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Birding trip to Northern Morocco, 26th Dec - 1st Jan '97,
The participants on this short trip to Northern Morocco (but including the Tagdilt track and Merzouga) were Jan and Stephen Mawby together with Sue and John Price-Stephens. The Price-Stephens, it should be noted, had been in southern Morocco for the week prior to the dates of this report and had covered some of the sites that J&SM had covered on their previous visit. All flights were with British Airways with outward flights from London (Heathrow) direct to Marrakech and inward flights from Casablanca via Gibraltar to London (Gatwick). This caused minor logistical problems on our return as both cars had been left at Gatwick. The inter-airport bus proved invaluable, although lengthening the homeward journey somewhat. Flights were arranged by Wildwings (firstname.lastname@example.org).
A medium sized four-seater car was arranged through Wildwings with Europcar. Car hire in Morocco however is not inexpensive, so we ensured that the vehicle was used to its utmost. The roads are of a reasonable standard with some stretches of single-track tarmac in the south-east. On such stretches, it is imperative to slow and move onto a firm, but non-tarmac, hard shoulder whenever there is opposing traffic or traffic wishing to overtake you. This said however, away from areas of habitation, traffic is very light. Driving at night is not recommended as there are no cats-eyes on the roadway and other traffic (including animal drawn carts) are routinely unlit.
All accommodation was arranged on site with little or no trouble or difficulty. The hotel at Ouarzazate (The Riad Salaam) was one at which I had previously stayed; the one at Erfoud (The Salaam) was a hotel within the same group as the Riad Salaam and although quite full with coach tours, suitable rooms were found. On arrival in the town, several moped riders had accosted us in an attempt to take us to hotels of their choice and although we gave one of them a try, we found the standard of accommodation to be less than required. At other places where we elected to stay, the accommodation was chosen using the excellent Lonely Planet guide. All hotels were of a reasonable western standard as consideration was given to our non-birding partners.
Birds of Europe. Jonsson. Helm.
Birds of the Middle East and North Africa. Hollom, Porter, Christensen and Willis. Poyser.
Finding Birds in Southern Morocco. Gosney.
Finding Birds in Northern Morocco. Gosney.
Trip report of S.M.Andrews (1987).
Friday 26th December 1997 - Arrive Marrakech airport and drive via Tizi-n-Tichka pass to Ouarzazate.
Saturday 27th December 1997 - Barrage El Mansour Endahbi, Ouarzazate; roadside stops to Boulmalne, Tagdilt track, roadside birding between Boulmalne and Erfoud.
Sunday 28th December 1997 - Erfoud to Erg Chebbi and Merzouga and return with stops as necessary. Erfoud via Er Rachidia to Midelt via Ziz Gorge.
Monday 29th December 1997 - Zeida plains, Zeida to Ifrane via Azrou with roadside stops as necessary; Dayet Aaoua and then on to Fez. Non-birding tour of Fez until dark; drive to Kenitra.
Tuesday 30th December 1997 - Forest between Sidi Yahya and Sidi Bettache; Lac du Sidi Bou Ghaba and Medhya Plage.
Wed. 31st December 1997 - Forest (as above); Oued Loukkos at Larache, Merdja Zerga at Moulay Bousselham.
Thursday 1st January 1998 - Drive to Casablanca and flight back to UK.
New species indicated by *
LITTLE GREBE Tachybaptus ruficollis
Thirty plus noted at Dayet Aaoua on the 29th with many more at Lac de Sidi Bou Ghaba on the 30th.
GREAT CRESTED GREBE Podiceps cristatus
Noted only at Lac de Sidi Bou Ghaba on the 30th with a count of at least 20 birds.
CORMORANT Phalacrocorax carbo
Six on the Oued Ziz south of Er Rachidia on the 28th with singles noted at Lac de Sidi Bou Ghaba on the 30th and at the Oued Loukkos wetlands near Larache on the 31st.
CATTLE EGRET Bubulcus ibis
Widespread and the most common "egret".
LITTLE EGRET Egretta garzetta
Seen in smaller numbers than the above species with a much more restricted habitat.
GREY HERON Ardea cinerea
Three at the Barrage Mansour Endahbi at Ouarzazate on the 27th, with singles noted in suitable habitat along the coast on the 30th and 31st.
WHITE STORK Ciconia ciconia
Small numbers noted throughout with a maxima of ten on the 27th.
GLOSSY IBIS Plegadis falcinellus
Forty to fifty birds noted at the Oued Loukkos wetlands near Larache on the 31st.
SPOONBILL Platalea leucorodia
Three on the Barrage Mansour Endahbi on the 27th were the only ones seen.
RUDDY SHELDUCK Tadorna ferruginea
Four (two pairs) on the Barrage at Ouarzazate on the 27th was a large decline from last years figure (noted in mid-November), but information was received of large numbers at a Middle Atlas lake near Azrou (not visited).
GADWALL Anas strepera
Two were noted at Lac de Sidi Bou Ghaba on the 30th.
TEAL Anas crecca
Noted at the Barrage on the 27th and at Lac de Sidi Bou Ghaba on the 30th with a maximum of 30 on this latter date.
MALLARD Anas platyrhynchos
Small numbers noted throughout in suitable habitat.
SHOVELER Anas clypeata
Probably the commonest "dabbling duck" with flocks of hundreds noted at Dayet Aaoua on the 29th and Sidi Bou Ghaba on the 30th.
MARBLED DUCK Marmaronetta angustirostris
A rough estimate of two hundred birds at Sidi Bou Ghaba on the 30th most of which were hiding along the extensive reed-fringed north shore of the lake until disturbed by locals.
POCHARD Aythya ferina
The commonest diving duck with good numbers noted at both Dayet Aaoua on the 29th and Sidi Bou Ghaba on the 30th.
FERRUGINOUS DUCK Aythya nyroca
Two were noted on Dayet Aaoua on the 29th with four at Sidi Bou Ghaba on the 30th.
TUFTED DUCK Aythya fuligula
Two on Lac de Sidi Bou Ghaba on the 30th were the only ones seen.
BLACK-SHOULDERED KITE Elanus caeruleus
A minimum of three birds noted on both the 30th and 31st in the forest between Sidi Yahya and Sidi Bettache.
MARSH HARRIER Circus aeruginosus
Noted at both the Forest of Mamora and around Sidi Bou Ghaba on the 30th and 31st, with good numbers at the latter site.
SPARROWHAWK Accipiter nisus
One on the 30th in the Forest of Mamora was the only one seen.
LONG-LEGGED BUZZARD Buteo rufinus
Disappointing numbers seen with a day maximum of three on the 26th over the Tizi-n-Tichka pass and the 29th on the journey from Midelt to Fes.
OSPREY Pandion haliaetus
One at the Barrage near Ouarzazate on the 26th was the only record.
COMMON KESTREL Falco tinnunculus
Widespread in small numbers, although at minimum of six around Sidi Bou Ghaba in the evening was noteworthy.
BARBARY PARTRIDGE Alectoris barbara
Four flushed accidentally from scrub in the forest near Sidi Bettache on the 30th whilst looking for francolin's.
DOUBLE-SPURRED FRANCOLIN Francolinus bicalcaratus
In the forest area near to Sidi Bettache, a bird seen briefly in flight as it flew away from our position on the 30th was probably this species, but the 31st provided brief but good flight views of another alongside the road before one was found sitting atop a tree stump calling, whilst two others responded by returning the calls whilst they fed along a sandy track and in a small open area. All three were clearly visible from our roadside location.
MOORHEN Gallinula chloropus
Noted around Sidi Bou Ghaba on the 30th and the Oued Loukkos wetlands on the 31st.
PURPLE GALLINULE Porphyrio porphyrio
One, clambering around in the reeds opposite the bird-hide at Sidi Bou Ghaba on the 30th was the only one seen.
COOT Fulica atra
Good flock numbers noted at Dayet Aaoua on the 29th, Sidi Bou Ghaba on the 30th and the Oued Loukkos wetlands at Larache on the 31st.
RED-KNOBBED COOT Fulica cristata *
A minimum one hundred noted at Dayet Aaoua on the 29th with smaller numbers on the 30th at Sidi Bou Ghaba and the Oued Loukkos wetlands on the 31st.
OYSTERCATCHER Haematopus ostralegus
Four noted on Merdja Zerga at Moulay Bousselham on the 31st.
BLACK-WINGED STILT Himantopus himantopus
Large numbers seen on the 31st around the Oued Loukkos wetlands.
LAPWING Vanellus vanellus
One at the Oued Loukkos on the 31st was the only one seen.
SANDERLING Calidris alba
A small party of twenty or so on the beach at Medhya Plage on the 30th.
RUFF Philomachus pugnax
Noted at Oued Loukkos on the 31st, with some birds showing signs of breeding plumage.
COMMON SNIPE Gallinago gallinago
Small numbers around the Oued loukkos on the 31st.
BLACK-TAILED GODWIT Limosa limosa
Good numbers around the Oued Loukkos on the 31st.
GREENSHANK Tringa nebularia
One noted alongside the track at the Oued Loukkos on the 31st.
WOOD SANDPIPER Tringa glareola
Small numbers at Oued Loukkos on the 31st.
COMMON SANDPIPER Actitis hypoleucos
One at the Oued Loukkos on the 31st.
BLACK-HEADED GULL Larus ridibundus
Small numbers noted on the coast at Medhya Plage on the 30th and around the Oued Loukkos on the 31st.
AUDOUIN'S GULL Larus audouinii
Two noted in the distance off Moulay Bousselham close to the mouth of Merdja Zerga on the 31st.
LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL Larus fuscus
The most common gull noted along the coast.
YELLOW-LEGGED GULL Larus cachinnans
Small numbers along the coast.
SANDWICH TERN Sterna sandvicensis
Small numbers noted on the coast off Medhya Plage on the 30th.
WHISKERED TERN Chlidonias hybridus
At least six birds noted around the Oued Loukkos wetlands on the 31st.
ROCK DOVE Columba livia
Widespread and common.
WOODPIGEON Columba palumbus
Widespread and common around the north coastal areas.
COLLARED DOVE Steptopelia decaocto
Only noted between Marrakech and Ouarzazate on the 26th.
MARSH OWL Asio capensis *
First seen in flight at Sidi Bou Ghaba on the 30th, when at least four birds were present. They did not appear until just before dark and although one landed on the marsh just in front of us, it was almost impossible to make out any detail on it. On the 31st, a visit to the Moulay Bousselham campsite provided us with a brief flight view and prolonged views of a roosting bird in full (albeit wet) daylight.
COMMON KINGFISHER Alcedo atthis
One at Sidi Bou Ghaba on the 30th.
LEVAILLANT'S WOODPECKER Picus vaillantii
Two heard calling in one of the poplar plantations at Dayet Aaoua on the 29th was eventually tracked down and watched for some time as it sat on top of a dead branch.
GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER Dendrocopos major
One noted in roadside woodlands between Azrou and Ifrane.
BAR-TAILED DESERT LARK Ammomanes cincturus
At least ten birds noted around the cafes at the edge of the Erg Chebbi just north of Merzouga on the 28th.
DESERT LARK Ammomanes deserti
Widespread and common with singles or pairs noted particularly in the stony desert habitats (hammada).
HOOPOE LARK Alaemon alaudipes
Two on the 27th along the Tagdilt track and one on the 28th near the Erg Chebbi were the only ones seen.
THICK-BILLED LARK Rhamphocoris clotbey
Two along the Tagdilt track on the 27th were the only ones seen, but they showed long and well.
CRESTED LARK Galerida cristata
Widespread and common.
THEKLA LARK Galerida theklae
Only specifically identified on the 29th around Zeida in the artemesia scrub.
SKYLARK Alauda arvensis
One noted on the plains just south of Zeida on the 29th.
SHORE LARK Eremophila alpestris
At least twenty birds on the plains just south of Zeida on the 29th.
TEMMINCK'S HORNED LARK Eremophila bilopha
Noted along the Tagdilt on the 27th and around the Erg Chebbi on the 28th with at least ten birds on the 27th.
CRAG MARTIN Ptyonoprogne rupestris
Noted on the 28th, in suitable habitat, along the road between Erfoud and Midelt.
SWALLOW Hirundo rustica
Two noted on the 30th at Sidi Bou Ghaba.
MEADOW PIPIT Anthus pratensis
Small numbers noted alongside the track at the Oued Loukkos wetlands on the 31st.
BLUE-HEADED (SPANISH) WAGTAIL Motacilla flava
Hundreds in the flooded fields alongside the track at Oued Loukkos on the 31st.
GREY WAGTAIL Motacilla cinerea
One noted on the 29th at Dayet Aaoua.
WHITE WAGTAIL Motacilla alba
Widespread and common, with individuals of the Moroccan race "subpersonata", noted in the fields at the Auberge Kasbah Dakaoua between Erfoud and Merzouga.
COMMON BULBUL Pycnonotus barbatus
Widespread and common albeit in small numbers.
ROBIN Erithacus rubecula
One noted on the 31st in the forest near Sidi Bettache.
BLACK REDSTART Phoenicurus ochruros
Four singles noted throughout the trip with the best, a smart male alongside the track at the Oued Loukkos on the 31st.
STONECHAT Saxicola torquata
Widespread and common.
DESERT WHEATEAR Oenanthe deserti
A smart male noted alongside the road between Ouarzazate and Boulmalne on the 27th.
RED-RUMPED WHEATEAR Oenanthe moesta
At least twenty birds (males and females) noted along the Tagdilt track on the 27th with a further pair alongside the road just south of Zeida on the 29th.
MOURNING WHEATEAR Oenanthe lugens
A smart male found sitting on top of a roadside telegraph pole between Erfoud and Er Rachidia was one of the highlights as this species, although common elsewhere in the world, is relatively rare in Morocco. Its exact location (just south of the Er Rachidia 58km post) has been sent to Gosney to update his records.
WHITE-CROWNED BLACK WHEATEAR Oenanthe leucopyga
Widespread and common in all desert habitats with fifty plus being noted on the 28th alone.
BLACK WHEATEAR Oenanthe leucura
One alongside the road in the High Atlas on the 26th with a further five in similar locations on the 28th as we again passed through the mountains.
BLUE ROCK THRUSH Monticola solitarius
One, a female/juvenile at the pumping station at the Barrage Mansour Endahbi on the 27th was something of a surprise.
BLACKBIRD Turdus merula
Common in the north in suitable habitat.
SONG THRUSH Turdus philomelos
Small numbers noted in the forest near Sidi Bettache on the 31st.
MISTLE THRUSH Turdus viscivorus
Two in the poplars alongside Dayet Aaoua on the 29th were the only ones seen.
CETTI'S WARBLER Cettia cetti
Heard throughout in suitable habitat, even along the Oued Ziz in very desert surroundings.
FAN-TAILED WARBLER Cisticola juncidis
Two seen well at Sidi Bou Ghaba on the 30th.
SCRUB WARBLER Scotocerca inquieta
The finding of an individual of this species was as pleasing as finding the Mourning Wheatear as it, too, is thinly distributed, especially in this part of the country. It was in a scrubby wadi (noted in Gosney) as a suitable location for Fulvous Babbler. Although none of this latter species were found at this site, the Scrub Warbler was good recompense.
TRISTRAM'S WARBLER Sylvia deserticola
Three birds seen on the 28th, all in desert habitat between Erfoud and the Erg Chebbi.
SARDINIAN WARBLER Sylvia melanocephala
Many calling birds in the forest near Sidi Bettache on the 30th and 31st with one being particularly well seen on the 30th.
DESERT WARBLER Sylvia nana
One found in the dune edge scrub of the Erg Chebbi near the Cafe Caravane on the 28th.
BLACKCAP Sylvia atricapilla
Good numbers of both males and females in the forest near Sidi Bettache on the 30th.
CHIFFCHAFF Phylloscopus collybita
Noted throughout, with some very olive-green individuals being noted in the Oued Ziz valley north of Erfoud on the 28th. These latter birds are now considered to have been individuals of the species
IBERIAN CHIFFCHAFF (P.brehmii) (info.29.04.99).
FULVOUS BABBLER Turdoides fulvus
At least five birds noted around the Auberge Kasbah Dakaoua between Erfoud and Merzouga on the 28th.
BLUE TIT Parus caeruleus
Noted in small numbers from the Middle Atlas northwards, all displaying the dark ultramarine "cap".
GREAT TIT Parus major
Small numbers in suitable wooded habitat.
NUTHATCH Sitta europaea
One noted in roadside woods between Azrou and Ifrane on the 29th.
SOUTHERN GREY SHRIKE Lanius meridionalis
Widespread and common throughout the desert areas south of the High Atlas.
MAGPIE Pica pica
Noted in small numbers near Marrakech on the 26th and around Sidi Bou Ghaba on the 30th.
CHOUGH Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax
Good numbers of this species noted in the High Atlas around Er Rachidia on the 28th.
BROWN-NECKED RAVEN Corvus ruficollis
Only seen in the desert area between Erfoud and Merzouga on the 28th with at least ten birds being seen.
RAVEN Corvus corax
Widespread and common, albeit in small numbers with a maximum day count of twenty on the 29th.
STARLING Sturnus vulgaris
Noted particularly in the north where it appeared to be more common than it's Spotless cousin.
SPOTLESS STARLING Sturnus unicolor
Specifically identified only along the coast and in small numbers with a few around the hotel in Kenitra being particularly obvious.
HOUSE SPARROW Passer domesticus
Widespread and common.
DESERT SPARROW Passer simplex *
At least fifty birds, both males and females around the camel areas alongside the Cafe Caravane at the Erg Chebbi on the 28th was one of the trip highlights. When disturbed, they flew into the dunes returning after a few minutes, whilst accompanying flocks of House Sparrows flew to nearby buildings. Odd ones and two were noted as we passed by other cafes, but having seen so many at our first stop we did not linger at any of the other sites.
CHAFFINCH Fringilla coelebs
Several noted in the roadside woods between Azrou and Ifrane, but one particularly well-marked male was noted alongside the track at the Oued Loukkos on the 31st.
SERIN Serinus serinus
Noted in small numbers in the forest near Sidi Bettache on the 30th and 31st.
GREENFINCH Carduelis chloris
Two noted on the 27th between Ouarzazate and Boulmalne.
GOLDFINCH Carduelis carduelis
Small numbers noted in the north on the 29th, 30th and 31st.
LINNET Carduelis cannabina
A sizeable flock noted south of Zeida on the 29th.
TRUMPETER FINCH Bucanetes githagineus
Two on the 28th in the desert around the Auberge Kasbah Dakaoua, with one further later that date on roadside wires north of Erfoud.
HOUSE BUNTING Emberiza striolata
Small parties noted throughout the desert from Ouarzazate to Erfoud.
CORN BUNTING Miliaria calandra
Three on the 26th near Ouarzazate were the only ones seen.