Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Madagascar!

We're off on another adventure, this time to the amazing island of Madagascar. We will spend about five weeks exploring various habitats all over the island with friends, led by our outstanding guide Jean Jaques (JJ) from Madagascar Mozaic Tours. With its geographic isolation for millions of years, Madagascar has many endemic species of avifauna, mammals, reptiles, and insects. Of its nearly 400 regularly occuring bird species, over 40% are endemic. There are six endemic families including the mesites, ground-rollers, cuckoo-roller, asities, tetrakas, and vangas. We've seen at least one species representative of each family except ground-roller so far and hope to see many more.

Our trip didn't start out so good, we missed our connection from Addis Ethiopia to Antananarivo (Tana) Madagascar after the plane to take us from Dulles was diverted for a medical emergency on its way to D.C. There is only one flight every other day from Addis to Madagascar, so missing that flight made a mess of our travel. The folks at Ethiopian Air did a nice job of making the best of the situation: they put us up in a hotel in Addis for the day then flew us out on a red-eye to Johannesburg, then on to Tana the next morning. We stumbled in, way too poor on sleep, 24 hours late and 52 hours after we left Los Angeles. Thankfully our schedule was light for the first two days and we missed no activities.

Our first full day had us visiting a private property lake in Tana. Tsarasaotra Lake was the first RAMSAR (the international convention on wetlands) designated private property in the world in 2005. The birding was low-key and fun which was just the ticket for some travel weary birders.

Tsarasaotra Lake

Cruising Antananarivo

The next day we traveled in our magic bus most of the day to the dry forest of the northwest and Ankarafantsika National Park. We spent two days exploring the forest with a local park guide and had a great time, despite the stifling heat and humidity. Birds, lemurs, really cool amphibians - it was excellent.

Our guide JJ shares the joy of birding with some village children en route

Zebu (cattle) and goat jam on the highway

The magic bus
Our accommodations just outside the National Park

Birding the dry forest
Our main guide JJ and local guide Zama

You never know what the oncoming traffic will be
Blue Vanga

Broad-billed Roller

Collared Iguana

Coquerel's Sifaka

Coquerel's Sifaka

Crested Coua

Grey Mouse Lemur

Long-billed Tetraka

Madagascar Bulbul

Madagascar Fish Eagle

Madagascar Scops Owl

Malagasy Giant Chameleon

Sportive Lemur

Red-capped Coua

Rhinoceros Chameleon

Rufous Vanga

Shlegel's Asity

I know this is brief, but time is limited, and internet is even more rare. We've moved on to the northern port city of Mahajanga this evening with some mangrove forest water cruising in our future. Let the fun continue!


Monday, October 9, 2017

Farewell to Autumn

Hike track link

Bird list

Bob and I did one of our let's go get some exercise hikes.  We follow dirt roads and ramble through the Buttermilks.  Some past trips in October have turned up pretty fall colors, other times nothing.  We got lucky and hit the peak of water birch color.  We also found patches of aspen in vivid yellow.

We also found fall colored birds, Evening Grosbeaks.  Their yellow and browns mimicking the leaves.

It was glorious!