Morocco – Atlantic Seaboard and Souss / Anti Atlas Regions
Day 1 - October 12th - 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.
Day 2 - October 13th - 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.
Day 3 - October 14th - 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.
Day 4 - October 15th - 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!
Day 5 - October 16th - 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.
Day 7 - October 18th - 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.
Day 8 - October 19th - 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!
Day 9 - October 20th - 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.
Day 10 - October 21st - 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’.