Saturday 6 August 2016

Parc de Tsarasaotra

This morning was my second full day in Antananario, Madagascar. I had decided to visit a local hotspot and RAMSAR classified wetland konwn as Lake Alarobia inside Parc de Tsarsaotra.

However, first came breakfast and once again I added to my Madagasacr list at the breakfast table. A look down the hillside before it was served and I spied a mixed flock of mostly Madagascar red fody but also including Madagascar brush warbler and a single Madagascar bulbul which I managed to photograph.

Madagascar bulbul

There are warnings on the internet that you must buy an entry permit from Boogie pilgrim's travel office at Tana waterfront before you go onto the Parc. They cannot be purchased at the Parc. It is advised that you go the day before because the travel office only opens at 9am but many birders want to visit the Parc at 6am when it opens.

Well I am not lazy but I worked out that with maximium temperatures of 23 C birds would be nearly as active in the day as at 6 am so I elected to pick up a ticket at 9 am when the office opened and go on from there.

And that's when a problem arose. For some reason Boogie Pilgrim is not open on a Saturday. Perhaps I should have gone to them on Friday afternoon afterall.

common moorhen at Tana water front

I decided not to panic and quickly birded the water front adding common moorhen and red-billed teal to my small but growing Madagascar list.

My taxi driver and I elected to try our luck at the Parc. We were let in the front gate and advised to visit the manager's house. It turned out the gentleman was not the manager but one of the family which owns the Parc but contracts Boogie Pilgrim to maintain it. I am much obliged that I was given special permission to stay in these private grounds. I owe a debt to the family.

white-faced whistling duck

On the lilies near the entrance there were at least one hundred birds though most of them were either white-faced whistling duck, red-billed teal or black-crowned night heron.

A few moorhen and squacco heron were the other birds there.

squacco heron

I was looking out for any Madagasy pond heron but I need not have bothered. Although this is one of the two main breeding sites in the country for this bird, they migrate to the mainland in the dry season (May until December).

non breeding dimorphic egret

A few non-breeding dimorphic egret particularly when squat bear a close resemblence to the traget species and were scrutinised carefully, I could make any itnto the pond heron.

There were many more dimorphic egret around. Some were in breeding plumage and were spending much time high in trees or on the lake's main island. Black heron were there too.

plenty of white-faced whistling duck

I searched very hard among the ducks for odd ones out. This is a difficult task as there were nearly 300 red-billed teal and over 100 white-faced whistling duck to look over.

Meller's duck with red-billed teal

I was eventually rewarded with the sgihting of two Meller's duck.

Meller's duck

This duck is endemic to Madagascar and not at all common.

Meller's duck swimming

Birding was not all about ducks and herons. Early on two yellow-billed kite flew over.

Madagascar red fody flocks were encountered several times. One or two of them were mixed flocks with Madagascar white-eye. Two single Madagascar turtle dove were come across during the session too. Unfortunately common myna was all too common.

Madagascar kingfisher

Once again I found Madagascar kingfisher.

Madagascar kestrel

Yesterday at the botanical gardens I thought I had seen a Madagascar kestrel but views wern't good enough for me to add it to my list. This time views were good and also stationary as well as in flight.

rufous morph Madagascar kestrel

Late on I also found one of the minority rufous morph Madagascar kestrel.

Madagascar wagtail

Towards the end of my session, another member of the owning family came to see me and to talk about birds especially how to maintain the breeding sites for the herons and how to deal with the hundreds of myna which roost there in the evening (and I only saw ten or so during the day).

He was kind enough to show me a completely private area where I added Madagascar wagtail to my list as it sat on a car. However the targetted Madagascar jacana which is known in this area failed to materilise.

Madagascar wagtail on ground

I am endebted to the owners for allowing me to visit today. I know they are committed to the bird life and genuinely want this wetland to shrive.

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