MOROCCO


Brian and Pat Wetton went to Morocco on a Birdfinders holiday in February 2005. The leader was Peter Lansdown, a good ornithologist , careful organiser and good companion. Our fellow birders were Bernie Forbes, Jim Weston, Mike Welcome, Ian Dearing, Trevor Davies, Barry Shaw, Terry Thomas and David Harris. They included some keen and experienced birders and all were enthusiastic to see as many birds as possible. The group therefore saw 198 species beating the previous record of 192. Individually we saw 196, missing out only on Jackdaw and Dartford Warbler. We also saw 6 mammal species. It was an excellent trip in all respects if you want to see all the specialities that Morocco offers and you don't mind long journeys.

Itinerary :

16th February - flight from Heathrow to Casablanca where we met up with our driver Ousama and went north to our overnight stop at the Hotel La Felouque in Temara Plage

17th February - spent the morning in the "zaers" scrub-heath near Sidi Bettache(BT) looking for but only hearing Double-spurred Francolin but seeing many other birds before travelling  to Sidi Boughaba(BH) lake and then north (make sure you take the new road) to Moulay Bousselem and the marshes at Merja Zergha(MZ). Stayed at the pleasant Hotel Le Lagon overlooking the marshes.

18th February - having only had distant views of the Marsh Owls the previous evening, we employed local birder Hassan to take us to get good views the following morning. We then set off south via stops for riverside birding (Plain Martin, etc) at Oued Sebou(SB), lakeside and wood-heath birding (Levaillant's Woodpecker, etc) at Dayet Aaoua(DA), lunch shopping at the hill resort of Ifrane(IF), raptor watching at Foum Kheneg Gorge(FK), more birding at Aguelmane de Sidi Ali(AS) and eventually reaching Midelt where we stayed at the pleasant and characterful Hotel Kasbah Asmaa.

19th February - an early morning visit to the high Zaida Plains(ZP) eventually brought success in finding the almost legendary Dupont's Lark thanks to the sharp eyes of my wife. We had good views of three birds. We continued south via other productive birding stops at Legionnaire's Tunnel(LT) and the desert 50km from our destination at Erfoud(EF) where we again had a pleasant HotelKasbah Tizimi.

20th February - we had two land rovers to take us for the day to the deserts south of Erfoud including Kasbah Dakoua(KD), Cafe Yasmina(CY) (Desert Sparrow, etc) and other cafes round the impressive high dunes of Erg Chebbi(EC), the cultivation at Merzouga(MR) oasis (Fulvous Babbler) and the area round the dry lake bed of Dayet Sjri(DS) searching for Desert Warbler. We spent our second night at Erfoud.

21st February - we went west from Erfoud to the Todhra Gorge(TG) and the Tagdilt Track(TT) ( no Thick-billed Larks there) and River Dades(RD) ( no "Moroccan" Wagtails either) at Boumalne-du-Dades where we spent a cold night at the Hotel Soleil Bleu.

22nd February - a long day's driving west with stops near Tizi-n-Taghatine(NT) where we saw 8 Thick-billed Larks (my bird of the trip), at Aoulouz Gorge(AL), in the Sous Valley for lunch and again for birding at Tafinegoult(TG). Late arrival at Agadir(AG) and our good Hotel Anezi.

23rd February - after "Moroccan" Wagtails by the pool we set off north via a sea watch at Tarhazout(TZ) to Tamri(TM) for the Bald Ibis ( a large flock by the roadside). We then returned south to Agadir and the Oued Sous(OS) estuary where the receding tide boosted our trip list with many gulls, terns and waders. Second night at Hotel Anezi.

24th February - south from Agadir to Sidi Wassay(SW) where traditional agriculture has preserved habitats and created fields that are full of good birds. We then went further down the Oued Massa(OM) to the reserve on the estuary with many more good birds including Black-crowned Tchagra. Third night in Agadir planning how we could beat the trip record and perhaps even get 200 species.

25th February - we drove via Chichaoua(CH) to Marrakesh(MK) where we spent the morning sightseeing before proceeding up the Ourika Valley(OV) in heavy rain to the ski resort of Oukaimeden(OK) where the rain had turned to snow. Not daunted we went birding and were rewarded with Crimson-winged Finch. We stayed at the pleasant Hotel Kenzi Louka.

26th February - a good morning birding in sunshine at Oukaimeden and then we set off on our last birding day via the Ourika Valley (but no Dippers) and the plains near Bengeurir(BG) (Calandra Lark) to Casablanca(CB)     and the Farah Hotel.

27th February - early flight from Casablanca to Heathrow and the end of a good trip.

Site Profiles:

Sidi Bettache

Inland from Temara and Rabat. An area of scrub and heath known as "zaers". Some dense scrub and also open grassland and heath. Renowned site for Double-spurred Francolin and also good for Barbary Partridge, Black-shouldered Kites, other raptors and passerines.

Lac de Sidi Boughaba

Lake and surrounding scrub near the coast north of Rabat holding widfowl, Greater Flamingo, Crested Coot and sometimes waders and Marsh Owl. Protected area and education area.

Merja Zergha

Coastal marshes and estuarine mudflats near Moulay Bousselem with agricultural hinterland. Good for waders, terns, herons, Marsh Harrier and Marsh Owl. Formerly renowned for Slender-billed Curlew. 

Oued Sebou

River with shallow islands and sandy banks. Site for Plain Martin. Viewable from bridge on road from Moulay Bousselem to Sidi Karem.

Dayet Aaoua

East of Ifrane. Lake, open grassland and conifer woods with cedars. Lake is good for wildfowl and woodlands have Levaillant's Woodpecker, Hawfinch and Crossbill.

Foum Kheneg Gorge

A road gorge between Ifrane and Midelt worth checking for raptors especially falcons.

Aguelmane de Sidi Ali

En route to Midelt. A rocky upland lake with good population of Ruddy Shelduck.

Zaida Plain

A high plain north of Midelt with bare ground and tufts of grass. Good habitat for larks and renowned site for the elusive Dupont's Lark.

Legionaires' Tunnel

A roadside gorge and scree near Rich. Crag Martins, Trumpeter Finches and other birds of rocky areas present.

Erfoud Area

Increasing incidence of sand desert but with rock desert and inselbergs interspersed.

Erg Chebbi

A large sand dune south of Erfoud surrounded by sand and gravel desert. Adjoining are several kasbahs and cafes including Cafe Yasmina and Kasbah Dakaoua.

Merzouga

An oasis south of Erfoud with cultivation of irrigated fields and date palms. Desert surrounding.

Dayet Sjri

A lake bed, dry on our visit, with surrounding dunes and sand desert with tamarisk bushes. South of Merzouga.

Todhra Gorge

A deep rocky defile between Erfoud and Boumalne. Watch for raptors and birds of rocky crags and deserts.

Tagdilt Track

A rocky plain fringing the Anti Atlas south of Boumalne with sparse vegetation. Renowned for several species of larks and sandgrouse.

Dades River

Significant river and adjoining cultivations and pastures viewable from the bridge at Boumalne. A stake-out for "Moroccan" Wagtail but not present on our visit.

Tizi-n-Taghatine

Stony slopes to a hill just before the pass of the above name with a good range of larks including Thick-billed, Thekla, Temmincks and reputedly Duponts.

Aoulouz Gorge

Gorge near the town of this name with steep crags and riverine flats. A former breeding site of Bald Ibis but now abandoned. Still good for raptors and other birds.

Sous Valley (including Tafinegoult)

Valley slopes and riverside with Argan woodlands and cultivations. Good for shrikes, passerines and migrants including raptors. The valley leads down to Agadir. The area on the north side near the village of Tafinegoult is good for raptors.

Oued Sous  

The estuary of the River Sous near Agadir and the king's palace. Saltmarsh, mudflats and stone pines are present. Good for flamingoes, waders, gulls, terns, Stone Curlew, and in the evening on the tracks Red-necked Nightjar.

Tarhazout

A section of coast north of Agadir with good opportunities for sea watching and roosting gulls and terns. En route to Tamri.

Tamri

The most accessible area for seeing Northern Bald Ibis. An area of coastal heath in which ibis were found along the roadside. Warblers, etc also present.

Sidi Wassay

A village with traditional cultivations and riverside marsh in which many birds were feeding including migrants. Watch from the bridge and track to the village. A site sometimes producing Black-crowned Tchagra. Just inland from Oued Massa.

Oued Massa

A reserve on the estuary of the River Massa some 50km south of Agadir. The river outlet to the sea is blocked by a sand bar. Sandy and rocky slopes with xerophitic plants and a lagoon formed by the river. Good for herons, waterfowl, waders and passerines including migrants. Black-crowned Tchagra performed well for us.

Oukaimeden

At some 8,600 feet in the High Atlas, this ski resort offers good oportunities to see mountain birds including Shorelarks, Crimson-winged Finch, Alpine Accentor, Rock Buntings and Sparrows and both species of Chough. Rocky slopes with several inches of snow on our visit lead up to mountains the highest of which is over 12,000 feet. Birds are attracted to areas free of snow near the settlement such as the car park and football pitch. Accessible by a reasonable road south from Marrakesh up the Ourika Valley.

Ourika Valley

A mountain river forms this rocky valley which gradually broadens down to the plain near Marrakesh. We sought but failed to find Dippers but many Grey Wagtails were present and raptors including Bonelli's Eagle flew above. Levaillant's Woodpecker was seen by some in the higher part of the valley.

Plains near Bengeurir

Grassy and cultivated plains on the road from Marrakesh to Casablanca, near the town of Bengeurir produced our last "good" birds of the trip: three Calandra Larks and three Lanners.

Birds Recorded:

(See itinerary for site codes)

Species Days Max Location
Little Grebe 3 70 BH,DA,SW,OM 
GC Grebe  2 6 BH,DA
Black-necked Grebe 2 2+ BH,DA
Northern Gannet 1 40 TZ
Great Cormorant 4 100+ BH,MZ,OS,OM
Black-crowned Night Heron 1 1 AL
Squacco Heron 1 3 OM
Grey Heron 3 40 MZ,OS,OM
Little Egret 7 10 various
Cattle Egret 9 1000+ various
Eurasian Spoonbill 3 40 BH,OS,OM
Glossy Ibis 1 25 SW
Northern Bald Ibis 1 57+ TM
White Stork 8 100+ various
Species Days Max Location
Greater Flamingo 2 150 BH,OS
Common Shelduck 1 2 OS
Ruddy Shelduck 1 30+ DA,AS
Mallard 4 30 BH,DA,OM,BG
Gadwall 3 40 BH,DA,OM
Eurasian Wigeon 2 2+ BH,OM
Common Teal 2 10+ BH,OM
Garganey 2 2 BH,OM
Northern Pintail 3 10+ BH,OS,OM
Northern Shoveler 2 500 BH,DA
Marbled Teal 3 20 BH,DA,OM
Red-crested Pochard 1 1 BH
Tufted Duck 1 2 BH
Common Pochard 3 200+ BH,DA,OM
Ferruginous Duck 2 3 BH,OM
Species Days Max Location
Osprey 1 1 OS
Black-shouldered Kite 4 5+ BT,TG,SW,BG
Black Kite 5 150 BT,MZ,TG,OM,MK,CB
Bonelli's Eagle 2 2 TG,OV
Long-legged Buzzard 6 5 various
Marsh Harrier 4 20+ BH,MZ,OM,CB
Hen Harrier 2 1 IF,BG
Eurasian Sparrowhawk 7 3 various
Lanner Falcon 2 3 EF,BG
Peregrine Falcon 3 2 FK,LT,OM
Barbary Falcon 3 2 LT,EF,NT
Lesser Kestrel 1 15+ Road to Midelt
Common Kestrel 10 10+ various
Barbary Partridge 3 2 BT,OS
Common Quail 1 2 SW
Species Days Max Location
Double-spurred Francolin 1 H BT
Water Rail 2 1 MZ,SW
Common Moorhen 4 4 BH,SB,OS,SW
Common Coot 4 200+ BH,DA,MZ,SW,OM,BG
Red-knobbed Coot 2 20+ BH,DA
Eurasian Oystercatcher 1 6+ OS
Black-winged Stilt 4 20+ BH,MZ,SB,OS,SW,OM
Pied Avocet 1 2 OS
Greater Ringed Plover 2 50+ SB,OS
Little Ringed Plover 2 1 SB
Kentish Plover 1 10+ OS
European Golden Plover 2 30 BT,ZP
Grey Plover 1 10+ OS
Northern Lapwing 1 20 BT
Little Stint 1 2 OS
Species Days Max Location
Red Knot 1 2+ OS
Sanderling 1 20+ OS
Common Redshank 3 50 BH,OS,SW
Common Greenshank 1 2 OS
Common Sandpiper 3 1 BH,OS,OM
Wood Sandpiper 1 1 OS
Green Sandpiper 4 2 BH,SB,DA,OS,OV
Ruff 1 2 OS
Eurasian Curlew 4 6 MZ,OS,OM
Black-tailed Godwit 2 10+ BH,MZ,OS
Bar-tailed Godwit 1 6+ OS
Common Snipe 4 4 BH,MZ,OS,OM
Stone Curlew 2 6+ OS,OM
Cream-coloured Courser 2 14 EF,DS,TT
Great Skua 1 2 TZ
Species Days Max Location
Pomarine Skua 1 1+ TZ
Audouin's Gull 3 50+ MZ,TZ,OS,OM
Slender-billed Gull 1 4 OS
Black-headed Gull 3 100+ MZ,TZ,OS,OM
Little Gull 1 1 OS
Mediterranean Gull 1 5 OS
Yellow-legged Gull 3 50 MZ,TZ,OS,AG
Lesser Black-backed Gull 5 1000+ MZ,TZ,OS,OM,AG,CB
Gull-billed Tern 1 2 OS
Caspian Tern 2 4 MZ
Sandwich Tern 2 20+ MZ,TZ,OS
Black-bellied Sandgrouse 2 12 TT,NT
Rock Dove 10 100 various
Stock Dove 2 25 BT,SB
Wood Pigeon 6 100 various
Species Days Max Location
Eurasian Collared Dove 9 200 various
Turtle Dove  1 1 SW
Laughing Dove 3 10+ MR,AL,SW,OM
Marsh Owl 2 2 MZ
Short-eared Owl 1 1 OS
Little Owl 1 1 MZ
Red-necked Nightjar 1 1+ OS
Common Swift 5 10+ MZ,OS,OM,MK,OV
Pallid Swift 4 20 MZ,SW,OM,MK,OV
Alpine Swift 1 3 SW
Little Swift 3 10+ SB,SW,MK
Common Kingfisher 4 3 BH,MZ,SB,OS,SW
Levaillant's Woodpecker 1 2 DA
GS Woodpecker 4 3 BT,DA,OV
Hoopoe 4 2 TT,TG,OM,BG
Species Days Max Location
Eurasian Wryneck 2 1 CY,SW
Shore Lark 2 40 OK
Temminck's Lark 3 8+ ZP,TT,NT
Hoopoe Lark 3 5 EF,DS,TT
Greater Short-toed Lark 2 15 KD,TT
Lesser Short-toed Lark 1 100 ZP
Desert Lark 3 4 EF,TG,TT,NT
Bar-tailed Lark 2 2+ EF
Dupont's Lark 1 3 ZP
Calandra Lark 1 3 BG
Thick-billed Lark 1 6+ NT
Wood Lark 1 6 BT
Skylark 1 5 DA
Crested Lark 9 50+ various
Thekla Lark 6 30+ various
Species Days Max Location
Eurasian Crag Martin 5 95 LT,TG,OM,OV
Sand Martin 1 1 SW
Plain Martin 2 4 SB,SW
Red-rumped Swallow 2 1 TG,SW
Eurasian Swallow 9 200 various
House Martin 8 20 various
Meadow Pipit 4 10+ BT,MZ,SB,OS,SW
Water Pipit 4 5 SB,TG,OV
White Wagtail 10 60+ various
"Moroccan" White Wagtail 2 2 AG
Grey Wagtail 2 4 TG,OV
"Spanish" Blue-headed Wagtail 1 50+ SW
Common Bulbul 8 30 various
Black-crowned Tchagra 1 1+H OM
Southern Grey Shrike 10 15+ various
Species Days Max Location
Woodchat Shrike 2 2 AL,SW,OM
Alpine Accentor 1 5 OK
Cetti's Warbler 2 5+ BH,MZ,OV
Sedge Warbler 1 3+ SW
Eurasian Reed Warbler 1 1 SW
Blackcap 3 6 BH,OS,SW
African Desert Warbler 1 1 DS
Sardinian Warbler 6 25+ various
Subalpine Warbler 1 4 SW
Tristram's Warbler 1 1 CY
Spectacled Warbler 1 3+ TM
Common Whitethroat 1 1 SW
Common Chiffchaff 9 20+ various
Zitting Cisticola 3 10 BH,OS,SW,OM
Common Stonechat 9 30 various
Species Days Max Location
Blue Rock-thrush 6 6 FK,LT,TG,NT,TM,OM
Desert Wheatear 4 10 EF,CY,DS,TT,NT
Mourning Wheatear 1 2 EF
Red-rumped Wheatear 2 10+ ZP,EF,TT
White-crowned Black Wheatear 4 30 ZP,EF,EC,MR,DS,TT,NT
Isabelline Wheatear 1 1 MR
Black Wheatear 5 13 AS,ZP,EF,TT,TG,TM,OS
Black Redstart 8 10+ various
Moussier's Redstart 4 12 TG,TM,SW,OM,OV
European Robin 2 20+ BT,IF
Bluethroat 1 2 SW
Eurasian Blackbird 8 20+ various
Song Thrush 1 100 BT
Mistle Thrush 1 10+ DA
Fulvous Babbler 1 5 MR
Species Days Max Location
Coal Tit 1 2 DA
Great Tit 4 2 BT,TG,OS,OK
African Blue Tit 4 12 BH,BT,DA,IF,TG,OK
Short-toed Treecreeper 1 1 DA
Wren 1 1 OK
Corn Bunting 4 12 BT,SW,MK,BG
House Bunting 8 10+  various
Rock Bunting 2 5 OK
Cirl Bunting 2 5 BT,OV
Chaffinch 7 50+ various
European Goldfinch 8 200+ various
European Greenfinch 6 10+ various
Eurasian Siskin 2 2 BT,OS
Hawfinch 1 1 DA
Trumpeter Finch 2 6 LT,KD
Species Days Max Location
Crimson-winged Finch 1 2 OK
Eurasian Linnet 4 50+ BT,DA,OS,OM
European Serin 8 50+ various
Common Crossbill 1 2 DA
Spanish Sparrow 3 5+ SW,CH,BG
House Sparrow 10 200+ various
Desert Sparrow 1 5 CY
Rock Sparrow 2 60+ OK
Common Starling 5 10+ various
Spotless Starling 6 20+ various
Eurasian Jay 1 2 DA
Eurasian Magpie 5 10 various
Red-billed Chough 1 40 OK
Yellow-billed Chough 2 250 OK
Common Raven 7 40 various
Species Days Max Location
Brown-necked Raven 1 10+ CY,MR

                                (H represents species heard but not seen)

Mammals Recorded:

Barbary Macaque, Fat Sand Rat, Sundevall's Jird, Egyptian Mongoose, Least Weasel, Barbary Striped Ground Squirrel

  

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