Schlegel’s Asity (Philepitta schlegeli)

The Schlegel’s asity (Philepitta schlegeli) is a species of bird in the Philepittidae family. It is endemic to Madagascar. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forests and subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests. It is threatened by habitat loss.

I was lucky enough to see one in Ankarafantsika NP. This little guy just knew he was cooler than cool and sat there for several minutes showing off to a thrilled group of birders!

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I am not 100% sure of the name of the circuit but all the guides know where to find this bird as it is very highly sought after!  Don’t let the wide range fool you, every reference I could find online to sightings of Schelgel’s Asity are in Ankarafantsika.

SA rangeLEARN MORE ABOUT THE SCHELGEL’S ASITY

Wikipedia

Birdlife

Encyclopedia Britannica

Xeno-Canto

VIDEOS

Sadly there aren’t many videos of this little beauty.  From what I hear, they are very hard to find and very few people get good photos even, never mind video!  Makes me feel extra lucky!  There are a few on IBC.

The Ankoririka Circuit, Ankarafantsika

I’m going to qualify this post with a caution that I think this is the circuit we did the 2nd morning.  It could also have been the Retendrika Circuit as that one seems to be in the same area.   I am going from the description of the birds we saw there and the one from the website.  If you tell them you want to see the Schlegel’s Asity, they will take you to this place.

Duration : 3h
Distance : 9 km  (Don’t panic, you won’t have to walk that far if you are only after the Schlegel’s Asity)!

Guidance :
Ar 25,000 for 1 to 5 persons/day
Ar 37,000 for more than 7 persons / day

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Another birding group was also looking for the bird.  That was a good thing as their guide found the Asity first and alerted our guide.  It’s nice how they work together!

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The nest of the Schlegel’s Asity

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And there he is, in all his glory!  This Schlegel’s Asity was super-cool and he knew it!  He posed for the whole group, turning his profile both ways and just showing off!

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The group moved off through the bush, the next target would be a White-breasted Mesite.

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We did eventually find one in the bush but he scurried off before I could get a decent shot.  You can’t win ’em all!

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Malagasy Bulbul

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Malagasy Coucal

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Visiting Ankarafantsika National Park, Madagascar

Ankarafantsika (also known as Ampijoroa) was hands down my favourite birding site in Madagascar.  The birding started even before entering the park as Grey-headed Lovebirds and various lemurs could be seen in the car park!  If you are keeping a life list, this is a great place to come to see many Madagascan species!

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This is the main building with a few exhibits and an observation deck upstairs.

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The parking lot has several logs like this to sit on and watch birds even before you enter the park.  There are also BBQ/picnic areas.

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This is the office where you will buy your tickets and be assigned a guide if you are not in a pre-arranged tour group.  There are a few informational boards outside to help you plan your trip.

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The park also has very nice bungalows for rent.  They do tend to be booked up with birding tour groups so you should try to organize one in advance.  This is the only accommodation in/near the park.  The place we stayed, Blue Vanga Lodge was about 5km down the road in the village.

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The fees to enter the park are very straightforward.  We are “etranger” category so the fees range from 25,000 – 50,000 depending on how many days you need.

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In addition to the entry fees, you must also hire a guide and do one of the circuits as pictured below.  Most people start with the Circuit Coquereli as an excellent introduction to the park.  We saw lots of birds and lemurs on this trek.  In this and all circuits, the price of the guide is determined by how many people you have.  1-4 people pay 25,000 Ariary for the guide, if there are 5-6 people the cost is 35,000 Ariary.

I really like this system.  Guides are mandatory which is a good idea as it is very important to supply local people with jobs and an incentive to protect their wildlife.  You can design your own program, just choose your circuits and pay in the office for both the park fees and the guide so everything is above board.  Make sure you ask for a guide who knows birds well, although in this location which attracts mostly birders I think all the guides know birds well.

For the two full days we were here, we did the Circuit Coquereli in the first morning and the Circuit Bateau – Lac Ravelobe in the afternoon.  The 2nd day, we did Circuit Retendrika in the morning and since I ran out of cash had to be content with birding the car park and roadside in the afternoon.  I will be blogging more in detail about each circuit.

Only cash is accepted here, no credit cards in either the ticket office or restaurant so be prepared!

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Here we have the prices of the bungalows and gites.  The gites are very primitive, have shared bathrooms and only recommended for experienced backpackers but the bungalows are very nice, the high-priced birding tours stay here.

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The restaurant is very nice and serves generous portions of food at very reasonable prices as you can see by the menu photos.  You can choose a set-price meal or order ala carte.  Cash only, no credit cards!

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The tables have nice views over the forest and are a pleasant place to while away an afternoon while waiting for the next birding walk.

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Just down the road is a small market with locals selling honey and a small shop with a few snacks.

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There is more information on their website.

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My Top Thirty Bird Sightings Of 2014

Most other years this would be a top ten, but with 3 major birding trips this year I am struggling to make it a top thirty!  If you want to see last year’s birds click here.   There is no way I could single out one top bird with so many to choose from so they are being presented in chronological order.  I haven’t finished blogging the Queensland road trip or the African Adventure so I have to cheat a bit with the photos.  They are my photos but just pasted in.

1.  Carnaby’s Cockatoo – seen at several places in Western Australia, Feb 2014.

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2.  Western Rosella – seen at Dryandra and Stirling Range in Western Australia, Feb 2014

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3.  Purple-crowned Lorikeet – seen near Fitzgerald National Park, Western Australia, Feb 2014