Friday, 5 August 2016

Antananarivo's botanic gardens

I am in Antananarivo, Madagascar for a short while in my quest to visit every country in the world in my lifelife. Madagascar is number 103.

Needless to say, I am trying to do some birding. 

I got off to a good start when I had both brown-throated martin and Mascarene martin making sorties into the hotel garden as I took breakfast.

After that I took a cab the short distance to the botanical gardens which offer a soft and safe introduction to birding in the city.

Things started well enough as I spotted a Madagascar turtle dove grazing under trees close to the entrance.


This turned out to be a false omen as non-water birds proved very difficult to find during the rest of the morning.

The vast majority of the birds were around the two lakes in the gardens. 

adult black-crowned night heron

First to be seen was a black-crowned night heron. It proved to be the first of many.

young black-crowned night heron

Night herons of all ages were present including unfledged birds such as the two below.

unfledged black-crowned night heron

They were not the most common species there though. That title goes to dimorphic egret which e-bird and Clements consider to be a sub-species of little egret.

dimorphic egret

Many were in their breeding plumage which includes red feet and red lores.

two dimorphic egret

The birds in breeding plumage were generally higher up the trees ans presumably thinking about nest making because I saw no obvious fledlings like with the black-crowned night heron.

non-breeding dimorpic egret

A few black heron were also present. They tended to be in a loose flock.

black heron

There were four or so birds which appeared slightly lighter and larger which I can't postively identify.  

unidentified dark heron

The guide books say that only the toes are yellow (or red in the breeding season) on a black heron. These other birds have yellow leading well up the legs which is a feature  of dimorphic egret.  Though none had the white throat also expected of dimorphic egret.

two egrets

Some times these dark birds also appeared to be associating with the pale dimorphic egret too.

My guide book says that dark and intermediate morph dimorphic egret are much more common on the Madagascar coast than inland at Antananarivo.

I am perplexed by these birds. This is what happens when you bird a new region and have no guide! However it more fun to work it out than to be told.

Among all the the herons was at least one great white egret.

great white egret

This is one of the few species seen today which wasn't a lifer. Note the long gape line past the end of the eye which is a useful way of separating this species from Intermediate egret.

one of two Madagascar kingfisher

Two Madagascar kingfisher would have ebbn easy to overlook but I was didn't.

I said at the beginning of the blog that non-water birds were hard to find. Unfortunately one of them was common myna.

Two others were distant birds of prey which were probably Malagasy kestrel and Madagascar buzzard. I won't clain either as the views weren't good enough and they would both be lifers. I have a higher benchmark for observation of first time birds.

Three Madagascar hoopoe were seen satisfactorily however and it is a lifer.

Madagascar bee-eater

Only at the end of the gardens away from the crowds did I get much success with other birds inlcuding Madagascar bee-eater.

Madagascar red fody

I had to work very hard for my final bird which was Madagascar red fody. A small number of them moved from one high tree to another always in the high canopy. One good picture helped me with identification.

Tomorrow I hope to go to a birding hotspot subject to a visitors permit. I will blog about that next.

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