PART TWO – For some years now I have wanted to experience the desert birding in Morocco, and during 2017 I was fortunate enough to achieve my goal and I spent a week there, between 10th March and 20th March 2017, birding in the special desert areas. I traveled with Boletas Birdwatching Tours, operated by Josele Saiz. Our team comprised of 7 birders, most of which were also keen photographers, two leaders – Chris Townend and Danny Cazo Monesma and not forgetting our brilliant driver, Mohammed. It was a stunning trip, managing to see 30 new species and over 170 species for the week, 11 species of butterfly, 4 species of dragonfly, not to mention 3 species of frog and a single species of gecko. A massive thank you to Chris and Danny for their superb leadership skills, to the rest of the guys on the trip (Steve x 2; Pete, Rob, Chris and Karim), to Mohammed and lastly to Boletas Birdwatching Tours.
I saw all my target birds, which included Bald Ibis, Pharoah Eagle Owl, Crowned & Spotted Sandgrouse, Brown-throated Martin, Thick-billed Lark, Moussier’s Redstart, Egyptian Nightjar, Red-rumped Wheatear, White-crowned Wheatear, Magreb Wheatear, Seebohm’s Wheatear, Scrub Warbler, African Desert Warbler, Crimson-winged Finch, Levaillant’s Woodpecker, Temminck’s Lark, Hoopoe Lark, Bar-tailed Lark, Black-crowned Tchagra, Tristram’s Warbler and Desert Sparrow. Some of which I managed decent photos, some were only record shots. Nevertheless all the birds were seen well. Some of the best views of Quail I’m ever likely to get, thanks to Danny, the “Quail King”, along with a stunning “Swift Extravaganza” and we even found a Lesser Scaup, the 7th record for Morocco and also, what was almost certainly, a Rock Martin. All in all some fabulous birding experiences.
Summary of the trip – We commenced our birding journey in Marakesh, spending a full day in the high Atlas Mountains. Then a long drive east to Boulmane Dades, visiting the stoney desert area of Hammada and the Tagdilt Track. Another long drive further east to the Sahara Desert, staying in Merzouga for three nights and birding the vast desert area. Our return journey was via Ouarzazate, visiting the Anti-Atlas Range and the large Mansour Reservoir, where we found a Lesser Scaup. Then on to Agadir, birding the coastal river and the famous Sous Massa area and finally returning to Marakesh.
I thought my time with Morocco’s Desert Birds was summed up perfectly in an email that Chris Townend sent to me – ” Hope you are not missing the Desert too much – The sand stays in the optics for weeks afterwards” – very true words and I’m missing it already…
I will keep updating the BLOG on Morocco from time to time.
Moussier’s Redstart – Oued Massa, Morocco – March 2017 – Above 4 images – Bottom image is a female – Tony Davison© – The quintessential bird of Morocco
Thick-billed Lark – Tagdilt Plains, Morocco – March 2017 – Tony Davison© A stunning lark but this was the only one we saw.
Temminck’s Horned Lark – Tagdilt Plains, Morocco – March 2017 – Above 3 images – Tony Davison© – Another rare lark species and one on my tick list.
Maghreb Lark (Long-billed Crested Lark) – Rissani, Morocco – March 2017 – Tony Davison© – The Moroccan race of Crested Lark – note the length of the bill.
Maghreb Wheatear – On route to Merzouga, Morocco – March 2017 – Tony Davison© – one of our most sort after species and the only one we saw.
Egyptian Vulture – Merzouga Desert area, Morocco – March 2017 – Tony Davison© – a rare bird in Morocco and this migrant was fighting it’s way across the desert into a strong headwind
Bluethroat – 1st summer male – Begaa Oasis, Morocco – March 2017 – Tony Davison© – The Oasis areas are a magnet for migrating birds
Western Bonelli’s Warbler – Cafe Ibrahim, Morocco – March 2017 – Tony Davison© – During a mini sandstorm we went looking for migrants in the Oasis areas and these superb warblers were moving through in small numbers
Subalpine Warbler – Cafe Ibrahim, Morocco – March 2017 – Tony Davison© – Lots of these attractive warblers were moving through the Oasis areas
Tristram’s Warbler – Todra Gorge and unknown Wadi area, Morocco -Above 2 images – 1st one in Todra Gorge – 2nd one a 1st summer at an unknown Wadi – March 2017 – Tony Davison© – Another target species
Moroccan Wagtail – Mansour reservoir, Morocco – March 2017 – Tony Davison©
White Stork – Mansour Reservoir, Morocco – march 2017 – Tony Davison© – Several hundred were at Mansour Reservoir early morning before they all took off and circled high and away.
Pallid Swift – Mansour Reservoir, Morocco – March 2017 – Above 2 images – Tony Davison© – Large numbers of swifts were on the move into a strong headwind, giving superb views
Pharoah Eagle Owl – Immiter, Morocco – March 2017 – Tony Davison© This bird was at a daytime roost cave and took some finding. Another target species
Pin-tailed Sandgrouse – Tagdilt Plains, Morocco – March 2017 – Tony Davison© – We found a flock of 12 birds and had good views of this normally scarce species in Morocco.
Crowned Sandgrouse – Kekemia, Merzouga Desert, Morocco – March 2017 – Tony Davison© – Several parties of Sandgrouse were drinking at a favoured watering hole deep in the desert area.
Spotted Sandgrouse – Kekemia, Merzouga Desert, Morocco – March 2017 – Tony Davison© – Several parties of Sandgrouse were drinking at a favoured watering hole deep in the desert area.
Black-crowned Tchagra – Oued Massa, Morocco – March 2017 – Tony Davison© This birds song is truly amazing.
White-crowned Wheatear – Cafe Ibrahim, Morocco – March 2017 – Above 3 images – Tony Davison© – A very confiding bird was frequenting the nomad camp
Red-rumped Wheatear – male – Tagdilt Plains, Morocco – March 2017 – Above 4 images – Tony Davison© – One of my target species and a stunning bird to see.