TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT

Spring in Southern Morocco

10 - 20 March, 2005






Leaders: Tim Earl and Ray Nowicki

Driver : Mohamed Ben Hassan Lamkounz

Driver’s mate : Abdulah

TRIP DIARY


Thursday 10 March
Heathrow to Ouarzazate

A happy group met at Heathrow’s Terminal 2 for the three-hour flight to Casablanca which left only a few minutes late despite the threat of a strike by French air traffic controllers. After catching the Ouarzazate flight we arrived at 11.50pm to be met by our driver Mohamed who has looked after The Travelling Naturalist tours for many years. He was wearing his credentials – a Dorset Naturalist sweat-shirt, a most prized garment from the early days of our tour company. We drove the short distance to our hotel where everyone headed for bed eager for the holiday ahead.



Friday 11 March

Ouarzazate to Tinerhir

We really started the trip off well with a super set of sightings which included Cream-coloured Coursers, Hoopoe Lark, Subalpine and Spectacled Warblers, Moussier's Redstart, five species of wheatear, and Trumpeter Finch.

A 6.45am walk produced many of the common birds in Southern Morocco but had goodies such as Woodchat Shrike, Hoopoe, Pallid Swift and Black-crowned Night-heron. Amazingly, we saw the biggest White Stork’s nest ever. The structure was at least two metres high.

White-crowned and Black Wheatears were common along the roads as we drove to the Barrage de Mansour el Edahbi. Here a closed road forced us to walk down an alternative track to the water… and what a piece of luck that was. The area was teeming with birds. Migrant Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers caught the eye as they flitted through the trees but we did not become complacent – species such as Subalpine and Spectacled Warblers were also found and recorded. Moussier’s Redstart, surely one of Morocco’s most striking birds, was also found at the lakeside.

John found the first of two Trumpeter Finches while Mary spotted a far-from-shy Bluethroat which we all admired as it ran around on a muddy bank like a chicken. Northern (Hen) Harrier and Osprey represented birds of prey. A few Cormorants of the white-breasted maroccanus race were seen on the far side of the lake and three Pintails drifted past. A superb Southern Grey Shrike of the pale elegans race was found perched high in a Tamarisk tree.

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. The scenery was dramatic and we all enjoyed the contrast between grey winter days we had left at home and the rich warm colours of Morocco’s stony desert.

A comfort stop was followed by lunch and a fairly short drive to the stunning Tagdilt track which immediately lived up to its reputation by producing four gorgeous Cream-coloured Coursers as we stepped off the bus. We saw 13 by the end of the walk and there were undoubtedly more.

The walk across the stony plain resulted in fine views of many Short-toed Larks and a single Temminck’s Horned Lark which would have been a complete heart-winner but for a Fat Sand Rat which popped up close to it and stole the show. It was a most endearing character, its golden whiskers catching the late afternoon sun. Our walk ended with great views of two Hoopoe Larks (found by Nadine) once considered the Holy Grail of desert birdwatching.

A pleasant evening was spent in each other’s company before we turned in for an early night.

Saturday 12 March

Tinerhir, Gorge du Dades, and the Tagdilt Plain

Aiming to return to the Tagdilt track and its great birds of yesterday, we set off with high expectations. Happily, several birding stops on the way held us up as we found a succession of superb birds.

First to fall to the Travelling Naturalist luck was a flock of about 20 Thick-billed Larks which were spread over a section of stony desert in about three groups. They were feeding actively and travelled across the desert on foot, so to speak.

Long-legged Buzzard and nesting White Storks were seen again before our second great find showed up – a Lanner Falcon which waited until we were a few yards from its pylon perch before setting off in pursuit of a passing lark. That exercise having failed it settled on another pylon at least a mile in front of us and remained there until we had driven closer and ’scoped it. Soon afterwards the bird was joined by a second Lanner which proceeded to mate with it. Our original bird was clearly a female. The male having performed his function flew to the next pylon down and we were allowed wonderful views of both birds. Eventually, we left them and drove past as they sat quite unconcerned.

Raptors continued to show, firstly with a fly-past Booted Eagle for which we could not stop (another was seen later in the day giving excellent views) and then a Short-toed Eagle which was ’scoped after we all piled out of the bus. As we watched it disappear a second came over, again giving us wonderful views.

Still excited we spent some time examining a pair of Crested Larks and sorting out the differences between them and the European races. These are critical as north African Thekla Larks look like European Crested and vice versa.

To our amazement the larks were joined by a pair of Temminck’s Horned Larks, our second sighting of this wonderful species. (They were not to be our last as several more were found later on the Tagdilt Plain bringing the day’s total to an amazing nine.) Another Southern Grey Shrike and a pair of Red-rumped Wheatears were found before we left the site for Boumalne and a coffee / comfort break.

It was not that comfortable – the temperature had been dropping all morning as a strong cold wind got up, made worse by the leaden skies and lack of sun. Nevertheless, we were able to add Red-rumped Swallow to the list before returning to the Tagdilt Plain.

What a disappointment… instead of birds there were thousands of plastic bags which had blown out of the town’s tip. We cut our walk short and returned to the bus. In fairness, it had not been bird-less. Scores of Black Kites were on the move and a Hobby passed overhead before we had even set off. The Booted Eagle mentioned above also drifted past us at close range.

We set off for an early lunch (stops for birds eventually put that back to 1.15pm) in the Gorges du Dades where we saw our first north African Blue Tits – of the attractive race ultramarinus – and heard singing Cetti’s Warbler. Blue Rock Thrushes were found on buildings rather than rocks, and a couple of Grey Wagtails were feeding along the banks of the gorge’s swollen river.

The scenery was stunning with extraordinary rock formations and villages which could not have looked more like part of the landscape had they been underground. Snow-topped mountains to the north became whiter during the day as more fell on their upper slopes.

Lunch was eaten in the dining room of a charming hostelry where we appreciated the warm gas fire and hospitality of our hosts. Not only did they allow us to eat our picnics in their dining room for the price of a mint-tea, but they also called in a Berber lad who played hand drums and sang for us.

Rain was falling steadily by this time and we set off back to the hotel with a promise of more birding should the weather have improved by the time we reached the Tagdilt Plain. It had but the birding had not. We enjoyed the walk in improving conditions but saw only a few Lesser Short-toed Larks, Desert and Red-rumped Wheatears.

Our luck held out, however, and as we drove off the plain in the first sunshine of the day seven Cream-coloured Coursers strolled onto the tarmac road giving us wonderful views.

They were our last birds of an excellent day.



Sunday 13 March

Tinerhir to Erfoud

We started our journey east by exploring the Gorges du Todra, a spectacular valley with verdant oases overlooked by beautiful houses. Eventually the valley narrows into a tight gorge, the upper parts of which we walked with enthusiasm. Yesterday’s rain had gone and we enjoyed hot sun and some great birds. Crag-martins were common as were House Sparrows which seemed to be nesting cliff-face crevices. A few House Martins were also feeding in the clear air – we could see insects seconds before the birds gobbled them up.

A Barbary Ground-squirrel chattered at us and we returned the compliment by gazing at it. The animal looked as if its skin was several sizes too big – the hair was standing on end as a guard against the cold although like us it seemed to be doing a bit of basking.

The first of several Desert Larks was spotted performing its display flight and singing. This was handy as we were able to pick out several as we walked up the gorge. Our steps were lightened by the songs of Blue Rock-thrushes perched on the cliff sides and boulder-strewn lower slopes when a familiar ‘chak-chak’ call alerted us to the presence of a female Ring Ouzel. Its alarm calls were followed by a dash for cover – a think bush which afforded no escape from our prying telescopes. A second female was found soon afterwards. No sign was had of resident raptors despite a vigil up the valley and we returned to the coach for about 11am.

Our drive to Erfoud was broken by several birding quests but none resulted in anything of note. Lunch was taken in the garden of yet another café whose owner seemed delighted for us to eat picnics in exchange for buying a few drinks. The Moroccan hospitality so far had been terrific.

We finally settled down to serious birding in fields close to Erfoud where we hit lucky, There were several Subalpine and Spectacled Warblers a Sardinian Warbler which amazed us by not skulking, five species of wheatear – White-crowned Black, Black, Northern, Desert and Black-eared – three kinds of redstart: Common, Black and Moussier’s, Whinchat and Stonechat: a brilliant selection with which to end the day.

We arrived at the hotel in time for some to watch the sunset and enjoyed a local meal of soup, chicken tagine and lemon-pie.



Monday 14 March

Erfoud, Merzouga and the Erg Chebbi

We discovered how hard birding is in the desert but ended the day with a number of successes. We arrived at the Oued Derkoua quite early after a prompt start in our three Land-Rovers and were rewarded with excellent views of a Wryneck, several Subalpine Warblers and several Woodchat Shrikes in the area.

A tip-off from three other birders had us heading for the gardens of Auberge Kasbah Dakaua where Fulvous Babblers (now known as Fulvous Chatterers) had been seen. We pointed them to the Wrynecks and headed for the Promised Land, only to be stopped by a gardener who said we could not come in. Eventually, after the group thought that Tim had been taken hostage, an arrangement was reached and we enjoyed an hour birding the gardens and afterwards taking refreshments in a Berber-styled tent.

Views of the one Fulvous Babbler we found were adequate but we could not locate a Tristram’s Warbler which had also been seen there. Good views of a Shaw’s Jird were had along with many birds.

After a short stop to admire the impressive Erg Chebbi sand-dune system we dropped down to the Café Jasmina to search for Desert Sparrow, our second most-wanted species. It was in vain but a walk to find them was rewarded with good views of a Stone Curlew. Attempts to sort out Bar-tailed Desert and Desert Lark were thwarted by a Lanner which came by twice intent on a meal, scaring the larks and scattering the flocks.

After a chicken lunch eaten in the cool of Jasmina’s dining room, we were scattered like leaves when one of the guides shouted that Desert Sparrows had been located. They had been feeding on the café’s terrace and flew into a nearby tree as we approached carefully. This glimpse was frustrating but the birds eventually flew out and we at least had good, though short views.

Setting off after lunch we saw a flock of 20 Brown-necked Ravens before calling into another café where, in the cool of its inner courtyard, Judy found a stunning Bonelli’s Warbler bathing in the drips from a leaking tap. It bathed and flew off many times, fluttering and shaking its wings, revealing the yellow rump and generally being obliging. For many it was the bird of the day, despite the rarity of others seen.

Our final stop of the day was in the dried out bed of Lake Merzouga (Dayet Sri) where about eight Cream-coloured Coursers were watched, five Brown-necked Ravens studied and a comparison made between Fat Sand Rats and Shaw’s Jirds, both of which were seen well.

Reluctantly we turned back for the hotel which was reached in a much shorter time thanks to a new road and a good short-cut. A stop in a wadi close to the hotel revealed two Green Sandpipers. All agreed that simply for the scenery alone, it had been a good day. The birds were good too.

Tuesday 15 March

Erfoud to Ouarzazate

Travelling days can be a little bird-less but we enjoyed both scenery and some excellent wildlife. Leaving Erfoud after breakfast we drove west along the southern road towards the Draa Valley, a route that took us through variety of dramatic desert scenery.

Our first stop was to investigate a likely looking wadi 45km west of Erfoud where we struck lucky with a pair of Desert Warblers and a few Subalpine Warblers. A few Brown-necked Ravens were seen along the route as were Southern Grey Shrikes and lots of Black Wheatears. A few White-crowned Black Wheatears, surely one of the most striking chats, were also recorded as we cruised along.

Morning tea was taken in Ainif on a terrace overlooking large Tamarisk trees which harboured a few more Subalpine Warblers.

Heading onwards we passed many of our now-familiar birds, including three Cream-coloured Coursers, but also saw a few Bar-tailed Desert Larks before reaching the Draa Valley at Tansikht and a super lunch stop in the gardens of yet another hospitable establishment.

A walk down to the Draa river resulted in stunning views of a Bonelli’s Eagle found soaring by Judy – her second “Bonelli’s” in two days. Search as we might no Kingfisher could be found – this came a few minutes later when one was spotted from the coach by Nadine and Nigel as we drove up the valley.

The road started to climb and we were soon in a steep-sided gorge driving towards the spectacular Tinifit Pass. One a stop for photographs a small pale martin was seen flitting past us – a Rock Martin, a sub-Saharan species recoded only rarely in this part of the world.

Sadly, our pleasure at being so high and close to the end of our journey was marred by the sight of people selling Spiny-tailed Lizards by the roadside, an activity which ought to be outlawed. Birds perked us up, however, with our first views of Thekla Lark a few feet from us.

We were unable to re-visit the Barrage de Mansour el Edahbi as the roads to it were closed so we contented ourselves with a potter along the Oued Ouarzazate in preparation for a pre-breakfast walk the following morning.



Wednesday 16 March

Ouarzazate to Marrakech

And what a good walk it proved to be. Among the highlights was a Fulvous Babbler which sat in a bush in full view for ages allowing all of us to examine it closely. Luck also provided the group with good views of three Hoopoes, one Woodchat Shrike and a Chiffchaff in view through the ’scope at the same time.

We also watched a male Marsh Harrier searching palm trees for food, our first Whitethroat of the trip, and a Greenfinch. The walk back to our hotel was improved by a Black Wheatear and an Olivaceous Warbler in the car park.

Setting off for Marrakesh, Mohamed took a slight detour down by the river to the Oued Tifouldtoud where we had great views of a singing Serin and two Bonelli’s Warblers. We then moved to the Oued Ighissi where we watched a flock of about 15 European Bee-eaters, a female Redstart, a Hoopoe and a probable Barbary Falcon.

Elated we set off once more only to stop a few kilometres down the main road when Judy and Jane spotted a Mourning Wheatear. The bird showed beautifully, as did five Cream-coloured Coursers and three Trumpeter Finches feeding nearby.

Raptors started to appear as we climbed into the mountains with firstly a Short-toed Eagle and then several Kestrels at the spectacular Tizi’n Tichka pass. Here we had a break for refreshments while watching more than 100 Alpine Choughs, three Red-billed Choughs and four Ravens.

Our lunch, which included our fifth chicken picnic in as many days, was eaten on a hillside in the high Atlas mountains, snow-topped peaks surrounding us, with Crag Martins, Long-legged Buzzards and Red-rumped Swallows for entertainment while a Cetti’s Warbler sang close by. We were able to admire the distinctive North-African race of Chaffinch as Berber children herded their sheep under the tree it was in.

Stopping among Juniper trees and scrub on the way down the other side, we heard (and some saw) Dartford Warblers rattling out their songs. A Levaillant’s Woodpecker called some distance away and a Barbary Partridge broke cover and flew down the slope in front of us.

Our last stop of the day was at the King’s hunting estate where 10 Booted Eagles were recorded migrating past in the company of a Long-legged Buzzard, a few Kestrels and 200 White Storks. As we were watching a family of Crossbills was located and several ‘scoped. The North-African forms of Coal and Great Tits were also seen as were about 18 of the King’s Wild Boar. David found four Barbary Partridges feeding close to two Wild Boar.

Lots of Little Swifts, a few Magpies and a couple of Spotless Starlings were seen as we entered Marrakesh – a triumphant ending to a long day. We decided to postpone a trip to the Souk and some went swimming instead.



Thursday 17 March

Marrakech, Ouakaimeden and the High Atlas

Today was one of the big outings of the trip – up the picturesque Ourika valley to the ski resort of Ouakaimeden. The scenery was breathtaking as we climbed through a various zones of vegetation, past many rustic Berber villages and farms.

We decided not to stop on the way up – except for a couple of raptors – in the hope of arriving in Ouakaimeden before the birding went off. It was the right decision – a Goshawk welcomed us within seconds of getting out of the bus and a second-year Golden Eagle provided an encore, watched by a Mistle Thrush perched on a wire. What a start.

A flock of birds was located on rocks near the bottom of the ski-slopes within minutes. We walked up closer to them and were rewarded with the astonishing sight of Crimson-winged Finches feeding with Horned Larks – two of our main target birds.

Two Rock Sparrows – our other must-see bird – perched on wires behind us as we examined the first two species, so close that we could see the yellow spots on their throats.

This was a great relief to the leaders who relaxed and cashed in on the day’s luck. We settled in front of a café and as refreshments were taken scanned the horizon for birds. A pair of adult Golden Eagles was found, the male courting his mate by performing dramatic barrel-rolls. A Peregrine flew over and as Black Redstarts engaged in territorial chases Red-billed and Alpine Choughs gambolled in the clear air.

We set off down the valley giving Mohamed instructions to come and pick us up later. The walk was delightful in warm sunshine which glistened off the remaining snow. Mary found a pair of Barbary Partridges on the hillside opposite giving us all an opportunity to study them. She was rewarded with her first Dippers which were busy building a nest just above the rushing Alpine stream.

We had lunch at the Km17 post – a spot famous among birders – adding to its fame by seeing Great Spotted Woodpecker, Coal Tit, Firecrest and Cirl Bunting during the meal.

Descending the valley we stopped a couple of times but were unable to find a Levaillant’s Woodpecker. Some consoled themselves by buying souvenirs from road-side shops.

A call was made on a school to which we presented a huge box full of stationery and equipment. They were most grateful.

Arriving in Marrakesh at about 4.45pm we went straight to the D’jemma el F’na Square from where we dived into the souks for more bargain hunting and haggling. Afterwards we wandered around the square watching the entertainment and hosts of stalls from which food could be purchased. Water-sellers in their red costumes with brass adornments, herbalists, fortune-tellers, boxers, snake-charmers and street theatres provided something for everyone. Everyone agreed that the visit was too short as we returned to the hotel for showers and supper.



Friday 18 March

To Oued Sous, Tamri and Agadir

Our early start was almost thwarted as the dining room did not open until 7am (we were told 6.30) and departure was rushed. Even so we were on the road at 7.45 and in having a coffee stop at 9am. That produced several Spanish Sparrows, Corn Buntings, Blackcaps, Whitethroat and Short-toed Larks from the terrace of the restaurant.

The weather was misty – atmospheric rather than dramatic scenery – which rather took the edge off our 250km trek to Agadir. Even so, collectively we saw two Bee-eaters, several Southern Grey Shrikes of the race algeriensis, A Common Redstart and several Moussier’s Redstarts.

We arrived at the Oued Sous, just outside Agadir, in time for a spot of birding before lunch. That ‘spot’ meant watching Spoonbills, Ruff, Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwits, Redshanks, Oystercatchers and a lone Gull-billed Tern. A flock of Flamingos added colour to the scene while a Zitting Cisticola gave the vocal backing.

After a post-lunch walk on which Kentish Plover and Little Stint were added to the list, we set off for Tamri – probably the best place in the world to see Bald Ibis. Unfortunately it did not meet our expectations despite a two-mile hike made by Tim in the company of two ‘guides’. “Well, five Ibis were here at 11:00,” they said sadly. It was a no see, no fee arrangement. Tim hiked back to the group who by this time had seen several Audouin’s Gulls, European Coot and lots of Lesser Black-backed gulls.

It was gone 7pm when we arrived at the hotel, tired and expecting to rush for dinner. Happily, we were told that the group was expected at 8.15pm and we could all relax.



Saturday 19 March

Tamri (2), Oued Massa and back to the Sous

Our decision to have another crack at Bald Ibis paid off when a flock of 30 flew past us north of Tamri, circled, returned and settled 100m away. Perfect views of the birds were had through ’scopes and binoculars. We could even see the maroon panel on their wings and the full adults’ exotic head-dresses of plumes which make up in no small way for their bald appearance.

Credit for the success was claimed by Mohamed whose idea it was to go a little further than the day before.

It was also claimed by Tim who spotted the birds. He had earlier climbed a small mountain for the second time in his searches for them. When they did appear he fell out of the bus in his haste to tell people, sprawling headlong onto the ground and forgetting to let the group out.

It might have been claimed by a Montagu’s Harrier for which we had stopped when the ibis flew past. Truth be told, the success was due to this group’s luck which had held out throughout the trip. Indeed, even as we were watching the birds another flock of eight went past and settled some distance away.

The harrier was our only other bird of note. We checked out yesterday’s gull flock again in the hope of finding Slender-billed Gull but without success. A stop was made overlooking Agadir’s fishing harbour but search the gull flocks as we did no Slender-billed were found.

We returned to the hotel for a picnic lunch and siesta in our rooms before leaving for Oued Massa at 2pm. The valley was a delightful spot with a mixture of habitats and their resultant birds.

The river produced Kingfisher, Common Coot, Green Sandpiper and the Moroccan race of Cormorant. Reed and Sedge Warblers were singing in the phragmites with several Cetti’s adding volume. One stand of tamarisk had Chiffchaff, Willow, Bonelli’s and Sardinian Warblers flitting around. Corn and Cirl Buntings were singing from the same bushes while Common Redstart and Wryneck had chosen the Oued to break their migrations. About 200 Glossy Ibis flew past us upstream over the course of an hour, their legs sticking out behind in contrast to the Bald Ibis we had seen in the morning, the feet of which were hidden in flight. Turtle Doves were singing their cat-purr songs in preparation for the breeding season in northern Europe.

Several Ospreys were patrolling the river, one stooping after a fish which must have seen the bird which aborted the dive. Little Grebes were giving their distinctive calls; a few seen were in splendid breeding plumage.

Several Striped Ground Squirrels were watched chasing around on a low cliff – while a stunning male Montagu’s Harrier quartered the hill above. Searching the small allotments we found a Song Thrush before the beautiful fluting whistles of Black-crowned Tchagra were heard. We finally found and watched two for some time before they slipped away into dense foliage. This was another major success for the group as the species is found only in this part of Morocco – the only bit of the Palearctic in which they occur.

As we were looking for the Tchagras the nerve of a skulking Quail broke and it flew out of cover giving us excellent flight views of this little-seen species.

Our day’s birding ended with a quick visit on dusk to Oued Sous where we all heard and some saw Red-necked Nightjar.



Sunday 20 March

Agadir to London

After a leisurely breakfast we went out to the bus and said thanks to Mohamed who had done an excellent job as driver and Abdul whose efforts on our behalf were much appreciated. After reaching the airport the flights went like clockwork and we said our farewells to each other. The Guernsey contingent spent the night at Gatwick arriving home the following day, as did Ray who flew to Inverness on his birthday.

Happy birthday from us all Ray.



ANNOTATED LIST OF SPECIES


BIRDS


GREBES Podicipediformes Podicipedidae
1 Little grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
At least four at Oued Massa on the 19th.
2 Great crested grebe Podiceps cristatus
Thirty at Barrage de Mansour El Edahbi on the11th.
SHEARWATERS Procellariiformes Procellariidae
3 Cory's shearwater Calonectris diomedea
One at Tamri on the 19th.
GANNETS Pelecaniformes Sulidae
4 Northern gannet Morus bassanus
At least 13 at Tamri on the 19th.
CORMORANTS Pelecaniformes Phalacrocoracidae
5 Great cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
Small numbers on three dates with a maximum of eight at the Oued Massa on the 19th, mostly maroccanus race.
HERONS, EGRETS & BITTERNS Ciconiiformes Ardeidae
6 Grey heron Ardea cinerea
A few seen on five dates with a max of 30 on the 19th.
7 Little egret Egretta garzetta
Small numbers on four dates.
8 Cattle egret Bubulcus ibis
Recorded most days with a max of 100 on the 17th.
9 Black-crowned night-heron Nycticorax nycticorax
Two flying over the Oued Draa fields on the 11th.
STORKS Ciconiiformes Ciconiidae
10 White stork Ciconia ciconia
Seen most days with 200+ on passage on the 16th. Many seen on nests including several with huge structures many years old.
IBIS & SPOONBILLS Ciconiiformes Threskiornithidae
11 Waldrapp (Bald ibis) Geronticus eremita
Close views of 38 at Tamri on the 19th. This was one of the highlight species for most people.
12 Glossy ibis Plegadis falcinellus
At least 200 at Oued Massa on the 19th.
13 Eurasian spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
Oued Sous, six on the 18th and two on the 19th.
FLAMINGOS Phoenicopteriformes Phoenicopterid
14 Greater flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber
Forty on the 18th and 50 on the 19th at Oued Sous
SWANS, GEESE & DUCKS Anseriformes Anatidae
15 Northern pintail Anas acuta
Three at Barrage de Mansour El Edahbi on the 11th.
16 Northern shoveler Anas clypeata
Singles observed on the 18th and 19th.
OSPREY Falconiformes Pandionidae
17 Osprey Pandion haliaetus
One sitting near the Barrage de Mansour El Edahbi on the 11th; three on the 19th at Oued Massa.
HAWKS, EAGLES & KITES Falconiformes Accipitridae
18 Black kite (and Yellow-billed kite?) Milvus migrans
Passage of 100+ noted over Tagdilt Plain on the 12th. Small numbers on three other dates.

19 Short-toed eagle Circaetus gallicus
Two on the 12th; singles on the 16th and 17th.
20 Western marsh-harrier Circus aeruginosus
Male over Cafe Yasmina on the 14th; male at Oued Draa fields on the 16th; female at Oued Sous on 18th; one on the 19th.
21 Northern harrier Circus cyaneus
Female flying through Barrage de Mansour El Edahbi on the11th.
22 Montagu's harrier Circus pygargus
One sub-adult male and one melanistic bird near Tamri plus a full adult male at Oued Massa on the 19th.
23 Eurasian sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus
Singles seen on three dates plus two on the 19th.
24 Northern goshawk Accipiter gentilis
Male on the 17th in the High Atlas.
25 Long-legged buzzard Buteo rufinus
Seen on four dates with max of six on the 17th.
26 Golden eagle Aquila chrysaetos
One second year bird and an adult pair, male in display, in the High Atlas on the 17th.
27 Bonelli's eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus
Adult in the Draa valley on the 15th.
28 Booted eagle Hieraaetus pennatus
Seen on six days, max count 10 on the 16th.
FALCONS & CARACARAS Falconiformes Falconidae
29 Lesser kestrel Falco naumanni
Male seen on the 15th.
30 Eurasian kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Seen daily, max count of 15 on two dates.
31 Eurasian hobby Falco subbuteo
Singles over the Tagdilt Plain on 12th and on the 16th.
32 Lanner falcon Falco biarmicus
Pair mating on pylons near Boumalne Dades on the 12th; one hunting over Cafe Yasmina on the 14th.
33 Peregrine Falco peregrinus
One in the High Atlas on the 17th.
PHEASANTS & PARTRIDGES Galliformes Phasianidae
34 Barbary partridge Alectoris barbara
Seen on 3 dates with max of 4 on the 16th.
35 Common quail Coturnix coturnix
One in flight at the Oued Massa on the 19th.
RAILS, GALLINULES & COOTS Gruiformes Rallidae
36 Common moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Six at Oued Massa on the 19th.
37 Eurasian coot Fulica atra
Tamri – five on the 18th and four on the 19th at; 30 at Oued Massa on the 19th.
OYSTERCATCHERS Charadriiformes Haematopodidae
38 Eurasian oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus
Oued Sous – 10 on the 18th and 20 on the 19th.
AVOCETS & STILTS Charadriiformes Recurvirostridae
39 Black-winged stilt Himantopus himantopus
Two at Oued Ouarzazate on the 15th; Oued Sous 10 on the 18th and 19th.
THICK-KNEES Charadriiformes Burhinidae
40 Stone curlew (Eurasian thick-knee) Burhinus oedicnemus
Cafe Yasmina, one on the 14th.
COURSERS Charadriiformes Glareolidae
41 Cream-coloured courser Cursorius cursor
Amazingly, this beautiful species was seen on eight days, max 13 on 11th.

LAPWINGS & PLOVERS Charadriiformes Charadriidae
42 Grey plover Pluvialis squatarola
Oued Sous, 10 on the 18th and 1 on the 19th
43 Greater ringed plover Charadrius hiaticula
Two at the Barrage de Mansour El Edahbi on the 11th and 10 at Oued Sous on the 19th.
44 Little ringed plover Charadrius dubius
Seen on five days, max six on the 12th.
45 Kentish (Snowy) plover Charadrius alexandrinus
Tamri, 12 on the 18th.
SANDPIPERS Charadriiformes Scolopacidae
46 Bar-tailed godwit Limosa lapponica
Oued Sous 20 on the 18th.
47 Eurasian curlew Numenius arquata
Oued Sous, 15 on the 18th and six on the 19th.
48 Common redshank Tringa totanus
Oued Sous, 10 on the 18th and four on the 19th.
49 Common greenshank Tringa nebularia
Two at Oued Sous on the 18th and one on the 19th.
50 Green sandpiper Tringa ochropus
Two on pool near Hotel El Ati on 14th; two at Oued Ouarzazate on the 15th; one at Oued Massa on the 19th.
51 Common sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Seen on four days, max three on 11th.
52 Ruddy turnstone Arenaria interpres
One at Oued Sous on the 18th.
53 Sanderling Calidris alba
Three at Oued Sous on the 18th.
54 Little stint Calidris minuta
One at Oued Sous on the 18th.
55 Dunlin Calidris alpina
Six at Oued Sous on the 18th.
56 Ruff Philomachus pugnax
Three, including a male in breeding plumage, at Oued Sous on the 18th; one on the 19th.
GULLS Charadriiformes Laridae
57 Audouin's gull Larus audouinii
Tamri – about 20 on the 18th and 19th.
58 Yellow-legged gull Larus cachinnans
Tamri, 25 on the 18th and 19th.
59 Lesser black-backed gull Larus fuscus
Seen daily on the coast, max 60 on the 18th.
60 Black-headed gull Larus ridibundus
Seen on three dates, max 30 on the 11th.
TERNS Charadriiformes Sternidae
61 Gull-billed tern Sterna nilotica
Singles at Oued Sous on 18th and in Agadir on 19th.
62 Sandwich tern Sterna sandvicensis
Seen on two days at the coast, max count 30.
PIGEONS & DOVES Columbiformes Columbidae
63 Rock dove (feral pigeon) Columba livia
Common, good examples of both seen.
64 Common wood-pigeon Columba palumbus
Seen on 5 days, max count of 12.
65 Eurasian turtle-dove Streptopelia turtur
Four on the 19th at Oued Massa.
66 Eurasian collared-dove Streptopelia decaocto
Good numbers seen most days.
67 Laughing (Palm) dove Streptopelia senegalensis
Seen most days, max 10 on the 19th.
NIGHTJARS Caprimulgiformes Caprimulgidae
68 Red-necked nightjar Caprimulgus ruficollis
Oued Sous – two heard and one seen on the 19th.
SWIFTS Apodiformes Apodidae
69 Common swift Apus apus
Good numbers seen in Marrakech & Agadir.
70 Pallid swift Apus pallidus
Seen in Ouarzazate, Marrakech & Agadir.
71 Little swift Apus affinis
Smaller numbers seen in Marrakech.
KINGFISHERS Coraciiformes Alcedinidae
72 Common kingfisher Alcedo atthis
Singles seen along Oued Draa on the 15th and at Oued Massa on the 19th.
BEE-EATERS Coraciiformes Meropidae
73 European bee-eater Merops apiaster
Fifteen on the 16th and two on the 18th.
HOOPOES Coraciiformes Upupidae
74 Eurasian hoopoe plus African hoopoe Upupa epops
Seen most days, max six on the 16th.
WOODPECKERS Piciformes Picidae
75 Eurasian wryneck Jynx torquilla
Singles seen at Cafe Yasmina on the 14th and at Oued Massa on the 19th.
76 Great spotted woodpecker Dendrocopos major
One seen in the Atlas Mountains on the 16th and 17th.
77 Levaillant's woodpecker Picus vaillantii
One heard on the 16th.
LARKS Passeriformes Alaudidae
78 Bar-tailed lark Ammomanes cincturus
One on the 12th and 12 on the 15th.
79 Desert lark Ammomanes deserti
Seen on five days, max 20 on the 14th.
80 Greater hoopoe-lark Alaemon alaudipes
A pair on the Tagdilt Plain on the 11th.
81 Thick-billed lark Ramphocoris clotbey
A fantastic flock of 20 birds near Tinerhir on the 12th.
82 Greater short-toed lark Calandrella brachydactyla
Common, max 60 on 11th.
83 Crested lark Galerida cristata
Small numbers seen most days, max 10.
84 Thekla lark Galerida theklae
Seen on four days, max count six.
85 Horned lark Eremophila alpestris
Six seen in the High Atlas on the 17th.
86 Temminck's lark Eremophila bilopha
Good views of one bird on the Tagdilt Plain on the 11th but better views of nine on the 12th.
SWALLOWS Passeriformes Hirundinidae
87 Sand martin Riparia riparia
Small numbers at various sites, max six on the 11th.
88 Eurasian crag-martin Hirundo rupestris
Seen on 5 days, max 10 on the 13th.
89 Rock martin Hirundo fuligula
At least one seen in the Tinifit pass on the 15th.
90 Barn swallow Hirundo rustica
Seen daily, max count 20 on the 12th.
91 Red-rumped swallow Hirundo daurica
Seen on five days, max 5 on the 17th.
92 House martin Delichon urbica
Recorded on five days, max count five on the 12th.
WAGTAILS & PIPITS Passeriformes Motacillidae
93 White wagtail Motacilla alba
Seen every day including birds of the race subpersonata. Max count 10 on the 11th.
94 Yellow wagtail Motacilla flava
Seen on four days, max count 10 on the 11th.
95 Grey wagtail Motacilla cinerea
Recorded on four days, max count of six on the 13th.
96 Tawny pipit Anthus campestris
One at Boumalne Dades, two at Tagdilt Plain on the 12th.
97 Meadow pipit Anthus pratensis
Recorded on four days, max of four on the 15th.
BULBULS Passeriformes Pycnonotidae
98 Common bulbul Pycnonotus barbatus
Common, max count of 20 on the 15th.
CRESTS Passeriformes Regulidae
99 Firecrest Regulus ignicapillus
Two seen in the High Atlas on the 17th.
DIPPERS Passeriformes Cinclidae
100 White-throated dipper Cinclus cinclus
Pair nest building on the 17th in the High Atlas.
WRENS Passeriformes Troglodytidae
101 Winter wren Troglodytes troglodytes
One heard on the 16th.
THRUSHES Passeriformes Turdidae
102 Blue rock-thrush Monticola solitarius
Seen on six days with max of 10 on two days.
103 Ring ouzel Turdus torquatus
Two females in Todra Gorge on the 13th.
104 Eurasian blackbird Turdus merula
Up to 10 birds seen most days.
105 Song thrush Turdus philomelos
One on the 19th at Oued Massa.
106 Mistle thrush Turdus viscivorus
Two seen in High Atlas on the 17th.
CISTICOLAS Passeriformes Cisticolidae
107 Zitting cisticola Cisticola juncidis
Six seen on the 18th and lots on the 19th.
OLD WORLD WARBLERS Passeriformes Sylviidae
108 Cetti's warbler Cettia cetti
Heard on six dates.
109 Sedge warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus
Recorded on three days with max three on the 16th.
110 Eurasian reed-warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus
Three heard at Oued Massa on the 19th.
111 Olivaceous warbler Hippolais pallida
One outside our hotel in Ouarzazate on the 16th.
112 Willow warbler Phylloscopus trochilus
Singles seen on three dates.
113 Common chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybeta
Seen on seven dates with max count of 20 on the 11th.
114 Western Bonelli's warbler Phylloscopus bonelli
Total on five seen over three days.
115 Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
Observed on five days with max of four on two days.
116 Greater whitethroat Sylvia communis
Two on the 16th and one on the 18th.
117 Asian desert warbler Sylvia nana
Two on the 15th.
118 Subalpine warbler Sylvia cantillans
Observed on seven dates, max 10 on the 11th.
119 Sardinian warbler Sylvia melanocephala
Common with max 10 on the 18th.
120 Spectacled warbler Sylvia conspicillata
Seen on six dates with max three on the 11th.
121 Dartford warbler Sylvia undata
Two singing in the Tizi ‘’n Tichka Pass on the 16th.

OLD WORLD FLYCATCHERS Passeriformes Muscicapidae
122 Bluethroat Luscinia svecica
Superb views of a male white spot form on the 11th at the Barrage de Mansour El Edahbi.
123 Black redstart Phoenicurus ochruros
Small numbers on 6 dates, max 12 on the 17th.
124 Common redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus
Singles on four dates.
125 Moussier's redstart Phoenicurus moussieri
Seen on seven days, max six on the 17th.
126 Whinchat Saxicola rubetra
One seen on the 13th.
127 European stonechat Saxicola torquata
Small numbers recorded on three dates.
128 White-crowned black wheatear Oenanthe leucopyga
Observed on six days with max of 15 on the 15th.
129 Black wheatear Oenanthe leucura
Common, max count of 50 on the 15th.
130 Northern wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
Small numbers seen on 6 dates.
131 Mourning wheatear Oenanthe lugens
Stunning male north of Ouarzazate on the 16th.
132 Red-rumped wheatear Oenanthe moesta
Max of 15 on the 12th. Small numbers seen on two other dates.
133 Black-eared wheatear Oenanthe hispanica
Very good views of both pale and black-throated forms on the 11th. Small numbers seen on two other dates.
134 Desert wheatear Oenanthe deserti
Recorded on five days, max of 10 on the 13th.
BABBLERS Passeriformes Timaliidae
135 Fulvous chatterer (babbler) Turdoides fulvus
One at Auberge Kasbah Dakaua on the 14th and one at Oued Draa fields on the 16th.
TITS Passeriformes Paridae
136 Coal tit Periparus ater
One on the 16th and 2 on the 17th.
137 Great tit Parus major
Heard only on the 16th and 17th.
138 Blue tit Cyanistes caeruleus
Recorded on six days, max nine on the 11th, all of the North African race ultramarinus.
SHRIKES Passeriformes Laniidae
139 Southern grey shrike Lanius meridionalis
Small numbers observed on most days, max 10 on the 18th. Both elegans and algeriensis forms seen.
140 Woodchat shrike Lanius senator
Seen on seven dates with max four on three days.
BUSHSHRIKES Passeriformes Malaconotidae
141 Black-crowned tchagra Tchagra senegala
Two at Oued Massa on the 19th.
JAYS & CROWS Passeriformes Corvidae
142 Common magpie Pica pica
Seen on four dates with max 20 on the 18th,all of the blue-eared race mauritanica.
143 Red-billed chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax
Three on the 16th and 15 on the 17th.
144 Yellow-billed chough Pyrrhocorax graculus
100 on the 16th and 17th.
145 Brown-necked raven Corvus ruficollis
Seen in the desert on two dates with max 30 on the 14th.
146 Common raven Corvus corax
Recorded on four days with max nine in the High Atlas on the 17th.
STARLINGS Passeriformes Sturnidae
147 Spotless starling Sturnus unicolor
Seen on five dates with max 25+ on the 18th.
OLD WORLD SPARROWS Passeriformes Passeridae
148 House sparrow Passer domesticus
Seen most days in good numbers.
149 Spanish sparrow Passer hispaniolensis
Twelve on the 18th and one on the 19th.
150 Desert sparrow Passer simplex
Two seen briefly behind the Café Yasmina on the 14th.
151 Rock petronia (sparrow) Petronia petronia
About 50 seen in the High Atlas on the 17th.
FINCHES Passeriformes Fringillidae
152 Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
Recorded on six days with max six on the 16th.
153 Red crossbill Loxia curvirostra
Six seen on the 16th included fledged young.
154 European greenfinch Carduelis chloris
One recorded on the 16th and 19th.
155 European goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
Seen most days with max 10 on two dates.
156 Eurasian linnet Carduelis cannabina
Small numbers on five days max 10 on the 18th.
157 European serin Serinus serinus
Seen on six dates with max 20 on the 17th.
158 Crimson-winged finch Rhodopechys sanguinea
At least 15 in the High Atlas on the 17th.
159 Trumpeter finch Rhodopechys githaginea
Recorded on four dates with max six on the 12th.
TRUE BUNTINGS Passeriformes Emberizidae
160 Cirl bunting Emberiza cirlus
Four on the 17th and 6 on the 19th.
161 Rock bunting Emberiza cia
Six observed on the 13th.
162 House bunting Emberiza striolata
Common with max of 20 on the 11th.
163 Corn bunting Emberiza calandra
Seen on four dates with max six on the 11th.

MAMMALS


RABBITS & HARES Lagomorpha Leporidae
1 Brown hare Lepus europaeus.
Three on the 17th.
SQUIRRELS Rodentia Scuridae
2 Barbary ground squirrel Atlantoxeros getulus
Two seen on three dates.
3 Striped ground squirrel Xerus erythropus
Up to three observed on two dates.
MICE, RATS, VOLES & GERBILS Rodentia Muridae
4 Shaw's jird Meriones shawi
One to three observed on three dates.
5 Fat sand rat Psammomys obesus
Up to four recorded in the desert on four dates.
6 Brown rat Rattus norvegicus
One on the 14th.
VESPER BATS Chiroptera Vespertilionidae
7 Pipistrelle sp One observed on the 14th.
8 Bat sp Larger species seen on the 19th.
APES Primates Hominidae
9 Human Homo sapiens
Common in the cities and towns, at their most interesting in D’jemma el F’na Square
PIGS Artiodactyla Suidae
10 Wild boar (Feral pig) Sus scrofa
About 16 seen on 16th.


REPTILES AND AMPHIBIANS


1 North African Water Frog Rana saharica.
Four adults and masses of tadpoles!
2 Stripe-necked Terrapin Mauremys caspica
Twenty on the 15th.
3 Terrapin sp One on the 11th.
4 Spiny-footed Lizard Acanthodactylus erythrurus.
Recorded on the 19th.
5 Agama sp One on the 15th.
6 Red-rumped toad One seen on the 12th.

BUTTERFLIES AND MOTHS


1 Scarce swallowtail Iphiclides podalirius.
Two on the 17th.
2 Large white Pieris brassicae.
One on the 13th and 17th.
3 Small white Artogeia rapae.
Recorded on three dates.
4 Greenish black-tip Elphinstonia charlonia.
One on the 19th.
5 Clouded yellow Colias croceus.
Seen on 3 dates.
6 Cleopatra Gonepteryx cleopatra.
Observed on the 16th & 17th.
7 Small copper Lycaena phlaeas.
Two on the 16th.
8 Wall brown Lasiommata megera.
One on the 17th.
9 Hummingbird hawkmoth Macroglossum stellatarum
Individuals seen on three days with two on the 13th.

Our thanks to the group for your enthusiasm, companionship and willingness to put up with the foibles of Africa, especially chicken lunches which were so common we must have had a serious impact on Morocco’s fowl population. We look forward to travelling with you again some time.


Tim Earl, Guernsey
Ray Nowicki, Inverness
March 2005


© The Travelling Naturalist 2005