August 5, 2015, Anjozorobe, Madagascar — Several years ago, according to Genot, the Madagascar government sold one of its national parks near Anjozorobe to a wealthy French hotel owner in Tana, who built a lodge on the property and called it Saha Forest Camp. This probably wasn’t the worst development, so to speak, as the forest around the camp has been preserved and is now visited by ecotourists, but it’s pretty blatant to sell off a public park to private interests. “We have a lot of corruption in Madagscar,” said Genot, as we made our way into Saha Forest Camp yesterday afternoon.
The lodge is beautiful—it has an expansive front deck, exquisite (and expensive) meals, and all the extras, including private balconies on each standalone cabin. A system of forest trails surrounds the lodge, and we blocked out the whole day to explore the area. Genot and I set out this morning with a guide from the local community named Aema.
For the first hour, we didn’t see a single bird. The forest was eerily quiet; no birds sang, and the only sound was a distant group of Indri, a type of lemur that can be heard from several kilometers away. As the morning wore on, the three of us climbed one steep trail after another and it gradually became clear that this forest had very few birds at all—just some of the common species we saw in the past couple of days. I was the only one of us with binoculars and ID’d most of the birds myself, which probably didn't help. After several slow hours, we found a mixed flock with a couple of Gray-crowned Tetrakas in it, the only new bird I ended up seeing all day.
This was a disappointing result for my last full day in Madagascar, especially in such a nice-looking forest. At least we had a nice walk under sunny skies, and, this afternoon, Aema spotted a Diademed Sifaka, a cool-looking type of big lemur which usually hangs out in family groups. Meanwhile, tomorrow begins a full month in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania—the big year rolls on!
New birds today: 1
Year list: 3832