Monday, 8 November 2010

Life In The Jungle - Walter Trout

Monday 8th November 2010

This post will have to be quick as once again we are out in the wilds of Madagascar but this time with tentative Internet connection. Our day started with the high speed drive back to Mahajunga to catch the earlier flight as described below. This had an up side in getting us, via a 3 hour drive, to Perinet and the associate Rain Forest where there has been little rain over the last month and the temperature much reduced from previous days. The photographs below are from yesterday, but we have had a most successful back-end of the day here adding several species of bird and mammals which with luck I'll get around to tomorrow.

Firstly, a welcome to all our new readers in Madagascar, Jordan and Egypt which brings the countries total to 105. Also I'd like to welcome the Australian Capital Territory and Queensland contingent, Wally, Susan, Ruth et al, relatives of our Aus travelling companions, and thank you all for your 'comments'.

It was yet again a game of catch up for me on our last day at Ankarafantsika, with the outstanding being Van Dam's Vanga and Madagascar Harrier Hawk. In addition there was also the small matter of Schlegal's Asity which we all dipped yesterday so it will be of no surprise to learn that our first port of call was the Asity forest. Immediately we found more birds than the previous day and it wasn't long before a couple of us saw the Van Dam's and eventually our local guide picked up the call of the Asity. Difficult in canopy conditions, but a bright male and a much more obliging female finally put in a show, the latter allowing some distant images. Breakfast was a rushed affair as I needed to get to the dam about a mile down the road but my first visit was again unsuccessful for the Hawk. Daily the heat had been prohibitive here by noon, but needs must and I set out again and this time found a fine male both in flight and perched.

Tomb Bat

Madagascar Harrier Hawk

Long-billed Greenbul

Lesser Vasa Parrot


Grey-headed Lovebird (female - green head).

Common Brown Lemur

Common Brown Lemur

These fruits are the staple diet of the Common Brown Lemur


Schlegal's Asite, probably the most difficult of all the birds we have tried to locate here,

it is a canopy dweller and secretive.

Madagascar Hoopoe with crest raised.

Coquerel's Sifaka

in jumping


Part of the dry forest

Shore-side tree

Rhinoceros Chameleon

Ditto (detail)

Leaf Bug Larva

The programme had allowed for a little birding on the 4 hour drive back to Mahajanga but that was before Madagascar Air stepped in to spoil things with yet another flight schedule change. This time bringing our return to Tana forward an hour it would be a fast drive back to catch it. We did so and again stayed in the splendid Orchid Hotel not far from the airport, allowing for Internet access and these updates. We will be on our way again later today but more of that later. For now an update on the various lists:-

Trip Bird Total - 140
World Lifers - 100
Endemics - 96

Humblot not Humboldt

Thursday 4th to Sunday 7th November 2010 contimued

On the evening walk, our group was voluntarily divided into 'birders' and 'general (Lemur)' observers and maybe surprisingly I opted for the latter, but there was a method in my madness. The 'birders' were headed for the lake which I had already part done, so opted for the 'general group' and on every other such occasion the groups had ended up seeing more of the other man's quarry than they had. The walk started precisely like this as I immediately spotted what was thought to be a Banded Kestrel, a species that has become increasingly difficult to find despite being described as 'widespread'. Desi, our guide, had not seen one for 5 years and in the event this was re-identified as a France's Sparrowhawk from the photographic evidence, with a second being seen later in the trip. In addition a further 4 endemics were added to the list including Humblot's (not to be confused with Humbolt's) Heron, Madagascar Jacana & Green Pigeon and the extremely secretive White-breasted Mesite.

On the reptile front, the main interest centred around Oustalet's Chameleon and a snake of fable which has no common name, Ithycyphus miniatus which is also known throughout the country as the Zebu Killer. Whether there is any substance to the story that these whip snakes can bring down an adult cow, I was not prepared to try and disprove but Jeanette (one of the Australian contingent) was least chuffed to find one on the curtain rail in her room. Mammals were represented by Milne Edwards Sportive, Mongoose and Common Brown Lemurs but the very best was to come on the final full day. The search began at 05-00 for the extremely difficult Schlegal's Asity which remained fruitless.

Here's one for the Emsworth (Mahajanga) Lighthouse People, hope you are well P & T.

Loading and discharging cargo by barge in Mahajanga Bay

The 'old moon' finally wanes.

Although we had seen Madagascar Little Grebe distantly on our first day this was the first to be photographed.

That's easy enough for you to say!

The welcoming statue just inside the park gates.

Coquerel's Coua

White-faced Whistling Ducks again, I just like this image.

African Darter (or Snakebird).

The Madagascar Pochard is now seriously endangered and this is all we saw of them through the wire cage at the rehabilitation station. There are thought to be less than 50 individuals left in the wild, while the efforts made by the Slimbridge Wildfowl Trust took a blow when 2 of their captive birds died. It is hoped that the same success they had with the Hawaiian Goose (Ne Ne) can prevail here!

Crested Drongo on the nest,

it is a regional endemic also found on Anjouan one of the Comoros group.

Malachite Kingfisher

Humblot's Heron

in flight and


A couple of items here for Dave

the Fungal Punk.

Madagascar Buzzard

Oustalet's Chameleon

Collared Lizard

However, on the return to the bus the same lady mentioned above, who didn't join the walk, met up with us at the forest and reported having seen a Fossa.

Most set off in one direction to conduct a search, while Steve, Jonas and I set off a little further up the road where I spotted 2 long tails disappearing over the river bank. A quite approach allowed us to see both of these fantastic animals seemingly drinking but it was all a little short lived as they soon sensed us and disappeared with a clatter and splash of water.

Unfortunately, no photograph was taken of these powerful carnivores, but what a privilidge to see them. The photograph is borrowed from Wikepedia.