Madagascar Post 5 – Days 16 – 20

Madagascar Post 5 – Days 16 – 20

 

Our birding trip was organised by Madagascar Tour Guide (madagascar.tour.guide@gmail.com), who was really well organised. Our guide for most of the trip was Julian, who was brilliant at digging the birds as well as sorting things out for us along the way. The company is owned by Andre who came to meet us as we passed through Tena. I would highly recommend them and the prices were modest.

 

Day 16 – 23/08/2018

Thursday 23rd August 2018 our new guide NDrema met us at the Sakamanga Hotel in Tena at 6.30 am for our long drive to the North West of Madagascar to Ankarafansika NP, where he is from. The traffic was pretty bad getting out of Tena so it was about 8 am before we hit the countryside. It was dry and mountainous most of the way with really really bendy, stomach-churning, roads.
We stopped at about 10.45 am to try and find a Madagascan Harrier, which we found miles away, eventually.

Today was the day my GCSE exam results came out. So I had agreed with my sister Ayesha Ahmed-Mendoza that she would go to my school at 9 am GMT to pick up my exam results. My mum had already given a letter giving consent for her to collect by results. Then she was going to phone me, open the envelope and read me my grades. The only problem was that there was virtually no reception in the mountains.

So as I was standing there in a red, dusty, desert mountain watching and ticking a Madagascar Harriers, my dad’s phone started ringing. I picked up the phone and Ayesha started reading my results. It was the clash of my two worlds; the most important things to me juxtaposed together. Some of my results were better than expected and some worse but overall I was relieved and happy.

Day 17 – 24/08/2018

Friday 24th August  2018 we set out early to bird at Ankarafansika NP with Ndrema. The forest was a dry deciduous forest, with a proper criss-cross of paths, making it easy to bird.New birds for the day were Frances’s Sparrowhawk, Madagascan Sparrowhawk, White-breasted Mesite, Madagascan Green Pigeon, Coquerel’s Coua, Van Dam’s Vanga and Rufous Vanga,
However, we just could not get onto Schlegel’s Asity.

Then in the afternoon, we got a boat onto the lake next to the reserve, Ravelobe Lake. Here we saw Nile Crocodiles and 2 pairs of our target, Madagascan Fish Eagle.
We then went back to the forest, again trying for Schlegel’s Asity, but although we heard them going to roost we didn’t see any.

 

Day 18 – 25/08/2018

Saturday 25th August 2018 we started birding at 5.45 am at Ankarafansika NP, trying for Schlegel’s Asity where we heard them go to roost the night before. Our luck was in, as they started calling at 6 am in the same place. After a few minutes, we had some fantastic of a pair showing really well.

We then went back to the lodge for a 6.30 am breakfast before heading northwest to Mahajanga for the night. First, en route, we stopped at two wetlands/lakes. The first was great for Madagascar Jacana, a new bird for us. African Pygmy Goose was also new for the trip. At the second we saw Hottentot Teal as well as the Jacana.

It was interesting to visit the first as there were lots of adults and children who were friendly and interested in what we’re doing.

We arrived in Mahajanga in the early afternoon, which was a big city. We were staying at the Badamier Hotel which was lovely and a bit different as it had a Lebanese vegetarian menu. We had the rest of the day off to use the internet or catch up on sleep.

 

Day 19 – 26/08/2018

On Sunday 26th August 2018, we had to be at the harbourside at 7 am, where we took a speedboat out to the estuary, to bird the Betsiboka Estuary.

The two new birds that were targeted were Bernier’s Teal and Malagasy Sacred Ibis. We saw quite a few of the Teal but only 2-3 of the Ibis. I was hoping to see returning migrants, Crab Plover and Sandersons’ Tern, but they weren’t back to Madagascar yet.

We then had a quick lunch in a place in Mahajanga which overlooked the sea. We are all at the point of being fed up with terrible veggie food, usually a tasteless choice of rice and veg, noodles & veg and maybe veg soup.

We then started our journey back to Ankarafansika NP, where we arrived in the early evening. We went out for a night safari and saw Mouse Lemur.

Before we arrived in Madagascar, my Dad Chris Craig worked out which birds were possible targets taking into account the ones we weren’t within range for (eg Madagascar Pochard), the ones that were migrants in Africa that time of year (eg Madagascar Pratincole and Crab Plover) and the ones on the list that were unknown or extinct. That gave us a target list of 132 new birds. Based on that, he thought that if we saw 120 birds, we would be doing brilliantly.

At the end of today, we had seen 120 new world birds in Madagascar, bang on target.  We were targeting two more new birds in the North East but apart from those, it was unlikely we would see anything else, although obviously, we would try. So at the moment, we were likely to end the trip on 122 new world birds.
With 120 new birds, that takes my world list up to 4,956, with 44 to get to 5,000.

 

Day 20 – 27/08/2018

Monday 27th August 2018 we had our long reverse journey back to Tana. Ndrema stayed with us for the first four hours whilst we looked for Madagascan Pratincole on any suitable stretches of river with rocks on them. We had no luck, which was not surprising as they normally don’t return until September.

We then said goodbye to Ndrema who headed back to Ankarafansika NP, whilst we carried onto Tena and the Saka Manga Hotel. Ndrema said that he had a group of two birders arriving that evening, so had to return.

In the middle of the Mountains, our driver started reversing and we wondered if he had seen a bird. But then we saw Julian who was with the group of two birders, travelling to meet up with Ndrema. It was really lovely to see him and say hello, even for 2 minutes. The group was actually a Spanish guy and his young teenage daughter. He wasn’t friendly I didn’t try and speak Spanish with them.

That evening we arrived at the Saka Manca Hotel in Tena for another night stop.

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Madagascar Post 4 – Days 15 – 20

Madagascar Post 4 – Days 15 – 20

Our birding trip was organised by Madagascar Tour Guide (madagascar.tour.guide@gmail.com), who was really well organised. Our guide for most of the trip was Julian, who was brilliant at digging the birds as well as sorting things out for us along the way. The company is owned by Andre who came to meet us as we passed through Tena. I would highly recommend them and the prices were modest.

 

Day 15 – 19/08/2018

Sunday 19th August 2018 we had breakfast at what had become the usual time of 6 am. However, it was 6.20 am at the Cristo Hotel before anything arrived on our table and so it ended up being nearly 7 am before we were actually in the forest. There is no point getting stressed about things like this when you are world birding, as there is nothing much you can do apart from starving. I think it was more that there was a large table which arrived after us but was served before us.

So, at 7 am we arrived in Andasibe NP, which is a stunning forest full of birds. As Julian is from this place, he knew the forest really well and where exactly you get particular birds.

The only new bird for the day was Nuthatch Vanga, after a lot of hard work.

 

Day 16 – 20/08/2018

Monday 20th August 2018 we went to the close-by Mantadia NP, again a forested area.

We spent the whole day there, with new birds being Collared Nightjar, Short-legged, Scaly and Rufous-headed Ground Roller. An amazing 3 Ground Roller day.

Julian had narrowed the Short-legged Ground Roller down to an island in the forest. So being the hard-core world birders that we are, we took off our boots and socks, waded across a rivered, walked around the leech-infested island in our bare feet before finding the bird, watching it for ages before walking back to the river, putting socks back onto our wet feet, getting our boots on and carrying on birding.

 

Day 17 – 21/08/2018

Tuesday 21st August 2018, we were back at Andasibe NP, birding in the forest. It was a hard day of birding, working hard for everything.

New birds were Red-breasted Coua, which I was gripped off by my parents yesterday, so is always sweet to catch up; Malagasy Turtle Dove, Malagasy Blue Pigeon and Madagascan Owl on a roost site.

In terms of Lemur, we saw two amazing new Lemur Indri and Diademed Sefaqua. There was a large National Geographic tour group watching these animals but they were very quiet compared to the previous forests.

 

Day 18 – 22/8/2018

Wednesday 22nd August 2018 we did a little birding first thing around the lodge but saw nothing worth noting. Then we headed on our long journey north to Tana.

On the way, not far from Andasibe NP., we stopped at Torotorofotsy Marsh which is run by Asity. We spoke to the manager about a net and dead Snipe which I’m sure he just have known about.

We walked around the wetland area and were really lucky to see Madagascan Snipe and Buttonquail.

From here we carried on north to Tana where we arrived early evening and said goodbye to Julian, who had been the most amazing guide. We were back at the Saka Manga hotel, which was good to be back at.

 

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Madagascar Post 3 – Days 10 – 14

Madagascar Post 3 – Days 10 – 14

Our birding trip was organised by Madagascar Tour Guide (madagascar.tour.guide@gmail.com), who was really well organised. Our guide for most of the trip was Julian, who was brilliant at digging the birds as well as sorting things out for us along the way. The company is owned by Andre who came to meet us as we passed through Tena. I would highly recommend them and the prices were modest with much of the money going back into local communities.

 

Day 10 – 14/08/2018

Tuesday 14th August 2018 we were up early again for a 5.30 am breakfast so that we could start out on our long journey to Ranomafana NP, which is a tropical jungle. Unfortunately, we didn’t see anything on the route except for Olive Bee-eater, Grey-headed Vanga and Common Myna which is introduced. We were staying at The Cristo Hotel, which was mid-range but the owner went out of her way to be accommodating.

 

Day 11 – 15/08/2018

Wednesday 15th August 2018, we were up for a 6 am breakfast, so that we could go birding into the Ranomafana NP, which is a tropical jungle. The forest is big and the paths go up and down steeply, keeping you fit in the heat. Our local guide was Emele (jery.ra@gmail.com), who was the best local guide in the area and had helped with many research projects. He was very friendly and told us very proudly about how he had two animals named after him, which was impressive for anyone. He told us that some parts of the forest had not even been investigated and that if he could get researchers and funding, they were bound to find new species.  That is exactly what I would like to do in the future but with a camera person filming. We also had a spotter with us for our visit.

We had a fantastic first-morning birding, with birds of the day being Malagasy Blue Pigeon, Red-fronted Coua, Velvety Asity,  Common Sunbird-asity, Wards Flycatcher, Crossley’s, Blue, Tylas and Rufous Vanga, White-throated Oxylabes, Spectacled Tetraka, Rand’s Warber, Malagasy White-eye, Nelicouvi Weaver and Forest Fody.

For most of the morning and afternoon, we tried for Rufous-headed Ground Roller again. Whilst we did hear one a few times very briefly, by the time we had followed the call, the birds had gone quiet. Maybe tomorrow?

 

Day 12 – 16/08/2018

Thursday 16th August 2018, we were back at Ranomafana Forest birding from 6.30 am. We had another tough day of birding, climbing up and down the steep paths and off-roading through thick forest, with one new bird, Long-billed Bernieria.

Other birds for the day were Brown Mesite, Madagascan Wood-Rail, Pitta-like Ground Roller, Common Sunbird-asity, Pollen’s, Blue Vanga and Tylas Vanga and Wards Flycatcher.

We drove up to Sahamalaotra Forest at 5.30 pm, which was at the top of the mountainside, to look at Lemurs, frogs and try for Madagascar Long-eared Owl,  which we didn’t see. However, we did see Brown Mouse Lemur.

 

Day 13 – 17/08/2018

Today, Friday 17th August 2018, we went up to the mountain early to go birding in Sahamalaotra Forest all day. It was another tough day, running up and down steep paths and climbing through dense forest with most of it spent trying to see Rufous-headed Ground Roller, which was only calling briefly. It’s frustrating when you spend a whole day trying for one bird and you just hear a 20-second burst every two hours or so. Eventually, I saw one but only managed to get mum and dad onto it briefly. When that happens, you can’t really celebrate and you know that you have to keep looking until everyone sees it well. Other birds were Blue Coua, Grey-crowned Tetraka, Green Jery, Madagascan Yellowbrow, Red Fody and Madagascan Mannikin.

 

Day 14 – 18/08/2018

We were up early again today and headed up to Sahamalaotra Forest for a final try before we had to start a long journey. It’s hard when you are trying for specific but without any joy. The forest paths here were steep, with lots of steps. We were listening for Rufous-headed Ground Roller the whole time. If we heard it, we would have to run to the part of the forest where the bird was calling from, go into the forest and sit quietly still. Julian and Emile would play the tape and the spotter would look for the bird. For all our hard work, we weren’t rewarded with the bird and by 8am we had to leave. New birds for the day were Cryptic Warbler and a Madagascar Flufftail, which we saw well, just as we were leaving the forest.

We then left this stunning location to make our way to Andasibe NP, another great forest. On the way, we stopped at wetlands where we saw Black Heron, Madagascan Lark and Stonechat.

We arrived at Andasibe NP at about 6 pm, in time to get sorted in our lower mid-range lodge Feon’ny Ala Hotel. This was the only place where the staff seemed disinterested but every time mum was about to complain, a different staff member would serve us who could speak English and seemed vaguely interested. This is where Julian lived and so he went off that evening to see his daughter and granddaughter who had been born the day before.

It’s been really hard blogging in Madagascar as the internet has been really weak, so I’ll just have to wait until we get home to upload any images.

Today was my niece Laila’s 10th birthday. We were all really missing her and it was great to have a WhatApp call to her.

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Madagascar Post 2 – Days 6 – 9

Madagascar Post 2 – Days 6 – 9

Our birding trip was organised by Madagascar Tour Guide (madagascar.tour.guide@gmail.com), who was really well organised. Our guide for most of the trip was Julian, who was brilliant at digging the birds as well as sorting things out for us along the way. The company is owned by Andre who came to meet us as we passed through Tana. I would highly recommend them and the prices were modest.

Day 6 – 10/08/2018

Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig having an early breakfast in Anakao, Madagascar
Photographs copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

On Friday 10th of August, we were up at 3.45 am, so that our bags could be picked up from our cabin at 4.15 am.  Then breakfast at 4.20 am so that we could leave Anakao at 4.50 am and travel by speedboat for Toliara. It was pitch black on the boat and jammed packed with tourists. It was good that I had a hoodie on, as it was freezing cold and we were all huddled together for warmth.

We arrived in Toliara at 6.30 am where we were met with carts pulled by Zebu (a species of horned cattle) up to their chests in water which took us back to the road without us getting soaked.

Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig being picked up by zebu in Toliara, Madagascar
Photographs copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

 

Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig being picked up by zebu in Toliara, Madagascar
Photographs copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

 

Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig on a Zebu cart in Toliara, Madagascar
Photographs copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

We then headed straight back to Andatabo Forest to look for Red-shouldered Vanga again without any luck. Apparently, the birds normally call, so they might have been breeding at the moment. I did feel pretty disappointed as this was Phoebe Snetsinger’s last new bird but maybe it was only right that I, being a 16-year-old birder, should not see the last bird of the world’s most amazing female birder.

So, at 8.00 am we started our journey north along the coast to Ifaty, to bird in the Mangily spiny forest there.

On the way, we stopped at some pools and saw Madagascar Harrier-hawk, Kittlitz’s Plover, Olive Bee-eater and White-fronted Plover.

Arriving in Ifaty, our hotel was high over the sea and had amazing views looking over the coast. First, we had lunch and a swim, then when it was a bit cooler, we went to the forest about 10 minute drive away. The forest is owned by the local community now and so they share the income from tourism. This is where Jean-Marie lives and we saw his booth that he and his colleagues guide out of. We had two young guys with us who were spotters, who track down the birds.

Birds that we saw today included Crested Coua, Long-tailed Ground Roller, Malagasy Turtle Dove, Malagasy Coucal, Running Coua, Grey-headed Lovebirds (a tick back on dad), Sickle-billed and White-headed Vanga and Malagasy Green-sunbird.
Crested Coua, Mangily Spiny Forest, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

 

Crested Coua, Mangily Spiny Forest, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Running Coua, Mangily Spiny Forest, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Grey-headed Lovebird Mangily Spiny Forest, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Long-tailed Ground Roller, Mangily Spiny Forest, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Long-tailed Ground Roller, Mangily Spiny Forest, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Mangily Spiny Forest, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

 

 

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig, Mangily Spiny Forest, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

 

Mangily Spiny Forest, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

 

Mangily Spiny Forest, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

 

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig, Mangily Spiny Forest, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

 

Mangily Spiny Forest, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

 

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig and Chris Craig, Mangily Spiny Forest, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig and Chris Craig, Mangily Spiny Forest, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

 

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig and Chris Craig, Mangily Spiny Forest, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig, Mangily Spiny Forest, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

 

Afterwards, we stayed out birding into the evening but didn’t see any night birds.

Day 7 – 11/08/2018

On Saturday 11 August 2018, we were up early so that we could get to the Mangily Spiny Forest by 6.30 am.  We had a good morning of birding, seeing Subdesert Mesite, Crested Coua, Red-tailed, Hook-billed Vanga, Red Fody, Striped-throated Jery, Chabert Vanga and Thamnornis, This is when we said goodbye to Jean-Marie as he was guiding in the afternoon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We then returned to the hotel in time for a 9 am breakfast, a lazy day by the pool before returning to the forest in the afternoon. We stayed out night birding again.

The highlight of the evening was Torotoroka Scops Owl as well as Mouse Lemur and White-footed Sportive Lemur.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 8 – 12/08/2018

On Sunday 12 August 2018 we left the hotel very early at 5.30 am and drove to another dry forest, Zombsite Forest. We stopped in a town en-route to pop into a supermarket to buy some food for a picnic lunch. When we arrived at the forest, our local guide was waiting for us and immediately took us behind a building to see a Giant Coua. They put food out of the Coua, so they were relatively showy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We stayed to bird here for 3 hours, including a picnic lunch.  The best birds were Giant Coua, a roosting White-Browed Hawk-owl, Rufous Vanga, Long-billed Bernieria (or Tetraka) and Appert’s Tetraka. We also had great views of Zombsite Sportive Lemur and Verreaux’s Lemur.

At about 1 pm, we carried on with our journey, along straight roads through miles of dry forest.

It was 4 pm before we arrived at our hotel, against the backdrop of stunning red ridges next to a huge dry forest. We had the rest of the afternoon off, so I went for a swim in the pool. Even though it looked inviting, the water was icy cold!

Day 9 – 13/08/2018

Monday 13th August 2018 we had breakfast at 5.30 am and so we would go out birding in Islao NP early before the day became hot.  We birded along undulating dry trails during the morning, with a stream running through.

The best birds of the day were White-throated Rail, Forest Rock Thrush which might split into Benson’s Rock Thrush, Madagascan Stonechat and a roosting Rainforest Scops Owl. We also had even better views of a Verreaux’s Lemur.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It got hot very quickly, after which we had the rest of the day off.

 

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In the last footsteps of Phoebe Snetsinger – Madagascar Post 1 – Days 1 – 5

In the last footsteps of Phoebe Snetsinger – Madagascar Post 1 – Days 1 – 5

Our birding trip was organised by Madagascar Tour Guide (madagascar.tour.guide@gmail.com), who was really well organised. Our guide for most of the trip was Julian, who was brilliant at digging out the birds as well as sorting things out for us along the way. The company is owned by Andre who came to meet us as we passed through Tena. I would highly recommend them and the prices were modest.

Day 1 – 05/08/2018

On Sunday 5th August 2018, my mum and dad picked me up at 7.30 am for Nairobi YMCA, to go straight to Nairobi NP for a final day of birding.

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig on her trip with Chew Valley School
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

With a new bird snuck in right at the end, I was pretty happy to be finishing that bit of the trip on 4,836 including a couple of new birds I found after taking into account the latest IOC World List update. The latest total list for the world is 10,711, so if I want to see half by the time I’m 18 years old, then that would be 5,356 which it will be touch and go whether I manage in time.
We were dropped at the airport at 6 pm for our 10.05 pm Air Kenya flight to Tana, the capital of Madagascar.

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig with Chris Craig at Nairobi Airport, Kenya
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

After dinner at the airport, we finally took off about 45 minutes late. Our flight was actually stopping on the Comoros Islands, which didn’t seem so bad, except that loads of people got off, they cleaned the plane, loads of people got on and they had to do lots of swapping people around presumably because the checking in process wasn’t very efficient. I was so exhausted after 16 nights of camping and late nights with my friends, I passed out on the flight, somehow flat over two seats with my head on mum’s lap.

Day 2 – 06/08/2018

Our Madagascar Tour with Madagascar Tours
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Monday 6th August 2018, we arrived in Madagascar.  Unsurprisingly, our fight was very late arriving in Tana and then our pick up wasn’t there, so we got a taxi in a VERY old french taxi with a guy whose passengers hadn’t turned up either, so we were both happy. Tana is in the mid-east of the country.

Our hotel was called The Saka Manga, which is the title of one of the Tin Tin books that were based on Madagascar. It was a lovely hotel and we had a fantastic 2 bedroom apartment, which was great to hang out in. We decided to stay up for 15 mins, have a 6 am breakfast, before heading to bed. Madagascar was a French colony and got independence around 1960. French is the second language and lots of people speak it as it is taught in schools and so it is also popular with french speaking tourists. You could also tell it was a French colony from the food. At breakfast, they had the very best soft french bread and pain au chocolate, which was brilliant.

By 7 am we were in bed, exhausted from our night flight. We were being picked up at 3.30 pm and so plenty of time to sleep through.

We got up at 3 pm, having skipped lunch, with a quick change before meeting Andre’s brother, who runs Madagascar Tours. We drove to Tsarasoatra Wetland, to try and get a few of our first endemics. The Lake is an artificial one and apparently a Madagascan Queen in about 1840 had the lake built by lots of slaves.

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig, Tsarasoatra Wetland, Tana, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl, Mya-Rose Craig

Almost the first bird I saw was a Dimorphic Egret, which is my favourite type of new bird, a tick back. Mum and Dad saw this without me toward the end of their time in Kenya and so it was brilliant to catch it up. As well as this, I saw 12 endemics for Madagascar which were fantastic, the best being Meller’s Duck, Malagasy Kingfisher, Malagasy White-eye, Malagasy Kestrel and Malagasy Mannikin.

Madagascar Kestrel, Tsarasoatra Wetland, Tana, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl, Mya-Rose Craig
Malagasy White-eye, Tsarasoatra Wetland, Tana, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl, Mya-Rose Craig
Malagasy Kingfisher, Tsarasoatra Wetland, Tana, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl, Mya-Rose Craig

 

Meller’s Duck, Tsarasoatra Wetland, Tana, Madagascar
Photograph digiscoped by Birdgirl, Mya-Rose Craig using a Leica scope

 

Back at the hotel, we met up with Andre by the pool to go through the itinerary and check a few things over. There had been talking of being picked up at 4.30 am for our morning flight which I was not looking forward to, but Andre had been to the airport himself to find out what time our flight was due to go (as it is not published accurately) and it was agreed that we would be picked up at 6.30 am after breakfast. The thought of a freshly baked pain au chocolate cheered me up. Dinner was at the hotel restaurant which had a great ambience, being full of tourists from across the city. It was also ridiculously cheap with most of the main veggie courses costing only £2.50.
We tried to get an early night so that we didn’t start our trip exhausted.

Day 3 – 07/08/2018

Tuesday 7th August 2018 we were up at 5.30 am for a lovely french baked breakfast, before being picked up to go to the airport. Andre’s brother met us again and explained that the fog was bad which was why they were 10 minutes late. Mum and I immediately fell asleep in the car but dad later told us it was a stressful journey because we were stationary for so much of it. Our flight was at 9.30 am and we managed to get there at 8 am with half an hour to spare before check in closed.  We had heard that Madagascan flights were not that reliable, so we’re not surprised to hear that our flight was delayed because of bad weather in the southwest where the flight was coming from and where we were going. It was 11.30 am before we took off for Toliara in the South West of Madagascar, so once we were picked up by our guide for the trip Julian and the local guide for South West Madagascar Jean-Marie, we went straight to a supermarket to buy water and emergency provisions (like biscuits for me) before going to our hotel, The Victory Hotel for lunch.

We were meant to be going to the Andatabo Forest, which is a dry wooded area for our main target of the endemic and localised Red-shouldered Vanga but because of our delayed flight, we instead visited the nearby privately-owned Toliara Arboretum.

Here we caught up with a few more Madagascan endemic birds, Madagascan Magpie-robin, Malagasy Bulbul, Malagasy Paradise-flycatcher, Sakalava Weaver, Chabert Vanga, and the rare Green-capped Coua which is likely to become an IOC split from Red-capped Coua.

Malagasy Paradise Flycatcher, Toliara Arboreum, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Green-capped Coua, Toliara Arboreum, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Malagascan Magpie-Robin, Toliara Arboreum, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Madagascan Manakin, Toliara Arboreum, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Malagasy Bulbul, Toliara Arboreum, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

 

Sakalava Weaver, Toliara Arboreum, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

 

Here, we bumped into our first group of birders let alone a bird Tour. It was a Rockjumper Tours group, whose leader was really friendly to us. Dad had actually thought about us going on this tour, but it started before I had finished my school trip in Kenya, so had to be ruled out.

When we got back to the hotel, the Rockjumper Tours group arrived just after us, which was another co-incidence.

After dinner, I decided to take advantage of the lull and get an early night.

 

Day 4 – 08/08/2018

Wednesday 8th August 2018, we opted for a 5.30 am breakfast before going straight out birding to Andatabo Forest, which is a dry forest which we had to miss the day before.

The main target was Red-Shouldered Vanga, which you only get in this forest. This is a really special bird for me and one that I really want to see. Phoebe Snetsinger is still the top female world birder, almost 20 years after she died in Madagascar in a car accident. She was an amazing woman who was passionate about birds and who only started world birding after she was diagnosed with cancer. Really inspirational. Red-shouldered Vanga was the last new bird that she saw before she died. I think that seeing one would be really really emotional.

 


 

When I Googled “Phoebe Snetsinger birder”, this is a screenshot of part of the page. It made me giggle, as I love Jack Black and “almost” met Greg Miller (the birder Jack Black was playing) on a mountainside in Arizona a couple of years ago.

After two hours, we had seen Common Newtonia, Crested Drongo, Subdesert Brush Warbler, Soulmanga Sunbird and Lafresnaye’s Vanga but no sign of Red-shouldered Vanga.  I felt so disappointed but this was meant to be. The only thing that cheered me up was that we would be able to try again when we returned to Toliara in a couple of days.

 

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig, Andatabo Forest, Toliara, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Common Jery, Andatabo Forest, Toliara, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Common Newtonia, Andatabo Forest, Toliara, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Lafresnaye’s Vanga, Andatabo Forest, Toliara, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Soumanga Sunbird, Andatabo Forest, Toliara, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

From here, we drove straight to the quayside. First, we loaded our bags into a wooden cart pulled by two zebus, which then took us across a muddy bay as the tide was out, to a waiting speed boat to which we were transferred. Then we had an hour and a half speed boat journey to the beach resort of Anakao which is further south from Toliara and opposite the island of Nosy Ve, where were birded early afternoon.

The target for mum and I was a Red-tailed Tropicbird, which bred on the island, but which dad had seen before. There were still large young on nests under bushes as well adults flying around, which were stunning. We also saw Madagascan Cisticola on the island which was a bonus. I was hoping to catch up with Crab Plover and Sanderson’s Terns, but I think it was too early for them this far south.

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig on the way to Anakao, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Anakao, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Sandbank off Nosy Ve, Anakao, Madagascar

Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig on the way to Nosy Ve, Anakao, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig on the way to Nosy Ve, Anakao, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig, Nosy Ve, Anakao, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Nosy Ve, Anakao, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Red-tailed Tropicbird, Nosy Ve, Anakao, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Immature Red-tailed Tropicbird, Nosy Ve, Anakao, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

We were back on the beach by 3.30 pm, so after a quick Littoral Rock Thrush twitch behind our bungalow, we had loads of time to swim and sunbathe, which was fantastic and restful. It always makes a change to get some R & R on a full-on birding trip. It’s really is idyllic here with white sand and the island across the water.

Littoral Rock Thrush, Anakao, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Just as it turned dark, we heard nightjar calling outside and immediately found Madagascan Nightjar behind us. Julian and Jean-Marie came to find us at this point and so we’re able to help us to find another couple of birds.

Madagascar Nightjar, Anakao, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

After a very expensive dinner, we made sure we were in bed by 9.30 pm, as tomorrow we were being picked up at 4.30 am with a packed breakfast.

Day 5  – 09/08/2018

Today, we were up at 4.00 am, to leave at 4.30 am with a few bits for breakfast to drive southeast to Tisimanampetostra Lake and Nature Reserve. It was a two-hour drive to the lake, so I managed to sleep the whole way and still arrived at 6.30 am just as the sun was rising. We had another local guide with us and saw a whole load of endemic birds, especially after birding in the dry forest. The best were Madagascan Plover, which is critically endangered and there are only about 3000 left, Madagascan Sandgrouse which only has a few birds left here due to hunting, Greater and Lesser Vasa Parrots, Archbold’s Newtonia and the stunning Verreaux’s Coua.

 

Tisimanampetostra Lake, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

 

Black-winged Stilt, Tisimanampetostra Lake, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig, Tisimanampetostra Lake, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Madagascan Soundgrouse, Tisimanampetostra Lake, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Madagascan Soundgrouse, Tisimanampetostra Lake, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Madagascan Soundgrouse, Tisimanampetostra Lake, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Madagascan Swamp Warbler, Tisimanampetostra Lake, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Madagascan Plover, Tisimanampetostra Lake, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Red-billed Teal, Tisimanampetostra Lake, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Archbold’s Newtonia, Tisimanampetostra Nature Reserve, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig with a 2000 year old Boabab tree,
Tisimanampetostra Nature Reserve, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Madagascar Lark, Tisimanampetostra Nature Reserve, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Ringtail Lemur, Tisimanampetostra Nature Reserve, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Ringtail Lemur, Tisimanampetostra Nature Reserve, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Verreaux Coua, Tisimanampetostra Nature Reserve, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Verreaux Coua, Tisimanampetostra Nature Reserve, Madagascar
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

 

We looked in the dry forest for Red-shouldered Vaga, but with no luck, as they are even rarer here. Maybe tomorrow…

As it was getting hot, we headed back to the beach and were thereby midday, so that I could spend the whole afternoon sunbathing, swimming and reading.
Madagascar List – 62Number of new life birds – 39

World List – 4,865

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