Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Spotting Wildlife in Kirindy Forest.

Verreaux's sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi)

Brrr....It was cold when I got out of bed this morning.  In fact,  sometime in the middle of the night, I woke up to close, though not all the way, the window above my bed.  After getting out of bed, I stepped outside and blowing through my mouth, I could see my breath.  It seemed colder than yesterday morning.  I don't have any warm clothing with me so I hope the temperatures would rise as the morning progresses.   Just in case, I went ahead and layered on two t-shirts underneath my long sleeved shirt.


It was another early wake up call for us.  It was 7am when we walked over to the lodge's dining room for breakfast.  I had no jacket so I wrapped the blanket, that had covered me last night, around me.  I don't know if it was that where we were sitting was warmer or there was adrenaline running through my body to warm me up but a few minutes after arriving at the dining room, I shed the blanket.

George ready for breakfast.  That's my blanket sitting on the table.

After dinner last night, we had ordered our continental breakfast for this morning.  I wanted some a bit more substantial so I ordered an omelet as well.  George had his Thermos of coffee and I had mine of tea to wash down our meal with.

Somewhere in that forest is our bungalow.

By 7:30a, we were ready to get going but the plan was to meet up with our guide at 8a so we had a few minutes to kill.  We spent a few minutes back in our bungalow and then back to the dining room to wait for our guide.

The building on the left is the lodge's dining room.

George trying to take a photograph.....of what?

A really, really big spider.  Spot it in the middle of the photograph.

A few minutes before 8a, Jean Claude and our guide showed up. We were all ready to head out.

So, first a correction.  I thought we were in  Kirindy Mitea National Park but as our guide explained to us, we were actually in a forest that is privately managed by Centre de Formation Professionelle Forestière, a Swiss company dedicated to a selective and sustainable logging.

We all got back in our car and drove a short distance down the same road that we had taken to arrive to the lodge.  Binu dropped us off and then we proceeded to walk further before heading into the heart of the forest.


When we were on the east coast, we were in a rainforest.  Here, we were in what's called a dry deciduous forest.  Even though it's winter now, most trees were still leafed out.  The one exception was the baobabs.


As we walked along the path, our guide pointed out interesting plants including a sandalwood tree.  He scraped a bit of the bark so we could sniff the fragrant wood.  Indeed, it was sandalwood.  Both George and I told him that this is prized wood where we come from.  Most certainly, anything crafted from sandalwood will cost an arm and a leg to buy!

 

A bird. It looked very much like the one I saw in Andasibe.

Fungi.

Fruits of the baobab tree, dangling like Christmas tree ornaments.

Sharp eyed George spotted a shell on the ground.  It was large shell and he thought it was a conch so we wondered how that sea creature would have made it's way so far inland.  As it turned out, it was not a conch, it was a snail.  We noticed shells scattered, here there and everywhere.  Our guide told us that the snails hibernate in winter and many will leave the safety of their shells to do so. So, it's not unusual to see them on the ground.  I don't know where the snails go but I imagine they need to find a good spot to not only be able to stay warm but also to stay safe since they don't have their shell for protection.  The shell, in the photo below, is now with the rest of my shell collection.  Yes, I brought it back home with me.


As we walked through the forest, our guide kept an eye out for the lemurs.  Of course, they are the animals that everyone, including us, is most interested in seeing.  According to our guide, they only come out to feed when the ambient temperature is warm.  It was a chilly morning so we had to be patient.

Quite some time passed before our guide spotted a lemur, resting high up in the tree canopy.  The white fur and black head marked it as a Verreaux's sifaka.  Kirindy is home to seven species of lemurs and this is one of the most commonly seen ones.   For George and I, we were both thrilled to see one and thankfully, though it was sitting high up, it wasn't so high up that we couldn't get a good view through our zoom lenses.



If I remember correctly, this particular location in the forest is home to a group of six Verreaux's sifakas.  We saw a group of at least three.


Of course, everyone wants to get a face shot so either Jean Claude or our guide would make sound to try and get the sifaka to look down at us.  We had to be quick on the shutter otherwise, they would turn their head away as quickly as they had turned it towards us.  What amazing animals!




Nearby the sifakas, our guide also spotted a red fronted lemur, Eulemur fulvus rufus, another commonly seen lemur in Kirindy.  This one was sitting really high up in the tree.  I not only struggled to spot it but was just a tad out of my zoom lens range to see it at first.



Surprisingly, the lemur dropped down to some lower branches. I think it was because he was curious about the sounds he was hearing.  Again, it was either Jean Claude or our guide who was trying to get its attention.




The *Lemur Stance*.  Notice George has his zoom lens fully extended.




We kept going back and forth between the brown lemur and the sifakas.  Despite the fact that the lemurs were really active, pretty much constantly leaping from one branch to another, they stayed within the same area so keep a good eye on their whereabouts.  I was captivated by how they hang on to the trees - a reminder that they are primates.....though I think they are far more endearing than their monkey cousins.




Lucikly for me today, we're not in wet, humind forest - my zoom lens never fogged up and when it was possible to get a good shot, I could.   You can see from the blue sky, it was a beautiful day to be out and walking through the forest.  I was really enjoying my time in Kirindy and sighting the lemurs was icing on the cake!




There was one particular sifaka that was situated low enough that we had a really great view of it.


It was feeding time for this cute lemur.  We stood and watched as it reached out towards a branch to grab leaves.






The cute fella (or gal) was close enough to us that I was even able to  capture video of it munching away.  What a moment it was for me to experience this!





Even from a distance, you can just see how fluffy their coat is. Having had a couple of the lemurs perch on me, I can attest that the fur is really soft as well.


We were so lucky.  At the one spot we were standing in, we could just walk around a few feet and catch sight of more sifakas.  This nimble creature, with obviously strong fingers, dangled partly upside down and sideways to feed.



Don't you wish you had it's grip strength?


At one point, the sifaka reverted itself upright.  It was then that I noticed just how well balanced it was on the thin tree limb.  It takes a good grip to be able to hang like that.


Yet another sifaka was the most curious of the bunch.  It was as curious about us as we were about it.  I managed to get a good view of its face and those bug eyes.



The Kirindy reserve is home to eight species of lemurs - some are diurnal and others nocturnal.  On our walk, we saw three of the species.  The cutest one came towards the end of our walk when our guide spotted a red-tailed sportive lemur (Lepilemur ruficaudatus), clinging on to the trunk of a tree.  The lemur was perched at a height that was barely above my head.  We had to quietly approach it so as not to scare it away.




We then spotted another, acrobatic red fronted lemur feeding.  It's obvious the animals here are used to human visitors because none were scared by our presence. 


We were lucky to spot a couple more of Madagascar's unique creatures starting with a Malagasy Scops Owl (Otus rutilus), sitting in the hollow of a fallen tree trunk.  It's a nocturnal creature so it will stay hidden until dark when it will fly out to feed.


And a very tiny chameleon with huge bug like eyes. These creatures are often so small, I don't know how our guide or Jean Claude ever spotted them!


Our guide also showed us a pod that looked like a Chinese long bean.  He said it was wild vanilla.



On our way out of the forest, we stopped to admire a pair of very large baobab trees.



Eventually, we ended up at the same spot that we had started from - we had obviously walked in a loop.  We had a full day's journey ahead of us so we had to make our way back to the lodge and get on the road.


At the lodge, we thanked our guide and gave him his tip.  We then had to turn our attention to our road trip.  Today,. we traded Binu and our red 4x4 for another driver, Faly, and a blue colored 4x4.  We would meet back up with Binu in a couple of days.


With our luggage stowed away in our *new* 4x4, George and I and Jean Claude and Faly hit the road!  By the end of the day, we'll be at our next destination - the small village of Bekopaka.


Our Madagascar adventure continues!