TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT

Spring in Southern Morocco

6th to 16th March 2003


Leaders:
Andy Smith
Will Wagstaff

TRIP DIARY

6th March - Heathrow to Ouarzazate.

Our evening flight via Casablanca arrived on schedule in Ouarzazate a little after 11pm. and after clearing the airport and meeting our driver Ibrahim we transferred the short distance to our hotel. With the formalities concluded everyone headed off to bed full of anticipation for the days ahead.

7th March - Ouarzazate to Tinerhir.

A pre-breakfast walk for some of the group to the Oued below the hotel gave us an immediate introduction to a range of common Moroccan birds. House Buntings and Black Redstarts sang from the rooftops, White Storks attended their huge nests on the castellated Kasbah, Pallid Swifts swooped low overhead and a pair of Hoopoes sat obligingly on a wall. In the well-vegetated gardens Common Bulbuls chirped merrily - surely the sound of Southern Morocco - whilst amongst the hordes of noisy House Sparrows we picked out at least two striking Spanish Sparrows. By the river itself, a Green Sandpiper foraged along the shore by a lone Little Egret, a Little Ringed Plover hid itself on a shingle bank and a trio of Iberian Yellow Wagtails fed amongst some damp grass.

After breakfast we headed off eastwards making roadside stops for our first White-crowned Wheatears and a passing migrant Osprey before taking a side road down to the shore of the Barrage de Mansour el Edahbi, a large dammed lake. After five years of poor winter rains the water level here, as everywhere in southern Morocco, was very low but we nevertheless managed to see a number of notable birds including six colourful Ruddy Shelducks, three Ospreys, several Cormorants of the white-breasted maroccanus race and a first-winter Audouin's Gull amongst a small group of Black-headed Gulls. On the ground we found our first reptiles in the form of a couple of Spiny-footed Lizards and a very smart Agama.

From here we continued eastwards with the towering snow-capped ramparts of the High Atlas to the north and the arid ridge of Jebel Sarhrou to the south. We ate our picnic lunch under some shady roadside trees near Skoura and stopped for a glass of mint tea near El Kelaa amongst the almond groves and kasbahs of the Dades Valley. Towards the end of the afternoon we reached the famous "Tagdilt Track" area southeast of Boulmane de Dades. A brief exploration of part of this high altitude gravel plain produced several Red-rumped Wheatears, two neat Desert Wheatears, a few Fat Sand Rats and stunning views of an immaculate Lanner Falcon devouring an indeterminate prey item.

8th March - Tinerhir, the Tagdilt Plain and the Gorge du Todra.

After breakfast we set off back towards the Tagdilt Plain. Our journey was interrupted first by a trio of Black Wheatears on the edge of Tinerhir town itself and then a little later by a superb pair of Mourning Wheatears at the roadside. A full morning exploring the Tagdilt Plain brought a range of notable birds including two distant flying Cream-coloured Coursers, good views of Temminck's, Hoopoe, Thekla and Short-toed Larks, a superb Southern Grey Shrike of the pale elegans race and more Red-rumped and Desert Wheatears.

By early afternoon we were at the entrance to the Todra Gorge and ate our picnic by riverside groves accompanied by Serins, Grey Wagtails, explosively vocal Cetti's Warblers, a Scarce Swallowtail Butterfly and a surprise Siskin. After lunch we walked up through the gorge and enjoyed some good views of a male Blue Rock Thrush and some wonderfully aerobatic Crag Martins. Everyone was suitably awed by the spectacular scenery but the heat of the day and the effects of the drought meant that birds were few, so after a glass of tea in one of the cafes we walked back down the road to our lunchtime groves. Here we found a relative hive of activity including good numbers of Serins, Goldfinches and Linnets, several Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps, some more Blue Rock Thrushes and a couple of male Ring Ouzels. From here we drove back down through colourful Berber villages and lush Date palm groves to Tinerhir.

9th March - Tinerhir to Erfoud.

We left Tinerhir at 8am and continued our journey eastwards through constantly changing desert scenery. An impromptu stop for some roadside Desert Larks also led us to a lovely stand of purple and white Cistanche flowers, then a fine Desert Wheatear and finally a superb male Moussier's Redstart. At some groves just outside Tinejad we found Sardinian, Sub-alpine and Spectacled Warblers, whilst on the adjacent desert we were treated to superb views of both Desert and Bar-tailed Larks side by side (a useful comparison), several Crested Larks and a confiding Hoopoe Lark despatching an unfortunate Oleander Hawk-moth. We made a lunch stop in some orchards near Ba Touroug and found a huge stand of yellow Cistanches that were attracting various insects including both Oleander and Hummingbird Hawk-moths. A brief post lunch stroll along a nearby oued produced another Hoopoe Lark and a couple of neat little Greenish Black-Tip butterflies.

From here we drove straight to Erfoud and checked into our hotel after which, in a minor sand storm, an intrepid few set out for some late afternoon birding. We went to the sandy Marrha plain some 30 minutes drive west of town. By the time we got there the dust had dropped but the wind was still blowing. As a result birds were hard to find and so it was a great stroke of luck to come across a party of 15 or so Thick-billed Larks foraging their way across the desert. Oblivious to us the nearest members of the flock passed within a few yards and we were treated to some really marvellous views of these extraordinary birds. Elated we returned to Erfoud and our dinner.

10th March - Erfoud, Merzouga and the Erg Chebbi.

An early start for our Land Rover trip out to the dunes. Our first stop was at the well vegetated Oued Derkoua where amongst the broom bushes and date palms we found a displaying Hoopoe Lark, a pair of neat Bar-tailed larks, migrant Northern and Black-eared Wheatears and four Fulvous Babblers, our main target, which we watched for some time as they worked their way from one palm clump to the next in typically busy babbler fashion. Continuing across the desert, noting occasional Desert Wheatears, small flocks of migrant Short-toed larks and several sleek Brown-necked Ravens we arrived at the famous Café Yasmina in the lee of the huge golden sand dunes of the Erg Chebbi. In this wonderful setting we enjoyed a glass of tea in the warm morning sun whilst admiring such choice birds as Southern Grey Shrike, White-crowned Wheatear and immaculate Desert Sparrows, several of which we watched at very close quarters.

Lunch was eaten in the shade of some Tamarisks near Merzouga village after which we took a short walk through the nearby groves, refreshingly shady and green and full of piping Bulbuls and gently crooning Laughing Doves. After this respite it was back out into the desert heat again for a walk around the dry lake-bed of Dayet Sri where we had excellent views of yet another Hoopoe Lark and succeeded in finding two superb Tristram's Warblers. From here we returned to Erfoud where some of the group continued birding along the local oued and found a Little Grebe, several Green Sandpipers and Little Ringed Plovers and a number of neat Trumpeter Finches.

11th March - Erfoud to Ouarzazate.

Leaving Erfoud after breakfast we drove west along the road towards Zagora and the Draa Valley, a route that took us through variety of dramatic desert scenery. Early stops were made first for a group of Brown-necked Ravens, then a close migrant Black Kite and finally for a flock of fast moving Spotted Sandgrouse. A short walk along a well vegetated oued in fine sunshine but a rather too brisk breeze produced Bar-tailed and Desert Larks, a confiding Spectacled Warbler and another Tristram's Warbler. Morning tea was taken in the characterful little town of Ainif and then we continued across more Acacia dotted plains punctuated with regular White-crowned Wheatears and occasional Southern Grey Shrikes. We stopped for lunch in an acacia grove just past Tazzarine where a colourful male Moussier's Redstart provided avian interest and then drove on to the lush green corridor of the Draa valley. Here we made a number of short stops but migrants were few and our most notable sighting was of a couple of the striking subpersonata race of White Wagtail. Finally we drove over the spectacular Tinifit Pass and dropped down into familiar Ouarzazate.

12th March - Ouazazate to Marrakech.

The day started with the sad news of the unexpected death of Will's mother back in South Wales and wheels were put in motion to fly him home as soon as possible. Inevitably it was a rather subdued group that began the drive over the High Atlas via the spectacular Tizi n'Tichka pass out of the deserts and into the north. During a day of fine scenery and colourful Berber villages we encountered a number of notable birds including a couple of superb migrant Booted Eagles, a pair of courting Long-legged Buzzards, a close Barbary Falcon, four rather distant flying Cream-coloured Coursers and several Common Ravens. By mid afternoon we had reached the bustle of Marrakech with its sky full of Pallid and Little Swifts and after a short break at our hotel we visited the famous Jemma el F'na square and the adjacent souks, a rich cultural experience that provided an exciting end to the day.

13th March - Marrakech, Ouakaimeden and the High Atlas.

Will departed from Marrakech airport this morning and so it was a slightly depleted group that made its way up the picturesque Ourika valley towards the ski resort of Ouakaimeden. The scenery was breathtaking as we ascended through a series of vegetation zones and past lots more picturesque Berber villages and farmsteads. On our way up we made several brief stops and encountered a range of interesting birds including a pair of impressive Short-toed Eagles, a Sparrowhawk, another male Moussier's Redstart, a couple of Cirl Buntings, lots of Serins and several Blue Tits and Chaffinches of the attractive North African races. Butterflies in the early morning sun included Cleopatra, Holly Blue, Wall Brown and Moroccan Orange Tip.

At Ouakaimeden itself we had a quick tea break, noted the flocks of Red-billed and Yellow-billed Choughs wafting around and then began to search earnestly for some of the other high altitude specialities. Our first success, a very welcome Levaillant's Woodpecker, was rather unexpected so high up and looked a little out of place hopping around on boulders above the tree line. Through the telescopes we could appreciate the subtle differences in the face pattern that set this species apart from Green Woodpecker. More expected at this altitude was the small group of Crimson-winged Finches hopping around unobtrusively on a distant scree patch. At the top of the village we came across a small party of Rock Sparrows and one at least showed its yellow throat patch as it called vigorously. Black Redstarts seemed to be everywhere and we also found a few Black Wheatears, a large flock of Rock Doves and a party of Mistle Thrushes. Finally, high above the village, on a windswept little plateau we discovered a flock of over 25 Shore Larks feeding on the short grass and calling sibilantly to each other. In a light snow shower we enjoyed fantastic views of these charming birds as they approached within feet of us.

Descending again we flushed two Dippers from the roadside stream just below the village and at a series of other short stops in idyllic settings we added Woodpigeon, Coal Tit, Great Tit, Crossbill, Firecrest, Rock Bunting and Great Spotted Woodpecker to an already impressive day list. Some of these species of course were of the distinctive North African or Atlas races which very much added to the interest. Thus, after a satisfying and enjoyable day, we dropped out of the mountains and sped back across the flatlands to the warmth and bustle of Marrakech.

14th March - Marrakech, Oued Sous, Tamri and Agadir.

The day started with the discovery of a Bonelli's Warbler in the hotel garden and continued well as we hurtled across the stony wheat plains west of Marrakech with the sighting of a few roadside Calandra Larks and several migrant Black Kites. South of Chechoua towards Imi-n-Tanoute and the western extremity of the Atlas the Black Kite passage continued and was augmented by three Montagu's Harriers and a pale-phase Booted Eagle. The descent out of the hills and down through the Argana parklands towards the plains of the Sous valley provided yet more wonderful scenery until, all of a sudden, we were on the edge of sprawling Agadir. Lunch was taken by the estuary of the Oued Sous where we saw a host of new birds including Greater Flamingo, Eurasian Spoonbill, Black-winged Stilt, Ruff, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint and Slender-billed Gull. Here too we all got our first good views of the blue-cheeked mauritanica race of Magpie.

After lunch we drove through Agadir and then north along the scenic coast road past Cap Rhir to Tamri where we hoped to find some of the critically endangered Bald Ibis at this, one of their last outposts. Our first stop was at the picturesque little estuary south of the village and we struck lucky straight away finding a party of 11 foraging on the slope above the far shore. Through the telescopes we had a good view of these extraordinary looking birds and everyone felt very privileged to see such a rare species so well. Additionally, there were over 40 Audouin's Gulls amongst the hundreds of lesser Black-backed Gulls loafing on the beach and bathing in the lagoon and we were treated to excellent close-up views of these too. Thus it was a satisfied group that began the journey back to Agadir. En-route we stopped briefly near Cap Rhir and added Thekla Lark, Hoopoe, Woodchat and Northern Wheatear to the list before we drove the last stretch back to the hotel.

15th March - Oued Massa and Oued Sous.

We spent most of the day at the famous Oued Massa, an hour or so's drive south of Agadir. This pretty river valley and estuary with its rich mosaic of habitats was hopping with birds as usual. Among the numerous highlights were: Purple, Squacco and Night Herons, Glossy Ibis, Marbled duck, Marsh Harrier, Barbary Partridge, Little Owl, Plain Martin, Black-crowned Tchagra and Black-eared Wheatear. Worthy of special note were the seven Stone Curlew seen so well at the roadside on the way in and the party of Wild Boar with attendant stripy piglets that came down to the river to drink as we ate our picnic lunch. Butterflies during this excellent day included Common Swallowtails and impressive Plain Tigers.

In the mid-afternoon we headed back towards Agadir and some of the party returned to the hotel whilst others opted for a return visit to the Oued Sous for some final birding. Here, in fine evening sunshine we enjoyed good views of a range of notable birds including 75 Greater Flamingos, over 80 Eurasian Spoonbill, 10 Avocets, 20 Kentish Plover, several Little Stints, Curlew Sandpipers and Dunlins, a single Knot, another 5 Stone Curlew, over 120 Sandwich Terns, a lone Gull-billed Tern, several Audouin's Gulls and single Slender-billed and Mediterranean Gulls.

16th March - Agadir to London.

After a leisurely breakfast we drove the short distance to the airport, said goodbye and thank-you to Ibrahim who had been a superb driver and fixer and checked in for our flights home. We all arrived safely back at Heathrow on schedule a few hours later.

SPECIES LISTS

Birds

In the course of our nine days in Morocco we saw and/or heard over 160 species of birds including most of the specialities that we were looking for. Moreover we had some truly excellent views of many of them.

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis - One at Erfoud on the 10th and 20+ at Oued Massa on the 15th. Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus - 12 on the Barrage de Mansour el Edahbi on the 7th.

Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo - Several, mostly of the white-breasted maroccanus race, seen at the Barrage de Mansour el Edahbi, Oued Sous and Oued Massa.

Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax - 14 at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis - Common away from the desert. Seen on six dates with a max of 75 on the 13th.

Little Egret Egretta garzetta - Small numbers seen on five dates. Max eight on the 15th.

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea - Small numbers seen on five dates with max of 20 at Oued Sous on the 14th.

Purple Heron Ardea purpurea - One at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides - Six at Oued Massa on the 15th.

White Stork Ciconia ciconia - Common away from the desert. Seen on six dates with a max of 30 on the 15th.

Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus - 38 at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Bald Ibis Geronticus eremita - 11 at Tamri on the 14th. .

Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia - 17 at Oued Sous on the 14th, 85 there on the 15th and one at Oued Massa.

Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber - Up to 75 at Oued Sous on the 14th and 15th and five at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea - 6 at the Barrage de Mansour el Edahbi on the 7th and 4 at Oued Sous on the 14th and 15th.

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos - Three at the Barrage de Mansour el Edahbi on the 7th and two at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Shoveler Anas clypeata - two at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Marbled Duck Marmaronetta angustirostris - 12 at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Black Kite Milvus migrans - One near Tinerhir on the 9th, another near Erfoud on the 11th and 18 between Marrakech and Imi-n-Tanoute on the 14th.

Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus - Two in the High Atlas on the 13th.

Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus - At least five at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus - Three migrants between Chechoua and Imi-n-Tanoute on the 14th.

Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus - One near Skoura on the 7th and two in the High Atlas on the 13th. Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus - Two near Ouarzazate on the 12th.

Bonelli's Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus - One immature at Oued Massa on the 15th. .

Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus - Two between Ouarzazate and Marrakech on the 12th and another between Chechoua and Imi-n-Tanoute on the 14th.

Osprey Pandion haliaetus - Four at the Barrage de Mansour el Edahbi on the 7th and one at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Kestrel Falco tinnunculus - Seen on all but one day with a max of 8 on the 15th.

Lanner Falco biarmicus - One on the Tagdilt Plain on the 7th.

Barbary Falcon Falco pelegrinoides - One near Erfoud on the 9th and one in the High Atlas on the 12th.

Barbary Partridge Alectoris barbara - Two near Cap Rhir on the 14th and four at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Quail Coturnix coturnix - At least four heard at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Moorhen Gallinula chloropus - Four at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Coot Fulica atra - 250+ at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus - 25 at Oued Sous on the 14th and 15th.

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus - Up to 40 at Oued Sous on the 14th and 15th and 30+ at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta - Up to 10 at Oued Sous on the 14th and 15th.

Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus - Seven near Oued Massa and five at Oued Sous on the 15th .

Cream-coloured Courser Cursorius cursor - Flight views only. Two at the Tagdilt Plain on the 8th, four near Ouarzazate on the 12th and two near Oued Massa near on the 15th.

Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius - Small numbers seen on four dates with a max of 11 on the 11th.

Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula - Up to 20 at Oued Sous on the 14th and 15th.

Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus - 20+ at Oued Sous on the 14th and 15th.

Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola - Up to 20 at Oued Sous on the 14th and 15th.

Little Stint Calidris minuta - One at Oued Sous on the 14th and 20+ there on the 15th.

Dunlin Calidris alpina - 6 at Oued Sous on the 15th.

Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea - One at Oued Sous on the 14th and three there on the 15th.

Knot Calidris canutus - One at Oued Sous on the 15th.

Ruff Philomachus pugnax - Three at Oued Sous on the 14th and 15th and three at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica - Up to 25 at Oued Sous on the 14th and 15th.

Redshank Tringa totanus - 25 at Oued Sous on the 14th, 50+ there on the 15th and five at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Greenshank Tringa nebularia - Three at Oued Sous on the 14th and 15th and three at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus - Seen on four dates with a max of seven on the 10th and 11th. Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola - Two at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Common Sandpiper Tringa hypoleucos - Singles seen on three dates with two on the 15th.

Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus- 15 at the Barrage de Mansour el Edahbi on the 7th and up to 30 at Oued Sous on the 14th and 15th.

Slender-billed Gull Larus genei - One first-winter at Oued Sous on the 14th and an adult there on the 15th.

Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus - One first-winter at Oued Sous on the 15th.

Audouin's Gull Larus audouinii - One first winter with Black-headed Gulls at the Barrage de Mansour el Edahbi on the 7th; 40+ at the Tamri river estuary on the 14th and 25+ at Oued Sous on the 15th.

Lesser Back-backed Gull Larus fuscus - Numerous along the coast on the 14th and 15th.

Yellow-legged Gull Larus cachinnans - Numerous along the coast on the 14th and 15th.

Gull-billed Tern Sterna nilotica - One at Oued Sous on the 15th.

Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis - Several on the beach at Tamri on the 14th and up to 120 at Oued Sous on the 14th and the 15th.

Spotted Sandgrouse Pterocles senegallus - 45 in flight about 40 km south-west of Erfoud on the 11th.

Rock Dove Columba livia - Common, seen daily. Many of the birds in the mountains appeared to be genuinely wild.

Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus - Seen in the High Atlas and the Sous valley with a max of 60 in the mountains on the 13th.

Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto - Common, seen daily.

Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur - Several at Oued Massa and Oued Sous on the 15th.

Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis - Seen at Ouarzazate, Erfoud, Merzouga and Oued Massa. Max 15 at Massa on the 15th.

Little Owl Athene noctua - One roosting on a rock face at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Pallid Swift Apus pallidus - 20+ in Ouarzazate on the 7th and hundreds in Marrakech and Agadir.

Little Swift Apus affinis - Only seen in Marrakech where a max of 50 on the 12th.

European Bee-eater Merops apiaster - 20 fly-overs at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis - One at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Hoopoe Upupa epops - Small numbers seen daily. Max 10 on the 7th.

Levaillant's Woodpecker Picus vaillantii - One at Ouakaimeden and two others heard further down the valley on the 13th.

Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major - One in groves below Ouakaimeden on the 13th.

Bar-tailed Desert Lark Ammomanes cincturus - Seen on three dates in the desert with a max of 6 on the 10th.

Desert Lark Ammomanes deserti - Seen on five dates in the desert regions with a max of 9 on the 9th. Hoopoe Lark Alaemon alaudipes - Seen on three dates in the desert with a max of 7 on the 10th. Calandra Lark Melanocorypha calandra - At least three over the wheat fields between Marrakech and Chechoua on the 14th.

Thick-billed Lark Rhamphocoris clotbey - Fantastic views of at least 15 on the Marrha Plain west of Jorf on the 9th.

Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla -Small numbers seen most days with a significant max of over 40 in the Merzouga area on the 10th.

Crested Lark Galerida cristata - Common, seen daily.

Thekla Lark Galerida theklae - Seen on three dates with a max of 10 in the Tamri/Cap Rhir area on the 14th.

Shore Lark Eremophila alpestris - Superb views of a flock of about 25 birds above Ouakaimeden on the 13th.

Temminck's Lark Eremophila bilopha - Two on the Tagdilt Plain on the 8th.

Brown-throated Sand Martin Riparia paludicola - At least 10 at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Sand Martin Riparia riparia - One near Marrakech on the 13th and at least four at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris - 10+ in the Gorge du Todra on the 8th and three as we crossed the Atlas on the 12th.

Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica - Several seen most days with a max of 50+ at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica - One south of Marrakech on the 12th.

House Martin Delichon urbica - at least 20 at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris - Two near Oued Massa on the 15th.

Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis - Seen on five dates with a max of 50 at Oued Sous on the 15th.

Spanish Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava iberiae - Three at Ouarzazate on the 7th, three at Erfoud on the 10th and at least 8 at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea - Small numbers seen on four dates.

White Wagtail Motacilla alba - Small numbers seen almost daily. Max 15 on the 7th. Some were of the distinctive North-west African subpersonata race.

Wren Troglodytes troglodytes - Nine seen or heard in the High Atlas on the 13th.

Dipper Cinclus cinclus - Two at Ouakaimeden on the 13th.

Common Bulbul Pycnonotus barbatus - Common, seen (and heard!) daily.

Robin Erithacus rubecula - One in the High Atlas on the 13th.

Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus - One male at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Moussier's Redstart Phoenicurus moussieri - seen on five dates with a max of six at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochuros - Seen on five dates with a max of over 20 in the High Atlas on the 13th.

Stonechat Saxicola torquata - Seven at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe - Small numbers seen on six dates.

Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica - Singles at Derkoua and Dayet Sri on the 10th and four at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti - Seen on five dates in the desert regions with a max of 10 on the 10th.

Red-rumped Wheatear Oenanthe moesta - Up to eight seen on the Tagdilt Plain on the 7th and 8th. White-crowned Wheatear Oenanthe leucopyga - Seen on six dates in the desert regions with a max of 30 between Erfoud and Ouarzazate on the 11th.

Black Wheatear Oenathe leucura - Small numbers seen in mountainous regions on four dates. Mourning Wheatear Oenanthe lugens - A pair at the roadside west of Tinerhir on the 8th.

Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius - Seen on five dates with a max of 8 on the 8th.

Blackbird Turdus merula - Common, seen daily.

Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus - Two at the Todra Gorge on the 8th.

Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorous - Five at Ouakaimeden on the 13th.

Song Thrush Turdus philomelos - Two in the High Atlas on the 13th and one at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Fulvous Babbler Turdoides fulvous - Four in the Oued Derkoua on the 10th.

Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti - Two heard at the Gorge du Todra on the 8th, two heard in the High Atlas on the 13th and at least four heard and one seen at Massa on the 15th.

Fan-tailed Warbler Cisticola juncidis - Singles heard from the vehicle on the 13th and 14th and then over 30 seen or heard at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus - One at Tinerhir on the 9th and then several heard and one or two seen at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus - at least two seen and others heard at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Moustached Warbler Acrocephalus melanopogon - One heard singing at Oued Massa on the 15th. Tristram's Warbler Sylvia deserticola - Two at Dayet Sri on the 10th and another the following day about 50km southwest of Erfoud.

Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata - Singles on three dates in the desert.

Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans - Small numbers seen on three dates in the desert with a max of seven on the 9th.

Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala - Small numbers seen most days culminating with 30+ at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis - One female near Tinerhir on the 9th.

Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla - Small numbers seen on five dates with a max of 10 on the 15th.

Bonelli's Warbler Phylloscopus bonelli - One in the garden of the Hotel Tichka in Marrakech on the morning of the 14th.

Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita - Small numbers seen almost daily with a max of 30+ at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Firecrest Regulus ignicapillus - One singing in the High Atlas on the 13th.

Great Tit Parus major - A few seen or heard in the Atlas on the 12th and 13th.

Blue Tit Parus caeruleus - Three near El Kelaa on the 7th; three at the Todra Gorge on the 8th and at least eight in the High Atlas on the 13th. All were of the strikingly marked North-west African ultramarinus race.

Coal Tit Parus ater - Four of the endemic atlas race in the High Atlas on the 13th.

Black-crowned Tchagra Tchagra senegala - Two seen and another four or five heard at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis - Small numbers seen most days with a max of five on the 10th. These included birds of both the pale elegans and the darker algieriensis races.

Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator - Small numbers seen away from desert regions on five dates.

Magpie Pica pica - Small numbers seen around Marrakech and at the coast with a max of 12 on the 15th. All were of the distinctive blue-cheeked mauritanica race.

Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax - 50+ in the High Atlas on the 13th.

Alpine Chough Pyrrhocorax graculus - 250+ at Ouakaimeden on the 13th.

Brown-necked Raven Corvus ruficollis - 12 in the Erg Chebbi/Merzouga area on the 10th and eight south-west of Erfoud on the 11th.

Raven Corvus corax - Six between Ouarzazate and Marrakech on the 12th and four in the Tamri/Cap Rhir area on the 14th.

Spotless Starling Sternus unicolor - Common around Marrakech and at the coast. Max 75 on the 15th.

House Sparrow Passer domesticus - Common, seen daily.

Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis - At least three at Ouarzazate on the 7th.

Desert Sparrow Passer simplex - Great views of at least 15 of these lovely little birds near the Café Yasmina on the 10th.

Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia - Eight at Ouakaimeden on the 13th.

Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs - Small numbers seen daily away from the desert regions with a max of 50+ in the High Atlas on the 13th. All were of the distinctive and attractive africana race.

Serin Serinus serinus - Common away from desert regions and seen almost daily with maxima of 40 on the 8th and 30 on the 15th.

Siskin Carduelis spinus - One male at the Gorge du Todra on the 8th.

Greenfinch Carduelis chloris - Small numbers seen on four dates.

Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis - Quite common away from the deserts with small numbers seen on five dates and a max of 15 on the 13th.

Linnet Carduelis cannabina - Small numbers seen on four dates with a max of 10 on the 14th . Crossbill Loxia curvirostra - A flock of 16 in the High Atlas on the 13th.

Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githagineus - At least 20 seen by the oued at Erfoud on the10th.

Crimson-winged Finch Rhodopechys sanguinea - Four at Ouakaimeden on the 13th.

Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus - At least 4 in the High Atlas on the 13th and five at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Rock Bunting Emberiza cia - Eight in the High Atlas on the 13th.

House Bunting Emberiza striolata - Common, seen almost daily with a max of 30 on the 7th.

Corn Bunting Milaria calandra - Five seen or heard at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Mammals

Wild Boar Sus scrofa - At least 20 at Oued Massa on the 15th.

Fat Sand Rat Psammomys obesa - Several seen on the Tagdilt Plain on the 7th and 8th and at Sri Dayet on the 10th.

Reptiles and Amphibians

Marsh Frog, Stripe-necked Terrapin, Pond Terrapin, Spiny-footed Lizard, "Spotted Sand Lizard" and Agama sp.

Butterflies and Moths

Common Swallowtail, Scarce Swallowtail, Large white, Small White, Bath White, Green-striped White, Greenish Black-tip, Moroccan Orange Tip, Clouded Yellow, Cleopatra, Small Copper, Lang's Short-tailed Blue, African Grass Blue, Holly Blue, Plain Tiger, Painted Lady, Speckled Wood and Wall Brown.

Oleander hawk-moth, Hummingbird hawk-moth.

Acknowledgments

Thanks to Ibrahim for his good driving and his calm helpfulness throughout; to Will who was an excellent co-leader until his unfortunate early departure; and to all the members of the group who each in their own way helped to make the trip so enjoyable.

Andy Smith, Chilling, Hants. March 2003.


© The Travelling Naturalist 2003