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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
How to clean up in Madagascar? Sept 25 - Oct 31, 2004,
Includes notes on Masoala, Kirindy, Beza-Mahafaly and Vohimara
The answer to the question seems simple: take your time and hire the best guides. However, we did both and still didn’t clean up. Nevertheless we had a great trip with many highlights: birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, butter- and dragonflies, fish (while snorkeling), orchids, baobabs, beetles, as Madagascar surely is one of the most rewarding destinations for anyone with a broad interest in nature.
Remco Hofland (RH), Bertus de Lange (BL), Marijke Roos (MR, Oct 6-Oct 31 only) and Paul Schrijvershof (PS) from The Netherlands.
As always, planning started with browsing the Internet and checking the various trip reports published. Especially www.eurobirding.com, that states all (Internet) published trip reports for a given destination, proved useful.
We talked to Rob Bouwman, Chris Quispel and Teus Luijendijk of The Netherlands, about their respective trips in 2000 and 2001; checked with Peter Maaskant, who went on a similar trip in September 2004 and read a number of books on the country (see List of literature read).
We booked our flights as early as January 2004, after carefully considering several itineraries, including one that would take us to Nosy Be island and Amber Mountain in the north. In the end, we decided to leave out a visit to the north, mainly because domestic flights there didn’t fit our intended international flight schedule. As BL is a teacher, he only had one week off officially and had to take unpaid leave of absence for the remainder of the 5+ weeks of our trip, so our schedule was more or less fixed to fit around his official holiday.
List of literature read (items taken on the trip indicated by *)
Brian Gee (1998). Excellent, as always, with most maps still valid.
Michael Mills (1998). Very informative, e.g. on reptiles and amphibians.
Rob Bouwman (2000, privately published)
Michiel de Boer (2003). Incl some birdsounds, e.g. Bernier’s Vanga.
Norbert Hopf (2003, privately published).
Our trip coincided with the start of the rainy season (or so we read in various sources) but in fact, we encountered very little rain. Only at Ranomafana, towards the end of our trip, we were forced to spend two days and one nightwalk wearing our ponchos while birding in the rain. November-December is considered the best time to visit, but as we were more or less tied to the month of October (see Planning), we figured one month earlier would not make that much difference (and it didn’t). Also, we checked the itineraries of major tourgroups like BirdQuest and found that these too will nowadays travel as early as September.
Temperatures varied between warm (up to 30° C, usually less) at western sites (Ampijoroa, Kirindy, Mangily / spiny forest and Beza-Mahafaly) and the Masoala peninsula, and warmish (between 20 and 25° C) and sometimes humid at other eastern rainforest sites (Ranomafana and Perinet/Mantady/Vohimara). On our way from Tulear to Beza-Mahafaly, temperatures reached near-40° C. At higher altitude sites such as Maromiza, Isalo and Vohiparara, temperatures would vary, but would not exceed 25° C during the daytime. At night, it was cold in most places, and bringing a sleeping bag is recommended for those who get cold easily.
What to bring
We took two scopes, a Bushnell 22x WA and a Kowa 20x fluorite. Bins used included a Swarovski 8,5x44, a Leica 10x42 and two Bausch & Lombs 10x42. We also brought a spare pair, which unfortunately had to be used by MR halfway through the trip when her Bausch jammed. The spare Minox 8x42 came in handy anyway, as its extreme close focus was very useful when watching butter- and dragonflies.
Taking a discman, minidisc, mp3 or taperecorder (or, nowadays, an iPod) with birdsounds is highly recommended, as some of the birds can be real skulkers. That said, most topguides have their own taperecorders and tapes and will be able to sometimes call in birds without them. Apart from RH’s discman and 4 travelcopies of Chappuis/Huguet cd’s (and a copy of Michiel de Boer’s sounds as published in his Internet report), PS took his taperecorder in case the discman should fail. Two tapes were prepared in advance – one with rainforest specialties and skulkers, and one for western deciduous and spiny forest. We did not have to use them however. Consider taking two copies of cd’s, as our first cd was scratched and therefore not useable halfway the trip – this cd held the sounds of, e.g., the rails, Harlequin Quail and the dipped Madagascar Cuckoohawk.
Leech socks came in handy at Ranomafana, especially on the primary forest trail, where leeches were abundant. At times they were found on the face or neck, as well as on arms. In other places, (almost) no leeches were found.
Watershoes were useful whenever getting in and out boats (especially the shaky piroques) and while snorkeling.
A good raincoat or poncho could make birding in the rain a bit more convenient.
Malaria tropica appears to be widespread in Madagascar, making prophylactics necessary. RH, MR and PS took weekly Lariam tablets, whereas BL took daily Malarone. The advantage of the new[ish] Malarone is that it is said to have little or no side-effects, where Lariam is notorious for them. MR and PS had used Lariam before but even RH, who hadn’t, did not suffer from any side-effects during or after the trip [then again, it did take over a year to finish this trip report]. A disadvantage of Malarone is its price, each tablet costing almost € 3, adding up on a 5-week trip.
We all took mosquito nets and used them only on few occasions, as they were present in most hotels and ecolodges.
A variety of other precautions were taken: we took our own clean needles, plasters, Imodium (for diarrea, that nobody suffered from during the trip) and painkillers.
At the time of our trip, autumn 2004, one Euro (€) was worth 12,500 (towards the end 12,800) Malagasy francs (FMg). A second denomination, Ariary, has now taken over – one Ariary is worth 5 FMg and prices in, e.g., supermarkets and ‘Shell shops’ were at the time usually quoted in both denominations.
We brought cash Euros and US $, but only changed Euros. During our preparation we learned that changing money is most easily done at the (international and domestic) airport at Ivato (just north of the capital Antananarivo), and since we flew in and out of that airport on a regular basis we only changed money there (3 times).
In this trip report, prices paid in FMg are also stated in approximate prices in Euro, to give an idea of the cost. Prices paid in Euro are only mentioned in Euro.
We flew with Air Madagascar to Antananarivo, hereafter referred to as Tana, direct from Paris, France, while between Rotterdam and Paris (Charles de Gaulle airport – the worst in the world) we chose to travel by train (the fast Thalys services the stretch between Brussels and the airport). Our flight cost us €1,049 (excl tax) with the train costing an additional € 110. Note that Air Madagascar makes you book at least one night in the expensive Colbert Hotel in Tana (see Accommodation). One advantage of Air Madagascar – apart from the reduction on domestic flight fares – is the fact that they reimburse 99% of the air fare when cancelling the flight (a service which MR unfortunately had to use). Air France and Crossair are the only other carriers flying direct to Madagascar from Europe.
On an island as big as Madagascar and with the current state of many of the roads (unsurfaced), even with a lot of time, it is indispensable to take domestic flights. This is especially needed when visiting the Masoala peninsula in the northeast (fly to Maroantsetra), as a trip by either private or public transport takes up to 4 days, and Amber Mountain in the far north (fly to Antsiranana / Diego Suarez) – a trip we left for our next visit.
NOTE that, when flying with Air Madagascar, there is a 25-30% reduction on their domestic flights, which really adds up if you take as many flights as we did. They do, however, insist you book the intended domestic flights together with your international flight, so it takes careful planning ahead.
To save time, we took domestic flights on the following routes:
Tana – Majunga (Mahajanga) return (to avoid a boring 11-hr drive one way);
Tana – Maroantsetra return (see above);
Tana – Morondava return (not so much to avoid the 2.5 day boat or 30-hr taxi brousse trip needed to get here, but to be able to get to Kirindy Forest at all, which otherwise would not have been possible);
Tana – Tulear (Toliara)(to only have to drive this two-day stretch one way).
Our Dutch travel agency (RottinkDonner in Rotterdam, phone +0031-10-2810104) helped us with booking international and domestic flights, however, they insisted there were, for example, no direct flights between Morondava and Tulear, when in fact there were (as we learned when in Madagascar).
NOTE that the existence of flights be checked under the international name (e.g. Tulear) and their Malagasy name (e.g. Toliara). A schedule for (some) domestic flights and their approximate prices was found at www.corteztravel.com.
When preparing, we came across a number of rental car agencies and independent drivers birders had used in the past, like Aventours (Bouwman & Quispel, 2000), Jacky (phone in Tana 0320-437814; he only speaks French; hired by Maaskant et al, 2004, see trip report by Justin Jansen), and Mamy (M. M. Randrianandraina, L09T1579 CITE67 (HA) 101 Antananarivo) who at the time charged € 50 a day, inclusive of gas. Car hire with Aventours (including a driver) cost around € 80 a day.
Ninah, the caretaker of Le Relais de Tonga Soa (see Accommodation), however recommended the rental car company of a friend, Mialy Rakotoarison. Gas’ CaRent was located near Ivato International Airport (at 8, Mamory Ivato), along the road to Tana, and could be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (phone) 033 11 540 23 / 032 04 865 92. For a robust 4WD Mitsubishi Pajero we paid 500,000 FMg / € 40 a day, including unlimited mileage, all insurance, a driver and his sleep and keep during our 14-day trip. Usually, one has to pay for the days it takes the driver to reach the starting place (in our case, the two days drive to Tulear) but we bargained to only pay for the gasoline used for that stretch (770,000 FMg / € 60). Gasoline was (of course) not included in the deal – for the 2,160 kms we drove in two weeks we took about 225 liters of gasoline, paying FMg 1,805,000 / € 125.
Our driver, Hery Raherison, only spoke French (but understood quite a bit of English) and was excellent: always punctual, guarding the car and our belongings, driving safely, knowing a range of good hotels and restaurants. Apart from sometimes paying for his accommodation (like at Beza-Mahafaly) and some lunches, we tipped him 500,000 FMg / € 40 at the end of the trip.
[NOTE: in 2005, this company turned out to be bankrupt, however, a similar deal was made through Sunny Hotel in Tana – see Arjan Brenkmans trip report]
Whereever we were during the first three weeks of the trip, we took taxis to get around. When staying at Perinet, BL, PS and RH rented a local taxi for 250,000 FMg / € 20 per day to go to Mantady early in the morning. Although this price was probably too much, there were few taxis to choose from. For the (long) drive between Morondava airport and Kirindy Forest (most of the 3-hr-drive on a sand road) we paid 500,000 FMg / € 40 one-way, including stops along the way at the famous Avenue de Baobabs and the bird-rich pond just 2 km south of it.
On one occasion, RH took a taxi-brousse (from Amborolomandy village back to Ampijoroa Forest), which was a typical third-world public transport experience: waiting for the vehicle to arrive, pushing to get in, waiting for the vehicle to leave (fuller than full), many stops along the way and no opportunity to stop for birding. In short, a great experience when really ‘travelling’ (with lots of time on your hands, like when you’re a student), but less so when one has more money and less time.
For thorough accounts of taxi-brousse travel, see trip reports of Michael Mills and Michiel de Boer.
A variety of boats was used. Speedboats were rented for the Betsiboka delta near Majunga (Mahajanga) (€ 160) and for the return trip to Masoala peninsula from Maroantsetra (2 million FMg / € 160). Motorised ‘piroque’ (empty treetrunk, shaky but steady enough) were used on a trip into the eastern parts of the delta at Maroantsetra, on the crossing between Le Mangrove Hotel and Sarodrano in the southwest (iron piroques were used here), as well as between Sarodrano, Anakao and Nosy Ve island; ‘paddle piroques’ were used for the canal in western Maroantsetra and along the coast of the Masoala peninsula; and ‘sail piroques’ were used when crossing the river at Morondava (regular local service) and when sailing out to the snorkeling areas (way) in front of the Mangily Hotel at Mangily (Ifaty).
This is the Malagasy name for push-riksja, found in big numbers in Mahajanga, Toliara and Antsirabe, carrying everything from people to rice. We did not use them.
Package tour - Betsiboka delta and Ampijoroa Forest (NW Madagascar)
When preparing, it became evident that arranging a boat into the Betsiboka delta near Majunga (THE place to see the endangered Madagascar White Ibis Threskiornis bernieri and Bernier’s Teal Anas bernieri, with additional chances of Humblot’s Heron Ardea humbloti and Crab Plover Dromas ardeola) was difficult and could be time-consuming on site.
Emails sent to various hotels in Majunga led us to mr Hery Rajoherison of Thilan Tour (email: email@example.com), who proposed a full package for € 875 (after bargaining, for three), including transfers from and to Majunga airport; a speedboat into Betsiboka delta straight upon arrival (at a time, we knew from mr Rajoherisons emails, excellent for finding the wanted species since it was low tide at noon, becoming high tide around 4 pm); 4 nights camping at Ampijoroa Forest; lunch aboard the Betsiboka speedboat and all meals while at Ampijoroa Forest (freshly prepared by our own cook!); the use of Jacky, arguably the best guide working at Ampijoroa Forest; a boat tour around Lac Ravelobe; lunch at Lac Amborolomandy and a night in the Hotel Cocolodge at Majunga the day before departure.
While € 875 is still a steep price to Malagasy standards, the excellent chef Bruno (and, on the last evening, mr Rajoherison himself), the excellent guide Jacky and the great Betsiboka boat tour (everyone always seems to charge € 160 for) made this an unforgettable part of the trip. All meals were excellent, and prepared using fresh seafood (e.g. plenty of lobster) brought in from Majunga. This part of the deal (the food) was another reason to use mr Rajoherison’s services, as some travellers report about the poor state of food served at Ampijoroa Forest - sometimes resulting in upset stomachs, which we wanted to avoid, especially in our second week of the trip!
Other people who can probably arrange a boat trip into Betsiboka are Frédéric (firstname.lastname@example.org), who charged € 200 for a boat and responded too late to our enquiries; and Michel (email@example.com) who did not give a price estimate.
At Andasibe (Perinet/Mantady/Maromiza/Vohimara) we stayed at the cheap, excellent Feon’ny ala, conveniently located near the turn-off from the main road and half an hour walk from Perinet entrance. A chalet (with three beds) cost between 190,000 and 230,000 FMg / € 16-20 per night, while the restaurant has a variety of meals and the added possibility of seeing Indri, Greater Dwarf-Lemur, Cuckooroller or Hook-billed Vanga while having a meal (as we did).
We preferred to stay at Feon’ny ala instead of at the more luxurious (and more expensive) Vakona Lodge, closer to Mantady. The area around Vakona seems to consist of non-native trees, less interesting for birding; but most importantly, as some birds are most easily found at Perinet (Madagascar Long-eared and Scops Owl, Collared Nightjar), being accommodated closer to Mantady loses its appeal.
In Tana, we stayed at two locations: when returning from Perinet and Maroantsetra, we stayed at the excellent Relais de Tonga Soa (meaning ‘welcome’ in Malagasy), conveniently located 2 km from Ivato (inter)national airport. Ninah, who runs the hotel, serves a home-cooked meal in the evening and is very helpful. Through her we arranged a reliable and cheap rental car. The price of dinner equals the room price – we paid 740,000 FMg / € 60 for two double rooms and 4 dinners one night.
Because everyone flying with Air Madagascar is obliged to book at least one night at the posh, expensive, four-star Colbert Hotel, we stayed there when returning from Ampijoroa. We paid for it together with our flight (€ 122 for a double room). While staying there, we learned about their fast internet connection, so we returned twice more when in Tana, to check emails (and Dutch rarity reports, reading about a twitchable Scaly Thrush in The Netherlands).
At Ampijoroa Forest Station, one has the opportunity to stay at one of the newly-built wooden bungalows. As these (three, each holding three beds) are quite luxurious and roomy, with hot showers, as well as offering porch-views over the southern part of Lac Ravelobe, they are an excellent choice – they cost 250,000 FMg / € 20 per night. The only other option is camping, for which there is plenty of room and shelters are available. Having paid mr Rajoherison (see Package tour) for 4 nights camping, we moved to a bungalow after only one sweaty night in a tent…….
The night before flying back to Tana we stayed at Hotel Coco Lodge in Majunga. Nice and quiet and with a small swimmingpool, it offered the opportunity to relax for an afternoon. Included in our package, mr Rajoherison charged us € 25 per room.
Coco Beach Hotel was our chosen accommodation at Maroantsetra. From here, boats leaving for the Masoala peninsula can pick you up, while trips into the waterways surrounding Maroantsetra can also be arranged. They offer cramped wooden huts as well as roomier bungalows that only cost slightly more. Rakoto, a helpful young guy that speaks English well, works here (see Guides). Downsides of the Coco Beach Hotel are the fact that there were noisy French old guys (entertained by very young Malagasy girls) in the bar in the evening, and that it repeatedly took over an hour for food to arrive after being ordered.
At the Masoala peninsula we stayed at Arrollodge, owned by Olivier Fournajoux, a Frenchman living in Maroantsetra. We had prearranged this visit through internet (http://arollodge.free.fr/contact.htm, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com) and paid 2,000,000 FMg / € 160 for a return trip by boat and 3,900,000 FMg / € 312 for accommodation and all meals during our 5-day stay. The food served was excellent and very varied. Olivier took all food & drinks (incl beer) for our 5-day stay along in the speedboat.
The lodge, located next to a small village 100m from the beach, consists of a sheltered place where all meals are served, surrounded by about 7 huts (each holding up to 3 beds), a toilet, shower and kitchen. Right behind the watertank (10m from the huts) a trail through secondary forest leads uphill where we saw, e.g., Helmet Vanga and Red-breasted Coua. Arrollodge serves its purpose well and is recommended.
[In the past, people have stayed at Ambanizana village, further to the north, but the forest is said to have disappeared there now. Other options for lodging at the Masoala peninsula are the Kayak Lodge, about 2 km south of Arrollodge, and Tampolodge, about 4 km (45 mins walk) south of Arrollodge. The advantage of Tampolodge is that it is conveniently located at the northern boundary of the marine reserve, offering good snorkeling opportunities. It is also bordered by promising forest (where we saw Helmet Vanga), the food served is excellent and the setting, overviewing the beach and next to an idyllic stream, is more beautiful than Arrollodge. Tampolodge is likely to hold birds similar to Arrollodge]
NOTE that the crossing of Baie d’Antongil, 2 hrs by speedboat from Maroantsetra to Arrollodge at Masoala, can be very wet when the sea is not flat and calm, as it was on our crossing. Warned about this by the Brits who’d just left the peninsula and got soaking wet, we bought plastic, tape and rope in Maroantsetra, and secured our backpacks the evening before leaving for Masoala. For bins, scopes and small backpacks there is a small compartment underneath the speedboats’ steering wheel.
As a rule, the Baie d’Antongil is quiet in the morning and rough in the afternoon.
At Kirindy forest station we stayed at the forest station in small wooden huts holding two beds each. These cost 50,000 FMg / € 4 per hut per night. The communal shower consisted of a large barrel of water, where a bucket could be filled – that could be used in roofless but private shelters. The toilet was conveniently located at the other side of the sandy access road, so that Giant Couas could be watched when walking over there. The roomy open restaurant also dubbed as park office and had great posters with pictures of mammals, reptiles and amphibians.
In Morondava, we stayed at the touristy Baobab Café, recommended by the Lonely Planet. We stayed in the attic, holding 4 beds, for 500,000 FMg / € 40 for one night. The Baobab Café is conveniently situated opposite the mangroves and walking distance from the beach. The food was excellent, and so was the Bat Hawk according to BL (lifer) and PS. Three meals for 4 set us back around 700,000 FMg / € 56.
The perfectly situated Mangily Hotel, recommended by our driver Hery as well as Moosa, was where we stayed at Mangily (the small village referred to as ‘Ifaty’ in other trip reports). Beautiful stone houses, some overlooking the Mozambique Channel, with private bathrooms and toilet, cost an incredibly cheap 120,000 FMg / € 10 or 140,000 / € 11 (seaview). Plenty of geckos and an occasional horned beetle were seen at night, while Madagascar Nightjar was commonly heard. Half an hour away by sail piroque, a nice snorkeling area is found.
While at Reserve Speciale de Beza-Mahafaly, we stayed at the forest station, where one wooden hut (with three beds, FMg 50,000 / € 4 per night) is reserved for guests – this is where BL, MR and PS slept. RH and driver Hery both had their own tent (FMg 30,000 / € 2.5 per night), of which about 6 are for rent. Let the forest station know that you are coming: the ANGAP office in Tulear has regular radio contact.
NOTE that food has to be brought in: for example, we bought 2 pineapples, 4 cauliflowers, 10 cucumbers, 20 large carrots, 5 leek, 4 kilos of potatoes, 10 mangos, 3 large grapefruits, 5 lemons, 2 kilos of bananas, 12 x 1.5 liter water, 7 carts of fruit juice and 10 packs of biscuits. With a 4WD it is also possible to visit the weekly Thursday market (13 kms from Beza forest station), where food can be bought and which is a great sight anyway – cultural highlight of the trip, being chased by about 30 kids who’d never seen a camera before. Several local families live at the forest station and food will be cooked for you.
At Isalo, we chose to stay at the roadside Joyau de l’Isalo (few kms west of Ranohira), as the Relais de la Reine is quite expensive and the recommended Isalo Ranch was full. Good bungalows with private bathrooms, while the attached restaurant was o.k. The large souvenirshop provided us with some nice stuff. The fields across the road held calling Harlequin Quail.
At Ranomafana, we stayed one night at the Hotel Domain Nature, recommended by many as the best place in town. However, as all but the most distant steep-hillside-located bungalows were fully booked, we later changed to the Centrest Hotel, which is located next to the museum in Ranomafana village, and which turned out to be better value for money. Where even those damp, hard to reach small bungalows (of which one shower didn’t provide hot water) of the Hotel Domain Nature cost as much as 425,000 FMg / € 40 a night, the luxurious, modern rooms at Centrest Hotel were about half of that, with the wooden huts (with nearby communal shower) being even cheaper. One advantage of the Domain Nature is that it is located several kms closer to the entrance of Ranomafana National Park but, as most birders will have their own transport, the fact that the Centrest Hotel is a mere 10 mins longer drive will not matter much. Both hotels have good restaurants.
All national parks have ANGAP offices at the entrance, where entrance fees must be paid. These were invariably 50,000 FMg / € 4 per person and valid for three days; apart from Vohimara (see ‘Sites visited’ below) where an entrance fee of 25,000 FMg / € 2 per person is due. However, charges have since been increased to (say, more East African standards of) as much as € 20 per three days.
The ticket for Perinet includes Mantady and apparently also Maromiza (but not Vohimara), while the one for Ranomafana also includes Vohiparara. Unfortunately, the spiny forest at Mangily (Ifaty) is still not protected, so no fees are charged here. We did not pay entrance fees for Isalo as we did not enter the reserve: we only paid for Perinet/Mantady/Maromiza; Ampijoroa (included in the package deal, see above); Masoala (ANGAP office in Maroantsetra, near Coco Beach Hotel); Kirindy; Beza-Mahafaly; Zombitse-Vohibasia and Ranomafana/Vohiparara.
We did not pay for Vohimara as payment was only asked for by our guide afterwards – however, later we were shown an official leaflet promoting visits to this ‘new’ site, which mentioned an entrance fee of 25,000 FMg. [Then again, it also mentioned a price of 20,000 FMg for a guided morning visit, where we had paid 50,000 FMg]
At Analamazaotra special reserve (including Périnet, Mantady, Maromiza and Vohimara) we used the services of Florent Razafimahatratra. We had asked Peter Maaskant, visiting just a few weeks earlier, to try and book Patrice or Maurice for us, but both were not available. Patrice was however waiting for us, and warmly recommended Florent – in whom we were not disappointed! Florent had excellent, first-hand knowledge of where to find birds, lemurs and reptiles, and we regularly exchanged information with Patrice, who during our first few days was working with Brian Finch and his tourgroup and later with Keith Barnes and TropicalBirding.
When trying for Rufous-headed Groundroller, not calling yet in late Sept (because of lack of rains and consequently lack of snails, apparently its main diet), Florent proved tireless. Where Patrice gave up, Florent finally found a responsive Rufous-headed Groundroller on a near-vertical slope bordering the “Chute sacrée”-trail at Mantady. He would regularly leave us on the main path, he himself checking whether a site still held, for example, resting Collared Nightjar or Madagascar Scops Owl, and if it did returning to fetch us. In a similar way he searched the Diademed Sifaka hill (at Mantady) twice (in vain), before we finally saw the species at Maromiza (and later also at Mantady). Florent charged us 200,000 FMg / € 16 a day but he is definitely worth more. On our last day we gave him our discman and the 4 (travelcopies of the) Madagascar (Indian Ocean islands) cd’s, along with a small speaker but will someone please bring him a small 10 US$-Radioshack-speaker he can use?
Florent (and probably all other professional guides at Analamazaotra) can be reached at Florent Razafimahatratra, Guide touristique, Andasibe (Périnet), C.P. 514, B.P. 17, Madagascar.
During our ventures into the Betsiboka delta and at Ankarafantsika national park (Ampijoroa) we were accompanied by Jacky, who is the best man for the job. He is very allround and showed us, apart from all wanted birds, snakes, chameleons, leafbugs, lemurs and other mammals etc. We had sent him a long list and upon arrival he told us he could show all, “apart from two which, because of fairly recent typhoons, have become very hard to find”. Expecting these two to be the localized Schlegel’s Asity and Van Dam’s Vanga, we were pleased to learn that these two were Bat Hawk and Madagascar Cuckoohawk – two birds not one guide in all of Madagascar seems to have a reliable site for anyhow! When, on our last morning, a tour group requested Jacky as their guide and we went out with Guy, we had another pleasant morning’s birding including great views of White-breasted Mesite and Madagascar Buttonquail. Two other recommended guides for this site, mentioned in other reports, are Romain (who appears to be quite prone to over-taping however) and Nono.
Jackies guiding was included in our package with mr Rajoherison – the latter charged us € 2 per person per day for Jackies services. Mr Rajoherison also paid Guy, who we tipped 25,000 FMg / € 2 for the morning.
At Masoala peninsula we got stuck with Patrick, “not a bird guide” as Olivier (under)stated when introducing us, “but the only guide available”. We had requested Bidas, mentioned in Michiel de Boer’s 2003 report, but he turned out not to be available (despite earlier promise by Olivier). Patrick spoke reasonable English, but was rather uninterested and, unusual for a guide, lost the way when returning on Tampolodge waterfall trail. He did however find us our only Brookesia (tiny brown terrestrial) chameleon of the trip (although we’re still not sure whether he didn’t buy it from a local, as he came running to show it to us instead of pointing it out) and a Helmet Vanga (after we had found one first, and two afterwards).
When at Arrollodge, we learned of Suzette, a girl who seemed genuinely interested in birds and who was frequently seen holding the Morris & Hawkins (when Patrick was chatting with the female cooks) – according to the (non-birding) German couple who was happy to have her as their guide, she had found a perched (non-calling) Short-legged Groundroller (at the Lohatrozana trail). Julian was employed by American birder George Wagner and showed him a pair of Brown Mesite (although pointing them out as ‘Wood Rails’) along with some other interesting species (but no Dusky Greenbul or Bernier’s Vanga). Serraphin is another guide for Masoala.
Patrick charged 95,000 FMg per day, but upon paying him at the end he demanded an extra 25,000 per day he claimed to have spent on his meals. We asked Olivier if this was true and he answered that Patrick, like all guides, had gotten free meals at his lodge. Needless to say, we did not pay Patrick what he asked for; nor is he recommended.
On our ventures into the canals of the delta east of Maroantsetra (mostly turned into rice paddies) and the canal west of Maroantsetra (used for shrimp hunting by locals) we were accompanied by Rakoto (pronounced as “Racoot”). He speaks good English, is very informative and helpful and was curious about the birds: going through our book, he pointed out Allen’s Gallinule Porphyrio alleni and insisted he could show it to us – thinking he meant Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus, we were surpised to learn he was right! Also, he knew a good site for the localized endemic Tomato Frog Dyscophus antongili (an orange-red frog with tiny green eyes). Rakoto mentioned he sometimes acts as guide for the Masoala peninsula and works at Coco Beach Hotel.
At Kirindy Forest we were guided by Rémi, who was very informative on just about anything. He showed us wild Vanilla and several species of Baobab Tree, knew territories of White-breasted Mesite and was excellent in finding nocturnal mammals (apart from some that we dipped – see below). He told us that January (the rainy season) was far better for chameleons, frogs and snakes, but managed to find us several chameleons and snakes anyway. He did not know any day-roosting sites for White-browed Owl, but as this species was easily found at night and seen very well when spotlit, that didn’t matter. His remark to the fact that two pairs of Giant Coua (as well as a pair of Cocquerel’s Coua and Narrow-striped Mongoose) frequented the forest station premises regularly was right on the spot, so we got excellent views of these! According to Rémi, even Fosa regularly visits the forest station’s kitchen waste site for scraps, but we were not that fortunate.
For all Tulear (Toliara) surroundings it is advisable to employ one of the family members of Moosa. Not only are they able to show all Mangily (Ifaty) / spiny forest specialties in as little as three hours, they also know good sites for Madagascar Plover (in 2004 and 2005 breeding opposite Moosa’s huts) and Madagascar Sandgrouse (see Description of sites visited) and are probably indispensable when trying for Red-shouldered Vanga at La Table.
What should have been our trip highlight actually became our trip-low when it turned out that the Moosa family (father Moosa, ‘Jimi Hendrix’, and his sons, aged approx. 7-17) basically walk from nest to nest, scaring birds off the nest if needed and, if not seriously discouraged anytime soon, took eggs and nestlings out of the nest to show them. We were shown a Subdesert Mesite that was very clearly ‘treed’ (chased up the top of a bush, where it stayed motionless for, well, as long as it takes for several groups, including many with photographers, to see and photograph them well) - although our guide Moosa, Gila claimed it was sleeping, it had its eyes wide open. When leaving the site Gila showed us the nest (a loose bunch of twigs in a fork, about 1.6m off the ground) and took two eggs out before we could object. Needless to say, we didn’t enjoy ourselves and left within minutes – only to find that, after leaving the spiny bushes, another group of ca 8 people, many armed with large Canons, was waiting their turn……….while the nesting, now treed bird had probably been disturbed about half an hour already………..
More or less the same happened with the Long-tailed Groundroller, who probably had a nest nearby and was well-aware of strangers present in its territory. However, people moved with caution and whispered, so that the bird would come back repeatedly – to which extent this bird was disturbed we can’t tell.
The absolute lowpoint was the Archbold’s Newtonia, which we heard in advance, as it alarmed quite obviously. As we pointed our bins on the bird, Gila said something like “and these are its nestlings” and before we could protest he held one in his hands. We urged him to put it back and tried to explain that many birders don’t like birding in that way, but it appears the Moosa family are hunters more than birders – the easiest way to guarantee an income is to know the nests whenever birds start breeding, making it easier to show them to birders. Please don’t encourage them!
Moosa charged 100,000 FMg / € 8 for a morning walk, with no extra charge for the afternoon walk the same day, as we had not seen Running Coua in the morning. He nor his sons could identify chameleons or knew sites for (nocturnal) lemurs.
The stories appeared to be true: both Moosa and his sons probably spend most of their money on liquor - they appear to sweat whiskey.
The Red-shouldered Vanga at La Table is a different story. Both father Moosa and his son Moosa, Freddy accompanied us to the site, where it became clear they didn’t know a nest of this highly localized endemic (that might be very rare indeed). Continuously whistling the Red-shouldered Vanga three-syllable song, both Moosas slowly started walking the dirt road branching off the main Tulear – Tana road, Freddy venturing into the thick Euphorbia scrub on several occasions. Only after about half an hour, a bird responded but did not come to the track. A Rockjumper tourleader was helpful in him putting the actual sound on the responsive bird, allowing us to get great views from both male and female.
NOTE that the recording on the Chappuis/Huguet cd (2004) is NOT the right song or call of Red-shouldered Vanga, making it very hard for independent birders who do not have the call to find the bird themselves! Also, Brian Gee’s site for this bird (between Le Mangrove Hotel and St. Augustin) appears not to be reliable anymore.
For our trip to La Table Moosa charged us 100,000 FMg per person (400,000 FMg / € 32 total), sending his son Freddy with us to Anakao and Nosy Ve at no extra charge.
At Réserve Spéciale de Beza-Mahafaly we were assigned Olivier, not a bird guide but with knowledge of the local mammals and able to show us the local specialties within an hour of nightwalk. Understanding that we were generalists, Olivier, who is quite fluent in English, took us to a nearby canyon in early morning, where we enjoyed ourselves with dragonflies, some birds, lizards and frogs. When, in late afternoon, RH and PS decided to walk back to camp (from 5 km away where we had been watching Ring-tailed Lemurs), Olivier insisted he walk back with us and managed to point out some birds (like perched Frances’ Sparrowhawk) and a very cooperative Grey Mouse-lemur.
Olivier charged us 25,000 FMg / € 2 per half day; he was well worth it.
At Zombitse-Vohibasia forest we stopped at the WWF sign south of the main Tulear - Tana road, and after paying for 4 permits we were taken on a 3-hr walk through the forest south of the road by Flaubert. Although initially having some troubles in finding Appert’s Greenbul (which makes sense, as it was midday), in the end we found several small flocks, as well as him pointing out several Cocquerel’s and Giant Couas, a snake, interesting insects and orchids. Flaubert was, apart from being the only choice, very capable of showing the specialties of the area within limited time. He had no set price so we gave him 75,000 FMg / € 6 for the 3-hr walk.
For Ranomafana and surroundings we used the services of Theo (or Theophile, as there are apparently two Theos at Ranomafana, of which only one is a specialist bird guide). Theo was recommended to us by among others George Wagner, and sure enough he could show us the birds, with the exception of one – Madagascar Yellowbrow. Where other guides encountered (noticeably Jean Chry and Fidi) as well as Guy Eldridge insisted we try at Vohiparara, as the species should be more common there, Theo kept on trying at the guava forest at Ranomafana, where he knew two pairs lived. Our doubts whether the sound on the cd was actually the sound of Madagascar Yellowbrow were enhanced when upon playing the cd only White-throated Oxylabes appeared (the fast chittering sounds more like agitated Oxylabes, whereas the individual sharp ‘chits’ might be Yellowbrow). All turned out well when we, on our last morning in the area, after several hrs of trying and with the help of Guy Eldridge of Turaco Tours, saw this most-wanted well at Vohiparara.
Good birds Theo managed to show us included Pitta-like and Rufous-headed Groundrollers, Brown Mesite, Pollen’s Vanga, Grey-crowned Greenbul, Henst’s Goshawk, both Emutails and Yellow-bellied Sunbird-Asity. Theos site for the latter at Vohiparara is probably the same site all guides use, a treefall about 45 mins walk from the road, as it produced a splendid male within 45 mins of waiting, as well as a long-staying female Velvet Asity.
Theo proved to be excellent also at a rainy nightwalk, when he and his fellow ‘guide professionel’ found several leaf-tailed geckos Uroplatus species (which are extremely hard to find), chameleons and mouse-lemurs (easy at Ranomafana as they are fed bananas there). He also knows sites for Grey Emutail (at remnant marsh near Vohiparara) and Madagascar Snipe (about 15 km northwest of Ranomafana; see Description of sites visited).
Jean Chry and Fidi are other good (though expensive) guides for Ranomafana and Vohiparara, as is Lloret, Theo’s brother-in-law.
Theo charged us 175,000 FMg / € 16 for half a day and 50,000 FMg / € 4 for a nightwalk. His charge for 3.5 days was therefore 950,000 FMg / € 76; we tipped him 150,000 FMg / € 7.
NOTE that, being a Christian, Theo doesn’t work on Sunday (mornings). As our first day at Ranomafana was a Sunday, we were taken into the National Park by two so-called ‘guides-stagiaires’ (trainees), Gladys and Johnno, who (in the pouring rain) were capable enough to show us both Greater and Eastern Grey Bamboo-lemurs, as well as Pitta-like Groundroller. They also showed us some frogs and were genuinely interested in birds. They seemed happy with the 90,000 FMg / € 7.5 we paid them for the day.
Description of sites visited
NOTE that, in the following, Mad refers to Madagascar, in order to limit the number of pages of this mad report.
Near Andasibe (Analamazaotra special reserve) (NC Madagascar)
- Mangoro River bridge is located about 20 kms west of Périnet, and is known as a good site for Madagascar Pratincole, that breeds on rocks visible from the bridge. We saw one on Sept 25, probably the first that had arrived back from its wintering quarters in East Africa. Other interesting birds seen here included our first (Chabert’s) Vangas, Mad Malachite Kingfisher and Mad Kestrel.
- Périnet is within easy reach of the capital Tana and holds good rainforest birding. It has excellent guides and quite a few specialties, in birds, lemurs and chameleons. It seems to offer the best chance for daytime roost views of both Collared Nightjar and Mad Scops Owl and evening fly-in views of Mad Long-eared Owl. The continued checking of pondsides by Florent finally resulted in good views of Mad Crested Ibis, whereas other good birds seen here include Henst’s Goshawk, Mad and Frances’ Sparrowhawk, Mad Wood Rail, Crossley’s Babbler, White-throated Oxylabes, Ward’s Flycatcher, Red-fronted and even Red-breasted Coua and Nuthatch Vanga. Parson’s Calumma parsoni and One-horned chameleon C. nasuta were encountered regularly, while this reserve offers the best chance for seeing (and hearing!) the incredible Indri Indri indri. Other mammals encountered include Eastern Grey Bamboo-lemur Hapalemur g. griseus (rare here) and Eastern Avahi Avahi laniger. With the exception of the fast late afternoon hill walks in search of Mad Wood Rails, Périnet, with its excellent trail system, offered easy birding.
- at remnant marsh in between Périnet and Mantady we were shown Mad Rail, with Mad Swamp Warbler and Mad Cisticola also seen and White-throated Rail and Mad Flufftail only heard. At the edge of the golf course opposite Vakona Lodge, Mad Nightjar and Mad Swamp Warbler were found.
- Mantady takes about an hour to reach by taxi from Feon’ny ala bungalows. It consists of large tracts of higher elevation rainforest, accessed by a driveable unsurfaced road. Mantady has several designated hiking trails where some good birds can be found (like Rufous-headed Groundroller and Common Sunbird-Asity, which we saw at Chute Sacrée). Other than those, the guides know small trails branching off the main road, accessing forest bordering streams. It is in this habitat that the groundrollers breed and thus can be found (when calling). The graphite mine left of the road held breeding Mad Little Grebe –we also saw Black-and-white Ruffed Lemurs near here. A small car park on the right indicates the start of a trail uphill, where a group of Diademed Sifakas has its territory; other interesting species here included Collared Nightjar, Brown Emutail (that we dipped here), Red-breasted Coua (heard only) and Mad Treeboa Sanzinia madagascariensis (a snake). At our second visit, late Oct, two nests of Mad Pygmy Kingfisher were found in a steep roadside. Mantady is the most reliable site for Short-legged and Scaly Groundrollers and, apart from steep slopes where we saw Short-legged and Rufous-headed Groundrollers, provides easy (mainly roadside) birding.
- Maromiza is a higher-altitude forest reserve, located about 5 kms east of Feon’ny ala bungalows. There is a circuitous trail that requires a good physical state to walk, but excellent panoramic views and, with luck, some good species can be found here. A guide for this trail lives few kms further east, along the main road: your (compulsory Andasibe) guide will know where to find him. After an initial uphill walk of about half an hour, some quarries are found, where we saw Mad Flufftail and Forest Rock Thrush and heard Hook-billed Vanga. Continuing on the trail, it becomes a ridge trail bordered by steep drops or thick forest with the occasional damp gully. In this habitat Rufous-headed Groundroller and Common Sunbird-Asity were heard and seen, respectively. From the ridge trail we saw (our only) Peregrine, Diademed Sifaka, Indri, Dark Newtonia, Forest Fody and Cryptic Warbler while, after dropping down into primary forest, we encountered a vanga flock holding what we think was a white-throated Tylas Vanga. A Lowland Streaked Tenrec Hemicentetes semispinosus crossing the path was seen well (after being caught by our guide). A visit to this site (or the next one) is recommended when one has surplus time to spend in the Andasibe region.
- Vohimara is the name of a recent addition to the complex of habitats that make up the Analamazaotra special reserve. It is thought to be the only true lowland forest (as Périnet is about 100m asl), giving way to thoughts that it is here where the true lowland specialties, that are only very occasionally recorded from Mantady and Périnet, originate from. According to the Andasibe guides and even locals, Helmet Vanga is regular at Vohimara, and other lowland specialties like Dusky Greenbul or Red-tailed Newtonia might occur. Both Mad Serpent-Eagle and Mad Red Owl are mentioned for the site.
Access to this new site is complicated, however. Guy Eldridge described a path that starts at kmp 147 along the road Tana – Toamasina, which would access the forest after a 45 min walk. On our very last morning, RH and PS attempted to access the forest by using a local guide Florent had recruited. The route walked not only took about 2 hrs to reach any forest, it also lead up to a ridge trail where the birds encountered (like Cryptic Warbler and Dark Newtonia) indicated we had not (yet) arrived at lowland forest. The local guide indicated that lowland forest would be reached at a later stage – which we didn’t have time for as we had a plane to catch.
Apart from the species mentioned, the following was noted (within limited time): a Mad Pygmy Kingfisher at its nest in a steep hillside bordering the railway track, two Henst’s Goshawks, Diademed Sifakas, and calling Indri heard nearby several times.
Near Majunga (Mahajanga) (NW Madagascar)
- West of Majunga the Betsiboka delta is found, clearly visible from the plane when flying in from Tana. The delta consists of several large mangrove islands, of which the edges form mudflats or sandbanks at low tide. It is here that two Critically Endangered Malagasy endemics can be found: Bernier’s Teal and Mad White Ibis. The teals feed in pairs, by dabbling through the mud at the islands’ edges; at high tide, when many of the islands vanish, they form a big flock which eventually flies to one of the islands to roost – and are then very hard to find. We saw as many as 51 together before they flew off. The Mad White Ibis also feed in pairs, of which we saw two in between a flock of egrets, and one close-up on a mudflats’ edge.
Opposite Boanamary village (from where local piroques can be hired to access the delta more cheaply than the € 160 speedboat from Majunga) a large sandbank held egrets and ibis, some waders, as well as large numbers of smaller terns which, due to distance, we couldn’t identify unfortunately. The mudflats facing the sea held 1,000s of (mostly) unidentified waders – either Terek or Curlew Sandpipers (small numbers of both could be identified; most could not because of the boat shaking). Here, other pleasant surprises included an immature Humblot’s Heron, 3 Crab Plovers and an African Spoonbill.
NOTE that leaving the boat in order to walk to the sandbanks is NOT a good idea – the current is strong and the sand too muddy (RH and PS almost drowned).
- Ampijoroa forest (Ankarafantsika national park) is located beside the main Tana – Majunga road (RN 4) and is a steady part of any birder’s itinerary. Endangered endemics found here include White-breasted Mesite, Schlegel’s Asity and Van Dam’s Vanga, while other goodies (we saw) include Mad Little Grebe, Mad Crested Ibis, Banded Kestrel, Mad Buttonquail, Rufous, Hook-billed and Sickle-billed Vangas. A good guide can usually find you all these specialties within 1.5 day but we found our longer stay quite rewarding. Mammal highlights here included Cocquerel’s Sifaka, Milne-Edwards’s Sportive Lemur, Grey and Golden-brown Mouse-lemur.
- Lac Ravelobe is the lake found opposite the Ampijoroa forest station. It is about 1 km x 500-800m large and normally holds one pair of the critically endangered Madagascar Fish Eagle, which during our visit had an almost fully grown young on the nest. Nowadays, a boat can be rented that takes you out onto the lake, giving you the chance to see a number of waterbirds up close. We saw an immature Humblot’s Heron, up to 2 breeding-plumaged Mad Pond-Heron (usually in the Cattle Egret colony), many Black Herons, African Darter, Mad Jacana, Mad Malachite Kingfisher, Mad Bee-eater, Broad-billed Roller and many White-faced Whistling-ducks. Swimming at the lake is prohibited (‘fady’), because of (sacred) crocodiles.
- Lac Amborolomandy is the lake found along the main road between Majunga and Ampijoroa forest, about 20 km from the latter. Brian Gee’s report mentions the southeastern corner of the lake filled with waterlilies, that can be viewed when walking through paddies. When viewed from the road on Oct 4, only a small marsh was visible amongst many paddies, but there might still be enough good habitat to make it worth a visit. Guy, one of the Ampijoroa guides, however recommended driving about 8 km east of Amborolomandy village, so that the northern side of the lake can be viewed. It is here where we saw 7 pairs of African Pygmy-Goose, as well as a number of Mad Jacanas. On Oct 4, we even found a winter-plumaged Gull-billed Tern, flying in between the many Whiskered Terns – P. Morris confiirmed this to be the 3rd Gull-billed Tern for Madagascar.
North of Antananarivo (NC Madagascar)
- By George Wagner, who we had met at Ankarafantsika national park, we were told to visit the artificial lake west of kmp 76 along RN 4 Tana – Majunga, and sure enough we found ourselves a Meller’s Duck there (at about 10.30 am). When told about this sighting, our Andasibe guide Florent told us he’d seen them there before, but usually only early mornings or late afternoons, when apparently hunting pressure is low. Florent even saw Mad Fish Eagle at this lake on one occasion. He told us about another lake, about 100 km north of Tana, which is apparently a refuge for Meller’s Duck, where up to 7 birds were seen by him. This reserve is managed by the Peregrine Fund – how to go about getting access to it we don’t know.
- Lac Andranotapahina, next to Mandriambero village, just north of Tana, is a lake full of waterlillies along RN 4 Tana – Majunga, that we stopped at to check for dragonflies and ducks. We only saw distant fly-by White-faced Whistling-ducks, until all of a sudden many hundreds of duck (incl many Red-billed Teal) were flying in every direction – flushed by a female Reunion Harrier! We watched this bird fly over the lake for about half an hour, during which time it hovered above one reedbed in particular.
Masoala peninsula (NE Madagascar)
- The Arrollodge surroundings include a bunch of small rocky islets just south from the trail leading up to the lodge; quite good secondary forest 10m east of the lodge; and some paddies and a stream directly south of it. The islets held a number of terns, including Roseate, many Lesser Crested and on one occasion also Greater Crested and Saunders’s (not mentioned in Morris & Hawkins (2001) for the east coast). At the paddies south of the lodge we repeatedly heard White-throated Rail, that we taped out one evening, and Mad Flufftail. The trees between the beach and the lodge usually held Mad Blue Pigeons and Lesser Vasa Parrots, and even a Banded Kestrel one afternoon. The first 100m of secondary forest east of the lodge held two calling Red-breasted Couas, that could be seen well with luck and patience (and preferably a recording of their call), and Mad Wood Rails in late afternoon. The Brits we met at Maroantsetra airport told us they’d seen Mad Cuckoohawk here twice, but we dipped. Further up the trail, a small trail branches off to the right, crossing a stream some 80m further – this area is said to be good for Red Ruffed Lemur, and it is here where RH and PS had brief views of what might have been a Dusky Greenbul (while BL was watching a Red-breasted Coua). Some 800m east of the lodge, a crossing is found: straight leads to a treefall where both Guy Eldridge and Brian Finch saw Dusky Greenbul prior to our visit (and where we saw a Helmet Vanga in a mixed vanga/greenbul flock twice); right follows the ridge, where we saw Mad Wood Rails and Helmet Vanga; left is the trail connecting the Arrollodge with the next site.
- Lohatrozana is about half an hour walk, over and alongside the beach, north of Arrollodge. From Lohatrozana village a trail enters quite good secondary forest, where we saw Red Ruffed Lemur and some small bird flocks. This trail branches off south towards Arrollodge, but in retrospect we wished we had chosen the longer trail, that branches off south further east of Lohatrozana. Apparently, a German couple staying at Arrollodge saw Short-legged Groundroller with their guide Suzette along the latter trail.
- From just south of Tampolodge a trail eastwards enters mangrove and good secondary forest, where we saw Rufous and Hook-billed Vanga, (flushed) Helmeted Guineafowl and White-throated Rail. The trail crosses a number of small plantations and is basically one-way, as it ends at a waterfall. The Brits told us they’d heard Bernier’s Vanga at the trail above the waterfall (in the pouring rain, their weather throughout their 3-day-stay at Masoala) but, although finding a vanga flock there, we dipped. Another flock, found in the forest bordering the beach trail south of Tampolodge, held a Helmet Vanga.
- The only true primary forest encountered at the Masoala peninsula was the forest surrounding the researcher’s huts at Andronobe. Unfortunately, the two hours we spent there one early morning were in pouring rain, after which we were asked to leave as we did not have permission to go there. A largish flock holding several White-headed Vangas, that appeared to breed close to the researcher’s huts, was the most noteworthy here.
Maroantsetra (NE Madagascar)
- During a (motorised) afternoon boatride through the canals east of Coco Beach Hotel, RH, MR and PS mainly saw a large number of egrets in flight, along with a lot of Madagascar Red Fody. The habitat consisted mainly of wet delta turned into rice paddies, with occasional patches of palm ‘forest’ – hardly any true marsh was found. Nevertheless, we saw some Panther Chameleons Furcifer pardalis while White-throated Rails were heard at dusk and at low tide two female Greater Painted-Snipe were seen well in a dry rice paddy, 15m from the boat.
- By using a ‘paddle piroque’ through the canal west of Coco Beach Hotel we reached the area of town where Tomato Frog is found. Along the way, at an area with waterlilly vegetation, Rakoto showed us the Allen’s Gallinules he’d pointed out in the book the afternoon before!
Near Morondava (W Madagascar)
- The roadside pond 2 km south of Avenue de Baobabs, about 20 km north of Morondava, held large numbers of waterbirds and waterlillies. Birds found here included (up to 71) African Pygmy-Goose, a White-backed Duck of the endemic ssp. insularis, Hottentot Teal, (up to 11) Mad Jacanas and Long-tailed Cormorant. Muddy paddies just south of the pond held Glossy Ibis and Black-winged Stilt.
- Kirindy Forest is another western dry deciduous forest, with somewhat similar birds to Ampijoroa, although the latter site has Schlegel’s Asity, Van Dam’s Vanga and Mad Fish Eagle, birds not found at Kirindy. Two birds that are found at Kirindy and not at Ampijoroa are White-browed Owl and Giant Coua. As these two species are (said to be) easiest at Berenty, a site we didn’t want to visit, AND Kirindy is very good for a number of special endemic mammals, we decided to visit.
Access is straightforward, and upon arrival we were approached by Rémi, the caretaker who also acts as guide. The forest station and restaurant are located along a sandy road, about 5 km east of the main road north from Morondava. The dry forest bordering either side of the sandy road holds interesting birds such as Giant and Cocquerel’s Coua (both of which are actually easiest to see within the forest stations grounds), White-breasted Mesite, Sickle-billed and Rufous Vangas, both Vasa Parrots, Mad Buttonquail and Torotoroka Scops and White-browed Owl. The latter started calling from trees around the forest station at 9 pm each evening, and could be seen very well when using a flashlight.
Kirindy is famous for its mammals, of which Giant Jumping-rat and Pygmy Mouse- lemur are more or less endemic to it. We dipped both unfortunately, the former beacuse they were probably still hibernating and the latter because of bad luck. Other good mammals, easiest here, are Narrow-striped Mongoose, Cocquerel’s Dwarf-lemur, Pale Fork-marked Lemur and Red-tailed Sportive Lemur – the latter two are very vocal at dusk and dozens of each were heard (although seeing is another matter, as they are quick and can be hard to follow when spotlighting). Verreaux’s Sifaka, Red-fronted Brown Lemur (common at the forest station) and Grey Mouse-lemur were also seen. Kirindy is said to be the easiest place to see Fosa, the weird nocturnal marten/cat-like carnivore endemic to Madagascar and our number one reason to visit Kirindy. We sighted a probable one at night but only saw the eyes – not the encounter we were hoping for.
Another good sighting was that of several individuals of a large green dragonfly – which turned out to be the first field observation and photographs taken of Viridithemis viridula. These were encountered along the grid trails east of the forest station, south of the road.
- Apart from the occasional Striated Heron, Greenshank and Whimbrel, not much was seen at the mangroves opposite the Baobab Café in Morondava, until BL and PS saw a Bat Hawk fly over at dusk – from the Baobab Café swimmingpool! Birds encountered by RH and MR in the mangroves south of the river included the trip’s first Eurasian Curlew and a small flock of Terek Sandpipers.
- Birds found at Morondava beach included (distant flight views of) Caspian Tern, many Common Terns, White-fronted Plover and Sanderling. All birds were seen just south of the river, as there were lots of people at Morondava beach itself.
Antananarivo (NC Madagascar)
- Tsimbazaza Park & Zoo is known for being a fairly reliable site for Madagascar Cuckoohawk. We dipped, but had an enjoyable afternoon watching the (captive) lemurs and indiginous species (such as Fosa, Cuckooroller, Long-tailed Groundroller, Mad Fish Eagle and Mad Crested Ibis), (wild) dragonflies, Frances’ Sparrowhawk and Mad Malachite Kingfisher, as well as visiting the tiny natural history museum (with skeletons of the ‘elephant birds’ and ‘giant Indri’).
- By George Wagner, who we met (again) at Masoala peninsula, we were told that the Brits we had encountered at Maroantsetra airport had seen Mad Cuckoohawk at a lake east of Ivato airport. As we had some time to spare on Oct 17, we rented a taxi there – to find out that the site is mainly used for washing clothes and the only trees present were actually on the opposite (northern) side. Kittlitz’ Plover and Red-billed Teal were seen, as well as some dragonflies.
Tulear (Toliara) and surroundings (SW Madagascar)
- The place for the spiny forest specialties of southwestern Madagascar, which in most reports is referred to as Ifaty, is actually called Mangily. Specialties found here are Subdesert Mesite, Long-tailed Groundroller, Running and Green-capped Coua, Subdesert Brush-warbler, Thamnornis Warbler, Archbold’s Newtonia, Lafresnaye’s and Sickle-billed Vanga (the latter is much more wary here than at Ankarafantsika (Ampijoroa). Banded Kestrel has also been recorded here (not by us).
Moosa’s son Gila managed to show us all the specialties with ease, except for Running Coua. We were told to get back in late afternoon and, without extra charge, we were shown this last specialty. As with most groundbirds at Mangily, the bird was found by Gila by following its tracks in the sand.
On our last morning (Oct 20) we drove north a little beyond Moosas huts and walked one of the sandy tracks (going east) indicated on Brian Gees map, at km post 32. Here, a Subdesert Mesite was taped in and watched while it called back and foraged on the groundfloor – a much better sighting than that of the ‘treed’ one. We also recorded a pair of Lafresnaye’s and 3 Sickle-billed Vangas; a pair of Thamnornis Warbler, Mad Bee-eater, Mad Hoopoe, Green-capped Coua, Mad Cuckoo, Mad Coucal, Mad Paradise-Flycatcher, Common Jery and Mad Munia. Namaqua Dove was common.
- The site currently used by many to try for the extremely localised Red-shouldered Vanga is La Table, a table mountain situated about 20 km east of Tulear. When driving the main road from Tulear towards Tana (RN 7), one will find himself on top of the mountain with, after a sharp left-hand bend in the road, a broad unsurfaced white-sand road turning right (south). We heard (and, with aid from Rockjumper Tours, taped out) a pair of Red-shouldered Vanga, about 1 km into this road, and then following a path left for about 500m (time of sighting between 6.30 and 7 am). Other birds here included Verreaux’s Coua and Greater Vasa Parrot in flight (Moosa erroneously calling out: “Sandgrouse!”).
- The road signposted to ‘Melody Beach Resort’ (a turn-off from the main Tulear – Tana road, south of Tulear) seems to be the current main spot for seeing Mad Sandgrouse. We saw some here in the morning of Oct 19 (7.10 – 7.30 am), but as we were quite late (having targeted Red-shouldered Vanga first) we only saw a few. They apparently come in to drink at the zebu waterholes west of the road (about 5 km south of the main Tulear – Tana road) between 6 and 8 am every morning.
- At Le Mangrove Hotel boats can be rented to get to Anakao and Nosy Ve island (see below). As we arranged it last-minute, it took some time (and trouble), so it might be better to drive on towards “Chez Andrea” / St. Augustin and try to arrange a boat from there. While waiting and having breakfast at Le Mangrove Hotel, we saw a Humblot’s Heron fly past (at considerable distance unfortunately) and some Striated Herons in the mangroves.
The trouble with arranging a boat had to do with the fact that the owner of the speedboat in front of the hotel was unfortunately in Tulear (that, and it having enginetrouble). In the end, a motorised piroque was arranged to bring us to the north side of the Onilahi River at St. Augustin, where we changed to a larger piroque at “Chez Andrea”, just south of Sarodrano. We had to negotiate another price with the owner of the larger boat – in the end we paid 800.000 FMg / € 64 for the day. A larger boat was necessary, since the wind made travelling in a small boat quite unpleasant (wet). In the end, the skipper of the larger motorised piroque thought it unwise to cross to Nosy Ve, so we waited at Anakao for a couple of hours.
- Anakao is a beach village, nowadays holding more hotels than houses, situated along the coast about 8 km south of the Onilahi River mouth and opposite Nosy Ve island. Famous for the abundance of the localised endemic Littoral Rock Thrush, it took us quite some time after we found a cooperative pair at the northernmost hotel grounds. This was almost certainly due to the wind blowing Beaufort 6, the reason we found nothing at more northerly dunes but for one Mad Hoopoe in flight. From this hotel, large white birds can be seen, at some 4 km distance, flying over
- Nosy Ve island. In late afternoon, when the wind was blowing slightly less hard, the skipper was easily persuaded to cross to the island. He stated, however, that there was chance of “petit de l’eau en bateau” – a little bit of water in the boat. It took half an hour to cross over to the island, and soaking wet we saw that the flying large white birds were indeed Red-tailed Tropicbirds. At least 40 pairs bred in the southeastern corner of this flat coral island, and the nesting birds could be approached to less than 1m (which, we later found out, is not allowed). Some were incubating egss, others had downy or almost fully grown young. Trip highlight for all of us, seeing this amazingly beautiful bird so close.
Beza-Mahafaly (SW Madagascar)
We chose to visit this site mainly because we wanted to see Ring-tailed Lemur in their natural habitat, away from the costly circus of Berenty. Also, we were curious about a national park that few birders, if any, visit. We were not disappointed and recommend a visit here to those with a feel for adventure. Accommodation (a hut and tents) is available for a small fee. Do not forget to bring in your own food. A visit to the nearby Thursday market is strongly recommended.
Attempts to reach this site should only be undertaken with private 4WD transport as the road is long and unsurfaced, the last part being particularly sandy. A guide is not necessary to get there, as long as your driver can ask for directions. From Tulear, the turn-off from RN7 to Fort Dauphin (Taolagnaro, about a week’s drive!) and Betioky is a 50-mins drive. About one hr later one passes the Tropic of Capricorn. Two hours after that ‘event’ one reaches Betioky, passing Lac Ihotry (where we saw our only Fulvous Whistling-ducks) on the way. From the village of Betioky the forest station is another 35 km (and not, as the Lonely Planet states, 17 km!) over sand tracks that don’t deserve the title ‘road’. We were shown the correct way by local ‘bushmen’, kids that ran upon seeing us, afraid as they were of ‘vaza’ (white people) – after Hery, our driver, caught one and explained the reason of our visit, they hung onto our car to give us vital directions. Because of the confusion whether we were on the right track (expecting to reach the forest station after 17 km) it took us another 2 hrs to finally reach the forest station from Betioky.
The ANGAP office in Tulear had announced our coming by radio and so we were greeted and assigned a guide upon arrival. A nightwalk starting from the forest station resulted in several nocturnal lemurs and a beautiful snake. The canyon where we were taken the following morning, apart from being scenically very beautiful, held good numbers of Grey-headed Lovebirds. Nearby was a spot where, according to our guide Olivier, Mad Sandgrouse regularly came to drink (we saw 3 over the canyon).
Species seen in and over the forest surrounding the forest station (“Parcel I”) include 2 Banded Kestrels at a nest, 1-2 Eleonora’s Falcons, 4 Helmeted Guineafowl, Giant and Red-capped Coua, up to 4 White-browed Owls heard at night, 3 Alpine Swifts, 10+ Mad Hoopoe, a Thamnornis Warbler, 30+ Sickle-billed, as well as White-headed and Chabert’s Vangas, several groups of Ring-tailed Lemur, Verreaux’s Sifakas, a Grey Mouse-lemur, the endangered Madagascar Radiated Tortoise Geochelone radiata, the chameleon Furcifer verrucosus and Giant hog-nose snake Leioheterodon madagascariensis (during the day).
In the morning of Oct 22, we stopped at the spiny forest of “Parcel II” where we saw, within less than half an hour, 30+ Mad Bee-eater, a singing Thamnornis Warbler and both Common and Archbold’s Newtonias.
This isolated patch of forest along the main Tulear – Tana highway (RN 7) is now a national park with an office, a permit obligation, a network of trails and a knowledgeable park official able to show more than just the species endemic to this forest, Appert’s Greenbul. During a 3-hr walk in the heat of day we encountered, among others, Mad Crested Ibis, Giant and Cocquerel’s Coua, Mad Spinetail, Cuckooroller (due to the relatively small trees, this is an excellent site for perched-views of this species) and Long-billed Greenbul.
Known as the most accessible site for Benson’s Rock Thrush, this very scenic national park is conveniently located along the way from Tulear to Tana. Sinclair & Langrand (2003), lump Benson’s Rock Thrush with Forest Rock Thrush*, so a stop at this site might not seem necessary, however, it was the only place where we saw Mad Partridge – be it with some difficulty. The Benson’s Rock Thrush, in the end, took even more time.
By Peter Maaskant, we were told to look for the Mad Partridge in the short-grass field bordering the entrance road to the famous Hotel Relais de la Reine. However, being a couple of weeks later than he was, the field turned out to be (moist) long-grass and unsuitable for partridges (at least we didn’t encounter any). The partridge (a feeding female) was however chanced upon while searching for the Benson’s Rock Thrush, on the opposite side of the stream through the Relais’ grounds. The moist long-grass held the endemic dragonly Anax tumorifer, though.
After having searched for Benson’s Rock Thrush on the Relais’ grounds in the afternoon, we tried l’Oasis, that however turned out to be closed at 6 pm. Eventually we found it (good views of a singing male, with brief views of another) on the roofs of the (then) newly-built southernmost Relis de la Reine buildings, just before dusk.
Harlequin Quails, another specialty of this area (though not endemic), were heard (and seen by BL) in the grassland opposite our hotel, Joyeau l’Isalo.
We decided against hiking into Isalo national park, as we had intended to do originally. Our main aim was seeing Ring-tailed Lemur and Verreaux’s Sifaka in their natural surroundings, and trip reports mentioned that this was feasible in the so-called Valley of Monkeys (‘Canyon des Singes’). However, the Bradt travel guide stated that seeing the lemurs here had become more difficult in recent times, so we opted for Beza-Mahafaly instead and were not disappointed.
*To us (non-taxonomists) the Benson’s Rock Thrush appeared to be very different from the Forest Rock Thrush. While the latter seems small and dainty, like a Copsychus robin, the former has the robust stance of a Monticola rock thrush……..
NOTE that in (the older) Morris & Hawkins (1998) and Clement & Hathway (2000) Benson’s is still recognised as valid species.
Ranomafana and surroundings
This site consists of well-maintained trails through good rainforest, however, the elevational differences make walking harder than at Mantady. We experienced a lot of rain, but the excellent combination of birds, lemurs, reptiles and amphibians make this place worthwile. Good birds seen here by us include Brown Mesite, Crossley’s Babbler, White-throated Oxylabes and Henst’s Goshawk.
Interesting lemurs found in this national park include Red-bellied Lemur, Black-and-white Ruffed Lemur, Greater, Golden and Grey Bamboo-lemur, Brown Mouse-lemur and Milne-Edwards’ Sifaka, and of these we only dipped on the Golden Bamboo-lemur. Especially Black-and-white Ruffed Lemur, a species that was extremely difficult to see in the past, is now regularly found along the (leech-infested) ‘primary forest trail’. Apart from the lemurs, Ranomafana is the only place where the Fanaloka (Malagasy Civet) can easily be seen, as it is fed every evening at viewpoint ‘Bellevue’ (as is Brown Mouse-lemur). Greater Hedgehog Tenrec is another strange creature we encountered here.
Interesting reptiles we found here included Short-horned Calumma brevicornis and Bignose chameleon C. nasuta, Satanic Uroplatus phantasticus and Common leaf-tail gecko U. fimbriatus and a number of green diurnal geckos Phelsuma species.
Most birders visiting Ranomafana national park concentrate on this, higher, part of the park, as it is one of the few sites where the rare (and gorgeous) Yellow-bellied Sunbird-Asity can be found, along with equally localised Pollen’s Vanga and Brown Emutail. Apart from these, we also recorded Mad Spinetail, Velvet Asity, Ashy Cuckoo-Shrike, Rand’s and Cryptic Warbler, Mad Yellowbrow, Hook-billed, White-headed and Tylas Vangas, and Forest Fody.
The trail runs through beautiful forest, with epiphytic orchids and bromelias (wherein tiny Mantidactylus pulcher frogs are found). A treefall 45 mins walking from the start of the trail is where the Yellow-bellied Sunbird-Asity is found. The Forest Fody and a group of Milne-Edwards’ Sifaka were seen in forest bordering the start of the trail.
- ‘marsh’ approx. 15 km northwest of Ranomafana
Used by the Ranomafana bird guides as a reliable site for Mad Snipe, this marsh is nowadays nothing more than some grassy fields surrounding some old overgrown rice paddies. We did flush a Mad Snipe here several times, allowing good flight views, however, little else of note was seen. Apparently, in the past this site used to be fairly reliable for Meller’s Duck and Reunion Harrier – whether this still holds true I can’t say. George Wagner saw Mad Partridge here, while we also saw Purple Heron and Three-banded Plover and heard Mad Flufftail.
Theo, our guide, stopped at a bridge along the very bad road (I wouldn’t even use the word track) leading to this ‘marsh’, for we had requested to see Mantella frogs (tiny brightly coloured frogs). A search through the grass near and under the bridge produced several Mantella madagascariensis as well as an unidentifiable grass snake.
Fri Sept 24 (RH, BL, PS) Rotterdam – Paris by train; Plane >Paris to Antananarivo (Tana), departure 4:55 pm, Air Madagascar, flight no MD 51
Sat Sept 25 Arrival Tana 4:40 am; taxi to Andasibe/Perinet; visit Perinet with Florent
Sun Sept 26 Mantady } regular afternoon visits to Perinet for Mad Wood
Mon Sept 27 Mantady } Rails and Mad Crested Ibis
Tue Sept 28 Maromiza}
Wed Sept 29 Mantady, afternoon taxi to Tana
Thu Sept 30 Plane > Tana to Majunga, departure 7:45 am, arrival 9:15 am (TwinOtter - TwO), flight no MD 382; speedboat over Baie de Bombetoka / Betsiboka delta; Boanamary village to Ampijoroa
Fri Oct 1 Ampijoroa
Sat Oct 2 Ampijoroa
Sun Oct 3 Ampijoroa; afternoon at Lac Amborolomandy (RH only)
Mon Oct 4 Ampijoroa, 9.30 am to Lac Amborolomandy, where lunch; 2 pm to Majunga
Tue Oct 5 Plane > Majunga to Tana, departure 7:00 am, arrival 8:30 am, flight no MD 821, TwO; met with MR, taxi to kmp 76 along RN 4; afternoon spent at Tsimbazaza Zoo
Wed Oct 6 Plane > Tana to Maroansetra, departure 9:10 am, arrival 11:25 am, flight no MD 407, TwO
Thu Oct 7 speedboat to Masoala, leaving 8 am, arrival 10 am
Fri Oct 8 Masoala peninsula
Sat Oct 9 Masoala peninsula
Sun Oct 10 Masoala peninsula (snorkeling in afternoon)
Mon Oct 11 Masoala peninsula (snorkeling in afternoon)
Tue Oct 12 speedboat to Maroansetra; afternoon boat into canals east of Maroantsetra
Wed Oct 13 in morning boat along canal west of Maroantsetra; Plane > Maroantsetra to Tana, departure 2:20 pm, arrival 4:30 pm, flight no MD 406, TwO
Thu Oct 14 Plane > Tana to Morondava, departure 7 am, arrival 8:05 am, flight no MD 700, ATR 42; taxi to Kirindy
Fri Oct 15 Kirindy Forest
Sat Oct 16 Kirindy Forest, 11 am taxi to Morondava
Sun Oct 17 Plane > Morondava to Tana, departure 9:20 am, arrival 10:25 am, flight no MD 701, ATR 42; in between flights taxi to lake east of Ivato airport; Plane > Tana to Tulear, departure 1:20 pm, arrival 3 pm, flight no MD 724, ATR 42; driver Hery waiting with Mitsubishi Pajero 4WD; car to Mangily (Ifaty)
Mon Oct 18 spiny forest; snorkeling at Mangily Hotel; spiny forest
Tue Oct 19 La Table; Melody Beach Resort; Anakao; Nosy Ve
Wed Oct 20 Early morning birding at ‘kmp 32’, Mangily; Mangily – Tulear – Betioky – Beza-Mahafaly
Thu Oct 21 Beza-Mahafaly
Fri Oct 22 Beza-Mahafaly – Betioky – Zombitse Forest – Isalo
Sat Oct 23 Isalo to Ranomafana
Sun Oct 24 Ranomafana
Mon Oct 25 Vohiparara
Tue Oct 26 Ranomafana
Wed Oct 27 Early morning birding at Vohiparara; to Tana
Thu Oct 28 Tana to Perinet; birding at Perinet
Fri Oct 29 Mantady
Sat Oct 30 Early morning birding at Vohimara (RH, PS) or Perinet (BL, MR); to Tana; Plane > Tana to Paris (departure 10:40 pm, flight no MD 50)
Sun Oct 31 Arrival Paris 7:50 am; Paris to Rotterdam by train, departure 10.46 am; arrival 2.38 pm
List of recorded birds (names and scientific order as in Morris & Hawkins)
1. Madagascar Little Grebe Tachybaptus pelzelnii - pair at graphite mine at Mantady on both Sept 26 and Oct 29; pair with up to 2 pulli at pond behind forest station of Ampijoroa, Oct 3-4.
2. Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis - a single bird at Lac Amborolomandy, west of Ampijoroa, Oct 3-4.
3. Red-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon rubricauda - 30-40 nesting on Nosy Ve, an island 4 km west of Anakao, southwest Madagascar, Oct 19. Most nests held (either fully grown or downy) young. Up to 6 adults were regularly flying over the nesting colony and were even visible (though not recognisable) from Anakao beach.
4. Long-tailed (Reed) Cormorant Phalacrocorax africanus - up to 2 at roadside pond, 2 km south of Avenue de Baobabs, about 20 km north of Morondava, on Oct 14 and 16, with and another 3 in flight between the roadside pond and Morondava.
5. African Darter Anhinga rufa vulsini - up to 3 at Lac Ravelobe (Ampijoroa) from Oct 1-3.
6. Fulvous Whistling-duck Dendrocygna bicolor – Distant views of a group of 7 at Lac Ihotry, about 15 kms north of Betioky (west of Beza-Mahafaly), Oct 20.
7. White-faced Whistling-duck Dendrocygna viduata - A daily maximum of 225 at Lac Ravelobe, Ampijoroa, from Oct 1-4 (8 on Sept 30); max 50 at Lac Amborolomandy, Oct 3-4; about 325 at Lac Andranotapahina, next to Mandriambero village, just north of Tana, flushed repeatedly by a female Reunion harrier, Oct 5 (small flocks visible, only in flight, before the masses were flushed by the harrier); a flock of ca 35 over Baie d’Antongil between Maroantsetra and Masoala peninsula, Oct 7; flocks of 22 and 12 seen over Baie d’Antongil, Oct 9; 7 near Maroantsetra, Oct 12; 1 between Kirindy and Morondava, Oct 16; ca 100 resting, bathing and preening at sandbanks between Mangily and Tulear, Oct 20.
8. White-backed Duck Thalassornis leuconotus insularis - one adult at roadside pond full of waterlilies, 2 km south of Avenue de Baobabs, about 20 km north of Morondava, Oct 14.
9. African Pygmy-goose Nettapus auritus - 7 pairs at Lac Amborolomandy, west of Ampijoroa, Oct 3-4; 71 at roadside waterlily-pond, 2 km south of Avenue de Baobabs, about 20 km north of Morondava, Oct 14 (with 62 on Oct 16).
10. Meller’s Duck Anas melleri - one adult amongst 240 Red-billed Teals, at the artificial lake at ‘kmp 76’ along RN 4 between Tana and Majunga, Oct 7. Recognisable by bins from the road, views improved as we walked down to the shore and used scopes. The approach of a fisherman also helped, as birds flew away from him and towards us – the Meller’s duck easily recognisable in flight, being bigger & darker and especially with its white underwings and bluish speculum on the upperwing.
11. Red-billed Teal Anas erythrorhyncha - 240 (with one Meller’s duck) at the artificial lake at ‘kmp 76’ along RN 4 between Tana and Majunga, with 600+ at Lac Andranotapahina, next to Mandriambero village, just north of Tana, flushed repeatedly by a female Reunion Harrier, Oct 5 (all 600+ not visible before being flushed); 4 near Ivato airport, Tana, Oct 17.
12. Bernier’s Teal Anas bernieri - 12 pairs feeding by dabbling in the mud close to the waterline, on three different sandbanks visible at low tide, Betsiboka delta, west of Majunga, Sept 30. Number increased to a flock of 51 when all sandbanks were submerged at high tide. Although shy, birds could be approached by boat up to about 15m, allowing brilliant views of this rare and gorgeous duck.
13. Hottentot Teal Anas hottentota - two pairs at roadside waterlily-pond, 2 km south of Avenue de Baobabs, about 20 km north of Morondava, Oct 14. 5 birds perched on a log in the southeastern part of Lac Amborolomandy, west of Ampijoroa, Oct 4, might have been this species (distance too far for definite ID).
14. Black Heron Egretta ardesiaca - 1 in a paddy near Tana, Sept 29; up to 17 at Lac Ravelobe, Ampijoroa, Oct 1-4 (repeatedly seen in umbrella stance); up to 24 at Lac Amborolomandy, west of Ampijoroa, Oct 3-4; 36 in the delta east of Maroantsetra, mostly seen in small flocks presumably flying towards roosting site(s), Oct 12; 1 over canal in Maroantsetra, Oct 13; up to 6 in paddies between Morondava and Kirindy, Oct 14 and 16; 6 in paddies between Isalo and Ranomafana, Oct 23; 2 between Ranomafana and Tana, Oct 27.
15. Dimorphic Egret Egretta dimorpha - 30+ in paddies near Tana, Sept 25 and 29 and Oct 5; 100+ in Betsiboka delta, west of Majunga, Sept 30; up to 8 at Lac Ravelobe, Ampijoroa, Oct 1-4; 20+ at Lac Amborolomandy, west of Ampijoroa, Oct 3-4; ca 10 in Maroantsetra, Oct 7; up to 3 on Masoala peninsula, Oct 10 and 12; 5 in delta east of Maroantsetra, Oct 12; 2 between Morondava and Kirindy, Oct 14 and 16, with 3 in mangroves of Morondava on latter date; 1 near Ivato airport, Tana, Oct 17; 3 at Mangily Hotel, Mangily (Ifaty), Oct 18; up to 3 at Beza, Oct 21-22; 15+ between each Isalo and Ranomafana and the latter and Tana, Oct 23 and 27; 14 in paddies between Tana and Perinet, Oct 28.
16. Grey Heron Ardea cinerea firasa - 2 at Betsiboka delta, west of Majunga, Sept 30; singles at Lac Amborolomandy, west of Ampijoroa, Oct 3-4, and at roadside pond between Morondava and Kirindy, Oct 14.
17. Purple Heron Ardea purpurea - 1 over Perinet, Sept 25; up to 2 daily at Ravelobe, Ampijoroa, from Oct 1-4; 3 at Lac Amborolomandy, west of Ampijoroa, Oct 3-4; 2 at Coco Beach Hotel, Maroantsetra, Oct 6-7 and 13; 7 in the delta east of Maroantsetra, Oct 12; 3 at roadside pond between Morondava and Kirindy, Oct 14 and 16; 1 at ‘marsh’ near Ranomafana, Oct 25; 1 over Vohimara, Oct 30.
18. Humblot’s Heron Ardea humbloti - single immatures (lacking a clear black facial pattern) were seen at Betsiboka estuary west of Majunga, Sept 30, and at Lac Ravelobe, Ampijoroa, Oct 1-4, while one flew north past Le Mangrove Hotel, south of Tulear, Oct 19.
19. Great Egret Casmerodius albus melanorhynchos - up to 5 between Tana and Perinet, Sept 25 and Oct 28; 10 at Betsiboka estuary west of Majunga, Sept 30; max 5 at Lac Ravelobe, Ampijoroa, Oct 1-4; max 15 at Lac Amborolomandy, west of Ampijoroa, Oct 3-4; 16 near Tana, Oct 5; 4 near Coco Beach Hotel, Maroantsetra, Oct 6-7 and 12; max 6 between Morondava and Kirindy, Oct 14 and 16; 20 at Morondava mangroves, Oct 16; 1 at Le Mangrove Hotel, south of Tulear, Oct 19; 12 between Tulear and Beza, Oct 20; 6 between Isalo and Tana, Oct 23 and 27.
20. Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis - Common and widespread, usually in 10s. Largest numbers 700+ at Lac Ravelobe, Ampijoroa, Oct 2, and 1,000 around Tana, Oct 5.
21. Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides - 5 between Tana and Perinet, Sept 25 and 29; up to 7 at Lac Ravelobe, Ampijoroa, Oct 1-4; up to 5 at Lac Amborolomandy, west of Ampijoroa, Oct 3-4; 6 near Tana, Oct 5; 3 between the airport and Maroantsetra, Oct 6; 3 in the delta east of Maroantsetra, Oct 12; up to 40 between Morondava and Kirindy, Oct 14 and 16; 2 at the lake near Ivato airport, Tana, Oct 17, with 1 between Isalo and Ranomafana, Oct 23.
22. Madagascar Pond-heron Ardeola ideae – 1 adult at Lac Ravelobe, Ampijoroa, from Oct 1-4 (2 on 1), mostly seen in reeds in Cattle egret-colony in front of lodge; one breeding adult in flight (possibly on migration) over Arrollodge, Masoala, Oct 8; 18 in paddies just 5 km south of Fianarantsoa, Oct 23.
23. Striated Heron Butorides striatus rutenbergi - 1 between Tana and Perinet, Sept 25; up to 2 seen at Lac Ravelobe, Ampijoroa, Oct 1-4, however, 15 seen during our boattrip over the lake (Oct 2); up to 4 at Lac Amborolomandy, west of Ampijoroa, Oct 3-4; 2 near Tana, Oct 5; 1 near Arrollodge, Masoala, Oct 7-11; 4 at Maroantsetra, Oct 12-13; 2 between Morondava and Kirindy, Oct 14; 2 at Morondava mangroves, Oct 16; 2 at Hotel Le Mangrove, south of Tulear, Oct 19; 1 between Ranomafana and Tana, Oct 27.
24. Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax n. nycticorax - 6 near Tana, Sept 25, with 12 on Oct 5; up to 2 adults and a juvenile at Lac Ravelobe, Ampijoroa, Oct 1-4; 4 at Maroantsetra, Oct 6; single adults in the delta east of Maroantsetra, Oct 12, and at Morondava mangroves, Oct 16; 3 between Ranomafana and Tana, Oct 27.
25. Hamerkop Scopus umbretta bannermanni - 3 near Tana, Sept 25, 29 and 30; a nest between Ranomafana and Tana, Oct 27; 4 between Tana & Perinet, Oct 28.
26. Glossy ibis Plegadis falcinellus - up to 3, Lac Ravelobe, Ampijoroa, Oct 1-4; 15 between Morondava and Kirindy, Oct 14 and 16.
27. Madagascar Crested Ibis Lophotibis c. cristata – heard at night between Perinet and Feon’ny ala, Sept 26; 3 at Perinet, Oct 29-30.
(..)Lophotibis cristata urschi - a pair apparently displaying (i.e. one chasing the other head-down) in the forest behind Ampijoroa forest station, Oct 1-2; 2 flushed at Zombitse, Oct 22.
28. Madagascar White Ibis Threskiornis bernieri - 6 (three pairs), of which one pair approached by boat to within 25m, at sandbanks in the Betsiboka delta, west of Majunga, Sept 30. The light eye and white-tipped primaries were seen well.
29. African Spoonbill Platalea alba - A single individual at a sandbank in Betsiboka delta, west of Majunga, Sept 30, later flew inland.
30. Bat Hawk Macheiramphus alcinus anderssoni - One over the mangroves opposite the Baobab Café, Morondava, at dusk, Oct 16 (BL, PS).
31. Madagascar Fish-eagle Haliaeetus vociferoides - A pair with a fully grown young at the nest at Lac Ravelobe at Ampijoroa, Oct 1-4. One adult was seen to eat a fish half before dropping the remains into the nest. The young was a beautiful chocolate-brown dotted with light-brown spots.
32. Yellow-billed Kite Milvus parasitus aegyptius - small numbers encountered at most sites, with none seen at Masoala and Ranomafana. Largest numbers 15+ at Lac Amborolomandy, west of Ampijoroa, Oct 3-4, and 50+ near Relais de la Reine, Oct 22.
33. Reunion Harrier Circus maillardi macrosceles - One female flying low over Lac Andranotapahina, next to Mandriambero village, north of Tana, Oct 7, flushing 100’s of Red-billed Teals and White-faced Whistling-ducks.
34. Madagascar Harrier-hawk Polyboroides radiatus - 2 at Mantady, Sept 27, with 1 Oct 29; 2 adults and an immature at Ampijoroa, Oct 1-3; 3 at Masoala peninsula, Oct 9, with an adult seemingly cleaning out the Madagascar pratincole-colony (breeding on tiny rock islets close to shore), Masoala peninsula, Oct 10.
35. Frances’ Sparrowhawk Accipiter francesii – singles at Mantady, Sept 26-27; at Ampijoroa, Oct 1-2; spotlighted at night at Masoala peninsula, Oct 7, with a female there on Oct 9; up to 3 both near the forest station and in the canyon at Beza, Oct 20-22. A single over Kirindy forest on Oct 15 was possibly this species.
36. Madagascar Sparrowhawk Accipiter madagascariensis - 1 over Perinet, Sept 25; (perched) singles at Ampijoroa, Oct 1-2.
37. Henst’s Goshawk Accipiter henstii - distant views of one over secondary forest between Andasibe and Mantady, Sept 27; one perched showing extremely well (after Theo imitating its call) near the start of the primary forest trail at Ranomafana, Oct 26; 2 in flight over the secondary forest at Vohimara, Oct 30.
38. Madagascar Buzzard Buteo brachypterus - small numbers throughout, except for the dry southwest (not seen in Mangily (Ifaty) or Beza). Largest daily number 6 at Mantady, Sept 27.
39. Madagascar Kestrel Falco newtoni - small numbers throughout, usually singles or pairs. Largest daily number 5 at Isalo, Oct 22.
40. Banded Kestrel Falco zoniventris - 1 at the grid trails uphill behind the Ampijoroa forest station, Oct 2 (a kestrel in flight at dusk the previous evening probably same bird); 1 on bare trees along the main road, just north from Ampijoroa forest station (seen to prey on a chameleon), Oct 3; 1 perched in a bare tree next to Arrollodge, Masoala peninsula, Oct 7; 2 (and a nest) along the main (sandy) road, about 2 km from Beza-Mahafaly forest station, Oct 21.
41. Sooty Falcon Falco concolor - 1 perched in a bare tree along the road at Mantady in early morning, Oct 29 (RH, BL).
42. Peregrine Falco peregrinus radama - 1 over the highest point of the ridge trail at Maromiza, Sept 28.
43. Helmeted Guineafowl Numida meleagris mitrata - a pair flushed from the Tampolodge trail, Masoala peninsula, Oct 9; 4 crossing the road not far from Beza-Mahafaly forest station, on the evenings of Oct 20 and 21. Introduced.
44. Madagascar Partridge Margaroperdix madagascarensis - prolonged views of a female walking and occasionally feeding along the crags on the far side of the small stream on the grounds of the Relais de la Reine Hotel at Isalo, Oct 22.
45. Harlequin Quail Coturnix delagorguei - Brilliant views of a male, after 15 minutes of taping (BL only), with 3-4 heard, in the grasslands opposite the Joyau de l’Isalo Hotel, west of Ranohira, Isalo, early morning of Oct 22.
46. Madagascar Button-quail Turnix nigricollis - pairs at Ampijoroa, Oct 1 and 4, when another single was seen as well; a female seen daily at Kirindy forest, Oct 14-16; a pair at Beza, Oct 20; 3 small quails flushed from the grasslands opposite the Joyau de l’Isalo Hotel were possibly of this species.
47. Madagascar Flufftail Sarothrura insularis - 1 responding to tape crossed the path at Maromiza, Sept 28 (seen only with the naked eye), while a calling male was seen very well at Mantady, as it reacted to tape playing, Oct 29. Frequently heard at eastern rainforest sites, up to 6 at Perinet, up to 4 at Mantady, 1 at Masoala, up to 2 at Ranomafana and 1 at Vohiparara.
48. Madagascar Wood Rail Canirallus kioloides - a pair at Perinet, Sept 27; up to 5 near trail crossroads behind Arrollodge, Masoala peninsula, Oct 8 and 10; heard at Perinet, Sept 25-26 and Oct 28-29.
49. Madagascar Rail Rallus madagascariensis - 2 at roadside remnant marsh between Andasibe and Mantady, Sept 26, with 3 there on Oct 29. Reacted to tape within 20 secs, allowing close-up views, especially on Sept 26.
50. White-throated Rail Dryolimnas cuvieri - 1 at Mantady, Sept 27; 1 in tall grass bordering Tampolodge trail, Masoala, Oct 7; 1 in paddies just south of Arrollodge, Masoala peninsula, Oct 9-10. Heard at Mantady (Sept 26 and Oct 29), Ampijoroa (Oct 3), 4 in reeds east of Maroantsetra (Oct 12), and singles along a canal west of Maroantsetra (Oct 13) and at Relais de la Reine Hotel, Isalo, Oct 22.
51. Allen’s Gallinule Porphyrio alleni - Two adults and an apparent first-summer (coloured like the drawing in Morris & Hawkins, but with on the upperparts a greenish sheen as opposed to pale feather-fringes) feeding on waterlily-leaves in the main canal, west of Maroantsetra, Oct 13.
52. Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus pyrrhorhoa - Up to 3 at Lac Rouge, opposite Feon’ny ala restaurant, with 2 at Lac Vert, Perinet, Sept 25-28 and Oct 28; 2 at Lac Amborolomandy, between Ampijoroa and Majunga, Oct 3-4; 8 between Morondava and Kirindy, Oct 14 and 16 (3). Some calls were rather unlike those of the European race.
53. White-breasted Mesite Mesitornis variegata – singles seen at Ampijoroa, Oct 1-2, with a pair on Oct 4; 2 pairs daily at Kirindy Forest, Oct 15-16. Up to 3 pairs/groups heard at Ampijoroa, Oct 1-4 and at Kirindy, Oct 15-16.
54. Brown Mesite Mesitornis unicolor - a pair seen well (though brief) when whistled in by Theo in the forest of Ranomafana, Oct 26. Hard to get good views of, as undergrowth in rainforest is far thicker than where both other species occur.
55. Sub-desert Mesite Mesitornis benschi - one treed at Mangily, with nest and two eggs shown by Moosa, Gila, Oct 18. One calling adult coming in to tape at ‘kmp 32’, north of Mangily, Oct 20.
56. Madagascar Jacana Actophilornis albinucha - An adult, 2 immatures and 2 pulli daily at Lac Ravelobe, Ampijoroa, from Oct 1-4; up to 2 adults and 4 immatures at Lac Amborolomandy, west of Ampijoroa, Oct 3-4; up to 5 adults, 3 immatures and 3 pulli at roadside waterlily-pond, 2 km south of Avenue de Baobabs, about 20 km north of Morondava, Oct 14 and 16.
57. Greater Painted-snipe Rostratula b. benghalensis - two adult females feeding and in (apparent) territorial fight at a muddy rice paddy at low tide, at dusk, along a canal east of Maroantsetra, Oct 12. Great views were had through the scope, as the birds were seen ca 15m away.
58. Madagascar Snipe Gallinago macrodactyla - a single flushed several times in the remnant marsh, about 15 km northwest of Ranomafana, along the old road (which is clearly only negotiable with 4WD or truck), Oct 25.
59. Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata - 1 and 3 at the mangroves south of Morondava, Oct 16 (RH, MR).
60. Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus - 30+ at Betsiboka delta, west of Majunga, Sept 30; 3 at Lac Amborolomandy, west of Ampijoroa, Oct 4; small numbers over Masoala peninsula, largest flock 22 on Oct 10; 40+ over delta east of Maroantsetra, Oct 12; 25 in Morondava mangroves, Oct 16; small numbers daily at Mangily (Ifaty), largest flock 10 on Oct 17.
61. Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia - Singles at Lac Ravelobe, Ampijoroa, Oct 1-3; at Maroantsetra, Oct 12-13; opposite Baobab Cafe at Morondava, Oct 16; at Mangily Hotel beach, Oct 18 and 20. Larger flocks: 10 in the Morondava mangroves, Oct 16, with 45 in sand dunes between Mangily and Tulear, Oct 20.
62. Common Sandpiper Tringa hypoleucos - 2 at Mangoro river bridge between Tana and Perinet, Sept 25; 10 at Betsiboka delta, west of Majunga, Sept 30; up to 5 at Lac Ravelobe, Ampijoroa, Oct 1-4; 2 at Lac Amborolomandy, west of Ampijoroa, Oct 4; 20 in the delta east of Maroantsetra, Oct 12; 2 opposite Baobab Cafe and 60+ in the mangroves south of the river at Morondava, Oct 16; 1 between Mangily and Tulear, Oct 20.
63. Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus - only 3+ identified with certainty at Betsiboka delta, west of Majunga, Sept 30; flocks of 14 and 3 at mangroves south of the river at Morondava, Oct 16; 3 between Tulear and Mangily, Oct 17. 100’s of unidentified waders on the sandbanks of Betsiboka delta were either this species or Curlew sandpiper………..
64. Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres - 4 along the canal west of Maroantsetra, Oct 13; up to 4 at Mangily Hotel beach, Oct 18 and 20.
65. Sanderling Calidris alba - An adult and a juvenile feeding at Morondava beach, Oct 16, with one at Mangily Hotel beach on Oct 18.
66. Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea – 40+ at Betsiboka delta, west of Majunga, Sept 30; 5 along the canal west of Maroantsetra, Oct 13; 3 at Morondava beach, with 1 in the mangroves, Oct 16; singles at Mangily Hotel beach, Oct 18 and 20.
67. Crab Plover Dromas ardeola - 3 immatures on a sandbank in Betsiboka delta, west of Majunga, at low tide, Sept 30.
68. Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus - up to 6 at Lac Ravelobe, Ampijoroa, from Oct 1-4; 10+ at Lac Amborolomandy, west of Ampijoroa, Oct 4; seen in paddies between Morondava and Kirindy Forest, Oct 14 (12) and 16 (27); 6 with pulli at lake near Ivato airport, Tana, Oct 17.
69. Madagascar Pratincole Glareola ocularis - a single on a rock at Mangoro river bridge, about 20 km west of Andasibe, Sept 25; up to 7 at the colony on rocks between Kayak Lodge and Tampolodge, Masoala peninsula – a colony that was swiftly wiped out by the visit of an adult Madagascar harrier-hawk in late afternoon of Oct 10; 2 over the road between Kirindy Forest and Morondava, Oct 16; brilliant views of a pair, of which one was incubating two eggs, on a large rock in the stream bordering the entrance trail to Vohimara, Oct 30 (RH, PS).
70. Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola - 1 at Betsiboka delta, west of Majunga, Sept 30; singles at Morondava beach and mangroves, Oct 16; up to 2 at Mangily Hotel beach, Oct 18 and 20.
71. Common Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula tundrae - 7 at sandbank in the canal west of Coco Beach Hotel, Maroansetra, Oct 13; 1 at Morondava beach, Oct 16.
72. Madagascar Plover Charadrius thoracicus - one opposite Moosa’s huts at Mangily (Ifaty), Oct 18.
73. Kittlitz’s Plover Charadrius p. pecuarius - up to 5 at Lac Ravelobe, Ampijoroa, Oct 1-2; up to 5 between Mangily and Tulear, Oct 17-20.
74. White-fronted Plover Charadrius marginatus tenellus - 4 at Morondava beach, Oct 16; up to 5 between Mangily and Tulear, Oct 17-20.
75. Greater Sandplover Charadrius leschenaultii crassirostris - 20+ on the mudflats at Betsiboka delta, west of Majunga, Sept 30.
(..)5 sand plovers Charadrius leschenaultii/mongolus resting on a sandbank between Mangily and Tulear, Oct 20, might have been Lesser Sand-plover C. mongolus - we could not be sure however, due to distance to the birds.
76. Three-banded Plover Charadrius tricollaris bifrontatus - singles at Lac Ravelobe, Ampijoroa, Oct 1 and 4, with 5 on Oct 2; a pair at the remnant marsh, about 15 km northwest of Ranomafana, Oct 25.
77. Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa l. lapponica - 1 at Betsiboka delta, west of Majunga, Sept 30.
78. Caspian Tern Sterna caspia - 2 at Betsiboka delta, west of Majunga, Sept 30; 4 off Morondava beach, Oct 16, with 2 on 17th; 1 off Mangily Hotel beach, Oct 19.
79. Gull-billed Tern Sterna n. nilotica - 1 adult in winter plumage at Lac Amborolomandy, between Ampijoroa and Mahajanga, loosely associating with Whiskered Terns, Oct 4. According to Morris and Hawkins (2001), this is the third record for Madagascar.
80. Greater Crested Tern Sterna bergii - up to 4 at sea in front of Arrollodge, Masoala peninsula, Oct 7 and 9; 12 past Morondava beach, Oct 17.
81. Lesser Crested Tern Sterna b. bengalensis - 3 at Betsiboka delta, west of Majunga, Sept 30; up to 10 at Arrollodge, Masoala peninsula, Oct 7 and 9, with 20 there, Oct 10; 23 between Arrollodge and Maroantsetra, Oct 12.
82. Common Tern Sterna h. hirundo - 179 flying north past Morondava beach, Oct 17; 3 in Tulear harbour, Oct 20.
83. Roseate Tern Sterna dougallii arideensis - 8-10 daily at a rocky islet 500m south of Arrollodge, Masoala, Oct 7-10.
84. Saunder’s Tern - Sterna saundersi about 20 at a rocky islet 500m south of Arrollodge, Masoala, Oct 9, with only 2 on Oct 10 (absent on other dates).
85. Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus sclateri - 7 at Lac Amborolomandy, west of Ampijoroa, Oct 3-4, with 31 perched at the waterlily-filled southeastern part of Lac Amborolomandy, Oct 4.
86. Madagascar Sandgrouse Pterocles personatus - 3 in flight and 4 perched at the zebu pools along the road to Melody Beach Resort, between Tulear and St. Augustin (signposted few km’s east of Tulear), Oct 19; 3 over the canyon near Beza-Mahafaly forest station, Oct 21.
87. Madagascar Turtle Dove Columba p. picturata - small numbers recorded everywhere (total of 56 seen), except at Isalo and Ranomafana area. Largest number recorded 10+ at Parcel II of Beza-Mahafaly, Oct 21.
88. Namaqua Dove Oena capensis aliena - Only recorded at dry areas: small numbers at Ampijoroa and Kirindy, common at Mangily; very common at Beza-Mahafaly. Largest number 100+ at Beza, Oct 20.
89. Madagascar Green Pigeon Treron a. australis - several pairs seen at Ampijoroa, with a maximum of 13 pairs, Oct 1; 2 at Masoala peninsula, Oct 9; 1 at Kirindy forest, Oct 14.
(..)Treron australis xenia 1 at Mangily, Oct 18, with two there on 19th; 4 at Beza, Oct 21.
90. Madagascar Blue Pigeon Alectroenas madagascariensis – Only recorded at eastern rainforest sites, with up to 7 daily at Perinet/Mantady, Sept 25-28 and Oct 28-30; up to 2 daily at Masoala peninsula, Oct 7-10; 5 at Vohiparara, Oct 25.
91. Greater Vasa Parrot Coracopsis vasa - 7 at Ampijoroa, Oct 1 (1 on Oct 2); up to 10 daily at Masoala peninsula, Oct 7-12; 18 at Kirindy, Oct 14, with 3 on Oct 15-16; 1 at Mangily, Oct 18; 5+ at Beza canyon, Oct 21; 4 at Vohimara, Oct 30.
92. Lesser Vasa Parrot Coracopsis n. nigra - up to 10 daily at Perinet/Mantady, Sept 25-29 and Oct 28-30; 1 at Ranomafana, Oct 24, with 1 heard there on Oct 26.
(..)Coracopsis nigra libs Up to 10 daily at Ampijoroa, Oct 1-4; 1 at Kirindy, Oct 15-16; 2 at kmp, 32 north of Mangily, with 1 at Beza, Oct 20.
93. Grey-headed Lovebird Agapornis c. canus - 2 pairs at Ampijoroa campsite, Oct 1-3, with 12 in the forest, Oct 3; 1 at Kirindy, Oct 14-15; 3 over the road between Isalo and Ranomafana, Oct 23.
(..)Agapornis canus ablactanus 6 pairs and 3 in flight over Mangily spiny forest, Oct 18; 10+ at kmp 32 north of Mangily, with 5 at Beza, Oct 20; 44 at Beza canyon and 40 near Beza forest station, Oct 21.
94. Madagascar Cuckoo Cuculus rochii - Seen as follows: 1 at Maromiza, Sept 28; 1 at Mangily, Oct 18; 4 at Beza, with 1 at Relais de la Reine, Isalo, Oct 20. Heard at all visited sites, though none at Masoala. Max 6 heard at Mangily, Oct 18.
95. Giant Coua Coua gigas – up to two pairs at Kirindy Forest station, with another calling male refusing to come in to tape, Oct 15-16; a single seen and two heard at Beza-Mahafaly forest station, Oct 21; two seen, of which one located when it called, at Zombitse Forest, Oct 22.
96. Coquerel’s Coua Coua coquereli – up to 2 pairs daily at Ampijoroa, Oct 1-4; a pair feeding and allowing close approach at Kirindy Forest station, Oct 15-16; 2 seen and 2 heard at Zombitse, Oct 22.
97. Red-breasted Coua Coua serriana - 2 heard at the foot of the ‘Diademed Sifaka hill’, Mantady, Sept 26; 2 seen (with up to 3 heard) daily at the forest just east from Arrollodge, Masoala peninsula, Oct 8-12; a single seen crossing the path at Perinet, Oct 30 (BL, MR).
98. Red-fronted Coua Coua reynaudii - 1 taped in at Perinet, Sept 25; 1 heard at Mantady, Sept 28; 1 in a mixed species flock near the treefall, Arollodge, Masoala peninsula, Oct 7; 2 heard at Vohiparara, Oct 25; up to 2 heard at Perinet, Oct 28 and 30.
99. Running Coua Coua cursor - 1 settling in a bush at eyelevel, just before dusk, at Mangily, Oct 18.
100. Red-capped Coua Coua ruficeps ruficeps - singles at Ampijoroa, Oct 1,2 & 4.
(..) Green-capped Coua Coua r. olivaceiceps - 1 at Mangily, Oct 18; 1-2 daily at Beza, Oct 20-22.
101. Crested Coua Coua c. cristata - up to 4 daily at Ampijoroa, Oct 1-4; up to 5 daily at Masoala, Oct 7-10; Sev more heard. Strangely absent from Perinet/Mantady and Ranomafana, though not from (eastern rainforest site) Masoala.
(..) Coua cristata dumonti Up to 8 daily at Kirindy, Oct 14-16.
(..) Coua cristata pyropyga 2 at Mangily, Oct 18; 2 at Beza, Oct 20 and 22, with 20+ around Beza canyon, Oct 21; 1 at nest, Zombitse, Oct 22.
102. Verreaux’s Coua Coua verreauxi - 2 at La Table, east of Tulear, Oct 19: 1 sunning atop a low bush, later flying in, perching when called in using cd; the other only seen in flight.
103. Blue Coua Coua caerulea - up to 3 daily at Perinet/Mantady; 2 at Ampijoroa, Oct 2; up to 5 daily at Masoala (1 seen preying on a chameleon); up to 3 daily at Ranomafana. Sev more heard, especially at Masoala (obvious trumpet call). Not recorded in Kirindy, Mangily, Beza, Zombitse.
104. Madagascar Coucal Centropus t. toulou - singles seen, almost daily, at all visited sites; max 5 at delta east of Maroantsetra (Oct 12) and 4 each at Kirindy (Oct 14) and Beza (Oct 21); very vocal.
105. Barn Owl Tyto alba affinis - one in flight over Centrest Hotel, Ranomafana, in the evening of Oct 26.
106. Madagascar Long-eared Owl Asio madagascariensis - one adult seen flying in at dusk, and consequently perched, on three occasions (usually in response to Patrice’s very good imitation of its call) along the road 500m south of the entrance of Perinet (Sept 26 and 27 and Oct 28).
107. Marsh Owl Asio capensis hova - 1 at 4.45 pm low over the RN7 between Ranomafana and Tana, kmp 183, south of Tana, Oct 27.
108. Madagascar Scops Owl Otus rutilus - 1 at Perinet, Sept 25 and Oct 28; a pair at Mantady, Sept 28. Heard at night at Perinet (2), Masoala (2 Oct 7, 1 Oct 8-12) and Ranomafana (Oct 26-27).
109. Torotoroka Scops Owl Otus madagascariensis - singles seen (only) at roost sites at Ampijoroa, Oct 1-2, with up to 4 heard, Oct 2; 4 heard at Kirindy forest, Oct 14-15; 5 heard at Beza, Oct 20, with singles heard Oct 21-22.
110. White-browed Owl Ninox superciliaris - 4 heard at Kirindy forest, Oct 14, with 1 seen and 1 heard, Oct 15; 4 heard at Beza, Oct 20, singles heard Oct 21-22.
111. Madagascar Nightjar Caprimulgus madagascariensis - 1 singing from a low pine tree in early morning, near the entrance to Vakona Lodge, Mantady, with 2 heard daily Sept 25-28 and 1 Oct 28-30; a pair trying to distract us away from the nest (containing two eggs) by performing the “broken wing act”, in forest bordering Lac Ravelobe, Ampijoroa, Oct 1, with 1 seen the previous day and with up to 3 heard daily, Oct 1-4; 1 at Kirindy, Oct 14 and 16, with up to 3 heard daily, Oct 14-16; up to 3 heard daily at Mangily, with sev in flight early morning over the dunes between Mangily Hotel and Mangily, Oct 17-20; 1 at Beza, Oct 20, with up to 6 heard there; 1 at Isalo, Oct 22.
112. Collared Nightjar Caprimulgus enarratus - pairs seen up close in daytime, invariably perched side by side under Pandanus palms, at Perinet, Sept 25, and Mantady, Sept 26; a breeding adult atop a treefern, about 2m from the ground, Mantady, Oct 29.
113. Madagascar Spinetail Zoonavena grandidieri – small numbers daily at most forested sites, with the exception of Ampijoroa, Mangily, Beza and Ranomafana. Only singles recorded at Zombitse (Oct 22) and Vohiparara (Oct 25). Largest number recorded 15+ at Mantady, Sept 28.
114. African Palm Swift Cypsiurus parvus gracilis - small numbers (up to 4 daily) recorded in open areas with scattered palm trees, such as at Ampijoroa, Maroantsetra, Isalo. Only 1 at Mantady, Sept 27, with pairs between Tulear and Mangily on Oct 17 and 20 and at Vohiparara, Oct 25. Largest numbers recorded between Boanamary and Ampijoroa, 30+ on Sept 30, and between Kirindy and Morondava, 20+ on Oct 14 and 16.
115. Little Swift Apus affinis (theresae) - 3 over Tana, Sept 25.
116. Alpine Swift Apus melba willsi - 2 and 1 seen over Beza forest, Oct 21 (PS).
117. Madagascar Black Swift Apus balstoni - 1 over Lac Amborolomandy, west of Ampijoroa, Oct 3 (RH); 3 over Masoala peninsula, Oct 7; 4 over western Maroantsetra, Oct 12; 1 between Morondava and Kirindy, Oct 14; 2 over the lake east of Ivato airport, Oct 17; 1 between Ranomafana and Tana, Oct 27.
118. Madagascar (Malachite) Kingfisher Alcedo v. vintsioides – singles at Mangoro river bridge and at Perinet, Sept 25, 27 and Oct 28, 30; heard at Mantady, Sept 28, with 2 seen on 29th; up to 5 daily at Lac Ravelobe, Ampijoroa, Oct 1-4; 1 at Tsimbazaza Zoo, Tana, Oct 5; up to 3 daily at Masoala peninsula, Oct 7-11 (nesting near Arrollodge toilet); 2 east of Maroantsetra, Oct 12, with 4 west of the town, Oct 13; 1 at the pond between Morondava and Kirindy, with 2 at river in Kirindy forest, Oct 14 and 16; 3 in the St. Augustin area, Oct 19; 1 at Beza canyon, Oct 21; heard at Relais de la Reine, Isalo, Oct 22; singles at Ranomafana, Oct 25-26; 2 at 2 nests at Mantady and 1 at Vakona lodge, Oct 29.
119. Madagascar Pygmy Kingfisher Ispidina m. madagascariensis – singles at Mantady, Sept 26 and 29; at Masoala, Oct 9, and at Vohimara, Oct 30 (RH, PS). 3 at Mantady at two different nests, Oct 29.
120. Madagascar Bee-eater Merops superciliosus – recorded in small numbers (up to 10), almost daily, between Tana and Mangoro river bridge, at Mantady, Ampijoroa, east of Maroantsetra, Mangily. Not recorded at Masoala or Ranomafana area. Larger numbers seen between Morondava and Kirindy, where 15+ present at a colony, Oct 14 and 16; 30+ between the main Tulear – Tana road and Beza, Oct 20 and 22; and 50+ at Relais de la Reine, Isalo, Oct 22.
121. Broad-billed Roller Eurystomus g. glaucurus – up to 3 along Lac Ravelobe, Ampijoroa, Oct 1-4; singles at Masoala, Oct 7-11, and at Kirindy, Oct 16; 2 at Relais de la Reine, Isalo, Oct 22; 1 heard at Vohiparara, Oct 27; 3 each at Mantady and Perinet, Oct 29; 3 at Vohimara and 1 at Perinet, Oct 30.
122. Short-legged Ground-roller Brachypteracias leptosomus – 3 heard at Mantady, Sept 26, with 1 seen Sept 27. A pair, mobbed by Paradise-Flycatchers was again seen at Mantady on Oct 29. “Hard to find, but easy to see” according to Patrice – so right! Prolonged close-up views of this weird creature were had.
123. Scaly Ground-roller Brachypteracias squamigera – 2-3 seen at Mantady, Sept 26, with 1 heard Sept 29. A bird flushed by BL from the path north of the crossroads up from Arrollodge, Masoala, Oct 10, might have been this species. 1 seen and 1 more heard at Mantady, Oct 29.
124. Pitta-like Ground-roller Atelornis pittoides – 1 on Sept 26 and Oct 29, 3 on Sept 27, Mantady (up to 3 more heard, Sept 26, 27, 29 and Oct 29); 2 in pouring rain, Ranomafana, Oct 24, with 1 seen crossing the path, Oct 25 (only one seen that was not taped in), with up to 3 heard at Ranomafana, Oct 24-26.
125. Rufous-headed Ground-roller Atelornis crossleyi - 1 heard at Maromiza, Sept 28. One tape-responsive seen along the waterfall trail (Chute sacrée), Mantady, Sept 29. 1 seen at Vohiparara, Oct 25, with 2 heard there Oct 25 and 27.
126. Long-tailed Ground-roller Uratelornis chimaera – 1 at the spiny forest behind Moosa’s huts, Mangily, north of Tulear, at both early morning and late afternoon of Oct 18.
127. Madagascar Cuckoo-roller Leptosomus discolor – 2-4 daily, mostly in flight, regularly heard, Perinet and Mantady, Sept 25-29 and Oct 28-30; 1 at Ampijoroa Oct 1-2, with up to 3 heard Oct 1-3; 1 seen at Masoala, Oct 9, with 1 heard daily, Oct 7-12; 1 seen daily (incl a perched calling male up close), with up to 3 heard, Kirindy, Oct 14-16; 1 heard at Beza, Oct 21; 4 males and a female seen exceptionally well at Zombitse, Oct 22; up to 2 heard at Ranomafana, Oct 25-27; 1 in flight over Vohimara, Oct 30.
128. Madagascar Hoopoe Upupa madagascariensis – up to 4 pairs at Ampijoroa (regularly at campsite), Oct 1-4; 1 at Kirindy, Oct 16; 2 at Mangily spiny forest, more heard, Oct 18, 1 at Anakao sand blasted dunes, Oct 19; 2 at kmp 32 north of Mangily, with 2 at Beza, Oct 20; 10+ at Beza canyon, Oct 21; 9 at “Parcel II” spiny forest, Beza, with 2 at Relais de la Reine, Isalo, Oct 22.
129. Velvet Asity Philepitta castanea - a female along the road at Mantady, Sept 26, with 1 heard there on Sept 29; a female (at the treefall) and, finally, (brief views of) a breeding-plumaged male at Vohiparara, Oct 25. Much less common than we expected, and despite long searches near Lac Vert at Perinet (a known site, according to our guide Florent) we did not encounter any more ……….
130. Schlegel’s Asity Philepitta schlegeli - a pair in forest bordering Lac Ravelobe, Ampijoroa, Oct 1, with a male there Oct 3.
131. Common Sunbird-asity Neodrepanis coruscans – a male at Maromiza, Sept 28; a male, an immature male and a female at the waterfall trail (Chute sacrée) at Mantady, Sept 29 (RH only: random taping); one heard at Vohiparara, Oct 25; a male at Ranomafana, Oct 26, with an adult and an immature male here on Oct 27. Not common at all…..
132. Yellow-bellied Sunbird-asity Neodrepanis hypoxanthus – brilliant and prolonged views of a male and female, after only 45 mins of waiting at a treefall at Vohiparara, Oct 25.
133. Mascarene Martin Phedina borbonica madagascariensis - small numbers throughout; more than 100 seen. Not seen at Kirindy or Beza.
134. Plain Martin Riparia paludicola cowani – 10 at Mangoro river bridge, between Tana and Andasibe, Sept 25; at Vohiparara, 2 and 5 were seen on Oct 25 and 27, respectively; singles between Tana and Andasibe on Oct 28 and 30.
135. Madagascar Bulbul Hypsipetes madagascariensis - common; more than 100 seen. Most common at Beza, where 10+ seen on Oct 21.
136. Grey-crowned Greenbul Phyllastrephus cinereiceps - 3 Ranomafana, Oct 26.
137. Appert’s Greenbul Phyllastrephus apperti – two pairs and a loose flock of 5 feeding on the forest floor of Zombitse forest, along the trails south of the WWF-building, south of the road, Oct 22.
138. Long-billed Greenbul Phyllastrephus m. madagascariensis – recorded almost daily in small numbers, at all forest sites. Not recorded at Mangily or Beza; 1 at Zombitse, Oct 22.
(..) Phyllastrephus madagascariensis inceleber Small numbers daily at Ampijoroa (max 11, Oct 2) and Kirindy.
139. Spectacled Greenbul Phyllastrephus z. zosterops – only recorded at eastern rainforest sites (Perinet/Mantady, Masoala, Ranomafana), where seen almost daily in very small numbers, usually in mixed flocks. Max number per day only 3, at Mantady and Masoala (twice).
140. Madagascar Yellowbrow Crossleyia xanthophrys – a pair seen repeatedly feeding on the forest floor along the trail at Vohiparara, Oct 27. They turned out to have a nest nearby, in a 2m-high palm.
141. White-throated Oxylabes Oxylabes madagascariensis - singles at Perinet, Sept 25 and Oct 28, and Ranomafana, Oct 26 (with 1 more heard); 3 and 2 respectively, at Mantady, Oct 29, and Perinet, Oct 30.
142. Crossley’s Babbler Mystacornis crossleyi – single singing males at Mantady, Sept 25 (dawn), at Perinet, Oct 29 (dusk) and in the secondary forest at Ranomafana, Oct 26. 2 heard at Mantady, Sept 26, and singles at Ranomafana, Oct 24 and 27 (dusk).
143. Madagascar Magpie-Robin Copsychus albospecularis - seen (almost) daily in small numbers, at all forested sites. A male seen at Zombitse, Oct 22, might have been from 4th subspecies C.a. winterbottomi (entirely black tail), but not recognised as such.
(..) Copsychus a. albospecularis (black belly) Up to 3 daily at Masoala peninsula, Oct 7-11.
(..) Copsychus albospecularis pica (white belly & outer tail-feathers) Up to 6 daily at Ampijoroa, Oct 1-4; 2 pairs and a male daily at Kirindy,Oct 14-16; up to 4 daily at Mangily, Oct 17-20; up to 3 males daily at Beza, Oct 20-22.
(..) Copsychus albospecularis inexpectatus (white belly) Up to 2 daily at Perinet/Mantady, Sept 26-29 and Oct 28 and 30; up to 3 daily at Ranomafana, Oct 23-27.
144. Forest Rock Thrush Monticola sharpei - two males at Maromiza ridge, Sept 28.
(..) Benson’s Rock Thrush Monticola (sharpei) bensoni – a singing male seen well and another individual seen briefly at the newly constructed (southern) buildings of Hotel Relais de la Reine, Isalo, Oct 22. This (sub)species appeared to be larger than Forest Rock Thrush (although we didn’t see them together, they are geographically distinct) – bensoni resembles a Monticola Rock Thrush, whereas sharpei resembles a robin or chat.
145. Littoral Rock Thrush Monticola imerinus – a pair at the northernmost hotel of Anakao beach, Oct 19.
146. Common Stonechat Saxicola torquata sibilla – up to 8 at Perinet / Mantady, Sept 25-29 and Oct 28-30; 2 at lake, kmp 76 north of Tana, Oct 5; a male at lake east of Ivato airport, Tana, Oct 17; up to 5 daily in open areas near Ranomafana, with 4 at Vohiparara, Oct 23-27.
147. Madagascar Wagtail Motacilla flaviventris – small numbers daily at Tana, Perinet/Mantady; 3 near Tampolodge, Masoala, Oct 9-10; 2 at Relais de la Reine, Isalo, Oct 22; up to 6 daily at Ranomafana, Oct 23-27, with 11 on Oct 26. First new bird at Madagascar (singing male at Ivato airport).
148. Madagascar Paradise-Flycatcher Terpsiphone mutata – up to 8 seen daily at all forested sites. Most encountered were rufous; white ones seen at Perinet, Sept 25-26, with 2 at Kirindy, Oct 14.
149. Crested Drongo Dicrurus forficatus - common everywhere. Max 20+ at Ampijoroa, Oct 1; up to 30+ at Beza, Oct 21-22 and Isalo, Oct 23.
150. Pied Crow Corvus albus - common in dry areas. Not seen at Perinet/Mantady, Masoala or Ranomafana. Few at Maroantsetra and Tana. Max 100+ at Beza canyon, Oct 22.
151. Ashy Cuckooshrike Coracina cinerea - up to 3 (usually singles) at forested sites on most days. Not at Mangily, Beza, Zombitse or Isalo.
152. Ward’s Flycatcher Pseudobias wardi - up to 3 at Perinet/Mantady (Sept 25-28 and Oct 28-29) and Ranomafana (Oct 24).
153. Common Newtonia Newtonia brunneicauda - common everywhere.
154. Dark Newtonia Newtonia amphichroa - 2, with 2 more heard, at Maromiza, Sept 28; 2 immatures along the waterfall trail, Mantady, Sept 29; 1 at Vohiparara, Oct 27; 6, with sev more heard, Vohimara, Oct 30.
155. Archbold’s Newtonia Newtonia archboldi - 1 (and a nestling) at Mangily spiny forest, Oct 18; 2, parcel II, Beza-Mahafaly, Oct 22.
156. Madagascar Cisticola Cisticola cherinus - 1 near Perinet, Sept 25 and Oct 30; 3 at Ampijoroa, Oct 3; 2+ between Morondava and Kirindy, Oct 14; 2+ at lake east of Ivato airport, Tana, Oct 17; 2 at La Table, east of Tulear, Oct 19; heard between Tulear and Betioky, Oct 20; common between Beza and Isalo, and at Isalo, Oct 22-23; 4 near Vohiparara, Oct 26; 1 at Ranomafana, Oct 27; 2 at Mantady, Oct 29.
157. Madagascar Lark Mirafra hova - 6 between Boanamary and Ampijoroa, Oct 1; 3 and 20+ respectively, at Lac Amborolomandy, west of Ampijoroa, Oct 3-4; quite common at Mangily, Oct 17-20; common at Isalo, Oct 21-22; 1 at Ranomafana, Oct 27.
158. Madagascar Swamp Warbler Acrocephalus newtoni - up to 2 at marsh between Perinet and Mantady, Sept 26 and 29 and Oct 29.
159. Madagascar Brush Warbler Nesillas typica – up to 4 daily at Perinet / Mantady, Sept 25-29 and Oct 28-30; heard at Lac Amborolomandy, west of Ampijoroa, Oct 4; up to 5 daily at Ranomafana and Vohiparara, Oct 24-27.
160. Sub-desert Brush Warbler Nesillas lantzii - 2 daily at Mangily, Oct 18 and 20; 6+ at La Table, east of Tulear, Oct 19.
161. Thamnornis Warbler Thamnornis chloropetoides - 3, with 1 more heard, Mangily, Oct 18; 1, with 1 more heard, kmp 32 north of Mangily, Oct 20; singles near forest station and at parcel II, Beza, Oct 21 and 22.
162. Brown Emutail Dromaeocercus brunneus - 1, with 1 heard, Ranomafana, Oct 25; 1 skulking at Vohiparara, Oct 27 (RH).
163. Grey Emutail Dromaeocercus seebohmi – 5 at marsh near Vohiparara, Oct 26.
164. Common Jery Neomixis tenella - few at Mantady, Sept 27-28 and Oct 29; 10+ daily at Ampijoroa, Oct 1-4; few daily at Masoala, Oct 7-10; quite common at Kirindy, Oct 14-16, at Mangily, Oct 18-20, at Beza, Oct 20-22; few at Ranomafana, Oct 25 only.
165. Stripe-throated Jery Neomixis striatigula - up to 5 daily at Mantady, Sept 27-29, and Oct 29; few daily at Mangily, Oct 18, and Ranomafana, Oct 24; 2 at Vohimara, Oct 30.
166. Green Jery Neomixis viridis - up to 2 daily, more heard, at Perinet / Mantady, Sept 27-29, with up to 10 daily Oct 28-29; few daily at Ranomafana and Vohiparara, Oct 25-26. Few at Zombitse, Oct 22, were not ID’d with certainty.
167. Wedge-tailed Jery Hartertula flavoviridis - singles at Perinet, Sept 25 and 27, and Mantady, Sept 29 and Oct 29; an adult feeding 2-3 fledged young, along the trail past Lac Vert, Perinet, Oct 28.
168. Rand’s Warbler Randia pseudozosterops - 2 at Mantady, Sept 26-27, with 1 heard Sept 29; 1 at Vohiparara, Oct 25; up to 6, more heard, at Perinet and Mantady, Oct 28-30; many heard at Vohimara, Oct 30.
169. Cryptic Warbler Cryptosylvicola randrianasoli – 2, with 3 heard, Maromiza, Sept 28; 2 at Vohiparara, Oct 25; 2 heard at Vohimara, Oct 30.
170. Madagascar White-eye Zosterops maderaspatanus - common everywhere except in the west and south; more than 100 seen. Not recorded at Kirindy, Mangily, Beza or Isalo.
171. Madagascar (Long-billed) Green Sunbird Nectarinia notata – single males at Mantady, Sept 26-27; up to 3 at Ampijoroa, Oct 1 and 3; 1 at Maroantsetra, Oct 7; single males at Kirindy, Oct 15-16; 4 at Mangily spiny forest, Oct 18; a male near Tulear, Oct 19; singles at Ranamafana, Oct 23-25; a pair at Perinet, Oct 28 and 30; 2 males each at Mantady, Oct 29, and Vohimara, Oct 30.
172. Souimanga Sunbird Nectarinia souimanga - common everywhere; more than 100 seen. Not recorded in Maroantsetra or at Beza-Mahafaly.
173. Red-tailed Vanga Calicalius madagascariensis - pairs at Perinet and Mantady, Sept 25-26 and 28; up to 2 pairs daily at Masoala, Oct 7-10, with 2 males and 5-6 females or immatures in a vanga flock at the waterfall east of Tampolodge, Masoala, Oct 11; 1 male at kmp 32 north of Mangily, Oct 20; up to 7 at Ranomafana, Oct 24-25; single males at Mantady, Oct 29, and Vohimara, Oct 30, with a pair at Perinet, Oct 30.
174. Red-shouldered Vanga Calicalius rufocarpalis - a pair reacted to tape and showed very well at La Table, east of Tulear, Oct 19. See site descriptions for gen on how to find this most localised endemic.
175. Rufous Vanga Schetba r. rufa – Heard near Arrollodge, Masoala, Oct 8, with a male present Oct 12; 5+ and a nest along the Tampolodge trail, Masoala, Oct 9; a male at Masoala, Oct 10.
(..) Schetba rufa occidentalis Easiest to see at the grid trail forest behind the forest station at Ampijoroa, where 3 pairs and 4 singles were seen on Oct 2, with 3 more heard, and 2 seen, Oct 4; a pair at Kirindy, Oct 14-15.
176. Hook-billed Vanga Vanga c. curvirostris – 1 heard at Maromiza, Sept 28; 2 heard at Mantady, Sept 29; 1 singing from a large tree at Feon’ny ala parking, Andasibe, Sept; singles seen daily, with 1-2 more heard, at Ampijoroa, Oct 1-3; heard near Arrollodge, Masoala, Oct 8; 1 at a nest along the Tampolodge trail, Masoala, Oct 9.
177. Lafresnaye’s Vanga Xenopirostris xenopirostris - a male at Moosa’s Mangily site, Oct 18; a pair seen, more heard, at kmp 32 north of Mangily, Oct 20.
178. Pollen’s Vanga Xenopirostris polleni – 1, with 2 more heard, at Vohiparara, Oct 25; 1, 1 more heard, at Ranomafana, Oct 26; 1 heard at Vohiparara, Oct 27.
179. Van Dam’s Vanga Xenopirostris damii - a male and female at forest along Lac Ravelobe, Ampijoroa, Oct 1, with a nesting pair along the path at the grid trail forest, behind the forest station, Oct 2. Upon finding the nest, Jacky performed a little dance: apparently, it was the 2nd nest he’d ever found.
180. Sickle-billed Vanga Falculea palliata – up to 30 daily at the camp site at Ampijoroa, Oct 1-3, with singles heard or seen in the forest, Oct 3-4; 3 pairs at 2 nests, at Moosa’s spiny forest site, Mangily, Oct 18; 3 at kmp 32 north of Mangily, with 6+ at Beza, Oct 20; 30+ at Beza, Oct 21-22.
181. White-headed Vanga Leptopterus v. viridis - 4 at Mantady, Sept 26; 2 pairs in a vanga flock near Arrollodge, Masoala, Oct 7, where 3 on Oct 12; 2 pairs near Andronobe research station, Masoala, Oct 11; 3 daily at Ranomafana, Oct 24-25; a pair and a single male respectively, at Perinet, Oct 29 and 30.
(..) Leptopterus viridis annae A pair at Ampijoroa, Oct 1, with a pair and 2 young on Oct 2 and a single on Oct 3; a pair at Kirindy, Oct 16; 8-10 at Beza, Oct 20-21.
182. Chabert’s Vanga Leptopterus c. chabert – up to 4 daily at Mangoro river bridge, Perinet, Mantady, Ampijoroa, Ranomafana and Vohiparara. 6 at Masoala, Oct 7 only. A pair nesting in one of the larger baobabs at Avenue de Baobabs, between Morondava and Kirindy, Oct 14 and 16.
(..) Leptopterus chabert schistocercus Up to 4 daily at Mangily and Beza, Oct 17-22.
183. Madagascar Blue Vanga Cyanolanius madagascarinus - 5 daily at Mantady, Sept 26 and 28; singles at forest along Lac Ravelobe, Ampijoroa, Oct 1 and 3, with 3 pairs at the grid trail forest behind the forest station, Oct 2; up to 3 at Masoala, Oct 7 and 9-11; max 4 at Kirindy, Oct 14-16; a pair, Ranomafana, Oct 25; max 8 at Perinet, Oct 29, a single male there on Oct 30.
184. Helmet Vanga Euryceros prevostii - 1 seen in a mixed species flock that frequented the area near the crossroads of Arrollodge trail, Masoala, Oct 7, 10 and 12. This individual (or its mate) was also heard twice, and even seen preying on a small chameleon, diving onto it like a trogon. Another was seen in a mixed flock along the trail just south of Tampolodge, close to the beach, Oct 10.
185. Nuthatch Vanga Hypositta corallirostris – a distant male in a mixed species flock at Perinet, Sept 26; up to 3 daily at Perinet, Oct 28-29, with 5 at Mantady, Oct 29.
186. Tylas Vanga Tylas e. eduardi - 2 at Perinet, Sept 25, with singles at Mantady, Sept 26 and 28; 4 at Masoala, Oct 8, with 1 Oct 12; up to 3 daily at Ranomafana, Oct 24-25 and 27; 1 at a nest at Perinet, Oct 28-30, with 3 at Mantady, Oct 29. An intriguing vanga, seen at Maromiza (in the forest coming down from the ridge), Sept 28, appeared to be of the rare white-throated form.
188. Common Mynah Acridotheres tristis – seen regularly near human habitation. Not recorded at Kirindy. Introduced.
189. Madagascar Fody Foudia madagascariensis - quite common and widespread; good numbers especially in the rice paddies of delta east of Maroantsetra, where sev flocks were seen, Oct 12. (Only) up to 3 daily at Perinet / Mantady, Sept 25-29, with (only) 2 males at Ranomafana, Oct 25.
190. Forest Fody Foudia omissa - a male and female seen well at Maromiza, Sept 28; a male near the start of the trail at Vohiparara, Oct 25 (RH). A male seen twice near the wooden bridge at Perinet, was clearly a hybrid Mad x Forest Fody (showing red flecking on the belly).
191. Sakalava Weaver Ploceus sakalava – quite common near the nesting colonies at Ampijoroa and Kirindy forest station; common at Mangily / Beza, Oct 17-22.
192. Nelicourvi Weaver Ploceus nelicourvi – 2 pairs at Perinet, Sept 25, with single males Sept 27-28; 2 females at Mantady, Sept 26; 2 pairs at a nest, Masoala, Oct 7-8, 1 pair Oct 10; 1 at Ranomafana, Oct 25; 2 at Vohiparara, Oct 26; a pair daily at Perinet / Mantady, Oct 28-30; 1 male at Vohimara, Oct 30; in total about 10 pairs seen.
193. Madagascar Munia Lonchura nana - up to 6 daily along the road at Perinet / Mantady, Sept 25-29; 15 between Majunga and Ampijoroa, Sept 30; 5 in Maroantsetra, Oct 12; 4+ between Kirindy and Morondava, Oct 16; 1 between Tulear and Mangily, Oct 17; 3 at kmp 32 north of Mangily, Oct 20; 4 at Hotel Relais de la Reine, Isalo, Oct 22; 10+ daily along the road at Perinet / Mantady, Oct 28-29; 3 at Vohimara, Oct 30.
List of recorded mammals
Madagascar Flying Fox Pteropus rufus - About 130 in the highest dead tree and surrounding trees, at Nosy Ravina, a small island just south of Nosy Mangabe in the Baie d’Antongil (between Maroantsetra and Masoala).
[Small bats - Pipistrellus species – small numbers of small bats were recorded on several occasions]
Greater Hedgehog Tenrec Setifer setosus – A single scurrying on the forest floor at Ranomafana, Oct 26.
Lowland Streaked Tenrec Hemicentetes semispinosus – A single crossing the trail in front of us was quickly caught by our guide, allowing close views and photographs to be taken, at Maromiza near Andasibe. According to our local guide as well as Florent, it was Highland streaked tenrec H. nigriceps, however, according to Garbutt (1999) nigriceps doesn’t occur as far north as Maromiza. Also, the fact that we encountered this individual during the day points to semispinosus, as nigriceps is strictly nocturnal whereas semispinosus is partly diurnal.
Eastern Red Forest Rat Nesomys rufus – Several seen at Ranomafana; they seemed to be more active / easy to see during rainy periods.
Lowland Red Forest Rat Nesomys audeberti – A single crossing the ‘stream trail’, just east of Arrollodge, Masoala, three times on Oct 8. Identified solely on distribution.
Western Tuft-tailed Rat Eliurus myoxinus – A single spotlighted perched 2m high up a tree, at a nightwalk in the forest north of Lac Ravelobe, Ampijoroa.
Brown Rat Rattus norvegicus – A single individual seen repeatedly as it ran over the floor of the Baobab Café Restaurant, Morondava.
Fanaloka Fossa fossana – Two individuals (one with a more golden-yellow groundcolour, the other more diffuse khaki) allowed close approach at the famous feeding ritual of Belle Vue, Ranomafana. The golden-yellow one was chased away several times by the other individual, but stayed nearby to wait for scraps. These gorgeous mammals were already waiting for their easy meal as early as 4.30 pm, thus could be viewed in broad daylight. As long as tourists bring raw zebu meat, the views of these animals are excellent.
[Fosa Cryptoprocta ferox – What appears to have been this species was spotlighted by our guide Rémi on a nightwalk east of the forest station of Kirindy, north of Morondava. The animal approached us from about 60m distance, walking at the side of the dirt road with a typical cat-like gait, but disappeared into the forest after PS used a stronger torch to try and get better views. Rémi insisted it was this species, but as all we saw were its eyes, this species remains in brackets.]
According to Rémi, Fosas occasionally come to the Kirindy forest station’s kitchen for scraps; he also showed us trees in which he’d seen Fosas mating the previous October. Our number one reason to visit Kirindy Forest (but see below for other dips at Kirindy), we felt quite bad after our “sighting” (near-close-encounter) of this magnificent creature…
Narrow-striped Mongoose Mungotictis decemlineata – A single individual could be watched extensively as it showed up at Kirindy forest station’s kitchen for scraps on two consecutive mornings.
Grey Mouse-lemur Microcebus murinus – Repeated sightings during nightwalks at Ampijoroa (only at the forest south of the forest station, as Golden-brown appears to take over at the forest surrounding Lac Ravelobe), Kirindy Forest and Beza-Mahafaly. One individual at the latter site allowed close approach and very good eyelevel views for several minutes (RH, PS).
Brown Mouse-lemur Microcebus rufus – Seen at both Arrollodge, Masoala, where it seemed to have a preference for a fruiting tree next to the lodge, and Ranomafana. They are being fed bananas at Ranomafanas Bellevue, where up to five were seen.
Golden-brown Mouse-lemur Microcebus ravelobensis – As many as 5 seen on a nightwalk through the forest west of Lac Ravelobe, Ampijoroa.
Greater Dwarf Lemur Cheirogaleus major – Two seen every evening between 6.30 and 7.30 pm, at Feon’ny ala restaurant, Andasibe. At first they appeared to come feed on the traveller’s palms, but it turned out pieces of banana were hidden among the palm’s leaves to attract the animals. The animals were not bothered by the flashlights of the many cameras at all – and could be approached to about 1m.
Fat-tailed Dwarf Lemur Cheirogaleus medius – We were lucky to encounter 2 of this hibernating species as early as mid October, at Ampijoroa.
Cocquerel’s Dwarf Lemur Mirza cocquereli – Two singles were seen at a nightwalk at Kirindy Forest.
Pale Fork-marked Lemur Phaner furcifer pallescens – Two individuals (with several others heard) was one of our Kirindy Forest highlights. It was spotlighted at night, as it moved high through the canopy of the dry deciduous forest.
Weasel sportive lemur Lepilemur mustelinus – Several were encountered on our nightwalks through the forest just east of Arrollodge, Masoala peninsula. As with other sportive lemurs, many more were heard. This was the only sportive lemur we didn’t see during the day, as our guide Patrick did not know of any roosting holes.
Milne-Edwards’s Sportive Lemur Lepilemur edwardsi – Commonly encountered on both diurnal and nocturnal walks in both forests at Ampijoroa. Also very vocal and regularly heard (and even seen at dusk) next to our lodge bordering Lac Ravelobe.
Red-tailed Sportive Lemur Lepilemur ruficaudatus – Several seen (and many more heard) during our nightwalk southeast of Kirindy Forest station; also seen during the day.
White-footed Sportive Lemur Lepilemur leucopus – This cute sportive lemur was easily seen (5+), even on the moonlit night (usually bad for lemur-viewing), of our Beza-Mahafaly nightwalk.
Eastern Grey Bamboo-lemur Hapalemur griseus griseus – Up to 5 at the bamboo patch next to the wooden bridge (just past the disused fish ponds) in Sept at Perinet, Andasibe, constituted a rare sighting, according to our guide Florent. However, 2 were seen there again in Oct. 2 seen along the road at Mantady, in Sept and Oct. Seen twice at Ranomafana (3+), at times allowing great views.
Greater Bamboo-lemur Hapalemur simus – The group seen on Oct 24 at Ranomafana consisted of 4 ‘collared’ individuals, and 1 without a collar. Of 3 individuals encountered on Oct 26, 2 wore a collar. One individual was quite unconcerned by our presence and allowed close approach, as it was removing bamboo stems and eating their insides.
Ring-tailed Lemur Lemur catta – Up to three groups were seen with ease at Beza-Mahafaly. Some collared individuals were quite tame at the forest station, but one group, seen on two consecutive days at a dirt road puddle for drinking, was quite shy and took to the trees when we left the car. With caution, we could approach them more closely, as they appeared to be both alarmed by our presence (making a range of loud noises) as well as curious.
Red-bellied Lemur Eulemur rubriventer – Two pairs, of which one carried a baby, were seen at Ranomafana on Oct 26. One pair was emptying a guava tree full of juicy fruits, regularly bombarding the tourists underneath with half-eaten fruits.
Common Brown Lemur Eulemur fulvus fulvus – Common and widespread at Perinet, Mantady and Ampijoroa.
White-fronted Brown Lemur Eulemur fulvus albifrons – Seen on a number of occasions at the Masoala peninsula, easiest at the Lohatrozana trail.
Red-fronted Brown Lemur Eulemur fulvus rufus – Seen on a number of occasions at Kirindy Forest, and once or twice at Ranomafana.
Black-and-white Ruffed Lemur Varecia variegata variegata – Heard calling from the primary forest trail at Ranomafana. Up to two seen beautifully along the road at Mantady, near the graphite mine, Oct 29.
Red Ruffed Lemur Varecia variegata rubra – Two vocal individuals seen at the Lohatrozana trail, while 3 were seen near Tampolodge (both at Masoala peninsula).
Eastern Avahi Avahi laniger – A pair with a baby was seen at Perinet, while another pair was found at Ranomafana. Both sightings occurred during the day.
Western Avahi Avahi occidentalis – Two seen at night at Ampijoroa, at the forest south of the forest station.
Diademed Sifaka Propithecus diadema diadema – Two shy individuals, carrying a baby, swung themselves through the trees quickly right after we found them, at Maromiza, allowing better views when we refound them at the bottom of a clearing minutes later. A group of up to 14 was seen very well, including some at eyelevel, at the ‘sifaka hill’ at Mantady, after dipping them there twice before (Sept). Five were seen here on Oct 29, with another 2 seen from the ridge trail at Vohimara on Oct 30. A gorgeous animal.
Milne-Edwards’s Sifaka Propithecus diadema edwardsi – We chanced upon a group of 6 individuals (including a baby) at Vohiparara, that allowed close views when we followed them. Why this and the previous species are considered the same species remains a mystery to me, RH.
Verreaux’s Sifaka Propithecus verreauxi verreauxi – A group found at Kirindy Forest all wore collars, as they were being followed by researchers. Only two individuals, seen along the main road [RH only], did not have collars. Of the individuals seen at Beza-Mahafaly (about 20), most were not wearing collars, although some did. Very cute, especially when dancing sideways over the road.
Coquerel’s Sifaka Propithecus verreauxi coquereli – The mammal highlight of the trip (for RH & PS). A group of up to 5 in the Ampijoroa Forest station grounds was seen daily, regularly dancing over the (surfaced, main) road whereby they patiently waited until all traffic had passed. Also seen in the trees next to our bungalow, as well as during walks through forest at both sides of the main road at Ampijoroa. An individual robbing a flowering tree from its pink flowers allowed close approach and was photographed in detail.
Indri Indri indri – Several groups and a pair seen with relative ease at Perinet, Andasibe, where they have been habituated. Their far-carrying calls and cries are a most wonderful way to start and finish any trip to Madagascar, which is exactly what we did. Two were seen from afar from the ridge trail at Maromiza; they were repeatedly heard at Mantady and Vohimara but never seen. During our last hour at Andasibe, a group of 5 came to feed on the leaves opposite Feon’ny Ala terrace: a great end to a great trip.
Two separate groups of dolphins seen near the coast of Masoala peninsula were apparently feeding. Quite likely Indo-Pacific Dolphin Sousa chinensis and Bottle-nosed Dolphin Turciops truncatus were involved.
List of recorded reptiles and amphibians (day-by-day, by PS)
Sept 25 Perinet
“green diurnal gecko” Phelsuma spec., sev at Feon'ny Ala lodge
Parsons chameleon Calumma parsonii, 1 female
Bignose chameleon Calumma nasuta, 1 Lac Vert, Perinet.
Little girl with male Calumma parsonii, fish ponds, Perinet
“Flat-tailed gecko” Uroplatus sikorea, 1
Malagasy Glass Frog Mantidactylus pulcher, 1
Sept 26 Mantady
Mad tree boa Sanzinia madagascariensis, 1 sunning near viewpoint ‘sifaka hill’, Mantady
Sept 27 Mantady
Mad tree boa Sanzinia madagascariensis, 1 along the road, Mantady
Sept 28 Perinet
Bignose chameleon Calumma nasuta, 1 juvenile spotlighted at night on a twig along the road near Feon'ny Ala lodge
Sept 29 Perinet
Parsons chameleon Calumma parsonii, 1 in a fig tree in a garden opposite Feon'ny Ala lodge entrance
Sept 30 Ampijoroa
Unmarked “tree frog”, 1 in toilet of forest station campsite
Oct 1 Ampijoroa
Madagascan Nile crocodile Crocodylus niloticus madagascariensis, 3 Madagascan iguana Oplurus cuvieri, 3
Big-eyed snake Mimophis mahfalensis, 1
“striped snake” Dromicodryas quadrilineatus, 1
Oustalet’s (Giant Mad) chameleon Furcifer oustaleti, 2 imm males and an imm female
Oct 2 Ampijoroa
Koch’s day-gecko Phelsuma madagascariensis kochi, 1
Madagascan Nile crocodile Crocodylus niloticus madagascariensis, 10+
“small lizard with red in neck” Mabuya elegans, sev in forest
Guenther’s leaf-tail gecko Uroplatus guentheri, 1 during guided nightwalk
Rhinoceros chameleon Furcifer rhinoceratus, 2
Oustalet’s (Giant Mad) chameleon Furcifer oustaleti, 1
Oct 3 Ampijoroa
Koch’s day-gecko Phelsuma madagascariensis kochi, 1
Madagascan iguana Oplurus cuvieri, 1
Oct 4 Ampijoroa
“Chameleon” Calumma spec, 1
Rhinoceros chameleon Furcifer rhinoceratus, 1 juv
Giant hog-nose snake Leioheterodon madagascariensis, 1
Madagascan Nile crocodile Crocodylus niloticus madagascariensis, 6+
Oct 6 Maroantsetra
“green diurnal gecko” Phelsuma spec., 2 in restaurant Coco Beach Hotel
Oct 7 Masoala, trail ‘above’ Arrollodge
“terrestrial dwarf chameleon” Brookesia griveaudi, 1
Oct 11 Arrollodge, Masoala
“green diurnal gecko” Phelsuma spec. in restaurant
“brown lizard” Zonosaurus brygooi, 1 videotaped
Zonosaurus spec., common at forest edges on Masoala peninsula
Oct 12 Maroantsetra
Panther chameleon Furcifer pardalis, 2 (in tree and in reeds) along canals, during afternoon boat trip into eastern ‘delta’.
Oct 13 Maroantsetra
Panther chameleon Furcifer pardalis, male and female in scrub along canal, during morning boat trip
Tomato frog Dyscophus antongili, 1 shown by Rakoto in village suburb
Oct 14 Kirindy
“diurnal gecko” Lygodactylus spec., 1 resting on treeroot
Big-headed (Mad ground) gecko Paroedura pictus
Madagascan iguana Oplurus cuvieri, sev (red around eye more obvious)
Big-eyed snake Mimophis mahfalensis, 1 (40 cm, slender brown snake)
Giant hog-nose snake Leioheterodon madagascariensis, 1 (1.3 m in size, black-and-yellow, confiding)
Oustalet’s (Giant Mad) chameleon Furcifer oustaleti, 2 small ones sleeping on the outer ends of twigs, during nightwalk
“brown lizard” Zonosaurus laticaudatus, common in forest
Oct 17 Mangily Hotel
“gecko”, 3 in bungalows
Oct 18 Mangily Hotel
Three eyed lizard Chalaradon madagascariensis, common
Unidentified chameleon Furcifer verrucosus or F. oustaleti, 1 in spiny forest (Moosa had no clue to its identity)
Oct 19 Hotel Le Mangrove and Anakao, S of Tulear
“gecko”, 1 in toilet of Hotel Le Mangrove
“lizard” Chalaradon madagascariensis, common in dunes and hotel
Oct 20 Beza-Mahafaly
“tree snake” (photographed), 1 during nightwalk
Oct 21 Beza-Mahafaly
“Mantella frog” Mantella spec., common in pools in wide dry riverbed
Giant hog-nose snake Leioheterodon madagascariensis, 1 on road (BL, MR)
Madagascar radiated tortoise Geochelone radiata, 1 in dry forest bordering forest station (PS only)
Unidentified chameleon, 1 along the road
Sev (species of) lizards
Oct 22 Zombitse N.P.
Standing’s daytime gecko Phelsuma standingi, 1 in Zombitse park office
Unidentified chameleon, 2
Sev (species of) lizards
Oct 23 Amparaka village, along RN 7 Tulear - Tana
“large chameleon” (photographed), 1 taken from the main road at Amparaka village, 111 km south of Fianarantsoa
[Bystanders were quite amused when PS picked it up from the road by its tail, with the intention to set it free at some bushes across the road. However, it managed to curl itself up, attempting to bite PS in the hand. PS, surprised, dropped it to the ground but without any harm to the animal it was released moments later.
Where, in many other countries, reptiles are run over by traffic on purpose, Mad drivers were repeatedly seen avoiding snakes and chameleons on the road. Not many dead reptiles were found consequently.]
Oct 24 Ranomafana
“Peacock diurnal gecko” Phelsuma quadriocellata quadriocellata, sev on roof of Belle Vue (where Fanaloka is fed and can be seen well)
Mad tree boa Sanzinia madagascariensis, 1 resting along the road, causing excitement amongst sev tourists
Bignose chameleon Calumma nasuta, 2
Short-horned chameleon Calumma brevicornis, 1 male and 2 females
Satanic leaf-tail gecko Uroplatus phantasticus, 1 spotlighted in the rain
Common leaf-tail gecko Uroplatus fimbriatus, 1 spotlighted in the rain
“small frog” Mantidactylus spec., 1 at trailside waterfall at start of main trail
“tree frog”, beige with obvious yellow longitudinal stripe over back
Oct 25 Vohiparara
Mad ground frog Mantidactylus pulcher, 2 males and 1 female between leaves of Pandanus palm, found by Theo
Painted mantella Mantella madagascariensis, sev near bridge
Unidentified small brown snake (photographed), 1 near bridge
“green diurnal gecko” Phelsuma spec, on the bridge
Oct 26 Ranomafana
“small frog” Mantidactylus majori, sev along stream near Primary Forest trail
Sev small frogs on the walls of the hotel at night
*&*%$^&$%-leeches, plenty on Primary Forest trail
Oct 28 Perinet
Parsons chameleon Calumma parsonii, 1 male in small tree and 1 juv
Mad tree boa Sanzinia madagascariensis, 1 resting above trail
“green diurnal gecko” Phelsuma lineata, 1 photographed
List of recorded dragonflies (by PS)
Platycnemis spec sev in widespread locations
Phaon iridipennis (Burmeister, 1839) eastern rainforest sites
Lestes ochraceus (Selys, 1862) Relais de la Reine (Isalo)
Ceriagrion glabrum (Burmeister, 1839) Ampijoroa
Orthetrum abbotti malgassicum (Pinhey, 1970) “Abbott’s Skimmer”
Orthetrum trinacria (Selys, 1841) lake near Ivato airport
Orthetrum stemmale (Burmeister, 1839)
Orthetrum azureum (Rambur, 1842)
Thermorthemis madagascariensis (Rambur, 1842)
Trithemis annulata (Palisot de Beauvois, 1805) Lac Ravelobe
Trithemis kirbyi (Selys, 1891) Beza canyon
Trithemis hecate (Ris, 1912)
Trithemis selika (Selys, 1869)
Urothemis assignata (Selys, 1872) Ampijoroa
Urothemis edwardsii (Selys, 1849) Ampijoroa & Lac Amborolomandy
Acisoma panorpoides (Rambur, 1842) Maroantsetra
Hemistigma affinis (Rambur, 1842) widespread
Tholymis tillarga (Fabricius, 1798) “Twister” Kirindy
Diplacodes lefebvrei (Rambur, 1842) widespread
Rhyothemis semihyalina (Desjardins, 1832) Ampijoroa
Phyllomacromia trifasciata (Rambur, 1842) Tsimbazaza Zoo (Tana)
Pantala flavescens (Fabricius, 1798) “Wanderer / Pantala” widespread
Crocothemis erythraea (Brullé, 1832)
Diplacodes exul (Selys, 1883)
Aethriamanta rezia (Kirby, 1889) Maroantsetra
Viridithemis viridula (Fraser, 1960) Kirindy
Palpopleura vestita (Rambur, 1842) Masoala
Palpopleura lucia (Drury, 1773) Perinet/Mantady & Masoala
Anax tumorifer (McLachlan, 1885) Relais de la Reine (Isalo)
Neodythemis trinervulata (Martin, 1902)
Brachythemis leucosticta (Burmeister, 1839) Lac Amborolomandy
Other interesting insects
Giraffe-necked weevil Trachelophorus giraffa sev
seen at Perinet, Mantady and Vohiparara (5)
Flatid leaf-bug Phromnia rosea both immatures, imitating strings of lichen, and adults, brightly coloured flat bugs were seen at Ampijoroa & Zombitse
“Giant long-horned beetle” one at Mangily Hotel
Furthermore, many butterflies, a small praying mantress and several stick insects were seen.
Major dips / Species not seen
[Birds] Madagascar Cuckoohawk Aviceda madagascariensis
Our only true ‘dip’ – i.e. species tried for but not seen. During our trip we heard of sightings at the trail above our lodge (Arrollodge) at Masoala peninsula and at a ‘lake adjacent to Ivato airport’ (hearsay). We visited Tsimbazaza Zoo at Tana, staying until after dark, asked all guides encountered about the species, walked the aforementioned trail at Masoala peninsula several times and, in between flights, located a lake adjacent to Ivato airport by taking a taxi east – but no Cuckoohawk was seen. The closest we got to the bird was when Florent, closely followed by RH, stepped onto the main road at Perinet, coming from the Parc to Orchidées, and yelled ‘Cuckoohawk!’ – the call heard and wings seen were (of course) not enough to warrant a positive ID.
Madagascar Serpent-Eagle Eutriorchis astur
Probably the rarest bird in Madagascar. “We haven’t seen one in 6 months of searching” – one researcher at Andronobe (Masoala) told us, and although he might be lying to discourage birders to visit unannounced (as we did), the habits of this bird (perch-hunting from below the canopy only, never soaring above rainforest) combined with the inaccessibility of its remaining habitat (mainly Masoala and other rainforest sites in the northeast) as well as its rarity make it very, very unlikely to just run into one. At least we did not.
Slender-billed Flufftail Sarothrura watersi
Morris and Hawkins (1998) mention “marshes at Vohiparara and Torotorofotsy marsh near Perinet” as the most likely places to see this rare endemic. Well, there are hardly any marshes left at Vohiparara, while Torotorofotsy marsh (9 kms from Andasibe) requires a 2-hr walk or 1-hr railway-push-cart ride. RH and PS were determined to at least try the latter site on our last day, however, Florent (our excellent guide at Perinet) mentioned a visit two days prior to our return to Perinet on which he did not see anything of note, so we decided to try our luck with the “lowland rainforest” of Vohimara instead. Apparently, the Slender-billed Flufftail calls as late as December-January, in which period it might be easier to find at a site like Torotorofotsy marsh. [Arjan Brenkman, on his visit in Oct 2005, saw two individuals, most probably a pair, at Torotorofotsy together with his guide Luc. The birds did not call but one was flushed, whereupon the other circled them]
Sakalava Rail Amaurornis olivieri
Did not try. The British apparently did, but failed. Information on sites where this species could be found with perseverance, patience and luck, is found in
World Birdwatch, vol. 25 nr. 2 (June 2003);
African Bird Club journal, vol. 11 nr. 1 (March 2004) and
World Birdwatch, vol. 27 nr. 1 (March 2005).
[Apparently, as of 2006, TropicalBirding will try this bird on their Mad tours].
Madagascar Red Owl Tyto soumagnei
Since the Peregrine Fund has ceased radio tagging birds at Masoala peninsula and/or taking birders to such a bird, this species has not been seen by independent birders since the mid 1990s, as far as we are aware. Florent mentions it as a possibility in Mantady (a special permit to stay there overnight can apparently be arranged through ANGAP at Andasibe) but this seems a long shot as both Patrice and Florent told us they see this bird on average about once a year.
Dusky Greenbul Phyllastrepus tenebrosus
According to various sources, including Guy Eldridge (whom we met several times during the trip and who has visited Madagascar on many occasions, almost completing a video of all Malagasy birds in the process) (almost) all sightings of this species outside of the lowland rainforest at Masoala peninsula must be considered doubtful. We had therefore not counted on an encounter with this elusive bird, until we heard of two independent sightings (by Brian Finch and Guy Eldridge) along the trail just up from Arrollodge at Masoala peninsula during the week prior to our arrival. At the treefall where both sightings took place we spent many hours during our 5-day stay at Masoala, however we did not encounter any (there).
When taping a Red-breasted Coua at the ‘stream trail’, about 300m from the aforementioned treefall, a ground-dwelling greenbul was seen briefly by RH and PS, that might well have been a Dusky. The bird was feeding on the ground and showed a clearcut, small bright yellow throat and dusky lore. It appeared to have an all-dark belly, while a tail could not be seen, however, distance to the bird was about 30m and it was seen in dark understorey. As the sighting lasted less than 30 secs it was no definite ID.
Bernier’s Vanga Oriola bernieri
“One out of three teams visiting Masoala seem to score” (Brian Gee, 1998). British birders we met at Maroantsetra airport as we flew in, told us they had heard the species at the ridge trail besides the waterfall east of Tampolodge – heavy rainfall apparently preventing them from seeing the bird. As the British had nothing but rain during their 2.5 day stay and we experienced almost none during our 5-day stay, we thought we had a chance but alas, no sighting. At the waterfall we encountered a flock with several vangas but no Bernier’s…. According to Olivier Fournajoux, the owner of Arrollodge and a starting birder, the bird seems to become scarcer every year, although it is seen more frequently later in the year.
Amber Mountain Rock Thrush Monticola erythronotus
Did not try. Apparently easy to see at Amber Mountain national park, just south of Antsiranana / Diego Suarez in the far north. Although our original itinerary included this site (along with the ‘tsingy’ of Ankarana and the seabird colonies and Black Lemurs of Nosy Be island) it later turned out that the domestic flight schedule was altered, making it impossible for us to include these sites. NOTE that, according to “Thrushes” (Clement & Hathway, 2000), Amber Mountain Rock Thrush could also occur as far southeast as Ambanizana, western Masoala peninsula.
undescribed Rock Thrush Monticola sp. nova
According to Guy Eldridge, another endemic Madagascan rock thrush Monticola awaits formal description. It should occur somewhere in the (dry) west. Possibly this refers to the “an as yet unidentified rock thrush at Bemaraha (western Madagascar)” mentioned in Morris & Hawkins (1998). We did not encounter any rock thrushes at Kirindy or Beza-Mahafaly.
Red-tailed Newtonia Newtonia fanovanae
No sites known on our itinerary, while information on the only known site (Andohahela forest, see George, 2000) is not specific enough to enable independent birders to see the species. No trace of it found on the Masoala peninsula, where it should occur, despite carefully scutinising all female Red-tailed Vangas Calicalicus madagascariensis………
[Mammals] Apart from bats and (smaller) rodents, which we didn’t try hard for and/or couldn’t ID, we did not see the following mammals:
Golden Bamboo-lemur Hapalemur aureus
Endemic to Ranomafana, declared a national park as recently as 1991, this is apparently a species that most people trying for it find with ease. We however did not on any of our extensive searches on three mornings. According to our guides at Ranomafana (two guides-stagiaires and Theophile) it is active in early mornings until 9 am, when it starts sleeping and becomes very hard to find. Guy Eldridge told us to try around the researcher’s buildings (off limits) just across the bridge, but we decided to spend our last morning in the area at Vohiparara, trying for our hardest bird, the Madagascar Yellowbrow.
Giant Jumping-rat Hypogeomys antimena
Endemic to Kirindy Forest and its surroundings, just north of Morondava, western Madagascar, this huge rodent lives in pairs in burrows. It hibernates during the austral winter, and was apparently still hibernating halfway through October, as our 2-hr wait in front of one burrow entrance until after dusk proved in vain (despite trying to entice it with its favourite fruit, put at the burrows’ entrance). The mammal is quite rare as we, on a long afternoon and evening walk, only encountered two burrows, of which one was not previously known to our guide Rémi.
Pygmy Mouse-lemur Microcebus bertheae
Unfortunately not encountered on both our nightwalks (‘nocturnes’) at Kirindy Forest, where this smallest of all primates is endemic to. According to our guide Rémi, this mammal is not common and thus can be hard to find.
Goodman’s Mouse-lemur Microcebus lehilahytsara
This species was described in 2005 from Mantady and is named after Steven M. Goodman. This species is as small as M. bertheae, the oprevious species. See Primate Report 71:3-26 (July 2005) by Kappeler et al, for more detailed information.
Small-toothed Sportive Lemur Lepilemur microdon
This species of sportive lemur occurs at Perinet and should be readily encountered once one is allowed to enter primary forest at night. However, such access was denied all tourists during our two visits to Perinet (late Sept and late Oct 2004), according to Florent due to ‘ANGAP politics’. Nocturnes at Perinet were therefore limited to roadside walks, which, due to overly moonlit nights, did not yield any mouse-lemurs (which should be common), just the occasional chameleon or firefly.
Humpback Whale Megaptera novaeangliae
During the months of July and August, and occasionally into September, up to 2,000 Humpback Whales spend their winter in the Baie d’Antongil, the bay south of Maroantsetra and west of the Masoala peninsula. They give birth to their calves and are regularly seen jumping into the air (‘breaching’). According to both lodge owners Olivier from Arrollodge and Giuseppe from Tampolodge, sightings from the lodges are quite regular during July and August, while with a boat the animals can be approached closely. When we crossed the Baie d’Antongil by boat, Oct 7, Olivier told us he had seen the last one leaving for Antarctica 10 days earlier…..
Well, at least we have something to look forward to the next time when we visit this fascinating country.