SW Madagascar is arid and we began our exploration of it’s xerophytic habitats in the near-impenetrable Euphorbia scrub on the limestone plateau of La Table, in the Toliara region. A visit here is now mandatory on any Madagascan birding itinerary as it one of the few sites known for Red-shouldered Vanga, a species described as recently as 1997 though it was first collected in 1948. We arrived, having waited for the heat to abate a little, in the late afternoon and had a a bit of a job finding the most notable avian resident of the area. The scrub is too high to see over for the majority of time spent walking the tracks through it and the critical thing is to hear a bird singing or calling then zero in on it. It took us a while to hear one and some time to walk in through the spiky bush to a point where we could see it. Even then it was not sitting still to be admired, but there were a pair present and we all eventually had great views. The birds remained low down though and I failed to get an unobscured photo.

Red-shouldered Vanga, La Table. 

Other notable birds seen in the area included Verreaux’s Coua, Madagascar Lark, Madagascar Cisticola, Subdesert Brush Warbler and just as we left, good views of our first Madagascar Buttonquail which crossed the road in front of us quite rapidly but remained visible for a while as they made their way in to the brush.

Madagascar Lark, La Table. 

Early next morning we set off for the harbour to take a boat to the island of Nosy Ve. Few birds were encountered on the crossing, save for some Lesser-crested Terns, but once we got close enough to the islands Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel and Sanderling could be seen wandering the beaches. Unfortunately there were no Crab Plover present. The other main attraction on Nosy Ve is the presence of a large colony of Red-tailed Tropicbird and we spent a pleasant hour ashore with them before it was time to move on.

Red-tailed Tropicbird, Nosy Ve. 

Our return boat journey was punctuated by a stop at a beach front resort near the village of Anakoa to see Littoral Rock Thrush, which is endemic to the coastal SW and was quickly located without leaving the resort grounds.

Littoral Rock Thrush. 

Back at the harbour we were bundled on to small carts for the second time that morning and hauled across the mud by pitifully skinny Zebu cattle, I would far rather have walked.