of 20 was seen), La Mangrove, Relais de la Reine and on the drive from Ranomafana to Antananarivo.
251. Nelicourvi Weaver - Ploceus nelicourvi
At Perinet 2 were seen on the 16th and 18th including a male on the second date and at Ranomafana 2 were seen on the 26th. A rather impressive species of Weaver.
252. Sakalava Weaver - Ploceus sakalava
Up to 20 were recorded on both the journeys between Fort Dauphin and Berenty in the Spiny Forest area, around 10 were seen in the Mora Mora Spiny Forest on the 22nd and around 30 were present around La Mangrove Hotel area on the 24th. A rather unimpressive species of Weaver !
253. Madagascar Red Fody - Foudia madagascariensis
Suprisingly hardly any were seen with just 2 in Antananarivo on the 19th, 2 in the Mora Mora area on the 22nd and 1 in paddies 'above' Vohiparara on the 26th. All were drab plumaged birds.
254. Forest Fody - Foudia omissa
A superb male was seen in forest bordering the entrance track just before reaching the Green Lake lookout point at Perinet on the 16th and a female was seen along the road between Vohiparara and the entrance to Ranomafana on the 28th.
255. Madagascar Mannikin - Lonchura nana
This tiny species was always seen in small flocks with 6 seen at the Perinet Fish Ponds on the 16th, 5 at Relais de la Reine on the 25th, 7 at Vohiparara on the 28th and 5 at Lac Alarobia, Antananarivo on the 30th.
Russet Mouse-Lemur - Microcebus rufus 1 spotlighted along road at Perinet on the 16th.
Brown Lemur - Petterus fulvus At Perinet 8 on the 16th and 3 on the 18th in the vicinity of the Orchid Garden, at Berenty c.10 on the 20th and at Ranomafana 1 along the road on the 28th.
Ring-tailed Lemur - Lemur catta At Berenty 50 seen on the 20th and 5 the next morning.
Red-bellied Lemur - Petterus rubiventer At Ranomafana 3 were seen on the 26th.
Eastern Woolly Lemur - Avahi laniger At Perinet 3 were seen on the 16th.
Verreaux's Sifaka -Propithecus verreauxi At Berenty 12 were seen on the 20th and 6 the following morning. Brilliant.
Indri - Indri indri A pair and their baby were seen at Perinet on the 16th and a pair were seen at Mantady the following day. Brilliant.
White-footed Sportive Lemur 6 were spotlighted in Spiny Forest at Berenty on the 19th.
Ring-tailed Mongoose - Galidea elegans 1 was seen crossing the road at Ranomafana on the 25th.
Red Forest-Rat - Nesomys rufus A few were seen at Ranomafana. Quite large but rather cute!
Chameleon sp. Rather disappointingly only 3 and all spotlighted at Perinet on the 16th.
Tree Frog sp. At Perinet 4 were spotlighted on the 16th
References used in the Report (in addition to those already cited):
Collar, N.J., Crosby, M.J. and Stattersfield, A.J. (1994) Birds to Watch 2, The World List of Threatened Birds. Cambridge: Birdlife International.