We flew from Tulear to Tana on November 26. There our party was divided for the remainder of the trip because of the need for smaller, four-wheel drive vehicles in the Andasibe/Mantadia area. It took nearly 2 hours to get out of Tana because of the heavy traffic. The road was narrow and full of pot-holes. It was slow-going most of the time and perilously fast the rest of the time, with heavy truck traffic both ways all the time. We arrived at the Andasibe Hotel long after dark; we would spend the next 4 nights there.
Within the Andasibe area are Andasibe National Park, Mantadia National Park and smaller preserves. We spent most of our time near Andasibe, but on the 3rd day we drove the road to Mantadia. We certainly needed the 4-wheel drives for that trip, which was not far, but very rough and wet.
Over the course of several days we enjoyed 3 sightings of the odd Madagascar (Crested) Ibis:
And, finally, a stunning closeup view of a Cuckoo-roller, one of the regional endemics of Madagascar previously seen in good numbers, but not as close as this one.
Madagascar Pygmy Kingfishers were found at several locations.
Our Vanga sightings improved with first sightings of Nuthatch Vangas, more Chapert’s Vangas and a better look at a Blue Vanga.
This White-headed Vanga stayed high in the trees.
A White-throated Oxylabes (of the Malagasy Warbler family) on the nest held still for our photographers.
Nelicourvi Weavers showed up every day.
Purple Rollers were foraging above a small pond.
One late afternoon we were able to see a Collared Nightjar.
I used to focus on species in my birding outings, of which there are over 10,000 world-wide. In the past several years, however, I have been trying to see as many of the bird families as possible. Currently there are 248 families, up from about 200 a few years ago. Genetic analysis has resulted in this remarkable increase. I started thinking about going to Madagascar a year or so ago because it would be possible to add 7 new bird families to my then life-time total of 216: Mesites (endemic to Madagascar), Flufftails (widespread in Africa), Crab Plovers (widespread in the Africa-Asia coastal areas), Cuckoo Rollers (endemic in the Madagascar region), Ground Rollers (endemic to Madgascar), Asities (endemic to Madagascar) and Malagasy Warblers (endemic to Madagascar). I was able to see 6 of the 7, but although our guide had fleeting glimpses of a couple of Asities, I did not. And so I was able to add 6 families to my count to bring to 222 the number of families of birds that I have seen. As for species, I added 83 new species to my world list, to bring the total to 3,796. Couas are members of the world-wide Cuckoo family, and Vangas have some newly assigned family members in other parts of the world, but both the Couas and the Vangas on Madagascar are particularly colorful and interesting.
My final Madagascar installment (Part 5) will feature Lemurs, Chameleons and other creatures unique to Madagascar.