Trip reports

Morocco April 2014

Morocco April 2014

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

York RSPB group visit to Morocco April 2014

The group totalled 26 and we met up with our four guides on arrival. Our hotel, in downtown Agadir, had a splendid swimming pool - a bit cold, but nevertheless several of us went on to brave its waters. After booking and settling in, we set off in two minibuses to the Sous estuary which turned out to be rather pongy but excellent for birds. We saw around 20 purple heron, flocks of slender-billed gull and gull-billed tern, a pair of Bonelli's eagle, several black-winged stilt and a rather distant pair of pratincole. There was also a blue-eyed version of what was otherwise our own magpie, thousands of stork circling the distant city, a nice little flock of flamingo and a perky Sardinian warbler in the bushes behind. Then it was back to the hotel for an excellent buffet dinner and in particular a good helping of tajine-cooked lamb.

Day 2 - We set off together for the Massa estuary and split into two groups on the way. A communal stop was made at a small garage (right) to look at a colony of little swifts diving into and out of their nests. We then made further stops to peer into gardens, fields and a small stream and were rewarded with excellent sightings of turtle dove, serin, stone curlew, cattle egret, little owl and kestrel. Later, below an ancient hillside mosque and in the space of a single hour we were treated to a feast of warblers - including subalpine, Sardinian, sedge, olivaceous, orphean, chiffchaff and Bonelli's. On some branches in the river below was a group of day-roosting glossy ibis. After meeting up for lunch, we made deeper forays into the estuary valley. These were rewarded by superb views of crested lark, black-crowned tchagra, yellow wagtail, black-eared wheatear, marbled teal and squacco heron. Another highlight was Moussier's redstart, an endemic to North Africa. A large mongoose was spotted running through the undergrowth, and on the way back we saw a long-legged buzzard eating something on a fence post.
Some of the more intrepid gentlemen went that night to watch football in a local club.

Day 3 - On this day, the groups headed in different directions - one to the Atlas Mountains and the other northward, along the coast to Tamri, to look for bald ibis. The mountain group had fine views of Bonelli's eagle and Barbary partridge. The coastal group stopped at a small beach for superb views of Audouin's gull, once one of the rarest gulls in the world, and there was also a LBB Gull that had been ringed as a chick at Flexistowe in 2011. On the adjacent cliffs a Barbary falcon and a peregrine falcon were seen, sitting almost side by side. Further on, before setting off across the scrubland to hunt for the ibis, there was a pause to take in a family of cream-coloured courser, only 200 yards away. Over the hill, and the ibis were close enough that we were able to appreciate their green and purple iridescence as they foraged and flew around us - and marvel at one of the rarest birds in Europe.
There was also a flock of short-toed lark, and a pair of stone curlew with their young stayed in view long enough for some first-class photos to be taken. Then back for more tajine!

Day 4 - Today we headed south toward Tioute and the ancient citadel of Tarroudant. As we passed through one small village, excellent views of a black-shouldered kite were achieved; and later, around a rubbish tip, we saw a flock of plain martins swooping and occasionally sitting. Lunch, with authentically poured mint tea (right), was taken in a Kasbah, or more correctly an ancient fortress which had been converted into a hotel.
The views from the terraces were stunning. Part of the rest of the day was spent in a large patch of semi-dead scrub where a family of fulvous babbler was reputed to live. They were soon spotted and went on to perform a sort of dance around us. Also in the scrub were seen several southern grey shrike, a pair of Barbary partridge and overhead, a beautiful male Montague's harrier.
The day ended with a visit to the fortified walls of Tarroudant and superb views from them of pallid and little swift.

Day 5 - The Atlas mountain group now went north for the ibis; and the ibis group went up the Atlas. The latter experienced rather 'iffy' weather but even so, gained excellent views of Tristram's warbler, black wheatear and African chaffinch as they made their slow but extremely interesting way up Paradise valley. Lunchtime was at 4,000 feet and made tolerable by a log fire in the restaurant. Outside the restaurant was a multitude of common birds including common bulbul (left) and sparrow. Later, Bonelli's eagle was again seen - as were more black-eared wheatear and a lesser kestrel. Fossils were purchased for a small fortune in a tiny shop manned by a very sharp salesman.

Day 6 - This day was dedicated to the semi-desert terrain west of Tiznit. The first group spent the whole day quartering a single area, whilst the second did one site in the morning and joined the other in the afternoon. Scorpions were a hazard! In the morning, a nice little flock of tawny pipit settled very close to give definitive views. And within a ten minute period in the afternoon, deep within a massive area of arid scrub, were seen a wryneck, a pair of trumpeter finch, a family of cream-coloured courser and a very close-to desert wheatear. The day ended with an added bonus - a group of thick-billed lark foraging only 20 to 30 feet away.

Day 7 - The guides offered a choice on this day - either to stay in Agadir to enjoy the hotel and sun, or to do a final two-thirds day of birding at the Massa estuary and National Park. Those who stayed behind enjoyed the pool, a bit of reading and a visit to the beach. The others had good views of Caspian tern, ruddy shelduck and grey plover; and repeat but closer exposure to Moussier's redstart, tchagra shrike and serin. That night we collected together our experiences and came up with a total bird count of 138 plus various mammals and reptiles. We thanked our guides - Ian, John, Phil and Graham and then retired for a good sleep before our flight home.
Gus McLaren