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A Report from

Madagascar, May 25-June 16, 2005,

Greg Roberts

With Glenn Scherf and Bill and Sandra Watson. I was last in Madagascar in 1992 on a one-week, largely work-related trip, so there were plenty of gaps to fill. This trip was organised through Malagasy company Aventour which did a good job at half the cost of what the bigger operators charge.

We had a driver and hired local guides, who were a mixed bag. At Perinet we had Patrice, the brother of my 1992 guide, Maurice. Patrice was excellent, his only drawback being his well-known propensity to charge into the undergrowth after skulkers, frightening them away. He more than made for that with his prodigious enthusiasm and energy. At Ifaty, the fabled Musa was superb, tracking down birds by following their footprints in the sand, and with excellent mimicry of their calls. At Ampijoroa, Ndrema (we couldn’t get Nono) was keen enough but disappointed with a couple of  key species. At Ranomafana, we followed the accepted wisdom and avoided Fidi, hiring instead the lauded Loret who, it has to be said, appears to have adopted some of Fidi’s habits. While competent enough and punctual, Loret was a letdown in the enthusiasm department.

This is not the optimum time of year to bird Madagascar, so several species were missed. We did not see or hear Short-legged and Rufous-headed Ground-Roller, Brown Emutail and Yellow-bellied Sunbird-Asity. We heard but did not see Brown Mesite, Madagascar Rail and Van Dam’s Vanga. Nonetheless, I saw 48 of 55 target species; Bill missed 11 or so of a possible 130 species.

The advantages of travelling at this time of the year are that the weather is superb, and you avoid the big birding parties which hog the guides and crowd the parks in the peak Sept-Oct season. This was the tail end of the wet season, but we lost little time to rain.

Our itinerary was as follows.

25/5.   Arrived in Antananaviro and met up with Bill and Sandra. We were driven by our congenial and helpful driver Coco to the Perinet- Analamazoatra Special Reserve. Our hotel, the the Feon-ny Ala Hotel, was very basic but nicely positioned. I stayed at Perinet during my last visit but in a different hotel.
26/5.  Mantadia National Park, 20km from Perinet – we spent the day here on steep rainforest trails, and along a muddy access road. 
27/5.  The various trails of the Perinet reserve, including a 2km night walk.
28/5.  Mantadia National Park again.
29/5.  Back to Perinet.
30/5.  We drove back to Antananaviro, visiting the fire-gutted Queen’s Palace and some other attractions and staying in the La Residence Lapsoa, a nice hotel with a superb French restaurant.
31/5.    We flew to Majunga in the country’s north-west and drove across extensive savanna to the dry rainforests and deciduous dry forests of the Ampijoroa Forest Station in the Ankarafantsika National Park. We stayed in recently completed, comfortable bungalows overlooking the lake.
1/6.    The trails in the dry scrub behind park headquarters and at the northern end of Lake Ravelobe.
2/6.  After another morning on the trails, after lunch we drove to Amboromalandy Lake with Ndema – it would be hard to find the access roads unguided.  We then drove to Majunga, staying in the Hotel Les Roches Rouges on the waterfront.
3/6.  An early morning and very rough boat ride in the Betsiboka Estuary, where it took about 90 minutes to get to the right area. After a late check-out from the hotel, we flew back to Antananaviro.
4/6.  We flew to Toliara in south-west Madagascar and were picked up by the manager of the Ifaty Beach Club Hotel for the 45-minute drive to Ifaty.
5/6.   We birded the spiny forest behind Ifaty with Musa in the morning, and visited some wetlands between Ifaty and Toliara in the afternoon.
6/6.  A largely restful day around Ifaty.
7/6.  Early morning departure wilth Musa to Toliara, then to the coral rag scrub of La Table , 20km away on the main road north.  We dropped in on wetlands behind Melody Beach before arriving at La Mangrove Hotel.
8/6.  We walked the road north of La Mangrove and took a small boat to Nosy Ve Island and the delightful village of Anakao.
9/6.  After reuniting with Coco, who had driven down from Antananaviro, we returned to Toliara before proceeding north to Sakaraha. We birded a trail in the Zombitse Forest, north of the park headquarters, before proceededing to Le Relais de la Reine, a very comfortable hotel near Ranohira.
10/6.  A restful day around the hotel and Isalo National Park, visiting the Cascades des Nymphes.
11/6.  We drove to Ranomafana National Park via Fianarantsoa and the Anja Special Reserve. Our stay at Le Centre Est Sejour was soured when some of the Watsons’ money was stolen after it was put in the hotel safebox.
12/6.   The rainforest trails around Belle-vue in the morning; roadside and a marsh behind Vohiparara village in the afternoon.
13/6.  The Ranomafana trails again, and a track through the forest at 1400m near Vohiparara.
14/6.  The Vohiparara trail in the morning and Ranomafana trails in the afternoon.  A night walk back from Belle-vue.
15 /6.  Belle-vue trails again and the Namorana River near Vohiparara in the afternoon.
16/6.  Leaving Ranomafana, we birded the road briefly above Vohiparara on the way out and it was surprisingly good – this is not generally mentioned in trip reports. We returned to Antananavaviro via Ampohistra and Antsaribe.
17/6.  A visit to Lake Alarobia in the capital before flying to Mauritius.

Species List

*denotes lifer. [] indicates heard only. Common names follow Birds of Madagascar Morris & Hawkins 1998, with Clements taxonomic updates.

Little Grebe (7 north of Ifaty),
Madagascar Little Grebe (1 Mantadia; 4 incl 1 juvenile near Vohiparara),
Red-tailed Tropicbird (50 incl several on nests Nosy Ve),
African Darter,  Squacco Heron,  Black-crowned Night-Heron,  Green-backed Heron,  Great Egret,  Cattle Egret,  Black Egret (abundant in north-west),
Dimorphic Egret (common in west),  .Purple Heron,  Grey Heron,
*Humblot’s Heron (1 north of Ifaty; 1 Melody Beach; 1 mudflats La Mangrove),
Hamerkop,  Glossy Ibis (Lake Ravelobe, Amboromalandy Lake),
Madagscar Crested Ibis (good views of 2 on the Ampijoroa trails made up for a lousy view at Perinet in 1992),
*Madagascar White Ibis (3 in the Betsiboka Estuary),
*Madagascar (Bernier’s) Teal (about 70 in the Betsiboka Estuary),
Red-billed Teal,  Knob-billed Duck (several Lake Arobia),
White-faced Whistling-Duck,  Fulvous Whistling-Duck (several Lake Arobia),
*Meller’s Duck (1 among hundreds of ducks at Lake Arobia),
African Pygmy Goose (several Amboromolandy Lake),
*Madagascar Fish-Eagle (1 Lake Ravelobe, where heard regularly),
*Henst’s Goshawk (1 seen on two days at Perinet; heard Ranomafana),
Frances’s Sparrowhawk (1 Le Relais),  Madagascar Sparrowhawk (1 perched roadside Perinet),  Madagascar Buzzard (common),
Madagascar Harrier-Hawk (several Perinet, Ifaty, Ampijoroa),
*Reunion Harrier (2, possibly 3, circling high between Ranohira and Isalo),
Black (Yellow-billed) Kite,  Madagscar Kestrel (common),
*Banded Kestrel (Musa told us it was the wrong time of year at Ifaty, but one was perched atop a lone dead tree in a clearing behind our hotel),
Helmeted Guineafowl,
*White-breasted Mesite (a pair crossing trail, others heard Ampijoroa),
*Sub-desert Mesite (a pair on the ground and a female in freeze pose after being cornered by Musa),
[Brown Mesite (calling sporadically at Ranomafana, close at times, but not seen)],
*Madagascar Wood-Rail (2 seen well Ranomafana; heard Vohiparara, Perinet],
[Madagascar Rail (heard at the site between Perinet and Mantadia but not seen despite strenuous efforts],
Common Moorhen,  Allen’s Gallinule (3 Amboromalandy Lake),
*White-throated Rail (1 from main road Ampijoroa; heard Le Relais),
*Madagascar Flufftail (a pair seen well Perinet; heard Vohiparara, Mantadia),
*Madagascar Button-quail (common Ampijoroa, Ifaty, Le Relais, La Mangrove),
*Madagascar Snipe (1 between Perinet and Mantadia; 1 Melody Beach),
Black-winged Stilt,  Ruddy Turnstone,  Common Greenshank,
Curlew-Sandpiper,  Grey Plover,   Kittlitz’s Plover (common Ifaty-Toliara),  Three-banded Plover (several Ifaty-Toliara),  White-fronted Plover (several Ifaty-Toliara),
*Madagascar Plover (2 in dry salt-pan Ifaty),
*Madagascar Jacana (1 at Amboromolandy Lake took 1 hour to find),
Kelp Gull (1 Nosy Ve),  Roseate Tern (6 Nosy Ve),  Lesser Crested Tern,  Caspian Tern,
*Madagscar Sandgrouse (3 seen well flying over road between Toliara and Sakaraha),
 Feral Pigeon,  Namaqua Dove (common in west),  Madagscar Green Pigeon (several Ifaty, La Mangrove),  Madagascar Blue Pigeon (several Perinet, Ranomafana),
Madagascar Turtle-Dove (common),  Grey-headed Lovebird (common in west),   Lesser Vasa Parrot (common),  Greater Vasa Parrot (widespread but sparse),
Madagascar Lesser Cuckoo (1 only  Ampijoroa),  Madagascar Coucal (common),  
*Coquerel’s Coua (3 individuals at Ampijoroa),
Running Coua (1 at La Mangrove),  Red-capped Coua (4 individuals race ruficeps at Ampijoroa),  Red-fronted Coua (2 Perinet; heard  Ranomafana),
Blue Coua (common eastern rainforests),   Crested Coua (several Ifaty, Ampijoroa),
*Red-breasted Coua (1 at Perinet seen after considerable effort, others heard),
*Verreaux’s Coua (3 on road north of La Mangrove; heard La Table),
*Malagasy Scops-Owl (1 at day roost Perinet, others heard),
Torotoraka Scops-Owl (1 La Mangrove; heard Ampijoroa, Le Relais),
White-browed Owl (1 Le Relais seen well, heard often there),
*Madagascar Long-eared Owl (1 flying over our hotel at Perinet at dusk),
*Collared Nightjar (1 at Perinet perched at night),
Madagscar Nightjar (common in west; heard Perinet),
Madagascar Spinetail (several Perinet, Ampijoroa),  African Palm Swift,
*Madagascar Swift (sparse but widespread, common at Isalo),
Madagascar Bee-eater (common),  Madagascar Kingfisher (common),
*Madagascar Pygmy-Kingfisher (1 spotlighted above trail, Perinet),
*Scaly Ground-Roller (1 stumbled upon at Mantadia),
*Pitta-like Ground-Roller (1 on trail at Belle-vue, Ranomafana),
*Long-tailed Ground-Roller (1 rounded up by Musa at Ifaty),
Cuckoo-Roller (common and widespread),  Madagascar Hoopoe (sparse in the west),
Velvet Asity (several Perinet, Ranomafana),
Wattled (Common) Sunbird-Asity (several Perinet, Ranomafana),
*Schlegel’s Asity (poor  views of one in the canopy, Ampijoroa),
Madagascar Bush-Lark (common),  Mascarene Martin (common),
Brown-throated Sand-Martin (several Vohiparara),  Madagascar Wagtail (common),  Ashy Cuckoo-Shrike (common),  Madagascar Bulbul (common),  Long-billed Greenbul (common),  Spectacled Greenbul (common eastern rainforests),
*Appert’s Greenbul  (1 in Zombitse Forest found after 1 hour),
*Grey-crowned Greenbul (several Mantadia),
Red-tailed Vanga (several eastern rainforests),  White-headed Vanga (sparse  eastern rainforests),  Chabert’s Vanga (common and widespread),
Tylas Vanga (common eastern rainforests),
*Red-shouldered Vanga (2 whistled in by Musa at La Table after 45 mins),
*Rufous Vanga (2 separate birds at Ampijoroa),
Hook-billed Vanga (several Perinet, Ampijoroa),
*Lafresnaye’s Vanga (1 Ifaty),
*Pollen’s Vanga (1 whistled in Belle-vue, Ranomafana, others heard),
*Sickle-billed Vanga (flock of 12-15 around headquarters, Ampijoroa),
 *Nuthatch Vanga (several Mantadia, Perinet),
*Littoral Rock-Thrush (several behind beach at hotel, Anakoa),
*Forest Rock-Thrush (2 separate birds on road, Ranomafana),
*Benson’s Rock-Thrush (2 on buildings at Le Relais; 1 at Isalo),
Madagascar Magpie-Robin (common),  Common Stonechat,
White-throated Oxylabes (several Perinet, Ranomafana),
*Madagascar Yellowbrow  (a pair and a solitary bird, Vohiparara),
*Crossley’s Babbler (1 at Mantadia – a classy bird),
*Grey Emutail (1in the marsh behind Vohiparara village),
Madagascar Brush-Warbler (common eastern rainforests, Ampijoroa),
*Sub-Desert Brush-Warbler (common Ifaty, La Mangrove),
Madagascar Swamp-Warbler (common between Perinet and Mantadia),
Thamnornis Warlber (1 Ifaty),  Madagascar Cisticola (common),  Common Newtonia (common),  Dark Newtonia (several Mantadia, Vohiparara),
*Archbold’s Newtonia (several Ifaty),
*Rand’s Warbler (1 Mantadia, 1 above Vohiparara),
Common Jerry (common),  Green Jery (common eastern rainforests),
Stripe-throated Jery (several Perinet, Ifaty), 
*Wedge-tailed Jery (several Mantadia, Ranomafana),
*Cryptic Warbler (1 Vohiparara trail, 2 on road above Vohiparara),
Ward’s Flycatcher (common eastern rainforests),  Madagascar Paradise-Flycatcher (common),  Souimanga Sunbird (common),   Long-billed Green Sunbird (sparse but widespread),  Madagascar White-eye (common),  Madagascar Mannikin (sparse but widespread),  Nelicourvi Weaver (common eastern rainforests),  Sakalava Weaver (common in west),  Madagascar Red Fody (common),  Forest Fody (several Perinet, Vohiparara),  Madagascar Starling (several Perinet),  Indian Mynah,
Crested Drongo (common),  Pied Crow.

TOTAL 163 species inc. 48 lifers


Indri (1 group at Mantadia and 3 groups at Perinet, others heard),
*[Black-and-white] Ruffed Lemur (3+ in group roadside at Mantadia),
*Diademed Sifaka (group of 8-10 Mantadia),
*Milne-Edwards’s Sifaka (3-4 in group, Ranomafana),
Brown Lemur (white-fronted at Perinet, Ampijoroa; red-fronted at Isalo),
Grey Bamboo Lemur (common at Mantadia),
*Greater Bamboo-Lemur (Ranomafana – single and group of 8-10),
*Eastern Avahi [Woolly Lemur] (3 at day roost and 1 at night, Perinet; 2 at day roost Ranomafana),
Brown Mouse-Lemur (common Perinet, Ranomafana),
Grey Mouse-Lemur (1 Ampijoroa),
*Golden-brown Mouse-Lemur (3-4 spotlighted near Lake, Ampijoroa),
Coquerel’s [Verreaux’s] Sifaka (group regular around headquarters, Ampijoroa),
*Mongoose Lemur (a pair at Ampijoroa, associating loosely with brown lemurs),
Ring-tailed Lemur (20+ in group, Anja Special Reserve),
*Red-bellied Lemur (several Ranomafana, above Vohiparara),
Madagascar Flying-Fox (2 Majunga),
*Eastern Red Forest Rat (common Ranomafana Nesomys rufus),
*Rufous Trident Bat (several Ranomafana Striaenops rufus),
*Fanaloka (2-3 at dusk Belle-vue, Ranomafana),
*Ring-tailed Mongoose (1 Belle-vue during day, Ranomafana).

Total 20 incl 14 lemurs, 12 lifers.

Greg Roberts

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