This year the afternoon departure from Tana on Air Mauritius was delayed for an hour and we got to our hotel at Flic en Flac around 1000 pm, where they had kindly kept a dinner for us, which almost no-one wanted, being happy with fruit and yogurt. The contrast with Madagascar was very striking, with good roads, no heavy lorries and no zebus, plus very different living conditions.
Our day around Mauritius was excellent and in good weather, with Mauritours doing a fantastic job and local guide Jean-Claude being great. We could not go to our usual site at Bel Ombre as construction of a golf course has blocked access, so Jean Claude took us instead to Chamerel where we saw the first Mauritius (Mascarene) Paradise-Flycatcher we had seen in some years. Bassin Blanc gave us Mauritius Bulbul and Mauritius Olive White-eye, two very good pick-ups, though trying for Mauritius Cuckooshrike proved hopeless at what was a good site until recently. This species is now down to around 30 birds and is likely to go extinct, I fear. The short boat trip to Ile aux Aigrettes sanctuary was again good, and we enjoyed great looks at Pink Pigeon, Mauritius Fody, close Mauritius Olive White-eyes and a wonderful 105-year-old 200 kg adult male Aldabra Giant Tortoise. A fine addition to the trip and well worth the effort.
Jean-Claude arranged for us to pay at a site at Ferney where they feed Mauritius Kestrel each day at 1130. Nice to see this species in action for once! We were still missing Echo Parakeet, but a trip to the picnic area at Petrin saw us make a short walk and have good fly-bys of 2 birds, with a single later. Departure next day was straightforward and we went to the French overseas department of Reunion for the final day.
Reunion this year was trouble-free and in good weather, with thankfully no gilets-jaune protest, unlike 2018 where we got disrupted. Our first afternoon saw us visit the amusingly named Cascade Niagara, with several sightings of the rare Reunion Harrier as the highlight, then very calm conditions for a sea-watch late afternoon near St Denis. We had nice looks at many Barau's Petrels and a few Tropical Shearwater, plus pale morph Wedge-tailed Shearwater and both Brown Noddy and Bridled Tern, with suspected Lesser Noddy too far away to be certain! Next day it was a lovely sunny early morning at La Roche Ecrite, ideal conditions for finding Reunion Olive and Reunion Grey White-eyes, Reunion Stonechat, Reunion (Mascarene) Paradise-Flycatcher, Reunion Bulbul and best of all, terrific looks at a male Reunion Cuckooshrike, found right by the track just before it clouded over and we beat a retreat.
Thanks to Mauritours and Vikram and Yadhav, who looked after us very well indeed, and to Fred on Reunion who took us around the sites we wanted and helped facilitate matters. An enjoyable coda to the main trip, seeing almost all the endemics, and in very different first world conditions. Thank you all for coming, it was fun.
Mon Nov 25 Mauritius: Chamerel/ Bassin Blanc/ Ile aux Aigrettes/ Ferney/ Petrin
Tues 26 Departure for St Denis on Reunion: Cascade Niagara and then Le Barachois area for the sea-watch
Wed 27 La Roche Ecrite Trail in the morning, then afternoon and evening departures home
KEYS FOR THIS LIST
One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant
Other critters were several sightings of Mauritius Flying-fox, a dolphin sp for Mike off Le Barachois, and Phil also saw what looked like a whale spout, presumably Humpback.
An agama sp. was also here; I think Agama agama and non-native of course.
Totals for the tour: 40 bird taxa and 1 mammal taxa