Our group met-up in Tarifa for departure to Tanger.
The sea crossing was an easy affair and the only drawback was queuing on the ferry to have our entry stamps inserted in our passports. On the sea crossing some of the group saw Cory’s Shearwater and Northern Gannet with the more usual gull species plus a few Sandwich Tern near to the port of Tanger. We met our transport at the port and were soon bouncing our way through the maze of streets leading out of the main ferry port. The route to Asilah was the inland road to Had Gharbia, which transverses the Tangier Peninsula and gave us an opportunity to do some serious bird watching. The west the large plains of the peninsula is separated from the Atlantic by the salt marshes of the Oued Tahadart. Here we saw around 200 Common Crane scattered in small and large flocks, a juvenile (1st winter) Long-legged Buzzard and several Marsh Harriers. Little Owl and Blue Rock Thrush plus other small birds soon added to a reasonable start to our tour. The lateness of our departure from Spain meant lunch soon bade us leave the peninsula and head for Asilah and seek a suitable restaurant!! The rest of the day was spent enjoying the old port of Asilah.
We awoke to dark skies and scattered showers! Our journey to Larache was slow and not encouraging given the drizzle and low cloud. Yet when we approached the salt pans skirting the roadside banks of the Oued Loukos, the skies broke, the sun shone, the temperature felt comfortable and the birds showed well. We soon had 2 Great White Egrets (3 were seen later on the lower Loukos marshes), large flocks of Greater Flamingo and several White Stork. A fine male Hen Harrier flew close as did a fleeting Bluethroat, but the marshes were soon capturing our attention with many wader species including Spotted Redshank, Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Sanderling, Grey and Golden Plover all showing extremely well. We made our way to the lower Loukos marshes and had literally hundreds of Crested Coot, Marbled Teal, Northern Shoveler, Pintail, Teal and large flocks of Glossy Ibis, the smaller birds such as Yellow and White Wagtail, Reed Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler and a solitary Sand Martin added to the growing list of great birds, although a calling Moustached Warbler refused to show. Huge flocks of Black-tailed Godwit occupied the higher end of the marsh together with other waders including good numbers of Lapwing. Our thrill for the day was to witness a female Lanner take a Eurasian Teal, possibly the highlight for all, though I guess the Teal was none too happy! 3 Osprey entertained overhead, whilst Night Herons were seen roosting in Tamarisk on the main river bank near to the dam. After lunch we made our way to the Ras Rmel beach and found a solitary Audouin’s Gull. Both Lesser and Common Kestrel were seen and a distant raptor with white body and dark underwing looked good for a Bonelli’s Eagle, but a closer view was not to be had and therefore we did not add this species to our list! A couple of Black-winged Kites did come close and helped to make-up for our earlier frustration. The weather had been kind and the birds exceptional.