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TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT

Morocco - Atlas & Coast

16 - 24 November 2002


Leaders:
Tim Earl and Andy Smith

Driver Mohammed Lamkounz

Driver's mate - Abdul

HIGHLIGHTS

Little Swifts feeding above us at Larache.

Fourteen Stone Curlews just waking up in the late afternoon.

Two Black-shouldered Kites at Tangier Airport, followed by seven the next day.

The sights and sounds of Morocco as we drove through its various landscapes.

At least 20 African Marsh Owls drifting in ones and twos from their roost site, making calls like babies' toys.

Dawn at Skhirat Beach which turned the heavy swell pink as waves broke on the rock ledges below.

Marbled and Ferruginous Ducks in the same field of view at Lac de Sidi Bourhaba.

The view of the Atlas Mountains through the crowded streets of Marrakech.

Bulbuls singing in the early morning light in Marrakech.

Visiting the souk and Jemma el F'na square with its fire-eaters, snake charmers and food stalls.

Long-billed Dowitcher at Oued Sous.

Watching 65 Bald Ibis feed along the sandy cliff-top near Tamri.

The duet sung by two Black-crowned Tchagra at Oued Massa.

Finding five Cream-coloured Coursers above Oued Massa.

DAILY DIARY

Saturday 16 November

Several of us had difficult journeys to Heathrow due to fog in central England but we all met on time and had an uneventful flight to Tangier, albeit with a 90-minute delay. Mohammed Lamkounz, the driver who has looked after Travelling Naturalist tours to Morocco for more than 10 years, met us and greeted the group warmly.

Storms lit up the sky as we motored to Larache only to find that we were diverted due to a swollen river. We arrived at the hotel late but were delighted to find that an excellent supper was awaiting us.

Sunday 17 November

After the storms of last night we were pleased to find warm sunshine on rising. A good breakfast was enjoyed by all and we were in fine fettle as the coach took us off for the day.

Our first stop was at Larache seafront where birds came thick and fast. Roosting gulls included a flock of Sandwich Tern, Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls, while behind them was a flock of clockwork-driven Sanderling. An immature Mediterranean Gull looked quite happy riding the Atlantic swells in the company of many Black-headed Gull.

Dee spotted the first waders with three Oystercatcher, next to a Common Tern, while Alex found a lone Whimbrel with a Common Sandpiper.

Esther raised the ooh-aah factor with a fine male Blue Rock-thrush which was accompanied by a Stonechat and Black Redstart. Not to be outdone, Jim found a smart Grey Wagtail preening in the early morning sunshine.

Our short drive to Oued Loukkos was broken by a stop to admire Black-winged Stilt, the Spanish race of Yellow Wagtail, and lots of Cattle Egret, when Andy called out as about 15 Little Swift circled over us. They swirled around for some time allowing detailed examination of the identification points - the first of many master-classes.

The Loukkos valley was flooded with little sign of the fields which had been cut for hay earlier in the year. This had a good effect in that the place had lots of birds but also meant that the waterfowl were more dispersed.

Waders were abundant and we enjoyed great views of Curlew, Redshank and Greenshank, Lapwing, Knot, Little Stint, Green Sandpiper, Ringed Plover and Ruff. Hundreds of Red-knobbed Coot, some of which were showing the glacé-cherry-like bumps on their foreheads, were in the flooded fields.

Our only shower of the day was badly timed. Two falcons were circling as the rain started but we had just enough time to identify them as Barbary Falcon.

A break for coffee and facilities was had back at the hotel before we set off for a picnic lunch and an unsuccessful search for Great Bustards north of Asilah. We knew that the site was correct when a police officer drove up and insisted that it was close to an American base and moved us on.

He was too late: we had already spotted the secrets of the site - Calandra and Sky Larks, Linnet and Goldfinch, Southern Grey Shrike and Northern Wheatear.

After driving on, Tim stopped the bus to check out a flock of 'Goat Bustards' and while doing so we found 14 stunning Stone Curlew in a field close to the road. They were waking after a day dozing in the Moroccan winter sun giving us all the best views ever of this often elusive bird. Little did we know that hundreds would be seen over the next two days.

A piece of luggage had gone missing on the flight out and we ended the day by revisiting Tangier Airport where the bag remained lost (sent on to Casablanca - of all the bags in all the barsÍ) but several group members were thrilled to get great views of two Black-shouldered Kite. It had been a smashing day and a great introduction to North African birding.

Monday 18 November

The sight of at least 20 African Marsh Owl drifting from their roost to start an evening's hunting will remain for all of us as one of the top birding experiences of the year. Dark brown birds with an even darker mask through the eyes, only the white trailing edges of their wings and a flash on the tail marked their passing by the time it was dark. In contrast, the first birds out were in excellent light and when one perched on the ground close to us we had superb views.

It was not the only unbelievable experience of the day, however. While watching several Gannet off-shore at Moulay Bousselham we saw a man coming up the beach carrying a live black and white bird. When the leaders approached him we could see it was a Little Auk, possibly the first ever recorded in Morocco. To our horror the finder said, in French, that he was going to take the bird home and eat it with fish. We asked him to show it to the group first and he agreed. It was a few minutes later that it became clear that the Frenchman planned to feed it with fish. Strangely, in the excitement of the find, nobody took a picture of the bird.

The day had begun with a 40-minute drive down to Moulay turning into a two-and-a-half-hour marathon after we became temporarily misplaced.

As always, there were compensations which included a field with more than 130 Stone Curlews roosting between the furrows, an excellent male Blackcap, found by Esther, superb views of two Black-shouldered Kite firstly hovering and then perched. We were to see a remarkable seven in the day.

A protracted comfort and coffee stop in Moulay became almost farcical as men vied with each other to act as our guide for the day. We contracted with one man who told us that our old friend Hassan Dalil, the Slender-billed Curlew expert, was in Spain.

As we were getting into the bus to explore the shores of Merja Zerga, a car screeched to a halt and Hassan got out. The hustler was dismissed and we set off for Lac Barga which Hassan said would be better than Merja Zerga.

It was. Within minutes of getting there we were watching a perfect Peregrine perched on a dead pine which was later used by an Osprey as it ate a fish we had seen the bird catch.

The lake was crowded with Shoveler, Teal, superb Red-crested Pochard, Tufted Duck, and Common Pochard which had 200 Common Coot for company.

Around the sides were roosting Spoonbill, Greater Flamingo, Snipe, a Marsh Sandpiper, Lapwing, 30 Avocet, and more than 200 Black-tailed Godwit, while overhead flew Black and Whiskered terns.

After a great picnic in the winter sunshine we returned to Moulay for another comfort stop, seawatching and the owl session. The day was rendered perfect when, on our arrival at the hotel, we found that the case missing in Casablanca had finally been delivered.

Tuesday 19 November

The forecast of rain could have made today difficult but two strokes of luck ensured a highly satisfactory result. Torrential rain held off until we were travelling and a makeshift bird-hide was found for a beach and seawatch.

We left Larache, heading for a resort just south of Rabat. The journey was broken at Lac de Sidi Bourhaba, a super nature reserve which was largely deserted, apart from ourselves and lots of birds. We explored the lake with only a couple of slight drizzly sessions.

The group had scarcely organised their 'scopes when Tim pointed out a Purple Swamphen blogging around in a dense reed bed. Those who did not see the bird before it disappeared had great views of another a few minutes later.

We walked through a grove of Eucalyptus 'scoping large rafts of ducks as we went. The vast majority were Shoveler but our great and glorious leaders decided to liven things up a little - one called 'two Marbled Duck in the 'scope,' while a shout of 'male Ferruginous Duck in mine,' came from the other. Which to look at first?

Little Grebe were common and a couple of Great Crested Grebe were also found. Dee called our attention to three female-type Garganey, a duck easily overlooked, while Red-crested and Common Pochard made up the list.

A few Blue Tit, of the pretty, black-capped north-African race, were found in flocks of extremely active Chiffchaffs, some of which already had a 'sooty-nosed' appearance indicating their winter feeding-site preference for olive groves. A female Blackcap was seen while a male stopped ticking at us and broke into its familiar song.

The ducks were spooked occasionally by a female Marsh Harrier hunting over the lake and a visiting Long-legged Buzzard had the same effect. A couple of Flamingos were found at the head of the lake.

It was a terrific visit and we tucked into our picnic lunches feeling that the morning had been well spent. The leaders found a nymph Preying Mantis and a mass of black Harvestman spiders which looked like a patch of mould on a tree trunk.

No sooner had we piled into the bus than the heavens opened and produced monsoon conditions all the way to the Hotel Kasbah at the top of Skhirat Beach. Our rooms were fantastic with great views out across the beach and sea. They had the added bonus of a reliable hot water supply.

They were on the first floor but opened onto a balcony built into a sand dune - we just stepped out of our back doors onto the sand. Monsoon rain and beach walks do not go together and the plans for late afternoon were abandoned - until we found a bird-hide. It was an open-sided canopy large enough for most of us to cram into without getting wet.

Telescopes were trained onto the beach and we were soon watching Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Kentish Plover, Curlew, Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit, Little Stint, Sanderling, Dunlin, Turnstone and Redshank. Two Mediterranean Gulls added variety to the usual beach residents.

Seawatching produced little of note except a couple of Gannet and a shearwater which landed too soon for identification in the poor visibility.

Wednesday 20 November

The monsoon conditions of last evening ended with two heavy showers overnight and we were able to spend an hour watching the beach before breakfast. In fact, the leaders had been a little optimistic with a 6.30 start, although the full moon did shed some light on our early morning activities. The dawn was beautiful, however, at one time turning the heavy swell pink as waves broke on the rock ledges below.

Seawatching is an acquired taste but we all had a go with mixed results. Dee came out top with more than 100 Gannet, including an exceptionally high number of adults, and 12 Cory's Shearwater. Five Razorbill passing by were unexpected as were three Common Scoter, but an Arctic Skua chasing a Sandwich Tern was almost bound to happen.

The same species of wader as yesterday were still on the beach but the light to watch them by was better, especially after the sun rose. Esther noticed a White Wagtail of the North African sub-species which has a highly-marked face. Tim and Stan were last to leave for breakfast and were rewarded by three Great Cormorant of the white-breasted sub-species.

We set off inland to explore fields and woods close to a royal hunting estate, but saw nobody from the Moroccan royal family.

We did stop to watch six Common Magpies of the beautiful blue-eared North African sub-species Pica pica mauritanicus, however, and these led us to watch a Southern Grey Shrike and our first Moussier's Redstart. A field with 87 Stone Curlew confirmed our rather fleeting views of two days ago. Further stops produced one Short-toed Lark and four Lesser Short-toed Lark, 15 Golden Plover, four Pintail and three Barn Swallow.

The road to Marrakech is slow so we made an early start to the long day's travel. Many birds were seen along the way, most particularly five Black-winged Kite and a Long-legged Buzzard.

After skirting Casablanca, a stop was made at Mechra Benabbou for lunch were we bought necklaces made from Eucalyptus seeds from two young lads.

Our spending was not finished for the day, however, as we went straight into the vibrant Marrakech souk after checking into the comfortable Hotel Tichka, seeing Crag Martin and Common Bulbul on the way in.

Jemma el F'na Square was alive with jugglers, fire eaters, snake charmers and people about to serve food when the sun set. (We were in Morocco over Ramadan which meant that people fasted between sunrise and sunset.) Stan had an encounter with a charming snake handler and on going to his aid many of us ended draped in reptiles. None was poisonous, however. Led by Andy and with Tim making up the rear, we dived into the bustling souk were various souvenirs were bargained for and bought. The atmosphere was exciting as we dealt with hustlers and over-excited salesmen alike. The visit ended with mint tea taken at a square-side café.

It was a wonderful end to a satisfying day.

Driving into Marrakech we had seen the Atlas Mountains, apparently close to the city but in reality 75km away. Some of the most sought-after birds of the trip were in those dramatic snow-topped vistas and we went to bed dreaming of the day we would spend at between 8,000 and 10,000ft tomorrow.

Thursday 21 November

House Bunting on several people's balconies got the day off to a good start. Bulbuls were calling in the gardens and in a short spell after breakfast Andy managed to get a preening House Bunting in the scope.

The Atlas Mountains came ever closer as we crossed the plain from Marrakech towards Oukaimeden ski-resort, via the Ourika Valley. We stopped for pictures of the snow-topped mountains with Mt Toubkal in the background.

Birds were limited to a few Stonechat, Crested Lark and fine male Marsh Harrier but as we entered the foothills our first stop resulted in good views of male Blackcap and fleeting glimpses of Rock Bunting. A Rock Sparrow was calling distantly but the group heard it and a closer Wren as well.

Our second stop 19km from the ski-centre was even more exciting as we studied the Atlas race of Coal Tit and our first Great Tit. Chaffinches were numerous and we were delighted to see our first Great Spotted Woodpecker.

The Km17 marker post is famous and rightly so. Standing next to stone-sellers, we soon heard the familiar song of Cirl Bunting, which eventually deigned to show itself. Birds started coming thick and fast with a fine but distant pair of Black Wheatear, Black Redstart and an obliging Rock Bunting. A Firecrest, the first of two, delayed its appearance until Sylvia, who was keen to see one, had been directed to the tree in which it was singing.

We were watching a Long-legged Buzzard running about as it hunted emerging flying ants far in the valley below when two male Black Wheatear were seen much closer, giving great views as they hawked insects - probably flying ants which had escaped the buzzard. Chaffinches too were hawking the insects.

We heard several 'jaffling' calls of Levaillant's Woodpecker but were unable to find the bird, resolving to have another go on our way down from Oukaimeden.

Black blizzards of Yellow-billed Chough had enthralled us at the second stop and as we approached the ski-centre another flock gave us close views and an opportunity to hear their distinctive shrill trilling calls. On a bank under them were about 40 Red-billed Chough and we could compare and contrast the two species well. A Little Owl was found blinking in the bright sunlight reflected off a sprinkling of snow.

Arriving at Oukaimeden was something of a shock to the leaders - thick snow covered the main birding areas and the place was almost devoid of bird life. While the group had coffee with Andy, Tim set off to search the village for birds - unsuccessfully. After a walk around the place and a picnic lunch Alistair found a lone Horned Lark high up on a hillside. But even that seemed confused, sitting motionless as if thinking 'where are my chums?'

A walk down to the reservoir and beyond turned up our fifth Striped Ground Squirrel of the day but little else so we set off down the valley with plans to stop at likely sites on the way back.

The weather stopped that, however. Cloud had formed in the valleys and we entered thick fog until much lower than we wanted. Even then attempts to find birds were thwarted by Berber children who, having finished school for the day, were shouting to each other across, down and up the valley, and pestering us. We did hear a Levaillant's Woodpecker and had views of an adult Egyptian Mongoose with two youngsters.

The day ended with a headlong rush for the hotel and supper. We were tired but delighted with the mountains and their wildlife.

Friday 22 November

An early start was thwarted when the bus failed to appear on time and we set off for Agadir 25 minutes late. The journey was terrific - through a wide variety of habitats and scenery with associated birds. We all had excellent views of a Barbary Falcon as it flew past us after a coffee stop at which we bought fossils and souvenirs.

A picture-stop allowed us to have our first examination of a Thekla Lark which was accompanied by a Southern Grey Shrike and a couple of blue-eared Magpie. Eagle-eyed Alistair found just that - a fine, though distant, Bonelli's Eagle.

Our short stops meant that we arrived at Oued Sous in plenty of time for birding and a picnic lunch. It turned into a picnic celebration after Andy discovered a lone Long-billed Dowitcher among the Knot, Black- and Bar-tailed Godwit, Redshank and Ruff. This was our second national rarity of the trip. In addition, we saw five Barbary Partridge, 12 Spoonbill, 250 Flamingo, a pair of Common Shelduck, a Gull-billed Tern in its masked winter plumage, and scads of Black-winged Stilt.

Another rarity was our quarry for the afternoon session.

The search took us to the estuary at Tamri where we found five Ruddy Shelduck and yet more Black Wheatear and Moussier's Redstart. And after careful searching north of Tamri, plus a little local assistance, Andy found a flock of feeding Bald Ibis. Carefully, we crossed the sandy dunes until superb views of the birds were had through telescopes. Silence fell on the group as we studied 65 birds - between a fifth and a quarter of the world-population of these endangered ibis.

They were feeding in typical flocking style, walking across the terrain probing for food, occasionally flying a short way as a group to start in another spot. After studying their bald heads, the adults' plumes and the iridescent maroon and green wings, we slipped back to our bus and the return journey to our hotel, tipping the bemused man who had told us roughly where he had seen the birds.

A short sea watch on the way, near Cap Rhir, produced nine Razorbill, a few Gannet and a Cory's Shearwater. We checked in to the hotel well satisfied with the day's birds and a memorable encounter with one of the bird-world's great characters, the Waldrapp or Bald Ibis.

Saturday 23 November

Our last full day's birding was spent at the amazing Oued Massa, about an hour's drive from the Agadir hotel. It produced what was to be voted the top bird of the trip, just beating yesterday's Bald Ibis into second place.

Being driven in Morocco is an interesting pastime as the country has a wealth of fascinating people, scenery, landscapes and buildings to look at. Going out to Oued Massa we had the Anti-Atlas mountains in front with the more dramatic High Atlas, through which we had passed yesterday, before us on the return.

Blue-eared Magpie was seen in numbers along the main road before we turned off to be dropped 2km from the national park entrance, giving the group a good walk. A Pied Flycatcher and the first of many Laughing Dove got us off to a lively start.

The road we walked follows the Massa River, rising and falling along its length giving vistas down towards the sea and close views of birds, often from above. We were watching a female Blue Rock-thrush and a group of Bulbuls when the whistling song of a Black-crowned Tchagra echoed around the valley but we could not find the bird.

Cetti's and Sardinian Warblers were singing and Chiffchaffs seemed to be in every bush. All the familiar waterbirds were on the river, including many Flamingo and Eurasian Coot, and a Kingfisher was seen by some. Marsh Harriers were quartering the reedy sides of the waterway. A pair of Little Owls was found on the side of a small quarry - revealed by agitated Spanish and House sparrows.

A nearby banana grove was the next place we heard a Tchagra. This one was more obliging, singing from a date-palm and giving reasonable views. Elated, we continued in ever increasing sunshine and warmth when Tim spotted the reflection of a Glossy Ibis flying down the river and giving us excellent views. Suddenly another 19 followed downstream with a Snipe close behind. A total of 46 Glossy Ibis was seen during the morning.

Mid-November is late for passage migrants but we did manage poor views of Whitethroat and Hoopoe by the end of the morning. The highlight was our final crack at Tchagra as two sang in duet from a short tree overhanging the path, giving wonderful views.

A picnic lunch was eaten after we had explored the start of a trail through the National Park, getting views of several common ducks and waders. Dee spotted three Wigeon over lunch while the leaders had a chat with a local man about the whereabouts of rarer local birds.

Our journey back along the Oued Massa was broken with a stop to watch a flock of Plain Martin which was feeding at one of the river crossing points. Many crowded on to a line strung across the river to allow local people to cross using a Kontiki-type raft.

As the martins were joined by a Squacco Heron which balanced precariously, Andy decided to try out the river-crossing procedure by leaping onto the raft and pulling himself into the stream. Egged on by the group, your author had more than one pang of fear. What if he fell in? The smell in the bus would be terrible, walking through the smart hotel foyer embarrassing, while sharing a room would be unbearable. Thankfully, he made it back to the bank, albeit after some alarming wobbles and a considerable difficulty in steering the craft.

It goes without saying that by the time he landed the martins and heron were well away from the spot, probably perched in a tree laughing at their experience. We set off to follow instructions from our local bird adviser, following a track across a semi-arid plain.

The informant had not mentioned the presence of Black-bellied Sandgrouse so the discovery of a female only a few metres from the minibus we were using for the day came as a delightful surprise. She squatted at first, looking just like one of the many rocks which surrounded her, but then rose and crept away from us, revealing the black belly feathers from which the name is derived. We left her in peace and drove off wondering why there was just one bird which did not fly off.

A short distance away we stopped to check out a passerine which proved to be a Sardinian Warbler, and decided to scan around for our other target bird. Tim found them - a small flock of Cream-coloured Courser, one of the most beautiful desert birds. We crept closer to them finally getting wonderful views of five as they picked and pecked at insects such as a Desert Mantis which we found close to the 'scopes.

The five birds started feeding while we watched and gave all of us opportunities to study their Moroccan-stone-coloured plumage, black eye-stripes and wing tips, pale legs, a desert adaptation, and curious down-curved bills. It was a great thrill to watch birds so perfectly adapted to the harsh conditions. This was a magical high point on which to finish the tour and we returned to the hotel for a celebratory final dinner together.

Andy took some of the group for a final bartering session, this time in Agadir's souk giving rise to more tales of adventure in this exotic destination.

Sunday 24 November

An early start for the airport ensured that we had an easy check-in and uneventful flight back to Heathrow. Before leaving we said our final goodbyes to Mohammed and Abdul, spent the last of our money on souvenirs and had an address-swapping session over coffee.

My special thanks go to Andy Smith who made the trip so easy for all of us and used his experience of Morocco to find the birds we wanted to see.

Thanks too to the exceptional group members whose friendliness and cooperation made for an excellent trip. I hope to travel with you all again on further Travelling Naturalist holidays.

Tim Earl

ANNOTATED LIST

BIRDS

GREBES Podicipediformes Podicipedidae

1 Little Grebe

Tachybaptus ruficollis Lac de Barga (5 on 18th), Lac de Sidi Bourhaba (30 on 19th), Oued Massa (70 on 23rd)

2 Great Crested Grebe

Podiceps cristatus Lac de Sidi Bourhaba (2 on 19th)

SHEARWATERS & PETRELS Procellariiformes Procellariidae

3 Cory's Shearwater

Calonectris diomedea Off Skhirat beach (12 on 20th), off Tamri (1 on 22nd)

GANNETS & BOOBIES Pelecaniformes Sulidae

4 Northern Gannet

Morus bassanus Moulay Bousselham (6 on 18th), Hotel Kasbah, Skhirat beach (2 on 19th and 20 on 20th), off Tamri (15 on 22nd)

CORMORANTS Pelecaniformes Phalacrocoracidae

5 Great Cormorant

Phalacrocorax carbo Oued Loukkos (50 on 17th), Lac de Barga (6 on 18th), Lac de Sidi Bourhaba (8 on 19th), Hotel Kasbah, Skhirat beach (3 on 19th), Oued Sous (5 on 22nd), Oued Massa (10 on 23rd)

HERONS, EGRETS & BITTERNS Ciconiiformes Ardeidae

6 Grey Heron

Ardea cinerea Oued Loukkos (12 on 17th), Lac de Barga (20 on 18th), Lac de Sidi Bourhaba (1 on 19th), travelling to Marrakech (4 on 20th), Oued Sous (20 on 22nd), Oued Massa (25 on 23rd)

7 Little Egret

Egretta garzetta Hundreds daily in the north, Oued Massa (10 on 23rd)

8 Squacco Heron

Ardeola ralloides Oued Loukkos (10 on 17th), Lac de Barga (8 on 18th), Oued Massa (7 on 23rd)

9 Cattle Egret

Bubulcus ibis Thousands daily on the north coast, Atlas Mountains (5 on 21st), Oued Massa (50 on 23rd)

STORKS Ciconiiformes Ciconiidae

10 White Stork

Ciconia ciconia Oued Loukkos (50 on 17th), Lac de Barga (20 on 18th), Kenitra (30 on 19th), travelling to Marrakech (15 on 20th)

IBIS & SPOONBILLS Ciconiiformes Threskiornithidae

11 Bald Ibis (Waldrapp)

Geronticus eremita Cliff-top / dune habitat near Tamri (65 on 22nd)

12 Glossy Ibis

Plegadis falcinellus Oued Massa (46 on 23rd)

13 Eurasian Spoonbill

Platalea leucorodia Lac de Barga (17 on 18th), Oued Sous (12 on 22nd)

FLAMINGOS Phoenicopteriformes Phoenicopterid

14 Greater Flamingo

Phoenicopterus ruber Oued Loukkos (on 17th), Lac de Barga (20 on 18th), Lac de Sidi Bourhaba (2 on 19th), Oued Sous (250 on 22nd), Oued Massa (100 on 23rd)

SWANS, GEESE & DUCKS Anseriformes Anatidae

15 Ruddy Shelduck

Tadorna ferruginea Estuary near Tamri (5 on 22nd), Oued Massa (6 on 23rd)

16 Common Shelduck

Tadorna tadorna Estuary near Tamri (11 on 22nd)

17 Eurasian Wigeon

Anas penelope Moulay Bousselham (12 on 18th), Oued Massa (4 on 23rd)

18 Gadwall

Anas strepera Lac de Barga (30 on 18th), Oued Massa (2 on 23rd)

19 Common Teal

Anas crecca Lac de Barga (12 on 18th), Lac de Sidi Bourhaba (25 on 19th), Oued Massa (12 on 23rd)

20 Mallard

Anas platyrhynchos Oued Loukkos (25 on 17th), Lac de Barga (10 on 18th), Lac de Sidi Bourhaba (50 on 19th), Oued Massa (25 on 23rd)

21 Northern Pintail

Anas acuta Oued Loukkos (15 on 17th), Oued Massa (7 on 23rd)

22 Garganey

Anas querquedula Lac de Sidi Bourhaba (3 on 19th)

23 Northern Shoveler

Anas clypeata Lac de Barga (20 on 18th), Lac de Sidi Bourhaba (120 on 19th), Oued Massa (40 on 23rd)

24 Marbled Duck

Marmaronetta angustirostris Lac de Sidi Bourhaba (25 on 19th), Oued Massa (55 on 23rd)

25 Red-crested Pochard

Netta rufina Lac de Barga (20 on 18th), Lac de Sidi Bourhaba (5 on 19th)

26 Common Pochard

Aythya ferina Lac de Barga (3 on 18th), Lac de Sidi Bourhaba (25 on 19th), Oued Massa (50 on 23rd)

27 Ferruginous Duck

Aythya nyroca Lac de Sidi Bourhaba (1 male on 19th)

28 Tufted Duck

Aythya fuligula Lac de Barga (3 on 18th), Oued Massa (5 on 23rd)

29 Black Scoter

Melanitta nigra Hotel Kasbah, Skhirat beach (3 on 19th)

OSPREY Falconiformes Pandionidae

30 Osprey

Pandion haliaetus Lac de Barga (1 catching and eating a fish on 18th), Oued Massa (2, one catching a fish and carrying it off, on 23rd)

HAWKS, EAGLES & KITES Falconiformes Accipitridae

31 Black-shouldered Kite

Elanus caeruleus Tangier Airport (2 on 17th), back road to Souk el Arba (3 on 18th), Lac de Barga area (4 on 18th), travelling to Marrakech (5 on 20th)

32 Western Marsh-harrier

Circus aeruginosus Oued Loukkos (15 on 17th), Lac de Barga (10 on 18th), Lac de Sidi Bourhaba (5 on 19th), travelling to Marrakech (1 on 20th), Oued Massa (6 on 23rd)

33 Northern Harrier

Circus cyaneus Oued Loukkos (male on 17th)

34 Eurasian Sparrowhawk

Accipiter nisus Back road to Souk el Arba (female on 18th), Kenitra ramparts (male on 19th), travelling to Marrakech (1 on 20th) and from (1 on 22nd)

35 Long-legged Buzzard

Buteo rufinus Fields north of Asilah (1 on 17th), Lac de Barga area (5 on 18th), Lac de Sidi Bourhaba (1 on 19th), travelling to Marrakech (1 on 20th), Atlas Mountains (2 on 21st)

36 Bonelli's Eagle

Hieraaetus fasciatus Road to Agadir (on 22nd)

FALCONS Falconiformes Falconidae

37 Eurasian Kestrel

Falco tinnunculus Common daily, Atlas Mountains (1 on 21st), Oued Massa (4 on 23rd)

38 Barbary Falcon

Falco pelegrinoides Oued Loukkos (2 on 17th), road to Agadir (1 on 22nd)

39 Peregrine Falcon

Falco peregrinus Back road to Souk el Arba (male on 18th), Lac de Barga (1 on 18th)

PHEASANTS & PARTRIDGES Galliformes Phasianidae

40 Barbary Partridge

Alectoris barbara Oued Sous (5 on 22nd)

RAILS, GALLINULES & COOTS Gruiformes Rallidae

41 Purple Swamphen (Gallinule)

Porphyrio porphyrio Lac de Sidi Bourhaba (2 on 19th)

42 Common Moorhen

Gallinula chloropus Oued Loukkos (2 on 17th), Lac de Sidi Bourhaba (2 on 19th), Oued Massa (8 on 23rd)

43 Red-knobbed Coot

Fulica cristata Oued Loukkos (500 on 17th), Lac de Barga (20 on 18th), Lac de Sidi Bourhaba (30 on 19th), Oued Massa (1 on 23rd)

44 Eurasian Coot

Fulica atra Lac de Barga (200 on 18th), Lac de Sidi Bourhaba (20 on 19th), Oued Massa (500 on 23rd)

OYSTERCATCHERS Charadriiformes Haematopodidae

45 Eurasian Oystercatcher

Haematopus ostralegus Larache seafront (3 on 17th), Merja Zerga (8 on 18th), Skhirat beach (6 on 19th and 20th), Oued Massa (2 on 23rd)

AVOCETS & STILTS Charadriiformes Recurvirostridae

46 Black-winged Stilt

Himantopus himantopus Common daily except mountains

47 Pied Avocet

Recurvirostra avosetta Lac de Barga (30 on 18th)

THICK-KNEES Charadriiformes Burhinidae

48 Stone-curlew (Eurasian Thick-knee)

Burhinus oedicnemus Fields north of Asilah (14 on 17th), back road to Souk el Arba (130 on 18th), road to Sidi Bettache (87 on 20th)

PRATINCOLES & COURSERS Charadriiformes Glareolidae

49 Cream-coloured Courser

Cursorius cursor Oued Massa (5 on 23rd)

PLOVERS & LAPWINGS Charadriiformes Charadriidae

50 Northern Lapwing

Vanellus vanellus Oued Loukkos (30 on 17th), Lac de Barga (60 on 18th), Oued Massa (2 on 23rd)

51 Eurasian Golden-plover

Pluvialis apricaria Road to Sidi Bettache (15 on 20th)

52 Grey Plover

Pluvialis squatarola Merja Zerga (3 on 18th), Hotel Kasbah, Skhirat beach (3 on 19th and 20th), Oued Sous (3 on 22nd)

53 Ringed Plover

Charadrius hiaticula Oued Loukkos (30 on 17th), Hotel Kasbah, Skhirat (5 on 20th)

54 Kentish Plover

Charadrius alexandrinus Hotel Kasbah, Skhirat beach (3 on 19th and 10 on 20th)

SANDPIPERS Charadriiformes Scolopacidae

55 Common Snipe

Gallinago gallinago Lac de Barga (30 on 18th), Oued Massa (4 on 23rd)

56 Long-billed Dowitcher

Limnodromus scolopaceus Oued Sous (1 on 22nd). This Nearctic wader is an accidental in Morocco.

57 Black-tailed Godwit

Limosa limosa Lac de Barga (200 on 18th), Oued Sous (30 on 22nd), Oued Massa (15 on 23rd)

58 Bar-tailed Godwit

Limosa lapponica Merja Zerga (20 on 18th), Hotel Kasbah, Skhirat beach (5 on 19th, 3 on 20th), Oued Sous (6 on 22nd)

59 Whimbrel

Numenius phaeopus Larache seafront (1 on 17th), Hotel Kasbah, Skhirat beach (4 on 19th and 20th)

60 Eurasian Curlew

Numenius arquata Oued Loukkos (6 on 17th), Hotel Kasbah, Skhirat beach (3 on 19th and 20th), Oued Sous (1 on 22nd), Oued Massa (2 on 23rd)

61 Common Redshank

Tringa totanus Oued Loukkos (10 on 17th), Lac de Barga (3 on 18th), Hotel Kasbah, Skhirat beach (5 on 19th, 8 on 20th), Oued Sous (50 on 22nd), Oued Massa (2 on 23rd)

62 Marsh Sandpiper

Tringa stagnatilis Lac de Barga (1 on 18th)

63 Common Greenshank

Tringa nebularia Oued Loukkos (10 on 17th), Lac de Barga (3 on 18th), Lac de Sidi Bourhaba (1+ heard on 19th)

64 Green Sandpiper

Tringa ochropus Oued Loukkos (1 on 17th), Lac de Sidi Bourhaba (3 on 19th), Atlas Mountains (1 on 21st), Oued Massa (1 on 23rd)

65 Common Sandpiper

Actitis hypoleucos Oued Loukkos (10 on 17th), Skirat beach and other sites (4 on 19th), Oued Sous (3 on 22nd)

66 Ruddy Turnstone

Arenaria interpres Larache seafront (2 on 17th), Hotel Kasbah, Skhirat beach (8 on 19th and 20th), Oued Sous (2 on 22nd)

67 Red Knot

Calidris canutus Oued Loukkos (2 on 17th), Oued Sous (15 on 22nd)

68 Sanderling

Calidris alba Larache seafront (30 on 17th), Hotel Kasbah, Skhirat beach (15 on 19th, and 20th)

69 Little Stint

Calidris minuta Oued Loukkos (7 on 17th), Hotel Kasbah, Skhirat beach (5 on 19th and 20th), Oued Massa (4 on 23rd)

70 Dunlin

Calidris alpina Oued Loukkos (70 on 17th), Lac de Barga (10 on 18th), Hotel Kasbah, Skhirat beach (5 on 19th and 20th)

71 Ruff

Philomachus pugnax Oued Loukkos (2 on 17th), Oued Sous (25 on 22nd)

JAEGERS & SKUAS Charadriiformes Stercorariidae

72 Arctic Skua

Stercorarius parasiticus Off Skhirat Beach (1 chasing a tern on 20th)

GULLS Charadriiformes Laridae

73 Audouin's Gull

Larus audouinii Larache seafront (2 on 17th), Hotel Kasbah, Skhirat beach (4 on 19th and 20th), Oued Sous (15 on 22nd)

74 Yellow-legged Gull

Larus cachinnans Common daily except mountains

75 Lesser black-backed Gull

Larus fuscus Abundant daily on the coast, thousands between Agadir and Tamri on 22nd

76 Black-headed Gull

Larus ridibundus Common daily on the sea

77 Slender-billed Gull

Larus genei Merja Zerga (6 on 18th), Kenitra (2 on 19th)

78 Mediterranean Gull

Larus melanocephalus Larache seafront (1 immature on 17th), Hotel Kasbah, Skhirat beach (2 on 19th)

TERNS Charadriiformes Sternidae

79 Gull-billed Tern

Sterna nilotica Oued Sous (2 on 22nd)

80 Caspian Tern

Sterna caspia Oued Loukkos (3 on 17th), Merja Zerga (1 on 18th)

81 Sandwich Tern

Sterna sandvicensis Larache seafront (0s on 17th), Merja Zerga (25 on 18th), Skhirat beach (8 on 19th, 20 on 20th), Oued Sous (3 on 22nd)

82 Common Tern

Sterna hirundo Larache beach (first-winter bird on 17th)

83 Whiskered Tern

Chlidonias hybridus Lac de Barga (8 on 18th)

84 Black Tern

Chlidonias niger Lac de Barga (5 on 18th)

AUKS, MURRES & PUFFINS Charadriiformes Alcidae

85 Little Auk

Alle alle Moulay Bousselham (1 brought off the beach exhausted by a Frenchman on 18th). Possibly the first record for Morocco.

86 Razorbill

Alca torda Off Skhirat beach (5 on 20th), off Tamri (9 on 22nd)

SANDGROUSE Pterocliformes Pteroclidae

87 Black-bellied Sandgrouse

Pterocles orientalis Oued Massa (female on 23rd)

PIGEONS & DOVES Columbiformes Columbidae

88 Rock Dove (Feral pigeon)

Columba livia Common daily

89 Common Wood-pigeon

Columba palumbus Atlas Mountains (7 on 21st), road to Agadir (1 on 22nd)

90 Eurasian Collared-dove

Streptopelia decaocto Common daily

91 Laughing Dove

Streptopelia senegalensis Oued Massa (25 on 23rd)

OWLS Strigiformes Strigidae

92 Little Owl

Athene noctua Atlas Mountains (1 on 21st), Oued Massa (2 on 23rd)

93 Marsh Owl

Asio capensis Merja Zerga (20 on 18th)

SWIFTS Apodiformes Apodidae

94 Little Swift

Apus affinis Larache town (15 on 17th and 18th), Oued Sous (3 on 22nd)

KINGFISHERS Coraciiformes Alcedinidae

95 Common Kingfisher

Alcedo atthis Oued Loukkos (4 on 17th), Lac de Sidi Bourhaba (1 on 19th), Oued Massa (1 on 23rd)

HOOPOES Coraciiformes Upupidae

96 Eurasian Hoopoe

Upupa epops Oued Massa (1 on 23rd)

WOODPECKERS Piciformes Picidae

97 Great Spotted Woodpecker

Dendrocopos major Atlas Mountains (1 on 21st)

98 Levaillant's Woodpecker

Picus vaillantii Atlas Mountains (2 heard 'yaffling' on 21st)

LARKS Passeriformes Alaudidae

99 Calandra Lark

Melanocorypha calandra Fields north of Asilah (15 on 17th)

100 Greater Short-toed Lark

Calandrella brachydactyla Road to Sidi Bettache (5 on 20th)

101 Lesser Short-toed Lark

Calandrella rufescens Road to Sidi Bettache (2 on 20th)

102 Crested Lark

Galerida cristata Common daily except mountains

103 Thekla Lark

Galerida theklae atlas Mountains (1 on 21st), Agadir area (10 on 22nd), Oued Massa (6 on 23rd)

104 Sky Lark

Alauda arvensis Fields north of Asilah (20 on 17th), Lac de Barga (20 on 18th), road to Agadir (1 on 22nd)

105 Horned (Shore) Lark

Eremophila alpestris Atlas Mountains (1 possibly 2 on 21st)

SWALLOWS Passeriformes Hirundinidae

106 Plain Martin

Riparia paludicola Oued Massa (50 on 23rd)

107 Eurasian Crag-martin

Hirundo rupestris Marrakech (2 on 20th), Oued Sous (3 on 22nd)

108 Barn Swallow

Hirundo rustica Travelling to Marrakech (3 on 20th), near Tamri (4 on 22nd), Oued Massa (10 on 23rd)

WAGTAILS & PIPITS Passeriformes Motacillidae

109 White Wagtail including

Moroccan White Wagtail

Motacilla alba (alba & subpersonata) Common daily, roosting flock of 300 in Marrakech on 21st; singles of the North African race on Skhirat Beach on 20th and in the Atlas Mountains on 21st

110 Yellow Wagtail

Motacilla flava (iberae) Common daily in the north, Tamri estuary (4 on 22nd), Oued Massa (5 on 23rd)

111 Grey Wagtail

Motacilla cinerea Larache seafront (1 on 17th), Atlas Mountains (3 on 21st)

112 Meadow Pipit

Anthus pratensis Lac de Barga (0s on 18th), travelling (10 on 19th), Oued Massa (1 on 23rd)

BULBULS Passeriformes Pycnonotidae

113 Common Bulbul

Pycnonotus barbatus Hotel Riad, Larache (1 on 18th), Marrakech (3 on 20th), Atlas Mountains (30 on 21st), Oued Sous (30 on 22nd), Oued Massa (100 on 23rd)

CRESTS Passeriformes Regulidae

114 Firecrest

Regulus ignicapillus Atlas Mountains (2 on 21st)

WRENS Passeriformes Troglodytidae

115 Wren

Troglodytes troglodytes Lac de Sidi Bourhaba (2 on 19th), Atlas Mountains (1 on 21st)

THRUSHES Passeriformes Turdidae

116 Blue Rock-thrush

Monticola solitarius Larache seafront (1 on 17th), bridge at Tamri (1 male, in the same place two hours apart on 22nd), Oued Massa (2 on 23rd)

117 Eurasian Blackbird

Turdus merula Fields north of Asilah (1 on 17th), Lac de Sidi Bourhaba (2 on 19th), travelling to Marrakech (2 on 20th), Atlas Mountains (10 on 21st), near Tamri and other sites (10 on 22nd), Oued Massa (8 on 23rd)

118 Song Thrush

Turdus philomelos Hotel Riad, Larache (1 on 18th), travelling to Marrakech (1 on 20th)

CISTICOLAS & ALLIES Passeriformes Cisticolidae

119 Zitting Cisticola

Cisticola juncidis Common daily except mountains

OLD WORLD WARBLERS Passeriformes Sylviidae

120 Cetti's Warbler

Cettia cetti Oued Loukkos (1 heard on 17th), Lac de Barga (2 on 18th), Lac de Sidi Bourhaba (8 on 19th), Oued Sous (1 on 22nd), Oued Massa (8 on 23rd)

121 Eurasian Reed-warbler

Acrocephalus scirpaceus Oued Loukkos (1 on 17th)

122 Common Chiffchaff

Phylloscopus collybita Oued Loukkos (10 on 17th), Lac de Barga (6 on 18th), Lac de Sidi Bourhaba (50 on 19th), travelling to Marrakech (2 on 20th), Atlas Mountains (10 on 21st), Agadir area (10 on 22nd), Oued Massa (0s on 23rd)

123 Blackcap

Sylvia atricapilla Road to Souk el Arba (1 0n 18th), Lac de Sidi Bourhaba (2 on 19th), travelling to Marrakech (1 on 20th), Atlas Mountains (5 on 21st), Oued Massa (5 on 23rd)

124 Whitethroat

Sylvia communis Oued Massa (1 on 23rd)

125 Sardinian Warbler

Sylvia melanocephala One or two daily, Oued Massa (20 on 23rd)

OLD WORLD FLYCATCHERS Passeriformes Muscicapidae

126 European Pied Flycatcher

Ficedula hypoleuca Oued Massa (2 on 23rd)

127 European Robin

Erithacus rubecula Hotel Riad (1 on 17th, 2 on 18th), Lac de Sidi Bourhaba (3 on 19th), Atlas Mountains (5 on 21st), Oued Massa (2 on 23rd)

128 Black Redstart

Phoenicurus ochruros Common daily

129 Moussier's Redstart

Phoenicurus moussieri Road to Sidi Bettache (1 on 20th), Atlas Mountains (1 on 21st), Tamri estuary (4 on 22nd), Oued Massa (6 on 23rd)

130 Common Stonechat

Saxicola torquata Common daily

131 Black Wheatear

Oenanthe leucura Atlas Mountains (6 on 21st), near Tamri (6 on 22nd)

132 Northern Wheatear

Oenanthe oenanthe Oued Loukkos (1 on 17th)

TITS Passeriformes Paridae

133 Coal Tit

Periparus ater Atlas Mountains (3 on 21st)

134 Great Tit

Parus major Atlas Mountains (2 on 21st)

135 Blue Tit

Cyanistes caeruleus Moulay Bousselham (1 on 18th), Lac de Sidi Bourhaba (4 on 19th), Atlas Mountains (8 on 21st)

SHRIKES Passeriformes Laniidae

136 Southern Grey Shrike

Lanius meridionalis Oued Loukkos (6 on 17th), Lac de Barga (2 on 18th), various sites (4 on 22nd), Oued Massa (3 on 23rd)

BUSHSHRIKES & ALLIES Passeriformes Malaconotidae

137 Black-crowned Tchagra

Tchagra senegala Oued Massa (6 on 23rd)

CROWS & JAYS Passeriformes Corvidae

138 (Blue-eared) Magpie

Pica pica (mauritanicus) Road to Sidi Bettache (6 of blue-eared north African race on 20th), Oued Sous (4 on 22nd), Oued Massa (25 on 23rd)

139 Red-billed Chough

Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax Atlas Mountains (40 on 21st)

140 Yellow-billed (Alpine) Chough

Pyrrhocorax graculus Atlas Mountains (355 on 21st)

141 Eurasian Jackdaw

Corvus monedula Common daily except Atlas Mountains

142 Common Raven

Corvus corax Oued Loukkos (30 on 17th), travelling (1 on 19th), Atlas Mountains (5 on 21st), various sites near Agadir (6 on 22nd)

STARLINGS Passeriformes Sturnidae

143 Common Starling

Sturnus vulgaris Oued Loukkos (3 on 17th), Lac de Barga (1 on 18th)

144 Spotless Starling

Sturnus unicolor Common daily

OLD WORLD SPARROWS Passeriformes Passeridae

145 House Sparrow

Passer domesticus Common daily

146 Spanish Sparrow

Passer hispaniolensis Fields north of Asilah (6 on 17th), Oued Massa (50 on 23rd)

147 Rock Sparrow

Petronia petronia Atlas Mountains (1 heard on 21st)

FINCHES Passeriformes Fringillidae

148 Chaffinch

Fringilla coelebs Lac de Barga (15, two males of the Moroccan race, on 18th), Lac de Sidi Bourhaba (2 on 19th), Atlas Mountains (30 on 21st), Oued Massa (15 on 23rd)

149 European Greenfinch

Carduelis chloris Lac de Barga (6 on 18th), Hotel Tichka, Marrakech (2 on 21st), Oued Massa (7 on 23rd)

150 European Goldfinch

Carduelis carduelis Common daily

151 Eurasian Linnet

Carduelis cannabina Fields north of Asilah (20 on 17th), Lac de Barga (6 on 18th); road to Agadir (4 on 22nd), Oued Massa (1 on 23rd)

152 European Serin

Serinus serinus Oued Loukkos (2 seen well, several others on 17th), Atlas Mountains (10 on 21st), Oued Massa (6 on 23rd)

BUNTINGS Passeriformes Emberizidae

153 Cirl Bunting

Emberiza cirlus Atlas Mountains (male singing on 21st)

154 Rock Bunting

Emberiza cia Atlas Mountains (4 on 21st)

155 House Bunting

Emberiza striolata Hotel Tichka, Marrakesh (4 on 21st, 2 on 22nd), Oued Massa (4 on 23rd)

156 Corn Bunting

Emberiza calandra Fields north of Asilah (50 on 17th), Lac de Barga (10 on 18th), Oued Massa (1 singing on 23rd)

MAMMALS

SQUIRRELS Rodentia Scuridae

1 Barbary Ground Squirrel

Atlantoxeros getulus Oukaimeden, high Atlas (5 on 21st)

MONGOOSES Carnivora Herpestidae

2 Egyptian Mongoose

Herpestes ichneumon Below Oukaimeden, high Atlas (adult and two youngsters on 21st)

APES Primates Hominidae

3 Human

Homo sapiens Abundant in the cities, common in the countryside but most interesting were the more colourfully attired ones in the Berber villages of the high Atlas on 21st.

REPTILES AND AMPHIBIANS

1 Stripeless Tree-frog

Hyla meridionalis Several calling at Oued Loukkos on 17th.

2 Pool Frog

Rana lessonae Several calling at Oued Loukkos on 17th.

3 Stripe-necked Terrapin

Mauremys leprosa One was on foliage in the Oued Massa on 23rd.

4 Pond Terrapin

Emys orbicularis One at Oued Massa on 23rd.

5 Spiny-footed Lizard

Acanthodactylus erythrurus One obliging specimen at Oued Massa on 23rd.

BUTTERFLIES

1 Large white

Pieris brassicae A few seen most days.

2 Small white

Artogeia rapae One to two were noted most days north of the Atlas.

3 Green-striped white

Euchloe belemia One seen below Oukaimeden on 21st.

4 Clouded yellow

Colias croceus One or two seen on 17th and 18th.

5 Lang's short-tailed blue

Syntarucus pirithous One at Oued Massa on 23rd.

6 African grass blue

Zizeeria knysna One at Oued Massa on 23rd.

7 Plain tiger

Danaus chrysippus One at Oued Massa on 23rd.

8 Red admiral

Vanessa Atlanta Singles on four days but several at Mechra Benabbou picnic spot on 19th.

9 Painted lady

Cynthia cardui Between one and three were noted on five days.

10 Southern speckled wood

Parage aegeria Several seen on three days.

11 Wall brown

Lasiommata megera One at Km17 below Oukaimeden on 21st.

DRAGONFLIES

1 Emperor dragonfly

Anax imperator Several at Lac Barga on 18th and Oued Massa on 23rd.

2 Red-veined darter

Sympetrum fonscolombei Several at Oued Massa on 23rd.

ORTHOPTERA

1 Red-winged grasshopper The most common grasshopper seen lots of times.

2 Red-headed grasshopper Two at Lac Barga on 18th.

OTHER TAXA

1 Preying mantis Nymph on a Eucalyptus at Sidi Bourhaba on 19th.

2 Desert mantis One above Oued Massa at the courser site on 23rd.

3 12-spot ladybird One at Moulay Bousselham on 18th

4 Black harvestman A 'swarm' looking like mould on a Eucalyptus at Lac de Sidi Bourhaba on 19th.

HEAVENLY BODIES

Full Moon Illuminating our sea- and beach-watch at Skhirat Beach at 6.30am on the 20th.

Venus Also visible at Skhirat on the 20th.


© The Travelling Naturalist 2002