Madagascar - 27th November 2017 to 19th December 2017

Published by Sandra Harding (sandraharding234 AT

Participants: Sandra Harding, David Milton, Peter Rothlisberg, Phillip Cross, Alain Rakotonoely



Shorebird commitments in Queensland meant that we needed to leave the trip until November and this took us close to the wet season, but we wanted this time of year as it timed with the arrival of the Madagascar Pratincole. Waders are a big interest and possible new waders included Madagascar Plover, Madagascar Snipe and Madagascar Jacana.

From Brisbane we flew Qantas to Perth and after a night there, Air Mauritius to Mauritius to arrive on 26th November. We arrived at 3:15 pm at Ivato Airport, Antananarivo. Our hotel was Tamboho Hotel and we come back here in between each exploration to a new part of the country.

The birding tour was 23 days and included Lake Kinkony. This was undertaken at the end of the tour so Bakoly could participate and organise logistics. Getting to Lake Kinkony was our most challenging part of the tour given its remoteness.


27 November – Ranomafana National Park

Our day started at 5 am for breakfast leaving at 5:30, with Alain and Mora, driver. Lots of interesting scenery as we drove such as zebu working in the fields.

The Madagascar Pond Heron proved to be challenging and while we thought we saw in the wetland behind the hotel in Tana we were looking for better views the rest of the trip. We had good views of the Brown Mesite after an exciting traipse through the beautiful pandanas tree forest to where it was located. This was a full-on exercise by our guide Emile and William (son) and several other helpers working together using their mobile phones.

We caught up with Josh in Ranomafana whom Dave and I had met in Peru. He was with some pretty intrepid birders who were seeing all endemics in the one trip.

We saw our first wader, Madagascar Snipe and a number on lemurs including Golden Bamboo Lemur.

Key birds were Red-fronted Coua, Blue Coua, Pitta-like Ground-Roller and Rufous -headed Ground-Roller. We only saw Common Sunbird Asity here. It was too rainy for night walks.

1 December – Isalo

We had a stop at ANJA forest to see the Ring-tailed lemurs in Indian Lilac forest. These trees look like white cedars and the entrance fee to the park paid for their school. We did not see the Benson Rock Thrush at the Isalo Museum but did catch up with the Madagascar Partridge.

We visited Zombitse national park which was very productive with White-browed Owl and Crested Coua, and Verreaux’s Coua. Long road journeys were part of the trip and notable scenes were a village specializing in recycling aluminium; and houses built to have front door facing a certain direction decided by astrologers with no windows in other side. Also evident was sapphire mining, a rum distillery and the distillation of geranium leaves to sell to the soap industry as perfume. I was impressed by the low carbon footprint of the country with rickshaws and zebu drawn carts being used in the towns. Even when I bought mangos and passionfruit I gave the plastic bag back to lady. We also came across a bicycle race in unbelievably hot conditions. There were lots of zebu being driven on the road as they needed to be moved from the south to new home in Ranomafarma.

Our guide, Mossa and family took us to a Red-shouldered Vanga sitting on a nest. These information is kept close as these birds are very rare and birders are a major source of income. Mossa’s family land is the only diverse forest habitat in the area. The spiny forest is very different with Octopus trees and baobabs. The family including Freddie and Mossa rounded up the Sub-Desert Mesite which runs then flies staying stationary in a tree. We also saw a Hook-Billed Vanga on a nest and the Running Coua and Long-tailed Ground-Roller.

We appreciated the nice breeze where we stayed at the La Mira hotel with our cabin facing out to the sea and reef. The Madagascar Nightjar was in the grounds. I had fish with coconut and mashed potato – simple but good. Some of the meals are too creamy, zebu steaks are very nice. Being coeliac, I appreciated the effort at one hotel who made me sweet potato and milk for breakfast. Red necklace rice is good.

The Madagascar Sandgrouse had already left when we got to the wetland near Toliara. We eventually come across the Madagascar Plover at the village water point.

The stay at Safari Vezo hotel at Anakoa was lovely being on the beach with swimming straight down from the hotel. The first part of the journey to Anakoa was interesting as in order to reach the boat we took a zebu cart across the tidal flat and upon reaching the boat they were almost swimming. The cart drivers used the Broad-Billed Roller call to work the zebu harder. At Anakoa we saw the Littoral Rock Thrush and went out to Nosy Ve but forgot to take the telescope so had distant views of the terns. The Red-tailed Tropicbird was on a nest. On the way over there was a canoe in trouble so we picked up 3 little boys and 3 ladies from the leaking canoe and gave the men a rope to tie the canoes together.
Then flew from Toliara back to Tana.

6 December Perinet

We met our guide, Luc and as we now had target birds having only a few new ones left we made sure Luc was fully engaged. He found the Crossley’s Vanga first as previously we had only a brief view. The river was up at the Mangoro Bridge but we did see a Madagascar Pratincole on the rocks in the river. We bought sugar cane to eat for a snack.

We worked hard looking for the Scaly Ground-Roller but no luck. It had already left its nest. We had good views of the Short-legged Ground-Roller.

There was a chance at the Helmut Vanga which was in a forest (Andasaibeolia forest) not on our itinerary but Luc set out to get us a 4wd vehicle to get to the edge of the forest. Our community guide was Gregwa. Alain as vice president of Madagascar English speaking Guides Association is keen to train local guides so was interested in finding a place for the Helmut Vanga and encourage its conservation. We had a problem with the vehicle so walked a bit further than expected but got to the nest of the Vanga. A forest guide was stationed next to the nest to protect it. A brilliant bird to see. On the walk we saw the pit where charcoal is made. Charcoal is still used for cooking. Eucalypt and pine forest is common and there are lots of tropical weeds i.e. lantana and the usual array of broken down trucks in various tilt positions in deep gutters.
We drove back to Tana.

10 December - Ankarafantsika

In Tana we had lunch at a fast food locally owned restaurant - La Gastronomie pizza where I had chicken curry with turmeric and ginger and lightly cooked vegetables with garlic, better than our fast food outlets. A nice welcome drink offered at one of our hotels was baobab juice with grenadier Liquor. Flaming pineapple made a good desert.

Our new driver was Jacky. We stopped at the Betsiboka River which was incredibly red with the soil washed in by heavy rain to see Madagascar Pratincoles. Our cabin at Ankarafantsika national park was situated right on the lake and the Madagascar Fish-Eagle was nearby. We tracked down the Van Dam’s Vanga first then sought out Schlegel’s Asity but this was much trickier. Our guide, Gi, tracked it down and we had good views of the male. Another night walk was cancelled due to rain.

Bacoly came to us having had car troubles and now that we had two cars we could tackle the next part of the journey. Common Myna are everywhere and the different heritage of people is evident throughout Madagascar with Indonesian looking people in central areas and people of more African appearance in the south. A local bread is Koba which is made from rice flour, peanuts and bananas, wrapped in a banana leaf cooked over coals and looks black. There are lots of mangoes for sale and people have fly swats (cat on nine tails) to keep flies off meat in stalls by the road.

Arriving at Mahajanga we stayed at the luxurious Karibu Lodge. Phil discovered his love for White Lady desert “Dame Blanche” here. Here a major form of transport was men pulling carts (like rickshaws) with heavy loads involving much sweating.

From here we took a tiny car ferry just big enough for our two cars to get to Katsepy. The 4wds were necessary and it took all morning of hard four wheel driving to get to Mitsinjo. There had been cyclonic rain in the night so the road very muddy. The weather was overcast but cooler. Surprisingly new sugar cane fields were near Mitsinjo, developed by Chinese.

From Mitsinjo we planned to take a canoe to Lake Kinkony to see the Sakalava Rail. People in area are called Sakalava people. The metal canoe that was brought for us was too small and Bacoly negotiated for a bigger canoe so we took both. But the big canoe was meant as a local taxi so there was much arguing with local women who needed to cross river with mangoes. Once this was done we proceeded along the river but it slow going given the strong current. The two rowers worked hard, used pole to push canoe and chain to pull through a small channel near lake. We moved to the regular bang of the oars and I needed my umbrella to shade myself from the hot sun. The canoe captain was frightened of a chameleon that landed in our boat. Both the river and lake water were very red from the soil. It took most of the day to get to the camp site near Makary village. Noelson our guide from birdlife Madagascar took us in the small canoe to see the Sakalava Rail. A great bird and we had excellent views. We had a brief view of a Madagascar Jacana the next morning. It was absent from the wetlands in Mahajanga which were disturbed and had very few ducks and the other wetlands near the airport were dry. Allen’s gallinule would have nice.

On the way back, we stayed in an old private house at Namakai. A boat and guide were organised to look for Bernier’s Teal, which took flight just at the end of the boat trip and we did not see it. Crab Plover and Little/Saunder’s Tern were in the estuary. We also took a motor boat up the Betsiboka Estuary. Lines of nets which nearly tripped our boat are set at low tide. Baskets set to catch crabs featured as well.

This was a new area for Bacoly. Back in Mahajanga we had a long wait for the flight back to Tana as it was late. We had a special dinner in Tana before leaving the next day. We departed on 19 December via Mauritius and Perth with a Virgin flight to Brisbane arriving 7:30 PM 20 December 2017.

Bird species list total 177 species with 113 new, including 5 new families.

Species Lists

White-faced Whistling Duck Dendrocygna viduata
Knob-billed Duck Sarkidiornis melanotos
Hottentot Teal Spatula hottentota
Meller's Duck Anas melleri
Red-billed Teal Anas erythrorhyncha
Helmeted Guineafowl Numida meleagris
Madagascan Partridge Margaroperdix madagarensis
Common Quail Coturnix coturnix
Harlequin Quail Coturnix delegorguei
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Madagascan Grebe Tachybaptus pelzelnii
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus
Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor
Red-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon rubricauda
Yellow-billed Stork Mycteria ibis
Malagasy Sacred Ibis Threskiornis bernieri
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus
Madagascan Ibis Lophotibis cristata
African Spoonbill Platalea alba
Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
Striated Heron Butorides striata
Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides
Malagasy Pond Heron Ardeola idae
Western Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Humblot's Heron Ardea humbloti
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea
Great Egret Ardea alba
Black Heron Egretta ardesiaca
Dimorphic Egret Egretta dimorpha
Hamerkop Scopus umbretta
Reed Cormorant Microcarbo africanus
Madagascan Harrier-Hawk Polyboroides radiatus
Madagascan Cuckoo-Hawk Aviceda madagascariensis
Frances's Sparrowhawk Accipiter francesiae
Madagascan Sparrowhawk Accipiter madagascariensis
Henst's Goshawk Accipiter henstii
Black Kite Milvus migrans
Madagascan Fish Eagle Haliaeetus vociferoides
Madagascan Buzzard Buteo brachypterus
White-breasted Mesite Mesitornis variegatus
Brown Mesite Mesitornis unicolor
Subdesert Mesite Monias benschi
Madagascan Wood Rail Canirallus kioloides
Madagascan Flufftail Sarothrura insularis
Madagascan Rail Rallus madagascariensis
White-throated Rail Dryolimnas cuvieri
Sakalava Rail Amaurornis olivieri
African Swamphen Porphyrio madagascariensis
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Crab-plover Dromas ardeola
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola
Common Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
Madagascan Plover Charadrius thoracicus
Kittlitz's Plover Charadrius pecuarius
Three-banded Plover Charadrius tricollaris
White-fronted Plover Charadrius marginatus
Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus
Greater Sand Plover Charadrius leschenaultii
Greater Painted-Snipe Rostratula benghalensis
Madagascan Jacana Actophilornis albinucha
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea
Little Stint Calidris minuta
Madagascan Snipe Gallinago macrodactyla
Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
Madagascan Pratincole Glareola ocularis
Grey-headed Gull Chroicocephalus cirrocephalus
Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia
Greater Crested Tern Thalasseus bergii
Lesser Crested Tern Thalasseus bengalensis
Rock Dove Columba livia
Malagasy Turtle Dove Nesoenas picturatus
Namaqua Dove Oena capensis
Madagascan Green Pigeon Treron australis
Madagascan Blue Pigeon Alectroenas madagascariensis
Malagasy Coucal Centropus toulou
Crested Coua Coua cristata
Verreaux's Coua Coua verreauxi
Blue Coua Coua caerulea
Red-capped Coua Coua ruficeps
Red-fronted Coua Coua reynaudii
Coquerel's Coua Coua coquereli
Running Coua Coua cursor
Giant Coua Coua gigas
Red-breasted Coua Coua serriana
Madagascan Cuckoo Cuculus rochii
Torotoroka Scops Owl Otus madagascariensis
Rainforest Scops Owl Otus rutilus
White-browed Hawk-Owl Ninox superciliaris
Madagascan Owl Asio madagascariensis
Collared Nightjar Gactornis enarratus
Madagascan Nightjar Caprimulgus madagascariensis
Madagascan Spinetail Zoonavena grandidieri
African Palm Swift Cypsiurus parvus
African Black Swift Apus barbatus
Malagasy Black Swift Apus balstoni
Cuckoo Roller Leptosomus discolor
Broad-billed Roller Eurystomus glaucurus
Short-legged Ground Roller Brachypteracias leptosomus
Pitta-like Ground Roller Atelornis pittoides
Rufous-headed Ground Roller Atelornis crossleyi
Long-tailed Ground Roller Uratelornis chimaera
Madagascan Pygmy Kingfisher Corythornis madagascariensis
Malagasy Kingfisher Corythornis vintsioides
Olive Bee-eater Merops superciliosus
Madagascan Hoopoe Upupa marginata
Malagasy Kestrel Falco newtoni
Sooty Falcon Falco concolor
Greater Vasa Parrot Coracopsis vasa
Lesser Vasa Parrot Coracopsis nigra
Grey-headed Lovebird Agapornis canus
Velvet Asity Philepitta castanea
Schlegel's Asity Philepitta schlegeli
Common Sunbird-Asity Neodrepanis coruscans
Red-tailed Vanga Calicalicus madagascariensis
Red-shouldered Vanga Calicalicus rufocarpalis
Hook-billed Vanga Vanga curvirostris
Van Dam's Vanga Xenopirostris damii
Sickle-billed Vanga Falculea palliata
White-headed Vanga Artamella viridis
Chabert Vanga Leptopterus chabert
Blue Vanga Cyanolanius madagascarinus
Rufous Vanga Schetba rufa
Helmet Vanga Euryceros prevostii
Tylas Vanga Tylas eduardi
Nuthatch Vanga Hypositta corallirostris
Dark Newtonia Newtonia amphichroa
Common Newtonia Newtonia brunneicauda
Archbold's Newtonia Newtonia archboldi
Ward's Flycatcher Pseudobias wardi
Crossley's Vanga Mystacornis crossleyi
Madagascan Cuckooshrike Coracina cinerea
Crested Drongo Dicrurus forficatus
Malagasy Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone mutata
Pied Crow Corvus albus
Madagascan Lark Eremopterix hova
Malagasy Bulbul Hypsipetes madagascariensis
Mascarene Martin Phedina borbonica
Brown-throated Martin Riparia paludicola
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Malagasy Brush Warbler Nesillas typica
Subdesert Brush Warbler Nesillas lantzii
Madagascan Swamp Warbler Acrocephalus newtoni
Grey Emutail Amphilais seebohmi
White-throated Oxylabes Oxylabes madagascariensis
Long-billed Bernieria Bernieria madagascariensis
Cryptic Warbler Cryptosylvicola randrianasoloi
Wedge-tailed Jery Hartertula flavoviridis
Thamnornis Thamnornis chloropetoides
Appert's Tetraka Xanthomixis apperti
Grey-crowned Tetraka Xanthomixis cinereiceps
Rand's Warbler Randia pseudozosterops
Common Jery Neomixis tenella
Green Jery Neomixis viridis
Stripe-throated Jery Neomixis striatigula
Madagascan Cisticola Cisticola cherina
Malagasy White-eye Zosterops maderaspatanus
Common Myna Acridotheres tristis
Madagascan Starling Hartlaubius auratus
Madagascan Magpie-Robin Copsychus albospecularis
Littoral Rock Thrush Monticola imerina
Madagascan Stonechat Saxicola sibilla
Souimanga Sunbird Cinnyris sovimanga
Malagasy Green Sunbird Cinnyris notatus
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Nelicourvi Weaver Ploceus nelicourvi
Sakalava Weaver Ploceus sakalava
Red Fody Foudia madagascariensis
Forest Fody Foudia omissa
Madagascan Mannikin Lepidopygia nana
Madagascan Wagtail Motacilla flaviventris