1 - 18 November 2000


Graham Hearl

Trip Diary

Wednesday 1st November Travel Day to Antananarivo

Our flight was delayed by an hour to get our tight connection in Paris. We arrived spot on our departure time at Paris BUT we were met by a French girl from ground crew who shuttled us very fast from terminal F to terminal A. However the flight had not been fully loaded so WE WERE THEREFORE IN TIME FOR THE FLIGHT!!! We boarded and started to relax - I was worried about David from Manchester - and he was even more delayed than we were - BUT our flight was delayed by two hours, so even he was on time for the flight.

We arrived at Madagascar airport and there the fun began. First of all we took an hour and a half to get all of us through immigration - what a delay. We then had to go through customs after the first clients through had got all of our luggage (just as well we were delayed at Paris: our baggage was on the plane!). Getting through customs was another excitement: we had to declare our telescopes and fill in more forms although they were well old and looked it - especially mine. Having arrived at twelve o'clock we eventually got to our hotel about 0230.

Thursday 2nd November Travel day to Perinet/Analamazaotra

We awoke early for breakfast at seven o'clock doing some birding in our night things on the patio seeing Mynah, Mascarene Martin, Madagascar Kestrel and other species.

After breakfast our guide, Mamy, was not happy with our bus that had delivered us the previous evening to the hotel, Hotel Tana Plaza, so he had ordered another one. Meanwhile most of us went to the bank across the road to change real money into Malagasy francs - why does everything French take so long??

We left about nine-ish and travelled the 147 km on good roads to our Hotel Vakona at Perinet. We stopped a few times for birds and Mamy spotted a nice chameleon - he also identified a Madagascar Brush Warbler after David had heard the call, which we all eventually saw well. We also saw quite a few new species such as Madagascar White-eye and Madagascar Bulbul. Everything then became Mad Bulbul etc.

We arrived just past one o'clock and took lunch, and excellent it was too. We then met at three thirty to travel the short distance to Analamazaotra forest reserve, but we stopped just outside the hotel when I spotted a lemur. It was a Black and White Ruffed Lemur, and was quickly followed by a Grey Bamboo Lemur; in fact there were three Black and White and three Grey Bamboo Lemurs, the former quite a good sighting as they are quite rare. We took photos of both species but had to travel the short distance to the reserve to get our permits for today and tomorrow.

We saw quite a few new species at the reserve including Blue Coua, Madagascar Magpie Robin, Ward's Flycatcher, Souimanga Sunbird and Long-billed Green Sunbird.

We continued birding to dusk, 'mossied-up' and went on a chameleon hunt, seeing two species including the second smallest in the world. We continued round the reserve seeing Eastern Brown Lemur and later, in pitch dark, Brown Mouse Lemur - in fact two, with the second giving excellent views despite the night light.

We were deciding to head back for dinner when our local leader Etienne said 'do you want to see a Madagascar Pygmy Kingfisher roosting' - 'yes please' we said and got excellent views of this stunning little bird roosting on a branch just above the path - the poor thing was obviously being harassed by various parties, but he had been doing the same roost for years (or him and his forebears) so he was obviously used to the torches shining in his eyes.

We returned to a superb dinner at the Hotel Vakona and all went for the early night as we were getting up early the following morning to try for Indri. .

Friday 3rd November Analamazaotra reserve and Vakona private reserve

We started at seven o'clock after our usual continental breakfast and visited again the Analamazaotra reserve. We started our walk seeing some very good Malagasy endemics including Forest Fody, Madagascar Blue Pigeon and displaying Cuckoo-Roller. We then heard distant Indri but continued on towards a local group of Indri stopping for a superb Parson's Chameleon - one of the largest in the world - in fact just watching him climb was amazing. At the entrance our local leader Etienne had caught a grasshopper and put it in front of a smaller chameleon. We watched as he stalked it and we actually saw it's tongue extend to catch the grasshopper, and what a long tongue - very impressive.

We carried on and stopped for a fantastic Velvet Asity close by, giving terrific views, when Neil beckoned us over, I carried on watching the Velvet Asity when Neil said do you want to see Indri!!! We rushed to the spot and had fantastic views of this rare lemur only really found at Analamazaotra.

Our guide then took us to see Eastern Woolly Lemur (or Eastern Vahi).We then returned to the Indri hoping they would come down lower in the trees, but to no avail, so we continued our circuit walk. We stopped and saw a Red-fronted Coua, a ground-dweller and an excellent find, and a Paradise Flycatcher on its nest before driving back for lunch.

Saturday 4th November Travel day from Analamazaotra to Berenty

A long day travelling. We breakfasted early at five fifteen and left at six o'clock. The journey to Tana was fine BUT we encountered traffic so Mamy suggested a 'short cut', which we of course took. To get across Tana to the airport negotiating traffic was a nightmare especially when we came across a complete jam on the main road. However Mamy knows his home town well and managed to get us via back roads to the airport just in time to get checked in. We then, of course, had a delay: the plane was late from Majunga. We then flew to Tulear and waited in the plane to get to Fort Dauphin.

The flights were fine and, getting close to Fort Dauphin, a group of girls at the rear of the plane started singing and very excellent they were too. On arrival at Fort Dauphin there was an enormous crowd gathered to welcome.. us?? No, but to welcome our singers who had won a competition. The singing was wonderful and we wished they had sung for the whole flight.

After lunch in the port we travelled the eighty km to Berenty, arriving just before seven pm. We took cold showers and dined at seven thirty, first hearing a pair of Madagascar Scops Owl but not seeing them as they were well up in the canopy.

Birds seen on the trip to Tana were the usual Great Egret, Cattle Egret and a few Dimorphic Heron. However the sight of the day was flock of two hundred plus White-faced Whistling Duck in flight over a lake near Tana as we approached the airport.

Sunday 5th November Berenty private reserve

Most of us got up early and, yes, we got to grips with Ring-tailed Lemur and Verreaux's Sifaka AND we saw the sifakas leaping along with stomach out and arms in the air - just like Neil getting out of the cold shower. We also saw before breakfast a Crested Coua and Madagascar Turtle Dove.

After breakfast we left at seven o'clock having photographed Ring-tailed Lemur and Verreaux's Sifaka. We picked up our guide, Mbola, and he took us to the gallery forest seeing more lemurs including Red-fronted Lemur plus birds such as Giant and Crested Coua, a superb White-browed Owl, plus the usual other species including Common Jery which we took some time to identify.

Mbola took us to see a Tree Boa lying next to his or her ground burrow and then we saw a Madagascar Scops Owl in full daylight that we had heard the previous night.

We looked at the river but it was devoid of waders.

We returned somewhat early as the birds were getting scarce and - YES - Neil had a beer before ten o'clock in the morning with him discussing men with black underwear!!!. We met again at eleven am to visit the local museum at Berenty with dioramas showing the local customs especially about funerals and general life, pottery and hunting and rice paddy techniques - all very interesting.

We had lunch at twelve-ish, then a very nice siesta and left by coach for the spiny forest at three thirty. We only had to travel a few kms and stopped for a genuine Radiated Tortoise in the middle of the road of which we all took photos.

We walked into the spiny forest from here and immediately connected with more tortoises including some very well marked juveniles. We picked up two locals who look after the tortoises and they took us to see Grey Mouse Lemur, obviously knowing where they roosted - and what little sweeties!

We continued to another stretch of spiny forest where Mbola showed us White-footed Lemur. He said they lived here as it was very hot and the Tree Boas could not stand the heat, and therefore they were safe - they also were very cuddly with lovely thick fur.

Birds seen this afternoon included Madagascar Scops Owl, two Madagascar Green Pigeon, Giant Coua, and on the way back walking to Berenty Lodge we connected with all the lemurs we had seen here including the Red-fronted Brown Lemur.

Monday 6th November Travel day to Ifaty

We left early again at six thirty after breakfast and travelled the rock-and-roll road to Fort Dauphin. We caught our plane to Tulear after our normal beer with crevettes and semosas.

We arrived pretty much on time but knew the twenty one kms were going to be hard, as Mamy had said it would take at least a couple of hours plus. So we stopped in Tulear for another omelette sandwich plus yet another Three Horses Beer - the restaurant was very good so we sat outside - it was closed but Mamy got us in, all very ethnic and delightful!

We then left on another rock-and-roll track to Ifaty, stopping a couple of times for a few waders including Kittlitz' Plover and Curlew Sandpiper, and continued on our way. We got to a small incline and a concrete step. The vehicle could not get over it and then the transmission broke. We were able to travel a bit further but it then packed up completely! The driver sent his oppo on a run the four kms to the hotel for help and transport. We therefore birded, seeing Sakalava Weaver and lots of Madagascar Bush Larks BUT Neil spotted a couple of plovers and YES they were Madagascar Plover in fact a pair. A very rare bird, endangered in fact. We also saw a pair of Kittlitz' and Three-banded Plover so all in all an excellent stop despite the stress.

Eventually transport came including a dilapidated Land Rover owned by a French diving instructor, but being Land Rover it certainly got us to the hotel whilst the rest travelled in a 4 x 4 with a pick-up back to carry the baggage. We arrived at the Dunes Hotel at about six o'clock and arranged to meet for dinner at seven thirty.

Due to the travel bug our local agent supplied two bottles of Red Gravy (wine)

Tuesday 7th November Spiny forest and salt pans at Ifaty

We met with our local guide Mosa, a real local expert. We departed after breakfast to travel just a km or two and then walked. The first bird we saw was a Sickle-billed Vanga and a Running Coua. We also saw Archbold's Newtonia and Stripe-breasted Jery. Mosa then took us to a Long-tailed Ground-roller nest hole in the ground - we waited whilst Mosa and his two sons walked the spiny scrub to find our subject. Meanwhile we saw two Madagascar Buttonquail until the lads found our Long-tailed Ground-roller, which gave us excellent views despite it moving rather fast through the undergrowth.

We were going to return to the coach when Mamy, interpreting Mosa's Malagasy said 'did we want to see a Sub-desert Mesite'. Peter especially was really keen like the rest of us. Mosa took us to the suitable area and said the bird had moved. We waited whilst Mosa tracked the bird by its footprints in the sand - oh how I envy locals with this superb technique. We waited of course quite some time then we heard a shout to his sons who beckoned us to follow. We met Mosa in a clearing and he took us to a tree where the mesite was just perched in full view. Apparently they do this in the day just sitting quietly, so we had fantastic views of all feathers with the light just perfect.

The morning had been so good that I also forgot to mention the Madagascar Nightjar seen very close just sitting with a chick under it's wing - the cryptic plumage made it very difficult to see.

We started to return to the bus when we all saw a Greater Vasa Parrot or two. I also forgot to mention Thamnornis Warbler and Chabert's Vanga on its nest - what a morning for birding.

We returned to the hotel at about 1045 to relax and have lunch at twelve o'clock ready for this afternoon's visit to some wetland area.

We lunched about twelve-ish and rested until four when we left for the close-by salt pans. These were very good as they gave us a single Madagascar Plover, at least twelve White-fronted Plover plus Kittlitz' Plover, Curlew Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Greenshank, Black-winged Stilt and Turnstone.

On the way back in the bus we saw about eight Madagascar Bee-eaters very close perched and flying close by. We returned to Dunes Hotel about six o'clock and dined at seven thirty

Wednesday 8th November Ifaty spiny forest

A very early start for the keen birders at five o'clock to walk the spiny forest with Mosa. Our first bird was a Banded Kestrel and glimpses of Madagascar Buttonquail. We then went again for the Long-tailed Ground-roller, yet another pair and of course we saw a single example and very well.

We kept walking the forest and asked to see Sickle-billed Vanga again, and buttonquail for those that had missed it the previous day. He took us to a Sickle-billed Vanga nest and then went looking for the bird - did he find it? Of course and we got some splendid views in good light.

The day was getting hot and it was only eight o'clock so we decided to head for breakfast. On the way back Mosa spotted a Madagascar Buttonquail which he and his family coaxed towards us, yet again all of us getting splendid views of this very difficult-to-see bird. Other birds seen during the morning included Madagascar Harrier Hawk, Madagascar Hoopoe, White-headed Vanga, Madagascar Bee-eater, three species of coua, lots of Chabert's Vanga and lots of Common Jery

We took an interesting breakfast including pineapple jam and some sort of rice cake and decided to meet at twelve for another log for the past two and a half days. The log totalled about ninety species for the week, which is good for Madagascar.

We left for the afternoon trip somewhat depleted with Tracy and Sally going on a pirogue sail and John not too well.

The four of us headed down the Tulear track for about seven kms and stopped at some trees in the water where we saw a few waders and one Greater Crested Tern. We carried on for a couple more kms and saw a lot more waders including a rather long distant Crab Plover, many Curlew Sandpiper, Greenshank, a few Sanderling and Turnstone. Later a group of White-faced Whistling Duck flew out to the sandbar together with about two hundred terns which we were not able to identify due to extreme range, but status and distribution said they were Common Tern.

We returned to the hotel and all met up for dinner with Tracy and Sally having enjoyed their pirogue sail and John somewhat improving.

Thursday 9th November Travel day from Ifaty to Isalo

Another early start to make use of the cool of the morning and we stopped at the previous afternoons points on the beach and this time the tide was low. We saw many waders including at least six Terek Sandpipers, We also saw four Greater Sandplover plus two Bar-tailed Godwit but the star for me was a Humblot's Heron: a juvenile.

We continued further down the coast stopping at another beach again more waders with twenty Saunder's Tern and about two hundred and fifty larger terns that were probably Common Tern.

The next stop was at a marsh where we saw many herons/egrets including Dimorphic Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Squacco Heron, two Little Bittern and brief flight views of a Baillon's Crake and White-throated Rail. The nearest bird here was a Madagascar Swamp Warbler very close and singing.

We continued on to Tulear and did some essential shopping for water, diesel etcetera, looked at the beach from the Hotel Plaza with the tide right out and continued on to Zakaraha for lunch.

We then travelled to Zombitse forest. Our stop at Zombitse was short but excellent seeing Spine-tailed Swift, Palm Swift, a really close France's Sparrowhawk, a pair of distant Reunion Harrier, a flock of close Lesser Vasa Parrot plus Broad-billed Roller.

Immediately afterwards, we passed through rolling grassland and through a very new mining town full of brand new wooden huts, a real USA western experience.

We later stopped for photos at the very scenic rock formation at Isalo reserve. The birding was distant here but a probable Benson's Rock Thrush was seen right at the top of rocks by Sally and John. A short stop later to look at a kettle of Pied Crow, Yellow-billed Kite and Madagascar Bee-eaters also revealed what I called a 'slim snake' found by Tracy.

We continued on to Isalo village where our one night stand was right in the centre of town.

Friday 10th November Travel day from Isalo to Fianarantsoa

Our usual breakfast at six-ish and we left for our destination. We passed through some splendid countryside, impressive mountains and wild scenery. We arrived at the village of Antemoro and took a splendid lunch in the restaurant at the paper factory. We obviously visited the factory and very interesting it was too with ladies pounding the bark mash all of the day, and others laying dried flowers to embelish the wet paper. We all indulged in retail therapy.

We then visited a winery just tasting the local wine - not at all like the very clean wineries around the world but the grey wine was very good as was the white.

We continued on to Fianarantsoa stopping at quite a few rice paddies. Sally and John were well up to speed with Sally spotting an excellent subadult male Reunion Harrier and later spotting a flock of duck that I certainly called as feral as I could not believe that decent wild duck would visit rice fields - I was wrong - they were a flock of Red-billed Teal.

We continued on to Fianarantsoa and booked in at the Soafia Hotel, very Chinese and very good too.

Saturday 11th November Travel day to Ranomafana

We left Fianarantsoa at seven fifteen and travelled to Ranomafana stopping at a few rice paddy fields seeing Dimorphic Egret and even more Red-billed Teal. We also stopped to look and photograph the different design of village houses and stopping at the splendid graves that the local peasants designed for their forebears.

Approaching Ranomafana we decided to walk the track seeing Brown-throated Martin and Pollen's Vanga.

We arrived at our hotel, the Domaine Nature, a wonderful place with wooden chalets amongst wonderful scenery. Our guide Mamy visited the local village and got an excellent guide, Fidy.

After lunch, with Fidy, we left at three thirty and walked to the forest in absolutely superb scenery and then into the forest. Hard birding, but we all saw well Pitta-like Ground-roller perched in a tree giving fantastic views and Tylas Vanga with yet another Cuckoo-Roller.

We finished up at the Belle Vue viewpoint and then a short distance to the old camp ground where our guide Fidy threw some meat and wiped bananas on trees. What a success! We had brilliant views of Fanaloka and fantastic views of Red-bellied Lemur and Brown Mouse Lemur.

After this superb happening we returned in semi-darkness back to our lodges.

Sunday 12th November Ranomafana

A very early breakfast at five, and we left at five thirty - the best time for birds and mammals with our new guide Stephan who is Fidy's brother. Our first sightings were Rand's Warbler and Wedge-tailed Jery. Our next sighting was also superb, a Pitta-like Ground-roller perched in a tree displaying with a lovely single booming note.

We kept getting better and better views of new species both birds and mammals with a couple of Milne-Edwards's Sifaka - always difficult to see. The next sighting was spectacular when Stephan spotted Golden Bamboo Lemur - in fact we saw four! This species of lemur is found nowhere else in Madagascar, and is a very rare species discovered in 1986 and usually very difficult to see in the field without going to large stands of bamboo, which are long walks away. Here we had excellent views as well - what a privilege!

Continuing on up and down through the rain forest we stopped at an open area where birds were in abundance. We started off with Red-tailed Vanga, Blue Vanga which Neil spotted, Ashy Cuckoo-shrike Madagascar White-eye, Madagascar Bulbul, Common Newtonia, Crested Drongo and Tylas Vanga.

We continued on up to the Belle Vue point and rested, as most were feeling the pace.

After our rest we descended yet again this time to search for Greater Bamboo Lemur and of course Stephan found them for us. One was so close and stripping away at a bamboo that we just watched in awe as its strong teeth demolished the outer casing whilst stripping off the bark - how they cope with the cyanide contained in the bamboo is another matter.

By now we were all getting a bit tired so we returned to the entrance to the park stopping for an excellent male Giraffe Weevil very close but difficult to photograph. Stephan had been a very excellent guide with an excellent knowledge of the local natural history, and had shown us quite a few tree frogs as well

We then stopped just down the road at a nice local souvenir shop to do some retail therapy. The shop was excellent as all the goods were produced locally and help the locals to get something out of the park and its tourists. For the afternoon we all visited the local museum with dioramas depicting the local forest situation and history of the fauna and avifauna. I particularly found the history of the Elephant bird, Aepyornis very interesting.

Sally and Tracy then went swimming in the thermal springs whilst the rest of us walked back to the hotel with Stephan. On the way Stephan pointed out a Madagascar Flufftail calling, and we had fleeting glimpses of Dark Newtonia. The weather deteriorated to spots of rain so we called it a day, luckily as it then threw down real rain.

Monday 13th November Travel day Ranomafana to Antsirabe

We had a late breakfast at six thirty and left at seven fifteen. The weather was cloudy and rain so we were happy to be travelling. Birding en route was as usual difficult due to the fantastic wildlife being in isolated pockets - with four fifths of Madagascar very sadly ruined for wildlife and still under pressure. In fact we saw a live tenrec being dangled by its tail by a young boy hoping for some money. You cannot blame the locals as they are one of the poorest countries in the world and live day by day.

We stopped in a village for a good sight of a breeding colony of Cattle Egret about forty nests if not more. Also at this site were a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron and a few Dimorphic Heron

We stopped for lunch at Ambositra and excellent it was too.

After lunch we visited the wood carving centres/shops but for me they were all a bit too touristy with no really good carvings except for the religious icons and carvings of local people. We then travelled in some downpours to our hotel in Antsirabe, the hotel Arotel, all very nice so we were able to relax for the morrow.

By the way from our bedroom window Neil and I saw three Comb Duck - in a cage I hasten to add.

Tuesday 14th November Travel day from Antsirabe and visit to Tsimbazaza zoo in Tana

We actually started late with breakfast at six thirty leaving at seven fifteen. Birding on the way was typical of Madagascar just Madagascar Kestrel, Mynah, Pied Crow plus a few other species.

We arrived at Tana at eleven o'clock, booked into the Tana Plaza again, had a splendid buffet lunch and visited the Tsimbazaza Zoo in the afternoon.

The lake in the zoo was amazing, with certainly two hundred plus Cattle Egret nests with a few Squacco Heron. Further round the lake we saw three Madagascar Little Grebe, three Green Heron and Black-crowned Night Heron. Sally, John and Tracy left early by taxi to visit a splendid shop in Tana whilst the rest of us did another circuit of the lake to look out for Madagascar Pond Heron with no luck.

We all returned at about five o'clock for our evening meal at seven thirty to be prepared for our early breakfast the next day to catch our flight to Majunga.

Wednesday 15th November Travel day to Majunga and afternoon visit to Cirque Rouge

Of course an early breakfast and we left at five o'clock for the airport getting there in good time with little traffic - what a surprise for Tana.

Our flight was on time and we arrived at Majunga at about eight thirty. We then left for our hotel, the Hotel Zahamotel just four km from the airport. The hotel is right on the coast with all our chalets opposite the wonderful Mozambique Channel.

We relaxed, did our notes and met at twelve thirty for lunch ready to leave at three o'clock for the Cirque Rouge

At three o'clock we travelled in the hotel minibus to the Cirque Rouge, about half an hours drive on rough tracks. The Cirque Rouge is an interesting formation of rocks which Tracy said was laterite on top of sandstone on top of a bed of clay. The birding here was quite good with a new species for the list in three Peregrine Falcon plus Madagascar Coucal, Madagascar Bee-eater, Madagascar Cisticola, Souimanga Sunbird, Palm Swift and Madagascar Mannikin. The best sightings for the afternoon were a large frog and later in exactly the same spot a Ground Boa about five feet in length and a new species for the trip.

We returned to our hotel by five fifteen ready to eat at seven and ready for the very early start tomorrow.

Thursday 16th November Ampijoroa and Lake Amboromalandy

THE BIG DAY, an early breakfast at four thirty leaving at five for the two and a half hour journey to Ampijoroa. A fast but windy road stopping just once for a leg stretch and then at Lake Amboromalandy just thirty kms from Ampijoroa. At the lake we saw a few Whiskered Tern and many egrets including about ten Black Egret with one fishing doing the complete hood thing with his wings. We also saw about ten Glossy Ibis although at rather long range.

We continued on to Ampijoroa at the station, collecting our guide Oliver who turned out to be really excellent. The first bit of information was that the circuit of Lake Ravelobe was closed due to an attack by Nile Crocodile on one of the natives who was washing in the lake. However this certainly did not impair our visit.

Oliver led us into the western deciduous forest seeing a Rhinoceros Chameleon and the big ones being White-breasted Mesite and Schlegel's Asity with both species just staying very close for us giving brilliant views. Oliver pointed out three Coquerel's Sifaka but said we would see another group this afternoon. We also saw other bird species but the highlight before our very early lunch was a subadult Oustalet's Chameleon who performed brilliantly for us doing his stuttering walk looking for prey items.

When we got back to the centre it was now very hot, Mamy, our driver and waiter had laid out a table for us under an open rondavel. The lunch was excellent we were even able to purchase cool beers, which pleased many of the clients and me.

After lunch with most recovered from the heat we set off again seeing for a start off yet another subadult Oustalet's Chameleon. We continued on up a slope, not so steep as at Ranomafana, and at the top connected with a small group or troop of Coquerel's Sifaka this time lower down in bushes. To me they were the best yet.

Tracy was feeling the heat so Oliver took her back to the bus to recover whilst the rest of us waited, spending more time with the sifakas. When Oliver returned we continued our quest for more birds and mammals seeing our target species Red-capped Coua (this time the nominate species), Coquerel's Coua and Van Dam's Vanga. All these species were seen fantastically well with the couas performing right down the track in front of us and Van Dam's Vanga very close on open branches for us. We also saw a pair of Rufous Vanga on the nest and on the way back to the minibus, yet another White-breasted Mesite and a full adult Oustalet's Chameleon climbing way up on a vine.

We also saw a few more species of lemur including Common Brown Lemur, a new one for the trip, as well as the Coquerel's Sifaka and a small group of Western Woolly Lemur.After a superb day at Ampijoroa we left for Majunga briefly stopping at Lake Amboromalandy.

The whole tour had been a fantastic experience, seeing all five of the endemic families of birds, seventeen lemur species, two boa species, a good selection of chameleons, fantastic sightings of butterflies and spectacular insects including the Giraffe Weevil. We also took a bit of time for the local culture stopping for photos of villages, tombs and the splendid Zebu cattle pulling hand made carts.

Highlights for me were - at Analamazaotra the calls of the Indri, the male Velvet Asity and the Parson's Chameleon - at Berenty the Verreaux's Sifaka leaping across the ground to get from tree to tree and the two owl species - at Ifaty the Long-tailed Ground-roller and the Subdesert Mesite - at Ranomafana the Fanaloka and Brown Mouse Lemur coming for meat and banana and the Pitta-like Ground-roller - at Ampijoroa the very cuddly Coquerel's Sifaka, the Schlegel's Asity and the Oustalet's Chameleon.

Friday 17th November Travel day from Majunga to Tana to Paris to London /Manchester

We actually took a late breakfast at seven o'clock with the rest of the morning relaxing until our early lunch at eleven fifteen ready to get to Majunga airport.

We arrived at Majunga airport well in time for our flight to Tana which was on time and we arrived at our hotel, the Hotel Farihy only a few kms from the airport at about three pm. It was cool and raining so we relaxed in our room - what a difference to Majunga where it was really hot.

We arrived at Tana airport well in time and were close to the start of the queue. We got through the system very well and waited for our flight. This time it was on time and our flight to Paris was very smooth.

Our flight to Heathrow was also on time so we said our goodbyes at the carousel and wished everyone a good onward journey.


To John and especially Sally for their excellent French which certainly helped us out in many ways, to Tracy for putting up with the birdwatchers, to Neil for his help and advice and to all the group for their excellent company. Thanks to all our local guides at the various reserve sites and not forgetting Mamy our local guide who sorted out the tour in excellent style.

Graham Hearl, Mallorca



Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis

One on the lake at Analamazaotra on 3rd.

Madagascar Little Grebe Tachybaptus pelzelnii

Three seen at Tsimbazaza lake in Tana on 14th.

African Darter Anhinga rufa

Two seen at lake Ravelobe, Ampijoroa on 16th.

Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus

Two seen at the marsh close to Tulear on 9th.

Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax

Four seen at the marsh close to Tulear on 9th, two juveniles and four adults on way to Tana on 13th and 14th and six at Tsimbazaza zoo on 14th.

Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides

One at the marsh close to Tulear, seventeen at Tsimbazaza zoo heronry on 14th two at Majunga and seen at lake Amboromalandy on 16th.

Madagascar Pond Heron Ardeola idea

An adult seen in flight by two clients on 14th at Tsimbazaza zoo.

Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis

Recorded on ten days mostly in rice fields with a maxima of five hundred plus on 5th and six hundred on 14th.

Green-backed Heron Butorides striatus

Recorded on five days on 6th, 8th, 9th, 14th and 16th.

Black Egret Egretta ardesiaca

Ten plus recorded at lake Amboromalandy on 16th with five at the same site in the afternoon.

Dimorphic Heron Egretta dimorpha

Recorded on seven days with the first five between Analamazaotra to Tana on 4th with a maxima of twelve on 9th at the marsh close to Tulear.

Great Egret Egretta alba

Recorded on ten days mostly in rice fields with a maxima of twenty on 4th.

Purple Heron Ardea purpurea

One seen on 3rdat Analamazaotra, two and one on travel days 10th and 11th, three at lake Amboromalandy/lake Ravelobe on 16th.

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea

Two on 9th at the marsh close to Tulear and two at lake Amboromalandy on 16th.

Humblot's Heron Ardea humbloti

A juvenile seen on the coast near Ifaty on 9th and an adult at lake Ravelobe on 16th.

Hamerkop Scopus umbretta

Recorded mostly in rice fields on 2nd, 4th, 10th, 13th and 14th with a maxima of five on 13th.

Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus

Ten seen at lake Amboromalandy on 16th.

White-faced Whistling Duck Dendrocygna viduata

Two hundred and fifty seen in flight over a lake at Tana, twenty on the sand flats at Ifaty on 8th and sixteen at lake Amboromalandy on 16th.

Red-billed Teal Anas erythrorhyncha

A flock of fifteen seen on a rice field between Isalo and Fianarantsoa on 10th and ten again on a rice field near Fianarantsoa on 11th.

Yellow-billed Kite Milvus aegyptius

Recorded on eleven days with a maxima of fifty two on 9th with twenty on 10th and 16th.

Madagascar Fish Eagle Haliaeetus vociferoides

One seen at lake Ravelobe on 16th.

Madagascar Harrier-Hawk Polyboroides radiatus

Two seen at Ifaty on 8th.

Reunion Harrier Circus maillardi

Two seen at Zombitse forest grassland on 9th and a super sub adult male on 10th near to Fianarantsoa.

France's Sparrowhawk Accipiter francesii

A very close view of one at Zombitse forest on 9th.

Madagascar Buzzard Buteo brachypterus

Recorded on nine days with a maxima of four on 11th and 12th.

Madagascar Kestrel Falco newtoni

Recorded on twelve days with a maxima of nine on 6th and 13th.

Banded Kestrel Falco zoniventris

One seen at Ifaty on 8th.

Eleonora's Falcon Falco eleonorae

One seen near Tana on 2nd.

Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus

Three seen at the Cirque Rouge on 15th.

Helmeted Guineafowl Numida meleagris

Eight seen at Berenty on 5th and two on 6th with one crossing the road to Ampijoroa on 16th.

White-breasted Mesite Mesitornis variegata

Two singles seen in Ampijoroa on 16th.

Subdesert Mesite Monias benschi

Singles seen at Ifaty on 7th and 8th.

Madagascar Buttonquail Turnix nigricollis

Three seen on two days at Ifaty on 7th and 8th.

Madagascar Flufftail Sarothrura insularis

One heard at Ranomafana on 12th.

White-throated Rail Dryolimnas cuvieri

One in flight at the marsh near Tulear on 9th.

Baillon's Crake Porzana pusilla

One in flight at the marsh near Tulear on 9th.

Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus

Two seen at Tsimbazaza zoo, Tana on 14th.

Crab Plover Dromas ardeola

One on the sand flats near Ifaty on 8th.

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus

Two seen on 6th and 7th and ten on 9th at Ifaty.

Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula

Two seen on the beach at Ifaty on 9th.

Kittlitz's Plover Charadrius pecuarius

Five seen near Ifaty on 5th, nine at Ifaty on 8th and one at lake Amboromalandy on 16th.

Madagascar Plover Charadrius thoracicus

Two seen near Ifaty on 6th with two more singles on 7th at the salt pans and on 8th.

Three-banded Plover Charadrius tricollaris

Four seen near Ifaty on 6th, singles on 7th and 8th near Ifaty with two on 9th on the way to Tulear.

White-fronted Plover Charadrius marginatus

Twelve at the salt pans at Ifaty on 7th with one on the beach at Ifaty on 8th.

Greater Sand Plover Charadrius leschenaultii

Four seen on the beach near Ifaty on 9th.

Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola

Recorded on four days at Ifaty from 6th to 9th, a maxima of seventy on the beach on 9th.

Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica

A single and two on the beach near Ifaty on 8th and 9th.

Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus

Recorded on four days from 6th to 9th at Ifaty with a maxima of forty five on 9th.

Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia

Recorded on four days at Ifaty from 6th to 9th with a maxima of forty on 9th, another five at Lake Amboromalandy on 16th.

Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus

Good views of six on the beach near Ifaty on 9th.

Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos

Recorded on six days at Ifaty, travel days on 11th and 13th and at lake Amboromalandy.

Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres

Recorded on three days at Ifaty from 7th to 9th with a maxima of twenty on 9th.

Sanderling Calidris alba

Recorded on three days at Ifaty from 7th to 9th with a maxima of twenty on 9th.

Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea

Recorded on four days at Ifaty from 6th to 9th with a maxima of sixty on 9th.

Greater Crested Tern Sterna bergii

Two seen on the beach near Ifaty on 8th.

Common Tern Sterna hirundo

Approximately two hundred and fifty seen on a distant sand bank near Ifaty on 9th.

Saunder's Tern Sterna saundersi

Twenty seen on a sand bank near Ifaty on 9th.

Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus

Five and two seen at lake Amboromalandy on 16th.

Madagascar Sandgrouse Pterocles personatus

Four seen in flight on the way to Ampijoroa on 16th.

Rock Dove/Feral Pigeon Columba livia

Recorded on ten days mostly travelling days.

Madagascar Turtle Dove Streptopelia picturata

Ten plus seen at Berenty on 5th with singles seen at Ifaty on 8th and 9th and at Ampijoroa on 16th.

Namaqua Dove Oena capensis

Recorded on nine days from 4th to 10th at Berenty to Ifaty and at Majunga and Ampijoroa on 15th and 16th.

Madagascar Green Pigeon Treron australis

Four seen at Berenty on 5th, two at Ifaty on 7th and twelve at Ampijoroa on 16th.

Madagascar Blue Pigeon Alectroenas madagascariensis

One seen at Analamazaotra on 3rd with singles on 11th and 12th at Ranomafana.

Greater Vasa Parrot Coracopsis vasa

Two seen at Ifaty on 7th and one at Ampijoroa on 16th.

Lesser Vasa Parrot Coracopsis nigra

Recorded on eight days at Analamazaotra, Berenty, Ifaty, Ranomafana and Ampijoroa with a maxima of ten at Berenty and Ampijoroa.

Grey-headed Lovebird Agapornis canus

Two seen at Berenty on 5th, pairs at Ifaty on 7th, 8th and 9th with six at Ampijoroa on 16th.

Madagascar Lesser Cuckoo Cuculus rochii

Recorded on eleven days mostly heard but singles seen at Ifaty on 8th and on 14th.

Giant Coua Coua gigas

Two seen at Berenty on 5th.

Coquerel's Coua Coua coquereli

Two seen at Ampijoroa on 16th.

Running Coua Coua cursor

Two and one seen at Ifaty on 7th and 8th.

Red-fronted Coua Coua reynaudii

One seen at Analamazaotra on 3rd.

Red-capped Coua Coua ruficeps

Singles of the ssp. olivaceiceps known as Green-capped Coua seen at Ifaty on 7th and 8th and four of the nominate form seen at Ampijoroa on 16th.

Crested Coua Coua cristata

Seen at Berenty and Ifaty from 5th to 8th with a maxima of six at Berenty on 5th, another four at Ampijoroa on 16th.

Blue Coua Coua caerulea

Up to four seen at Analamazaotra on 2nd and 3rd and two and one seen at Ranomafana on 11th and 12th.

Madagascar Coucal Centropus toulou

Recorded on all fifteen days.

Madagascar Scops Owl Otus rutilus

Two heard at Berenty on 4th and one seen very well at Berenty on 5th.

White-browed Owl Ninox superciliaris

At Berenty on 5th one seen in the morning and two seen in the afternoon both sightings seen very well.

Madagascar Nightjar Caprimulgus madagascariensis

One seen sitting with a chick very close at Ifaty on 7th and seen flying at dusk and early morning at Ifaty from 6th to 9th.

Madagascar Spinetail Zoonavena grandidieri

Four seen over Zombitse forest on 9th.

African Palm Swift Cypsiurus parvus

Seen over Tana on 2nd, twelve at Zombitse on 9th, two at Ranomafana on 12th, thirty five at Cirque Rouge, Majunga on 15th and twenty at Ampijoroa on 16th.

Alpine Swift Apus melba

Two at Analamazaotra on 2nd, twenty and two at Ranomafana on 11th and 13th.

African Black Swift Apus barbatus

Seen at Tana on 2nd, Analamazaotra on 3rd, ten at Antemoro on 10th, six on 14th and again at Ampijoroa on 16th.

Madagascar Malachite Kingfisher Alcedo vintsioides

Recorded on nine days mostly singles but up to four on the three days at Analamazaotra from 2nd to 4th.

Madagascar Pygmy Kingfisher Ceyx madagascariensis

One seen at night roosting at Analamazaotra on 2nd.

Madagascar Bee-eater Merops superciliosus

Recorded on eight days with a maxima of ten at Ifaty and Majunga and Ampijoroa.

Broad-billed Roller Eurystomus glaucurus

Recorded on seven days at Berenty, Ifaty, Ranomafana and Ampijoroa with a maxima of six at Ampijoroa.

Pitta-like Ground-roller Atelornis pittoides

This spectacular bird seen on two occasions at Ranomafana on 11th and 12th with one sitting in a tree displaying and calling.

Long-tailed Ground-roller Uratelornis chimaera

Another spectacular bird seen at Ifaty with two on 7th and one on 8th.

Cuckoo-Roller Leptosomus discolor

Yet another spectacular bird two seen flying at Analamazaotra on 3rd, one male perched at Ranomafana on 11th and one at Ampijoroa on 16th.

Madagascar Hoopoe Upupa marginata

Up to three seen on three days at Ifaty from 7th to 9th with four travelling to Isalo on 10th.

Velvet Asity Philepitta castanea

A male of this stunning species seen at Analamazaotra on 3rd with a female and a male at Ranomafana on 11th and 12th.

Schlegel's Asity Philepitta schlegeli

A stunning male perched for some time at Ampijoroa on 16th.

Madagascar Bush Lark Mirafra hova

Mostly seen by the road in dry areas at Ifaty from 6th to 10th and Majunga area from 14th to 16th.

Mascarene Martin Phedina borbonica

Recorded on eleven days.

Brown-throated Sand Martin Riparia paludicola

Ten seen at Ranomafana on 11th.

Madagascar Wagtail Motacilla flaviventris

Recorded at Analamazaotra from 2nd to 4th, at Ranomafana on 11th and 12th and at Tana on 14th and 15th.

Ashy Cuckoo-shrike Coracina cinerea

One seen at Analamazaotra on 3rd and two and one at Ranomafana on 11th and 12th.

Madagascar Bulbul Hypsipetes madagascariensis

Recorded on all days from 2nd to 16th except 10th.

Long-billed Greenbul Phyllastrephus madagascariensis

Six seen at Ampijoroa on 16th.

Spectacled Greenbul Phyllastrephus zosterops

Three seen at Analamazaotra on 3rd and one at Ranomafana on 12th.

Grey-crowned Greenbul Phyllastrephus cinereiceps

Singles seen at Ranomafana on 11th and 12th.

Red-tailed Vanga Calicalicus madagascariensis

Four plus seen at Analamazaotra on 3rd and two seen at Ranomafana on 12th.

Rufous Vanga Schetba rufa

Three seen at Ranomafana on 12th and two at Ampijoroa on 16th.

Hook-billed Vanga Vanga curvirostris

A single and a pair at Berenty on 5th and heard at Ranomafana on 12th.

Lafresnaye's Vanga Xeno pirostris xenopirostris

Heard at Ifaty on 8th.

Pollen's Vanga Xenopirostris polleni

One seen at Ranomafana on 11th.

Van Dam's Vanga Xenopirostris damii

Two seen at Ampijoroa on 16th.

Sickle-billed Vanga Falculea palliata

Three and two seen at Ifaty on 7th and 8th and two seen at Ampijoroa on 16th.

White-headed Vanga Artamella viridis

One seen at Ifaty on 8th and four at Ampijoroa on 16th.

Chabert's Vanga Leptopterus chabert

The commonest vanga recorded on nine days at Analamazaotra, Berenty, Ranomafana and Ampijoroa.

Blue Vanga Cyanolanius madagascarinus

This stunning bird seen at Ranomafana on 12th.

Nuthatch Vanga Hypositta corallirostris

Two seen at Analamazaotra on 3rd.

Tylas Vanga Tylas eduardi

Two seen on both days at Ranomafana on 11th and 12th.

Forest Rock Thrush Monticola sharpei

One male seen at Ranomafana on 11th.

Madagascar Magpie-Robin Copsychus albospecularis

Recorded on all fifteen days.

Common Stonechat Saxicola torquata

Seen on three days at Analamazaotra from 2nd to 4th, at Ifaty on 8th and Ranomafana on 11th and 13th.

Madagascar Brush Warbler Nesillas typica

Singles seen on the way to Analamazaotra, at Analamazaotra, heard at Berenty and seen on travel days 9th and 10th.

Subdesert Brush Warbler Nesillas lantzii

Seen at Ifaty with three on 7th and one on 8th.

Madagascar Swamp Warbler Acrocephalus newtoni

One seen very well at the marsh near Tulear on 9th.

Thamnornis Warbler Thamnornis chloropetoides

Singles seen on 7th and 8th at Ifaty.

Rand's Warbler Randia pseudozosterops

One seen at Ranomafana on 12th.

Common Newtonia Newtonia brunneicauda

Seen at Analamazaotra on 2nd and 3rd, at Berenty on 5th, Ranomafana on 11th and 12th and Ampijoroa on 16th.

Dark Newtonia Newtonia amphichroa

One heard and briefly seen at Ranomafana on 12th.

Archbold's Newtonia Newtonia archboldi

Two seen at Ifaty on 7th.

Madagascar Cisticola Cisticola cherina

Recorded at Analamazaotra on 2nd and 3rd, at Ifaty on 7th and 9th, travel day on 10th, Ranomafana on 12th and Majunga and Ampijoroa on 15th and 16th.

Common Jery Neomixus tenella

Recorded on seven days at Analamazaotra, Berenty, Ifaty and Ampijoroa.

Stripe-throated Jery Neomixus striatigula

Two seen at Ifaty on 7th and one at Ranomafana on 11th.

Wedge-tailed Jery Hartertula flavoviridis

One seen at Ranomafana on 12th.

Ward's Flycatcher Pseudobias wardi

Seen at Analamazaotra on 2nd and 3rd and two at Ranomafana on 12th.

Madagascar Paradise Flycatcher Tersiphone mutata

This spectacular bird in both forms seen on eight days at Analamazaotra, Berenty, Ifaty, Ranomafana and Ampijoroa.

Souimanga Sunbird Nectarinia souimanga

This super sunbird seen on ten days at Analamazaotra, Berenty, Ifaty, Ranomafana and Ampijoroa.

Long-billed Green Sunbird Nectarinia notata

Seen at Analamazaotra on 2nd and 3rd, at Berenty on 6th and Ranomafana on 12th.

Madagascar White-eye Zosterops maderaspatana

Another little stunner seen on ten days at Analamazaotra, Berenty, Ifaty, Ranomafana and Ampijoroa.

Madagascar Mannikin Lonchura nana

Seen on eight days at Analamazaotra, Ifaty, Ranomafana and Cirque Rouge at Majunga.

Nelicourvi Weaver Ploceus nelicourvi

Only recorded at Analamazaotra on 2nd and 3rd and at Ranomafana on 12th.

Sakalava Weaver Ploceus sakalava

Recorded in drier country at Berenty and Ifaty from 5th to 9th and at Ampijoroa on 16th.

Madagascar Red Fody Foudia madagascariensis

This little strawberry recorded on fourteen days.

Forest Fody Foudia omissa

Only two seen at Analamazaotra on 3rd.

Common Myna Acridotheres tristis

Recorded on all days mostly travelling except 3rd.

Crested Drongo Dicrurus forficatus

Recorded on thirteen days mostly in forests.

Pied Crow Corvus albus

Recorded on eleven days from 4th to 16th.


Madagascar Flying Fox Pteropus rufus

A roost in trees at Berenty gallery forest numbering a few hundred.

Bat sp

A few seen at the Hotel Vakona on 2nd.

Eastern Red Forest Rat Nesomys rufus

Two seen on 12th at Ranomafana.

Brown Rat Rattus norvegicus ( introduced species)

One seen on 9th at Isalo.

Fanaloka Fossa fossana

Two of these night hunters seen at Ranomafana on 11th.

Grey Mouse Lemur Microcebus murinus

Three seen in the spiny forest at Berenty on 5th.

Brown Mouse Lemur Microcebus rufus

Two seen roosting at Analamazaotra on 2nd and probably two seen at dusk at Ranomafana on 11th feeding on banana.

White-footed Sportive Lemur Lepilemur leucopus

Eight seen on 5th at Berenty.

Eastern Grey Bamboo Lemur Hapalemur griseus griseus

Three and one seen at Analamazaotra on 2nd and 3rd.

Golden Bamboo Lemur Hapalemur aureus

Four of this very rare lemur discovered in 1986 seen at Ranomafana on 12th.

Greater Bamboo Lemur Hapalemur simus

Five seen at Ranomafana on 12th with one stripping a bamboo.

Ring-tailed Lemur Lemur catta

These evocative lemurs seen at Berenty on 5th and 6th in good numbers.

Red-bellied Lemur Eulemur rubriventer

Three and four seen at Ranomafana on 11th and 12th.

Common Brown Lemur Eulemur fulvus fulvus

Three plus a juvenile seen at Analamazaotra on 2nd and again five at Ampijoroa on 16th.

Red-fronted Brown Lemur Eulemur fulvus rufus

Good numbers seen at Berenty on 5th and 6th they have been introduced here. And one and four on 11th and 12th at Ranomafana.

Black-and-white Ruffed Lemur Varecia variegata variegata

Three seen in the private Vakona reserve at Perinet on 2nd.

Eastern Woolly Lemur (Avahi) Avahi laniger

Four at Analamazaotra on 3rd and pairs at Ranomafana on 11th and 12th.

Western Woolly Lemur (Avahi) Avahi occidentalis

Four seen in the morning and another four seen in the afternoon at Ampijoroa on 16th.

Milne-Edwards's Sifaka Propithecus diadema edwardsi

Three seen at Ranomafana on 12th.

Verreaux's Sifaka Propithecus verreauxi verreauxi

These fantastic lemurs seen leaping along the ground at Berenty on 5th and 6th.

Coquerel's Sifaka Propithecus verreauxi coquereli

Three seen in the morning and another group of seven seen in the afternoon at Ampijoroa on 16th

Indri Indri indri

Three and two were seen at Analamazaotra on 3rd. Their calls are very evocative.

Aye-aye Daubentonia madagascariensis

Two were seen at Tsimbazaza zoo on 14th in the afternoon when they normally should be sleeping.

Other mammals were seen in the zoo, Tsimbazaza in Tana, and a Fosa Cryptoprocta ferox at the private zoo at Vakona, Perinet


Not in scientific order or complete with latin names

Parson's Chameleon Calumma parsonii

A nice adult seen at Analamazaotra on 3rd

Chameleon sp. (the second smallest in the world)

One seen at Analamazaotra on 2nd

Oustalet's Chameleon Furcifer oustaleti

Two sub adults and one full mature seen at Ampijoroa on 16th

Rhinoceros Chameleon

One seen at Ampijoroa on 16th

Nose-horned Chameleon Calumma nasutus

One seen at Ranomafana on 12th

Black Collared Lizard Oplurus cuvieri

Seen at Majunga on 15th and at Ampijoroa on 16th

Gecko Phelsuma

Very colourful and seen in various hotels as at Majunga

Gecko brown

Also seen in the various hotels and chalets

Madagascar Tree Boa Sanzinia madagascariensis

One seen at Berenty on 5th, at Ifaty on 7th and at Ranomafana on 11th

Madagascar Ground Boa Acrantophis madagascariensis

One about five foot in length found at the Cirque Rouge just where the big frog had been on 15th

Slim snake

One found by Tracy at Isalo on 9th

Radiated Tortoise Geochelone radiata

At least six seen at the Berenty spiny forest on 5th

Big Frog

One seen at the Cirque Rouge at Majunga on 15th

Tree Frog

Seen at Perinet and Ranomafana

Giraffe-necked Weevil Trachelophorus giraffa

A superb male seen at Ranomafana on 11th and 12th with a brief view at Analamazaotra on 3rd

Flatid leaf-bug Phromnia rosea

Many seen in colonies at Ampijoroa. The adults look like pink flowers and the nymphs look like white wavy forms of arms/antennae

Plus we saw many very colourful and diverse butterflies

© The Travelling Naturalist 2000