Madagascar Highlights Nov 06—21, 2017
Posted by Dion Hobcroft
Those arriving early for the tour enjoyed the extensive gardens of the Aubois Vert Hotel. They offer the perfect introduction to many of the more eco-tolerant and successful species of birds on this massive island. Flocks of Red Fody come in to bathe, Madagascar Brush-Warblers skulk about, while noisy chattering Madagascan Bulbuls dominate the birdsong. More careful examination will reveal Madagascar Coucal building a nest, Madagascar Hoopoes probing the lawns, Madagascar Magpie-Robin feeding fledglings, Souimanga Sunbirds taking pollen from Hibiscus flowers, and perhaps the occasional Madagascar Munia. On dusk it is easy to watch Madagascar Nightjars—this year feeding a tiny chick while the Barn Owl punctuated the night with its occasional screech.
Our flight to Tulear left on time, and after a short stop at Fort Dauphin, arrived on time. Miracles do happen! What was different was heavy rain: a leaden sky laced with thunderstorms and sheets of rain fell. We enjoyed lunch at Hotel Victory. Eventually the storms tapered off, but it remained firmly overcast. On the short drive to Ifaty we kicked our first major goal of the tournament, finding a rare Humblot’s Heron feeding on the coast. Luckily, we could drive up close to it and get great scope views. Gray Herons offered a neat comparison, and a bunch of shorebirds included Whimbrel, Black-bellied Plover, Greater Sand-Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, and Sanderling. After settling into our fabulous hotel and a siesta, we were ready to tackle the Spiny Forest with hard-working and expert guides Freddy and Riddafy. It proved to be a fantastic session: Long-tailed Ground-Rollers at a nest, a cryptic frozen female Subdesert Mesite, a fabulous Madagascar Sparrowhawk, a male Lafresnaye’s Vanga incubating on a nest, and nesting Greater Vasa-Parrots, the peculiar female with a bald yellow head appearing rather vulturine. The birds were reveling in the cool conditions after the rain with much activity. Other species we had good looks at were Crested Coua, Hook-billed Vanga, Common Newtonia, Crested Drongo, Sakalava Weaver, and a Thamnornis that we left to go straight for the mesite as news broke.
Read Dion’s full report in his Field Report.