TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT
30 September - 16 October 2004
Principal leader: Tim Earl
Local leader: Mamy Ramarolahy
Local guides: Maurice Ratsisakanana (Périnet)
Mbula Manarivo Jean (Berenty)
Mosa and family (Ifaty)
Sylvan Tsimira (Isalo)
Stephan Randriamifidy (Ranomafana)
Highlights: A troop of Ring-tailed lemurs we chanced upon on the way to Berenty.
Stunning rock formations at Isalo.
The White-fronted rail which led us to a family of Baillons crakes.
The White-headed vanga which gave such great views in Berenty forest.
A troop of Brown lemurs which crossed a river in Périnet National Park by climbing down a tree a few feet away from us.
Catching up with a Red-shouldered vanga after a dash through dense undergrowth at La Table. Finding Verreaux's coua at the same time was a good moment.
Watching the sun set behind mangroves and mudflats teeming with waders at Ifaty.
Seeing Scaly ground roller and Pitta-like ground roller in Périnet National Park. The sighting of another Pitta-like ground roller on a sand-bar in Ranomafana National Park was also a delight.
Two Madagascar blue pigeons sitting on a dead snag in Ranomafana National Park.
Sunbathing Verreaux's sifakas, limbs akimbo as they warmed up in the early morning rays.
The marshes at Ifaty where birds kept coming into our field of view, one species after the other.
Thursday 30 September
Most of us met at Heathrow, arriving in Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris, at about 5pm, while John and Barbara Gordon flew down from Manchester on an earlier flight and explored Paris. The London contingent explored the airport, almost took a shuttle bus to the wrong Ibis Hotel (there are three at the airport) but finally settled in our rooms.
The trip list had been started by Alison Vetch who saw a European rabbit and a Magpie from the aircraft.
We met John and Barbara Gordon over dinner and once plans were laid, turned in.
Friday 1 October
A fairly early start saw us away on time at 7.45am and checked in by 8.30. We won an argument about having torches with us, cleared security and boarded the Air France flight which took off about 30 minutes late showing an estimated time of arrival 20 minutes early.
And so it proved to be. Apart from one slight diversion around an impressive thunder cloud the flight was un-noteworthy, except to say that the two meals were excellent (you expect that from the French Ed).
Jenny Weeks and I saw a couple of bats as we walked from the plane to the terminal and were told that they were probably Mauritius tomb bats, an identification which subsequently fitted the literature.
We were prepared for long delays at immigration and customs but apart from a couple of minor queries we were dealt with so quickly that our transfer bus pulled away exactly one hour after touch-down.
Mamy Ramarolahy was waiting for us and we took to his friendliness and efficiency straight away. We were checked in at the Hotel du Louvre by 11.45pm.
It had been a great start to the trip.
Saturday 2 October
The greatness continued with a quick tour of Antananarivo where we saw Madagascar kestrel at the Queens palace, now under renovation after being gutted by fire, and White-faced whistling duck far below us on a huge lake. The city was charming with well-kept houses, hectic street-markets and very little rubbish so unlike many African towns.
We had woken to views of blue-flowered Frangipani trees from many of the bedrooms, Mascarene martins hawking over the houses and the occasional egret passing by.
As we eased away from the city towards Périnet rice paddies began to dominate and with them Great and Dimorphic egrets, Mascarene martins, and lots of Stonechats.
A stop at the River Mangoro gave great views of a flock of Brown-throated sand martins (Plain martin) and a Common sandpiper which was seen by Jenny only. Our best patch of the day was to see a Madagascar bee-eater seen by Mamy. Not only did we see a male courting its mate by feeding her bees, but we also found a Crested drongo, Chabert's vanga and John found a Madagascar cisticola which flitted across the river before the others could see it.
We arrived at the lodge in drizzle and mist rainforest needs water to grow. Surprisingly, it was cold too and we were glad of an open fire in the dining room and heaters in our comfortable chalet bedrooms.
Our local guide Maurice Ratsisakanana met us at 6pm and we set off for a walk to see nocturnal lemurs and other dwellers of the dark forest. The drizzle came and went and we were glad of waterproofs as we first walked tarmac roads as Maurice swung his torch left and right, occasionally stopping to see some goodie or other.
At times it was like being out at Halloween with other groups also exploring the jungle by torch-light.
Greater dwarf lemurs were the first to be spotted and Maurice illuminated their tree-top world with a bright spot-light. They were unperturbed and only occasionally looked our way. Several Brown mouse lemurs were heard but not seen. A number of Chameleons and Tree frogs were also seen.
Sunday 3 October
A troop of Brown lemurs crossing a river via a leaning tree we standing next to was the highlight of the day for many. The endearing creatures, like all primates, showing different characters between individuals, passed close to us as they climbed into the canopy on our side of the river. Some were nervous, others brash and a few just seemed oblivious of us. Two had babies on their backs.
Calling them the highlight in a day when we saw so much is a close call. Maurice demonstrated his reputation as the best guide in Périnet with seeming ease. The exquisite Pitta-like ground roller was a stunner; hearing the howls of Indri early in the morning; the exotic flight of a Cuckoo Roller; watching a pair of Madagascar crested ibis pick their way down a forest trail; the gem-like Malagasy kingfishers and Paradise flycatchers; a screaming White-throated rail how can we choose.
What was sure is that by the end of this fantastic and fun day we were all tired but delighted to have made the effort. Breakfast at 5am, hiking along narrow trails up steep hills through he superb jungle (thank goodness it was not hot) forcing ourselves out on another night walk, all paid dividends in magical Madagascar.
We had met up for breakfast at 5am and watched day break as we ate. The early start was worth it for within minutes were watching a Madagascar rail as it crept through a reed-bed at our feet. A Purple heron flew past and a Madagascar swamp warbler crept up a flower stem to scold us for being in his bog. We set off for Mantadia National Park.
A few minutes later Maurice glimpsed a Blue coua and out of the bus we piled to gaze into the canopy. Nothing could be seen, but a few imitation calls by Maurice soon induced the bird into our view as it puzzled over the weird coua calling below. It was followed by a succession of other goodies as Long-billed greenbul, Tylas vanga and a Madagascar bulbul joined the stage. All the while the orchestral sounds were provided by two troops of howling Indri, one of the most extraordinary sounds of this wonderful place.
Our second stop was for a Madagascar coucal and it too resulted in a stream of exciting birds as first a singing Rands warbler was admired followed by a feeding flock containing several of our now familiar birds.
We walked a few yards to a small marsh from which blood-curdling screams were coming. Within a few minutes we were watching not one but two White-throated rails each making sure that the other knew the demarcation between their territories.
A strange call drew our attention to
nothing, But Maurices imitation (he has an aviary full of birds in his throat) induced a Madagascar cuckoo-roller out above us in its display flight.
As we were waiting an Ashy cuckoo shrike posed on a tree near to which a Bamboo lemur was spotted by our eagle-eyed guide. Maurice was the first guide in the Périnet area and had taught all the others, including his equally renowned brother Patrice. Maurices skills were quite amazing throughout the day.
He led us off into the leech-infested jungle (trousers tucked into socks sprayed with Deet greatly reduce the problem) where we searched successfully for exotically-coloured Pitta-like ground roller and the extremely difficult Scaly ground-roller, both of which were seen wonderfully well after quite long and difficult treks though the dense forest. It was an exciting hunt and the views obtained of both species, especially through the scope, were brilliant.
Emerging back onto the road we walked into a flock of about 20 Madagascar mannikins feeding in the verge. After admiring them Maurice examined a bush until he found a male Giraffe-necked beetle, one of the islands most extraordinary looking insects.
Another feeding flock of birds contained Green jery, Common newtonia, Forest fody and more Tylas vangas.
It was still early, the forest dripping from overnight drizzle and the hot sun obscured by cloud cover. We agreed to a walk up a steep hill through fantastic jungle complete with vines, Travellers palms (the national symbol of Madagascar) and other exotic trees draped with lichens and flowering bromeliad-like orchids. It was an amazing experience made better by the cool damp weather.
Sadly, Alison lost an eyepiece for her binoculars which Mamy was unable to find. We resolved to stop for a new cheap pair on Monday. The only shop we found that day was closed and replacements were never acquired. Daphne kindly loaned her binoculars to Alison and used the broken bins as a monocular.
Our walk completed, we drove a short way to a pond created by the quartzite-mining operations. It was hardly inspiring but we stood and watched its dark surface until two Madagascar little grebes sailed out into the middle and posed beautifully for us. Daphne exclaimed that their powder-puff bottoms looked like frilly petticoats revealed when girls in times gone by flicked up the back of their skirts.
A Madagascar starling was seen briefly while a Madagascar wagtail flitted around the area. Another Blue coua was seen briefly and a pair of Madagascar bee-eaters reduced the local insect population somewhat.
Lunch was welcomed by all when we returned to the lodge hungry and thirsty. As we tucked in a Madagascar malachite kingfisher was pointed out to us by Jenny while a Madagascar magpie-robin used a light-orb as a hunting post.
Périnet National Park was our venue for the afternoon as we hunted unsuccessfully for Indri. Single Short-horned and a Nosed-horned chameleons were seen at the entrance. We had other rewards inside the park too, with a pair of Madagascar crested ibis stalked by the group and eventually watched as they made their way down a forest ride, and a troop of four Eastern grey bamboo lemurs which crossed a bridge in front of us.
A few birds were seen as we searched for the Indri, but eventually we gave up and had the brilliant encounter with Common brown lemurs mentioned above
Madagascar long-eared owls were heard but not seen on the evening walk.
Monday 4 October
Travel days are not usually great for watching wildlife but the birds seen on the way back to Antananarivo kept our interest high. The scenery, people and rice paddies also gave us a great deal of entertainment.
A Yellow-billed kite was the first to make us sit up. We stopped for good views knowing that by the end of the trip it would be a common bird. Madagascar buzzard is also common and we were pleased to examine our first looking for differences between it and ones back home.
We stopped at the River Mangoro again, to be greeted by a pair of mating Madagascar kestrels. We had success at the bridge this time as a Madagascar pratincole was found on a rock some distance away. The group was able to study it well through the scope and we all went on our way pleased.
Antananarivo was busy and we took a circuitous route around the city looking for a binocular shop so that Alison could replace her broken pair. A shop was found but it stays closed on Mondays until 2pm, well after our flight to Fort Dauphin was due to leave.
We did see a Madagascar black swift as compensation for the disappointment, though (not much compensation for Alison Ed) and it was great to be a bit warmer than we were in Périnet.
Our flight to Fort Dauphin via Tulear was uneventful but we arrived in a heavy shower much to our disappointment. Where is hot Madagascar, we asked. Further disappointment came when we found that our luxurious coach had been replaced by a minibus into which the group and all our luggage was supposed to fit. Much debate ensued but there were no bigger buses and the situation was take it or leave it. We took it and, in reality, the vehicle was quite good.
A stop was made to sort our Madagascar squacco heron, at last, and a Madagascar nightjar was seen by the leader only.
Highlight of the journey, however, was a troop of Ring-tailed lemurs which were crossing the road in front of us as we entered Andohahela national park. We stopped and walked up to where they were and had great delight in watching these confiding creatures in the wildest possible setting.
Our arrival at the Berenty camp in the dark at 6.45pm was the subject of a greeting ceremony by a pair of White-browed owls which delighted us all. John and Barbara also saw a pair of Madagascar scops owls which were much paler than those we had seen in Périnet.
Our rooms were comfortable and after a good dinner and a few beers we retired to bed, in some cases in the dark as the generator was shut down soon after we had left the restaurant.
Tuesday 5 October
An early start saw us sipping coffee at 5.30 before leaving for a walk through the Berenty gallery forest. We were not alone: a shortage of guides meant that a couple of independent travellers joined our exclusive group for the day reluctantly.
Slowly ze ice melted
as the advertisement went and soon they were at least enjoying brilliant scope views of great birds and animals as compensation for their ruined day.
The forest walk was lovely
broad soft sand paths through spectacular forest, one gallery opening after the other. It had some super birds and animals too: Hook-billed vanga, Crested coua with its iridescent blue eye ring, a family of Madagascar hoopoes the calls of which sounded like a turtle-doves purring song.
A spectacular Madagascar harrier hawk, was posing in a tree for us while our first Brown-fronted lemurs and Verreauxs sifakas were seen. The latter were brilliant, some lying back in a tree, arms and legs akimbo, warming themselves in the early morning sun.
We finally tracked down a Giant coua by following its calls until we found the clunking-great bird perched on a thick bough. We were not to know that later in the morning we would see several of these pheasant-like birds with their iridescent electric-blue eye-rings, which seemed to illuminate the dark as they picked around on the jungle floor. One pair even mated as we watched
Mating was the game of another pair of Madagascar kestrels while a white-phased male Paradise flycatcher had a similar plan when he started a touch of courtship feeding.
We reached the wide river-bed with its small branching stream in the middle. Local women were washing clothes and themselves as we searched for waders and other goodies. They came thick and fast with 35 Greenshanks, four Marsh sandpipers and half a dozen Common sandpipers too. Grey-headed lovebirds were quite abundant as they dropped in to drink but the star birds were 10 Madagascar sandgrouse which chuckled as they arrived.
Returning to the lodge for breakfast we enjoyed good but brief views of a fly-past Eleonora's falcon, and a super white-phased male Madagascar paradise flycatcher.
The morning was filled with a second walk which started with great views of a pair of Madagascar cuckoo-hawks circling overhead as we waited for our guide. Little more was added to the list as the heat was building but we did admire a roosting White-footed sportive lemur which looked down at us with huge Bush-baby eyes.
After a great lunch and siesta, we set off for our first walk in the spiny forest, an amazing experience even without the by now familiar birds and lemurs. A White-headed vanga was our only new bird of the afternoon but we also saw a Grey mouse lemur when we returned after dark, a particularly good outing as the whole group took part.
Wednesday 6 October
A leisurely start saw us sipping coffee at 5.50am and on the trail at 6. Such early starts are really worthwhile as birds and animals are waking. Ring-tailed and Verreauxs lemurs were sunning themselves to warm up, flocks of small birds fed busily and a few kites perched atop trees.
A Madagascar buttonquail crossed the path and allowed us brief views in the undergrowth, three Madagascar green pigeons posed for us and Lesser vassa parrots shot through the forest squawking loudly.
As we were returning for an early breakfast a Frances sparrowhawk engaged in a display flight giving us good views.
Waiting to depart we decided to stroll down to the River Mandrare again where a Knob-billed (Comb) duck was perched on a sandbank with a couple of Great egrets.
We set off back to Fort Dauphin at 11.45am with a picnic lunch. By 1pm we were really looking forward to the sandwiches and stopped to eat in a cool and shady grove of gum trees. What a surprise we had on opening the box to find a three-course meal each prawns, chicken and rice, with a banana for sweet. The journey was completed by 3.30pm and after a bit of shopping for essentials we spent the rest of the day at leisure, waiting for our luggage to arrive on a separate vehicle.
John went off for a walk and discovered a lagoon on which was a Mellers duck and a Black-crowned night-heron. We resolved to visit the lagoon the following morning.
Thursday 7 October
Our free morning began with optional coffee and a bird walk at 6.30. We looked for whales and shearwaters but yesterdays high winds had not dropped much overnight making conditions impossible. We hiked across the beach to Johns lagoon where a pair of Red-billed teal were sleeping but there was no sign of the Mellers duck. A few Kelp (Dominican) gulls flew past us and in the shelter of some pines we saw a couple of Palm swifts and a few Mascarene martins.
Lunch was early at 11am and we were out of the hotel by noon on our way to the airport. The flight was 45 minutes late and we arrived at Tulear at 3pm to find our driver Emile and a comfortable 25-seat bus waiting for us. Stamps and water were bought and we set off for Ifaty.
The road was bad but not in the state it had been a few years ago. Steady progress was made until we reached the first accessible swamp where we stopped to admire a Black-winged stilt.
Slowly ze ice melted
No ice here, it was far to hot for that, but gradually birds made themselves apparent. The first of two Black egrets was seen and as we watched it the bird went into its classic umbrella-fishing mode. A pair of Kittlitz's plovers was found, difficult to see tucked into the grass, but a flock of about 20 later in the drive confirmed the sighting.
A Madagascar kingfisher and several Madagascar mannikins were flitting in the reeds along with a Madagascar swamp-warbler when suddenly a Madagascar squacco heron flew out. Our previous experience made identification easy.
Finally, Barbara noticed a heron closer to us which to our delight turned out to be a Madagascar little bittern and as we watched that a pair of White-throated rails began railing at each other. We climbed into the bus well pleased with our stop.
Another was made to search mangroves on the low tide giving us a great selection of waders including Curlew sandpipers, Whimbrel, lots of Sanderling, Turnstones and Grey plovers.
Suddenly a shout went up. There was a White-fronted plover, the first of several, and shortly after three Madagascar plovers, a rare local species, were also seen well through the scope.
We arrived at the beach hotel shortly after dark and enjoyed a beer with the call-over before an excellent supper.
Friday 8 October
Early starts are the order of the day when temperatures reach 35°C in the shade so at 5am we met, bleary-eyed, for a coffee before setting off. We met our local guide Mosa and his brothers and entered the spiny forest on a quest. Mosa is an extraordinary figure, with wild lucky hair, a great knowledge of the forest and a team of guides all said to be his brothers.
Their style of birding was extraordinary. The guides spread out looking for birds, imitating their calls while shouting to each other. We tried to keep up their pace down a sandy track but stopped to watch birds such as Lesser cuckoo, several sunbirds, a Madagascar kestrel and a number of Chaberts vangas. (Sounds like an excuse for breathlessness Ed.)
A Lafresnaye's vanga popped up giving us great views a bonus bird as the guides were well away from us in the spiny thickets. Finally they called us over and together managed to flush a Long-tailed ground roller which we all saw well eventually. A second was found and showed to us in a similar manner a few minutes later.
As we left the rollers thicket our attention was drawn to a roosting Madagascar nightjar just a few feet away from us. We had fantastic views through the scope and wondered how they found the birds.
Our amazement became even greater when a Madagascar buttonquails nest, complete with occupant, was found only a foot away from the path. The bird relied on camouflage, kept dead still and
the group went away, as it hoped we would.
A colony of yellow headed Sakalava weavers was being admired when we were called to see a singing Thamnornis warbler which performed delightfully until we had all admired him through the scope after which he dived into the thick undergrowth and disappeared.
A Running coua provided our next entertainment as he was chased by a Lafresnaye's vanga. And a comfort stop almost cost some the sight of an Archbold's newtonia which was hopping from branch to spiny twig as one guide imitated its call. However, the bird soon wised up, flitted towards us and settled onto a tiny nest which looked like a hanging ball of wind-blown dried grass. It was still there when the party regrouped and we all had great views.
A search for Sub-desert mesquite was unsuccessful. (I learned later that Mosa believed he had been badly affected by an evil spell. He had tried a special sacrifice of a Zebu which had worked for a short while but was still being affected by the jinx.) We all trudged the mile or so back to the bus hot, tired, hungry but pleased with our morning.
Breakfast was followed by free time with swimming in the deep blue ocean, strolling along the beach (a Greater sandplover was discovered by some) or sleeping.
We were reminded of birdwatching at the end of our lazy time when I spotted two frigatebirds drifting over the hotel on the updraft as a sea-breeze hit the sand dune. This was a most unexpected sighting as they are rare birds for Madagascar, even at sea. The white axillaries (wing-pits) indicated that they were probably juvenile Lesser frigatebirds.
We went out into the forest again at 3pm to search for Sickle-billed vanga which had been seen only by Barbara and me during the morning. It was successful as a pair was located and all who went had great views.
The days birding was finished by visiting a number of salt pans where, among the usual water birds, we found a black-phase Dimorphic heron.
Saturday 9 October
A red-letter start for the leader when Barbara spotted a pair of Baillon's crakes with a family of four black bodied, yellow-billed chicks. This had been a bogey-bird for me and was a delight to get in such an exceptional way we watched the birds for 10 minutes and left them to their family business. A White-throated rail which had drawn Barbaras attention to the spot, was still visible as we left.
Red-shouldered vanga, a new species, was described from La Table, near Tulear, in 1997 and we headed off to try and find one. The habitat was thick sub-arid thorn scrub and one of Mosas brothers whistled the birds call for an hour as he walked through it, Eventually a female was located and we clambered through the scrub to get great views for most of us.
After a packed breakfast we set off for Isalo 300km down a good road. Most of us caught up with a snooze but we did manage one short stop at the Zombitse Forest. It was too hot for much success but a Madagascar cuckoo-hawk, one of two calling, put in a brief appearance.
We arrived too early for access to our rooms which were finally ready an hour after lunch. We met at 4pm for a birding walk around the gardens on which we found an extremely tame Madagascar buttonquail feeding under a tree in the middle of a lawn
so much for them being a jungle bird.
Madagascar bee-eaters and bulbuls were common. There were scores of Yellow-billed kites too giving us the opportunity to get to know them even better.
We retired after yet another great meal. One of the features of this holiday has been the quality of the hotels and lodges. This includes some excellent rooms and good food all the time we have been in Madagascar. Even the in-flight catering was good.
Sunday 10 October
We had a leisurely day today with a 6.30 pre-breakfast walk which was due to end at 7.30. Sadly, we had difficulty finding a bridge back to the hotel and ended 45 minutes late after jumping a couple of streams.
The walk was frustrating too. We were all keen to see Bensons rock-thrush but could not find one despite investigating likely spots in the canyons in front of the hotel. We did see Broad-billed roller and Helmeted guineafowl, however. I complained about establishments which feature a bird in their marketing but do not have the species close by.
Our frustration was compounded as we walked in to breakfast, minus binoculars, to see a Bensons rock-thrush on the hotel chimney. A red-faced leader took breakfast with a crestfallen face
Our later breakfast resulted in a departure one hour late at 9.15am. Fifteen minutes later we picked up our local guide Sylvan who complained that he had been waiting for us since 6am. There had clearly been a communication problem.
Jenny had decided to spend the morning painting but the rest of us were driven out to Namaza forest, deep in a canyon valley. It was already hot and we were not optimistic about our birding prospects.
We trudged up the path, recording several of our regular birds such as Madagascar bee-eater, Madagascar lesser cuckoo, Stonechat and Madagascar coucal before arriving at a camp site. Sylvan immediately called attention to a feeding Bensons rock-thrush, the first of several seen during the morning.
After a rest during which we were found by several Red-fronted brown and a few Ring-tailed lemurs, some of us set off on a walk to a nearby waterfall. We had to stop for liquid refreshment I carried water from the stream in my hat and used the ventilation holes to create a shower down the backs of over-heated hikers.
Feeling cooler, we completed the walk ending at an impressive waterfall. It dropped into a delightful looking pool and within a few minutes Sylvan had stripped to his underwear and jumped in. John followed suit with me taking the tail.
After swimming to the waterfall and showering as we posed for pictures, we hauled out, dressed, and went back to the camp site. We left the pool to the Madagascar wagtails and a juvenile Bensons rock-thrush, which we had displaced by our swim. Lots of Sundews carnivorous plants were on the walls above the pool and one, clutching a dying fly, was admired closely.
Lunch was started outside the hotel but rain, which never really came down heavily, drove us inside. We completed our meal and had a couple of hours off before setting of to a natural window in the rock formations to watch the sunset.
Madagascar cisticolas were singing louder than the assembled throng of Italian, German and French tourists gathered to photograph the sun through the rock window. An African palm-swift circled overhead for a second or two as if bemused, while we packed up and went back to the bus. One stop was made on our way back to watch Madagascar kestrels swooping around a cliff face in preparation for roosting.
Monday 11 October
A long journey cut out much birding but gave us a fascinating insight into Madagascars scenery and people. We drove through canyons and rolling grassy plains, villages and small cities, saw paddy fields, Zebu cattle herders and road builders.
There were a few avian delights: our second dark-phased Dimorphic heron, followed soon after by a mixed colony of egrets which had 20 or more of them plus one speckled intermediate-phased bird.
Our first Alpine swift circled us soon after
a great final bird of the day.
We travelled hard to reach the hotel by 6pm and after a shower enjoyed a super meal.
Tuesday 12 October
Back into early starts, dripping, misty rain forest with steep inclines and frequent attacks by leeches. It sounds like the account of some intrepid explorers, and in many respects we were. The humidity was high, paths narrow and rewards great, though slow in coming.
A Pollens vanga was calling as we pulled up in the reserve car park but it could not be located. Setting off down the trail into the forest we saw lots of Madagascar white-eyes, Common newtonias and Common jerys before Stephan, our local guide pointed out the call of Crossleys babbler, a skulking bird deep in the dark undergrowth.
A Red-fronted coua put in a brief appearance and we went off in search of it, with great success
not only did we find the bird and its mate but also their nest too. They started picking nonchalantly along our path giving great views for most of us.
A gruelling climb was then started as we walked up to the top of a vast hill. It took ages with frequent stops for breath, water and to pick leeches off our boots. The rain had encouraged them out, but Deet on our socks which had trousers tucked into them, was enough to discourage all but one attack (on Alison who was bitten through her sock).
We were finally taken to the base of a tall tree which was home to a pair of Hensts goshawks, one of which turned up and chattered loudly at us. We heeded the birds demands and walked off leaving it in peace.
The morning hike was finished at the appropriately named Belle Vue lookout where a pair of Blue pigeons, a Madagascar lesser cuckoo and a Lesser vanga parrot were all admired. Green day-geckos were entertaining in the main structure of the hide.
Several Forest rats, a Ring-tailed lemur and a Golden bamboo lemur were added to the days list before we called it a morning and returned to the hotel for lunch.
A Madagascar wood rail walked in front of us as we started the afternoons activities, giving a far better view than the Velvet and Sunbird asities we heard but could not find. And as we walked one of the trails a Lesser hedgehog tenrec scuttled away from us but gave good views as it ran across the leaf-litter,
Our itinerary included an evening walk to a feeding station but we pulled the start forward to 4.30pm in the hope of beating the large crowds anticipated later.
The strategy worked and as we rubbed banana onto the stems of nearby branches several delightful Brown mouse lemurs appeared, racing around as their namesakes might. They were completely fearless, an amazing fact as we learnt later that many are caught and marked by researchers.
Another group with the same plan as us arrived a few minutes later but by then we had the pictures we wanted and our guide Stephan was putting out small pieces of meat a few feet away from where we were sitting.
The new group looked over our shoulders as a Fanaloka or Madagascar civet appeared, nervously eating the meat. Its nervousness was not due to our presence
another animal was watching from the undergrowth. Happily, there was no fighting between them.
We slipped away into the jungle silently, leaving the second group to their encounters with the animals. We passed several more parties on their way to the feeding station on our way out.
Wednesday 13 October
We tried to ring the changes a little by going to paddy fields high on the reserve plateau. They were a little disappointing at first as the area was completely overgrown with secondary forest and we found ourselves walking narrow trails, once again made difficult by persistent drizzle and Bush pig rootings.
Within seconds a singing Cryptic warbler had been located singing high in a tree. Everyone had great views of the bird and I delighted in the obvious quip that it was a cryptic trip tick. At 5.30am this did not seem to go down too well judging from the groans.
A stunning Blue coua kept us company as Stephan tried to find the Madagascar fluff-tail which was calling nearby, without success. Shortly after starting our morning walk a Pollens vanga gave excellent views, thus upgrading its species from heard to seen.
A Grey-headed greenbul had just been seen when Barbara asked whats that lemur? Stephan looked surprised that a Milne-Edwards sifaka had been seen before he had noticed it. The animal was difficult to scope in the confined space but eventually we all had good views of this most difficult lemur to find.
A feeding flock of birds included Green jery, White-fronted oxylabes and Common newtonia, and a Pygmy kingfisher was heard but could not be located. One of the great birds of this trip was seen well by all of us, however, when a Pitta-like ground roller was found building a nest.
Passing near the site of our sifaka triumph, Stephan balanced the books by spotting an Eastern grey bamboo lemur which had been joined by our Milne-Edwards sifaka.
After retracing our steps a Common sandpiper was found by Daphne on the river. We tried a site for Grey emu-tail without success. The bird was located in the scope but had gone seconds later.
Fleeting glances of two Madagascar starlings were secured from the bus but we were annoyed not to have seen this illusive species well.
Further down the road Mamy called out for Emile to stop and to our delight pointed out a family group of Red-bellied lemurs. They climbed up into a fig tree near us and had just started to feed when something spooked them and in seconds they were gone, leaping through the trees at an amazing rate.
A late breakfast was welcome at 9.30 in warm weak sunshine and by 11 we were once more entering the rainforest. Sadly, the drizzle came down again and we tramped on without much hope it was the wrong time of day, after all.
A train of caterpillars was crossing the path, nose to tail. Their snake-like appearance in this mode of travel is said to put off predatory birds. We stepped over them delighted with the find.
The other group we had met at the feeding station yesterday were dejected. Their early morning start had been almost bird and animal-less. We cheered them with tales of our morning site which they were to visit in the afternoon.
We hit lucky with a party of Spectacled greenbuls and a little later on fabulous views of Greater bamboo lemurs at very close range. The big male we watched was feeding on the stems of giant bamboos, an amazing feat. Just how their digestion deals with such staple food is a mystery.
Delighted with our day we set off back to the hotel but the Travelling Naturalist Madagascar show had still not ended and we stopped to examine a torpid Ground boa which was attempting to find some warmth in the hazy sun. It had a huge bulge in one section and we wondered if a recent meal had induced its lethargy. The snake was sloughing its skin and this too is known to make them sluggish. A second was spotted down inside a hole
A siesta was followed by a leisurely visit to a presidential summer home, thermal springs which smelt of sulphur, and a walk along a road through plantations and paddy fields. An attempt by Stephan to flush Madagascar snipe was unsuccessful but he did find a pair of Madagascar fluff-tails.
We hiked across the fields to where he was standing and a male was flushed giving fleeting views.
It was the end of our final full-days birding and we sat chatting about the trip well past the end of our supper.
Thursday 14 October
Another long travel day with a 6.30 start. There was little in the way of wildlife to see on the journey although a mixed colony of herons and egrets was exciting.
Our first stop was in a village which specialised in blacksmiths workshops. At least three were in operation, making the small, long-handled shovels we had seen used in the fields so often over the last 12 days, or so.
The steel worked on was heated in charcoal into which air was blown using primitive hand-operated bellows. Apart from that there was little difference between the way the blade was beaten out and methods I saw used when growing up in Sheffield: the hot metal was held in tongs on an anvil while two men beat it out with large sledge hammers; wedges were then used to shape the socket for the handle.
We drove on back to the main Antananarivo road where, as if by magic, we saw our first Pied crows since driving down to Ranomafana national park. The paddy fields had several Hamerkops and lots of Great and Dimorphic herons.
Sadly, just after a stop at a beautiful vantage point overlooking a vast valley, we saw a man carrying two Greater hedgehog tenrecs to be sold or eaten.
The people we passed were most colourful with bright clothes and a definite Asian feel to them. A market in one village was thronged with people seemingly dressed in their best clothes and selling all manner of goods.
A mixed colony of egrets was studied with interest in Ambohimasoa. There were both dark- and white-phase Dimorphic egrets, Cattle egrets and Black-crowned night herons sharing the same tree. The Cattle egrets used a novel nest-building technique by flying down under the colony and waiting for sticks to be dropped by other birds.
Our main lunch stop was in Ambositra after visiting several craft shops. Souvenirs were purchased and we ate a huge meal in an Asian restaurant. Like most of the food on this trip it was delicious and of a good standard.
Back on the road we settled down to admiring the scenery which had been stunning all day. Visibility dropped as dark clouds we had seen in Ambositra gathered above us. Within minutes a great thunderstorm broke and torrential rain fell. Poor Emile was unable to see through the rain and hail and pulled the bus onto a verge where we waited for a lull. Lightening flashed over the nearby hills, thunder rolled and the rain came down in sheets.
Within minutes the hillsides were streaming with water, much of it bright red from the soil. Waterfalls sprang out of nowhere and we worried about land-slips. The rain abated a little and off we set again in awe at the sight, All the paddy fields were flooded with bright red water, the gutter along our road was a raging torrent and the streams were full instantly. Amazingly, not a soul was to be seen incredible for such a heavily populated island.
It all ended as abruptly as the thunderstorm had started and we were out on a clear road in sunshine once more. We were all a shocked by the ferocity of the unseasonal deluge and the damage wrought on fields and crops.
Drama continued when we were stopped by an over-officious bunch of policemen who examined the bus intently. It took considerable persuasion by Mamy and an exchange of cash to get us under way again.
Throngs of rickshaw-men descended on us when we arrived in Antsirabe. We checked in to the hotel and went for a leg-stretching walk before darkness fell. Once again we were surrounded, this time by sellers of linen and gem-stones who hemmed us it. It took a loud voice and a hop across a grassy central reservation to escape the vendors and persistent rickshaw-men.
After some sightseeing we returned to the hotel where Alison and I engaged two rickshaws for a race to the railway station and back. My driver was elderly so we went, Madagascar-style, slowly-slowly. A little skulduggery saw our version of the tortoise and hare race with my rickshaw pulling into the hotel car park just ahead of Alisons.
We enjoyed a final dinner alone together as a group, discussing the trip and its many highlights. The next evening we would enjoy hospitality from the Travelling Naturalist's local agents before going out to the airport and our night-flight home.
Friday 15 October
The trip started with an 8am call on a precious stone house Chez Joseph where we were greeted warmly and with presents from its owner Joseph. Souvenirs were bought and we set off for Antananarivo at 9am.
After an uneventful drive to the capital we bought vanilla pods in a market. The occasion turned into a bun-fight with street vendors offering us packs of the essence through almost every window of the bus.
We returned happily to our first hotel in Madagascar, settled in, had lunch and spent the afternoon at leisure. Emile and Mamy picked us up at 6.30pm to be taken to a local restaurant as guests of The Travelling Naturalists local agents. A small troop of dancers entertained us to the tunes of a wonderful local group who sang local and Western songs.
Air Frances computers were down giving us a long wait at the airport and a two-hour delay in leaving. Happily we all caught our connecting flights with only two bags left in Paris at the end of the journey. Jenny and John were eventually reunited with their cases.
ANNOTATED LIST OF SPECIES SEEN
GREBES Podicipediformes Podicipedidae
1 Madagascar little grebe Tachybaptus pelzelnii
A pair in Périnet National Park on the 3rd.
FRIGATEBIRDS Pelecaniformes Fregatidae
2 Lesser frigatebird Fregata ariel
Two flew over the hotel at Ifaty on the 8th.
HERONS, EGRETS & BITTERNS Ciconiiformes Ardeidae
3 Black-headed heron Ardea melanocephala
One on the beach at Ifaty on the 7th.
4 Purple heron Ardea purpurea
One flew past near Vakona Lodge on the 3rd; one at Fort Dauphin airport on the 4th.
5 Great egret Ardea alba
Common in rice paddies.
6 Black heron Egretta ardesiaca
Two in the Ifaty marshes on the 7th; several in paddy fields on the 11th; one on the 14th.
7 Dimorphic egret Egretta dimorpha
Common in rice paddies; in mixed colonies on the 11th and 14th.
8 Madagascar pond-heron Ardeola idea
Six between Fort Dauphine and Berenty on 4th; one at Ifaty on the 7th.
9 Cattle egret Bubulcus ibis
Common in rice paddies; in mixed colonies on the 11th and 14th.
10 Striated (Green backed) heron Butorides striatus
One in Périnet National Park on the 3rd; fairly common in rice paddies.
11 Black-crowned night-heron Nycticorax nycticorax
Two over Antananarivo on 2nd; 8 pairs in a mixed colony on the 14th; several over Antsirabe on th 14th and 15th.
12 Little bittern Ixobrychus minutes
Two at Ifaty on the 7th.
HAMERKOP Ciconiiformes Scopidae
13 Hamerkop Scopus umbretta
One in rice paddies on the 2nd; a few from the bus on the 14th when three nests were also seen.
IBIS & SPOONBILLS Ciconiiformes Threskiornithidae
14 Madagascar ibis Lophotibis cristata
Two in Périnet National Park on the 3rd.
SWANS, GEESE & DUCKS Anseriformes Anatidae
15 White-faced whistling-duck Dendrocygna viduata
Two in Antananarivo on 2nd and 3rd.
16 Comb (Knob-billed) duck Sarkidiornis melanotos
One in the river at Berenty on the 6th.
17 Meller's duck Anas melleri
One seen by John at Fort Dauphin lagoon on the 6th.
18 Red-billed duck Anas erythrorhyncha
Two at the Fort Dauphin lagoon on the 7th.
HAWKS, EAGLES & KITES Falconiformes Accipitridae
19 Madagascar cuckoo-hawk Aviceda madagascariensis
Two at Berenty on the 5th.
20 Yellow-billed kite Milvus aegyptius
Common daily from the 4th.
21 Madagascar harrier-hawk Polyboroides radiatus
Singles in Berenty on the 5th and 6th; one in Ifaty spiny forest on the 8th.
22 Frances' goshawk (sparrowhawk) Accipiter francesii
One displaying at Berenty on the 6th.
23 Henst's goshawk Accipiter henstii
One at the nest in Ranomafana National Park on the 12th.
24 Madagascar buzzard Buteo brachypterus
Two on 4th, 6th, 9th and 10th, single at in Ranomafana National Park on the 13th.
FALCONS Falconiformes Falconidae
25 Madagascar kestrel Falco newtonia
Common most days.
26 Eleonora's falcon Falco eleonorae
One fly-over in Berenty on the 5th.
GUINEAFOWL Galliformes Numididae
27 Helmeted guineafowl Numida meleagris
One seen, others calling at Isalo on the 10th.
BUTTONQUAILS Gruiformes Turnicidae
28 Madagascar buttonquail Turnix nigricollis
One at Berenety, two at Ifaty; one close to the path at Isalo.
RAILS, GALLINULES & COOTS Gruiformes Rallidae
29 Madagascar flufftail Sarothrura insularis
One heard in Ranomafana National Park on the 13th, a male flushed that evening in rice fields.
30 Madagascar wood-rail Canirallus kioloides
One in Ranomafana National Park on the 12th.
31 Madagascar rail Rallus madagascariensis One near Vakona Lodge on the 3rd.
32 White-throated rail Dryolimnas cuvieri Two in Mantadia National Park on the 3rd; two calling in the Ifaty marshes on the 7th, one seen same site on the 9th.
33 Baillon's crake Porzana pusilla
Bar found a pair with four black chicks in the Ifaty marshes on the 9th.
AVOCETS & STILTS Charadriiformes Recurvirostridae
34 Black-winged stilt Himantopus himantopus
Common in the Ifaty marshes.
PRATINCOLES & COURSERS Charadriiformes Glareolidae
35 Madagascar pratincole Glareola ocularis
One at the River Mangoro on 4th.
LAPWINGS & PLOVERS Charadriiformes Charadriidae
36 Grey plover Pluvialis squatarola
Flocks of 20 and three respectively on the beach at Ifaty on the 7th and 8th.
37 Greater ringed plover Charadrius hiaticula
Three on the beach at Ifaty on the 7th.
38 Madagascar plover Charadrius thoracicus
One on the beach at Ifaty on the 7th; four on the 8th.
39 Kittlitz's plover Charadrius pecuarius
A total of 20 on the beach at Ifaty on the 7th; 10 on the 8th, one on the 9th.
40 Three-banded plover Charadrius tricollaris
Four at Ifaty on the 8th.
41 White-fronted plover Charadrius marginatus
Three on the beach at Ifaty on the 7th, four on the 8th.
42 Greater sandplover Charadrius leschenaultia
One at Ifaty on the 8th.
SANDPIPERS Charadriiformes Scolopacidae
43 Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
Flocks of up to 30 seen daily on the beach at Ifaty.
44 Eurasian curlew Numenius arquata
One on the beach at Ifaty on the 7th.
45 Marsh sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis
Four at the river in Berenty on the 5th; on at Ifaty marshes on the 7th.
46 Common greenshank Tringa nebularia
A count of 32 in the river at Berenty on the 5th, common along the shore and in Ifaty saltpans.
47 Common sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Lived up to its name most days.
48 Ruddy turnstone Arenaria interpres
Three on the beach at Ifaty on the 7th, seven on the 8th.
49 Sanderling Calidris alba
A flock of 30 on the beach at Ifaty on the 7th, four on the 8th.
50 Curlew sandpiper Calidris ferruginea
About 10 daily on the beach at Ifaty.
GULLS Charadriiformes Laridae
51 Kelp gull Larus dominicanus
Four flew past us on the beach at Fort Dauphin on the 7th.
TERNS Charadriiformes Sternidae
52 Caspian tern Sterna caspia
One on the beach at Ifaty on the 7th.
SANDGROUSE Pterocliformes Pteroclidae
53 Madagascar sandgrouse Pterocles personatus
A total of 10 in the river at Berenty on the 5th.
PIGEONS & DOVES Columbiformes Columbidae
54 Rock dove (feral pigeon) Columba livia
A few in villages and towns.
55 Madagascar turtle-dove Streptopelia picturata
One or two seen most days.
56 Namaqua dove Oena capensis
Common in the south from 6th to 11th.
57 Madagascar green-pigeon Treron australis
Five at Berenty on the 6th; one in Ifaty spiny forest on the 8th.
58 Madagascar blue-pigeon Alectroenas madagascariensis
Two each in Mantadia and Périnet national parks on the 3rd; two showed superbly in Ranomafana National Park on the 13th.
PARROTS Psittaciformes Psittacidae
59 Gray-headed lovebird Agapornis canus
Flocks of about 15 in total at Berenty on the 5th; a few in Ifaty spiny forest.
60 Greater vasa parrot Coracopsis vasa
One at Isalo on the 10th.
61 Lesser vasa parrot Coracopsis nigra
Common in the rain forests at Périnet and Ranomafana national parks, a few daily in other sites.
CUCKOOS & COUCALS Cuculiformes Cuculidae
62 Madagascar cuckoo Cuculus rochii
Common bird calling most days. Seen in Ifaty spiny forest on the 8th and Ranomafana National Park on the 13th.
63 Giant coua Coua gigas
Several at Berenty on the 5th and 6th.
64 Red-fronted coua Coua reynaudii
Two in Ranomafana National Park on the 12th.
65 Running coua Coua cursor
Jenny saw one from the bus on the 6th; one at Ifaty on the 8th.
66 Crested coua Coua cristata
Several at Berenty on the 5th and 6th; one in Ifaty spiny forest on the 8th.
67 Verreaux's coua Coua verreauxi
Two at La Table on the 9th.
68 Blue coua Coua caerulea
Singles in Mantadia National Park on the 3rd; Ranomafana National Park on the 13th and 14th.
69 Madagascar coucal Centropus toulou
Common. Seen and heard most days.
OWLS Strigiformes Strigidae
70 Malagasy scops-owl Otus rutilus
Heard on both night walks in Périnet National Park; several seen at night and roosting in Berenty.
71 White-browed owl Ninox superciliaris
Three at Berenty on 4th, six on the 5th.
72 Madagascar long-eared owl Asio madagascariensis
Three heard in Périnet National Park on the 3rd.
NIGHTJARS Caprimulgiformes Caprimulgidae
73 Madagascar nightjar Caprimulgus madagascariensis
One roosting in the spiny forest at Ifaty on the 8th.
SWIFTS Apodiformes Apodidae
74 Malagasy spinetail Zoonavena grandidieri
Two seen by Tim in Antananarivo on 2nd; one at Isalo on the 10th.
75 African palm-swift Cypsiurus parvus
Common daily in the south.
76 Alpine swift Tachymarptis melba
One at Isalo on the 11th; a possible from the bus on the 14th.
77 Madagascar (black) swift Apus balstoni
One in Antananarivo on 4th; two at Isalo on 11th.
KINGFISHERS Coraciiformes Alcedinidae
78 Malagasy kingfisher Alcedo vintsioides
A total of four seen at the lodge, in Mantadia and Périnet national parks on the 3rd; one or two seen in Ifaty, one in Ranomafana National Park.
79 Madagascar pygmy-kingfisher Ispidina madagascariensis
Two heard in Ranomafana National Park on the 13th.
BEE-EATERS Coraciiformes Meropidae
80 Madagascar bee-eater Merops superciliosus
A few daily.
ROLLERS Coraciiformes Coraciidae
81 Broad-billed roller Eurystomus glaucurus
Two at Isalo on the 10th; singles on the 11th and 12th.
82 Scaly ground-roller Brachypteracias squamigera
Two in Mantadia National Park on the 3rd.
83 Pitta-like ground-roller Atelornis pittoides
Three in Mantadia National Park on the 3rd; one in Ranomafana National Park on the 14th.
84 Long-tailed ground-roller Uratelornis chimaera
Two in the spiny forest at Ifaty on the 8th.
CUCKOO-ROLLER Coraciiformes Leptosomatidae
85 (Madagascar) Cuckoo roller Leptosomus discolour
One seen displaying in Mantadia National Park on the 3rd; one in Zombitse National Park on the 9th.
HOOPOES Coraciiformes Upupidae
86 Madagascar hoopoe Upupa marginata
Common in southern forests.
ASITIES Passeriformes Philepittidae
87 Velvet asity Philepitta castanea
Several heard in Ranomafana National Park on the 12th and 13th.
88 Sunbird asity Neodrepanis coruscans
Several heard in Ranomafana National Park on the 12th and 13th.
LARKS Passeriformes Alaudidae
89 Madagascar (bush) lark Mirafra hova
Common at Ifaty and in the dry hinterland.
SWALLOWS Passeriformes Hirundinidae
90 Plain (Brown-throated sand-) martin Riparia paludicola
A flock of about 30 at the River Mangoro on the 2nd; common from the bus over rice paddies on 13th and 14th.
91 Mascarene martin Phedina borbonica
A few daily.
WAGTAILS & PIPITS Passeriformes Motacillidae
92 Madagascar wagtail Motacilla flaviventris
CUCKOO-SHRIKES Passeriformes Campephagidae
93 Ashy (Madagascar) cuckoo-shrike Coracina cinerea
One in Mantadia National Park on the 3rd; three at Berenty on the 5th.
BULBULS Passeriformes Pycnonotidae
94 Long-billed greenbul Phyllastrephus madagascariensis
One at the River Mangoro on the 2nd; six in Périnet on the 3rd.
95 Spectacled greenbul Phyllastrephus zosterops
One in Ranomafana National Park on the 12th; three on the 13th.
96 Gray-crowned greenbul Phyllastrephus cinereiceps
One in Ranomafana National Park on the 13th.
97 Madagascar bulbul Hypsipetes madagascariensis
THRUSHES Passeriformes Turdidae
98 Benson's rock-thrush Pseudocossyphus bensoni
Five plus a juvenile at Isalo on the 10th.
CISTICOLAS & ALLIES Passeriformes Cisticolidae
99 Madagascar cisticola Cisticola cherinus
Common most days.
OLD WORLD WARBLERS Passeriformes Sylviidae
100 Gray emu-tail Dromaeocercus seebohmi
One 'scoped in Ranomafana National Park on the 13th but not seen by the group.
101 Madagascar brush-warbler Nesillas typical
A few daily.
102 Thamnornis Thamnornis chloropetoides
One singing in the spiny forest at Ifaty on the 8th.
103 Madagascar swamp-warbler Acrocephalus newtonia
One seen near Vakona Lodge on the 3rd; scolding calls common daily with the occasional sighting.
104 Rand's warbler Randia pseudozosterops
One singing from a tree top in Mantadia National Park on the 3rd; singles in Ranomafana National Park on 12th and 13th.
105 Common newtonia Newtonia brunneicauda
Common in forests.
106 Archbold's newtonia Newtonia archboldi
One at the nest in the spiny forest at Ifaty on the 8th.
107 Cryptic warbler Cryptosylvicola randriansoloi
One singing in Ranomafana National Park on the 13th.
OLD WORLD FLYCATCHERS Passeriformes Muscicapidae
108 Madagascar magpie-robin Copsychus albospecularis
One or two most days with up to 15 on the 5th.
109 Common stonechat Saxicola torquata
A few daily.
MONARCH FLYCATCHERS Passeriformes Monarchidea
110 Madagascar paradise-flycatcher Terpsiphone mutate
Three females and a white-tailed non-breeding male in Mantadia National Park on the 3rd; several in Ranomafana National Park.
BABBLERS Passeriformes Timaliidae
111 Common jery Neomixis tenella
Common most days.
112 Green jery Neomixis viridis
Two in Mantadia National Park on the 3rd; one in Ranomafana National Park on the 13th.
113 White-throated oxylabes Oxylabes madagascariensis
Several seen in Ranomafana National Park on the 13th.
114 Crossley's babbler Mystacornis crossleyi
One heard in Ranomafana National Park on the 12th.
SUNBIRDS Passeriformes Nectariniidae
115 Souimanga sunbird Cinnyris sovimanga
One 'scoped in Mantadia National Park on the 3rd; one or two most days from the 7th.
116 Madagascar (Green long-billed) sunbird Cinnyris notatus
A few most days.
WHITE-EYES Passeriformes Zosteropidae
117 Madagascar white-eye Zosterops maderaspatanus
VANGAS Passeriformes Vangidae
118 Red-tailed vanga Calicalicus madagascariensis
Several glimpsed in feeding flocks on the 3rd; one in Ranomafana National Park on the 13th.
119 Red-shouldered vanga Calicalicus rufo carpalis
Female at La Table on the 9th.
120 Rufous vanga Schetba rufa
One at Vakona Lodge by John and Barbara on the 3rd.
121 Hook-billed vanga Vanga curvirostris
One at Berenty on the 5th.
122 Lafresnaye's vanga Xenopirostris xenopirostris
Three in the spiny forest at Ifaty on the 8th.
123 Pollen's vanga Xenopirostris polleni
One heard in Ranomafana National Park on the 12th, four seen on the 13th.
124 Sickle-billed vanga Falculea palliate
Two in the spiny forest at Ifaty on the 8th; two at La Table on the 9th.
125 White-headed vanga Artamella viridis
Singles at Berenty on the 5th and 6th; one in Ifaty spiny forest on the 8th.
126 Chabert's vanga Leptopterus Chabert
Common daily in rain forests at Périnet and Ranomafana.
127 (Madagascar) Blue vanga Cyanolanius madagascarinus
Three in Mantadia National Park on the 3rd.
128 Tylas vanga Tylas eduardi Several in feeding flocks on the 3rd; three in Ranomafana National Park on the 12th.
129 Coral-billed nuthatch Hypositta corallirostris
One seen by Tim in a feeding flock on the 3rd.
DRONGOS Passeriformes Dicruridae
130 Crested drongo Dicrurus forficatus
A few daily.
JAYS & CROWS Passeriformes Corvidae
131 Pied crow Corvus albus
Common from Fort Dauphin to Antananarivo with the exception of in Ranomafana National Park.
STARLINGS Passeriformes Sturnidae
132 Madagascar starling Saroglossa aurata
One briefly in Mantadia National Park on the 3rd; two just as brief in Ranomafana National Park on the 13th.
133 Common myna Acridotheres tristis
A few most days.
OLD WORLD SPARROWS Passeriformes Passeridae
134 House sparrow Passer domesticus
Seen only occasionally in the north.
WEAVERS & ALLIES Passeriformes Ploceidae
135 Nelicourvi weaver Ploceus nelicourvi
A male and a female seen separately on the 3rd; one or two in Ranomafana National Park on the 12th and 13th.
136 Sakalava weaver Ploceus Sakalava
Lots at Ifaty on the 8th and at Isalo on the 9th and 10th.
137 Red (Madagascar) fody Foudia madagascariensis
Fairly common throughout the trip.
138 Forest fody Foudia omissa
Two on the 2nd; one in Périnet National Park on 3rd; six at Isalo on the 10th; a few in Ranomafana National Park.
WAXBILLS & ALLIES Passeriformes Estrildidae
139 Madagascar munia (mannikin) Lonchura nana
A flock of about 20 in Mantadia National Park on the 3rd, 10 on the 4th; six both days in Ifaty on 7th and 8th; flocks of 20 and 30 in Ranomafana National Park on the 12th and 13th.
MICE, RATS, VOLES & GERBILS Rodentia Muridae
1 Island mouse (Eastern red forest rat) Nesomys rufus
Several in Ranomafana on the 12th.
GENETS & CIVETS Carnivora Viverridae
2 Malagasy civet (Fanaloka) Fossa fossana
Two at a feeding station in Ranomafana on the 12th.
MONGOOSES Carnivora Herpestidae
3 Ring-tailed mongoose Galidia elegans
Two in Ranomafana on the 12th.
SHREWS Lipotyphla Soricidae
4 Lesser hedgehog-tenrec Echinops telfairi
One scuttling up the path in Ranomafana on the 12th.
5 Greater hedgehog-tenrec Setifer setosus
Two, sadly being carried by a native for food on our way to Antsirabe on the 14th.
6 Cowan's shrew-tenrec Microgale cowani
One near the President's summer house on the 13th looked as if it had been attacked by a bird or snake.
OLD WORLD FRUIT BATS Chiroptera Pteropodidae
7 Madagascan flying fox Pteropus rufus
About 60 in Berenty on the 5th.
SHEATH-TAILED BATS Chiroptera Emballonuridae
8 Mauritian tomb bat Taphozous mauritianus
Two flitting around airport lights on our arrival on the 1st.
LEMURS Primates Lemuridae
9 White-footed sportive lemur Lepilemur leucopus
Two of these endearing animals sleeping in Berenty on the 5th, one seen again on the 6th.
10 Golden bamboo lemur Hapalemur aureus
One in Ranomafana on the 12th.
11 Bamboo lemur Hapalemur griseus
Five Eastern grey bamboo lemurs in Périnet National Park on the 3rd.
12 Greater bamboo lemur Hapalemur simus
Three plus infant in Ranomafana on the 13th.
13 Ring-tailed lemur Lemur catta
Troop of 20 plus four infants on the road to Berenety 4th; at least 100 each day in Berenty; two at Isalo on the 10th.
14 Ruffed lemur Varecia variegata variegate
Five Black-and-white ruffed lemurs on an island in Périnet National Park on the 2nd.
15 Red-fronted brown lemur Eulemur fulvus rufus
At least 100 daily in Berenety on the 5th and 6th; six in Isalo on the 10th.
16 Grey-fronted brown lemur Eulemur fulvus fulvus
Fifteen plus two infants in Périnet National Park on the 3rd.
17 Red-bellied lemur Eulemur rubriventer Two plus an infant Ranomafana on the 12th, troop of five on the 13th.
DWARF & MOUSE LEMURS Primates Cheirogaleidae
18 Grey mouse lemur Microcebus murinus
Two on a night walk in Berenety on the 5th.
19 Brown mouse lemur Microcebus rufus
About six heard on a night walk in Périnet National Park on 2nd; six seen at a feeding station in Ranomafana on the 12th.
20 Greater dwarf lemur Cheirogaleus major
Three in Périnet National Park on the 2nd, one in Mantadia National Park on the 3rd.
21 Indri Indri indri
Two troops heard howling in Mantadia National Park on the 3rd.
22 Diademed sifaka Propithecus diadema edwardsi
One male of the race Milne-Edward's sifaka in Ranomafana on the 13th.
23 Verreaux's sifaka Propithecus verreauxi
About 20 daily at Berenety on the 5th and 6th.
PIGS Artiodactyla Suidae
24 Bush Pig Potamochoerus larvatus
Many rootings in Ranomafana National Park.
Reptiles and amphibians recorded on the tour without notes on daily sightings
Short-horned chameleon Calumma brevicornis (Biggest chameleon we saw)
Nose-horned chameleon Calumma nasutus (Smallest chameleon we saw)
Short-nosed chameleon Calumma gastrotaenia (Small green chameleon)
Parsons chameleon Calumma parsoni (A big orange female)
Lineated day gecko Phelsuma lineata (Bright green with orange spots - common)
Moreaus tropical house gecko Hemidactylus maboui (Common in most of the country hotels)
Mossy leaf-tailed gecko Uroplatus sikorae
Skink sp Several in rain forests
Snake sp Two, possibly Spear-nosed snakes Langaha madagascariensis, at Namaza Forest, Isalo.
Malagasy ground boa Acrantophis madagascariensis
Radiated tortoise Geochelone radiata (captive in several sites)
Mascarene grass frog Ptychadena madagascarensis
Green tree frog Boophis viridis
Yellow tree frog Boophis luteus
Air France flights from Manchester or Heathrow to Charles de Galle Airport, Paris.
Hotel Ibis, one night
Air France AF908 from Paris arrived at 10pm
Hotel du Louvre, Antananarivo, one night
2 / 3 October
Vakona Lodge, Périnet, two nights
Tel: 0026 12022 62480
4 / 5 October
Berenty Lodge, Berenty, two nights
Le Dauphin Hotel, Fort Dauphin, one night
7 / 8 October
Hotel Nautilus, Ifaty, two nights
9 / 10 October
Relais de la Reine, Isalo, two nights
11 / 12 / 13 October
Centrest Hotel, Ranomafana, three nights
Arotel, Antsirabe, one night
Day rooms at Hotel du Louvre, Antananarivo. Celebratory dinner with local musicians and dancers at the Tranovola restaurant, Ambatokra.
Departed at 10.30pm for the airport and the AF905 flight to Paris at 12.50am (left 2.45am)
Hanta Rambola Randriamanalina of SETAM (Societe pour l'Exploitation du Tourisms a Madagascar) who organised our itinerary.
Mamy Ramarolahy for managing the daily itinerary, organising our guides, sorting out problems, identifying birds and looking after the group with great care and attention throughout the tour.
Emile who drove faultlessly from Tulear to Antananarivo.
Dina Ravalisaona of SETAM who hosted our celebratory dinner and Mrs Elyane Rahonintsoa, manager of the Tranovola Restaurant for the meal and entertainment.
© The Travelling Naturalist 2004