PART THREE – 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…
Fat Sand Rat (Psammomys obesus) – Tagdilt Plains, Morocco – March 2017 – Tony Davison© – A common mammal of the Gerbil family
Atlas Day Gecko (Quedenfeldtia trachyblepharus) – Oukaimedem, Toubkal National Park, Morocco – March 2017 – Tony Davison© – Endemic to Morocco, a member of the Lizard family
African Green Toad – (Bufo boulengeri) – Begaa Oasis, Morocco – March 2017 – Tony Davison©
Moroccan Painted Frog – (Discoglossus scovazzi) – Oued Massa, Morocco – March 2017 – Tony Davison©
Egyptian Nighjar – Merzouga Desert Area, Morocco – March 2017 – Tony Davison© – A return trip during the early evening gave a second chance to observe these stunning desert birds
Iberian Chiffchaff – Cafe Ibrahim Oasis, Morocco – March 2017 – Tony Davison© – We all felt this bird was an Iberian Chiffchaff – well just look at it, looks nothing like our Chiffy
Booted Eagle – Tizi n Tichka Pass, Morocco – March 2017 – Tony Davison©
“Atlas” Horned Lark – Oukaimedem, Morocco – March 2017 – Tony Davison©
Trumpeter Finch – Above 2 images – Tagdilt Plains, Morocco – March 2017 – Tony Davison©
Thekla Lark – Souss Valley, Taroudant, Morocco – March 2017 – Tony Davison©
European Stonechat – Oued Massa, Morocco – March 2017 – Tony Davison©
Southern Grey Shrike (algeriensis) – Begaa Oasis, Morocco – March 2017 – Tony Davison©
Seebohm’s Northern Wheatear – Oukaimedem, Morocco – March 2017 – Tony Davison© one of our target Wheatear species
Common Redstart – Begaa Oasis, Morocco – March 2017 – Tony Davison© – Lots of Common Redstart were migrating through Morocco
Common Quail – Oued Massa, Morocco – March 2017 – Tony Davison© – I had the best views of Quail I think I’m ever likely to get – This bird was simply amazing and put on a stage performance..
Western Olivaceous Warbler – Oued Massa, Morocco – March 2017 – Tony Davison© – Olivaceous Warbler were just beginning to arrive and we saw several in the Oued Massa.
Common Nightingale – Begaa Oasis, Morocco – March 2017 – Tony Davison© – several migrant Common Nightingales were seen whilst birding the Oasis areas
Eurasian Magpie (mauritanica) – Marakesh, Morocco – March 2017 – Tony Davison© – the Moroccan race which is very attractive, note the brilliant blue ear patch and tuft on the crown.
Levaillant’s Woodpecker – Above 2 images – High Atlas, Ourika Valley, Morocco – March 2017 – Tony Davison© – Another Moroccan speciality, the top bird had a very badly deformed bill, fortunately we had another bird which was perfect.