On a Highway to Helmet

Friday was the big day: our first attempt at Helmet Vanga, one of Madagascar’s most coveted birds.  A 5:30am start, followed by a 2 hour 4×4 trip, which nearly two of the three vehicles completed.  Then a walk down into the forest, stopping only to clamber down a bank for a stunning Short-legged Ground-Roller, and on to the nest.  The only problem was that the nest was empty and did not fill in the couple of hours that we stayed.  As we headed back to the cars we got a shout that Patrice, our indefatigable local guide, that he had found another nest with a bird on only 3km away.  Brilliant, although that 3km was of clambering through the forest on a shocking track that crossed the same river about 20 times.  Finally, muddy and worn out we arrived to find another empty nest.  Aaaaaaargh! With light failing we only had half an hour to wait, but fortunately it only took a quarter before it arrived at the nest: just stunning.  All we had to do then was get home, on a track that was already difficult in the dark with only a few torches.  Eventually we got back to the cars, utterly covered in mud and knackered, at 8:15 pm and eventually got back for dinner at 10:30pm.  An unforgettable, and hopefully unrepeatable, day.

Here’s a couple more lemurs from a night walk on Saturday.



Dodging the showers

A day of dodging showers, with the rain eventually winning in the afternoon.  That didn’t stop us from seeing some amazing stuff though, particularly the superb Collared Nightjar and a chance to sing along with the Indris.  Possibly the most amazing thing was the Leaf-tailed Gecko.

Prickly Heat

Here’s a couple more photos from the Spiny Forest of Ifaty, a weird and wonderful (and hot) place.

Lots of superb birds and beasts, and an unexpected swimming lesson (when a former world record holder offers to improve your stroke you don’t refuse) has made it a real highlight of the trip.

We’ve now moved on and are at Perinet, where the WiFi is distinctly patchy.  The birds and beasts are not, though, more on that once if the uploads work.



Desert island birds

A big day for me yesterday, when we went to Nosy Ve, a sandy island off Tulear, in the hope of seeing some of my most wanted birds: Red-tailed Tropicbird, which breeds there and Crab Plover, which is there sometimes.  Bot are cracking birds and new families for me and both were there, along with a real bonus of a Sooty Gull, a real Madagascar rarity.

Later, in our first visit to the spiny forest at Ifaty we had superb encounter with another of my most wanted birds: Long-tailed Ground-Roller.  Not a bad place, Madagascar.

It can’t be possible, but…

… there is a cooler animal than the Ring-tailed Lemur: Verreaux’s Sifaka, which clings to the tree’s like it’s scared of heights, bounces through them like a Gibbon and then finally dances away on the ground, all while looking utterly cute.

There’s lots of good birds at Zombitse too.


A terrific start to our trip to Madagascar, with three nights in Ranomafana, and some superb forest birds and lemurs.  Today a trip to Isalo had a stop off at Anja Park for our only Ring-tailed Lemurs of the trip: just magnificent!

Wifi is very patchy here, so there might be no updates until we’re back…