We arrived at the Eulophiella Lodge in the afternoon and after check-in went for a short walk to a nearby pond. A short while later our guide pointed to the sky and suggested we skiddadle back to the lodge. We made it with minutes to spare as the sky opened up.
All was not lost as the rain quit at dark, just in time for a night walk. With the rain comes frogs, and we saw a bunch. Very cool.
|Mating Stick Insects|
When we reached the locations, our two local guides - Nestor and Abraham, left us to scour the untrailed forest while we waited... and waited. No vanga. After a couple of hours we all gave up and trudged very disappointed back to the car. After a nice lunch by the river we all piled in to the car. Our driver Andre turned the key - nothing. Uh oh. It's unclear exactly what ran the battery down, but dead it was. And we were miles from civilization. Luckily it was a clutch vehicle that can be bump started if you can get it moving fast enough. The four of us tried to push it up the hill but couldn't get it moving. Andre knew there was a small village close by and ran off to enlist some help. 15 minutes later he was back with a bunch of strapping young Malagasy fellows who made short work of pushing the car up the hill. Andre let it roll back down, dumped the clutch, and she started! Whew!
The rest of the day was lost to another epic rain forest rain storm (it takes a lot of rain to get 250 inches of rain per year). Even our night walk had to be scrubbed because the rain wouldn't give it up in time.
The decision was made to give it another try for the vanga the next day. Local guide Nestor knows this forest better than anyone, living and guiding here his whole life. He was certain the bird was there and could be found. Why not, we may not get another try in this lifetime. We made the walk on even muddier trails in the morning, this time joined by at least two other birding groups. Nestor said that at one point there were 10 guides and spotters in the forest looking for the vanga. We made it to the spot first. While Susan, JJ, and I waited, our guys went looking. An hour later we heard some yelling from up the hill. Nestor and Abraham had spotted the bird in a brief fly-by. Up the hill we went, splashing and thrashing through the forest. Nestor put us in the spot they saw the bird and we waited while they went and looked around some more. After about 10 minutes of patient scanning I saw a bird come in and perch above my head. I put up my bins and WOW!, a Helmet Vanga!
We had the pleasure of viewing this incredible bird for over 15 minutes as he ate a cicada and preened on this perch. It was pretty amazing. The hike back was very upbeat! Our last evening walk produced lots more frogs too.
Our last day had us at a highland marsh searching for great birds and a very rare amphibian. The tiny Madagascar Golden Frog is one of the rarest amphibians on the planet.
The rest of the morning was spent slogging around the marsh in search of Madagascar Snipe (a very large snipe), Madagascar Flufftail (an awesomely colored secretive rail), and Grey Emu-tail (a hide-and-seek swamp warbler).