Birding Without Borders

Day 218: Last Day in Madagascar

Noah departs the island with several new birds—but several missing endemics.

August 6, 2015, Nairobi, Kenya — Genot wanted to show me his favorite Antananarivo birding spot this morning, a park within the city where, he said, Comb Ducks are virtually guaranteed. We left the secluded Saha Forest Camp after breakfast and were in bustling Tana by mid-morning.

Thursday is market day in Madagascar’s biggest city and the streets were crowded with all sorts of open-air stalls: Meat, veggies, fruits, shoes, sweatshirts, cell phones, live pigs, live cows…a guy walked up and down traffic with a large mirror, apparently hoping for an impulse buyer. Genot leaned out the window and made a quick transaction for something wrapped in a banana leaf, which turned out to be a traditional Malagasy breakfast of densely mashed rice and banana. It was quite tasty.

The park surrounded a small lake in a trendier part of Tana. As we walked in, the lake was carpeted with more than a thousand ducks, mostly Red-billed Ducks with a few White-faced Whistling-Ducks in the mix. After a few minutes I picked out one Comb Duck—the only new bird of the day—and, with an hour to kill before heading to the airport, we sat on a bench and watched the urban waterfowl.

In eight days in Madagascar, I saw a total of 98 species of birds, 77 of which were new for my big year. I’ll have to return here someday; there are dozens more endemics that I missed this time around, and leaving now feels like unfinished business. My plane touched down in the crowded Nairobi airport late this evening, and, as the clock ticked toward midnight, I waited through one endless immigration line after another. I’ll be in East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda) for the next month!

New birds today: 1

Year list: 3833

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