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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Southern Morocco, 12-21st March 2007,
The trip was made by four birders: Chris Johnson, Alan Marshall, Jim Hickson and me. Chris did most of the planning which began about eight months in advance, brought on by the early availability of cheap flights.
FLIGHTS: with Thompsonfly from Manchester to Marrakech cost £66 each return. We later incurred a £20 passenger tax each, which came into force about a month before departure. The early morning flight outward was of about 4 hours duration and after clearing the airport, we were birding before midday.
CARHIRE: This was booked in advance through Holiday Auto’s and was actually with Budget Hire. The cost was £530 for nine days. The car was a Citroen C5 Hatchback, which while ample for the four passengers, was tight for their luggage with four suitcases, four rucksacks, and four scopes and tripods. The hire firm would only allow one extra driver and there was no way that they would add another. Therefore all the driving was done by Chris and me.
One must take care when driving through towns in Morocco because apart from the lack of awareness and road sense of other drivers, there’s a lot of jaywalking and people don’t look where they are going. Also, at noon or thereabouts, the schools turn out and the roads are full of bikes and not forgetting the ever present donkeys and their riders.
Be careful to observe the speed limits when going through towns. Virtually every town we approached had a couple of policemen on traffic duty, and some were using Radar Guns. I was pulled up by these because I was stupid enough to be driving at 73km in a 60km zone. Fortunately, the policeman and I couldn’t understand each other and after a few blank looks and shrugs he let us go on.
Petrol costs were at 10.5 Dirhams per litre.
Currency: Moroccan Dirhams with a rate of exchange at 16 Dirhams = £1.00. You cannot take Dirhams into or out of Morocco. We used our credit cards at the ATM machines at the airport.
Mon 12th Dep: Manchester 06.55hrs Arr: Marrakech 10.50hrs
Marrakech - Oukaimeden
Night at Club Alpin Francais, Oukaimeden
Tue 13th Oukaimeden - Marrakech - Tizi-n-Tichka - Boumalne
Night at Kasbah Tizzarouine, Boumalne de Dades
Wed 14th Tagdilt track and surrounding areas
Night at Kasbah Tizzarouine, Boumalne de Dades
Thu 15th East via Tinehir -Jorf - Erfoud - Rissani
Night at Kasbah Derkaoua
Fri 16th Café Yasmina – Merzouga - Rissani area
Night at Kasbah Derkaoua
Sat 17th West via Erfoud - Barrage el Mansour - Tazenacht - Taliouine
Night at Auberge Souktana, Taliouine
Sun 18th Taroudant - Oued Sousse
Night at Hotel La Pergola
Mon 19th Oued Massa - Oued Sousse
Night at Hotel La Pergola, Agadir
Tue 20th Agadir - Tamri - Marrakech
Night at Hotel Ibis Moussafir
Wed 21st Dep: Marrakech 11.25hrs Arr: Manchester 15.45hrs
ACCOMMODATION: Every night was booked in advance, apart from one, and we got that from the Bergier book enroute.
Oukaimeden: Club Alpin Francais - This was a ski hostel rather than a hotel, with dormitory type rooms. This was about £14 each, including evening meal and breakfast which were good.
Boumalne: Kasbah Tizzarouine (2 nights) - Handy for the Tagdilt Track. Rooms were about £20 per person per night and the food was a little too local for our tastes, so we ate in a restaurant at the end of the road on the second night. We didn’t have any breakfasts, as we were out on the Tagdilt Track early doors. The accommodation was ok. This hotel is set on top of an escarpment with good views over the river valley and Boumalne below.
Erfoud: Auberge Kasbah Derkaoua Oasis (2 nights) About £35 per person half board per night. This was a good location in the middle of the desert. Egyptian Nightjar guaranteed over the swimming pool. Or was it?
Taliouine: Auberge Restaurant Souktana. Cost about £12 per person for bed, breakfast and evening meal was good value. This is the one that wasn’t pre-booked and we got it out of the Bergier book.
Agadir: Hotel La Pergola. 2 nights here. Total cost £35 each for 2 night’s bed, breakfast and evening meals. Good value. Only 2km to the Oued Sousse.
Marrakech: Hotel Ibis Moussafir: A nice and handy hotel, only 20mins from the airport. Again good value with Double rooms at £30 per night.
RESEARCH: Many trip reports from the internet were used, with special thanks to Peter Jones of www.spanishnature.com and all other unacknowledged contributors.
We had “A Birdwatcher’s Guide to Morocco” 2003 edition. This book was very good in so much as it covered everything from accommodation, roads, and sites. It also had checklists for birds and mammals etc.
We also had the Dave Gosney, “Finding Birds in Southern Morocco”. This was printed in 1996. While the local site drawings were very useful, the information regarding birds is completely out of date. i.e. “I photographed a pair of Tawny Eagles in a roadside tree here in October 1988”.
We also had “The Lonely Planet Guide to Morocco”. This had big city town centre maps in it. The road map used was the Michelin 742 map of Morocco.
Departing Marrakech airport was relatively easy and we soon picked up the road to Oukaimeden. This is a ski resort in the High Atlas Mountains and is about 75k south of Marrakech. Along the way we started picking up birds, Southern Grey Shrike, Spotless Starling and a flock of Pallid and Little Swifts overhead.
We stopped just south of Ouriki village where a few trees looked promising and had a mad 15 minutes picking up House Bunting, Common Bulbul, Hawfinch, Linnets, Cirl Buntings, Serin, Black Redstart, White Stork, Cattle Egret and a Black Kite.
On the climb up the mountains we had Rock Dove, Rock Sparrow, Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, Winter Wren, White Wagtail, and Grey Wagtail. We stopped by a bridge and had stunning views of a male and female Moussier’s Redstart. These were the first of many.
The one bird we all wanted was Levaillant’s Green Woodpecker. When we reached areas where the pine trees were growing, we birded amongst these. We played a taped call but this was uneventful. All we had were Chaffinch, Mistle and Song Thrush, Coal Tit, Great Tit and a couple of Firecrest. We would try tomorrow on the way back.
Oukaimeden was in bright sunshine when we arrived, but it was still very cold with snow on the surrounding mountains. After checking in the Club Alpine, we were out birding again. First birds we saw were a few Shore Larks. It was possible to walk within 5m of them.
The target bird here was Crimson-winged Finch and trip reports suggested that these were not always guaranteed if the conditions weren’t right. We drove about 100m past the ski lift to where the snow came down to the edge of the track. Within a few minutes of arriving we had 5 birds close-up feeding along the snowline at the edge of the track.
Just beyond the ski lift on the left is a small building with a few trees around it, into which a flock of small birds flew. On inspection, these consisted of two sub-species of Chaffinch, fringilla africana and fringilla coelebs, of which there were12+ of the latter, two male Brambling and a Goldfinch.
Oukaimeden, looking towards the ski lift.
We then drove up to the radar station to look for Alpine Accentor along the way picking up Moussier’s Redstart and Red-billed Chough. On top we had 3 Raven’s flying around and good views of 3 Barbary Partridges, but no Accentors.
We were out at an icy daybreak the next morning and walked back along the road to a small lake. Rock Sparrows were calling from the tops of all the buildings and we had about 30 of them, along with several Black Redstarts. On the lake was a pair of Ruddy Shelduck, which was a nice surprise. We also had African Blue Tit. Large flocks of Alpine Choughs were landing amongst the buildings and strutting around. There must have been around 200 of them with many Red-billed Choughs amongst them.
We walked back to the hotel, picked the car up and again drove down to the ski lift. A Crimson-winged Finch was perched on the car park wall. We retraced our steps of the night before and we picked up a flock of Crimson-winged Finch. Altogether we had at least 20. The Chaffinches and one of the Brambling were still here and we also had several Shore Lark feeding a few metres in front of us.
We tried again at the radar station for Alpine Accentor but were unsuccessful but did have a Black Wheatear, Barbary Partridge, Moussier’s Redstart and Black Redstart.
We started back down the mountain stopping at the area of pine trees to try again for the Levaillant’s Green Woodpecker, but it was not to be and we didn’t get it. What we did get was a Golden Eagle being mobbed by a Peregrine and a little late further on, a Goshawk.
To reach our next planned birding destination at the Tagdilt Track we had about 450km to drive over the Tizi-n-Tichka pass to reach Boumalne. Unable to find a petrol station open, we had to drive back to the suburbs of Marrakech to fill up with fuel.
We then drove on over the pass and made it to the Kasbah Tizzarouine, Boumalne at about 17.00hrs. Along the way, we birded suitable spots and stopped if we saw anything. Birds seen were a pair of Bonelli’s Eagles, White-crowned Wheatears, Tawny Pipit, Marsh Harrier, Corn Bunting, Southern Grey Shrike, Crested Lark, Kestrels, Desert Wheatears, Trumpeter Finch and six Cream-coloured Coursers.
That night we dined on Couscous and a Tagine, which weren’t exactly to our tastes.
The next morning we were on our way to the Tagdilt Track at daybreak. Instead of taking the first right track after the army camp, which leads through the rubbish dump, we drove a further 6km down the road and turned right onto an asphalt road, drove a further 2km, then took a track to the right. Sandgrouse had been seen off this track.
The first bird we saw was a Temminck’s Lark and then Chris had a pair of Hoopoe Larks fly over. Greater Short-toed Larks were flying past in small flocks. We also had a few Lesser Short-toed Larks, 5 Skylark, Trumpeter Finches, Red-rumped, Desert and Northern Wheatears. While looking for a Temminck’s Lark that had landed, we came across a pair of Thick-billed Larks which allowed us very good views for a minute or so from about 15m
We spread out and walked the desert and two flocks of Sandgrouse were seen, one distant and possibly Crowned and the other of 14 Black-bellied, but not by me. Further on we came across a dried up wadi with a few Tamarisk bushes and decided to walk it to have a look. A Long-legged Buzzard flew overhead and a pair of Stone Curlews got up. The first bush I looked at had a Desert Warbler flitting around the roots. This was straight out of the field guide. In the next bush we also had a small warbler, which we initially thought may have been Tristram’s but eventually decided upon Subalpine. These were to cause some confusion initially for the next few days. Subalpine Warbler, in all sorts of plumage variation, was the most common warbler of the trip. As all small Sylvia warblers flit about in the undergrowth and thickest parts of the scrub, it took another couple of days before one could say “that’s a Tristram’s”. Altogether, we reckoned we only saw about five Tristram’s during the trip, but at least a hundred plus Subalpine. We also had Hoopoe here.
Back in the car and again following the track we started to see Cream-coloured Coursers. This was in the area designated by Gosney on page 23 of his book. Altogether, we had over 40 spaced around the desert like Northern Lapwings and nearby on a small patch of sandy scrub we had a pair of Bar-tailed Larks.
Returning back to the main road via the rubbish tip, we decided to try the “Gorge du Dades” but after about 5km we decided to turn back as all we had seen were a few Crag Martins and Barn Swallows. We headed back east out of town to the Tagdilt Track and after passing the Shell filling station, instead of turning right we motored on and after marker 48 we turned left on the first track we came to by a blue “Aire de Repos” sign. We followed the track alongside a wadi for about 1.5km to where the power lines crossed it. On the top of each pylon is a yellow plate with a number on it. We birded in the vicinity of pylon 93 and the first bird picked up was a Mourning Wheatear, one of a pair. We also had 3 Desert Lark, Desert Wheatear, Trumpeter Finch and a pair of Bar-tailed Desert Lark. Returning back to the main road we had another male Mourning Wheatear.
Returning to the hotel, we parked the car up and walked the escarpment top, above which a large flock of hirundines were wheeling. These were mostly Crag Martins and Barn Swallows but there was one Red-rumped Swallow and one House Martin seen amongst them.
That evening we dined at Hotel Restaurant Chems at the end of the road, after we had been there earlier in the day and negotiated for chips to be on the menu.
The next morning, we went to the Tagdilt Track again, covering the same area as yesterday morning. This wasn’t as successful as the previous day. Flocks of Short-toed Larks were bounding across the desert. We also had Temminck’s Larks, Thekla Lark, Red-rumped and Desert Wheatear, Cream-coloured Coursers and a flight of 7 Black-bellied Sandgrouse identified. In the distance to the south and too far away for identification, large numbers of Sandgrouse could be seen flying west.
Our next destination was the Auberge Kasbah Derkaoua, between Erfoud and Merzouga. This was a long drive and we stopped many times at suitable places. Twenty kilometres beyond Tinerhir, we stopped at a scrubby wadi at the Café Tizmountine. There were quite a few palm trees and a cultivated area here. Birds seen were Trumpeter Finches, Tawny Pipit, Common Bulbuls, Long-legged Buzzard, Spectacled Warbler, Woodchat Shrike, Kestrel, Blue Rock Thrush, a possible Tristram’s Warbler that was probably a Subalpine Warbler and a party of 21 migrating White Wagtails resting up.
At the Erfoud 35km marker we had a beautifully marked male Marsh Harrier. This is marked in the Gosney book on page 35 as a likely place for Hoopoe Lark. We didn’t get any, but in a bush at the side of the road we had Willow Warbler, Spectacled Warbler, Tristram’s Warbler and Laughing Dove. There is a camel watering place here and nearby were 15+ Trumpeter Finches, Thekla Lark, 5 White-crowned Black, 2 Northern and a pair of Desert Wheatear. We also had 50+ Greater Short-toed Larks and a few Common Bulbuls.
After passing through Erfoud and Rissani, we turned left on a desert track signposted “Auberge Kasbah Derkaoua”. We had to drive about another 8km before we arrived and checked in. This place was an oasis, good for migrants and supposedly a good site for finding Fulvous Babbler and Egyptian Nightjar which would perform over the swimming pool every night.
We birded round the grounds picking up Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and White-crowned Black Wheatear. This was the most common Wheatear of the trip and many of these were first year birds that still had the all black crown. We also had Blackbirds, Subalpine and Spectacled Warblers, Black Redstart and Alan found a Bluethroat and then a Trumpeter Finch nest with five eggs in a hole in a wall within the Kasbah. There were also some very dark coloured collared doves flying around along with the resident sparrows.
Apparently the Egyptian Nightjar usually shows around 19.30hrs, but nobody told it we had arrived, and we sat there waiting patiently but it didn’t show.
The next morning we were out at daybreak birding around the grounds and outside the walls. One of the first birds we saw was a small warbler flitting around a small pine tree. This was definitely a Tristram’s Warbler, and for the first time on the trip you could actually say,” That is a Tristram’s Warbler”. We also had two Western Bonelli’s Warblers, two Woodchat Shrike, two Hoopoe, a male Common Redstart, a few passing Barn Swallows and a couple of Blackbirds.
After breakfast we set off to drive across the desert track to the Café Yasmina. The main purpose of this trip was to see Desert Sparrow, an enigmatic bird which has suffered a big decline in recent years and are not now always seen easily. We turned immediately left outside the Kasbah Derkaoua and followed a track for several kilometres. In the middle of nowhere, we passed a small child aged about seven years old stood by the track. She came up to the car and we gave her a banana. The next moment, another 3 small kids appeared from nowhere. They too had a banana each. In the far distance, we could just make out a Berber type tent. This apparently was their home.
We left the kids and just after this we stopped to look at a very elegant, large Wheatear. Chris and Alan were sure this was an Isabelline Wheatear and followed it far into the desert for a while to confirm. Round about the same time two Crowned Sandgrouse flew over, calling loudly. A few kilometres further along the track we had two Hoopoe Larks fly up then land in front of the car. Good views were had by all. After travelling a few more kilometres, although we were still following the line of white stones, these abruptly ended and we ran out of track. We could the sand dunes at Erg Chebbi and the top of a radio tower on the horizon and so we retraced our steps and eventually could see the buildings at the bottom of the dunes, but no way to drive to them. Lo and behold, as usual, a couple of locals turned up from nowhere on a moped and directed us to the main track. We actually came away without having to pay.
We finally arrived at the dunes in front of the Café Etoile des Dunes and were immediately surrounded by group of men who all wanted to guide us wherever we wanted. After politely declining their offers, we set off for the Café Yasmina which we could now see and came level with a stable like building outside the Auberge Caravanne. Chris suddenly shouted “Desert Sparrow”. There it was, a full male, perched on a log across the doorway.
Everyone got good views and then we watched it go into a hole in the wall on the front of the building. A few seconds later a female appeared with a beakful of food. That too went into the hole in the wall. We had discovered a pair feeding young.
Nest site of Desert Sparrow
Elated, we drove across to the Café Yasmina and were pleased to note that the seasonal lakes around it held water. This was like a desert fort now surrounded by water so we drove into the compound, sat in the garden overlooking the lake and ordered drinks whilst setting up the scopes.
Around the edges of the lake were Little Ringed and Kentish Plovers, Little Stint, Black-winged Stilts and Green Sandpipers. There were also Tamarisk bushes in parts down to the waters edge. We had Western Bonelli’s and Sedge Warblers, Blue-headed Yellow Wagtail, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and another Bluethroat whilst on the lake were 7 Grey Heron, Little Grebe, Moorhen, and a pair of Ruddy Shelduck with fourteen ducklings.
Feeling refreshed we set off for Merzouga. As we were passing the Desert Sparrow site, Chris said “We’ll have one last look”. He then put the car off the track only to park up on top of a patch of sand. Traction was lost, and the car sank up to the floor. After about 10 minutes of struggling and making no headway, Alan disappeared into the nearby Auberge Caravanne and re-appeared with 5 men. It looked like a father and four sons and after about 10 minutes of struggling we got the car free.
That was the easy bit, just how much was this going to cost us. The bidding started by them was for 400 Dirhams each. (Remember 16 Dirhams=£1). So they wanted £25 each, £125 for 10 minutes work. We started our bidding at 100 Dirhams = £6 between them. After five minutes bargaining they settled for 150 Dirhams, about £10 between themselves. Everyone was happy.
We continued on towards Merzouga and eventually came onto a metalled road that ran into town. We turned right at the post office and picked up a track for the Dayet Sjri, which is the temporary lake that appears at this time of year. The area we were driving on had been flooded in the past but was now all cracked up and we ran out of track. After the experience earlier in the day, we retraced our steps. We then tried another track, and we ran out of track again. As we were not in a 4x4 we thought discretion is the better part than valour and gave the lake, which in fact appeared as nothing more than a distant mirage with no sign of birds, a miss.
We then next drove to Rissani, heading north and turning left at a green Ziz petrol station. About a kilometre down the road is a wadi which we’d been informed was a site for Fulvous Babbler. We walked the wadi both ways and I saw one fly across and land in nearby bushes. We carried on the road to Alnif and parked up by the Alnif 84km post to go to the well recorded Eagle Owl site. We then walked about 1.5km along the cliffs till we found the nest site. The pointers were still there but unfortunately the owl wasn’t showing so after a decent time we made our way back scanning the cliffs as we went, but to no avail.
As we drove back to the Auberge Kasbah Derkaoua it was getting near dusk as we slowly crossed the desert. Astonishingly, a pair of Spotted Sandgrouse walked unhurriedly across in front of the car and stopped to give the best views ever of any Sandgrouse down to about 5 metres.
We stayed around the wadi outside the hotel until it was dark and played the Egyptian Nightjar tape, but it didn’t turn up. We also sat around the swimming pool for quite some time, but he never turned up there either, so another one bit the dust.
Birding round the hotel the next morning produced two Western Bonelli’s, Tristram’s Warbler and Common Redstart. Chris and Alan, who were out on the other side of the hotel, had over 300 Spotted Sandgrouse and 8 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse fly over.
Dawn at Auberge Kasbah Derkaoua.
After leaving the hotel after breakfast and heading back to Erfoud via the old road, we had a further flypast of some 40+ Spotted Sandgrouse which again landed nearby.
We were now heading west towards the coast at Agadir, for the two estuaries of Oued Sousse and Oued Massa. This entailed a long drive and we hoped to make Taliouine for nightfall. Near Skoura, I got pulled by the police for doing 73kmph in a 60km zone. It was our lucky day though and he let us continue. Enroute to Ouarzazate we had Common Bulbul, Blackcap, Blackbird, Cattle Egret, Lanner Falcon, House Bunting, Woodchat Shrike, Hoopoe, and Marsh Harrier.
We pulled in at a couple of places alongside the Barrage El Mansour just before Ouarzazate but it was disappointing. We only had Great-crested Grebe, Grey Heron, Little Egret, White-crowned Black Wheatear and a Blue Rock Thrush.
After Ouarzazate we had a couple of Marsh Harriers and prior to Tazenacht we had great views of a Lanner, sitting atop a rock.
Arriving at the Auberge Souktana in good time, we were able to walk the Oued Zagmouzen. (see the Bergier book, page 93). There was actually some running water in the river here and the women were washing clothes in it.
Birds seen were Hoopoe, Common Bulbul, Woodchat Shrike and Great Tit. Down by the water were 4 Little Ringed Plover, 3 White Wagtail, 2 Moroccan Wagtail (race Subpersonata), 5 Blue-headed Yellow Wagtail, Green Sandpiper and a Long-legged Buzzard.
The next morning we were out at daybreak. First thing a Marsh Harrier was flying over and plenty of hirundines were passing through. In a few minutes we counted 100 Barn Swallows, 30 House Martins and 3 Sand Martins. Also seen were 3 Western Bonelli’s Warbler, 1 Blackcap, 2 Cetti’s Warbler, Serin, Crested Lark, Woodchat, Greenfinch and a Nightingale was singing. By the water were 2 Green Sandpipers, 4 Little Ringed Plover, Grey Heron, 3 White Wagtail, 2 Moroccan Wagtail race Subpersonata, 3 Blue-headed Yellow Wagtails, 4 Meadow Pipits and a Common Redstart.
After breakfast we continued driving to Agadir. Along the road before Taroudant we had House Bunting, Southern Grey Shrike, 10 Black Kite and a Woodchat Shrike. At the 67km post a Long-legged Buzzard got up from a tree and a Barbary Falcon appeared from nowhere in front of us to mob him, giving good views to all. Another bird of note was an Alpine Swift flying by.
About 3km beyond Taroudant we came to a wadi beside a new road junction. As we got out the car 40+ European Bee-eaters flew over calling. On the right-hand side there was a concrete culvert and a set of sluices. We walked along the top of the culvert checking the bushes and Chris at last found a Fulvous Babbler. This obliged by flying out into the path. This was the first place we had good views of the Moroccan race of Magpie Mauritanica, with the blue mark behind the eye.
Walking back along the bottom of the culvert we had 8 species of warbler in about 100m. Melodious, Western Olivaceous, Subalpine, Willow, Blackcap, Sardinian, Chiffchaff and Common Whitethroat. As well as Cirl Bunting, Hoopoe, Moussier’s, and Common Redstart, Turtle Dove, Greenfinch, Black Kite, Spectacled Warbler and a Booted Eagle flying over.
We arrived in Agadir just as the traffic was building up and finally found the La Pergola hotel. Once we had checked in, we were soon on the road again heading for the Oued Sousse which was a couple of kilometres up the road and we drove up to the barrier which was as far as you can go by car. A guard was on the other side of the barrier and the Royal Palace was on the right. We headed left, out through the marsh and towards the river where we then found an elevated concrete platform to stand on and put our scopes up.
A couple of Fan-tailed Warblers were zitting around the marsh and a well hidden Tchgara called twice. A flock of gulls on a sandbar produced Slender-billed Gulls, Audouin’s Gulls, Mediterranean Gulls, Black-headed Gulls, Yellow-legged Gulls and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. There were also Sandwich Terns and a pair of Gull-billed Terns. Two Ospreys were seen and a female Red-breasted Merganser was on the water. A couple of Cormorants of the race lucidus /maroccanus were flying around. Waders consisted of Kentish Plovers, Ringed Plovers, Grey Plovers, Greenshank, Common Redshank, Sanderlings, Green Sandpiper, Oystercatchers, Avocets, Common Sandpiper, Ruff and Black-winged Stilts. 97 Greater Flamingos were feeding in two groups. Two male and one female Marsh Harriers were in the air. As it got towards dusk a pair of Stone Curlews called as they flew across the marsh.
As we were walking back towards the barrier we saw two birders go through it and walk towards the Palace fence. These were going for the Red-necked Nightjar. We tried to do the same and the guard stopped us. He had obviously missed the first two. Another two birders had walked round the marsh and come along the palace fence and met up with the other two. Eventually, another guard came and brought them all back to the barrier. As they walked back they played their tape and the Red-necked Nightjar turned up and sat in a dead tree. They all had good views. Chris could just make it out in the tree but the rest of us got nothing. We spoke with the guard, who told us to come back the following evening as long as we kept away from the Palace fence. This we did and without any trouble we played our tape and the Nightjar made a pass in front of us.
The next morning we were heading south to the Oued Massa. 51km from Agadir we turned right at a small junction signed “Sidi Rabat”. On the way to Massa village we had a pair of Montague Harriers heading north. We also had three male Marsh Harriers, one Osprey, ten Cream-coloured Coursers, a Northern Wheatear and a few Subalpine Warblers.
When we got to the river, from an elevated position we had good views of the surrounding scrub. There was lots of bird activity and we picked up Spectacled Warbler, Western Bonelli’s Warbler, Turtle Dove, three Blue Rock Thrush, four Moussier’s Redstart, five Hoopoe, seven Common Bulbul, ten Magpie Mauritanica, six Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Squacco Heron and a Purple Heron and three European Bee-eaters flew by.
We drove on a little and the next birds we had were Willow Warbler, Fan-tailed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Blackcap, Woodchat Shrikes and Goldfinch of the race Carduelis Parva. Their secondaries were completely black, with no white tips to them. We first noticed these in a wadi on the Tagdilt Track.
We also had Laughing Dove, Sardinian Warbler and a pair of Common Stonechats, of which the male had a white rump, resembling Siberian.
We reached the car park and were immediately approached by a ranger offering to guide us. We didn’t want any of that, and then he asked us if we wanted to see the Bald Ibis. All this was going to cost us and we declined, preferring to find our own birds.
We walked through the barrier and a couple of hundred metres down the track we put our scopes up to watch eight Ibises flying towards the river mouth, which then proceeded to rise and soar high over the estuary outlet. These were soon identified as Bald Ibis. So the ranger obviously knew about them. Shortly after, over a hundred Glossy Ibis came flying down river.
After walking towards the river mouth we then stopped at a little building which was out of the sun and gave good views over the river. We managed to see four Marbled Teal come out of the reeds on the far side before soon moving back in again. Other ducks seen were Pintail, Wigeon, Common Pochard, Shoveler, Gadwall, Common Teal, Mallard and Tufted Duck.
By the sandbar at the river end were Eurasian Spoonbill, three Greater Flamingo, and Glossy Ibis. On the fringes of the river were Black-winged Stilts, Common Sandpiper, three Black-tailed Godwits, four Dunlin, and two Little Ringed Plover. Among the small birds were Linnets and Serin. A few Yellow-legged, several Lesser Black-backed and a couple of Audouin’s Gulls settled on the river.
The one bird we did want was Black-crowned Tchagra, but they didn’t appear to be at home. On the walk back there were many Woodchats, Corn Bunting and a Barbary Partridge. We then went to the bridge over the river, just through Massa village. (see Gosney, page 11). Here we were hoping for the Tchagra. A group of British birders we met at Oued Sousse had one here the day before. We were also hoping for Plain Martin, but which no-one had seen recently.
We scanned all the Martins that were flying over the bridge, but they were all Sand Martins. We crossed over the bridge, turned right up a track and walked the cultivated areas. All we had were Blue-headed Yellow Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Corn Bunting, Spotless Starling and about thirty Cattle Egrets. After walking back to the bridge we had another session searching for Plain Martin but to no avail. Here again, we had another male Stonechat with a large white rump patch.
We got in the car, drove over the bridge, and as a last resort turned right up the track we had just walked and drove as far as we could. Nothing doing, so we turned the car round and started heading back. We heard this whistling. We were out of the car in a flash and nailed a Tchagra in a tree we had passed. Everyone had good views of it whistling away before it flew off. At least we didn’t come away empty handed.
That evening we drove back to the Oued Sousse for the Red-necked Nightjar as mentioned earlier.
On our last full day we had to finish at Marrakech, to be in position for our morning flight home the next day. It was our intention to travel north to Tamri to see the Bald Ibis colony, before starting the long drive to Marrakech. However, we had spoken to some Norwegian birders who had a Ring-billed Gull near a fish processing factory just north of Agadir harbour. We found this place eventually and there were thousands of gulls. We had about as much chance of winning the lottery as we had of finding a single Ring-billed Gull but gave it a good go without success. The majority were Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed with some Audouin’s, Mediterranean and Black-headed with them. Also present together were a handful of what looked like first winter Caspian Gulls.
Passing on the sea were about ten Northern Gannets. We started scoping the gulls and we found nine Lesser Black-backs with leg rings on. Chris sent this information off and within a few days of being home had received returns on them. This being that 3 were Larus f. intermedius from Norway, 4 were L.f.graellsii from Holland and there were one each of L.f.graellsii from Belgium and Walney Island, UK.
Continuing on our way to Tamri we had a few Southern Grey Shrike, algeriensis, a female Montague’s Harrier and over fifty Pallid Swifts.
At Tamri, we checked various sites for Bald Ibis without success. The inland cliff faces, the estuary mouth and the surrounding fields were all checked without any luck. It was fortunate we had the eight at Oued Massa.
Other birds seen here were three Spoonbill, two White Stork, two Long-legged Buzzards and a male Montague’s Harrier.
We then started the long drive to Marrakech, checking in to an Ibis Hotel of all things. The trip was over but Alan, from his balcony, watched over 600 Cattle Egrets going to roost.
Birds we missed were Alpine Accentor, Levaillant’s Green Woodpecker, Egyptian Nightjar, Brown-necked Raven, Eagle Owl and Plain Martin. All were given a fair go.
We did get all the Larks and Wheatears and most of all, the Desert Sparrow, which we considered justified the trip. 175 species were seen.
Little Grebe: Several at Barrage el Mansour and Oued Massa with 1 at Café Yasmina lake
Great Crested Grebe: 6+ at Barrage el Mansour
Northern Gannet: c10 seen passing off Agadir Fish Harbour
Cormorant: Seen at Oued Sousse and Oued Massa
Cattle Egret: Common, with 600+ flying to roost at Marrakech
Little Egret: Small numbers at wetland sites
Grey Heron: Several seen with 7 at Café Yasmina Lake and c20 at Oued Sousse
Purple Heron: 1 flew past at Oued Massa
White Stork: Several nesting pairs noted whilst travelling
Glossy Ibis: 120+ were present at Oued Massa
Bald Ibis: 8 flew along Oued Massa and then were watched soaring over the sandbar area
Eurasian Spoonbill: 4 at Oued Massa, 3 at Tamri and 1 at Oued Sousse
Greater Flamingo: 97 at Oued Sousse and 3 at Oued Massa
Shelduck: 9 at Oued Sousse
Ruddy Shelduck: A pair at Oukaimeden and a pair with 14 young at Café Yasmina Lake
Mallard: A few at Oued Massa
Gadwall: 2 at Oued Massa
Pintail: 5 at Oued Massa
Shoveler: 3 at Oued Sousse
Wigeon: 1 at Oued Massa
Marbled Duck: 4 at Oued Massa
Common Teal: 5 at Oued Massa
Pochard: 2 at Oued Massa
Tufted Duck: A few at Oued Massa
Red-breasted Merganser: A female at Oued Sousse
Osprey: At least 2 at Oued Sousse and 1 at Oued Massa
Golden Eagle: 1 near Oukaimeden
Booted Eagle: 1 at Taroudant
Bonellis Eagle: A pair seen well soaring overhead from the roadside near Amerzgane
Black Kite: Several seen whilst travelling with a max of c20 near Aoulouz
Marsh Harrier: 15+ seen throughout with 6+ at Oued Sousse
Montagu’s Harrier: 2 males and a female at Oued Massa and a male near Mzoudia
Long-legged Buzzard: Seen regularly
Sparrowhawk: Singles near Marrakech and at Oued Sousse
Goshawk: Singles at two locations on the Oukaimeden road near Ouriki
Kestrel: Common and seen regularly throughout
Barbary Falcon: A single along the road between Aoulouz and Taroudant by the 67K marker
Lanner Falcon: Two overhead near Jorf and a single scoped on a rockface near Tazenacht
Barbary Partridge: 3 at Oukaimeden and 3 at Oued Massa
Moorhen: 2 at Café Yasmina Lake and a few at Oued Sousse and Oued Massa
Coot: Several at Oued Massa and Oued Sousse
Oystercatcher: Several at Oued Sousse
Avocet: A few at Oued Sousse
Black-winged Stilt: Small numbers at Café Yasmina Lake, Oued Sousse and Oued Massa
Stone-curlew: 2 in the Tagdilt track area and up to 4 at Oued Sousse
Cream-coloured Courser: seen in good numbers with 6 near Skoura, 40+ in the Tagdilt track area, 10+ near Kasbah Derkaoua and 11 at Oued Massa
Little Ringed Plover: 8 at Café Yasmina Lake and 4 at Taliouine
Ringed Plover: Seen at Oued Sousse and Oued Massa
Kentish Plover: 6 at Yasmina Lake and 30+ at Oued Sousse
Grey Plover: 30+ at Oued Sousse
Dunlin: Single figure numbers at Oued Sousse and Oued Massa
Little Stint: 1 at Café Yasmina Lake
Green Sandpiper: 8 at CafeYasmina Lake, 2 at Oued Sousse and 2 at Taliouine
Common Sandpiper: 4 at Oued Sousse
Redshank: 20+ at Oued Sousse
Greenshank: 4 at Oued Sousse
Black-tailed Godwit: 10+ at Oued Sousse and 3 at Oued Massa
Bar-tailed Godwit: 6 at Oued Sousse
Curlew: 6 at Oued Sousse
Common Snipe: 2 at Oued Sousse
Ruff: 1 at Oued Sousse
Black-headed Gull: Several seen along coast
Common Gull: 1 on a sandbar at Oued Sousse
Mediterranean Gull: Single figure numbers seen at Oued Sousse, Oued Massa and Agadir
Audouin's Gull: Several at Oued Sousse, Oued Massa and 30+ at Tamri
Yellow-legged Gull: Common along coast with 500+ at Agadir Fish Harbour
Lesser Black-backed Gull: Common along coast and a few flying offshore near Tamri
Gull-billed Tern: 6+ at Oued Sousse
Black-bellied Sandgrouse: 14 seen at the Tagdilt track
Pin-tailed Sandgrouse: 8 flew low over the Kasbah Derkaoua
Spotted Sandgrouse: 2 landed in front of the car and 300+ over Kasbah Derkaoua area
Crowned Sandgrouse: 2 called as they flew low overhead east of Kasbah Derkaoua
Rock Dove: Seen regularly throughout
Woodpigeon: A few in wooded mountain areas
Collared Dove: Common around habitation, with several appearing to be shaded quite dark
Turtle Dove: 2 at Taroudant and 2 at Oued Sousse
Laughing Dove: 1 near Rissani and 2 at Oued Massa
Red-necked Nightjar: 1 heard and briefly seen at Oued Sousse on both 19-20th
Common Swift: Seen at Marrakech and in Agadir area
Pallid Swift: Seen around Marrakech and 50+ passed north at Tamri
Alpine Swift: A few odd birds seen
Little Swift: Several seen at Marrakech
Hoopoe: Several seen regularly throughout
European Bee-eater: 30+ at Taroudant and a few seen elsewhere
Great Spotted Woodpecker: 2 recorded at Toufliat
Skylark: 5 were present in the Tagdilt track area
Crested Lark: Seen regularly as and where expected
Thekla Lark: Seen regularly as and where expected
Short-toed Lark: Several hundred seen in flocks in throughout a wide area between Tagdilt track and Merzouga
Lesser Short-toed Lark: Only a few noted at Tagdilt track area
Desert Lark: Regular at all desert locations
Bar-tailed Lark: 2 at Tagdilt track area and 10+ around Auberge La Caravanne
Thick-billed Lark: A pair seen well near Tagdilt track and two flushed near Tinejdad
Horned Lark: 10+ seen well around Oukaimeden
Temminck’s Lark: Regularly recorded at most desert locations
Hoopoe Lark: 2 at Tagdilt track area and 4 east of Kasbah Derkaoua
Sand Martin: 50+ at Oued Massa and 2 over desert near Kasbah Derkaoua
Crag Martin: Several seen at Boumalne and a few near Ouriki
Barn Swallow: Seen in most areas, usually as passing migrants.
Red-rumped Swallow: Singles at Boumalne and Oued Sousse
House Martin: 2 flew over desert near Kasbah Derkaoua and 1 along wadi at Boumalne
Tawny Pipit: Singles near Ouarzarzate and 2 at a palm grove c20k from Tinerhir
Meadow Pipit: 50+ at Oued Sousse, 4 at Taliouine and 2 at Oued Massa
White Wagtail: A flock of 21 near 20k and odd ones elsewhere
Moroccan Wagtail: 3 at Taliouine and 4 at Oued Sousse
Blue-headed Wagtail: 10+ at Taliouine and several at Café Yasmina and the coastal oueds.
Grey Wagtail: 2 along the road to Oukaimeden
Wren: 1 singing near Ouriki
Common Bulbul: Seen regularly throughout
Robin: 1 along the riverbank at Taliouine
Nightingale: 1 alongside the riverbank at Taliouine
Bluethroat: Singles at Kasbah Derkaoua and Café Yasmina
Common Redstart: A few seen at Kasbah Derkaoua, Taroudant and Oued Massa
Black Redstart: Common, especially in mountain areas
Moussier’s Redstart: Seen well at several locations throughout
Northern Wheatear: Seen regularly but despite close scrutiny, no Seebohms were found
Isabelline Wheatear: 1 in the desert east of Kasbah Derkaoua
Desert Wheatear: Seen regularly at all suitable locations
Mourning Wheatear: 3 males and 1 female along the wadi opposite Tagdilt track area
White-crowned Wheatear: Commonly seen at most suitable places with several first year birds, although paired up, still retaining dark crowns.
Black Wheatear: Recorded at Oukaimeden and elsewhere
Red-rumped Wheatear: Several at Tagdilt track area and also other desert locations.
Stonechat: 2 pairs at Oued Massa, of in which both males showed large white rump patches.
Blue Rock Thrush: A few noted including 3 at Oued Massa
Song Thrush: 1 seen along the road to Oukaimeden
Mistle Thrush: Several seen in mountain areas
Blackbird: Seen throughout in all types of location.
Blackcap: Singles near Ouriki and at Taroudant and Oued Massa
Common Whitethroat: 1 at Taroudant
Sardinian Warbler: Seen regularly in suitable areas
Spectacled Warbler: Seen regularly in suitable areas
Subalpine Warbler: Appeared to be the most numerous warbler, being recorded in good numbers throughout.
African Desert Warbler: 1 seen along a wadi in the Tagdilt track area
Tristram’s Warbler: A few around Kasbah Derkaoua and nearby area
Sedge Warbler: At least 1 at Oued Massa
Zitting Cisticola: Several at Oued Sousse and Oued Massa
Cetti’s Warbler: 1 along the river at Taliouine and at Oued Massa
Melodious Warbler: 2 at Taroudant
Western Olivaceous Warbler: 1 at Taroudant
Willow Warbler: Several seen, mainly around Kasbah Derkaoua
Western Bonelli’s Warbler: c10 seen around Kasbah Derkaoua, Café Yasmina and Oued Massa
Chiffchaff: Several seen, mainly around Kasbah Derkaoua
Firecrest: 2 in pines near Oukaimeden
Great Tit: Common around woodland areas
Coal Tit: Several in upland woodlands
African Blue Tit: A few noted at varying locations
Woodchat Shrike: Seen regularly throughout in good numbers
Southern Grey Shrike: Several of both algeriensis and elegans types seen
Black-crowned Tchagra: 1 heard singing at Oued Sousse and 1 seen well at Oued Massa
Fulvous Babbler: Only singles were seen at Rissani and Taroudant despite much searching
Magpie: The Moroccan race was seen to be quite common west of Taroudant
Red-billed Chough: 100+ at Oukaimeden
Alpine Chough: 150+ at Oukaimeden
Raven: 5 at Oukaimeden, 2 near Sidi Moktar
Spotless Starling: Common around Marrakech and along the coast
House Sparrow: Seen regularly throughout
Spanish Sparrow: Recorded at Taliouine and Oued Massa
Rock Sparrow: 50+ at Oukaimeden
Desert Sparrow: A pair at a nest in stable block by Auberge Caravanne
Chaffinch: Birds of the African race seen regularly, with 12+ Eurasian birds also seen at Oukaimeden
Brambling: 2 males in winter plumage were in with the Eurasian Chaffinch flock at Oukaimeden
Linnet: 20+ at Oued Massa
Goldfinch: Seen at several locations including 7 in a desert wadi near Boumalne
Greenfinch: A few seen at Ouriki and Oued Massa
Serin: Regularly seen at most locations throughout
Hawfinch: 1 at Ouriki
Trumpeter Finch: Seen regularly in desert areas and nesting in a wall at Kasbah Derkaoua
Crimson-winged Finch: 20+ were seen very closely around the ski-lift at Oukaimeden
Cirl Bunting: Seen at Ouriki, Taroudant and Oued Massa
Corn Bunting: Seen at varying and well spread locations
House Bunting: Common around habitation