TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT

Morocco - Atlas & Coast

3 - 11 November 2001


Leaders:
Jamie McMillan , Will Wagstaff

Driver:
Mohammed Lamkounz
Driver's mate - Abdul

Trip Diary

3rd November

We arrived at Tangier at 19.15 and were delighted to meet with our old friend Mohammed Lamkounz who has been driving our groups in Morocco for over ten years. It was only just over an hour's drive to Larache and we were having supper there at a quarter to nine and back into our hotel by ten.

4th November

Our hotel was at a busy crossroads in the town and provided us with a rather fine Moroccan breakfast of cakes, and Moroccan mint tea and coffee. While we were having breakfast a Monarch butterfly flew past outside, and we found a dead Zeller's Skipper, a Moroccan butterfly speciality. We were to see live ones later in the trip.

It was cloudy with a few spots of rain as we set off and, after we collected our picnics, we had a stop on Larache seafront. Overhead we had fine views of Little Swift, our first Moroccan bird speciality. Down on the shore locals were catching octopuses in the rock pools, and there were many fishing boats returning to harbour pursued by numerous gulls and Sandwich Terns.

We then headed through the town to the nearby fabled Oued Loukkos where we found a new motorway crossing the saltmarsh. We stopped just beyond the motorway bridge where the marshes were obviously very wet and the horses were splashing about in the wet fields. Our first bird was a Black Tern over the marsh followed by Spanish Yellow Wagtail and many Black-winged Stilts. We walked along the very productive field edges with plenty to see including Gull-billed Terns, Marsh Harriers and two Osprey overhead. The children here were getting very hassly and were persistently looking through our telescopes and asking us for cigarettes (probably the only time during the trip that this happened), so we drove along to the far end where there was a large area of open water and masses of Crested Coot: we counted at least nine hundred. There were also a good variety of duck included eight Marbled Duck. The array of birds here was constantly entertaining with numbers of Marsh Harrier in view all the time. These were flushing waders including Kentish Plover, Little Stint and many others. Caspian Terns were flying overhead and Mediterranean Gulls were amongst the gull flocks. A few Flamingos were there just to complete the picture.

We went onto the barrage where there was little in view apart from a nice perched Caspian Tern. We headed back to our crossroads hotel for a comfort stop and then drove north to Asilah through the rich farmland of northern Morocco. On the way a Red Kite flew over the road, a scarce bird here. This was followed by three distant Black Kite and a single Black-shouldered Kite - all three kite species in the space of a few miles. Past Asilah we turned off the main road and a brown falcon flew across and perched in the field. It was a Lanner, giving us superb views.

We then headed on to a lunch stop before continuing on to the Great Bustard site. This is an area of open fields near an array of aerials, and just as we were scanning the fields for Great Bustards, a landrover roared up telling us we were not allowed up to our usual viewpoint as we would be too near "an American Base". However there were many larks flying about including some Skylark, and some excellent Calandra Larks which got Will amongst others very excited (he was still talking about these at the end of the week). We walked up a different hill away from the so-called "American Base" and noted some interesting weeds including Mandrake and Friar's Cow, but had no luck with the bustards here this year.

So we headed back to the Oued Loukkos again where we immediately saw a new bird, a female Red-crested Pochard. Further on we saw a pair of these fine duck and as we were looking at these Jeremy found a Purple Gallinule poking out of the reeds behind. An excellent finish to a day on which we had seen over eighty species.

5th November

We got up to rain and very wet roads as we set off south. Just outside Larache we saw an overturned bus. Mohammed said: "The road is slippery; no rain for months, and now the oil and water make the surface like soap". We drove through farmland and sugar cane and many vegetables being harvested. Heavy showers were falling periodically. As we turned off the main road we saw another crash with one of the 'grand taxi' mini-buses completely smashed, crowds milling about and one sad fatality by the roadside. We continued on to Moulay Bousselham even more cautiously.

However it was fine as we walked by the edge of the eucalyptus plantation down to view the huge open water of Merja Zerga. A Glossy Ibis was feeding with the cattle and we saw another superb Monarch Butterfly which perched for all of us to see. The birds were distant but included a few nearer waders like Wood Sandpiper. Our presence attracted numerous telescope-carriers and we walked round with them to view another bay. The ducks were very wary and kept distant. The cartridge cases on the ground explained why. The low water levels did not help but we did see several Marsh Harriers and one Hen Harrier. We walked back via a flock of very obliging Serins to the vehicle.

By now there was more rain and it was blowing hard as we went into Moulay. We had lunch overlooking the estuary mouth with Slender-billed Gulls and Audouin's Gulls. At one of the cafes where we headed for coffee we had a stroke of luck, meeting Hassan Dalil, the Slender-billed Curlew guide who had led our two previous groups to this area. He still had the binoculars one of our groups had given him (in 1995!) and agreed to join us for the afternoon. With him we went round the far side of Merja Zerga and walked through fields busy with people doing the harvest and watching their cattle flocks. Here we found our first Moroccan Chaffinches and had brief views of a Barbary Falcon. It rained a bit but the sun came out as we got to the wet meadows where the Slender-billed Curlews used to be. Hassan was of the opinion that they had been shot, a very sad way for an endangered species to become extinct. There were many pipits here and Will soon found us a fine Richard's Pipit that we examined through our telescopes. We spent some time getting closer to this bird before we walked back in superb light and many birds on the move including another Richard Pipit and a superb Black-shouldered Kite which flew and perched on the post giving incredibly good telescope views - "as seen on T.V." as Will put it.

We then went back to the village where Hassan took us to the edge of a new campsite, an excellent vantage point over the marsh. Here we saw more Audouin's Gull and distant waders including Sanderling and Green Sandpiper. As dusk fell we quietly waited, and then at 5.40 Hassan pointed out two African Marsh Owls ghosting across the low marsh and flying behind the campsite trees. Soon another pair came in right over our heads, then more, one landing on the grass just below us to give splendid (if a little dark) telescope views. We could see the orange winged patches in flight and the dark mask with the dark eyes. More owls appeared, several mobbing the local dogs and landing below us briefly. All in all seventeen of these magnificent birds appeared out of the roost - and we had been perfectly positioned to see them. An amazing end to the day. So at 6.10 we said farewell and thanks to Hassan and set off back down the motorway for the half hour drive back to Larache.

6th November

We woke up to the usual Jackdaws and unusual sunshine which kept up all the way down the motorway to Kenitra and most of the day. We found our way to the Lac de Sidi Bourhaba where we could see masses of duck along the narrow lake.

We decided to walk in pleasant warmth under the eucalyptus on the east side. Marsh Harriers were immediately obvious. We later counted fifteen in the air at once. Other raptors included a brown Peregrine of the brookei race, Osprey, Sparrowhawk and Black Kite. The Black-winged Stilts at the far end showed well and included a few Green Sandpipers. Further along was a mixture of Crested and Common Coots which made an interesting comparison. Ducks included masses of Shoveler and Teal. Further along a group of diving duck included six Ferruginous Duck and eight fine Marbled Duck. Masses of Little Grebe were diving, along with six Great Crested and a couple of Black-necked Grebes. All were showing superbly in the sunshine and giving close views. The contrast between these confiding ducks on a protected area and yesterday's very flighty ones at Merga Zerga could not have been greater.

The Marsh Harriers kept attacking one area of reed opposite and two Purple Gallinule popped out. We had wonderful views of the feeding in their distinctive way, grasping the end of a plucked reed in their huge feet. We had our picnic by the lake and then walked along to the first hide we had ever seen on an island with a drawbridge. It was locked. Failing to get in here we walked up to the Visitor Centre, also shut, but round via the road we found a very welcoming warden who showed us round the superb and imaginative displays. Congratulations to SPANA for co-ordinating this inspiring project. We left mid-afternoon and drove round Rabat and Salé. Mohammed told us it was not busy due to a national holiday celebrating the 'green march' into Western Sahara in 1975 in which he had taken part.

Then we headed up to the Zaers for sunset where we failed to hear Double-spurred Francolin but did see both Stock Doves and Wood Pigeons as well as a Woodlark. Mohammed at this point decided to take us back by an untried and unknown route down a tiny road in the dark. We ended up in a quarry once and then going the long way round to the coast, eventually ending up at the hotel at 6.45 where we could hear the waves breaking on the shore from our rooms.

7th November

Wader calls during the night alerted us to the possibilities in the morning and we were not disappointed. Ten species of waders were on the rocks just off the hotel veranda. An impressive sea passage was also going on with dozens of Gannets and several Arctic Skua, some quite close. One Cory's Shearwater also passed quite close and Will found a female Common Scoter on the waves offshore. The gulls were not to be outdone and included several Mediterranean and a couple of fine Audouin's Gull: an excellent and entertaining start to the day.

We breakfasted outside on the terrace watching several Bulbuls in the warm sunshine, and then set off at nine and drove round to Casablanca stopping for coffee at Settat. We continued on to our usual lunch spot, the picnic site by the river of Mechra Benabbou. Here we watched Little Swift, Crag and House Martins while several Pied Flycatchers were feeding in the trees by the river. A Stripe-necked Terrapin basked on the opposite bank. We watched an old man fill a water bottle from the murky river, then pour some into a cup for one of the local children to drink.

We continued onto Marrakech arriving at the hotel at 3.15. After settling in, an intrepid band set off for the souks and a fantastic central square, the Djemma-el-fna or place of the dead, with its snake charmers, acrobats and story tellers all plying their trade to crowds of locals. Jemal our local guide took us to a herbalist where several of us had an invigorating massage and bought some oils and potions. We also visited a cake stall and the inevitable carpet shop, before we pushed our way through the crowds and the smoke-filled square alive with the sound of drums and flutes, to where Mohammed awaited us with the coach.

8th November

7.30 saw us in the lush grounds of the hotel watching a pair of House Buntings and the Moroccan subpersonata race of White Wagtail. After a copious breakfast we met Mohammed, this time with his wife and two of his daughters, and set off for the Atlas in sunshine. Clouds hung over the mountains, but we could see the tops and fresh snow on the highest peaks. We stopped at a pottery shop for superb views of the mountains before heading up the Ourika Valley and turning up the bendy road to Oukaimeden.

At K17 we made our usual stop and immediately found Rock Bunting and the distinctive grey form of Mistle Thrush. Three Ring Ouzels flew past. We heard a Levaillant's Woodpecker, which was glimpsed by Jim. We waited fifteen minutes or so but failed to see it again. We headed onto Oukaimeden itself arriving just before noon. Here we got straight into birds in the damp grass near the reservoir. Both Red-billed and a few Alpine Chough were here and a few smaller birds that we looked at turned into a pair of Crimson-winged Finches, one the high altitude specialities. We walked down to the shore and had excellent views of two pairs of these with a flock of Linnet and further along flocks of Rock Sparrow and Shore Lark.

We then headed for the café and a warming hot chocolate and coffee. It was certainly cold up here. A Long-legged Buzzard flew over, and then two distant raptors glided across the valley. Eventually we got our scopes on them, a pair of adult Golden Eagles, a true rare sight up here. We went to have our enormous picnic lunches by the ski lifts which were busy being repaired for the season, and then walked into a biting head wind up to a view point over the Atlas mountains with snow-covered Jebel Toubkal rising above us, its peak covered in cloud and layer upon layer of dry sparsely vegetated foothills in reds and greys descending to the flat Marrakech plains.

We headed back to the warmth of the coach and started back down the road. We had only got a few hundred yards past the reservoir when Will saw a Dipper in the stream. We stopped and looked at this rare Atlas resident and also saw a Black Wheatear fly up from the stream. Further along we stopped for a walk in the pines. Three Barbary Partridge were flushed but it was otherwise uneventful. We headed back down until between K7 and K8 Will saw another Levaillant's Woodpecker fly alongside the bus. It perched on a rock about 20 metres away giving good views briefly. Some got out for more views of this superb Atlas endemic. What a day it had been, with wonderful awe-inspiring scenery and all our target birds performing well.

9th November

We were off at nine on the long road to Agadir over the Atlas Mountains. Increasing cloud greeted us and we had heavy rain at Imri 'n Tadoute where we had our coffee stop. As we went over the crest of the mountains we hit sunshine, and it was dry and sunny all the way down to Agadir for lunch at the Oued Sous just after one o'clock. It was sheltered here and the air was admittedly a bit ripe as we watched Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis, over two hundred Flamingos and many wader species.

Then it was time to set off along the coast to Tamri where it became increasingly windy. We stopped at a beach for over fifty Auduoin's Gulls and then onto Cap Rhir where it was almost sandstorm conditions as we rounded the corner. There was absolutely nothing on the windblasted estuary so we checked the dry slopes the other side of Tamri village without any result. We went back for a walk on the estuary seeing a few gulls and tern but set off back to Agadir just after four, feeling that we had failed to see the key species here, Bald Ibis, for the first time in our eight visits.

But about five kilometres towards Cap Rhir two black shapes flying towards us had us looking. The two Bald Ibis flew right alongside the bus in superb light. We got Mohammed to turn the bus round and followed the birds, letting them overtake us several times as they battled against the head winds flying along the coast - lucky or what. Round the other side of Cap Rhir it was a little more sheltered and we stopped for a 'shufti', coming up with good views of several Thekla Lark, and then headed back to Agadir in the sunset and onto the Sous estuary at five past six. It was windy here but we did briefly see two or three Red-necked Nightjars in the palace lights. It had been a long and tiring day, but a rewarding one.

10th November

A walk round the grounds of the Hotel Argana in Agadir gave us two Common Redstarts. It was clear and a bit windy to start with but as we set off for Oued Massa it became clear that a major sandstorm was brewing up. At Oued Massa we faced atrocious conditions. In places it was like fog, with everyone's headlights full on. Down at the Oued itself it was very dry; there was no open water at all. A walk along one of the tracks here produced very little in the poor conditions. We then headed onto the car park before the village, persuading Mohammed to nurse the coach along the bumpy, narrow track. We stopped on the corner to view hirundines feeding. Both Red-rumped Swallow and the local speciality Brown-throated Sand Martins were seen amongst the Barn Swallows and House Martins.

We walked into the wind and biting dust towards the village seeing Laughing Doves flying up in front of us. At a sheltering hedge we found two superb male Moussier's Redstarts showing well in the sunshine. We walked down to the Reserve entrance where a mini-bus caught us up and out jumped a very biblical looking figure with a flowing beard and flowing robes. Was it one of Osama Bin Laden's doubles? No, it was Bryan Bland with a Sunbird group. After mutual commiserations about the weather we left them and walked back through the village getting better views of the Laughing Doves.

Near the car park a pale raptor headed towards us and landed on the hillside. Some debate ensued as we scrutinised the bird, but as it took off we identified it as a juvenile Bonelli's Eagle. Conditions if anything were getting worse as we headed back to Agadir and the Oued Sous again but it was sheltered and clear actually at the river. On the first corner there were even more birds than yesterday including masses of Stilts, a Gull-billed Tern and a Curlew Sandpiper. We continued down to the park gates and walked out to the estuary shore flushing three Barbary Partridge which gave excellent views to those at the front. On the shore we had fine views of Flamingos, Spoonbills and a mass of gulls. We looked through the wader flock and eventually identified more species until the sun sank low. A Golden Plover flew over our heads for the final new species of the trip. We got back to the hotel and said our thanks to Mohammed and Abdul and farewells.

11 November

All seemed well as we left Agadir in sunshine - except that we could have done with the fine weather yesterday. We didn't get our boarding cards for the Casablanca flight, but, hey, this is Morocco, and we weren't unduly worried.

At Casablanca we found a scrum round the check-in desk, and complete chaos. The flight had been overbooked, the boarding cards issued, and half of us had been 'bounced'. The connection time was tight anyway, and I told Will and the others to go - remembering just too late to say 'Ok kid, you've got a plane to catch, here's looking at you..' But I was otherwise distracted with trying to get the rest of us back that evening.

Eventually with some shouting, a little gentle banging of the desk and not too much threatening, I managed to get the rest of us on a flight to Geneva - business class of course - and thence home on Swissair, jumping on board the plane just as the doors were closing, and finding our luggage just sitting waiting for us at Heathrow!

Thanks to Mohammed for his driving and being always, as he said, 'at your disposal' and to Abdul his mate, to Will for being so easy to lead with, and for the bird list below, and to the group for support (especially at Casablanca Airport!) and good company. I look forward to seeing you all again in the not-too-distant future,

Jamie McMillan

Will Wagstaff

SPECIES LISTS

Birds

Cory's Shearwater Calonectris diomedea Two were noted passing Skhirat on 7th.

Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis Three were at Sidi Bourhaba on 6th.

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis Fifty plus were at Sidi Bourhaba on 6th and eight were at Oued Massa on 10th.

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus Six were at Sidi Bourhaba on 6th.

Northern Gannet Morus bassana A steady passage was noted off Moulay Bousselham on 5th. One was seen from the bus on 6th with a good passage seen from the hotel at Skhirat on 7th. At least ten were seen from the coast road near Tamri on 9th.

Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo Small groups seen daily in north with a max. of 40+ at Oued Loukkos on 4th. Three were noted near Tamri on 9th and at least twenty were at Oued Massa on 10th.

Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax One was seen and heard at dusk at Oued Sous on 9th.

Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides At least twenty were in the Oued Loukkos area on 4th. One was at Merja Zerga on 5th.

Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis Common seen daily in agricultural areas.

Little Egret Egretta gazetta Seen daily in small numbers except on the day in the mountains.

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea Seen on the coast or on major wetlands, max. 150+ at Merja Zerga on 5th.

White Stork Ciconia ciconia Seen in small groups most days in north. max. 120+ on 6th. Scarce in south.

Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus One was at Merja Zerga on 5th with another at Oued Sous on 9th.

Bald Ibis Geronticus eremita Two were seen well in flight near Tamri on 9th with nine seen at Oued Massa on 10th.

Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia One was at Oued Sous on 9th with nine there on 10th. Four were at Oued Massa on 10th.

Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber Six were at Oued Loukkos on 4th, 200+ were at Merja Zerga on 5th and three were at Sidi Bourhaba on 6th. At least two hundred and fifty were at Oued Sous on 9th and a count of 180+ was made there next day.

Wigeon Anas penelope One was at Oued Loukkos on 4th and at least ten were at Merja Zerga on 5th.

Gadwall Anas strepera Six at Oued Loukkos and ten plus at Merja Zerga.

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos Small groups on open water in the north on three dates.

Pintail Anas acuta Two were on Oued Loukkos on 4th, fifty plus at Merja Zerga on 5th and ten at Sidi Bourhaba on 6th.

Shoveler Anas clypeata Forty plus were on Oued Loukkos on 4th and 150+ on Sidi Bourhaba on 6th.

Common Teal Anas crecca Twenty at Oued Loukkos on 4th and thirty plus at Sidi Bourhaba on 6th. A female was at Oukaimeden on 8th.

Marbled Duck Marmaronetta angustirostris Eight were at Oued Loukkos on 4th and eight on Sidi Bourhaba.

Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina A male and two females were at Oued Loukkos on 4th.

Common Pochard Aythya ferina Thirty two were at Sidi Bourhaba on 6th.

Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula A lone male was at Sidi Bourhaba on 6th.

Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca Five were seen well at Sidi Bourhaba on 6th.

Common Scoter Melanitta nigra one was on the sea off Skhirat on 7th.

Osprey Pandion haliaetus Two were at Oued Loukkos on 4th, one was at Merja Zerga on 5th and one was over Sidi Bourhaba on 6th. One flew over Marrakech as we breakfasted on 9th and one was at Oued Sous on 10th.

Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caerulus One was seen from the bus on 4th, two were at Merja Zerga on 5th, one showing extremely well perched in the afternoon sun. Three were noted from the bus on 6th.

Black Kite Milvus migrans Three were seen from the bus on 4th and one was over Sidi Bourhaba on 6th.

Red Kite Milvus milvus One was seen from the bus on the way to Asilah on 4th.

Hen Harrier Circus One was at Merja Zerga on 4th.

Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus Common in the north where singles noted regularly from the road, three were noted over wetlands in the south. At least six were at Oued Loukkos on 4th and fifteen were at Sidi Bourhaba on 6th.

Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus One to two were noted daily in the north with another in the mountains on 8th.

Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus Singles were north of Asilah on 4th, between Larache and Kenitra on 6th and at Oukaimeden on 8th.

Common Buzzard Buteo buteo One was seen north of Asilah on 4th and another over Sidi Bourhaba on 6th.

Golden Eagle Two glided over Oukaimeden on 8th.

Bonelli's Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus A pale immature was at Oued Massa on 10th.

Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus Common, seen daily, widespread in the north where seen over most habitats. Not as common in the south.

Lanner Falco biarmicus A juvenile was perched in a ploughed field north of Asilah on 4th.

Peregrine Falco peregrinus Singles were at Oued Loukkos on 4th and over Sidi Bourhaba on 6th.

Barbary Falcon Falco pelegrinoides One showed briefly at Merja Zerga on 5th.

Merlin Falco colombarius One was noted by three of the party at Oued Massa on 10th.

Barbary Partridge. Alectoris barbara Two were seen from the bus north of Asilah on 4th. Three were in the mountains on 8th and three flushed from under our feet at Oued Sous on 10th.

Moorhen Gallinula chloropus Two were at Oued Loukkos on 4th and three were at Sidi Bourhaba on 6th. Two were on Oued Massa on 10th.

Purple Gallinule Porphyrio porphyrio Two were at Oued Loukkos on 4th and two showed well at Sidi Bourhaba on 6th.

Crested Coot Fulica cristata An exceptional flock of over 900 was at Oued Loukkos on 4th and ten plus were at Sidi Bourhaba on 6th.

Coot Fulica atra Fifty plus were at Sidi Bourhaba on 4th and 200+ were at Oued Massa on 10th.

Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus Forty five were at Merja Zerga on 5th, twenty at Skhirat on 7th, two at Oued Sous on 9th with five there on 10th.

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus Twenty plus were at Oued Loukkos on 4th and ten plus were at Sidi Bourhaba on 6th. Twenty plus were at Oued Sous on 9th, ten plus at Oued Massa and 220+ at Oued Sous on 10th.

Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta Four were at Sidi Bourhaba on 6th.

Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus One was heard calling at dusk at the Oued Sous on 9th.

Lapwing Vanellus vanellus Ten were at Oued Loukkos on 4th and another ten were at Merja Zerga on 5th.

Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius Two were at Oued Loukkos on 4th and one was on the Oued Sous on 10th.

Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula Small groups were noted in suitable habitat with forty plus on 4th being the highest count.

Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus Four were at Oued Loukkos on 4th. Two were on the Oued Sous on 9th with three present there next day.

Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola After one at Oued Loukkos on 4th at least ten were Merja Zerga on 6th with a similar number at Skhirat on 8th. One was heard at Oued Sous on 9th and fifteen plus were there next afternoon.

Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria One was seen in flight over Oued Sous on 10th.

Sanderling Calidris alba Two were at Merja Zerga on 5th and six were at Kenitra on 6th. Thirty plus were at Skhirat on 7th and on the Oued Sous four were noted on 9th and ten on 10th.

Little Stint Calidris minuta Two were at Oued Loukkos on 4th and three were at Skhirat on 7th.

Knot Calidris canutus Three were at Skhirat on 7th.

Dunlin Caladris alpina Four were at Skhirat on 7th and thirty plus were at Oued Sous on 10th.

Curlew Sandpiper Calidris One was at Oued Sous on 10th.

Ruff Philomachus pugnax Four were at Oued Loukkos on 4th and three were at Merja Zerga on 6th. At Oued Sous four were seen on 9th and ten plus next day.

Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago Twenty six were at Oued Loukkos on 4th and twelve plus were at Merja Zerga on 5th. One was at Oued Sous on 10th.

Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa Three were at Oued Loukkos on 4th and twenty plus were at Oued Sous on 10th.

Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica Three were at Merja Zerga on 5th and six were on the shore at Skhirat on 7th. One was at Oued Sous on 10th.

Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus Six were at Skhirat on 7th.

Curlew Numenius arquata Small numbers noted on five dates on mudflats. Max ten plus at Merja Zerga on 5th and at Oued Sous on 9th.

Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus Three were at Oued Loukkos on 3rd and one was at Oued Sous on 10th.

Common Redshank Tringa totanus Common around wetlands north and south of the Atlas, seen daily except on day in mountains.

Greenshank Tringa nebularia Thirty plus were at Oued Loukkos on 4th and five were at Merja Zerga on 5th. At Oued Sous one was heard on 9th and three were seen next afternoon.

Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus One was at Oued Loukkos on 4th, at least eight were at Merja Zerga on 5th and four were at Sidi Bourhaba on 6th. One was at Oued Sous on 9th and two were present there next day.

Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola Two were at Merja Zerga on 5th.

Common Sandpiper Tringa hypoleucos Present at most wetlands in small numbers, max. five at Oued Loukkos on 4th. Not seen on day in mountains.

Turnstone Arenaria interpres ten plus were at Skhirat on 7th.

Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus Common around the coast. Not seen on day in mountains.

Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus An adult was at Oued Loukkos on 4th. Fourteen were seen from the hotel at Skhirat on 7th and eighteen were on Oued Sous on 10th.

Audouin's Gull Larus audouinii Ten were at the mouth of Merja Zerga on 5th and four were seen from the hotel at Skhirat on 7th. A total of fifty nine were seen between Tamri and the Oued Sous on 9th and two were at the Oued Sous on 10th.

Lesser Back-backed Gull Larus fuscus Common around coasts. Seen daily except on the day in mountains. One bird of the northern race, fuscus was at Merja Zerga on 5th.

Yellow-legged Gull Larus cachinnans Common around the coasts, seen every day except on day in mountains.

Slender-billed Gull Larus genei Twelve were noted on the sandbanks at the mouth of Merja Zerga on 5th and one was at Oued Sous on 10th.

Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus Fifteen were noted passing Skhirat on 7th.

Gull-billed Tern Sterna nilotca Two were hawking over Oued Loukkos on 4th and one was at Oued Sous on 9th and 10th.

Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis Small groups noted around the coast on five dates. Max. 50+ at Skhirat on 7th.

Common Tern Sterna Two were noted passing Skhirat on 7th with singles noted at Tamri on 9th and at Oued Massa on 10th.

Caspian Tern Sterna caspia Four were at Oued Loukkos on 4th and two were at Merja Zerga on 5th.

Black Tern Childonias niger Two were at Oued Loukkos on 4th and singles were noted at Oued Sous on 9th and at Oued Massa on 10th.

Whiskered Tern Childonias hybridus Eight were seen well at Oued Loukkos on 4th.

Auk sp. A Guillemot or Razorbill was noted heading south off Skhirat on 7th.

Rock Dove / Grot Dove Columbia liverish Far too common, seen daily.

Wood Pigeon Columbia palumbus Ten were at the Zaers on 6th and a flock of twenty one was seen in the Atlas on 8th. Two at Oued Sous on 9th and six there next day.

Stock Dove Columbia oenas Twelve plus were at the Zaers on 6th.

Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto Common, seen daily in almost all towns visited. Flocks of 50+ seen in Larache. An astonishing increase since we started visiting Morocco 10 years ago, when just a handful were seen, and in the Birdwatchers' Guide to Morocco (pub 1984) it is listed as an accidental species!

Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis Six were present at Oued Massa on 10th.

Little Owl Athene noctua One was heard calling at Merja Zerga on 5th.

African Marsh Owl Asio capensis An incredible seventeen were watched coming out of roost at Merja Zerga on 5th.

Red-necked Nightjar Caprimulgus ruficollis At least two were seen at dusk at Oued Sous on 9th.

Common Swift Apus apus One was seen from the bus on the outskirts of Agadir on 10th.

Little Swift Apus affinus Small groups were seen above the old town of Larache 4th-6th, and over Marrakech on 7th-9th.

Kingfisher Alcedo atthis Four were at Oued Loukkos on 4th with singles then noted at Merja Zerga on 5th, Sidi Bourhaba on 6th and perched at Skhirat on 7th.

Levaillant's Woodpecker Picus vaillantii One showed well from the road and another was heard in the mountains on 8th.

Calandra Lark Melanocorypha calandra Thirty plus were on fields north of Asilah on 4th and one was seen from the road on the way to Marrakech on 7th.

Crested Lark Galerida cristata Commonly seen by roadside in all vegetated areas.

Thekla Lark Galerida theklae Four were seen near Cap Rhir on 9th.

Skylark Alauda arvensis Ten plus were noted north of Asilah on 4th with similar numbers at Merja Zerga on 5th. One was heard in the Zaers on 6th.

Woodlark Lullula arborea One was seen and heard in flight over the Zaers on 6th.

Shore Lark Eremophilia alpestris Up to fifty were at Oukaimeden on 8th.

Brown-throated Sand Martin (Plain Martin) Riparia paludicola Three were seen over the river at Oued Massa on 10th.

Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris Five were over Mechra Benabbou on 7th. At least fifteen were seen in the mountains on 8th and one was seen on the way to Agadir on 9th.

Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica Up to three were noted on four dates until over 100 were logged on 10th when 60+ were at Oued Massa and 40+ were above the hotel on our return.

Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica Three were at Oued Massa on 10th.

House Martin Delichon urbica Two were over our lunch stop at Mechra Benabbou on 7th. Four were at Oued Massa on 10th.

Richard's Pipit Anthus novaeseelandiae Two were at Merja Zerga on 5th.

Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis One was heard in a flock of pipits at Oued Loukkos on 4th.

Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis Seen in small numbers daily except 7th.

Spanish Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava iberiae Common at Oued Loukkos on 4th and at Merja Zerga on 5th. Two were at Sidi Bourhaba on 6th and two were at Oued Massa on 10th.

Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea One was at Sidi Bourhaba on 6th.

White Wagtail Motacilla alba Common, seen daily in most habitats.

Moroccan White Wagtail Motacilla alba subpersonata A pair of this distinctive subspecies were in the hotel grounds in Marrakech on 8th and 9th.

Common Bulbul Pycnonotus barbatus Scarce in the north but more widespread south of the Atlas.

Dipper Cinclus cinclus One showed well in stream below Oukaimeden on 8th.

Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus Two were in the hotel gardens at Agadir on 10th.

Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochrous Up to four a day were noted except at Oukaimeden where fifty plus were present.

Moussier's Redstart Phoenicurus moussieri Three males and a female were seen from the bus on the way to Agadir on 9th and two males and two females showed well at Oued Massa on 10th.

Stonechat Saxicola torquata Common in most habitats, noted daily.

Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe Three were near Asilah on 4th. Two were in mountains on 8th. Two were seen from the bus on 9th and two were at Oued Massa on 10th.

Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucura Six were seen from the road in the mountains on 8th and one was also noted from the road o the way to Agadir on 9th.

Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus Three were seen from the roadside stop on the way to Oukaimeden and one was at Oukaimeden on 8th.

Blackbird Turdus merula Up to ten were noted on five dates.

Song Thrush Turdus philomelos At least twenty were at Sid Bourhaba on 6th. Three were in the mountains on 8th and one was at Oued Massa on 10th.

Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus Three were seen in High Atlas on 8th.

Robin Erithacus rubecula Seen or heard on five dates with a max. of ten on 6th at Sidi Bourhaba.

Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti Two were heard at Oued Loukkos on 4th. Four were heard and one seen at Sidi Bourhaba on 6th with a further two heard at Mechra-Benabbou.

Fan-tailed Warbler Cisticola juncidis Three were at Oued Loukkos on 4th with many seen and heard at Merja Zerga on 5th. A few were noted at Sidi Bourhaba on 6th and one was at Oued Sous on 10th.

Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus One was singing at Oued Loukkos on 4th.

Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala Seen and heard calling every day with a max. of six noted on 6th.

Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla One to two were noted between 7th and 10th.

Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita Up to four noted daily, usually found singly.

Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata One was at Oued Sous on 10th.

Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca Three were at Mechra-Benabbou on 7th. One was near Oukaimeden on 7th with another at Oued Sous on 9th and three at Oued Massa on 10th.

Blue Tit Parus caeruleus ultramarinus At least four were at Sidi Bourhaba on 6th and three were in he mountains on 8th.

Great Tit Parus major Two were heard at Sidi Bourhaba on 6th with singles then noted at Mechra-Benabbou on 7th and in the mountains on 8th.

Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis Two were north of Asilah on 4th, one on the way to Marrakech on 7th, three between Marrakech and Agadir on 9th and one at Oued Massa on 10th.

Magpie Pica pica mauritanica Twenty six were noted in various sites on 6th with another four noted at Oued Sous on 9th and 10th.

Red-billed Chough Phyrrhorcorax phyrrhocorax Over sixty were present on the meadow at Oukaimeden on 8th.

Alpine Chough Phyrrhocorax graculus At least eighty were in the Oukaimeden area on 8th, most using slightly higher slopes than previous species.

Jackdaw Corvus monedula A small group of about ten birds came from their roost at Larache on 4th-6th.

Raven Corvus corax Small numbers noted on five dates. Max. of twelve plus along coast between Tamri and Agadir.

Spotless Starling Sturnus unicolour Very common, especially south of the Atlas range.

Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris Common north of the Atlas, especially near Larache, scarce in mountains and not seen on 10th.

House Sparrow Passer domesticus Very common around agricultural areas and buildings.

Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia Upwards of thirty were on the meadow at Oukaimeden on 8th.

Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs africana Small groups seen on six dates, max. thirty in mountains on 8th.

Serin Serinus serinus Seen daily except on 9th. Usually less than five per day except when forty plus noted at Merja Zerga on 5th and at Oued Massa on 10th.

Greenfinch Carduelis chloris Up to four seen on four dates.

Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis Commonly seen in small flocks, between ten and forty per day apart from 9th when none were logged.

Linnet Carduelis cannabina Twenty plus were near Asilah on 4th, sixty plus were at the Zaers on 6th and thirty plus were at Oukaimeden on 8th.

Crimson-winged Finch Rhodopechys sanguinea Two pairs were seen well on the meadow at Oukaimeden on 8th.

Rock Bunting Emberiza cia Ten plus were in the mountains on 8th and one was noted from the bus on the way to Agadir on 9th.

House Bunting Emberiza striolata One was in the grounds of the hotel at Marrakech on 7th with two present next morning. One was seen from the bus in Marrakech on 9th and one was at Oued Massa on 10th.

Corn Bunting Milaria calandra Fifty plus were noted at Oued Loukkos and near Asilah on 4th. Ten plus were at Merja Zerga on 5th.

MAMMALS

Barbary Ground Squirrel Atlantoxerus getulus One was seen from the bus on the way through the High Atlas between Marrakech and Agadir on 9th.

BUTTERFLIES

Small White Artogeia rapae One to two were noted on three dates north of the Atlas.

African Grass Blue Zizeeria knysna One was at Oued Massa on 10th.

Red Admiral Vanessa atlanta Two were at Sidi Bourhaba on 6th.

Painted Lady Cynthia cardui Between one and three were noted on six dates.

Speckled Wood Parage aegeria Singles were at Sidi Bourhaba on 6th and at Mechra-Benabbou on 7th.

Monarch Danaus plexippus Four were seen in Larache on 4th(including one seen as we had breakfast). One was seen well on the ground at Merja Zerga on 5th. Not noted in Tolman & Lewington as a Moroccan resident - is it expanding its range or are these migrants from Spain/Canaries/America?

Plain Tiger Danaus chrysippus One was at Mechra-Benabbou on 7th.

Zeller's Skipper Borbo borbonica One dead at Larache, 4th. Several around wall of campsite at Moulay Bousselham, 5th.

MOTHS

Crimson-speckled Moth Utethesia pulchella Two showed well at Merja Zerga on 5th.

Udea ferrugalis Jamie introduced us to many of this "delightful" species at Merja Zerga on 5th.

DRAGONFLIES

Vagrant Emperor Hemianax epiphigger Several were at Sidi Bourhaba on 6th.

Emperor Anax imperator Singles were noted at Oued Loukkos on 4th and at Oued Massa on 10th with many several over Merja Zerga on 5th.

Red-veined Darter Sympetrum fonscolombei A few were present at Sidi Bourhaba on 6th.

ORTHOPTERA

Red-winged Grasshopper Several were at Sid Bourhaba on 6th.

'HERPS'

Stripe-necked Terrapin One was seen on the bank of the river at Mechra-Benabbou on 7th and another of what was possibly this species was in the Oued Massa on 10th.

SNAILS

Thanks to Jeremy for identifying the following:

Otala lactea

Sandhill Snail Theba pisonia

Many thanks to Terence for the photo of us at dinner on the last night:


© The Travelling Naturalist 2001