Madagascar 2016

...with Mark Finn

September 9th - October 2nd

This was the first visit back to Madagascar after a break of several years. Significant changes had taken place including improved accommodation and more importantly several new protected reserves for the islands endemic bird and mammal species. In all areas we were ably assisted by a network of local guides who knew where to find and locate the specialties present. The logistics of a tour to Madagascar are indeed complex and not easy to put together. I must thank Marc for doing an excellent job in arranging everything despite the odd hiccup along the way which was bound to happen on a tour just short of three weeks. The transport and our array of drivers coped admirably on some sections of road which were either under repair or in need of significant reconstruction. I was also pleased to see many local people getting involved under community schemes which certainly helps the birds and lemurs which in the past have been under pressure through hunting for food which is understandable in such a poor country. In total we recorded just under 160 species of birds and 20 species of lemurs. Undoubted highlights were watching Sakalava Rails at close range an incredibly tame species and approachable. All the resident Couas were noted and a large majority of the vangas plus many other species mentioned in the report below.

The next tour has been arranged for late September/early November 2018

September 10th/11th: Johannesburg, Antananarivo, The Zoo, Majunga, Ampijoroa

Warm and sunny with an easterly wind 26c

The group assembled in Johannesburg for the short flight to Madagascar. On arrival we passed through customs and passport control and proceeded to our base in the centre of the city. A few birds were noted along the way including Great Egret, Common Myna and near the hotel several Madagascar Wagtails. An enjoyable Malagasy meal on the evening of the 9th and out after breakfast on the following morning. Our destination was Tana Zoo which was attracting a lot of people being a Sunday. Before arriving at the zoo a Madagascar Green Sunbird and Madagascar Fody were added to the list. Within the zoo grounds several colonies of egrets and herons produced sightings of Great Cattle and Diamorphic Egrets, Black Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Squacco Heron and a pair of Common Moorhens. Passerines were few but included flocks of fodies, Mascarene Martin, Madagascar Turtle Dove and best of all a stunning Madagascar Kingfisher. Returned to base late morning and headed towards the airport for our flight to Majunga in the north west. On arrival a journey to Ampijoroa base for the next two nights.

September 12th: Ampijoroa

Weather: Hot and sunny with northwest breezes 27c

Met up at 0530 for breakfast followed by a walk within the dry forest habitats of Ampijoroa. In the reserve car park a pair of Sickle-billed Vangas showed well in the top of a dry tree. Our first birding stop of the day was around 1km south of the campground. On arrival the early morning sunlight attracted Madagascar Bee-eaters, Madagascar White-eyes, Souimanga and Madagascar Green Sunbirds. A walk along the trail system produced Madagascar Magpie Robin, Madagascar Paradise Flycatcher (both colour morphs), Blue Vanga and Common Newtonia. High in fruiting trees the group located Madagascar Green Pigeon, Madagascar Bulbul, Blue Vanga and a pair of Lesser Vasa Parrots. Lower down in the forest Long-billed Tetrakas gleaning trunks and leaves for insects. Continuing on our walk we encountered Common Jery, Madagascar Hoopoe and Madagascar Turtle Doves. It was starting to get very hot when we returned to base with Yellow-billed Kites and a Namaqua Dove for company. Lunch was taken at 1300 hours with species being quite active around the restaurant area. A party of Grey-headed Lovebirds were inspecting a dead tree as a potential nesting area. Crested Drongos were particularly numerous and proceeded to attract a Madagascar Cuckoo-shrike, Madagascar Hoopoe and six Lesser Vasa Parrots in a fruiting tree. At 1530 hours we set off to another forest area. Walking along the forest trails produced few birds until the last hour of daylight. Crested, Red-capped and Coquerel's Couas were observed plus several calling Van Dams Vangas which did not show at all. Back at base a few of the group participated on a short night walk with views of Torotoroka Scops Owl.

Mammals: Coquerel's Sifaka (7), Milne-Edwards Sportive Lemur (1)

September 13th: Ampijoroa

Weather: Hot and sunny with light northwest breezes 33c

The night seemed to have passed quickly as a Madagascar Nightjar was in full song just before dawn. After breakfast the group headed out on the same trail of yesterday afternoon. Birdlife was both numerous and loud with many birds in full song or calling. The first birding stop was particularly productive as a male Schlegel's Asity showed off in a fruiting tree. Nearby, a nice range of vangas which included Sickle-billed, White-headed, Chabert's and Blue. Other species present were Crested Coua, Crested Drongo, Long-billed Tetraka and overhead a single Madagascar Spinetail. As we walked slowly uphill and stopped again luck was with us as Jean located a Madagascar Sparrowhawk a rare endemic with a patchy distribution. Further along the trail Cuckoo Roller and Rufous Vanga were observed. A wander back to base provided us with additional views of Coquerel's and Red-capped Couas, Madagascar Cuckoo Shrike and best of all a Torotoroka Scops Owl perched in nest hole edge. After lunch a boat trip was organised around a nearby lake. At the quay Malagasy Kingfishers perched on poles and the boat itself. A slow chug around the lake added a pair of rare Madagascar Fish Eagles perched in dead trees. Along the shoreline Striated, Black, Great and Diamorphic Egrets and wintering Common Sandpipers. Over the forest a pair of Madagascar Buzzards and a Banded Kestrel. In the quieter areas with no people we observed White-faced Whistling Ducks and Three-banded Plovers. Back to the quay where a Madagascar Coucal showed well in a leafy tree. The road to Majunga was slow and windy in places with few birds apart from Pied Crows. Arrived in the bustling town and settled into our accommodation near the harbour.

Mammals: Milne-Edwards Sportive Lemur (1)

September 14th: Majunga, Betsiboka Estuary, Katsepy, Lake Kinkony

Weather: Hot and sunny with northwest winds 35c

After breakfast a journey towards the docks through the manic streets of Majunga which was thronged with people and tradesmen. At the dock the group boarded a speedboat into the shallow waters of the Betsiboka Estuary. At low tide extensive areas of mud and sand spits are exposed which allows many birds to feed. The first stop produced two localised Malagasy endemics: Madagascar Teal and Madagascar Sacred Ibis feeding on the mudflats. Other species present included Greater and Lesser Flamingos, Whimbrel, Terek, Curlew and Common Sandpipers, Common Greenshank and literally dozens of Diamorphic Egrets. On isolated islands Yellow-billed Kite and a hunting Madagascar Harrier Hawk. At midday the boat headed towards the small coastal port of Katsepy where drinks and a sandwich were consumed for lunch. The 'road' to Lake Kinkony is not long in length but rough, dusty and at times hard to follow. A few birds along the route included Madagascar Kestrels and the commoner egrets and ibis in the rice paddies. An eventful ferry crossing and then a drive through extensive palm plantations to base camp at Lake Kinkony. As dusk fell the songs of Madagascar Nightjars were heard around the camp.

Mammals: Crowned Sifaka (5)

September 15th: Lake Kinkony

Weather: Hot and sunny 36c

A night under canvas was followed by a boat trip on Lake Kinkony an internationally important reserve for birdlife. Around the camp grounds we encountered Cattle and Diamorphic Egrets, Madagascar Bee-eater and Madagascar Turtle Dove. As the pirogue progressed into a maze of reedbeds and channels many birds were seen including Long-tailed Cormorant, Yellow-billed and African Openbill Storks, Glossy and Madagascar Sacred Ibis, Madagascar Jacana and dozens of feeding African Palm Swifts. The highlight of the morning was to come with close encounters of two Sakalava Rails attending their nest. This rare and localised species is both approachable and extremely tame. On the return to camp sightings of Squacco and Purple Herons, Black-necked Stilt and Madagascar Swamp Warblers singing from stands of reeds (including one on a nest). Back at the camp a pair of Red-capped Couas appeared from nowhere. Once the heat had died down a short road journey to a patch of remnant forest. It was fairly quiet apart from Madagascar Kestrel, Greater and Lesser Vasa Parrots, Sickle-billed Vanga, African Harrier Hawk and a party of Grey-headed Lovebirds going to roost.

Mammals: Crowned Sifaka (2), Decken's Sifaka (3), Mongoose Lemur (3)

September 16th: Lake Kinkony, Katsepy, Majunga

Weather: Hot and sunny 35c

Basically a travel day back to Majunga. However we had a good start as a Madagascar Nightjar posed in a tree near the breakfast table. At 0630 hours we were on the long, dusty road to Katsepy. A short stop produced the uncommon Madagascar Heron and a party of Red-billed Teal, the commoner egrets were also present in numbers. In a large dead tree a pair of Madagascar Buzzards were building a stick nest. Arrived at Katsepy for the crossing to Majunga where we transferred to the hotel after two nights of camping. Tomorrow the group travel back to Antananarivo and a completely new set of birds and habitat.

September 17th: Majunga, Antananarivo

Weather: Warm and sunny 34c

Checked out of the hotel in Majunga to make the long journey back to Antananarivo. The road passed over the central plateau with spectacular views of the mountains and grassy fields in stark contrast to areas of granite and rivers running through dramatic canyons. Birds were few and far between in this inhospitable climate although good numbers of Madagascar Larks were noted on the hillsides. One stop in particular was notable for a family of Madagascar Kestrels perched on a rocky outcrop. The final stage of the journey seemed to take forever as we entered the city limits. Checked into the hotel near the airport with the sounds of Madagascar Nightjars in the garden.

September 18th: Antananarivo, Mongoro River, Andasibe

Weather: Warm although cooler at high elevations 26c

A later start today after the journey from the west coast. A short morning walk around the gardens was productive for Madagascar Brush Warbler, Common Jery and Madagascar Bulbul. Outside the main entrance a roosting Barn Owl was located whilst close by a pair of Madagascar Nightjars were seen roosting on the ground. The journey out of the city took almost an hour with chaotic traffic and the local inhabitants buying goods from market traders. The numerous rice paddies held the commoner species. Our first birding stop was the bridge over the River Mongoro where we located feeding Plain Martins, Common Sandpipers and a Malagasy Kingfisher. A break for lunch was followed by the journey to Andasibe base for the next three nights. On arrival the car park held a pair of African Stonechats, Madagascar Mannikins and African Palm Swifts. At 1600 hours we embarked on a walk with the local guide through the degraded forest close to Andasibe. By the park office three Madagascar Blue Pigeons perched in a dead tree. A walk through the forest along well kept paths added Blue and Red-tailed Vangas and Crested Drongos. The best was to come when a female Sunbird Asity called from a branch above us, scarce and hard to find this was indeed a bonus bird for the tour. We ended the day by recording a Madagascar Long-eared Owl at its traditional roosting spot. The light started to go quickly as we returned to base.

Mammals: Indri (2 + 3 heard), Common Brown Lemur (2)

September 19th: Andasibe, Mantadia

Weather: Rather cloudy with occasional sunny spells and rain showers 18c

The group set off from Andasibe to visit the extensive forests at Mantadia which are reached by a very rough track of around thirty kilometres in length. Our first stop was notable for a roosting Collared Nightjar and a pair of Crossley's Vangas feeding on the forest floor in leaf litter, this is an uncommon and at times extremely hard bird to locate. In the background we could hear the incessant calls of Madagascar Lesser Cuckoo. Back in the 4x4's again to another stop where a feeding flock was active with Red-tailed and Blue Vangas, Common Newtonia, Madagascar White-eye, Madagascar Paradise Flycatchers (both colour morphs) and Crested Drongo. Parked up at the end of the track as a Blue Coua flew into view and showed superbly in a dead tree. It was time to explore the extensive forest trails radiating from the car park. It was tough birding although several lemurs were seen (see below). The highlight of the morning was a Madagascar Pygmy Kingfisher which sat motionless in a small tree and allowed a close approach. Above the forest a calling Henst's Goshawk and displaying Madagascar Buzzards. Lunch was taken by a small lake which proved to be a magnet for birds as we located the rare Meller's Duck, Madagascar Grebe, Madagascar Wagtail, Madagascar Scrub Warbler, African Stonechat an low-flying Madagascar Spinetails. High in the tops of dead trees several Madagascar Blue Pigeons. The weather started to close in with rain showers and poor visibility so headed back to base. In the gardens familiar birds plus a party of Chabert's Vangas and a calling Madagascar Scops Owl.

Mammals: Indri (6+heard), Eastern Grey Bamboo Lemur (1), Black and White Ruffed Lemur (2), Diademed Sifaka (4), Goodman's Mouse Lemur (1)

September 20th: Andasibe, Mantadia

Weather: Warm and sunny although cool after dark 20c

This morning we headed back into Mantadia National Park accompanied by improved weather conditions which was to make a difference to the birdlife encountered. A short walk off the main track resulted in a feeding flock which included Madagascar Paradise Flycatcher, Madagascar White-eye, Blue Coua and our first Spectacled Tetrakas of the tour. Back to the main track with a pair of Ward's Vanga for company in a dead tree. Near the main parking area a Madagascar Flufftail showed briefly before disappearing into the undergrowth. It was time to go walkabout again on the forest trails and before too long a feeding flock was located with several Nuthatch Vanga, Nelicourvi Weaver, Madagascar Cuckooshrike and overhead a displaying Cuckoo Roller. As the walk progressed a pair of Madagascar Crested Ibis showed well in a tree whilst Velvet Asity and Long-billed Tetraka were seen within a feeding flock. A bonus came in the form of a Scaly Ground Roller which showed well at close range. Lunch was taken at the same lakeside venue as yesterday with similar birds. Back to the hotel at Andasibe with a walk at 1630 hours. This proved to be productive near an area of rice paddies as Three-banded Plover, Greater Painted Snipe and Striated Herons were noted. In the drier patches a pair of Madagascar Button Quail and singing Madagascar Cisticola.

Mammals: Indri (4+heard), Black and White Ruffed Lemur (2), Diademed Sifaka (2), Common Brown Lemur (3), Red-bellied Lemur (4), Lowland Streaked Tenrec (1)

September 21st: Andasibe, Antananarivo, Antsirabe

Weather: Sunny with light north winds 24c

The usual birds were present in the hotel grounds as we prepared to leave for Antananarivo. Our first birding stop was the community run reserve close to the village. On arrival we could hear the distinctive song of Rand's Warbler and an obliging Stripe-throated Jery. Also present were Madagascar Green Sunbird, Chabert's Vanga and a Red-fronted Coua which showed well in a bush. It was time to take a walk through the forested habitats which are bordered by a clear-running river system. Luck was with us as a White-throated Rail showed by the river and later walked down the forest trail in front of us. Another bonus came in the form of Red-breasted Coua a rather terrestrial species. Over the forest displaying Cuckoo Rollers and on the forest floor a few Madagascar Brush Warblers flitting through the dense understory of vegetation. A feeding flock was located which included Blue and White-headed Vangas, Madagascar Cuckoo Shrike, Spectacled Tetraka and a pair of Nelicouvri Weavers. It was time to say goodbye to Maurice and Chris our excellent local guides as our route headed back to the capital. A stop at the Mangoro River had similar birds to a few days ago. On entering Antananarivo a stop for lunch at the old central railway station. From here we headed south along RN7 to the town of Antsirabe where an overnight stay had been reserved. Birdlife was thin on the ground apart from the occasional egret, myna and stonechat.

September 22nd: Antsirabe, D'Ankazomivaby, Ranomofana

Weather: Warm and sunny 26c

A later start today with a walk around the guest house gardens at Antsirabe. The commoner species were around in addition to Madagascar White-eye, Malagasy Kingfisher and Madagascar Mannikin. Just before 0900 hours we set off south along RN7 and eventually RN45 to Ranomofana. Although not long in distance the road is extremely poor in places and congested with large trucks making progress very slow. A stop at a bridge over a river added the first Hamerkop of the trip, Madagascar Kestrel, Mascarene Martin and Common Sandpiper in the river system. Lunch was taken at the community reserve of D'Ankazomivaby with a habitat of degraded forest and marshes. A party of Red-billed Ducks flew by and Yellow-billed Kites were also in the vicinity. Great Egret and Purple Heron were also noted and a Green Jery singing from an exposed dead branch. In the undergrowth Madagascar Brush Warbler whilst the reeds held Madagascar Swamp Warbler. The road deteriorated badly until the junction with RN45. The habitat along the road improved with lush strands of natural forest. Checked in at a new hotel within the village of Ranomofana - a welcome surprise.

September 23rd: Ranomofana

Weather: Warm and sunny 26c

This morning we left at 0600 hours for Ranomofana National Park and one of the many well-marked trails running through it. Outside the hotel African Palm Swift, Madagascar Kestrel and Chabert's Vanga. A stop at the park office added the scarce Madagascar Starling, Madagascar Blue Pigeon and Madagascar Bulbul. At the start of the trail which is around 12km in length over undulating and sometimes challenging ground conditions we encountered Wedge-tailed and Spectacled Tetrakas and calling White-throated Rails. Around the campsite we could hear Pitta-like Ground Roller and Tylas Vanga. Like most forest habitats there are lengths of time without birds. This was the case for the next hour or so with the exception of Madagascar Brush Warblers Madagascar Paradise Flycatcher and brief views of Velvet Asity. A Madagascar Yellowbrow was heard calling from the undergrowth but not seen (our guide advised us that this is a difficult bird to observe). A feeding flock was located containing Common Newtonia, Nuthatch Vanga, Cryptic Warbler and Madagascar White-eyes. Overhead the calls of displaying Cuckoo Rollers. In the dense undergrowth a Rufous-headed Ground Roller was calling but did not come into view. Two Blue Couas showed well in a palm tree as we ascended up the steepest part of the trail. Our luck changed at the top with excellent views of a Short-legged Ground Roller sitting quietly on a horizontal tree branch. The rest of the morning was spent getting back to the bus with sightings of the commoner birds plus a single Stripe-throated Jery. Lunch was taken overlooking a spectacular river tumbling down the hillside towards Ranomofana village. In the afternoon some of us went on another birding walk whilst others relaxed in the environs of the hotel grounds. The walking group enjoyed views of a Scaly Ground Roller and Spectacled Tetraka. In the hotel gardens similar birds to earlier in the day with the addition of Madagascar Buzzard.

Mammals: Red-bellied Lemur (3), Milne-Edwards Sifaka (6), Brown Mouse Lemur (1), Ring-tailed Mongoose (1)

September 24th: Ranomofana

Weather: Sunny and warm 29c

A return visit to the same forest of yesterday morning and a walk on another trail at lower elevations. On arrival a Wedge-tailed Tetraka and Nelicourvi Weaver were noted plus a Stripe-throated Jery singing from the top of a dead tree. Birds appeared to be more active and visible along this lower trail as the group had brief glimpses of Rufous-headed Ground Roller. From the thickest understory a Madagascar Flufftail delivered its familiar song. Suddenly a mixed flock appeared overhead with a pair of the scarce Pollen's Vanga, Madagascar Cuckooshrike and a perched Sunbird Asity. Nearby a Dark Newtonia mixed with its commoner cousins. A few minutes later a female Yellow-bellied Sunbird Asity rested on an exposed branch, unfortunately it did not stay around for the rest of the group as it disappeared into the canopy. Further up the track a Brown Emu-tail was seen by some members of the group as it slowly worked 'mouse like' in the understory. Another 500m along the track a feeding flock using mature trees with air-plants and lush leaves. Blue, Ward's and Red-tailed Vangas, Blue Coua, Green Jery, Wedge-tailed Tetraka and Madagascar Paradise Flycatcher were observed. On the return walk we eventually caught up with the secretive and shrike-like Hook-billed Vanga giving its unique calls. Back to the bus and onto a section of boulder-strewn river downstream of Ranomofana village. No hoped for Pratincole only Common Sandpipers and Madagascar Wagtails. Back out again at 1530 hours to walk along the trail across the river near park headquarters. Birding was fairly quiet until a Scaly Ground Roller was located hopping around the floor looking for food. Back to base after a good days birding in these eastern forests of Madagascar.

Mammals: Eastern Grey Bamboo Lemur (1), Golden Bamboo Lemur (5)

September 25th: Ranomofana, Isalo, RN7

Weather: Hot and sunny 34c

Today was a travel day as we headed south and west towards Isalo along the RN7 which is in a very poor state in areas. The rice paddies and adjacent habitats held the familiar egrets and several Hamerkops. In a rocky gorge a stop produced good views of Madagascar Lark, Madagascar Cisticola, Madagascar Wagtail and African Stonechat. Lunch was taken at a tourist spot followed by the journey across a barren grassland landscape. This area held few birds apart from Pied Crows and near the end three Madagascar Sandgrouse flew up suddenly from the ground. A narrow gorge appeared to attract swifts to lower levels to feed including the scarce and nomadic Madagascar Swift which has been recently split from African Black Swift. Another stop at a road bridge going over a river gave a nice comparison of both swift species as they went down to drink. The habitat started to change into a dramatic landscape of limestone cliffs, outcrops and an arid area dotted with small lakes. To our surprise base for the next two nights was within this wonderful landscape of beauty.

Mammals: Brown Rat (1)

September 26th: Isalo, RN7, Zombitse

Weather: Hot and sunny 36c

A later breakfast was followed by a road journey down the RN7 via several villages which have profited from gem mining. Our destination was the dry forest reserve of Zombitse. On arrival we quickly located the localised Giant Coua wandering around the camp kitchen area. Over the forest Cuckoo Rollers were giving their display flight. A short walk into the forest produced a roosting White-browed Owl, Common Jery, Madagascar White-eye and Crested Drongo. It was time to take a walk on the trail system with three local guides two of which were training. A highlight was the ground-loving Appert's Tetraka which showed at close range. A bonus came in the form of a Coquerel's Coua wandering around in search of food. Next was a group of Greater Vasa Parrots feeding quietly in a large tree with emerging fruit buds. A feeding flock was located comprising of Common and Archbold's Newtonias, Common and Stripe-throated Jery's and overhead Madagascar Bee-eaters. Lunch was taken near the information centre with Giant Couas for company. Headed back to the hotel for an afternoon of leisure with an optional walk at 1645. The hotel grounds held Madagascar Hoopoe, Grey-headed Lovebird, Souimanga Sunbird and Benson's Rock Thrush.

Mammals: Hubbard's Sportive Lemur (1), White-footed Sportive Lemur (1), Verreaux's Sifaka (14)

September 27th: Isalo, Ifaty

Weather: Hot and sunny especially in the southwest 38c

Today we started with a visit to Isalo one of the oldest nature reserves in Madagascar. The commoner birds were again in and around the hotel grounds including a party of Grey-headed Lovebirds. On the entrance trail to Isalo luck was with us as three Madagascar Pond Herons were located feeding quietly on a recently flooded rice paddy. A walk from the car park towards the campground was productive for Madagascar Kestrel, Madagascar Buzzard, Crested Drongo, Common Newtonia and Chabert Vanga. At the camp a pair of Madagascar Buttonquail and close views of a male Benson's Rock Thrush sitting in the shade of a large tree. Overhead Madagascar Swifts were observed flying along the cliff edge. On the return walk the group located Madagascar Green and Souimanga Sunbirds, Madagascar Cisticola and Madagascar Wagtails. It was time to head south towards Tulear on the southwest coast a large town of 750,000 people. RN7 was poor in places and progress was slow. Lunch was taken at Zombitse with Giant Couas for company again. Further south a Madagascar Sandgrouse was seen in flight before entering Tulear and up the coast towards Ifaty region our base for two nights.

Mammals: Verreaux's Sifaka (3), Ring-tailed Lemur (15)

September 28th: Ifaty, Reniala Spiny Forest

Weather: Hot and sunny with strong easterly winds 39c

Up at 0500 hours in order to be at Reniala at dawn. On arrival the group boarded some ox carts for the journey towards the reserve entrance - an interesting experience. By the reserve entrance Crested Drongo, Common Jery, Common Newtonia, Greater Vasa Parrot, Madagascar Magpie Robins and a pair of Madagascar Kestrels. In no time at all a Running Coua was located hopping around on the dry sandy soil. Crested Coua and Madagascar Coucal were also seen before a Subdesert Mesite was located sitting motionless in a tree - an extraordinary bird which freezes when disturbed. Lafresnaye's Vanga perched on top of an octopus tree before it promptly flew off. Hook-billed and Chabert Vangas were seen and heard and then Thamnornis Warbler exploring low trees and scrub for insects. The highlight of the morning was a Long-tailed Ground Roller which showed well at close range. On the return walk White-headed Vanga, Sakalava Weaver and a covey of Madagascar Buttonquails were recorded. A short diversion down the road to a muddy patch of fields added the endemic Madagascar Plover, Kittlitz's and White-fronted Plovers. It was now nearly 0900 hours and warming up fast as we headed back to base for a late breakfast. Later in the day after the heat has receded we embark on an early evening night walk at Reniala. Very few birds were recorded so an early return to base.

Mammals: Grey Mouse Lemur (5)

September 29th: Reniala Spiny Forest, Lac Antsafoko, Baie de St Augustine

Weather: Hot and sunny with easterly winds 38c

A return visit to Reniala this morning with similar results to yesterdays visit. The group had better views of White-headed, Sickle-billed and Red-tailed Vangas as they fed in the dry woodlands. Back to base for a late breakfast and then onto Tulear via Lac Antsafoko. The lake is privately owned and thankfully the owners prohibit any form of hunting and trapping. The lake is reached along a sandy track where the bushes attracted Madagascar Lark and Madagascar Cisticola. Luck was with us as an immature male Madagascar Harrier flew slowly above the reedbeds giving exceptional views. Around the lake Great and Cattle Egrets, Red-billed Duck, Common Greenshank, Curlew Sandpiper and Kittlitz's Plovers feeding on the short-cropped grasses. A stop in Tulear was followed by a rather long and rutted track towards base for the night. The lodge grounds held the common species including Sakalava Weavers and a Whimbrel. Later in the afternoon a visit to Baie de St Augustine a shallow lagoon of brackish water which floods at high tide. The group boarded hand-paddled pirogues and set off in search of birds. A few species were encountered including Greater and Lesser Flamingos, Common Greenshank and the commoner egret species. Back to base with a few stops along the route but we did not add anything new.

September 30th: St Augustine, Tulear, Tana

Weather: Hot and sunny 36c

Our last full day in Madagascar with a visit to the spiny forest around St Augustine. Before leaving the hotel grounds a Subdesert Brush Warbler was observed taking insects from the bottom of a plant. Along the beach we noted Striated Heron, Malagasy Kingfisher, Madagascar Bee-eater, and Sakalava Weavers. Our journey towards RN7 meant a stop at a water meadow which was almost dry. Flocks of Grey-headed Lovebirds, Madagascar Lark and Madagascar Cisticola were present. Next stop was an area of spiny forest where a Verreaux's Coua was found sitting in a tree. On another track we eventually found the scarce Red-shouldered Vanga. In the afternoon it was back to Tulear and the flight up to Tana. On arrival the city was chaotic as usual and it took time to reach the hotel on Tana waterfront. On the following morning a look at the lake produced hundreds of Red-billed Ducks, Hottentot Teal, Common Moorhen, various egrets, Madagascar Swamp Warbler and the commoner species of Tana.

For details of the full species list or to request further information about the next time we will be offering this trip. Contact us at

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