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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Morocco Trip: April 8th 2012 – April 15th 2012,
Participants: Ken Musgrove, Wayne Geater, Steve Abbott
DAY 1 – SUNDAY 8TH APRIL
We caught the 06.30 Ryanair flight to Marakkesh from Stanstead, landing at just after 9 o’clock local time. A flock of Pallid Swifts and a White Stork flew overhead as we exited the plane and a House Bunting sang from the airport building. After completing entry forms, passing through passport control and changing currency, we were at the Alamo car rental an hour or so later. As this was our first visit to Morocco we had decided to go upmarket and hire a 4x4. Again after a great deal of waiting, we completed the formalities (and observed two more House Buntings inside the terminal building) and were taken to our vehicle – a filthy Pajero and not the Toyota Prada we had pre-booked. This meant a trip across the city to the main office so that the car could be washed and cleaned, before we could be on our way. During the wait a mixed flock of Little and Pallid Swifts continually flew overhead and a pair of Common Bulbuls flitted about in the trees in the garden opposite. Three lifers before we got started was some consolation for our delay. At about 12.30 we were on our way up to Oukaimeden. The journey although longer than planned was spectacular but pretty uneventful bird wise. On arrival at the ski lift car parks we were greeted by a large flock of Alpine Chough which include a few Red-billed Chough and a couple of Northern Wheatears. We parked at the second car park but the initial search for our targets proved fruitless, with only Grey Wagtail and Black Redstart being seen. However on our return to the car a Crimson-winged Finch was heard and then seen singing from one of the ski lift pylons. We clambered up the mountain side and were greeted by a small flock of six birds feeding around the base of the pylon. Also feeding close by was a small flock of Atlas Horned-Larks. In addition both Kestrel and Lesser Kestrel were seen hunting around the opposite mountainside. With our two targets in the bag we set off back down the mountain to continue onwards across the High Atlas over the Tizi-n-Tichka pass to Ouarzazate. On the way down from the mountains Steve spotted a superb male Moussier’s Redstart that caused us to pull over. This bird was accompanied by two females flitting among the rocks. In the bushes nearby were an African Blue Tit and a couple of Chaffinches. Further down the road I spotted a Little Owl sitting on a wall and a Cattle Egret flying downstream and Black Wheatear were seen at several places. Extremely pleased with ourselves we continued our descent and were on our way to our first overnight stop, albeit a few of hours behind the planned schedule.
Steve had acquired details of a Levalliant’s Green Woodpecker nest site which was en-route and our first stop was at the toilet block near Toufliat. The information proved correct and we located the nest site but although heard, no sightings were made, and after an hour or so we gave up as the light was starting to fail. We did see Great-spotted Woodpecker, Hawfinch, Woodpigeon, Blue Tit and Coal Tit at this site. At this point, Steve had taken a turn for the worst and was suffering from a combination of altitude sickness and fatigue. The remainder of the journey which we completed in the dark and was probably the most frightening experience of my life. A special mention must go to Wayne for his driving skills and we arrived at the Hotel Le Tat in Ouarzazate at around 22.00 completely exhausted.
DAY 2 – MONDAY 9TH APRIL
A pre breakfast walk around the gardens of the hotel produced numerous Serin, Willow Warbler, Western Olivacious Warbler, Western Bonelli’s Warbler, Sub-alpine Warbler, Common Bulbul, House Bunting, five Bee-eaters, Nightingale, Blackcap, Greenfinch, Black Redstart, Woodchat Shrike, Laughing Dove and 3 flyover Cattle Egrets. Following breakfast we headed down to the western end of the Barrage el-Mansour-ed Dahbi which was only a kilometre or so from the hotel. Parking near the buildings on the rise we were greeted by a small flock of Collard Pratincoles flying around the car, House Bunting, House Sparrow, Northern and Black-eared Wheatear around the buildings, and Crested Lark and a large flock of Trumpeter Finch feeding on the ground. On the shallow lake at the back were a few Ruddy Shelduck, Grey Heron, Little Egret, White Storks, Black-winged Stilt, Little Grebe, Mallard, Coot and a single Garganey. Cetti’s, Reed and Sedge Warblers flitted in the reeds and a single Fan-tailed Warbler and White Wagtail and 5 Night Herons flew overhead. On the main lake were a party of over twenty Marbled Duck. Steve spotted a single Blue-cheeked Bee-eater sitting on a stick protruding from the lake and I picked out a couple of Cormorants sitting on a boat. Raptors seen in the area were Black Kite, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel and Long-legged Buzzard. A walk around the area of a smelly pool produced more European Bee-eaters, Little Ringed Plover, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Nightingale, Subalpine, Western Bonelli’s and Saharan Olivacious Warbler, Greenfinch, Hoopoe, Collard Dove, a single Tawny Pipit, Sand Martin, and Swallow.
Heartened by this experience we set off east for the Boumalne and after filling up with petrol on the outskirts of Ouzazarate, we spotted a Black Wheatear sat on a telegraph pole opposite the garage. Numerous European Bee-eaters were seen en-route, and amongst them were the odd Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters. En-route we spotted several Black and Black-eared Wheatears. Arriving at Boumalne we stopped at the pools off the new Tagdilt track around two o’clock. This area immediately produced a couple of lifers for everyone in the form of Temminck’s Lark and Red-rumped Wheatear and other species present were Short-toed Lark, Desert Wheatear, Little Ringed Plover, Long-legged Buzzard, Booted Eagle and an Iberian Yellow Wagtail. Travelling further east we experienced an amazing piece of luck. On the roadside between Boumalne and Imiter, a mini bus was stopped by the roadside travelling in the opposite direction with a large lens protruding from a window and pointing at the rock face just by the roadside. We stopped and investigated and a pair of Mourning Wheatears were flitting amongst the rocks – brilliant!. The owner of the camera was none other than Arnau van den Burgh, who was leading a group of Dutch birders. We proceeded on the long journey eastwards finally arriving at our second destination, the Auberge Yasmina in the desert area again in the dark.
DAY 3 – TUESDAY 10TH APRIL
Youssef from the Yasmina had arranged a half-day expedition into the desert area and we were picked up at six o’clock by our guide. Whilst waiting in the parking area a single Blue-cheeked Bee-eater and a European Bee-eater flew over, Common Bulbuls sang in the trees, Collard Doves sat on the rooftops, and I glimpsed a black and white flycatcher disappear over a wall. We set off and soon found pairs of Desert Sparrows nesting in various buildings. After about half an hour a large flock of sandgrouse were seen to land quite near. We altered direction to search for them and were soon observing a flock of 100 plus Spotted Sandgrouse at close quarters. Nearby a Hoopoe Lark was displaying and White-crowned and Desert Wheatear, Trumpeter Finch, and Woodchat and Desert Grey Shrike were all seen at close proximity. We set off further into the desert, picking up a few pairs of Cream-coloured Courser and on reaching a known area for Houbara Bustard we quartered the area searching diligently. After about 15 minutes Wayne spotted two birds. We stopped and although we could not relocate one of the birds, we enjoyed good views of a male Houbara Bustard for about 10 minutes before it disappeared over a ridge. Shortly after this exhilarating moment I spotted a large raptor in the distance which turned out to be a Short-toed Eagle. Soon afterwards we had one of the many comical moments of the trip, when Steve asked our guide if he knew of any sites for Desert Warbler. He immediately pointed from the driver’s window and said “there.” Sure enough a bird was sitting at the base of a small bush, only feet from us. We travelled for a little while longer picking up more displaying Hoopoe Larks and other previously seen species when we headed for a Berger tent in which we had a late breakfast. The wind was picking up and when we exited the tent and a pair of White-crowned Wheatears that had bred in the nearby vicinity were very evident. I spotted a pair of Brown-necked Ravens battling against the wind and our guide then drove us to a nest site nearby with a sitting bird. Continuing to journey in different directions we found a smaller party of 17 Spotted Sandgrouse and twice observed pairs of Bar-tailed Desert Larks to add to the species list. On the journey back to the Yasmina the only new bird observed was an Iberian Chiffchaff. Throughout the morning we had observed numerous Swallows struggling across the desert, and at the end of the excursion, near the Yasmina we had a fly over Black Kite. Although this 7 hour guided trip into the desert was expensive it proved very successful and we saw virtually our entire targets. If we had travelled out into the desert in our own 4x4 we probably would have seen very little and have got lost.
After a short break Wayne headed out into the tamarisks behind the Auberge Yasmina to photograph the breeding Desert Sparrows at their nest box whilst Steve and myself spent a leisurely couple of hours adding various small birds to the trip list. Birds seen included good numbers of Western Bonelli’s, Willow and Subalpine Warbler, Western Orphean Warbler, Saharan Olivacious Warbler, Reed Warbler, Whitethroat, Iberian Chiffchaff, Nightingale, Blackcap, Woodchat Shrike, House Sparrow, Collard Dove, and White-crowned Wheatear. Around six o’clock and armed with information from a fellow birder regarding a possible Egyptian Nightjar site we headed back up the approach track (horrendous drive) to the main road. Turning towards Rissani, our destination was a small pool about 500m north of the Auberge Tresor visible from the main road. After observing several Long-billed Crested Larks at close proximity the Egyptian Nightjar turned up right on cue, just before seven 0’clock, flying right in front of us, low over the pond before disappearing into the scrub. With another target bird in the bag a happy trio of birders returned to the Yasmina and enjoyed an excellent evening meal, and being entertained by the resident male White-crowned Wheatear which roosts in the restaurant.
DAY 4 – WEDNESDAY 11TH APRIL
A pre-breakfast walk around the tamarisks produced similar birds to yesterday with the addition of Laughing Dove, Turtle Dove, Melodious Warbler, Common Redstart and Spotted Flycatcher, and just before leaving a Bluethroat hopping between the small bushes below our room window. At 9.00 we were soon heading north towards Rissani and a pre-arranged meeting with Ali the Nomad in an effort to see Pharoah’s Eagle Owl. Around the palm groves south of Rissani we had several Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters as well as European Bee-eater and Laughing Dove. On the approach to Gosney’s suggested site west of Rissani, good numbers of Black Kite were soaring over the rubbish dump and a pair of Ruddy Shelduck flew off the small roadside pond. We met Ali as planned and he took us to a site a few kilometres further west telling us that the owls at Gosney’s site had been disturbed and had left the area. Driving east we turned off the road and headed into the desert and after several kilometres we pulled up in front of a rock escarpment. On the short walk to view we picked up a pair of Desert Larks adding a new species to the trip list and White-crowned Wheatear. Scanning the rock face, we were unable to see the female sitting in the hole in the rock that was the nest site, but after a little perseverance we managed to obtain excellent views of the female Pharoah’s Eagle Owl. A bonus sighting here came in the form of an immaculate Long-legged Buzzard which drifted by extremely close and in perfect light. We dropped Ali off back by “his rock” with even more Black Kites in evidence and with time pressing we decided to give a lanner nest site a miss as we were confident we would see this species in the Boumalne area. We headed further north to Er-rachidia before turning east towards Goulmima and Gosney’s scrub warbler site. We missed the pull in at the first time of asking but after driving back and parking, we made our way out to the bushes a kilometre or so from the road as mentioned in the guide book, spotting several Cream-coloured Coursers on the way. A single Spotted Flycatcher was sat on top of one of the bushes, a flock of Trumpeter Finches foraged in the scrub, a pair of Desert Wheatears, a male White-crowned Wheatear, and several Crested Larks were also present. After a short period of trying to call out the warblers we got an appropriate response and for the next half hour enjoyed excellent views of a pair of Scrub Warblers feeding on the ground amongst the scrub.
We headed east to meet the main road towards Tinejdad, and after passing through a small town, a pool just off the road (which I presume is temporary following heavy rain) produced the unusual site of 5 Greater Flamingo, a pair of Ruddy Shelduck, 3 Collard Pratincoles and several Little Ringed Plovers. Further east just before the road meets the N10, we saw a Honey Buzzard being mobbed by a Kestrel. After joining the E10 and travelling further east we turned off the road at Tineghir and headed towards the Gorges de Todra. The trip up the gorge produced new species in the form of 4 Barbary Partridge, Crag Martins, Rock Doves and a Grey Wagtail on the river. Steve had obtained information regarding a site for tristam’s warbler but this proved further than thought and more difficult to find. As the light was beginning to fade, we decided to abort and set off to make our way back when Wayne, on spotting suitable habitat and just on a whim suggested trying our luck with a quick playback. Within minutes we had a response and enjoyed excellent views of a male Tristam’s Warbler in the gloom (what luck!!). In the growing darkness we exited the road to the gorge and travelled east to Boumalne where we spent the night at the Soleil Bleu hotel.
DAY 5 – THURSDAY 12th APRIL
Up before dawn and at the pools off the new Tagdilt track at 05.30 in the hope of catching sandgrouse coming to drink. Sadly this did not materialise and we only picked up Little Ringed Plover, Iberian Wagtail, Short-toed Lark, Desert, Northern Wheatear and lifers for everyone in the form of two Thick-billed Larks. We had been given information regarding breeding Thick-billed Larks just off a track about 500m north of the pools, so after a couple of uneventful hours we decided to try our luck there. The track led to a walled animal pen which was alive with birds. A male Thick-billed lark gave superb views, as did Temminck’s Lark, Thekla Larks, Short toed Larks and Desert Wheatear. We head back towards town to try our luck down the old track, encountering a flyby Booted Eagle and Black Kite on the short journey. To say the old track is a rubbish dump is an understatement – we actually drove through the dump which goes on for miles and actually stopped in the middle of it. Numerous White Storks and Black Kites were evident, along with several Long-legged Buzzards. Red–rumped Wheatear, Short-toed Larks, a flock of Trumpeter Finch and Northern and Desert Wheatears were also present. Just beyond the last of the rubbish we stopped to photograph a rodent in its burrow, when a small lark was seen foraging alongside a Thekla Lark. A close scrutiny we were all agreed that this was a Lesser Short-toed Lark. We pressed on in an attempt to find wheatear wall, but took the wrong track and ended up amongst a few buildings at the foot of the mountains. We decided to retrace our tracks and go back to the hotel for a late breakfast, and on the return journey had a pair of Desert Larks and two more Thick-billed Larks.
During breakfast we discussed our plans for the rest of the week and as it was almost lunchtime decided against making the long journey to Agadir. Instead we decided to try the Boumalne area one more time and then travel on to Ouarzazate and stay overnight there. So after packing our cases again we headed off to the new track again hoping for third time lucky. There was nothing new there so we headed further down the road to the orchard area mentioned in Gosney. This small oasis produced a Long-legged Buzzard, European Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Blackcap, Olivacious Warbler, Western Bonelli’s Warbler, Common Bulbul, Trumpeter Finch, House Bunting, a female Redstart, and on the stream a Green Sandpiper. Heading back towards Boumaine, we turned off and attempted to find wheatear wall yet again – this time with success. The area was void of birdlife with the exception of Cream-coloured Courser, Kestrel and 3 Thick-billed Larks. Following the old track back towards Boumaine we again passed through the dump which produced similar birds to earlier in the day. However, on the edge of the dump nearest the town, Wayne pulled up and pointed to this extremely pristine grey backed wheatear sat only feet from the car. Steve leaned over from the back of the vehicle to get a view, and produced one of the moments of the trip, when he jumped up and down and exclaimed excitedly ”xxxx it’s a Seebohm’s Wheatear,” at which the bird flew off and disappeared. With one of the main target birds in the bag we returned to the main road, filled up with petrol at the first garage and headed westward, observing the sight of 100 plus Cattle Egrets flying over the river in Boumalne.
We arrived at Ouarzazate around 5 o’clock and after checking in at the Hotel Le Tat again we headed down to the west end of the lake. The next two hours produced what was probably the most intense birdwatching of the trip and despite the strong wind good numbers of birds were present. We started off in the area of the smelly pool and a mixed flock of European and Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters flew over our heads. On the pool were Little Ringed Plovers and Wood and Green Sandpipers, and the bushes contained Turtle and Collard Doves, Hoopoe, Blackcap, Western Bonelli’s, Subalpine and Orphean Warbler and Nightingale. We left Wayne to his own ends as he wanted to photograph the bee-eaters and Steve and myself walked over to the rundown buildings and the small lake at the back. 50 plus Ruddy Shelduck were either on the pool or the marshes to the right, White Storks were abundant, a single Great-crested Grebe swam into the reeds, and one or two Little Egret and Grey Herons foraged for food. Several large flocks of Yellow Wagtail were going in to roost, and the large flock of Trumpeter Finches were also present. Steve heard a white wagtail call as it flew overhead and when we tracked it down it turned out to be our first Moroccan White Wagtail of the trip. As we walked around the area, a small form of Peregrine flew over causing panic and scattering the birds. Over the lake Swallows, Sand Martins, and the odd Red-rumped Swallow hawked for insects and these were joined by over twenty Collard Pratincoles. At the far edge of the lake a small flock of what we thought were terns had flown in but on closer inspection turned out to be Little Gulls. Wayne re-joined us and we retraced the wagtail which was feeding at the edge of a sand spit and whilst viewing the bird it was joined by a Common Sandpiper, 2 Kentish Plovers, Little Stint and Little Ringed Plover, and 5 Redshank flew past. As the light started to fade we made the short journey back to the hotel for our evening meal and a good night sleep.
DAY 6 – FRIDAY 13th APRIL
Wayne and me spent an hour or so before breakfast at the lake observing similar birds to the previous evening, although a passage of Gull-billed Terns was evident and one small flock contained two White-winged Black Terns. After breakfast we set off on the long trip west towards Agadir. This 5 hour journey was not really productive in terms of birds but did produce what was for me the sighting moment of the trip. Just west of Taoula, an hour or so from Ouarzazate a Long-legged Buzzard was seen flying across the road in front of us and this was joined seconds later by a much bigger raptor – a Golden Eagle. We pulled over and for the next five minutes or so we were treated to outstanding views of the buzzard mobbing the eagle right above our heads – magic! Four Ravens were seen en route when just west of Taliouine, I spotted our first Moroccan Magpie sitting on top of a bush. Following a stop for coffee on the eastern outskirts of Taroudannt, in which a Little and Common Swift, Common Bulbul, Spotless Starling and Zitting Cisticola were observed, we were soon on our way again and only a little further along the road, when Wayne suddenly pulled over. A Black-crowned Tchagra was feeding on the ground on the opposite side of the road. It disappeared behind a small bush and as we crossed the road to view, it flew off into the bushes opposite. Several Common Bulbuls were also singing and flitting around in the bushes. We set off again observing Sothern Grey Shrike, European Be-eaters and Hoopoe on route, and arrived in Agadir mid- afternoon. After an unplanned mini tour around the southern part of the city, we booked into the Hotel La Pergola.
We arrived at the first view point on the Oued Souss around five o’clock and were greeted with good numbers of birds on the river. A large flock of Greater Flamingo, 3 Greenshanks, Little Egrets, a single Curlew, Ringed Plover, and Oystercatchers fed on the river edges, various gulls including Audouin’s, Black-headed, Yellow-legged, Lesser Black-backed, Mediterranean Gulls, and 3 Slender-billed Gulls loafed at the water’s edge, and Sandwich and Gull-billed Terns were either sat around of flying along the river. Three Cormorants sat on a structure in the middle of the river and one was quite evident by its white front – a Moroccan Cormorant. At the car park area near the second view point a quick scan produced no new birds but Wayne was able to photograph a couple of Moroccan Magpies flitting amongst the rubble. We had to follow the path by the river as access down the track by the Royal Palace is denied and as we walked towards the river mouth the wind really started to pick up, which we thought would make seeing our target more difficult. Several large mixed flocks of gulls and terns were on either side of the river but the wind was making things difficult and we were unable to identify a large tern that flew by. I spotted a Common Tern amongst the numerous Sandwich Terns and a small number of Black Terns were easily identifiable when the whole flock took flight. We decided to check a couple of pools in the scrub area between the river and the palace wall as a number of waders could be heard calling. Steve found a Redshank, Curlew Sandpipers and Dunlin on one of the pools and I spotted a flying Common Snipe. As the light began to fade good numbers of both Little and Cattle Egrets flew overhead to roost in the Royal Palace grounds, and two Great White Egrets, a Spoonbill and surprisingly a Common Crane were also spotted flying across the river. In the growing gloom at least five different Stone Curlews had begun to call and a group of Moroccan Magpies chatted noisily in a nearby bush. Just by chance I had walked 20m or so away from and out of sight of the others when two Red-necked Nightjars flew past me. I called to the others and the birds flew right in front of them. Target achieved and in the near dark we walked back to the car park catching a glimpse of calling nightjar on the way. We returned to the hotel and enjoyed a traditional Moroccan meal and for the first time in the week, a couple of beers.
DAY 7 – SATURDAY 14th APRIL
Woken by the song of Common Bulbul and House Bunting in the hotel gardens and with a flock of 20 Pallid Swifts screaming overhead, we had an early breakfast and then travelled north to the Tamri area. On the way Wayne again spotted a Black-crowned Tchagra from the car but we could not relocate it on stopping. In compensation we had excellent views of a male Moussier’s Redstart, Sardinian Warbler, Desert Grey and Woodchat Shrike, and a number of the now ubiquitous Common Bulbuls.
Just north of the lighthouse at Cap Rhir we had to quickly pull off the road as three Bald Ibis were feeding on the sandy cliff tops. These gave exception views and as Wayne busied himself taking photographs, Steve and myself indulged in a bit of sea-watching. Yellow-legged and Audouin’s Gulls were on the cliff tops, Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Gannets headed north, and the odd Gull-billed Tern was seen to pass by. Rock Doves were evident flying from the cliffs and an unusual site was a party of Oystercatchers being led northwards by a single Whimbrel. Steve became interested in the screaming of swifts behind us, but when they came briefly into view, we were unable to get a positive ID on them. We continued on to the lagoon at the mouth of the Oued Tinkert where 4 more Bald Ibis were feeding on the northern bank, 5 Spoonbills and a single Grey Heron sat on the small island and good numbers of Coot swam in the lagoon. On the beach were mixed flocks of Sandwich Terns, Audouin’s Gulls and Yellow-legged Gulls. A party of 18 Bald Ibis flew over the lagoon, with four detaching themselves and joining the other feeding birds, while the remainder drifted off south over the hills. Our second sighting of Moroccan White Wagtail was also made here, foraging on the edge of the lagoon.
In the early afternoon and after negotiating the heavy traffic in Agadir, we were heading south towards the Oued Massa reserve. Our first port of call was a small bridge over the river just west of Tassila. Steve had obtained information regarding the possibility of an African form of Reed Warblers along with Plain Martin being present there. This proved a little difficult to find and after a tour of the surrounding cultivated area we had seen good numbers of Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins hawking over the fields, a large flock of House Sparrows, Corn Bunting, Common Bulbul, a male and female Moussier’s Redstart, and Steve picked out a distant possible Black-shouldered Kite. Unfortunately neither Wayne nor myself could not get on the bird. On finding the bridge we succeeded in getting good views of one “African” Reed Warbler and a Western Olivacious Warbler along with Coot and Moorhen, but sadly no martins. We moved onto the bridge over the river just west of the reserve entrance but here again only Swallows, House and Sand Martins. We also had a Kingfisher, Yellow Wagtail and a Moroccan Cormorant here. In the walled off area just after turning towards the reserve we had Little Owl, Moussier’s Redstart and a first summer male Montague’s Harrier. We entered the reserve itself and having acquired Mohammed as our guide proceeded to walk towards the sea. Birds seen on what turned out to be a relatively short walk included Collard and Laughing Dove, Stonechat, Corn Bunting, Kestrel, Spotless Starling, Sardinian Warbler, Common Bulbul and close up views of Black-crowned Tchagra. A small group of Glossy Ibis flew down river and a Cormorant (sinensis) and Moroccan Cormorant sat in trees at the river edge. , Mohammed decided to cut our walk short and we returned to the car park. He directed us across country in the 4x4 to the river mouth. A Little Owl sitting on a pile of rubble gave close views as we passed through a small village before we arrived at the river-mouth. A large flock of gulls and terns were sat on the sandbar between the sea and the river but the wind was blowing really hard,making observation difficult. Steve scanned through the large flock of birds. Most of the gulls were either Yellow –legged or Lesser Black backed, but there were a few Audouin’s amongst them. Scanning through the terns at the front of the flock, Steve produced another moment of excitement within minutes. A single Royal Tern, its orange-red bill very evident , was sat amongst the Sandwich Terns. Following this, Mohammed drew our attention to the flock of Greater Flamingo and 3 Spoonbills sheltering downstream out of the wind and a small party of Gull-billed Terns were flying over the lagoon itself. The evening was progressing and we decided to have one more attempt for the plain martins. Mohammed took us a different route back to the small bridge near Tassila and en-route; we passed a large sandy bank. A mixed group of Swallows, House and Sand Martins were hawking over the river and we were able to pike out one or two Plain Martins amongst them. We headed on to the bridge and within minutes a large group of Swallows and Plain Martins were flying amongst the reeds prior to going to roost. Close up views down to a few metres of the martins made it evident that their flight was almost bat like. A flock of 16 Glossy Ibis flew over on their way to their roost area, a Night Heron flew into the reeds in front of us and a Little Bittern gave a brief appearance, flying from one side of the river to the other. We dropped Mohammed off in one on the local towns and headed back to Agadir again in the dark for our last night in Morocco.
DAY 8 – SUNDAY 15th APRIL
We set off before 07.00 heading up the motorway to Marrakech, which surprisingly did not take too long. The only birds of note en-route were two Ravens. Our destination was the Auberge Maquis in the Ourika Valley in the Atlas Mountains. We had been told by a fellow birdwatcher earlier in the week of this site where he had seen a pair of Levalliant’s Green Woodpeckers when he had stayed there earlier in his visit. On our arrival late morning, we tried calling out the birds and within half an hour we had success. The female flew into a tree to the right of the hotel and as Wayne tried to photograph the bird, it was joined by the male. This was the icing on the cake as it completed the “set” of woodpeckers for Wayne and myself, as well as being a lifer for Steve. Other birds seen here were a Booted Eagle, Common Bulbul, Kestrel, Great Tit, African Blue Tit, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, and Greenfinch. Following lunch at the hotel we drove back to Marrakech, with Steve buying a carpet on the way and to the airport for our late afternoon flight home.
Morocco was a fantastic experience for all three of us. We had been criticised in some quarters prior to going, that we were trying to do too much in the eight days we were there, but despite driving over 2500 kilometres, we managed to complete our planned journey and see virtually all we had hoped for. We all had worries beforehand – about the travel, the food, the police, the driving, but with the exception of the driving when at times, especially after dark it was as bad as we had been warned, everything was fine. The people especially were fantastic – extremely friendly, and we managed to get by with English and my school French. The diversity of birdlife is fantastic and we ended up with over 40 “lifers” each, cleaning up especially on the larks and wheatears.
My thanks go to my two companions – Wayne Geater and Steve Abbott and to all the marvellous people we met, which made our trip such a success, and I would not hesitate to recommend Morocco as a bird-watching destination to anyone.
Great Crested Grebe
White-breasted Cormorant (maroccanus/lucidus)
Great Cormorant (sinensis)
Long-legged Buzzard (cirtensis)
Little Ringed Plover
Lesser Black-backed Gull
African Royal Tern (albididorsalis)
White-winged Black Tern
Pharaoh Eagle Owl
Little Owl (glaux)
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater (chrysocercus)
Great Spotted Woodpecker (numida)
Crested Lark (cristata)
Crested Lark (macrorhyncha)
Lesser Short-toed Lark
Bar-tailed Desert Lark
Atlas Horned Lark (atlas)
Plain Martin (mauritanica)
Moroccan Wagtail (subpersonata)
Spanish Wagtail (iberiae)
Ashey-headed Wagtail (cinereocapilla)
Black Redstart (gibraltariensis)
Western Black-eared Wheatear
Mistle Thrush (deisleri)
Blue Rock Thrush
Scrub Warbler (saharae)
Western Orphean Warbler
Western Subalpine Warbler
African Desert Warbler
African Reed Warbler (guiersi?)
Western Olivaceous Warbler
Saharan Olivaceous Warbler (reiseri)
Western Bonelli’s Warbler
Coal Tit (atlas)
African Blue Tit (ultramarinus)
Great Grey (Desert) Shrike (elegans) / Great Grey (Desert) Shrike (algeriensis)
Black-crowned Tchagra (cucullatus)
Moroccan Magpie (mauritanica)
African Chaffinch (africana)
Crimson-winged Finch (alienus)
House Bunting (sahari)