Morocco Mar 01—16, 2018
Posted by Machiel Valkenburg
Our Morocco tour started out in the historical city of Marrakech, but we left the city on the very first morning, to come back for a detailed exploration of the region by the end of the tour. We headed for the coastal city of Agadir; unfortunately for us we were teased by the weather gods with a lot of rainfall during the drive southwest. For two full days we toured the coast and some very interesting wetlands and orchards—this time the gods behaved! As this area of Morocco receives more precipitation than other parts of the country, we were able to track down many of the local occurring specialties in some very attractive green habitats.
The very first bird we saw in our bins and scopes was immediately the most endangered and rare bird of the tour: we were lucky with a group of 19 Bald Ibis (sometimes also called Waldrapp) easily searching for food in a beautiful open coastal habitat with steep cliffs. They gave excellent views, and we would find another group in the other part of town not long after. The gorgeous Moussier´s Redstart was scoped as well, and we had wonderful close looks at this limited range species. The amateur naturalist Jean Moussier, a surgeon in the French Army during the Napoleonic wars, described this species during his free time strolls. A wonderful name for a wonderful bird. Another top bird we came across was Black-crowned Tchagra. Two birds came in close, having a look, amazing birds with a striking head pattern. The first Black Wheatears were seen, and along the coast also many seabirds. The átlantis race of Yellow-legged Gull was common, Audouin’s Gull was exquisite as usual, and Little Gull was a bonus. The many tropical noises from the Common Bulbul gave us a real feeling of birding in Africa! Other specialties included African Blue Tit, Spotless Starling, and the always-present House Bunting.
By way of Ouarzazate, we reached our next destination on our trip, Boumalne Dades, an oasis located in some very inviting open stone desert. We headed straight for the famous Tagdilt Track, and when stepping out immediately saw a splendid Red-rumped Wheatear. While exploring the stone desert, with the snow-capped peaks of the Atlas Mountains in the background, life simply could not have been better. Here we saw as well a handful of typical desert birds: Desert Lark, Desert Wheatear, Little Owl, White-crowned Wheatear, and Temminck’s Lark. In this part of the country we had a few regional endemics and specialized species to find. We did great on the famous Thick-billed Lark, enjoying a large group of 17 birds in perfect light conditions. We also found more White-crowned Wheatears and several Cream-colored Coursers. In a little gorge we looked in the bright yellow eyes of another Little Owl, but the best bird here was a Maghreb Wheatear! This species is a possible split from Mourning Wheatear; we had excellent looks and studied all its separating features.
Read Machiel’s full report in his Field Report.