Sunday, 7 November 2010

Back To Berenty

Firstly, a few outstanding photos from Berenty and more particularly from the museum there.

Madagascar Eco Tourist

Satan's Sifaka

Original egg of the Elephant Bird.

Extinct since the 17th centuary,

the Elephant Bird was an 'endemic' of Madagascar.

Roadworks on our way back from Berenty.

Silk Oak is an Australian import but an important part of the building and cabenet making trades

in Madagascar, shows beautiful blossom.

One of the overloaded 'collective taxis' that ply between the larger towns and cities. They don't leave until full, so sometime there can be days of waiting!

Wednesday 3rd November 2010
We returned to Antananarivo (the capital) from Fort Dauphin on yet another reschedueled flight requiring an early start. The benefit of course that we were able to do more with our day so after breakfast we headed for the 'privately owned' Nature Reserve close to the center of the city. While this featured water birds in the main there was yet another 'endemic' to be viewed by way
of Madagascar Squacco Heron and the long awaited Hottentot Teal that has eluded me during several African excussions. There was also the more familiar represented by a lone Moorhen plus photo opportunities galour. After lunch the majority wanted to go 'shopping' (flippin' shopping, you can do that in Weymouth if you want to) which also had it's moment of interest. A huge line of ethnic stalls lined a very red, muddy river into which plunged a couple of local youths. Each had a length of string clutched between their teeth and after slapping the surface of the water simply plunged from view. On returning to the surface they both had caught a perch like fish with their bare hands and deftly threaded it onto the string, repeating the process over the following 30 minutes. When they finally came to shore they had both caught about 20 fish each and immediately raced off to sell them!

Black-crowned Night Heron (juvenile)

Madagascar Squacco Heron, distant but a welcome addition to the list.

Madagascar Wagtail

Breeding plumage Cattle Egrets making a striking pose.


Red-billed Teal

Butterfly Sp

Some idea of the diversity of birdlife around the lake.

Another Madagascar Harrier

White-faced Whistling Duck

White-faced Whistling Duck

The only Moorhen of the trip so far, with Whistling Ducks.

Comb or Knob-billed Duck

Distant Hottentot Teal but an addition to the 'life list'.

Flower, thought to be of the Salvia family.

Diomorphic Heron (white morph)

Squacco Herons and nest.

Captain William Allen 1770 -1843

Allan's Gallinule

Allan's Gallinule (detail)

Thursday 4th - Sunday 7th November 2010

An even earlier flight today, as we left for the airport shortly after 04-00, for the 45 minute trip to Mahajunga on the north west coast and the springboard for the 4 hour drive to Ankarafantsika National Park. The allocation of accommodation here is by no means certain until arrival the 2 options being chalets or tents, personally this made no difference to me whatsoever but we we were all afforded the latter with variable power and water supply. What may be described as a little primitive, these were the type of conditions I had hoped to experience, and with a 3 nights stay there was every chance to do so. With a dozen or more 'endemics' from our veranda alone and a watchtower just 50 feet away the first page of the notebook was filled with little effort, the first new species being Glossy Ibis. However, this was the place where my own personal target was a distinct possibility so I headed straight for the much depleted lake where the search until dark was without success. An organised forest walk had been arranged for 05-00 but again I took a 'rain check' on that and after an hour was rewarded with my first glimpse of an Allan's (otherwise known as Lesser) Gallinule. This species first captured my imagination when Martin Cade, Warden of the Portland Bird Observatory went to investigate a Moorhen found by a lady dog-walker on Portland as this species is extremely rare there. Not as rare however as what Martin found within the cardboard box he was handed on arrival, a moribund Allan's Gallinule. As I understand it, just 12 observers were able to make it the Obs before this dainty little waterfowl expired, and I think it's safe to say it'll be a while before the next is recorded in Great Britain, which neatly leads to the best part of the story. There had only been one previous record in the UK almost exactly 100 years ago, while the man who first described this beautiful creature to science, Captain Allan, was born and died in Weymouth. I hope I have all of these facts correct but if not, just take a look at the images above!

Coquerel's Sifaka


Ditto (detail)

Madagascar Jacana

A slightly better image of Madagascar Squacco Heron

Lakeside People
A line fisherman

This lady is reaping the roots of Water Hyacinth for both human and livestock consumption.

Water Hyacinth

France's Sparrowhawk




Madagascar Paradise Flycatcher (dark morph)

Madagascar Paradise Flycatcher (pale morph)

Forest bloom.

Red-fronted Coua a shy ground bird.

Madagascar Coucal, about the scruffiest one I could find.

Madagascar Bulbul

White-headed Vanga

Madagascar Lesser Cuckoo

Blue Vanga

Madagascar Green Pigeon

and under-tail coverts.

Madagascar Turtle Dove

Glossy Ibis

Ithycyphus miniatus has no common name, but is said to be capable of bringing down an adult Zebu?

Sickle-billed Vanga

Sickle-billed Vanga copulating

Madagascar Fish Eagle

Madagascar Fish Eagle (detail)

Madagascar Fish Eagle nest.

Madagascar Hoopoe foraging

finding a juicy spider and

feeding young at the nest hole.

Nile Crocodiles, the real thing this time.

Nile Crocs

Purple Heron

Purple Heron (detail)

White-breasted Mesite another of the skulking forest ground birds.