During November 2006, we booked 3 return flights from Gatwick to Marrakech with Easyjet (£228.94). We booked the Hotel Amine in Marrakech for £244.80,(Half board family room) with lastminute.com. The car was booked on arrival in Marrakech, we hired a Peugeot 206 with a baby seat for a week and this cost £180. Price had to haggle with First Car Rentals, as there are very few set prices in Morocco. Full tank of unleaded petrol in Morocco costs about 400 Dirams. (£24)
Saturday to Wednesday: Dry, sunny and around 20 degrees C during the day. At night you needed a coat/jumper 2-5 degrees C.
Thursday to Friday: Overcast and windy with rain during Friday morning.
Saturday went back to the original weather.
As this was predominantly a family holiday, I had to be on good behaviour for a few days, in order to get a couple of days out birding.
Saturday 20th January 2007 – Arrived late pm, stayed at the Hotel Amine in Marrakech.
Sunday 21st January 2007 – Went to Oukaimeden with the family
Monday 22nd January 2007 – Spent the day in Marrakech Hospital as my mum fell over and broke her arm.
Tuesday 23rd January 2007- Sight seeing around Marrakech.
Wednesday 24th January 2007 – Drove to Tamri, spent the night in Ouarazate
Thursday 25th January 2007- Tagdilt Track
Friday 26th January 2007 – Took family for a drive towards Casablanca, got within 100km then I had to drive back as the family were fed up.
Saturday 27th January 2007 – Left the hotel at 9am for the flight back to London Gatwick.
Hotel Amine – Marrakech
Birds noted on a daily basis included House Bunting (upto 4), Common Bulbul (up to 3), House Sparrow, Blackbird, Eurasian Collared Dove, Woodpigeon, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, 3 White Stork (flying over). Every building you seem to visit has a House Bunting and a Common Bulbul, so you really cannot fail seeing these two.
Tamri to Ouarazate
I left the hotel Tueday night at about 10:30pm and arrived in Tamri around 4:45am. (340km one way). All destinations from Marrakech are found somewhere in the town centre. No ring roads in Morocco. I got to Tamri by following signs to Agadir, then towards Essaouira.
I unfortunately got caught speeding leaving Marrakech. I was doing 40kmh in a 30kmh area (there are no signs stating it was 30kmh). The fine was 400 dirams (£24). However I claimed that I couldn’t afford such a figure and the Policeman said he would need to fill in the paperwork. Which seemed to be a full piece of A4 paper, with loads of boxes to fill in. The Policeman then made me an offer of 100 Dirams (£6) and no paperwork. I naturally obliged.
The road to Agadir was a single carriageway, no tolls, but plenty of Artic lorries and coaches going incredibly fast considering the conditions of roads/signs. I parked the car 7km past the Tamri sign by the side of the road. I couldn’t sleep because 1) I was scared of getting attacked by the locals, 2) Lorries kept passing me, blinding me with their lights and rocking the car when passing.
Daylight occurred at around 7:30am. I waited to see the Bald Ibises leaving the roost, but no ibises. The only birds I noticed at this particular location were plenty of Stonechats and a few Crested Larks.
I then drove back towards Cape Rhir, stopping at many locations scanning predominantly for Bald Ibises. Still no luck. I did find the following White Wagtail, African Chaffinch, House Sparrow, Common Bulbul, Southern Grey Shrike, Kestrel, 2 Brown-necked Ravens, Cormorant, Yellow-legged Gull, GBB Gull, 200+ Audoin’s Gulls, Gey Heron, 2 House Buntings, Sardinian Warbler, 2 Moussier’s Redstarts (one sitting on a Prickly pair cactus), Black Redstart, Gannet etc.
At around 11:00am I got desperate to see a Bald Ibis so I asked one of the locals. He said yes he knows where they hang out. So he jumped in my car and took me to the cliffs where they breed. Unfortunately there were none present and my car got stuck in the sand.
The local borrowed someone’s spade and tried to dig my car out of the sand, but he failed. He then asked one of this friends (elderly sheep herder) to help, Still the car would not budge.
Then a young guy called “Omomar Bilkadi” turned up, he is an employee of Birdlife International and he was monitoring the Bald Ibises. He managed to get my car out of the sand and then took me to a site with 36 Bald Ibises. We then returned to the cliff where the car got stuck and Omomar showed me a pair of Barbary Falcons and a pair of Brown-necked Ravens. While I was watching the Barbary Falcon, 16 Bald Ibises flew over. Wow what a sight!
I left Tamri around 3:00pm and headed for Ouarazate. I encountered Greenfinch, 4 Moroccan Magpies, Southern Grey Shrike, Black-shouldered Kite (47km east of Taroudant), Spannish Sparrow flock and Serin. Spent the night at Hotel La Perle du Sud (+212 24 88 86 40/41) which was a 3* luxury hotel. The cost per night was 320 Dirhams (£19.40). I arrived at the Hotel at 9:00pm, the distance from Tamri to Ouarazate was 425km. The journey is extremely dangerous as the road is just about wide enough for 2 vehicles, but there is only tarmac in the middle of the road . So every time an oncoming vehicle appears you have to give way by slowing down and driving on part gravel/ part tarmac section of the road.
I left the hotel at around 7:45am (got light around 7:30am) and drove 169km to Tinerhir, where I overshot Tagdilt track by 60km. However in Tiherhir I did manage to find 2 White-crowned Black Wheatear’s, 2 Desert Larks and a Black Wheatear. I eventually got to Tagdilt track at 11:00am.
I spent 3 hours at the site. But during the first 1.5 hours, the only bird I found was a Black Redstart on fence at the entrance to the track. I really was getting quite fed up with the lack of birds, so I decided to start to leave. Just about 0.5 miles from where I entered the site, I came across 3 Red-rumped Wheatears. Feeling a bit happier I still wanted to go and just before the exit was a rubbish tip. Locals were burning their household rubbish.
The tip was covered in birds. The first bird I put my binoculars on was a Thick-billed Lark. I watched it for 6 seconds then panned to my left and saw a Temminck’s Lark and I watched it also for 6 seconds. Then I decided to get the scope set up and get some pictures of these beautiful Larks. By the time I got the scope set up the Thick-billed Lark had vanished but the Temmincks Lark was joined by another, so I managed to get a record shot of it.
The tip log in full was 7 Red-rumped Wheatears, 7 Temmincks Larks, 1 Thick-billed Lark, White Wagtails, Crested Lark, 2 Lesser Short-toed Larks, 2 Skylarks and 2 prob Desert Larks (Birds didn’t stay long enough for me to confirm identity).
Left the general area at around 3:00pm and drove the 373km back to Marrakech. Got back to the hotel at 9:30pm
Oukaimeden – 1.5 hours from Marrakech. Got there around midday. The only birds I saw of note were 100+ Red-billed Choughs & 1 Bonelli’s Eagle. I was hoping to see Crimson-winged Finch & Alpine Choughs, but with the lack of snow there absence was not surprising.
Marrakech to Casablanca road. Saw another Moussier’s Redstart and a Buzzard species. Could not stop to clench the Buzzard identity.