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THE COMOROS & NORTHERN MADAGASCAR

Sunday 5th October - Saturday 1st November 2008

Pete Morris

The fabulous Madagascar Red Owl (Pete Morris)

The fabulous Madagascar Red Owl (Pete Morris)

This, our first tour to explore some of the more remote areas of Northern Madagascar and the Comoro Islands, was as much an expedition as a tour. Not only were we largely visiting areas that Birdquest had not visited before, we also visited a few sites that few, if any, birders had ever visited before! The trip had taken plenty of preparation, and we were delighted to be invited as the first group to look for the recently rediscovered Madagascar Pochard! I won’t say it was all plain sailing as we had a few hiccups along the way, but these were all ironed-out, and the trip generally went very smoothly. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that it was a terrific success. We recorded a total of 207 species, not a huge total, but it included nearly all of the birds we were after. It was an excellent tour for globally threatened species, with 33 (16%) of the species recorded being listed as of conservation concern, with five of them being listed as critically endangered, and a further 11, endangered! So what were the highlights? No doubt rarities on Madagascar that will stick in the mind include the amazing Sakalava Rail, the seldom-seen Amber Mountain Rock Thrush, the recently re-discovered Madagascar Pochard and the rarely seen Madagascar Red Owl. On the Comoro Islands, the clean-sweep of all of the endemics was very pleasing, and good views of them all to boot! Getting all four of the endemic scops owls firmly fixed in the spotlight beam was perhaps the single most satisfying achievement (bringing our tally of owls on the trip to nine!), but other great birds included the electric blue Comoro Blue Vanga, the rare Grand Comoro Drongo and the plentiful but attractive Comoro Blue Pigeon. We saw plenty of other great wildlife too. Stunning lemurs included the fabulous Amber Mountain Fork-marked Lemur and a brilliant family of Crowned Sifakas, and the amazing reptiles and amphibians that we saw included the world’s smallest chameleon!