Archive for November, 2015

Madagascar: Trip to Nosy Ve

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We were transported to the boat by Zebu cart.

We took a day away from the Spiny Forest to go out to the island of Nosy Ve which is about a 1.5 hour boat ride from Tulear, on the southwest coast.  The first item of note was the way we got out to the boat as they used Zebu carts.  These carts provide a common method of transportation and now we had a chance to see what it was like.  We were four to a cart and the Zebu did well getting (jolting) us out to the boat.  On the way back it was deeper, rougher water and it seemed that the Zebu were afraid, but at last all were landed with little problem.

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Humblot’s Heron, an endangered endemic.

On the way out to the island passed a large sandbar where there were foraging shorebirds; Bar-tailed Godwits, Common Greenshanks, Curlew Sandpipers and old friends Ruddy Turnstones and Whimbrels.  We then cruised beside a long cliff face where we were rewarded by great views of an endanged Humblot’s Heron.

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Mrs. Red-tailed Tropicbird and her fluffy chick.

We hoped to see the Red-tailed Tropicbird and we were not disappointed.  The island is small and uninhabited, except by the Tropicbirds and a few other species.  There were a number of nests tucked under thorny bushes for shade.  I was delighted to find this one (spoiler alert for those who are on my Christmas card list!) where the tiny chick couldn’t have been more than a few days old.

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The beach at Anakao where we had lunch.

We left the island and rode across a bay to a beachside restaurant for lunch and looks at nesting Littoral Rock-thrushes.  The ride back was very rough but it had been a great day.

 

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Madagascar: The Spiny Forest

The Baobabs (Adansonias) have spongy interiors that store water.  The hole in the left side may be from someone tapping it for water.  Note the steps in this one.  Those are used to climb it and pick the fruits which are very nutritious.

The Baobabs (Adansonias) have spongy interiors that store water. The hole in the left side may be from someone tapping it for water. Note the steps in this one. Those are used to climb it and pick the fruits which are very nutritious.

Our visit to Madagascar, that evolutionary outpost, began in what is known as the Spiny Forest.  There is a mountain range down the center of the island dividing the western side which is very dry from the rain forested eastern side.  The vegetation of the dry southwestern ecosystem around Ifaty consists in large part of Baobab trees, cacti and giant euphorbias called Octopus Trees which reminded us of the Ocotillos we know so well from Big Bend NP in Texas. This region is home to our target birds, both vulnerable endemics; the Sub-desert Mesite and the Long-tailed Ground-roller, both of which we got to see.

For me the Baobabs were fascinating.  Madagascar is home to six of the eight species of this endangered tree.  The ones we saw in the Spiny Forest are smaller than the 4,000 year old behemoth we sheltered under in Nambia two years ago but these seemed to have personalities.

There were lovers...

There were lovers…

...and family groups...

…and family groups…

conjoined twins?

Conjoined twins?

Grumpy Grandpa?

Grumpy Grandpa?

A dispute between siblings?

A dispute between siblings?

Well, clearly I’m carrying this too far, but they are captivating trees.  Like many Malagasy species, they are threatened by loss of habitat by clearing for agriculture and charcoal production.

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