Morocco - March 2007

Published by Birdseekers (info AT

Participants: Steve Bird (Birdseekers) et al


Day 1 - Friday 16th March

Leaving Gatwick Airport at midday we had a pleasant flight of just under 3 hours before we arrived in what looked like a very dry Marrakech. Once we were through a very slow customs we all met up and soon found our guide Moha and assistant driver Hassam. Once out of the airport we walked towards the car park seeing a group of about twenty White Storks circling together, we then drove the short distance in our 4x4 Landcruisers to our city hotel. With an hours light still left some of the group watched from their balconies and saw Common Swifts, Feral Pigeons, Spotless Starling, Sardinian Warbler, Blackbird, Greenfinch, Common Bulbul and House Bunting. We then had our dinner and got some rest ready for the morning and our first full day.

Day 2 - Saturday 17th March

After breakfast we collected our gear and went outside where our luxury Landcruisers awaited us. We then drove out of town towards the distant snow capped Atlas Mountains. Along the way we noted Woodpigeons, Collared Doves, Blackbirds, Common Bulbuls, and quite a few Crested Larks. Common Swifts circled above the built up areas, but it wasn’t long before all this was left behind and we were climbing the winding road up into the hill country. Our first stop was at a site we discovered some 6 years ago and parking beside the road we got out to scan the scrubby hillside. We soon found the Atlas race of Coal Tit, lots of Serins, a Cirl Bunting was scoped and a couple of very bright looking African Blue Tits were watched. Granville spotted a distant raptor perched on a hilltop and this turned out to be a Lanner Falcon, and at this time we heard our target bird some distance away – a Levaillant’s Green Woodpecker! Walking closer we found more African Blue Tits, a Tree Pipit perched up high and the woodpecker called fairly close to us. It was soon spotted on the side of a fir tree where we got our first good views. After flying closer above us, it then flew across the road and went into an area behind a café. Arriving here we scanned until the bird was found on an open tree in absolutely perfect light condition. A beautiful male with the female nearby we could not have asked for better views, staying on views for ages we all enjoyed our first Moroccan speciality, in fact so did the locals who were also thrilled to look as this stunning bird through our telescopes. Pleased with our success we continued the drive upwards making a brief stop when a dark raptor was seen flying above. This bird turned out to be an adult Golden Eagle, and proved how size elusion and awkward angles can make what should have been a straight forward identification, problematic. Eventually reaching the ski resort of Oukaimeden, the day was glorious with a clear blue sunny sky, no wind and mountains patched with snow. Our drivers dropped us off and went to set up lunch while we birded this picturesque area. Groups of Horned Larks were found along with Common Kestrel and a Little Owl sat on top of a rock. A few butterflies seemed to be moving through and we noted Painted Lady and a nice Queen of Spain Fritillary. On a corner we enjoyed excellent views of a pair of Moussier’s Redstarts, with the male bird looking particularly special in the bright sunshine. Continuing our search we located a large group of Horned Larks which were mixed with Rock Sparrows. As we scoped these birds feeding on the ground we eventually found at least two Crimson-winged Finches feeding amongst them. It took a while to get everyone on these birds as they worked a hillside and were continually being pushed by a small flock of sheep. After everyone had seen this important species we made our way back to the resort where our lunch had been prepared in the traditional hot ‘tajin’ style dishes. As we ate el fresco the clouds started to appear and the temperature dropped rapidly. A huge swirling flock of Red-billed Choughs rose over the valley and lots of Chaffinches of the African race were much admired. As we enjoyed a hot glass of tea, some bartering for fossils collected by the locals, and some hand warming over the tajin dishes, it was seen to begin to snow. Driving just a short distance behind the village we stopped for a couple of Mistle Thrushes, plus Black Redstart and a Black Wheatear sat on a stone wall. From a lookout over the mountains, some of us took photos, while others got cold as the snow became very heavy. We decided it was time to head back and slowly returned, making a stop beside a small patch of trees. A Hawfinch was spotted feeding on the ground but this shy bird soon flew up into a tree and from then on we struggled to get any more views of it. A couple of Firecrests put on a wonderful show and we enjoyed prolonged views of these little gems as they worked the open tops of a couple of small trees. More Coal Tits and Chaffinches were seen, and as we drove to a lower altitude the back vehicle spotted a Common Cuckoo. Beside a small river we took a short walk along a track. A group of Crag Martins flew back and forth and a male Sardinian Warbler was coaxed to show itself off where it was seen well by all. There were lots of Serins present and a few of the bright males were much appreciated before we continued our journey back to Marrakech. A roadside stop was made when a Southern Grey Shrike of the pale race (elegans) was spotted from the front vehicle. We got out and approached the bird getting superb views as it sat on a dead bush in the middle of a field. A Woodchat Shrike was also seen and a couple of Crested Larks walked closely past us totally unconcerned. We enjoyed the shrike and saw some Barn Swallows before driving the last few miles back to our hotel, ending a fabulous day.

Day 3 - Sunday 18th March

After breakfast this morning we loaded our luggage aboard our vehicles and said farewell to Marrakech. Driving towards the Atlas mountains we made our first stop in the lower hills where we soon got to grips with up to five Booted Eagles, a Long-legged Buzzard and a brief Short-toed Eagle. All but one of the Booted Eagles were pale phase birds and we enjoyed watching as one performed a fascinating courtship display flight. Common Kestrels were also noted alongside the ever present Serins, and amongst the flowers and grasses we saw a gorgeous Moroccan Orange-tip Butterfly. Moving on, our next stop was beside a patch of pine trees. A Sparrowhawk showed very well, and we located a Great Tit and then as we watched for a Great Spotted Woodpecker, we got some fantastic close views of a pair of Crossbills, with the female seen collecting nest material. In the same spot a Short-toed Treecreeper was seen well and lots of Chaffinches were also present. Onward and upward we eventually reached a small village where we stopped for a cup of tea. The weather was now sunny and warm although the wind was quite strong. After leaving the village we made a brief stop for a pale Booted Eagle sat on a rock. Continuing on we passed several Black Wheatears but very little else. The views from the top of the mountains were spectacular and the roads just seemed to wind on for ever. Over the other side and into flatter desert type habitat we stopped when a White-crowned Wheatear was spotted on a wire. Very close by was a male and female Desert Wheatear, while drifting over the grassy meadows were two Marsh Harriers. Taking a short drive across the rocky desert we stopped at area where we could scan a vast area. Flocks of Greater Short-toed Larks flew around calling, and Black-eared Wheatear was scoped on top of a rocky hill. Our target bird of this area was then spotted and all the scopes were soon trained on the male Mourning Wheatear which was looking stunningly pristine perched on some small boulders. After good looks at this localised species we found a Black Kite and several Northern Wheatears, and as we were leaving this area we got good views of a lone Desert Lark sat on a rock. Back on the main road we continued until we reached a track leading off to our lunch time restaurant. As we drove this we passed flocks of Greater Short-toed Larks, a male Lesser Kestrel and a stunning Lanner Falcon. Our lunch was taken in a very nice establishment overlooking a Kasbah where many famous films were made. Finishing our meal we were on our way again. A stop beside a large reservoir amazingly full of water, had us park beside an area of reeds, where we got out and scanned the open water. Great Crested Grebes were found and a Great Cormorant flew past, but our best find was when John spotted a Crake in the edge of the reeds. One and possibly two Little Crakes, represented a rare find and nearby we also picked up Sedge Warbler and flocks of Sand Martins. Retracing our steps a little we took a look at another section of the lake and here we found Grey Heron and Little Egrets, a pair of Ruddy Shelduck and some Mallard. Continuing on towards our hotel an eagle was seen perched on a Pylon, which on closer inspection turned out to be a magnificent Bonelli’s Eagle. After good looks at this we finished the last section of our journey and arrived at our plush hotel. After settling into our rooms and with some daylight left some of us searched the grounds behind our rooms. It was decidedly quiet with a distant group of White Storks being seen and amongst the scrubby bushes a Song Thrush, and several Subalpine Warblers. With temperatures dropping we went back to our rooms and later finished up with a lovely dinner.

Day 4 - Monday 19th March

After an early breakfast we set off towards the famous Tagdilt Tract, a huge area of endless stony desert. As our Landcruisers went off road it became obvious to all why we use these comfortable 4x4’s rather than a coach. This area is just too big to cover on foot and normal vehicles would not make it. We were soon passing through flocks of Greater Short-toed Larks, and a brief stop found us a Red-rumped Wheatear as well as Northern Wheatear and a Temminck’s Lark.

Our next stop had a small group of Black-bellied Sandgrouse fly off, and while checking this area we heard and saw some very distant flying Cream-coloured Coursers. Setting off in the direction we saw them land we hadn’t gone far when Granville saw two coursers on the ground just in front of the vehicle. Both vehicles enjoyed stunning close views of these handsome birds, as well as more Red-rumped Wheatears, Desert Wheatears and larks. Another couple of coursers were found and a female Marsh Harrier flew over as did several small groups of Barn Swallows. Miles of barren looking desert were driven across and we saw Common Kestrels, another Marsh Harrier, flock after flock of Greater Short-toed Larks, good numbers of Temminck’s Larks and then an unbelievable 33 Cream-coloured Coursers together in one area. A Peregrine Falcon flew past and we spotted several more Black-bellied Sandgrouse sat quietly on the ground. Our next find was a superb Greater Hoopoe Lark which performed its song flight right in front of us. Time was getting short so instinct took over and we headed the vehicles to the other side of the desert to an area that looked pretty much like everywhere else, but somewhere I new had held our target species on previous visits. Amazingly we were successful in locating one of the most sought after of desert birds, the magnificent Thick-billed Lark. Two birds showed very well but one bird which walked towards us gave the most incredible views imaginable down to about 20ft. Very happy with this we left and drove to the Todra Gorge for our lunch. A walk through the spectacular high sided gorge was incredibly windy, but we did see Blue Rock Thrush and some Crag Martins. After our lunch we headed further up the gorge and into the sparsely vegetated valley. A House Bunting showed well, but very little else, with no sight nor sound of our quarry the sometimes elusive Tristram’s Warbler. Our extensive search was called to a halt and we left the gorge and drove to an area of farmland and oasis. A walk through the trees and bushes was decidedly quiet, with the best bird being a Whitethroat found by Lynn. Serins were plentiful, and we did see a couple of Meadow Pipits and some Goldfinch. Leaving here we drove back towards our hotel, stopping at a site in the desert where we found a very confiding Mourning Wheatear. A Long-legged Buzzard was watched on the cliff top and right beside it was an adult Bonelli’s Eagle, the latter it would seem had strayed into the territory of two long-legs! After talking to a very smart local boy we took the vehicles on a drive through a wadi until we reached an area surrounded by cliffs. Waiting until just before sunset we were eventually rewarded by first hearing and then John spotting a Pharaoh Eagle Owl sat on a flat rock. We set up our scopes and enjoyed superb views as this mythical owl called from its perch. It eventually flew up and out of sight. A group of 15 White Storks flying through ended a day where we had seen some excellent species, and very good views of some difficult birds.

Day 5 - Tuesday 20th March

After a slightly delayed breakfast we loaded the vehicles and set off for a brief visit of the Tagdilt Tract. Once again Greater Short-toed Larks seemed everywhere, we saw one Black-bellied Sandgrouse flying over and both Red-rumped and Desert Wheatear. Unbelievably we came to an area where there must have been around 50 Cream-coloured Coursers! Several more were seen flying around and as we were about to leave a fabulous Lanner was spotted sat on a rock. Moving on towards the Sahara we covered a good few miles before a short stop in a sparsely vegetated wadi produced a good selection of birds. A group of seven Fulvous Babblers showed well and as we watched these a pair of Thick-billed Larks flew over our heads calling before landing in a stony patch not too far away. The bushes held a lovely male Spectacled Warbler singing in the open, while Willow Warblers fed below and a Common Whitethroat put in a brief appearance. A couple of Southern Grey Shrikes were seen of the race elegans and Alan flushed two Barbary Partridges we tried to re find with the result that just a few of us saw them fly off again. Leaving this productive little spot we saw a male Subalpine Warbler, before joining the road and continuing our journey. A couple of Marsh Harriers were seen as we drove along, but stopping for these we also saw a Black-shouldered Kite mobbing a Bonelli’s Eagle, then more Marsh Harriers, some Kestrels and finally nothing! as they all thermaled higher and higher and disappeared out of sight. Our lunch was taken at the town of Erfoud from where we continued the last section of our journey into the desert. As the surfaced changed to tracks we were greeted by the amazing site of carpets of yellow flowers bringing this normally barren looking landscape to life. Our guide who was born here had not seen it like this in 25 years! A Greater Hoopoe Lark was spotted and its albeit brief display flight was once again something appreciated by all of us. Moving on to some suitable habitat we noted several Cream-coloured Coursers. Some years we do not see any of these highly attractive birds, and it seems like this must be their year! A short walk around and our target species the Desert Warbler was found, giving us prolonged and incredible close views. We could have never improved these views so completely satisfied we drove on. Our next sighting was equally if not more impressive as we came across several groups of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse. These birds allowed us exceptional views where all the intricacies of their plumage could be seen perfectly and fully appreciated. We had great difficulties trying to get Lynn to leave these beautiful birds, and who can blame her! With perfect light conditions where all the colours beamed at us, and such a beautiful species, I’m sure she would still be there now! Nearby we got close views of several Trumpeter Finches, plus a family group of Bar-tailed Larks, with the young birds causing us some initial identification problems. From here it was a short journey to our desert hotel, which overlooks the huge and impressive sand dunes that picture post cards so often portray. After moving into our spacious rooms we enjoyed a cup of tea and some exceedingly good cake, before going to an area of oasis where we had a slow walk around. Laughing Doves were present as were lots of Mauratanian Frogs. One area held a group of Willow Warblers plus, two Blackcaps and then a male Common Redstart. Further on some of us found a family group of Fulvous Babblers, with the young being fed and some adults on guard on top of a wall. Two Hoopoes flew off, several Woodchat Shrikes were spotted and a lone Subalpine Warbler showed briefly. From the oasis we drove to a nearby seasonal lake and down by its shores we watched countless Black-winged Stilts, two Little Egrets, some Ruddy Shelduck and Wood Sandpiper. A Eurasian Spoonbill was seen feeding along the waters edge and some distant White Storks flew in. looking at another spot we found an adult Kentish Plover with its family of tiny chicks, and nearby some Little Stints, a Ringed Plover and several Little Ringed Plovers. Our final look at this lake in the last remaining light, found us a mass of Shoveler mixed with a few Eurasian Coot and up to eight Marbled Duck, a surprise find as we only normally see this target species on the coast. A distant Little Grebe was also noted, and along the waters edge were lots of Little Stint, Ruff and some more Little Ringed Plovers. A good day over we returned to our hotel, and later enjoyed more food than we could really handle.

Day 6 - Wednesday 21st March

A short walk around the hotel before breakfast by some of the group produced two Woodchat Shrikes, a male Common Redstart, Subalpine and a smart Western Bonelli’s Warbler. A look in the same bushes after breakfast added Willow Warbler and a female Sardinian Warbler. We then drove to the nearby lake where we saw up to twenty White Storks feeding along the waters edge. Over the lake flew at least three Marsh Harriers, and further searching revealed Ruddy Shelducks, a lone Greenshank, Little Stints, Little Ringed Plovers, Kentish Plover and far out over some reeds were a huge flock of 100+ Black-winged Stilts, and on the water Shoveler and what looked like four Tufted Ducks. Leaving the lake we headed off into the vast desert on one of the hardest quests in Morocco. A few Trumpeter Finches were seen as well as Greater Hoopoe Lark, Northern Wheatear and a Thick-billed Lark.

Splitting the vehicles up to search this seemingly impossible terrain my vehicle decided to stop on top of a hill and scan for a while with our scopes. Not two minutes had passed, when John exclaimed ‘I got one’ and too great relief and excitement we were soon looking at an adult Houbara Bustard, a species that has become extremely difficult to find nowadays. We called the other vehicle over and all watched this superb bird before finding an even better vantage point. This we did and it was then that we noticed that three chicks were following behind the adult. Our last views of this fabulous bird were at 50 metres and simply stunning. We then left the birds where we had found them and in complete peace. Lots of people search for Houbara, but few ever find them and although we willingly share most of our information with other companies and individuals alike, it has become quite apparent that many of our good finds over the years have now become so well known that more and more people visiting these sites is causing untold disturbance to the species in question. With this in mind we are keeping this site secret and hopefully the birds will not get disturbed as it will only be our groups that go to this area. Jubilant with this sighting we headed back across the desert and while a cup of tea was being brewed in a Bedouin tent we searched an area of scrubby bushes. Here we saw a single Red-rumped Swallow fly over, plus two Lesser Kestrels, and amongst the scrub there was Woodchat Shrikes, Black-eared and Desert Wheatears, several nice Spectacled Warblers, Subalpine, Western Bonelli’s and two Desert Warblers, plus a very showy pair of Desert Sparrows. We had our cup of tea and headed back to our hotel for lunch passing by the Café Yasmine which amazingly was surrounded by water! After lunch we took an hours break which enabled everyone to either swim in the pool, relax or have a wander and look for birds. The best of which were a group of Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters that flew over. In the gardens we also got very close looks at a Western Bonelli’s Warbler and White-crowned Wheatear. Back in the vehicles we set off across the desert seeing Greater Hoopoe Lark, many Greater Short-toed Larks, Trumpeter Finches and several Pin-tailed Sandgrouse. We then spent time walked a wadi which had tamarisks and bushes. Many Willow, Western Bonelli’s, and Subalpine Warblers were seen and we got to see two Western Orphean Warblers well. More Trumpeter Finches allowed good looks and on some wires near another hotel we saw several Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters and a small flock of European Bee-eaters going to roost in some trees. A Chiffchaff was spotted amongst some Willow Warblers, before we drove a short distance to look over a wadi and wait for dusk. As the sun slowly set and catching most people unaware, an Egyptian Nightjar drifted across in front of us at eye level. Those that managed to get on it and with the spotlight illuminating the bird, the views albeit brief were actually very good. It never appeared again but later one of our vehicles managed to follow another bird for several minutes in their headlights. With a stop to look at the stars on our way back we concluded yet another excellent day with some exceptional sightings.

Day 7 - Thursday 22nd March

After our final breakfast in the desert and a showy Desert Sparrow just outside the restaurant door, we packed our bags, loaded the vehicles and set off for a long day of driving. Crossing the open Hamada (black desert) we came across a group of sixteen Pin-tailed Sandgrouse looking as resplendent as ever. There was a Greater Hoopoe Lark nearby, plus several Trumpeter Finches and flocks of Greater Short-toed Larks. A small bush held a lone Black Kite which promptly flew off, and a hotel grounds had Willow and Subalpine Warblers, Chiffchaff and a very brief Bluethroat but unfortunately no one else got a good enough view for it to make our list. A female Blue Rock Thrush posed on a wall and Woodchat Shrike and White-crowned Wheatear were seen. Continuing our journey we made a short stop at a fascinating fossil factory, while the vehicles were refuelled and attended to. On the road again we hadn’t gone far when a group of European Bee-eaters were spotted on some telegraph wires. Good numbers of Marsh Harriers were seen along the way and one male Montagu’s Harrier showed well. Arriving at Todra near lunch time we drove straight through the gorge and higher up the valley where we searched every suitable looking habitat for our target bird. With no sign and nothing heard, the pressure was on! In desperation I tried a likely spot much lower than we had ever seen them before and sure enough we were soon watching a male Tristram’s Warbler singing from the top of a small bush. After everyone had got scope views of this bird we went for a well deserved lunch. Leaving here we drove to Tagdilt and set about searching this vast area in hope of finding sandgrouse. We covered miles and miles and found a small group of Black-bellied Sandgrouse, and a huge group of 100+ Pin-tailed Sandgrouse. Lots of Cream-coloured Coursers were seen, along with all the regulars for this area such as Red-rumped, Desert and Northern Wheatears. With time against us we moved on and drove to Quarzazate for an overnight stay prior to heading to the coast for the last section of our tour.

Day 8 - Friday 23rd March

Today was to be a long drive to Agadir on the coast. Setting off after breakfast we made our first roadside stop in an area that looked like it may hold a few migrants. As we parked Corn Buntings appeared on every bush and right in front of us on a pylon was a superb Bonelli’s Eagle! I think this bird has followed us all over Morocco! As we began a short walk around, another distant pylon held three Black Kites, at which time we heard a lot of scolding sounds coming from a group of trees. On inspection we found several Common Redstarts, Subalpine Warblers, some very showy Western Orphean Warblers and the culprit of all the noise a Western Olivaceous Warbler. Further searching revealed lots of Woodchat Shrikes, two Hoopoes flew past much to the delight of Alan, and amongst the stony ground we got good looks at two or three Tawny Pipits. Moving on we stopped briefly to look at the Bonelli’s Eagle again, this time perched on a tree top. Our next wadi produced very little, excepting one European Bee-eater, several Willow Warblers and good numbers of Subalpine Warblers. We continued our long drive and later in the morning we stopped beside an area of lush trees and with water running through. Amazingly very few birds were here, but we did find Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Blackcaps and an Agama Lizard that sped away before anyone got on it. Two new butterflies included Clouded Yellow and a Knapweed Fritillary. Our lunch stop in a small town turned out to be a delicious dish call Kefta. After this we continued our drive until we eventually reached the Sous Estuary in the mid afternoon. Scanning the marshes and river from the road we spotted a Greater Flamingo, with more seen silhouetted against the sun later. Waders included Bar-tailed Godwits, Curlew, Redshank, Greenshank, a Common Sandpiper, Ringed Plovers, Turnstone, Grey Plover and Curlew Sandpiper. Amongst the scrub a Sardinian Warbler showed well, while on the distant bank a group of Grey Herons were joined by a few Little Egrets. An Osprey was found sat on a bush and several Zitting Cisticolas gave their display flights, with one or two settling briefly so as we could scope them. We then took a short stroll to look at the Moroccan race of Magpie with its colourful blue facial patch. Driving closer to the mouth of the Estuary we parked beside the Kings Palace and took a walk through the sand until we overlooked the water. Four Common Shelduck were soon spotted followed by Black-headed and two Slender-billed Gulls. Walking along the shore line we tried to improve our views by getting the sun behind us. Countless Kentish and Ringed Plovers were seen, along with Sanderling and a group of Avocet. Further searching revealed Knot, Bar-tailed Godwits and some Sandwich Terns, while a small pool beside us held Greenshank, Redshanks, Ringed Plovers, Little Ringed Plover, Little Stint, Dunlin and a superb find which was a Broad-billed Sandpiper, a rare vagrant to Morocco, this represented the 12th record. We watched this bird for a while and tried to get some record photos before walking on further to view the gull roost. Many Lesser Black-backed Gulls, were mixed with Western Yellow-legged Gulls and some very attractive Audouin’s Gulls, plus more thorough scanning revealed two Mediterranean Gulls, Slender-billed Gulls and over 100 Sandwich Terns. We enjoyed the spectacle of all these birds after our long travelling day and as we turned around to go back to the vehicles we got great views of two Spoonbills feeding in a small pool. Back at the car park we waited until dusk at which time we saw a Green Sandpiper noisily fly off and several even noisier Stone-Curlews. But our day finished when we spotlighted three Red-necked Nightjars sat on the road, eventually lit up by our landcruisers headlights and scoped so as we could see the birds details. After some exhilarating birding we were off to Agadir and our plush hotel.

Day 9 - Saturday 24th March

Today we drove out of town and headed for the Oued Massa a reserve encompassing a river which runs out to the sea. Our first stop was on a small bridge over the river where we could view an open pool and the reed fringed river. Little Grebe was found, along with Eurasian Coot and amongst the reeds several Sedge Warblers, a Reed Warbler and we heard a Cetti’s Warbler. In the Tamarisk bushes we watched Willow Warblers flycatching, as well as a Western Olivaceous Warbler, a singing Common Nightingale, lots of Zitting Cisticolas and a tree full of European Bee-eaters. A group of Glossy Ibis flew past and our continued search revealed a perched Plain Martin amongst the roost of Barn Swallows. A couple of Tree Pipits appeared and a Yellow Wagtail flew into the top of a dead tree. Nearby we found a pair of Moussier’s Redstarts which were nesting in a man made reed fence. They gave us the most fantastic close views imaginable. On a small wet field we found more Yellow Wagtails of the race flava (blue-headed) and a pair of Black-tailed Godwits were occupying there own plot. Small shrubs held Subalpine and Sardinian Warblers and as we returned to the bridge we spotted a Little Bittern fly up from the reeds and land in full view for several minutes, although we played this down to Lynn who had just arrived as the bird disappeared from view. Just as we were about to leave a very pale and brown looking Bonelli’s Eagle flew along the valley causing a few identification problems. We then drove towards the reserve and set about walking a few kilometres before the gate. We heard the elusive Black-crowned Tchagra, but as is usual it did not appear. Never ones to give up we were eventually rewarded with two birds on the ground right out in the open, giving unprecedented views, proving that this tour really was providing the best ever views of all the birds we saw. Over the hillside a couple of Bonelli’s Eagles were seen and as we watched, one of the birds got continually mobbed by a Marsh Harrier. A family of Cirl Buntings showed well and nearby bushes played host to Willow Warblers, Subalpine Warblers and good numbers of Sardinian Warblers. Nearing the gate to the reserve and our parked vehicles we spotted a group of Alpine Swifts flying overhead, these birds continually showed all afternoon and made many low passes overhead where we could get excellent views. Our picnic lunch was then prepared under the shade of some Eucalyptus trees. With this delicious meal consumed we then set about a three hour walk along the river to the coast and back. Amongst the Alpine and Common Swifts we found and got very good looks at several Pallid Swifts. Scanning the water we spotted many Eurasian Coots and Little Grebes, and in the distance from and old building which we used as a platform to watch from we saw Mallard, Pochard, Pintail a group of 50 Glossy Ibis and hidden on the reed edge about ten Marbled Teal. Towards the coast a male Montagu’s Harrier drifted past, and more scrutinising revealed three Eurasian Spoonbill, Little Egret and several Black-winged Stilts. A Squacco Heron broke cover and flew off to be seen to do the same a little later. At the end of our walk we overlooked the sand dunes and out at sea in the haze we could make out several Northern Gannets fishing, while beside us in the bushes were a Southern Grey Shrike of the darker race algierensis, and then a fairly showy Melodious Warbler and a male Spanish Sparrow. Walking back we came across a group of European Bee-eaters and some of us found and got good views of a pair of Barbary Partridges, plus Long-tailed Blue and Small Copper butterflies. A little later we also flushed a close Common Quail. Back at the car park we climbed aboard our trusty vehicles and set off on a drive to an area where we came up trumps with first a small flock of 12 and then a bigger flock of 60 Bald Ibis. Superb close views were had as they fed unconcerned in the fields just in front of us. Two Stone-Curlew were also seen, as was an immature Lanner which flew over and finally we spotted two Tawny Pipits and a Little Owl which posed from the top of a pile of rocks. Our final hour of the day was spent searching the barren open ground where we eventually found up to 12 Cream-coloured Coursers, as well as Tawny Pipits, Thekla Lark, Crested Lark and amongst a group of 80 Greater Short-toed Larks we scoped two or three difficult Lesser Short-toed Larks. Time to leave we went across country until we joined the main road and headed back to our comfortable hotel in Agadir. The end of yet another excellent day.

Day 10 - Sunday 25th March

This morning we took a leisurely breakfast before packing our luggage into our vehicles and setting off along the coastal road towards Tamri. Several stops were made along the way to check the sea and its multitude of fishing boats. Lots of Northern Gannets were seen and three very distant Common Scoter flew past. At Tamri we soon located a lone Bald Ibis which flew off to feed amongst the distant sand dunes. A search of the estuary mouth had us find Common Sandpiper and two Little Stints while another three Bald Ibis Flew over. A Yellow Wagtail of the race cinereocapilla seen and on the pebbly beach a few Kentish Plover were spotted, while a pair of Southern Grey Shrikes of the darker race algeriensis showed very well. Moving on to an area near the coast we found two Bald Ibis and a group of Common Ravens, and following a track down to the beach we scanned through a group of gulls which contained mostly Lesser Black-backed, one Black-headed, several Western Yellow-legged and a group of Audouin’s Gulls. Crossing the beach we joined up with the road and had a final look over the edge to a reed fringed river.

Three Little Grebes were seen beside a lone Ruddy Shelduck, while above flew Barn and a single Red-rumped Swallow and lastly an adult Purple Heron flew out of the reeds and later dropped into another area where we could scope this amazingly cryptic bird. It was time to head back to Agadir where we drove into the busy fishing port and enjoyed a super lunch taken in one of the many local but tiny restaurants. After lunch we made our way to the airport where we said our goodbye’s to Moha and Hassam who had been perfect drivers, guides and hosts on our tour of Morocco.

This tour not only produced the most sought after of Moroccan species it was unprecedented in the superb views we had of most of the birds we saw. Many thank to a great group who made leading this trip so thoroughly enjoyable.

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