2009 Morocco

2009 Morocco

5 April

We arrived slightly after midnight as did half our luggage. Eventually we were reunited with the rest of it and we finally got to bed at about 230. I even managed a slight bit of sleep despite the noise of Marrakesh. The hire car was delivered, a Mitsubushi Lancer - or at least I think it was, it was rather hard to tell with all the scratches. The big crack in the windscreen was quite impressive.

We drove to Oukaimeden very attractive with loads of snow but also loads of visitors. Plenty of birds such as shore larks,


rock sparrows, 2 lammergeiers, chaffinch of  the africana race,


Moussier's redstarts and Barbary partridge. But no sign of the target species: crimson-winged finch. I felt this wasn't the best start, especially as most of the trip reports I had seemed to imply there was a real risk of being crushed by huge flocks of the things!


I was up early to visit the top car-park and after a while suddenly realised there were 3 crimson-winged finches on the fence, they came down to the car-park and were joined by 3 more.


Just outside Oukaimeden we saw thorny-eyelidded gecko.


Michelle managed to make an already long – and hard work, due to the mountain roads, - journey to Oarzazate even longer by taking us on a considerable detour. We did see a few birds on the journey, such as black wheatear.

We booked into the Hotel Royal, which was far from Royal but at 208 Dirhams for a ‘suite’ it proved to be one of the best value places of the trip. I went off

to the reservoir. Rather a dump, with litter and people everywhere, but I did manage to see a few things, including the really smart subpersonata race of white wagtail.

7th April

I was up early to visit Ourazazate Reservoir. I wasn't filled with excitement as it was far from the most pleasant birding spot but there was now far less people. I was immediately greeted by the sound of singing western olivaceous warblers and a fair few migrants were present. Including quite a few bonelli's warblers and woodchat shrikes, c. 50 bee-eaters, ‘Moroccan’ wagtail, 2 ruddy shelducks and hoopoe.

It was then time to do a 'family thing' and visit Taourirt Kasbah. An interesting fort but we did spend rather more time there then I would have liked.

There were still birds present in the form of house buntings and white storks.


We then drove to Boumaine Dades, en-route several white-crowned wheatears and 2 DESERT LARKS were seen. We booked into the friendly Auberge Soleil Bleu and it was off on a trip down the Tagdilt Track. Among the red-rumped and desert wheatears, Temminck's and desert larks and rather surprisingly a collared pratincole we quickly found two thick-billed larks - about a km down the track. A superb, and sometimes tricky, bird.


For some reason the family didn't want to spend as long as me staring into stoney desert so I dropped them off before returning. Among the evening

entertainment was a few cream-coloured coursers, lanner, merlin, Montagu's harrier, long-legged buzzards but best of all a superb hoopoe lark. Sadly the later was scared off by a large gang of quad bikers and 4X4 drivers.

We celebrated a superb day by drinking the hotel dry, not as hard as it sounds as that was 3 cans. Luckily we had emergency supplies of wine in our room.

8th April

An early trip out did produce another thick-billed lark, this time near the road, amongst other things but was cut short by a puncture. I then failed completely to remove the wheel and ended up walking back to the hotel to seek aid.

Puncture repaired we headed off to the scenic Dades gorge. No great birds but the highest concentration of nightingales I've every come across. Other species included: blue rock thrush, black wheatear, hoopoe, crag martin, lots of olivaceous warblers and barbary ground squirrel.

In the evening I didn't fancy another puncture so tried the Road to Iknioun, this proved to be a fine move with a pair of crowned sandgrouse being the highlight.

9th April

It was then off to Erg Chebbi. We got rather lost trying to find Hotel Yasmina but this did result in us seeing several 3 hoopoe larks. The big target species here was desert sparrow. I had been told there was only one pair left and I wasn't too sure where they were. It turned out they were nesting in a hut near the Café Caravane. I was attracted by a group of sparrows then alerted by an unfamiliar call. It was desert sparrow.


After a bit more birding we clambered over and admired the spectacular dunes. I was hoping to sit and watch sunset over the dunes while drinking a beer. Unfortunately in was another 'dry' hotel.

erg chebbi web.jpg

10th April

A quick walk around the Yasmina produced a few migrants. Passerines included quite a few eastern olivaceous warblers (a fact confirmed by some Spanish ringers mist-netting in the grounds), sub-alpine warbler, melodious warbler, Bonelli's warbler, restarts and non-passerines: Kentish plovers, squacco herons and black-winged stilts. After Byron and Michelle had a camel trip we set off - I insisted on showing Michelle the sparrows on the way - for Rissani.

We tried finding the desert eagle owls for ourselves, but without success, we were just going to leave when a man appeared on a moped offering to show them to us. After a fair bit of negotiating we managed to reduce his initial offer to about a half (200 Dirhams). We then went off to the other side of the ridge we been looking at and saw 2 fledglings. During which time he tried to selling us fossils. Some of his friends appeared to do the same before I insisted I wasn’t going into the desert with three strangers. It would have been nice to see the adults but they were fairly well grown and I was pleased not to be hanging around as we still had a long way to go.

While driving along the route to N'kob, I suddenly slammed on the breaks and reversed. The bird I’d just glimpsed was what I thought it was: a FULVOUS BABBLER. In fact there were 4. A very pleasant surprise and an easy to miss bird.

We stopped at the wildly over priced Auberge Restaurant Enakhil and I was taken off to buy even more wildly over-priced beer supplies.

11 April

We decided to deviate a little from the 'standard' birding route and visit Zagora. The Hotel La Plameraie was good value - and sold wine - but we saw little apart from woodchats and Bonelli's warblers.

12 April

Following the Bergier guide, for about the first time, we stopped briefly just before Tansikht and it was a fine move as we saw 5 blue-cheeked bee-eaters, superb but just a little distant for photographs. Also a crested lark.

blue-cheeked bee-eater web.jpg

While driving on the road to Tazenakht I saw a well marked lark in flight (maybe I should concentrate more on driving!) and done my slamming on the breaks trick again. It proved to be a thick-billed lark!

We stopped the night at Taliouine, mainly to break the long journey to the coast, this proved to be a pleasant place with lots of the commoner birds. My highlight here was my best ever views of a rufous bushchat.

13th April

After a leisurely breakfast, and a few birds, we headed to the coast. We stopped at a supermarket to ensure that we were stocked up with wine. We booked into the pleasant Hotel Littoral in Aourir and then drove to Tamri. We failed to find any northern bald ibises north of Tamri so tried the river mouth. Parking involved a rather blatant protection racket. There was initially little present, except lots of yellow-legged and lesser black-backed gulls but eventually 3 ibises flew in and gave good views. The car park was now empty apart from the two, slightly intimidating looking, attendants. We gave them some money and drove off rather rapidly, tripod in hand just in case they decided mugging was more lucrative than car parking.

An unusual sight on the way:


The family now insisted on beach time.

14th April

My family were still in beach mode; so initially I agreed visiting Oued Souss instead of my first choice of Oued Massa. However we got hopelessly lost in the southern suburbs of Agadir so we headed back to the main road and went back to plan A.

My target here was black-crowned tchagara:


This took a bit of finding but eventually I got good views. Other birds included: whiskered tern, glossy ibis and gull-billed terns. Other wildlife included 2 wild boars and common fringe-toed lizard.


Then I was under strict orders: the rest of the day was beach time.

15th April

After a couple of scares en route - a very low tyre and the brakes seeming not to work well for a while then apparently recovering - we arrived at the start of the

Tiz - n -Test pass to find it completely enveloped in low cloud. Rather stupidly we went up anyway. This would have been fairly hairy anyway - see the video -

with death drops on a mostly single lane pass but when the visibility ranging between very poor to very close to zero it was a buttock clenchingly terrifying

experience. With speeds down to less than walking pace it also took ages. Eventually we were over then finally out of the cloud.

We had been intending to carry onto Imil but we'd all had enough so stopped at Asni at a fairly pleasant but wildly over-priced B & B. The views of the Atlas

mountains were superb but the area less so although it was possible to get excellent views of cattle egrets and white storks on the rubbish dump.

16th April

Our annoyance about the cost of last nights’ accommodation only grew when we arrived at Imil, which seemed like a lovely trekking base. We vowed to come back.


We had an enjoyable walk but didn't see a great deal, apart from a sub-alpine warbler and some alpine choughs.

We started heading back, stopping near Asni for a walk through some pines. As these thinned out I decided to have a quick blast of the mp3 player, this had dramatic result. Almost

immediately a Tristrams' warbler appeared. It was rather elusive but I eventually got superb views. This was almost the end of the birding, apart form a cirl bunting and a Moussier’s redstart.

Being totally lost in Marrakech was a driving experience second only to the Tizi-n-Test pass for a pure terror.

17th April

Did the 'tourist thing' in Marrakech.


18th April

Sadly home!