TripReports Morocco Safari Tour April 2009
Tour Introduction : Morocco - Birding Safari

Day 1 - 2

From Marrakech to the Sahara, from Horned Larks to Crowned Sandgrouse, our journey took us through some of the most breathtaking scenery in North Africa. The birdlife in Morocco never ceases to thrill and specialities such as Desert Sparrow always reward our adventures into the Sahara. River complexes reach out from the High Atlas Mountains to nourish otherwise arid areas and their green fingers can be traced from the advantage of the high mountain range. Lush palmeries and the well tended gardens of the wadis, all merge to create contrasting brushstrokes to the dramatic desert. Our attention is diverted only by the calls of an excited Barbary Falcon flying high and master of his homeland…….

Guide : Mick Richardson
Author :
Mick Richardson

Collection day - April 7th - Marrakech.
The day started well when at the airport all the group arrived on the same flight, which saved us braving the city traffic for a second time. Common-BulbulAfter the introductions we made our way to the Hotel El Andalous where the rooms were sorted. All the group were keen to get going so we arranged to meet in the lobby ½ an hour later and go and have a look around the Menara Gardens. This was a well worth while visit just for the gardens but we also picked up Pallid Apus pallidus and Common Swifts Apus apus, Hoopoe Upupa epops, Blackbird Turdus merula, Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto, Common Bulbul Pyenonotus barbatus and House Bunting Emberiza striolata.
We then later made our way back to the hotel, picking up more Common Bulbul, Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica and Little Swift Apus affinis.

Day 1 - April 8th - Marrakech and Oukalmeden ski resort.
The morning started with our group all heading into Marrakech with Tarik and Benhamid Abbes a Guide for a tour of the city. The group returned to the hotel at around 12:30 and we all the set off for lunch at a small fish restaurant in the back streets of the city where we had a plate of mixed fried fish which went down well.
We then set off up the mountains towards the ski resort at Oukalmeden, on the drive up the mountains we saw Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucura, Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator, European Serin Serinus serinus, European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis, African Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs africana and a cracking male Moussier’s Redstart Phoenicurus moussieri. Moussier's-RedstartAt the highest point of the drive above the resort Alpine Pyrrhocorax graculus and Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax were seen along with Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus, Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia, Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros and a couple of the uncommon Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris.
We were enjoying the birds whilst Tarik had met a fellow countryman and was spending his time sledging down what was left of the snow.
Down around the ski lifts we found a couple more Horned Larks, Rock Sparrow and both Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe and its North African subsp Seebohmi, which is split by many authorities including our own wheatear expert Peter Jones. Blue Rock Thrush, Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos, Cetti’s Warbler Cettia cetti, Common Raven Corvus corax, Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus and Common Magpie Pica pica were all added to the list on the way down the mountains towards Marrakech. Just as we approached the city several White Storks Ciconia ciconia and a couple more Ravens were seen soaring together.

Day 2 - April 9th - Marrakech to Ouarzazate.

Today we were making the 220km drive to Ouarzazate over the top of the high Atlas Mountains via the Tizi-n-Tichka pass.
On the way we stopped just out of the city on some waste ground where we picked up Rufous Bush Robin Cercotrichas galactotes, Spotless Starling Sturnus uniclor, Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur, Common Bulbul Pycnonotus barbatus and Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra.
By mid morning we were well up in to the Atlas Mountains and we had seen our first Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus and Booted Eagles Aquila pennata of the trip on the climb up. We then made a stop for mint tea (Moroccan Whiskey) at a road side café. As soon as we were out on the balcony to the rear of the building we could hear the laughing cry of the Levaillant’s Green Woodpecker Picus vaillantii from the near by conifer trees. The bird was quickly found in the top of one of the larger trees and was then seen in flight as it flew down the valley away from us. Subalpine Warbler Sylvia Cantillans, African Blue Tit Cyanister teneriffae, Eurasian Kestrel, Serin and House Bunting Emberiza striolata were all seen during the tea stop. A few hundred yards further on another stop was made in some mixed woodland where a single Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes flew over (Guide only) and we could hear but could not see a couple of Bonelli’s Warblers Phylloscopus bonelli and a Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla in the Juniper Scrub.Mistle-Thrush A Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinera walked around on the grass along the side of a very over grown spring. We pushed on and during the drive to restaurant Assanfou we picked Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus, Crested Lark Galerida cristata and a White Wagtail Motacilla alba. Whilst we had lunch several African Chaffinch were seen in the trees nearby. Once we had finished eating we all had a walk around some conifer trees across the stream. Here we saw Greater Whitethroat Sylvia communis, Bonelli’s Warbler, Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita and Mistle Thrush. We then headed south and down out of the mountains and into the first of the rocky stone desert areas. We had a short walk out into a shallow wadi along the side of the road and picked up Desert Oenanthe deserti, Black-eared Oenanthe hispanica, Northern Oenanthe oenanthe and the first of many White-crowned Black Wheatears Oenanthe leucopyga and a single Desert Lark Ammomanes deserti. The day had flown by and we arrived at the hotel Riad-salam later than planned but every one was happy as we had seen some good birds and the views had been breathtaking through the mountains.

Day 3 - 6

Day 3 - April 10th - Ouarzazate to Zagora.
Blue-cheeked-Bee-eaterThe rain we woke up to came as a bit of a surprise, but not daunted we headed south along the Draa Valley towards Zagora. Our first stop was at a river crossing with a small piece of woodland on its one bank. As we approached the river a single Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris flew quickly past.
In the woodland we picked up Serin, Woodchat Shrike, Common Chiffchaff, Wood Warbler Phylloscopus sibilatris, male Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca, Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos, Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica, Bonelli’s Warbler, Blue Rock Thrush and Wryneck Jynx torquilla. I then started to walk back to Tarik in the vehicle, leaving the group watching the Wryneck; 50 yards on I picked up a pair of Ortolan Buntings Emberiza hortulana as they flew into the river. Unfortunately they had gone by the time we all gathered.
Just to the south of Agdz we parked off the main road on a track to our lunch stop at Kasbah Chez Yacob. Here we caught up with both Blue-cheeked Merops persicus and European Bee-eaters Merops apiaster both perched on the riverside vegetation. Next Hoopoe, Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis, Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava and the Moroccan subsp of White wagtail Motacilla alba subpersonata were all added to the day list.
Lunch was taken in a fantastic old Kasbah amongst the Palm trees, more Laughing Doves, Cetti’s Warbler and House Buntings were seen.
Back at the river Common and Pallid Swifts, Common Bulbul and Sand Martin Riparia riparia were all seen. We dodged several showers and made our way to a barrage (weir) where Little Egret Egretta garzetta was added. We also got some great views of a couple of Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters while they were perched in an acacia tree. Further south we stopped at a second barrage but it was very quiet mainly due to the time of the day. We did see several Turtle, Laughing and Collared Doves. As we were ahead of time and it was still looking like rain we made a stop at a road side wadi and had a stroll, one of the first birds which was unfortunately only seen by me was a cracking male Thick-billed Lark but as soon as I got the bird in the bins it flew and we did not relocate it. We did see a pair of Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis, Desert and Thekla Larks Galerida theklae, Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridonalis and White-crowned Black Wheatear.
Due to the weather we decided to make our way to the Kasbah Sirocco Hotel where the group could relax in the gardens where the evening meal was enjoyed.

Day 4 - April 11th - Zagora to Camp at Mhamid.

We made a leisurely start as the distance to travel was only 120KMs. Our first stop was at a point where the road crosses what would normally be a trickle of water passing down a large wide river bed. Following the recent rains we found a torrent which meant the waders we would usually see had no banks or gravel beds to feed on. We did see White-crowned Black Wheatear, Woodchat Shrike and Crested Lark. A diversion on to a new road which was still very much under construction produced the trips only Trumpeter Finches, three birds were seen but none stayed long, a single Hoopoe also played hard to get.
We then continued on to Mhamid for a very special lunch stop at Tarik’s house with his family and friends. We were made very welcome and ate very well, a very pleasant change from the normal stops.
Desert-SparrowAfter lunch we headed out into the desert area to the west of the town where we saw the first Brown Necked Ravens Corvus ruficollis and Hoopoe Larks Alaemon alaudipes of the trip, Many Woodchat Shrikes, Desert Lark, Eurasian Kestrel, Common Bulbul, Bonelli’s Warbler and Crested larks were also seen. The group decided that an early arrival at the camp would give them chance to settle in, so we made our way there. On arrival we were shown our nights accommodation and shown the much improved ablutions. Once we were all sorted we went for a very short walk to have a look at the very special flock of Desert Sparrows Passer simplex, the birds were feeding in a small basket of rubbish which was at the rear of the camp and coming to a dripping pipe to drink. More Brown-necked Ravens were seen and a couple of very confiding White Crowned Black Wheatears flew around scolding the camps cats.
Just as the sun went down we all walked out on to one of the dunes near the camp and watched the sunset. Once it was dark the stars could be admired, with no light pollution the sky was quite a sight.

Day 5 - April 12th - Camp at Mhamid to Zagora.

Again we made a relaxed start as the distance back to Zagora was short. We did a loop out into the desert seeing more Hoopoe Larks calling and doing their diver bombing display flight. At a fenced well area we picked up a group of 8 Brown Necked Ravens and a small flock of Desert Sparrows. Out in the stone desert we had good views of a flock of Bar-tailed Larks Ammomanes cincture a very pale attractive bird. As usual we had good numbers of White Crowned Black Wheatears but today they were joined by several Northerns. White-crowned-Black-WheatearTarik then made a command decision to take us off the road north and on to another of the tracks across the stone desert. The star bird of this drive was spotted by Ellen, 5 Crowned Sandgrouse Pterocles coronatus moved out of cover on her side of the car as we admired a Melodious Warbler Hippolais polyglotta in a nearby Acacia bush. The birds did not want to fly so we were treated to some of the best views of this species I had ever had.On the drive towards Zagora we picked up European Bee-eater, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Bunting and Desert Lark.

Day 6 - April 13th - Zagora to Erford and Desert.
Today was a travelling day with not much of a chance to make many stops. At a barrage just to the north of Zagora we picked up a Rufous Bush Chat singing from the tops of the Acacia trees and both European and Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters hawked for prey over the river.Turtle, Collared and Rock Doves were all seen along with Bonelli’s and Subalpine Warblers, White Crowned Black and Northern Wheatears and a single Crowned Sandgrouse which flew over.
We stopped at Tansikht where we had a tea break and saw the first European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris, Serin, and House Sparrow.
We then drove without stopping except for lunch to the hotel Auberge Darkaoua on the way we saw more Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, House Bunting, Black-eared Wheatear, Long-legged Buzzard, Common Blackbird and a Hoopoe.
RedstartOn the drive up to the hotel a pair of very special birds were found, two Cream-coloured Coursers ran amongst the abundant vegetation (again due to the wet winter). We booked in and sorted out the rooms and asked Tarik to meet us for a late afternoon drive into the desert. Around the hotel grounds Reed Acrocephalus scirpaceus, Western Olivaceous Hippolais opaca and Melodious Warblers, Woodchat Shrike, Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus, Pied Flycatcher and Hoopoe were all added to the list.
Later Tarik drove us out into the desert once it had started to cool down, more Cream-colourer Courser’s were seen along with a brief flight view of a Lanner Falcon Falco biarmicus, Hoopoe, Bar-tailed, Desert and Temminck’s Horned Larks Eremophila bilopha and Common Swift were all seen.
We returned to the Hotel and had a very pleasant evening meal in the gardens.

Day 7 - 10

Day 7 - April 14th - Merzouga area.
An early morning walk around the Auberge did not produce much more that the yesterday afternoon, Greater Whitethroat and an Immature Greenfinch. We then made our way to the Merzouga Lake which used to be a very temporary watering hole for passage birds but it now seems to be more permanent. The most obvious species was the Ruddy Shelduck’s Tadorna ferruginea that were scattered around the shore line, the only other duck seen was a small flock of Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris. 50 or so Greater Flamingo’s Phoenicopterus roseus were out in the deeper water with Black Chlidonias niger and Gull-billed Terns Gelochelidon nilotica flying overhead. Little Stint Calidris minuta, Common Actitis hypoleucos and Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea, Sanderling Calidris alba, Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus and Kentish Plover / Snowy Charadrius alexandrinus were all feeding on the shore as we made our way around to the far side of the lake. On the far bank we saw White Stork, Common Coot Fulica atra, Western Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus, Little Egret and a single Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus. SceneryWe returned to the hotel for lunch before heading back out towards the lakes later in the afternoon, this time we went to some smaller pools which produced very little and then onto the southern end of the main lake. In the reeds we saw our first Squacco Heron’s Ardeola ralloides and a single Great White Egret Ardea alba which was quite a surprise this far south, several Little Egrets and Ruddy Shelduck’s. Several Collared Pratincoles were seen flying low over the reed beds and another Western Marsh harrier was watched as it snatched a young Common Coot from the surface. On the run back to the hotel through the desert more Hoopoe Larks and Cream coloured Coursers were seen well.

Day 8 - April 15th - Merzouga area.
A quick walk around the gardens in the morning produced Common Chiffchaff and Bonelli’s Warbler along with most of the same species from earlier mornings. Today started with a desert drive towards the string of ‘cafes' along the edge of the Erg Chebbi dune system. Our main destination was Café Yasmina but on the way we picked up a pair of Lanner Falcon, the female allowing us a very close view. Black Kite Milvus migrans and Booted Eagle were also added, along with Southern Grey Shrike, White Crowned Black Wheatear, Brown-necked Raven, Hoopoe, Bar-tailed, Crested, Temminck’s Horned and a new Lark Short-toed. I saw a single brief view of a Tawny Pipit but I could not relocate it for the group. We eventually arrived at Café Yasmina and were greeted by a flock of both Bee-eaters feeding from the tops of some dead Tamarisks. A small ringing station has recently been set up by the lake side at the Café but as the wind was quite strong the only bird caught while we were there was a Western Olivaceous Warbler. A very smart Whinchat Saxicola rubetra was added to the trip list as we sat with our Moroccan whiskey in the gardens of the Café. We moved on around the lake and picked up 3 Squacco Herons, Common Coot, Little Egret, Greater Flamingo, Ruddy Shelduck, Black-winged Stilt and Kentish Plover. We then drove back to the Hotel for lunch.
Short-toed-Lark-(j)The afternoon was spent out in the desert searching for any surviving Houbara Bustards after the Saudi slaughter during the winter but we did not see them. We had very close views of 11 + Spotted Sandgrouse Pterocles senegallus most in flight but a single bird walked slowly away from us allowing the scope to be used. Cream-coloured Courser, Hoopoe, Hoopoe, Bar-tailed, Short-toed and Temminck’s Horned Larks, Rufous-bush Chat and several Blue-headed form Yellow Wagtails were seen amongst a flock of Nomad's Sheep. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at several small temporary pools in some low dunes, where we saw a strange creature on the margins of these slowly evaporating pieces of water.
We made our way back to the hotel to have the evening meal, on the approach we saw both Bee-eaters again.

Day 9 - April 16th - Erford to Boulmaine des Dades.
Today we were heading back west towards Ouarzazate, our overnight stop on the way was at the newly refurbished Hotel Xaluca in Boulmaine. On our way to the Gorge de Todra we made a desert stop at a shallow Wadi with a few Acacia dotted along it. Almost straight away we picked up our first Fulvous Babblers Turdoides fulva, a flock of about 8 birds made their way through the trees ahead of us. Good views of a Southern Grey Shrike family party were also had, along with Woodchat Shrike, Northern, White Crowned Black, Desert and Black-eared Wheatears, Common Bulbul and Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters.
The next stop was in the gorge de Todra, on the way up we saw Cattle Egret, House Bunting and Barn Swallow. In the Gorge House Martin Delichon urbicum, Crag Martin, Grey and White Wagtails, House Bunting, Rock Pigeon and Pond Frog Rana perez were all seen.
We continued on and soon started to head into the rock deserts again. A few kms before Boulmaine we made a stop to look at a male Mourning Wheatear Oenanthe lugens which performed on a large road side boulder for us. The hotel was the next stop where we sorted the rooms out and had a bit of a sort out before going out on to the Tagdilt Track for some more desert birding. Red-rumped Wheatears Oenanthe moesta were common, males in cracking plumage seemed to fly up from every group of rocks. Very good views were had of Temminck’s Horned, Desert, Hoopoe, Short-toed, Bar-tailed, Crested and Thekla Larks, Desert Wheatear and Long-legged Buzzard which showed well on the ground at close range. After quite a drive round we headed back to the hotel for a very pleasant meal.

Day 10 - April 17th - Boulmaine des Dades to Ouarzazate.
We started the day with a drive to a small cultivated area on the edge of the stone desert to the south of the hotel. Turtle Dove, Nightingale, Serin, Mistle Thrush, Woodchat Shrike, Thekla Lark and House Bunting were all seen well. Woodchat-ShrikeBlack-bellied Sandgrouse were heard but not located. We returned to the stone desert and picked up much the same birds as yesterday, also seen were Eurasian Kestrel, Tawny Pipit and 11 Black-bellied Sandgrouse which flew up from the track side and landed briefly close by but then moved further away and out of sight over a distant ridge. Many Fat Sand Rats Psammomys obesus were seen as they scampered between their tunnels.
The group then made the decision that they preferred the idea of a cultural afternoon in Ouarzazate so we drove pretty much straight there with just a brief stop at the lake to the east of the town. Here the only interest was several Great crested Grebes.
Tarik then took us to the old Kasbah where the group went for a visit. Later Mary Louise and Carlyn along with Tarik went to the Movie studios just outside the town. The rest of us went birding along the wadi near the hotel. We added Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius, Little and Cattle Egret, Western Olivaceous and Bonelli’s Warblers, White Stork, European Bee-eater and Woodchat Shrike.

Day 11 - 13

Day 11 - April 18th - Ouarzazate to Marrakech.
Today we made an early start as we had the winding drive back up and over the Atlas Mountains. Just north of Ouarzazate we made a detour and stopped by a wadi amongst some agricultural small holdings. Several Collared Pratincoles were feeding gracefully along the river with Sand, Crag and House Martins, Barn Swallow and Common Swift. Corn Bunting was also added to the list as it sang from a nearby bush. Further along the road we made a second riverside stop were Little Ringed Plover (Breeding), Common Sandpiper, European Bee-eater and White wagtail were present. Our last stop before the mountains was a brief walk into the stone desert seeing the final White-crowned and Northern Wheatears, Desert and Short-toed Larks. We then started the climb back up to our lunch stop, on the way Barbary Ground Squirrel Atlantoxerus getulus, Long-legged Buzzard, Rock Pigeon, Hoopoe and Common Raven all put in an appearance.
Scenery-1After lunch we stopped at three sites on the way back down the Mountains, the first a road side lay-by produced African Blue Tit and Great Tit Parus major, Woodpigeon, Subalpine Warbler and Nightingale. The second stop was at an old concrete building with steps up onto the roof; Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes and European Robin Erithacus rubecula were both added to the trip list. A little further along the road we stopped for tea at the same site as we had seen the Levaillant’s Green Woodpecker on the way up, but without any luck this time. Our last stop of the day was at a co-operative shop which sold beauty products made from Argon nut extract. The rest of the journey was quiet and we got back to Marrakech in good time, a long but interesting journey.
We unfortunately had to say goodbye to some of our group at this point as they were not continuing the trip with us.

Day 12 - April 19th - Marrakech to Plage des Nations.
After a 4 am start to ensure that Ellen got to the airport Tarik and I returned to the hotel to collect ML and Carlyn to continue our trip north. To the north of Marrakech we left the motorway and continued to a Barrage on some minor roads through large fields of cereal crop fields were Calandra Lark Melanocorypha calandra, Common Quail Coturnix coturnix and Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis were all seen or heard.
fan-tailed-warblerAt the Barrage we were very quickly greeted by the local security presence and informed that the taking of photos was not allowed but other than that we were fine to continue birding. Little Swift Apus affinis, Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica Sand and Plain Martin Riparia paludicola were soon on the list along with Eurasian and Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni, Booted Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Spotless Starling and Moroccan White Wagtail.
We continued north to Rabat where the ladies again wished to see some of the cultural aspects of the city so we spent a very pleasant couple of hours around the King Mohammed V Mausoleum and the Kasbah. Whilst we were here we added Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo and Pallid Swift.
We then made our way via a very interesting route through a large Cork Oak forest to the coast and on to our Hotel Firdaoues Plage des Nation. It was in a very nice setting and it was a great pleasure to sit and watch the sunset over the sea.

Day 13 - April 20th - Plage des Nations to Asilah.
We had a fairly early start but before we left the hotel a single Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus was seen on the beach. We left early so that we could make it up to Moulay Bousselham and meet our guide Khalill who was going to take us out on a boat trip on the main Lagoon. I hoped that we would be able to see Marsh Owl Asio capensis during the time on the boat, but Khalill informed us that as the birds were breeding it was highly unlikely but we could visit a spot later where he knew an off duty male was roosting.
Once on the boat we started to pick up birds straight away. Audouin’s Ichthyaetyus audouinii and Yellow-legged Gulls along with Sandwich Terns Thalasseus sandvicensis were the first seen roosting on a sand bar. Further around the Lagoon the waders started to appear, large numbers of Grey Pluvialis squatarola, Kentish and Little Ringed Plovers, Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus, Black-winged Stilt, Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta, Common Redshank Tringa totanus, Whimbrel, Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres, Dunlin Calidris alpina and Curlew Sandpiper were out feeding on the low water mud flats. Little Sternula albifrons, Whiskered, Gull-billed and Caspian Terns Hydroprogne caspia were all feeding over the water and Greater Flamingo and Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia wading through it. Marsh and Montagu’s Harriers Circus pygargus, Black Kite, Black-headed Gull and Zitting Cisticola were also seen from the boat. Just as we approached the landing area a bird we thought we had missed showed up, 3 Slender-billed Gulls Chroicocephalus genei were feeding amongst some surface vegetation.
We then had lunch and headed around to the far side of the lagoon where we had what for me was the highlight of the trip a male Marsh Owl.
Sandwich-TernWe returned the guide back to his home and headed up to Larache marshes but due to the extra trip around to see the owl we were later than we had hoped and could not do this site justice but what we did see of it was impressive. On the reed and vegetation covered pools we added Red-knobbed Coot Fulica cristata, Grey Ardea cinerea and Purple Herons Ardea purpurea, Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina, Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis, Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus, Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus, Savi’s Locustella luscinioides and Moustached Warbler Acrocephalus melanopogon to the trip list. Also seen were a couple of dozen Squacco Herons, Common Coot, Mallard, Little and Cattle Egrets.
We then went to the Hotel Zelis in Asilah. Later we went out to eat in one of the local cafes on the edge of the Kasbah.

Day 14 - 16

Day 14 - April21th - Asilah to Ronda, Spain.
Today required an early start as we need to be on the 09:00 ferry from Tangier to Tarifa where Peter was waiting for us. On the way we saw Jackdaw Corvus monedula, White Stork and Collared Dove. Once at the ferry terminal we all said our goodbyes to Tarik our driver, sorter of lunches and good friend. The crossing was uneventful and Peter was there and waiting to zip us off to La Janda via Sierra de la Plata for the start of the Spanish birding. We were all quite hungry so as soon as we arrived at Bolonia below the Sierra we had some lunch in one of the beach side Restaurants, on a beach pool we picked up Sanderling, Common Sandpiper, Kentish Plover and White Wagtail. Spotless Starling and Stonechat Saxicola torquatus were both seen on the roof of the restaurant. The next stop was the caves on Sierra de la Plata, Crag Martin and Pallid Swifts were seen flying in to the caves and Eurasian Griffon Vulture Gypus fulvus was found on the cliffs and seen in flight. Other Birds seen included Shot-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus, Eurasian Kestrel, Jackdaw, Blue-rock Thrush and Woodchat Shrike.
StonechatOn the vast agricultural areas at La Janda White Storks were common and several Ring-necked Pheasants Phasiannus colchicus were seen and on the large Irrigation Canal Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus, Purple Swamp-hen Porphyrio porphyrio, Common Moorhen, Mallard Anas plaryrhynchos and Greater Whitethroat were also noted. Out on the rice paddies Greenshank Tringa nebularia, Black-winged Stilt, Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus, Little Ringed Plover, Cattle and Little Egret were all found.
Then we made our way towards Ronda via Arcos de la Frontera picking up Montagu’s Harrier and Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa. We arrived at the El Molino del Puente hotel and were welcomed by Elaine and Ian. We had a very pleasant evening meal and relax.

Day 15 - April 22th - Ronda area.
After Breakfast we headed out to our first stop at Indiana on the road to Benaojan. Along the river Common Sandpiper, European Bee-eater, Serin, Nightingale and Cetti’s Warbler were all found. Distant views were had of a Bonelli’s Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus and Griffon Vultures were overhead. Our next stop was at the Caves of the Cat a little further along the same valley, where large numbers of Alpine Swifts Tachymarptis melba, Crag and House Martins could be seen flying in and out of the cave. Grey and White Wagtails were along the river, Winter Wren, Blackcap and Sardinian Warbler were all feeding in the surrounding fig trees and Red-billed Chough and Common Raven patrolled over the crags. Next we passed through the White villages of Benaojan and Montejaque, just through the latter was our next stop. We parked at the far end of a very narrow section of road through a broad gorge. Here we found Small Purple Orchid Orchis Olbiensis, Man Orchid Aceras anthropophorum, Red-billed Chough, Blue Rock Thrush and Griffon Vulture. We then moved on to a grassland area near the white village of Grazalema called La Rana. Blue-RockthrushHere we found Sawfly Orchid Ophrys tenthredinifera, Lange’s Orchid Orchis langei, Yellow Bee Orchid Ophry Lutea and Sword-leaved Helleborine Cephalanthera longifolia. At La Rana European Bee-eaters, Southern Grey and Woodchat Shrikes, Serin, European Greenfinch and Crested larks were present along with Champagne Orchid Orchis Champagneuxii and it’s hybrid with Pink-butterfly Orchid Orchis papilionacea. Lunch was the taken in Grazalema in the main square. Later we drove up to the view point on the road between Grazalema and Zahara where we had good views of Griffon Vulture, Red-billed Chough and Rock Bunting Emberiza cia. Dull Bee Orchid Ophrys Fusca and Italian Man Orchid Orchis Italica were also at this site. We continued down towards the village of Zahara passing wonderful views of the lake in the valley. Once passed the village we stopped in a small Olive grove where Woodcock Orchid Ophrys Scolopax, Mirror Orchid Ophrys Speculum, Small-flowered Tongue Orchid Serapias parviflora and some well over with Giant Orchids Barlia robertiana were all located.
The late afternoon was spent in Ronda where Blue Rock Thrush and Lesser Kestrel were both seen in the Tajo. The ladies spent sometime in a couple of shops and we then made our way back to the hotel.

Day 16 - April 23th - Ronda to Malaga.
We got up and went for a walk in the hotel gardens which the owners had strimmed the day before. Here we saw European Goldfinch, Winter Wren, Cetti’s Warbler, Nightingale, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Pallid Swift, Woodchat Shrike and Serin. At 11:30 we picked Pieter up and made our way down to the Hotel Vincci Málaga, were we all said our goodbyes.

Bird List

The species list below gives all the species we have seen during our trip. We have selected them in Family-groups and given the english as well as the latin names.
ANSERIFORMES: Anatidae
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris
Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina

GALLIFORMES: Phasianidae
Common Quail Coturnix Coturnix

PODICEPIDIFORMES: Podicipedidae
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus

PHOENICOPTERIFORMES: Phoenicopteridae
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus

PELECANIFORMES: Phalacrocoracidae
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo

CICONIIFORMES: Ardeidae
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea
Great Egret Ardea alba
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides
Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax

CICONIIFORMES: Threskiornithidae
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus
Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia

CICONIIFORMES: Ciconiidae
White Stork Ciconia ciconia

GALLIFORMES: Phasianidae
Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus

FALCONIFORMES: Accipitridae
Black Kite Milvus migrans
Eurasian Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus
Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus
Western Marsh-Harrier Circus aeruginosus
Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus
Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus
Bonelli's Eagle Aquila fasciata
Booted Eagle Aquila pennata

FALCONIFORMES: Falconidae
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni
Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Lanner Falcon Falco biarmicus
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus

GRUIFORMES: Rallidae
Purple Gallinule Porphyrio porphyrio
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Red-knobbed Coot Fulica cristata
Coot Fulica atra

CHARADRIIFORMES: Charadriidae
Lapwing Vanellus vanellus
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius

CHARADRIIFORMES: Recurvirostridae
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta

CHARADRIIFORMES: Scolopacidae
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
Common Redshank Tringa totanus
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
Sanderling Calidris alba
Little Stint Calidris minuta
Dunlin Calidris alpina
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea

CHARADRIIFORMES: Glareolidae
Cream-coloured Courser Cursorius cursor
Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola

CHARADRIIFORMES: Laridae
Slender-billed Gull Chroicocephalus genei
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus
Audouin's Gull Ichthyaetyus audouinii
Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis
Little Tern Sternula albifrons
Gull-billed Tern Gelochelidon nilotica
Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia
Black Tern Chlidonias niger
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida
Sandwich Tern Thalasseus sandvicensis

PTEROCLIFORMES: Pteroclidae
Spotted Sandgrouse Pterocles senegallus
Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis
Crowned Sandgrouse Pterocles coronatus

COLUMBIFORMES: Columbidae
Rock Pigeon Columba livia
Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus
Turtle-Dove Streptopelia turtur
Collared-Dove Streptopelia decaocto
Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis

CUCULIFORMES: Cuculidae
Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus

STRIGIFORMES: Strigidae
Marsh Owl Asio capensis

APODIFORMES: Apodidae
Common Swift Apus apus
Pallid Swift Apus pallidus
Little Swift Apus affinis
Alpine Swift Tachymarptis melba

CORACIIFORMES: Meropidae
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater Merops persicus
European Bee-eater Merops apiaster

CORACIIFORMES: Upupidae
Hoopoe Upupa epops

PICIFORMES: Picidae
Wryneck Jynx torquilla
Levaillant's Woodpecker Picus vaillantii

PASSERIFORMES: Laniidae
Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis
Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator

PASSERIFORMES: Corvidae
Jay Garrulus glandarius
Magpie Pica pica
Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax
Alpine Chough Pyrrhocorax graculus
Jackdaw Corvus monedula
Brown-necked Raven Corvus ruficollis
Common Raven Corvus corax

PASSERIFORMES: Alaudidae
Hoopoe Lark Alaemon alaudipes
Bar-tailed Lark Ammomanes cincture
Desert Lark Ammomanes deserti
Thick-billed Lark Ramphocoris clotbey
Calandra Lark Melanocorypha calandra
Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla
Crested Lark Galerida cristata
Thekla Lark Galerida theklae
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris
Temminck's Lark Eremophila bilopha

PASSERIFORMES: Hirundinidae
Plain Martin Riparia paludicola
Sand Martin Riparia riparia
Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica
House Martin Delichon urbicum

PASSERIFORMES: Paridae
Coal Tit Periparus ater
Great Tit Parus major
African Blue Tit Cyanistes teneriffae
Blue Tit Parus caeruleus

PASSERIFORMES: Troglodytidae
Wren Troglodytes troglodytes

PASSERIFORMES: Pycnonotidae
Common Bulbul Pycnonotus barbatus

PASSERIFORMES: Cisticolidae
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis

PASSERIFORMES: Sylviidae
Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti
Savi's Warbler Locustella luscinioides
Moustached Warbler Acrocephalus melanopogon
Reed-Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus
Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus
Western Olivaceous Warbler Hippolais opaca
Melodious Warbler Hippolais polyglotta
Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
Western Bonelli's Warbler Phylloscopus bonelli
Wood Warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
Whitethroat Sylvia communis
Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans
Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala

PASSERIFORMES: Muscicapidae
Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca
Robin Erithacus rubecula
Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos
Rufous-tailed Scrub-Robin Cercotrichas galactotes
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros
Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus
Moussier's Redstart Phoenicurus moussieri
White-crowned Wheatear Oenanthe leucopyga
Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucura
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
Mourning Wheatear Oenanthe lugens
Red-rumped Wheatear Oenanthe moesta
Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica
Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti
Whinchat Saxicola rubetra
Stonechat Saxicola torquatus

PASSERIFORMES: Turdidae
Blue Rock-Thrush Monticola solitarius
Blackbird Turdus merula
Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus

PASSERIFORMES: Timaliidae
Fulvous Babbler Turdoides fulva

PASSERIFORMES: Sturnidae
Spotless Starling Sturnus unicolor

PASSERIFORMES: Motacillidae
Western Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
White Wagtail Motacilla alba
Moroccan White Wagtail Motacilla alba
Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris

PASSERIFORMES: Emberizidae
Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus
Rock Bunting Emberiza cia
Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana
House Bunting Emberiza striolata
Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra

PASSERIFORMES: Fringillidae
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
Greenfinch Carduelis chloris
Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
Linnet Carduelis cannabina
Serin Serinus serinus
Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes
Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githagineus

PASSERIFORMES: Passeridae
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Desert Sparrow Passer simplex
Rock Petronia Petronia petronia

Moroccan Education Project

Can you help our ‘For the Birds’ education project for schools in southern Morocco?
for-the-birds_moroccoA very important aspect of our education programme is the provision of new or used binoculars. If you are buying a new pair, please consider donating your old ones to our project. We are also assisting some local wildlife guides who are desperate for used telescopes, so again if you are buying a new scope, please do consider donating your old one.
Any quantity of good quality children’s clothing, notebooks, drawing and or colouring books, pen sets, crayons and pencils (plus sharpeners) are all very welcome. If you would like to donate any of the afore mentioned items or wish to make a monetary donation, please do contact us for further details.

Wheatears (Genus Oenanthe)

Article written by: Peter Jones






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