Madagascar Post 5 – Days 16 – 20
Our birding trip was organised by Madagascar Tour Guide (firstname.lastname@example.org), 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.