Madagascar Nov 01—18, 2007

Posted by Victor Emanuel

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Victor Emanuel

Victor Emanuel started birding in Texas 69 years ago at the age of eight. His travels have taken him to all the continents, with his areas of concentration being Texas, Ari...

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Our November 2007 Madagascar tour was one of our most successful ever. We started at Perinet and Mantadia Reserves east of Tana where we spent five nights at the lovely Vakona Lodge. There we saw a host of species endemic to the rainforests of Madagascar. There were many memorable moments, but some that stand out are our first ground-roller—the stunning Pitta-like Ground-Roller; having a Madagascar Crested Ibis fly right over our group; many interesting chameleons; great looks at a Collared Nightjar that first afternoon; the incredible Blue Vanga—one of the most striking birds in the world; and, best of all, close encounters with both indris and diademed sifakas. The cry of the indri is one of the most amazing animal sounds in the world.

Then it was on to the southwest coast near Tulear. Driving north to Ifaty we were surprised to see a flock of both Great and Lesser frigatebirds. The spiny desert was amazing, surely one of the most interesting habitats in the world. There we saw many great birds and other critters. Most memorable were our good looks at a Subdesert Mesite that our local guides had flushed into a small tree, and great looks at the Long-tailed Ground-Roller, one of the most bizarre birds in the world. Neither Adam Riley nor I had ever seen the spiny desert so green.

Returning to Tulear, we took a boat trip to Nosy Ve to see the nesting Red-tailed Tropicbirds and other species. En route we saw a pair of Littoral Rock-Thrushes. On a small sand bar off the island, Adam spotted an adult Sooty Gull, the second record for Madagascar for this species, which is found mainly in the Red Sea area. This is the same place where Adam found the first Madagascar record two years ago. The most amazing part of this boat trip was how we boarded the boat and how we disembarked. Since there is no dock in Tulear, and since the tide was out, we climbed into zebu-drawn oxcarts that traveled about 100 yards into the bay, with water up to the bellies of the zebu, in order to reach the boat.

Our final destination was the private reserve of Berenty where we saw many ring-tailed lemurs and Verreaux's sifakas, two of the most striking lemurs. There we also saw more endemics including the wonderful Giant Coua and the lovely Madagascar Sandgrouse.

We had a most congenial group and a very successful trip to this remarkable island.