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Moroccan Trip Report!

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« on: October 29, 2007, 20:33 PM »

Moroccan Bird Trip Report

Spanish Nature – 12th to 21st October 2007

Morocco – Atlantic Seaboard and Souss / Anti Atlas Regions

Trip Report Author – Peter Jones :dancing:

Although the trip was initially designed to investigate the north and western Atlantic side of Morocco with a view to organising future tours to Morocco, a number of clients accompanied this trip and we managed to locate several good species and sites. Despite a pre-occupation with discovering accommodation and routes, we nevertheless had several opportunities to relax and spend time locating target species i.e. Bald Ibis etc.

As is the policy of Spanish Nature, we always visit new destinations/routes at least two times, so a further trip is imminent to finalise routes, birding sites and accommodation (November 2007). However, we are able to present a few details of our initial trip and make some observations which we hope will be of value to others planning to visit this part of Morocco.

Tangier – El Jadida
Spanish Nature being based of course in Spain and because this was first and foremost an exploratory tour, we set-off from Tarifa and landed in Tangier. The first day 12th October was spent trying to make as great a distance as possible towards Agadir. Our first night was spent at El Jadida and due to the time travelling we had little opportunity to go birding. We did observe Golden Plover, Turnstone immediately in front of our beachside Hotel.

El Jadida – Agadir
Today we were able to spend more time and visit various sites along the coastal road from El Jadida to Agadir and in particular between El Jadida and Essaouira. Most of the salt lakes/lagoons produced good numbers of waders including Little Stint, Whimbrel, Grey Plover and of course Black-winged Stilts. Also gull roosts were evident with very good numbers of Audouin’s Gull with a surprise of a solitary Herring Gull Larus argentatus among Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls. Sandwich Tern was also present in high numbers. Raptors were seen well along the cliff tops on this journey and Lanner, Peregrine and Barbary Falcon all showed extremely well. The beach and lagoon at Tamri was fruitful and gave Garganey, Marbled Teal, Red-knobbed and Eurasian Coot, Shoveler, Crested and Common Pochard, Teal, Mallard, Spoonbill, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Peregrine, Reed Warbler, Whinchat, Ring Ouzel, Little Tern and Royal Tern etc.

Agadir – Tiznit
We found very little to recommend a return to Agadir as a place to stay, but it did have the compensation of being well placed to explore the Souss and Souss Masa reserve. Here we found Skylark, Thekla Lark, Crested Lark, Hoopoe Lark, Bonelli’s Eagle (2 adults and 1 juv), Short-toed Eagle, Osprey, Barbary Falcon, Marsh Harrier, Lesser Kestrel, Stone Curlew, Whimbrel, Bluethroat, Pied and Spotted Flycatcher, Willow, Orphean, Reed, Cetti’s, Fan-tailed, Spectacled Warblers and 00’s Chiffchaff, Yellow, White Wagtails, Moussier’s Redstarts and of course our target Bald Ibis! We found a good number of other species and these are contained within the listing at the end of this report.

Tiznit – Cap Draa (Tafnidilt)
Apart from one stop between Tiznit and Guelmim (producing Spanish Sparrow), we made time to stop several times south of Guelmim. Very soon we found Fulvous Babbler, Thick-billed Lark, Temminck’s Horned Lark, Theklas and Crested Lark, Yellow Wagtails, Trumpeter Finches, Long-legged Buzzards, Lanner Falcon, Lesser and Common Kestrels, but the real bonus was a new and undisclosed site for Pharaoh Eagle Owl (no requests please after the swamping of the site at Rissani). Soon after arriving at Cap Draa we had time for a short walk in the surrounding desert and soon found Desert Warbler!

Cap Draa – La Ayoune
Intending to return and further explore the Oued Draa we setoff for the long journey to La Ayoune. Before reaching Tan Tan we had an adult and juvenile Bonelli’s Eagle and some kilometres later we had another adult! South of Tan Tan and turning left to join the coastal road for La Ayoune before El Ouatia (Tan Tan Plage) we soon spotted Osprey and several Long-legged Buzzards, but surprisingly we also found Common Buzzard. Here we saw Common Kestrel frequently and less commonly Lanner Falcon and a solitary Peregrine. All the Oueds are worth a look here and large gull and tern roosts were seen at all of these outlets including Lesser Crested, Sandwich, Common and Little Terns. Knot and other waders were present in good numbers and large southerly movements noted for Gannet and a single Artic Skua! Feature birds for me since travelling south of Agadir were the Wheatears Black, Red-rumped and Desert all common, with Northern clearly following the western seaboard for the southerly journey in large numbers.

La Ayoune – Tafnidilt Oued Draa
We found the surrounding area of La Ayoune very poor for birds and the high profile of the local military made exploration difficult. Here we decided to head back North and what we considered richer birding. South of Tah was quiet and uneventful, but certain areas seemed like they might produce good returns, but apart from Tawny Pipit we found the next best area was the desert area around Tarfaya with good numbers of Hoopoe Lark providing entertainment (always a welcome and favourite bird). Foum Agoutir was an area rich in seabirds and waders, here we had Caspian, Black, Little, Gull-billed, Common and Sandwich Tern. We repeated our stops at all the Oueds south of El Ouatia and again were rewarded with more seabird and wader numbers including Lesser-crested Tern yet again. We also noted a Lesser Black-backed Gull with a Blue colour ring on its left leg coded in Black Y040 so any ideas?

Tafnidilt Oued Draa
A day to relax and lunch in the wilds of the lower Oued Draa. We were hopeful of finding Streaked Scrub Warbler, but sad to say we dipped, but we found Tristram’s, Spectacled, Sub-alpine and other warblers. Also a number of Bluethroats, Redstarts and Turtle Dove were here. Montagu’s and Marsh Harrier also were seen throughout the day. Also rather late in the year we found Bush Chat Robin! Whinchat along with Northern Wheatear were common through the valley and on the more arid areas we found more Hoopoe Lark.

Tafnidilt – Taroudant
Very soon into our journey north we spotted a juvenile Golden Eagle and it showed well for 15 minutes. In the same area we had Temminck’s Horned Lark and Thick-billed Lark. After Guelmim we made a side journey to Bou Jerif and here we had excellent views of Montagu’s Harrier and discovered a very promising river site, here we added Pallid and Common Swift, Wood Sandpiper and Black-eared Wheatear to our day list. In the open desert we had Whinchat and many warblers, together with the African sub species of Magpie near a camp site. We regretted we had to leave this area as the journey to Taroudant involved many more kilometres. Definitely a site we will visit again!

Taroudant – Marrakech
Our journey to Marrakech is probably one of the most scenic routes you can take in Morocco, crossing the Atlas Mountains via the Tiz-n-Test pass. The landscape was breathtaking and here we were able to add Crag Martin, Rock Bunting and Chough to our growing species list. Descending to Marrakech we managed Sparrowhawk, Black Shouldered Kite and several Blue Rock Thrushes. Coal Tit and later in the villages House Buntings were to make our list for the day respectable.

Marrakech – Tangier
The greatest surprise of the day was to discover the completion of the motorway link between Marrakech to Settat. The opening reducing our time for the journey to Tangier by over an hour and perhaps nearer to two hours! Very early into our journey we added Cream-coloured Courser, Calandra Lark and Black Kite to our tour list.

Impressions and summary

Our exploratory journey involved a round trip of some 4,000kms and of course we would not intend to repeat such an arduous route for future tours. Travelling such large distances necessarily reduced actual time spent looking for birds but, as our species listing shows, we managed a reasonable total. Our objectives of identifying and discounting birding sites, plus finding good accommodation were for the largest part achieved. We intend to visit the area/s again during November 2007 to finalise the route and further investigate some potentially attractive birding sites.
For those planning a visit to Morocco and intending to visit some of the above areas, then we can at least give you an idea of where not to waste time! Sadly some past recommended sites have either been destroyed or have degenerated to such an extent as to make further visits practically worthless. We saw nothing that would encourage us to explore further south than Tarfaya, but of course there may be sites further south of La Ayoune where it might be possible to see rare species. Our reasons for restricting our journey further south were because of time and fatigue! A very big disappointment for us was the area surrounding Taroudant. The raptor sites and especially the Argana forest area in and around Tafingoult were devoid of many species and the forest area looks to be a mere remnant of what must have previously been a prime site! Goat grazing and felling have left this area a shadow of its former self.
Upon further investigation and exploration, planned for this year, we will post another report and more accurately detail those areas we feel can be given a ‘miss’.

Little Grebe   Tachybaptus ruficollis   
Eared Grebe   Podiceps nigricollis   
Cory's Shearwater   Calonectris diomedea   
Balearic Shearwater   Puffinus mauretanicus   
Northern Gannet   Morus bassanus   
Great Cormorant   Phalacrocorax carbo   
Grey Heron      Ardea cinerea   
Little Egret      Egretta garzetta   
Squacco Heron   Ardeola ralloides   
Cattle Egret   Bubulcus ibis   
White Stork   Ciconia ciconia   
Waldrapp      Geronticus eremita   
Glossy Ibis      Plegadis falcinellus   
Eurasian Spoonbill   Platalea leucorodia   
Greater Flamingo   Phoenicopterus roseus   
Ruddy Shelduck   Tadorna ferruginea   
Common Shelduck   Tadorna tadorna   
Eurasian Wigeon   Anas penelope   
Gadwall      Anas strepera   
Eurasian Teal   Anas crecca   
Mallard      Anas platyrhynchos   
Northern Pintail   Anas acuta   
Garganey      Anas querquedula   
Northern Shoveler   Anas clypeata   
Marbled Teal   Marmaronetta angustirostris   
Red-crested Pochard   Netta rufina   
Common Pochard   Aythya ferina   
Osprey      Pandion haliaetus   
Black-shouldered Kite   Elanus caeruleus   
Black Kite      Milvus migrans   
Short-toed Eagle   Circaetus gallicus   
Western Marsh-Harrier   Circus aeruginosus   
Montagu's Harrier   Circus pygargus   
Eurasian Sparrowhawk   Accipiter nisus   
Eurasian Buzzard   Buteo buteo   
Long-legged Buzzard   Buteo rufinus   
Golden Eagle   Aquila chrysaetos   
Bonelli's Eagle   Aquila fasciatus   
Lesser Kestrel   Falco naumanni   
Eurasian Kestrel   Falco tinnunculus   
Lanner Falcon   Falco biarmicus   
Barbary Falcon   Falco pelegrinoides   
Peregrine Falcon   Falco peregrinus   
Common Moorhen   Gallinula chloropus   
Red-knobbed Coot   Fulica cristata   
Eurasian Coot   Fulica atra   
Eurasian Oystercatcher   Haematopus ostralegus   
Black-winged Stilt   Himantopus himantopus   
Pied Avocet   Recurvirostra avosetta   
Eurasian Thick-knee   Burhinus oedicnemus   
Cream-colored Courser   Cursorius cursor   
Northern Lapwing   Vanellus vanellus   
European Golden-Plover  Pluvialis apricaria   
Black-bellied Plover   Pluvialis squatarola   
Common Ringed Plover   Charadrius hiaticula   
Little Ringed Plover   Charadrius dubius   
Snowy Plover   Charadrius alexandrinus   
Black-tailed Godwit   Limosa limosa   
Bar-tailed Godwit   Limosa lapponica   
Whimbrel      Numenius phaeopus   
Eurasian Curlew   Numenius arquata   
Common Redshank   Tringa totanus   
Common Greenshank   Tringa nebularia   
Green Sandpiper   Tringa ochropus   
Wood Sandpiper   Tringa glareola   
Common Sandpiper   Actitis hypoleucos   
Ruddy Turnstone   Arenaria interpres   
Red Knot      Calidris canutus   
Sanderling      Calidris alba   
Little Stint      Calidris minuta   
Curlew Sandpiper   Calidris ferruginea   
Dunlin      Calidris alpina   
Parasitic Jaeger   Stercorarius parasiticus   
Audouin's Gull   Larus audouinii   
Herring Gull      Larus argentatus   
Lesser Black-backed Gull   Larus fuscus   
Black-headed Gull   Larus ridibundus   
Gull-billed Tern   Sterna nilotica   
Caspian Tern   Sterna caspia   
Lesser Crested Tern   Sterna bengalensis   
Sandwich Tern   Sterna sandvicensis   
Royal Tern      Sterna maxima   
Common Tern   Sterna hirundo   
Little Tern      Sterna albifrons   
Black Tern      Chlidonias niger   
Rock Pigeon   Columba livia   
Common Wood-Pigeon   Columba palumbus   
Eurasian Turtle-Dove   Streptopelia turtur   
Eurasian Collared-Dove   Streptopelia decaocto   
Barn Owl      Tyto alba   
Pharaoh Eagle-Owl   Bubo ascalaphus   
Tawny Owl      Strix aluco   
Little Owl      Athene noctua   
Common Swift   Apus apus   
Pallid Swift      Apus pallidus   
Common Kingfisher   Alcedo atthis   
Hoopoe      Upupa epops   
Great Spotted Woodpecker   Dendrocopos major   
Desert Lark      Ammomanes deserti   
Greater Hoopoe-Lark   Alaemon alaudipes   
Thick-billed Lark   Ramphocoris clotbey   
Calandra Lark   Melanocorypha calandra   
Greater Short-toed Lark   Calandrella brachydactyla   
Lesser Short-toed Lark   Calandrella rufescens   
Crested Lark   Galerida cristata   
Thekla Lark      Galerida theklae   
Eurasian Skylark   Alauda arvensis   
Temminck's Lark   Eremophila bilopha   
Bank Swallow   Riparia riparia   
Eurasian Crag-Martin   Ptyonoprogne rupestris   
Barn Swallow   Hirundo rustica   
Common House-Martin   Delichon urbica   
White Wagtail   Motacilla alba   
Yellow Wagtail   Motacilla flava   
Tawny Pipit   Anthus campestris   
Common Bulbul   Pycnonotus barbatus   
Blue Rock-Thrush   Monticola solitarius   
Ring Ouzel      Turdus torquatus   
Eurasian Blackbird   Turdus merula   
Zitting Cisticola   Cisticola juncidis   
Cetti's Warbler   Cettia cetti   
Eurasian Reed-Warbler   Acrocephalus scirpaceus   
Willow Warbler   Phylloscopus trochilus   
Common Chiffchaff   Phylloscopus collybita   
Iberian Chiffchaff   Phylloscopus ibericus   
Wood Warbler   Phylloscopus sibilatrix   
Blackcap      Sylvia atricapilla   
Greater Whitethroat   Sylvia communis   
African Desert Warbler   Sylvia deserti   
Western Orphean Warbler   Sylvia hortensis   
Subalpine Warbler   Sylvia cantillans   
Sardinian Warbler   Sylvia melanocephala   
Spectacled Warbler   Sylvia conspicillata   
Tristram's Warbler   Sylvia deserticola   
Spotted Flycatcher   Muscicapa striata   
European Pied Flycatcher   Ficedula hypoleuca   
European Robin   Erithacus rubecula   
Bluethroat      Luscinia svecica   
Rufous-tailed Scrub-Robin   Cercotrichas galactotes   
Black Redstart   Phoenicurus ochruros   
Common Redstart   Phoenicurus phoenicurus   
Moussier's Redstart   Phoenicurus moussieri   
Whinchat      Saxicola rubetra   
European Stonechat   Saxicola rubicola   
White-tailed Wheatear   Oenanthe leucopyga   
Black Wheatear   Oenanthe leucura   
Northern Wheatear   Oenanthe oenanthe   
Red-rumped Wheatear   Oenanthe moesta   
Black-eared Wheatear   Oenanthe hispanica   
Desert Wheatear   Oenanthe deserti   
Fulvous Chatterer   Turdoides fulvus   
Coal Tit      Periparus ater   
Great Tit      Parus major   
Blue Tit      Cyanistes caeruleus   
African Blue Tit   Cyanistes teneriffae   
Eurasian Nuthatch   Sitta europaea   
Southern Grey Shrike   Lanius meridionalis   
Eurasian Jay   Garrulus glandarius   
Eurasian Magpie   Pica pica   
Red-billed Chough   Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax   
Eurasian Jackdaw   Corvus monedula   
Common Raven   Corvus corax   
Spotless Starling   Sturnus unicolor   
Cirl Bunting      Emberiza cirlus   
Rock Bunting   Emberiza cia   
House Bunting   Emberiza striolata   
Corn Bunting   Emberiza calandra   
Chaffinch      Fringilla coelebs   
European Greenfinch   Carduelis chloris   
European Goldfinch   Carduelis carduelis   
Eurasian Linnet   Carduelis cannabina   
European Serin   Serinus serinus   
Trumpeter Finch   Bucanetes githaginea   
House Sparrow   Passer domesticus   
Spanish Sparrow   Passer hispaniolensis   

Hope anyone getting this far has enjoyed a bit of exotica!
« Last Edit: October 29, 2007, 21:53 PM by nick »

Offline nick

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« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2007, 21:58 PM »
I changed your heading Peter as I thought people searching on the Internet might actually find this useful.

Having only ever spent 3 nights in Morocco 20 years ago, I know nothing of the country. Amazing since it is next to Spain.

Do you go often? Has it changed much since your last visit?
Spanish Civil War Tours in Barcelona
A guide to the environment, climate, wildlife, & nature of Spain
The Amazon/Forum Bookshop - lend us a hand
And also now The Natural History of Britain

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« Reply #2 on: October 29, 2007, 23:35 PM »
Hi Nick,

I placed the report based on Clive's recommendation, so wasn't aware of this strange and dark corner of 'THE' forum.  ::)

I manage around 4 to 5 trips a year. I am due to go again next month! The best place for me is in the desert area south of the high atlas. Here change will only ever happen slowly, but on the Atlantic coast, then it could well turnout a different story. Seems the developers and money are going to influence a great many things which could adversely affect wildlife. Having said this, the country is still very different from our europe and offers amazing opportunities to view totally different wildlife, birds especially are here which seem unable or unwilling to cross that 14km of sea (perhaps they know something we don't?). You should go take a look, happy to give some pointers to those willing to go explore! :dancing:


Offline lisa

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« Reply #3 on: October 30, 2007, 15:31 PM »
  :o That's some list Peter.
Accommodation, ski touring, snowshoeing, walking and info on the flora and fauna of the Picos de Europa.
And now,
The Picos de Europa
Your complete English guide to these beautiful mountains of Northern Spain.

Offline nick

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« Reply #4 on: October 30, 2007, 15:45 PM »
I like the name Fulvous Chatterer. Sounds like me sometimes.
Spanish Civil War Tours in Barcelona
A guide to the environment, climate, wildlife, & nature of Spain
The Amazon/Forum Bookshop - lend us a hand
And also now The Natural History of Britain

Offline lisa

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    • Accommodation and Activities in the Picos de Europa
« Reply #5 on: October 30, 2007, 17:52 PM »
Scatty bird  :biggrin:
Accommodation, ski touring, snowshoeing, walking and info on the flora and fauna of the Picos de Europa.
And now,
The Picos de Europa
Your complete English guide to these beautiful mountains of Northern Spain.


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« Reply #6 on: November 20, 2007, 21:31 PM »
I feel well out of my depth on a ‘birding’ post, but I highly recommend exploring the Anti-Atlas around Tafraoute. The valley is notorious for its almond groves and has a very distinct cultural tradition – it’s a very Berber place indeed and the local tribe, the Ammeln, are famous entrepreneurs giving the region a degree of immunity from foreign speculators. There are villages and settlements as high as 2,900 metres and in many respects the scenery is more spectacular than the Tizi-n-Tist pass as there are settlements to add focus to the landscape as well as large swathes of almond groves which blossom in February at that latitude.

You can’t guarantee crossing the Atlas between November and February; indeed we had a very unpleasant experience there in late March when we were overwhelmed by a blizzard at the same time as being nearly swept away by melt water in some of the fords! Although it’s been nearly fifteen years since we were there we have friends and neighbours who go often and I understand nothing much has changed facilities-wise, so I also recommend taking a Renault 4 rather than a swanky 4X4 – basically if you bend it someone can mend it!



Offline spanishfreelander

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« Reply #7 on: November 26, 2007, 07:47 AM »
Hi Peter,
love to be able to go there next year,love to do a bit of birding,and the carp fishing is not half bad as well.