Morocco - April 2013

Published by Thomas Chinnick (thomaschinnick AT

Participants: Thomas Chinnick, Tom Chinnick and Bruce Chinnick


Photos with this report (click to enlarge)

Dupont's Lark
Dupont's Lark
Dupont's Lark
Dupont's Lark
Thick-billed Lark
Thick-billed Lark
Thick-billed Lark
Thick-billed Lark
Egyptian Nightjar
Egyptian Nightjar
Bald Ibis
Bald Ibis
Tristram's Warbler
Tristram's Warbler
Temminck's Lark
Temminck's Lark
Hoopoe Lark
Hoopoe Lark

Introduction and logistics:

Morocco is certainly on the radar of most birders, and has almost definitely grown in popularity given the uncertain situation in many neighbouring African countries. Although a large country the roads are good in addition the people are friendly and it is a very safe country to go birding. During the whole trip we used a Sat Nav (Garmin nuvi 50lm) which proved very useful with the Morocco map downloaded free of charge from The two Gosney guides are essential while trip reports written by Richard Bonser and Josh Jones were of most use Many thanks also to Darryl Spittle who provided a great deal of current information as he had visited the same area several weeks previously. The intention of the trip was to see as many WP specialities as possible during a ten day stay. The trip was very successful seeing most specialities and logging a trip list of 187 species.

Sunday 13th April- Arrive in Marrakech then travel to Oualidia, stay at Hotel L'initiale.

Monday 14th April- Bird Oualidia then travel to Temara Plage, drive to Nadar canal in evening. Stay at La Felouque.

Tuesday 15th April- Francolin site early AM, travel through atlas via Dayet Aoua to Midelt area stay at Tinmay Camping.

Wednesday 16th April- Bird Zaida plains, then journey to Rissani, stay at Auberge Derkaoua.

Thursday 17th April- Rissani area, stay at Hotel Yasmina.

Friday 18th April- Early morning 4x4 excursion then long drive to Boulmalne Dades via Scrub Warbler site. Stay Soleil Bleu.

Saturday 19th April- Tagdilt track area and gorge de Dades, followed by drive to Ouarzazate, stay at Dar Charmaa.

Sunday 20th April- later start drive to Agadir via Argan Scrub habitat. Stay at Ibis budget (2 nights). Evening at Oued Souss

Monday 21st April- Late start with leisurely drive to Tamri for Bald Ibis.

Tuesday 22nd April- Drive to Marrakech via Oukaimeden for mountain Species. Stay Riad Sharmance.

Wednesday 23rd April- Early return flight to Gatwick, London.

Sunday 14th April 2013

We arrived timely into Marrakech airport finding Rock Bunting in the terminal building. No hassle and we were quickly en-route for Oualidia for our first night. En-route Turtle Doves, Common Kestrels, Common Swift, Pallid Swift, White Stork, Calandra Lark, Corn Bunting were all numerous while a flock of Collared Pratincole were the highlight. The first major surprise of the trip however was a single White-rumped Swift from the car with huge numbers of Pallid/Common not far from the airport, given its size and structure it was almost certainly not a Little Swift which we later found to be common on our return to Marrakech.

Our only lengthy stop of the journey was at Zemamra lakes at approximately 15:00hrs where we had huge gatherings of migratory waders perhaps >1500 including Bar-Tailed Godwit, Black-Tailed Godwit, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Greenshank, Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Ruff, Spotted Redshank, Little Stint, Turnstone, Grey Plover, Black-winged Stilt and Avocet. 50+ Spoonbill were also using the extensive pools joined by many other common waterfowl whilst a couple of Black Terns hawked effortlessly taking invertebrates.

We arrived tired after a long drive to Oualidia which held lots of formerly common farmland species in Britain with Quail, Turtle Doves, Nightingales and Corn Buntings. We had our first Common Bulbuls of the trip on our first evening.

Monday 15th April 2013

Early next morning I birded the "School pools" and the immediate coastline described in Gosney which yielded 1,000 passage Gulls mostly Lesser Black-backed, but a few presumably resident Yellow-legged thrown in, Sanderling and Turnstone were on the beach. Passerine wise Citting Cisticola and Sardinian Warbler were common, Woodchat Shrike, Southern Grey Shrike, Willow Warbler, Serin were all noted while several Subalpine Warbler including one without a tail was evidence of passage. In fact a constant stream of birds were going overhead up the coast in a northerly direction including Sand Martin, House Martin, European Swallow, a few Red-rumped Swallow and Common Swift, highlight however were several Brown-throated Sand Martin which afforded good views feeding over the pools, according to Gosney the birds are said to breed in the area. On the Pools were European Coot but no Red Knobbed, 6 Marbled Duck, loads of Cattle Egret and Black-Winged Stilt a few small wader Sp best of which was almost certainly a Single Wood Sandpiper which came in calling but failed to linger. A tidal pool on the seaward side of pools held lots of Kentish Plover. Walking back to the hotel I heard and saw a European Bea-eater which landed on nearby wires.

After breakfast a brief seawatch revealed 10+ Little Tern, 50+ Sandwich Tern and 10 or so Gannet past.

Our Journey north to Temara Plage produced a couple of fly-over Stone Curlews. Offshore from the hotel were numerous Cormorants (Marroccanus), 30+ Sandwich Tern and a brief Artic Skua.

The afternoon was spent travelling up to Merga Zerga for Marsh Owl on the journey we had a Sparrowhawk over the road. Be aware the minor road from the motorway to the Nadar canal area is in very poor condition. During a long wait for Marsh Owl action we enjoyed huge gatherings of waders and wildfowl including Whimbrel, Grey Plover, Avocet and Bar-tailed Godwits. Also notable was a single Roller, 1 Hobby thru, and at least 4 Marsh Harrier. Eventually a single Marsh Owl did show well hunting and perching on posts though in fading light from the road accompanied by half the village. We arrived back at the hotel for a late dinner.

Tuesday 16th April 2013

Up early c5:00am and well before light giving plenty of time to get lost trying to find the Francolin site, several diversions and a confused sat nat we arrived c6:30am. A misty start we walked several likely tracks but heard and saw absolutely nothing of our target quarry. We did score 2 Barbary Partridge which flushed, 1 Garden Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Nightingale, Willow Warbler, Western Bonelli's Warbler, Pied Fly, Corn Bunting, Woodchat Shrike, Serin, African Chaffinch, Cuckoo calling, Thekla Lark, Black-crowned Tchagra and a single Melodious Warbler. Whilst on-site we entered the fenced area via the top gate to find numerous Carcasses of poultry Sp strategically placed with entrails exposed, very unpleasant and after a couple of fruitless hours we departed.

The village of Azrou as promised had a rather large Lesser Kestrel colony and a few Alpine Swift as we drove past. A viewpoint and chance stop nearby produced a showy Western Bonelli's Warbler, Firecrest, Coal Tit, Great Tit and Western Olivaceous Warbler.

Arriving at Dayet Aoua it was soon obvious that the place was heaving with locals enjoying picnics and the like. The lake was also covered in birds >300 Black-necked Grebe, 120+ Red-Knobbed Coot and 6+ Ferruginous Duck were the most numerous though Ruddy Shelduck, Great-crested Grebe, Little Grebe, 2 Gadwall and Shoveler were all noted. In the woodland was a lone Greater-spotted Woodpecker, 1 Blue Tit, a brief Goshawk under the canopy, African Chaffinch, Western Bonelli's Warbler, Willow Warbler, 150+ Hawfinch in one flock, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, 1 Roller, Wood Warbler while a couple of Grey Wags were present at the lake shore. Frustratingly a distant drumming Woodpecker could not be located despite searching.

Window down we drove around the lake shore hoping for Levaillant's but it wasn't to be. As we passed over the middle atlas via the N13 toward Midelt I got caught speeding (300Dirham about £30). Despite apologising the officer was adamant I paid the fine. A stop in likely habitat produced good views of a ♂ Seebohm's Wheatear which later proved common place from the car. Also noted were a Booted Eagle and a single Honey Buzzard over. The landscape of mountain plateaux's with damp marshes made a spectacular backdrop for 60+ Ruddy Shelduck, a truly awesome bird in it’s naturally environment. Also at this altitude were Skylark, 10 White Stork, Common Kestrel and several Chough.

We stopped the night at Tinmay Camping, a very pleasant place and ideal for Dupont's Larks on the Zaida Plains (Gosney Pg 3)(N32,79136, W 04,93981) which are just two minutes drive. Another early start and an attempt at Dupont's Lark after dipping in Spain the year previously, though it was a half hearted late morning affair in 2012. A bright though chilly start almost immediately produced singing Dupont's and not one but two birds either side of a track (see map)!! Not getting too excited having heard and failed to locate them on the Zaragoza plains I moved closer and closer to what sounded like a perched individual. It was not long till we were getting fabulous views as it moved about the steppe, during the next couple of hours we afforded great views. Also noted were 2 Thick-billed Larks, Short-toed and Lesser Short-toed Larks were ubiquitous, Temminck's Lark, 2 Red-rumped Wheatear, Desert Wheatear, Crested Lark and a single ♀ Montague's Harrier.

We left Timnay after breakfast c9:45am, and drove a rather hot and uneventful drive to Rissani. We ticked Barbary Falcon that zipped over the road as we headed through. Later we stopped at Erfoud and birded the river in the mid afternoon heat. 3-4 Blue Cheeked Bee-eaters were near the bridge in the process of being built, a Crake Sp showed frustratingly briefly and a Pied Flycather was feeding on the dry river bed. Soon after checking in at Kasbah Derkoua we drove back into Rissani finding singing Saharan Olivaceous Warbler in the wadi. We drove part of the circuit touristique sadly White-crowned Wheatear and Long-billed Crested Lark were the highlights. Fatigued in the heat we headed back to the Kasbah for a shower and an evening meal. Knowing that the kasbah is a magnet for migrants I managed an hours birding the surrounding scrub that evening though it was rather quiet producing a Woodchat Shrike, several Redstart and a ♀ Common Whitethroat.

Next morning I was up before dawn c5:00am letting myself out of the locked kasbah I walked the grounds essentially an oasis in the desert, followed in hot pursuit by the owners very playful but well grown puppy. 3+ Redstarts, 1 Woodchat Shrike, 1 ♀ Common Whitethroat, 3+ Pied Flycatcher, 2 Subalpine Warblers (1 missing tail), 1 Rufous Bush Chat, 1 ♂ Golden Oriole over, 1 White-crowned Black Wheatear, 1 Moustached Warbler, 1 Reed Warbler, Willow Warbler, 1 Wryneck, Common Bulbul, 1 Spotted Flycatcher and numerous Swifts and Hirundines thru. Also 10+ Sandgrouse Sp were seen flying distantly over the adjacent desert but eluded identification.

After breakfast c10:15 we headed toward Rissani and the area described for Pharoah Eagle Owl by Gosney getting roadside views of Long-legged Buzzard. En-route we bumped into a guide named Hassan who I cannot recommend highly enough, as his effort and knowledge of the birds paid dividends. In fact we would never have seen our entire target species in the blistering heat and during the time allocated without him. For this reason some of the site information is not divulged here please contact Hassan or use a local guide which invests in the local people and community but also helps provide a reason for the locals to safe guard the future of some of these difficult to locate species. We soon had Crowned and Spotted Sandgrouse pinned down including superb views of Crowned very close to the hire car. Barbary Falcon was located on cliffs opposite the road near the Gosney Eagle Owl site. We then located a roosting Pharoah Eagle Owl at the traditional Gosney site with the help of our guide, also on the cliffs were 100+ Brown-necked Raven. Perhaps the most spectacular sighting of all was a Lanner located on nearby cliffs which gave an amazing aerial display before heading off into the desert. On the river bed near the town were several Dunlin feeding and several Moroccan White Wagtails (Subpersonata). Our last target bird was Fulvous Babbler and Hassan knew exactly where on the circuit touristique that we could locate them. Almost immediately after alighting from the car a small party of Fulvous Babbler emerged from some nearby tamarisks. Very pleased with our days haul we headed for the refuge of the well known Hotel Yasmina for a shower and an evening rest. The bird ringing station was active and Redstarts and Pied Flycatchers were seen well in the hand. From the hotel balcony we watched the sun setting over the Saharan sand dune system of Erg Chebbi which was absolute bliss.

Friday 19th April

We had organised a 4x4 excursion into the desert the subsequent morning for a 6am start. We were delighted to get very good views of African Desert Warbler, 3+ Desert Sparrow in farm buildings, 4+ Spotted Sandgrouse, 2 Fulvous Babbler, 2 Desert Wheatear and the only Bar-tailed Desert Larks of the trip. The highlights were Hoopoe Larks performing their display flight tumbling from height whilst in song. A roosting Egyptian Nightjar was also memorable though it felt like cheating it saved a large chunk of time that we would had to have to spent later that day. Much of the interest however came from observing common species moving quickly through the desert which included 1 Cuckoo, Willow Warblers, Pied Flycatchers, and Northern Wheatears.

We had "cleaned up" in the desert others had seen Houbara Bustard though these are farmed/released birds so therefore hardly "tickable". Late breakfast and back on the road and a direct journey to Soliel Bleu at Boulmalne Dades, with a stop at a Scrub Warbler site mentioned by a group of birders at Yasmina. We arrived at the Scrub Warbler site at c1:30pm and searched the wadi south of the road to no avail, almost immediately after entering the wadi on the north side we found a family group of 5+ individuals that showed well though fleetingly as they moved between bushes. Also present were Desert Lark and Desert Wheatear. This site is particularly handy as it is on the direct route from Rissani to Boulmalne, west of Erfoud on the road to Boulmalne Dades between Tinejdad and Tineahir near Azag Nochea turn (93km to Errachidia) park and search wadi above bridge (right-hand side when travelling West). We arrived at Soliel Bleu c4:15pm, noting our first Black Wheatear of the trip in the grounds and confiding House Buntings. During the night a Scop's Owl called vigorously from the river bed in the valley in the town.

Saturday 20th April

Another early start and out birding on the Tagdilt track and Wheatear wall. 2 Thick-billed Lark were opposite the Wheatear wall while Crested and Temminck's were also present, Wheatears were in good numbers Desert, Red-rumped and Northern Wheatears all being noted. A number of Harriers were on the move with 3-4 Marsh Harrier and a single ♂ Montague's, Swifts were constantly whizzing through in their dozens. Cream-coloured Coursers were numerous with small groups regular calling overhead, though difficult to get views of on the deck.

Having not had Mourning Wheatear we decided to bird the wadi on the opposite side of the main road where in previous years birds have been recorded. Access off the main road when heading East is at the 1st marker after Tinghir 48km sign take the track on the left for c2km until pylons, search area around three caves the middle one of which is blocked with stones. A ♀ Maghreb Mourning Wheatear showed very well feeding in the wadi though there was no sign of the ♂. A Short-toed Eagle was perched on an adjacent pylon, several Northern Wheatear, and another Little Owl were also seen. Having had good views of all likely species thus far we headed west stopping at Gorge de dades hoping for Tristram's Warbler. Indeed a Tristram's Warbler showed very well just before the major gorge on the small stream bed on the right just after the restaurant. Also seen were the only Blue Rock Thrush of the trip, 1-2 Moroccon White wagtails, 1 Black Redstart, Grey Wagtail, Crag Martins, 1 Rock Bunting and a single Barbary Ground Squirrel that headed across the road. A long drive to Quarzazate arriving at the Hotel for an evening rest and meal. White Stork was noted over and Common Bulbuls were in the gardens.

Sunday 21st April

Another tiring drive c5 hours to Agadir. Much the same as previous day’s bird wise from the car. 1 Pale morph Booted Eagle at a road side stop, otherwise a anticipated stop in Argan habitat (Gosney Pg 26 site 3) for Western Orphean Warbler didn't produce though many Moroccan Magpies, 1 Rufous Scrub Robin, Common Bulbuls, Crested Larks, Willow Warbler and Pied Flycatcher were all noted.

We pushed on arriving in Agadir Ibis budget hotel c3:00pm. We Birded Oued Sous from 4:15, 1 Stone Curlew roosted on the beach, 500+ waders including Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Whimbrel, Avocet, Sanderling, Black-winged Stilt, Greenshank, and Redshank. In and around the estuary and pools were 10+ Greater Flamingo, 50 Spoonbill, 1 Glossy Ibis, 12 Purple Heron and a Night Heron. Much of the bird interest came from the range of quality Terns and Gulls with Audouin's, Slender-billed, Black-headed Yellow-legged and Lesser black-backed while several hundred Terns held 2 Lesser-crested, Little, Artic, Sandwich, Gull-billed and 2 Black. Moroccan Cormorant was common while 2 Peregrines were overhead.

Despite fighting off many midges and staying in the area trying to remain out of sight of the King's palace we failed to see Red-necked Nightjar which was disappointing and the first major dip of the trip.

Monday 21st April

A reasonably late start at c9:00am next morning for a leisurely excursion up the coast for Bald Ibis. They were very easily picked up in flight and later foraging on the ground in the Tamri area. 80+ birds were seen in total and it seems they had a very successful breeding season this year thus fairing much better than the few if any wild birds left in the east of their range. Swift passage was well underway and birds were whizzing overhead in good numbers. A single Osprey on the estuary was also noteworthy though after an intense holiday birding we didn't explore the estuary on foot, instead we headed back to Agadir for Manchester United V's Aston Villa the night United sealed the 2012-13 premier league title.

Tuesday 23rd April

Our last full day birding we travelled north on the motorway with use of the sat nav to Marrakech and then onto Oukaimeden. Arriving at 1:00pm it was obvious that the snow had receded a great deal and despite some searching of the ski lift area we were unsuccessful with Crimson-winged Finch a likely split from the Asian form I have previously seen in Turkey. However we did score a rather dapper Black Redstart, a sublime ♂ Rock Thrush, 3 Booted Eagles, 150+ Chough, a Northern Wheatear and a few noisy Rock Sparrow. Retracing our steps we managed to locate and get exceptional views of a Levaillant's Green Woodpecker on the hairpin bends around the village (Gosney Pg 31 site 10) We also found several Wren, Rock Bunting, 1 Black-eared Wheatear, a Pied Flycatcher, Grey Wagtail, African Blue Tit and a few Chaffinch and Blackcap. The holiday was capped off with a brief view of White-rumped Swift as we headed out of the mountains and back to Marrakech.

At the end of a very successful trip we watched the sunset over Marrakech's Jemaa el-Fnaa square sipping a mint Tea, while Little and Pallid Swifts circled overhead.

Species Lists

1 Ruddy Shelduck
2 Mallard
3 Gadwall
4 Shoveler
5 Marbled Duck
6 Ferruginous Duck
7 Barbary Partridge
8 Quail
9 Black-necked Grebe
10 Little Grebe
11 Great-Crested Grebe
12 Gannet
13 Cormorant
14 Cattle Egret
15 Little Egret
16 Squacco Heron
17 Grey Heron
18 White Stork
19 Spoonbill
20 Glossy Ibis
21 Bald Ibis
22 Purple Heron
23 Greater Flamingo
24 Osprey
25 Short-toed Eagle
26 Booted Eagle
27 Black Kite
28 Marsh Harrier
29 Montagu's Harrier
30 Long-legged Buzzard
31 Honey Buzzard
32 Sparrowhawk
33 Goshawk
34 Kestrel
35 Lesser Kestrel
36 Hobby
37 Barbary Falcon
38 Lanner Falcon
39 Crake Sp
40 Moorhen
41 Coot
42 Red-knobbed Coot
43 Avocet
44 Black-winged Stilt
45 Stone Curlew
46 Cream Coloured Courser
47 Collared Pratincole
48 Ringed Plover
49 Kentish Plover
50 Grey Plover
51 Sanderling
52 Turnstone
53 Dunlin
54 Curlew Sandpiper
55 Little Stint
56 Wood Sandpiper
57 Common Sandpiper
58 Redshank
59 Spotted Redshank
60 Greenshank
61 Black-tailed Godwit
62 Bar-tailed Godwit
63 Whimbrel
64 Ruff
65 Artic Skua
66 Yellow-legged Gull
67 Lesser Black backed Gull
68 Audouin's Gull
69 Slender-billed Gull
70 Black-headed Gull
71 Sandwich Tern
72 Little Tern
73 Gull-billed Tern
74 Lesser Crested Tern
75 Spotted Sandgrouse
76 Crowned Sandgrouse
77 Feral Pigeon
78 Woodpigeon
79 Collared Dove
80 Turtle Dove
81 Laughing Dove
82 Cuckoo
83 Pharaoh Eagle Owl
84 Little Owl
85 Marsh Owl
86 Scop's Owl (heard only)
87 Egyptian Nightjar
88 Swift
89 Pallid Swift
90 Alpine Swift
91 White-rumped Swift
92 Little Swift
93 Hoopoe
94 Bee-eater
95 Blue-cheeked Bee Eater
96 Roller
97 Great-Spotted Woodpecker
98 Levaillant's Green Woodpecker
99 Wryneck
100 Skylark
101 Crested Lark
102 Thekla Lark
103 Short-toed Lark
104 Lesser Short-toed Lark
105 Desert Lark
106 Bar-tailed Desert Lark
107 Calandra Lark
108 Thick-billed Lark
109 Temminck's Lark
110 Dupont's Lark
111 Hoopoe Lark
112 Sand Martin
113 Brown-throated Sand Martin
114 Crag Martin
115 Swallow
116 Red-rumped Swallow
117 House Martin
118 Tree Pipit
119 White Wagtail
120 Blue Headed Wagtail
121 Grey Wagtail
122 Nightingale
123 Rufous Bush Robin
124 Redstart
125 Black Redstart
126 Wheatear
127 Seebohm's Wheatear
128 Maghreb Wheatear
129 White-crowned Wheatear
130 Black Wheatear
131 Desert Wheatear
132 Red-rumped Wheatear
133 Black-eared Wheatear
134 Whinchat
135 Blackbird
136 Blue Rock Thrush
137 Rufous Rock Thrush
138 Scrub Warbler
139 Garden Warbler
140 Whitethroat
141 Sardinian Warbler
142 Subalpine Warbler
143 African Desert Warbler
144 Tristram's Warbler
145 Moustached Warbler
146 Zitting Cisticola
147 Cetti's Warbler
148 Reed Warbler
149 Melodious Warbler
150 Western Olivaceous Warbler
151 Saharan Olivaceous Warbler
152 Willow Warbler
153 Wood Warbler
154 Western Bonelli's Warbler
155 Chiffchaff
156 Blackcap
157 Wren
158 Firecrest
159 Spotted Flycatcher
160 Pied Flycatcher
161 Great Tit
162 Coal Tit
163 African Blue Tit
164 Southern Grey Shrike
165 Woodchat Shrike
166 Black Crowned Chagra
167 Common Bulbul
168 Fulvous Babbler
169 Moroccan Magpie
170 Jackdaw
171 Chough
172 Raven
173 Brown-necked Raven
174 Spotless Starling
175 Golden Oriole
176 House Sparrow
177 Desert Sparrow
178 Rock Sparrow
179 African Chaffinch
180 Linnet
181 Goldfinch
182 Greenfinch
183 Serin
184 Hawfinch
185 Corn Bunting
186 House Bunting
187 Rock Bunting