TripReports Morocco Birding Safari March 2007
Tour Introduction : Morocco - Birding Safari

Day 1 - 4

Tour Leader : Pieter Verheij
Guiding/Trip Report : Peter Jones

Day 1 - March 14th - Marrakech
Our tour began with some of our party visiting the slopes of the Anti Atlas, whilst others either visited the famous Souk or took an exploratory drive to one of the valleys which supplies Marrakech with its water.
John, Geoff, Liz and Pieter visited Oukaimeden. crimson-winged-finchBird wise they had by far the best day seeing Crimson-winged Finch, Alpine Accentor, Alpine Chough, Rock Bunting and others!
Jenny, Sheila, David and Peter visited the famous Souk in the heart of Marrakech. My concern was how much would they be cajoled into buying? I needn’t have worried, only Peter fell prey to negotiations and returned with 2 kilos of Kidney Beans!!
Mick, Roger and I took an excursion into the river valley Oued Issil, part of several river systems that supplies Marrakech with its water. We had Cirl Bunting and N. African sub. species of Blue and Great Tit!!

Day 2 - March 15th - Marrakech – Ouarzazate
The 1st part of our journey was, for the largest part, an overcast drive into the Anti Atlas mountains. Although a lunch stop at Taddert gave us Moussier’s Redstart, the morning’s weather beat us!
We made-up for our morning lack of birds as soon as we made our decent from the Tizi-n-Tichka pass. Long-legged Buzzard, Barbary Falcon (2), Desert, White-crowned and Northern Wheatear, Desert and Crested Lark, House Buntings and Marsh Harrier! The under belly white feathers of the White-crowned Wheatear extending further than its close cousin the Black Wheatear. Shortly before Ouarzazate, the day ended very well as we spotted a juvenile Golden Eagle, which gave good sightings for fully ten minutes.

Day 3 - March 16th - Ouarzazate – Zagora

At last Barbary Partridge! Thanks to the persistence of David, we were able to enjoy this fine bird. Fruitless searches of the previous day made the discovery all the more satisfying. white-tailed-wheatearThe same area produced Lanner Falcon, Desert Lark, Tristram’s Warbler and many Trumpeter Finches. We made our way to our lunch stop near to Agdz and saw our first Laughing Doves and Woodchat Shrike. Departing from lunch we were treated to the sight of 4 Blue-cheeked Bee Eaters mobbing a female Sparrowhawk. Our next stop at the barrage near to Tansikht produced perhaps the greatest surprise of the whole tour. We were quietly watching Little-ringed Plovers, when Liz gave excited yells of seeing a Crake. Pointing to the bird, quietly feeding out in the open, we were able to scope and have the best views possible of Ballion’s Crake!! I have never seen this bird so far from any cover and we were all able to enjoy the most unbeatable views ever of this colourful Crake. Such an unexpected and fantastic surprise was always going to make the rest of our journey pale in comparison. However, we did see Sub-Alpine, Bonelli and Willow Warbler!

Day 4 - March 17th - Zagora – M’Hamid
We depart for our night’s camping adventure near to M’Hamid!! Stocked with wine aplenty we ventured south. The first stop produced yet another surprise, Isabelline Wheatear! The bird gave us excellent views for the duration of our stop. Trumpeter Finches were abundant.
We next stopped at a bridge near to Tizi-Beni-Selmane where we had good views of Blue-cheeked Bee Eaters and Sub-alpine Warbler. Around the bridge we also had House, Sand Martin, Red-rumped and Barn Swallow. On the river we saw Little-ringed Plover. After our tea stop at M’Hamid, we made our way into the desert and our Bedouin Camp. More or less as soon as we arrived Desert Sparrows made an appearance and both Brown necked Raven and Black Kite were spotted. A camp fire sing-along and wine ensured a good night’s sleep!

Day 5 - 8

Day 5 - March 18th - M’Hamid (Zagora)
Before heading into the desert, we had good views of Desert Warbler around the camp. The wine of the previous evening took its toll as we departed a little later than planned!! But what a day.
moussiers-redstartOur first stop was induced by the sighting of several Lesser Kestrels perched and hawking over extensive Tamerisks. Soon we spotted a male Merlin and later a female. Overhead we had flights of Spotted, Crowned and Black-bellied Sandgrouse. Also here we saw many Brown-necked Raven, Marsh Harrier, Black Kite and Fulvous Babbler. Our next stop produced many more of the same Sandgrouse and Bar-tailed Desert Larks, only this time we were able to get close to a flock of Spotted Sandgrouse who were reluctant to fly. Hoopoe Lark also gave good views, but the star of the day had to be our first Cream-coloured Courser (a pair), well spotted by Jenny, also a lifer for many on this trip.

Day 6 - March 19th - Zagora – Tazzerine – Merzouga
Probably our most gruelling day of the tour. Certainly our journey across the sand and stone desert to Tazzerine was entertaining. The occasional Hoopoe Lark was seen and several Desert Larks. With each stop we managed to find good numbers of Sub-alpine Warblers. Desert Wheatear was common en route and we again saw Trumpeter Finch throughout our journey. Woodchat Shrike were seen and the more common Southern Grey Shrike noted at most stops. Before reaching our lunch break at Tazzerine, we stopped at a wadi and here we managed several species, including our first Meadow Pipits of the tour. Moussier’s Redstart and Common Redstart gave excellent views. Serin, Corn Bunting, House Bunting and Blue Rock Thrush also showed.
After lunch we decided to journey on to our hotel the Kasbah Derkaoua. Here we had options for the next couple of days to either go birding or relax. The gardens gave good value birds and not least Egyptian Nightjar on our first evening

Day 7 - March 20st - Auberge Derkaoua / Merzouga

black-winged-stiltI am sure we all appreciated the ambience of our hotel and the fact that we could settle in one place for a few nights. With the desert literally on our doorstep, early morning and evening walks were always worthwhile. Quail, Red-throated Pipit and other birds were only a stroll away! The water outfall from the hotel provided good species such as Bluethroat.
The hotel gardens produced many migrants including Sub-alpine, Bonelli’s and Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Whitethroat and Red rumped Swallow. Whilst the desert area and the lagoon near Merzouga provided some great finds. As soon as we setout on our day’s excursion we found Hoopoe Lark, Crowned and Spotted Sandgrouse. The most common bird of the area was Short toed Lark and at the lagoon we had the bizarre sight of Sanderling, Kentish Plover, Black-winged Stilt, Greenshank, Redshank, Green and Wood Sandpiper all in the middle of a desertt! Whie Stork, Spoonbill, Little and Cattle Egret added to the occasion.

Day 8 - 11

Day 8 - March 21st - Auberge Derkaoua / Merzouga
We had some real surprises during our visits to the lagoon at nearby Merzouga, probably the least expected was Red-necked Phalarope and also Sanderling. To observe these species so far into the desert was bizarre and extraordinary. Among notables for the lagoon were Marbled Teal, Ruddy Shelduck, Black-winged Stilt, Wood and Green Sandpiper, Eurasian Shelduck, Shoveler, Greater Flamingo, Spoonbill, Bar-tailed Godwit, Greenshank and Sandgrouses!
cream-colored-courserOur visits to the surrounding deserts were somewhat marred by being accompanied on one day by the official guardian for the Saudi Arabian’s hunting party. These barbarians will no doubt eventually hunt Houbara’s Bustard to virtual extinction in Morocco. Though with all their money, I cannot understand why they do not operate a captive and release program for this species and make their slaughter more of a sustainable operation! Great birds seen included young Hoopoe Lark and Cream-coloured Courser, Desert Warbler, Red-throated Pipit, Quail, Sandgrouse sp., our first Montagu’s Harrier, Booted Eagle, Tawny Pipit, a glimpse of Egyptian Nightjar and Nightingale in the middle of the desert!

Day 9 - March 22nd - Merzouga / Boumalne de Dades
At last, our first good sightings of Bee Eater! We also had our second and much better views of Montagu’s Harrier and also saw Booted Eagle at the same stop. Corn Bunting, Desert Lark and Trumpeter Finch were aplenty during our morning drive to our lunch stop near Todra Gorge. We stopped during the afternoon to find Mourning Wheatear, but alas only Jenny and David had decent views! Shortly after this stop, members of the group were able to get excellent views of Temminck’s Lark. Later, after we checked-in to our hotel we had time to visit the Tagdilt Track and one of our prime target species, Thick-billed Lark, showed well for one and all! We also had Tawny Pipit and many lark species.

Day 10 - March 23rd - Boumalne de Dades / Ouarzazate
We set-off at a reasonable hour to spend the morning searching the near-by Tagdilt Track. The morning began well with Lanner Falcon making abortive attempts at catching Black-bellied Sandgrouse! Soon we spotted Stone Curlew and later on our route we had good views of both male and female Mourning Wheatear. Apart from Red-rumped Wheatears, the local desert only produced more Trumpeter Finch and many Short-toed Larks. After giving up on our search to rediscover Thick-billed Lark, we made our way towards El Mansaar Lake near to our final destination in Ouarzazate. The lake always disappoints for me, but at least on this occasion we found Whiskered Tern! Later, after checking into the hotel, Peregrine was seen twice over the hotel.

Day 11 - March 24th - Ouarzazate / Marrakech

alpine-choughWith all day to cover the 200 kms to Marrakech, we again were able to set-off at a civilised hour. En route to our lunch stop at Taddert, we saw a pair of Golden Eagles and the odd Rough-legged Buzzard. We also decided to go off road in search of Horned Lark and headed up mountain on a service track for a radio relay station. On prior visits I had always seen these larks on the higher areas of this track, but on this occasion we spent a long and fruitless time walking the hill tops! However, and with not a little relief on my part, we did eventually find them on our way down, together with a scattering of Rock Sparrows. At a brief stop on the river pass we managed Tree Pipit. After lunch we made for a mid-afternoon break at Toufliht. Just prior to our stop, we investigated a spring from a closed café roof and were rewarded with Hawfinch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Wren, Robin and Great-spotted Woodpecker. With mint teas in our hands we were able to spot Levaillant’s Green Woodpecker, made even more rewarding by the fact we had heard this bird on our outward journey, but had failed to actually see it! From here we made our way to our journey’s end at Marrakech, seeing a few other species along the way including Sparrowhawk, Blue Rock Thrush and more.

Bird List

The species list below gives all the species we have seen during our trip. We are given the english as well as the latin names.

* After a species denotes birds seen by members of the group during travels to and from Tangier / Marrakech.
001 Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
002 Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
003 Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus *
004 Northern Gannet Morus bassanus *
005 Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
006 Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
007 Purple Heron Ardea purpurea
008 Great Egret Ardea alba *
009 Little Egret Egretta garzetta
010 Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
011 White Stork Ciconia ciconia
012 Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus *
013 Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
014 Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus
015 Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea
016 Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna
017 Gadwall Anas strepera
018 Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
019 Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
020 Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris
021 Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina *
022 Common Pochard Aythya ferina
023 Ferruginous Pochard Aythya nyroca *
024 Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula *
025 Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus
026 Black Kite Milvus migrans
027 Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus
028 Western Marsh-Harrier Circus aeruginosus
029 Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus
030 Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus
031 Eurasian Buzzard Buteo buteo *
032 Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus
033 Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos
034 Bonelli's Eagle Aquila fasciatus
035 Booted Eagle Aquila pennatus
036 Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni
037 Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
038 Merlin Falco columbarius
039 Lanner Falcon Falco biarmicus
040 Barbary Falcon Falco pelegrinoides
041 Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus
042 Barbary Partridge Alectoris barbara
043 Double-spurred Francolin Francolinus bicalcaratus *
044 Common Quail Coturnix coturnix
045 Baillon's Crake Porzana pusilla
046 Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
047 Red-knobbed Coot Fulica cristata
048 Eurasian Coot Fulica atra
049 Great Bustard Otis tarda *
050 Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus *
051 Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
052 Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta
053 Eurasian Thick-knee Burhinus oedicnemus
054 Cream-colored Courser Cursorius cursor
055 Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus *
056 Black-bellied Plover Pluvialis squatarola *
057 Common Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
058 Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
059 Snowy Plover Charadrius alexandrinus
060 Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago
061 Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
062 Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica *
063 Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus
064 Common Redshank Tringa totanus
065 Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
066 Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
067 Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
068 Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
069 Sanderling Calidris alba
070 Little Stint Calidris minuta *
071 Dunlin Calidris alpina *
072 Ruff Philomachus pugnax
073 Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus
074 Audouin's Gull Larus audouinii *
075 Herring Gull Larus argentatus
076 Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus *
077 Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus
078 Slender-billed Gull Larus genei *
079 Gull-billed Tern Sterna nilotica *
080 Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis *
081 Common Tern Sterna hirundo *
082 Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus
083 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse Pterocles alchata
084 Spotted Sandgrouse Pterocles senegallus
085 Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis
086 Crowned Sandgrouse Pterocles coronatus
087 Rock Pigeon Columba livia
088 Common Wood-Pigeon Columba palumbus
089 Eurasian Turtle-Dove Streptopelia turtur
090 Eurasian Collared-Dove Streptopelia decaocto
091 Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis
092 Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus
093 Little Owl Athene noctua
094 Egyptian Nightjar Caprimulgus aegyptius
095 Alpine Swift Tachymarptis melba
096 Common Swift Apus apus
097 Pallid Swift Apus pallidus
098 Little Swift Apus affinis
099 Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
100 Blue-cheeked Bee-eater Merops persicus
101 European Bee-eater Merops apiaster
102 Hoopoe Upupa epops
103 Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major
104 Levaillant's Woodpecker Picus vaillantii
105 Bar-tailed Lark Ammomanes cincturus
106 Desert Lark Ammomanes deserti
107 Greater Hoopoe-Lark Alaemon alaudipes
108 Thick-billed Lark Ramphocoris clotbey
109 Calandra Lark Melanocorypha calandra
110 Greater Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla
111 Lesser Short-toed Lark Calandrella rufescens
112 Crested Lark Galerida cristata
113 Thekla Lark Galerida theklae
114 Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis
115 Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris
116 Temminck's Lark Eremophila bilopha
117 Bank Swallow Riparia riparia
118 Plain Martin Riparia paludicola *
119 Eurasian Crag-Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris
120 Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
121 Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica
122 Common House-Martin Delichon urbica
123 White Wagtail Motacilla alba
124 Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava
125 Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
126 Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris
127 Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis
128 Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis
129 Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus
130 Common Bulbul Pycnonotus barbatus
131 Firecrest Regulus ignicapillus
132 White-throated Dipper Cinclus cinclus
133 Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes
134 Alpine Accentor Prunella collaris
135 Blue Rock-Thrush Monticola solitarius
136 Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula
137 Song Thrush Turdus philomelos
138 Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus
139 Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis *
140 Streaked Scrub-Warbler Scotocerca inquieta
141 Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti
142 Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus
143 Eurasian Reed-Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus *
144 Melodious Warbler Hippolais polyglotta
145 Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus
146 Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
147 Iberian Chiffchaff Phylloscopus ibericus
148 Western Bonelli's Warbler Phylloscopus bonelli
149 Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
150 Greater Whitethroat Sylvia communis
151 African Desert Warbler Sylvia deserti
152 Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans
153 Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala
154 Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata
155 Tristram's Warbler Sylvia deserticola
156 Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata
157 European Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca
158 European Robin Erithacus rubecula
159 Common Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos
160 Bluethroat Luscinia svecica
161 Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros
162 Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus
163 Moussier's Redstart Phoenicurus moussieri
164 European Stonechat Saxicola rubicola
165 White-tailed Wheatear Oenanthe leucopyga
166 Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucura
167 Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
168 Mourning Wheatear Oenanthe lugens
169 Red-rumped Wheatear Oenanthe moesta
170 Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica
171 Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti
172 Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina
173 Fulvous Chatterer Turdoides fulvus
174 Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus
175 Coal Tit Periparus ater
176 Great Tit Parus major
177 African Blue Tit Cyanistes teneriffae
178 Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea
179 Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla
180 Eurasian Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus
181 Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis
182 Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator
183 Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius
184 Eurasian Magpie Pica pica
185 Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax
186 Yellow-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax graculus
187 Eurasian Jackdaw Corvus monedula
188 Brown-necked Raven Corvus ruficollis
189 Common Raven Corvus corax
190 Spotless Starling Sturnus unicolor
191 Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus
192 Rock Bunting Emberiza cia
193 House Bunting Emberiza striolata
194 Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra
195 Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
196 European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris
197 European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
198 Eurasian Linnet Carduelis cannabina
199 European Serin Serinus serinus
200 Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes
201 Crimson-winged Finch Rhodopechys sanguinea
202 Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githaginea
203 House Sparrow Passer domesticus
204 Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis
205 Desert Sparrow Passer simplex
206 Rock Petronia Petronia Petronia
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