Friday, January 25, 2013

Mauritius January - July 2013, Pigeon Wood Field Station

The following posts will be a bit different from the usual site reviews, for most sites were visited while working for the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation as a volunteer on the Pink Pigeon Program. Therefore I spent several months at some sites, who are not or barely open for the "normal" birder. I will try to make the reviews considering these sites as useful as possible.

The first site in the field was the field station called Pigeon Wood. Here I got my training as a Pink Pigeon volunteer. The site is located in the east of the Black River Gorges National Park and holds the second largest Pink Pigeon population (90 birds). For birders, especially the purists among them,  this site should hold special interest, for non of the Pink Pigeons here are translocated and all originate from the last 12 individuals that were found here in the 90ties. However the pigeons of this subpopulation still get supplementary feeding. This area also holds the biggest wild population of Mauritian Fodies. These Fodies are tickeable, even by purists, for here they are not beeing fed or translocated. Other birds of interest in the forests around Pigeon Wood include Mauritius Bulbul, Mascarene Paradise Flycatcher (ssp. desolata, apparently recently split from the nominate subspecies on Reunion) and the ever-present Mauritius Grey White-eye. Other animals of interest are the endemic Blue-tailed Day Gecko and the only native mammal of Mauritius: the Mascarene (or Black-spined) Fruit Bat.
Mauritius Bulbul (Hypsipetes olivaceus)

Female Mauritius Fody (Foudia rubra) carrying nest material (check out those wingbars!)
Adult male Pink Pigeon (Nesoenas mayeri) sunbathing

Mauritius Grey White-eye (Zosterops mauritianus)
Access to this site is a bit difficult, for the track that leads to Pigeon Wood Field Station can only be accessed with a guide. (Contact MWF for more information) This might be annoying, but (very) close up views of Pink Pigeons around the field station are almost guaranteed.
Male Blue-tailed Day Gecko (Phelsuma cepediana)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Indian Ocean January 2013, Tamatave – Port Louis

The last days before our volunteering on Mauritius began were spent on the Indian Ocean. Instead of flying the Mauritius Shipping Corporation ( offers the possibility to go by boat. The crossing takes three days and is cheaper than a one-way ticket, however the Corporation offers only one crossing per month. We paid 250 euro for a one-way ticket in second class and I think it is absolutely worth it. The fare includes all meals (very decent meals) and it gives you the opportunity to see some seabirds. However make sure you don´t get sea sick, for the Indian Ocean is a rough sea. We tried Sea Bands (, but we still felt dizzy and nauseous, especially when the ship encountered a tropical storm on the open sea.

We found the open sea between Madagascar and Reunion very, very empty and did not see much, just a single tubenose and some flying fish. This tubenose however deserves special attention. This species is one of the rarest sea birds in the world and breeds on La Réunion. Seeing the species at La Réunion is close to impossible, even though many people claim to have seen one. I´ve spoken a lot with the researchers who work on this species on La Reunion. One of them has worked on them for 11 years and has seen one at sea and had around 10 crashed individuals in his hand. The colony of this petrel is still unknown, but is most likely located in the south of the island. The only realistic, but slim chance of seeing a Mascarene Black Petrel is taking a boat to the sea, preferably between St. Pierre and St. Louis. The best time of the year to do this is between February and April. The researcher who saw a Mascarene Black Petrel here however needed 10 to 15 attempts to succeed. There are even sightings of Mauritius, but these are probably all misidentified dark morph Trindade Petrels (see Round Island). So it is obvious that this species is extremely rare. The only reason that people know that it still exists are the one or two juveniles that are rescued on la Réunion each year. The pictures below show a good candidate Mascarene Black Petrel, according to the scientists, but I´m defenitely not sure and will look into it further. The bird was flying very close to the water with slow, but three to four strong wing beats interspaced by gliding pauses. The bird was rather small and completely dark without any obvious plumage features. Unfortunately it stayed far from the boat and therefore the pictures are rather crappy.
After looking into it further and asking several tubenose specialists for help, it turns out that this bird is most likely a Jouanin´s Petrel. 
Jouanin´s Petrel (Bulweria fallax)
In the right time of the year encounters with whales in this stretch of the ocean are apparently not uncommon and the captain is even willing to stop the boat so the passengers can enjoy these giants for a while. The waters directly around Reunion proved to be more productive with 50 Barau´s Petrels, several hundreds of Tropical Shearwaters and 50 Wedge-tailed Shearwaters. A long stop in the port of Reunion produced also some Mascarene Swiftlets.  Most tubenoses were observed at dusk around Reunion when the birds come back from the sea to the land.
Barau´s Petrel (Pterodroma baraui)
Barau´s Petrel (Pterodroma baraui)
Tropical Shearwater (Puffinus bailloni)
Tropical Shearwaters (Puffinus bailloni)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater (Puffinus pacificus) (pink-billed variant)
I can highly recommend doing this boat trip instead of flying, for it crosses an area rarely covered by birders and who knows what hangs around there. Indian Yellow-nosed and Salvin´s Albatross are definitely among the possibilities. Apart from that, we found our boat, the MS Trochetia, a very comfortable boat, especially compared to Malagasy taxi-brousses.
Open Ocean (picture made by Anna van der Kaaden)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Madagascar November 2012 - January 2013, Lac Kinkony

Just like we started our two months in Madagascar with a bang (see post Madagascar November 2012 - January 2013, Bemanevika Lakes) I wanted to end the trip with a real cracker. A site in Madagascar to do this is Lac Kinkony. Normally the right time in the hear to visit this site is November or begin December, for the roads are still passable and the birds have started breeding. I however visited the lake in mid January and therefore the access was a bit difficult. From Mahajanga I took the boat the Katsepy (5.000 Ariary for a small speedboat or 3.000 Ariary for the large ferry). From there I took a taxi-brousse to Mitsinjo (10.000 - 15.000 Ariary). Be prepared for a very rough ride, for the roads are beyond bad (even worse than the Maroantsetra - Tamatave road). In Mitsinjo everything can be arranged: special permits at the police station (I don´t think they are necessary, but it prevents you from having to bribe police or army men) and guide and boat (the roads from Mitsinjo  to Makary are impassable in January) can be arranged at the Asity office. The right person to help you arrange all these things is Cesar. He also runs the only guesthouse in Mitsinjo. Just ask people in the taxi-brousse to drop you there, everybody knows him. The boat from Mitsinjo to Makary costs around 40.000 Ariary and the rowers deserve every single Ariary of it, for they row five hours straight in 40 degrees Celsius. The boat was a metal one and it is very, very hot inside. A hat, sunglasses and loads of sunscreen are highly recommended. It is possible to go to Makary and back in one day, staying overnight is recommended, for the birds are more active in early morning. For a stay overnight you have to camp out. There are very decent shelters where you can put up your tent (5.000 Ariary for the tent and 2.000 for a guard, but I don´t think that that was really necessary) In the morning I made a small pirogue trip to the lake which produced many lovely encounters includin two Madagascar Jacanas, Purple Gallinule, Little Bittern and the main prize: two adult Sakalava Rails feeding their two chicks!
Sakalava Rail (Amaurornis olivieri)chick
Sakalava Rail (Amaurornis olivieri)
Sakalava Rail (Amaurornis olivieri)
Madagascar Jacana (Actophilornis albinucha)
After the trip I returned to Mitsinjo by rowing boat again for the same fare as the first trip. The boat trips to and from Makary turned out to be very productive with sightings of Humblot´s Heron, Madagascar Pond Heron, Madagascar Sacred Ibis, African Spoonbill, Painted Stork, Comb Duck, Madagascar Pratincole, Caspian Tern, Madagascar Sandgrouse and Barn Owl (ssp. hypermetra).
Humblot´s Heron (Ardea humbloti)
The day I returned from Makary I took the overnight taxi-brousse back to Katsepy and this turned out to be the roughest ride of the entire trip so far. With the visit to this site our trip through Madagascar ended. I think I can say it was one of the most succesfull trips to Northern Madagascar ever, for we saw almost all seldom-seen species (Sakalava Rail, Bernier´s and Helmet Vanga, Amber Mountain Rock Thrush, Madagascar Serpent Eagle, Slender-billed Flufftail, Madagascar Red Owl and Madagascar Pochard). We missed the mythical Dusky Tetraka (despite intensive searching in Marojejy national park) and somehow managed to miss Cryptic Warbler. Unfortunately Scaly Ground Roller and Brown Mesite were only heard (despite seven days of very intensive searching for both species). The two months yielded 175 bird species in total and over 30 mammal species and I am highly content with this result. This island is a truly magical place and I am genuinely looking forward to my next visit to this country so I can complete my list of endemics.
Madagascar Swamp Warbler (Acrocephalus newtoni)

Travelling birders equipment and its maintenance

As a small intermezzo I want to make a post about the equipment I use in the field on my travels. I will also post a small note on its maintenance, for that subject should not be forgotten on long travels. I will write a small review on each piece of equipment I carry at the moment. My total photographic and sound recording equipment consists of:
  • Two pairs of waterproof binoculars (Bynolyt Tern 10x45 and Pentax 9x32 DCF BC)
  • Canon 40D
  • Canon 1100D
  • Canon 300 mm F4.0 USM L (old version without IS)
  • Canon teleconverter 1.4 II
  • Tamron 17-50 mm F2.8 XR Di II (old version without VC)
  • Canon 18-55 F3.5-5.6 EFS IS II
  • Sony PCM M10 sound recorded including windcover and bag
  • RadioShack Mini Amplifier/speaker including AUX cable, backup AUX cable and backup 9V battery 
  • Zen Style MP3 player 4GB including basic headphones
  • 2 backup BP511 batteries for 40D
  • 1 Backup LP-E10 battery for 1100D
  • 2 SanDisk Ultra CF cards 8GB 30 MB/s
  • 1 SanDisk Ultra CF card 4GB 15 MB/s
  • 4 Transcend Micro SD cards 4GB Class 10
  • Asus Eee 10" Notebook
  • Samsung S2 Portable 500GB 2,5" external hard drive
  • CorsAir Survivor 8GB USB Stick
  • Basic CF card reader
  • Basic SD card reader
  • Basic blower
  • Sensor Swab travel kit including cleaning fluid, 4 swabs, 2 microfiber cloths and a moist microfiber cloth
  • 200 grams of silica gel
  • Toothbrush with soft brush
  • Ortlieb 12L waterproof bag
  • Optech Rain sleeve
  • Vanguard Uprise 48 camera bag
  • LowePro Apex 120 AW camera bag
Me, making a sound recording of Madeira Firecrest (Regulus madeirensis) (picture taken by Anna van der Kaaden)
Of almost every single piece of equipment listed above I am very happy about I took it on a two year trip. However it took a long time of saving, preparing, considering, reading and informing before I finely got to this selection. Below I will review every single piece of equipment. (keep in mind that I am in Mahajanga, Madagascar right now and don't have a lot of access to professional reviews, so my reviews are strictly personal and highly unprofessional)
  • Two pairs of waterproof binoculars (Bynolyt Tern 10x45 and Pentax 9x32 DCF BC): We use two basic pairs of waterproof bins. One B-brand (Bynolyt Tern), which has a metal body and is therefore quite heavy but seems indestructible (it survived my (not so gentle) handling for the last seven years) and one C-brand (Pentax DCF BC), which is lighter, but also very robust. Both fulfill their purpose. Of course I would have preferred a Swarovski, but I do not have the money for that an I can't bear the thought of having a brand-new Swarovski snatched away from me by some street kid...
  • Canon 40D: I have been using this camera for various travels and I am fairly content with it. I very much like the fact that the body is made of magnesium alloy and not of the lighter, but more vulnerable, "plastic". However the traveling is beginning to have its affect on the camera and the release button refuses to cooperate on rare occasions. Also the info button does not respond at all times and makes contact at some random moments. Besides that, the camera works perfectly, but looks heavily beaten with some spots where no paint whatsoever is left. For people with a little more budget I would advice buying a Canon 7D (or Nikon D7000, which is more or less the equivalent) which is much better isolated than the 40D and thus more resistant against dust and moisture, which is probably the reason for my electronic problems. Besides this, the 7D preforms much better in low light conditions (like in a rainforest) due to its much better ISO values. It is also a lot faster than the 40D. I think a 7D is an ideal travel camera for birdwatchers, but on the other hand, if a beat-up, old, second-hand 40D gets stolen, it is not as bad as if this would happen to a brand new 7D...
  • Canon 1100D: We bought this camera new just before our departure as a camera for travel snapshots. It fulfills its purpose precisely, although a high quality compact camera like a Canon S95 or G12 would do equally well without the extra weight and size of the 1100D. However if the 40D got be stolen, we would have this one as a back-up. Beware however, the Canon 1100D is just a very basic DSLR and consequently quite vulnerable to shock, sand, dust and moisture and not very fast.
  • Canon 300 mm F4.0 USM L (old version without IS): I am highly content with this lens. I use the old model without the IS, which is apparently the "worst thing" of the new lens and the older model is according to the "experts" even a bit more sharp. Besides, under (very) rough travel conditions, which are our everyday life at the moment, it will be the first thing to break anyway. The lens is fairly small for a wildlife photography lens, which means it is also quite light and does not take up to much space in my camera bag and that gives me the opportunity to put other things in the bag besides one lens. 300 mm does not seem a lot, but with a crop camera these become 480 mm (or 450 if you are a Nikonist). Besides 300 mm gives you the opportunity to shoot at fairly low shutter speeds (I still get sharp images at 1/150 second on some occasions). The animals in the tropics we have encountered so far were very often very tame, so no need for a 800 mm in my humble opinion. In the jungle the 4.0 maximum aperture can become a problem, but the 300 mm 2.8 lens is three times as expensive and twice as heavy, so it will stay a dream for me, for now. 
  • Canon teleconverter 1.4 II: For the rare occasions things are little to far away and can not be approached I bought this converter. It proved to be very useful on boat rides and ferry crossings were animals are often further away. I experience no loss of quality when using the converter, however the speed of the 300 mm decreases slightly. In the jungle the thing is quite useless for you loose one stop, thus a lot of light, meaning much longer shutter speeds. I bought version II for the difference in quality between I and II seemed rather large and between II and III rather small. Version III is also 150 euro's more expensive an I don't think 3% better glass is worth that. However, annoying is the fact that version II has rubber isolation only on one side (God knows why) and III on both sides, which makes the contacts between converter and lens vulnerable.
  • Tamron 17-50 mm F2.8 XR Di II (old version without VC): Like with the 300 mm we bought the older version for the same reasons. Above that, the "experts" state that this lens is apparently much sharper than the new one with VC. This lens is a hundred times sharper than the kit lens and preforms much, much better under bad light conditions and is not much more expensive. Besides, this lens is also much more robust with metal (probably a magnesium alloy) body and rubber coating., which makes it for me a very decent travel lens and a good alternative for the crazy expensive Canon equivalent.
  • Canon 18-55 F3.5-5.6 EFS IS II: Just the basic kit lens. We only took it because we had it and to act as a back-up for the Tamron 17-50 mm  F2.8 and for the very rare occasions we both wanted to make travel snapshots. (which we actually did sometimes!) I would recommend almost every other lens instead of this one, but it is a cheap back-up.
  • Sony PCM M10 sound recorded including wind cover and bag: For somebody who is new in the sound recording world (like me) this is an awesome little gadget. It has two microphones (resulting in high quality recordings), seems unaffected by moisture and best of all: it has a pre-rec function. Unfortunately I often forget to make use of this great function. It is also quite cheap and very small and portable. The wind cover is a great addition (although ridiculously expensive for a piece of fabric). This piece of equipment fist perfectly in a Crumpler JackPack 90, which gives you the opportunity to carry it on your belt and be able to use it very quickly. I am very glad I bought this item and made already 120 decent recordings, some of which are even new for Soon the sound recordings will be available on this blog as well.
  • RadioShack Mini Amplifier/speaker including AUX cable, backup AUX cable and backup 9V battery: Supposedly the best of the best for birders (, mostly because of its resilience , but I already managed to destroy it. Luckily I could fix it with duct tape. I am fairly content with it. It does the job, but nothing more. I advice you to always carry a back-up AUX cable, for I already thrashed a very thick one. Always carry a back-up battery as well.
  • Zen Style MP3 player 4GB including basic headphones: I use this MP3 player for personal use as well for tape-luring birds. Therefore I had some requirements when buying an MP3 player: small, a micro SD slot, easy to handle, not to easy to break and cheap. This MP3 player has all of these characteristics and consequently I am very happy with it. The Micro SD with the bird sounds on it work fantastic with this player. 
  • 2 backup BP511 batteries for 40D: Two back-up batteries turned out to be perfect: I always know which one is full and which one is not and never have no full battery left. The original Canon batteries are better and work significantly longer, but are also ridiculously overpriced.
  • 1 Backup LP-E10 battery for 1100D: Just one back-up is enough for our travel snapshot camera. The same thing goes for these batteries as for the BP511.
  • 2 SanDisk Ultra CF cards 8GB 30 MB/s: Decent sized cards with a data transfer fast enough for a 40D. More professional cards require faster cards.
  • 1 SanDisk Ultra CF card 4GB 15 MB/s: A very basic back-up card. Not used until now, but 15 MB/s is sometimes too slow for a 40D.
  • 4 Transcend Micro SD cards 4GB Class 10: Decent, fast Micro SD cards which I use for tape, as back-up memory for my Sony PCM M10, to learn Russian and improve my French (using Pimsleur). Four might have been one to much, but an extra backup is never wrong and they don't weight much.
  • Asus Eee 10" Notebook: I did not bring a notebook on our trip, but it turned out to be very handy, so we bought one for a reasonable price in Antananarivo, Madagascar. It is small, light and the battery lasts long enough. The Monitor could have been of better quality though. (I don't know much about computers so this review is much shorter than it should have been. Luckily there is something called Google)
  • Samsung S2 Portable 500GB 2,5" external hard drive: At first we wanted to buy an expensive, shock and waterproof hard drive (, but they were out of stock for several months, so we opted for a cheaper, more basic one (, which is still alive. I am content with it, for it is light, small and has a large enough storage capacity. Always keep it in a waterproof bag though, just to be sure.
  • CorsAir Survivor 8GB USB Stick: Fairly useless back-up option due to its tiny storage capacity but virtually indestructible, unless being shot at by an assault rifle. 
  • Basic CF and SD card reader: We took the most basic and small ones which turned out to be just fine and we use them weekly. They are fast enough, for me at least. No use for a USB 3 in the third world anyway...
  • Basic blower: I bought a small manually operated rubber blower to remove dust from the camera sensors without the need to use one of my few swabs. It is very cheap, light and handy, but unnecessary on a short trip.
  • Sensor Swab travel kit including cleaning fluid, 4 swabs, 2 microfiber cloths and a moist microfiber cloth: Not used until now, but I will probably have to in very near future. Practice at home with some one who knows how to do it, before you do it yourself during travels, for you might damage your sensor. The microfiber cloths are indispensable. I bought an extra large one (31x31 cm) from Sigma, which I am very content with. The moist microfiber cloth is completely useless and it is a mystery to me why anyone would clean a lens or, worse, a sensor with a methanol containing cloth. I threw it away a long time ago. 
  • 200 grams of silica gel: Completely unnecessary. I will probably discard it in near future. Silica gel works only in air tight spaces, so it would be useful if all electronics are kept in a waterproof bag for most of the time. This is however very unhandy, due to the long time it takes before your equipment can be used.
  • Toothbrush with soft brush: Extremely useful! Every photographer should carry one while traveling. It is the easiest way to clean your camera and lenses with (not the glass and sensor of course). 
  • Ortlieb 12L waterproof bag: Very very handy and highly recommended! Ortlieb might be expensive, but they really are the best. Our other waterproof bags have holes already, but this one still is like new, even though it almost melted in an overheating car. 12 L is large enough to fit all my 40D with 300 mm and 1.4 convertor and a Sony PCM M10 in and it all still can fit perfectly in the normal way into my camera bag. I think it probably can contain all my electronics with ease. Maybe a 7 L would have been enough, but I wanted to be sure.
  • Optech Rain Sleeve: A decent, simple rain sleeve for camera and lens (up to 400 mm) that I saved for the boat trip from Madagascar to Mauritius, but it wasn't necessary on this voyage so I can't really state wether or not it is usefull.
  • Vanguard Uprise 48 camera bag: Decent, large camera bag, divided into two compartments: one with five smaller compartments for (camera) equipment and one for miscellaneous. It has a special side way opening for quick camera access. It is broad enough for a 40D with 1.4 converter and 300 mm to fit in horizontally. all equipment can fit in this bag, but makes it very heavy (10 kg). The rain cover, which is located in a small compartment in the back padding, making it asymmetrical and caused me severe back aches for several weeks (better to put it in the laptop compartment), is completely worthless. After little more than three months traveling and regular use the cover is completely destroyed and rotting. A shame, for now I have to use my raincoat instead of covering myself with it.
  • LowePro Apex 120 AW camera bag: Very decent, small camera bag with very decent rain cover, although mostly used in another bag for extra protection. Therefore no more comments than this.
Me, photographing an Ethiopian Bushcrow (Zavattariornis stresemanni), Yabello, Ethiopia (picture taken by Anna van der Kaaden)
As travels on low budget can be extremely rough in Africa and Asia I clean my gear at least once a month entirely, but more often when necessary, which it mostly is. I still should do it more often, I think, for the amount of dust, lichens, moss, pieces of leaves, dead ants etc. removed from, primarily my 40D is immense. I also blow the dust out of my camera, or at least I try, every month. All glass is cleaned with more regularity. For this I advice to use only DRY microfiber cloths and never moist microfiber cloths, for they tend to leave a residue on your glass. The methanol could also have long term effects on coating. The same goes for moist paper cleaning "towels": they are even worse and the paper fibers can scratch the coating of your glass work. 

In the end all maintenance during travels is probably fairly rudimentary and you will end up breaking your stuff anyway, but it gives me the feeling that I can postpone that God-awful date a little. 

Me, photographing a Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola) in Pongwe, Zanzibar, Tanzania (picture taken by Anna van der Kaaden)
For any questions, do not hesitate to mail or comment, but I am not sure I can answer the technical questions.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Madagascar November 2012 - January 2013, Betsiboka Delta

In Ankarafantsika national park I got a phone number of a trustworthy boatman in Mahajanga. This made it possible for me to visit the Betsiboka Delta. This delta is The site for Bernier´s Teal and Madagscar Sacred Ibis. The boatman I used turned out to be really trustworthy (Iango, 0332551418 or 0325169149). The total prize of visiting the right area for the specialities in the delta is not cheap. I  paid close to 200.000 Ariary and that included fuel and motor oil. However, for this prize you get an entire day of searching with an experienced boatman who knows the area and the birds, but he speaks little english. We were quite unlucky with the ducks, for it took us very long (8 hours) to find them and we got stuck in a sandbank that surprised Iango.

In the end we saw four Bernier´s Teals, two Madagascar Sacred Ibisses, one Humblot´s Heron and many waders including 250 Crab Plovers. We also observed pleasing numbers of Saunder´s Terns who showed very well and I managed to actually identify some by their plumage and not just by range.
Part of a large group of Crab Plovers (Dromas ardeola)
Saunder´s Tern (Sternula saundersi) (look at those primairies!)
Madagascar Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis bernieri)
Bernier´s Teal (Anas bernieri)
For birders this place is a must, but a logistical pain in the ass due to tides, boats, boatmen etc. and the area itself is not that special, so for any non birder I would recommend not to spend the large sum of money to visit Madagascars biggest delta.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Madagascar November 2012 - January 2013, Lac Amboromalandry

Because I failed to find Madagascar Jacana on Lac Ravelobe in Ankarafantsika national park I made a day trip with Gerard (see previous post) to Lac Amboromalandry, which is another known site for this species. We got to the lake by getting a lift from the Durrel Wildlife Trust from the national park and we got back by taxi-brousse (around 5.000 Ariary). Once in the Amboromalandry village you have to walk a couple of km to get to the well vegetated far side of the lake. There we spend a couple of hours searching in vian for this species. Other species observed included: Yellow-billed Stork, Hottentot Teal, Whiskered Tern and Black Kite (not a Yellow-billed Kite, but a genuine migrans). I don´t know if this site is really as reliable as it used to be or that January is just a very bad month to search for Madagascar Jacana or maybe I just searched in the wrong places. Either way, it was quite a drag to search on foot with a lot of mud and spiny plants and I would not recommend visiting this site unless sombody wants to see massive meadows of Mimosa´s.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Madagascar November 2012 - January 2013, Ankarafanstika National Park

Ankarafantsika national park is the most excessible site for nearly all dry decidious forest species in Madagascar (only Western Tylas and Tsingy Wood Rail are not found here). It is very excessible and even with taxi-brousse it takes "only" ten hours (just ask to be dropped at the national park office). Even getting away from it towards Mahajanga is not that difficult, but going to Tana with taxi-brousse requires a bit more effort. The park provides perfectly fine accomodation (I camped out though), food and guides. Jacky is normally The bird guide in this park, but he is a bit pricey (120.000 Ariary) so I used Gerard (0328822461 or who is a very young, amiable and already knowledgeable guide and he costs a quarter of what Jacky demands.

We birded for three days in Ankarafantsika with him and we found almost all key species including: Madagascar Fish Eagle (the resident pari on Lac Ravelobe), White-breasted Mesite (in Jardin Botanique A and B), Red-capped Coua, Coquerel's Coua, Schlegel's Asity (only in Jardin Botanique A), Torotoroka Scops Owl (only in Jardin Botanique B), Sickle-billed Vanga, Madagascar Pond Heron (on Lac Ravelobe), Humblot's Heron (on Lac Ravelobe) and Van Dam's Vanga (only Jardin Botanique B). I was there too late in the season to see the Madagascar Jacana's on Lac Ravelobe and dipped them even after 2,5 days of searching.
Madagascar Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus vociferoides)
Sooty Falcon (Falco concolor)
Coquerel's Coua (Coua coquereli)
Crested Coua (Coua cristata)
Sickle-billed Vanga (Falculea palliata)
Humblot's Heron (Ardea humbloti)
White-breasted Mesite (Mesitornis variegatus)

Schlegel's Asity male (Philepitta schlegeli)
Schlegel's Asity Male (Philepitta schlegeli)

Mammals recorded included: Coquerel's Sifaka, Mongoose Lemur (surprisingly easy, for the mango trees were fruiting and they were seen daily next to the office in the evening), Golden-brown Lemur, Milne-Edwards Sportive Lemur, Fat-tailed Dwarf Lemur and Commerson's Leaf-nosed Bat. Reptiles included: Nile Crocodile, Madagascar Hog-nosed Snake and Furcifer rhinoceratus.
Coquerel's Sifaka (Propithecus coquereli)
Young Mongoose Lemur (Eulemur mongoz)
Milne-Edwards Sportive Lemur (Lepilemur edwardsi)
Madagascar Hog-nosed Snake (Leioheterodon madagascariensis)
Collared Iguana (Oplurus cuvieri)
Overall this park is amazing even though the office was a bit awkward  towards me. I think the one day, most tours spend here is by far not enough.