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Jan 2nd - 5th - Somerset Levels

Jan 7th - 20th. - Sri Lanka. £1850

Feb 16th - March 3rd Costa Rica - full

Mar 20th - 30th Morocco - 10 nights. - full

April 2nd - 9th - Andalucia migration tour. - full

April 10th - 18th - Coto Donana & Extremadura - £950 - 2 places

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Red-throated Bee-eater

Red-throated Bee-eater
join us for a fantastic tour of The Gambia this November

Friday, March 30, 2012

DAY TOUR - MARCH 30TH

Sierra Crestellina - Rio Genal - El Colmenar - Dolmens Encinas Borraches

It was great to be back on my own 'patch' again. But things had changed, many new species of flower were on show, all the trees were now verdant green and the avifauna was different. Black Redstarts, White Wagtails, Chiffchaffs and Song Thrushes had virtually disappeared. Bird song filled the air, Blackcaps, Chaffinches, Cetti's Warbler, Common Nightingale, Sardinian Warbler, Serins, Greenfinches and Goldfinches were all in full song. Spring had arrived.

I collected Naish and Sheila in Estapona, they are birders from Toronto, Canada. Naish is a big lister and wanted to see about 10 species missing from his European list.



By 9am we were at Crestellina looking for Bonelli's Eagle which didn't show, however we did see: Corn Bunting, Stonechat, Blackcap, Griffon Vulture and Booted Eagle.

At the Rio Genal we searched for Hawfinch and Common Nightingale, we heard at least 8 Nightingales but never saw one!! Not a single Hawfinch showed either. We did find Cetti's Warbler, lots of Blackcaps, Grey Wagtail, Cirl bunting, Bonelli's Warbler, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Serin, Spotless Starling and plenty of common species.

There were many raptors drifting up the valley: Griffon Vultures, Booted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Osprey, Western Marsh Harrier, Bonelli's Eagle and we also watched a Northern Goshawk for 15 minutes whilst it performed its strange courtship display. We also heard Bee-eater and Cirl Bunting but didn't see either.

Next we drove up to Gaucin and across to the Rio Guadiaro valley at El Colmenar. We stopped near the water pumping station hoping for Hawfinch and again we were thwarted. We did see Red-rumped Swallow, house Martin and we heard Green Woodpecker.

Further down the river we saw many common species and a few Black Kites flew over very high up.We then had lunch in El Colmenar before setting off towards Ronda.

It was now mid-afternoon and it had clouded over and a chilly wind had blown up, furthermore the access gate to the lovely Borraches track was locked so we had to scramble under the fence!

Once on the track we started finding birds, Southern Grey Shrike, Thekla Lark, Corn Bunting, Linnet and Goldfinch were seen within minutes. As we passed the heathland we heard the song of the Spectacled Warbler and despite the windy conditions the bird sat up for us. A pair of Cirl Buntings showed well but we couldn't find Subalpine Warbler in the cork oak woods.

Distant sightings of Blue Rock Thrush were had and a flock of some 9 Red-billed Chough were messing about on the nearby rocks.

We left the area at around 5pm and I took Naish & Sheila back to Estapona through showers of rain.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

MOROCCO - 10 DAY TOUR - DAY 11 - MARCH 27TH

Essaouira – Marrakech with a visit to N'FISS RESERVOIR (Lalla Takerkoust Barrage)

Our final day had arrived, we decided to have a lie-in and took breakfast at 7:30am. What a luxury!! We set off at 8:30am for Marrakech, we planned a couple of stops along the way to look for larks. The first stop was some 30km west of Essaouira in open farmland. Our walk produced some interesting species, Stone Curlew, Cream-coloured Courser, Hoopoe, Thekla lark, Marsh Harrier, Little Owl and many Yellow Wagtails. The second stop produced very little because it was now very hot and heat haze restricted our viewing.

We decided to head for the large reservoir 30km south of Marrakech, as we approached the area we found Black-winged Kite, Woodchat and Great Grey Shrikes, we heard several Common Nightingales and also saw Red-rumped Swallow. At the reservoir we found Ruddy Shelduck, Greater Flamingo, Eurasian Spoonbill, Osprey, Common Sandpiper and Moroccan Cormorant. A Common Cuckoo had us on the run, we searched but failed to locate it, and during lunch, which was taken on the terrace of a restaurant that overlooked the water, we were entertained by Common Bubuls that were coming to tit-bits from the table.

We have had enough!!!! The group going back to the bus for the last time!!!

Well that was that, the end of the tour, we drove to the Airport with no further sightings to add. Over the last 10-days we had recorded 190 species, heard two more (Wren & Tawny Owl) and seen two subspecies that are likely to be split in the future, Moroccan Wagtail and Long-billed Crested Lark. A great time was had by all and some special memories are going home with us!!!

Thanks for reading this - next year's tour will commence Monday 18th March 2013 if you are interested in joining us book early as this trip is very popular!


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

MOROCCO - 10 DAY TOUR - DAY 10 - MARCH 26TH

Agadir – Oued Sous – Tamri – Oued Ksob – Essaouira

This was our last full day birding, we needed to see a few more species, especially waders, gulls and terns as well as the Bald Ibis. At 7:30am we arrived at Oued Sous the tide was low with a large area of exposed mudflats along the river, the air was very still and there was a thick mist shrouding the river. From the nearest viewpoints on the approach road we listed many of the waders seen yesterday as well as Greater Flamingo, Grey Heron, Little and Cattle Egrets and also our first new bird of the day, Common Shelduck. Towards the river mouth we found Avocets, a party of 12 birds was new for the list and just after that we saw our first Common Snipe as it flew in front of us.

The Group birding in the fog at Oued Sous

A pool on the salt marsh held quite a selection of birds with Eurasian Spoonbill, Little Egret, Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwits, Redshank, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Little Stint, Black Winged Stilts and another new bird for the list, Whiskered Tern. Other birds of note were: Stone Curlew, Curlew, Audouin’s Gull, Sandwich Tern and lots of plovers of four different species.

On the return trip we added a distant Black-crowned Tchagra, European Bee-eater, Osprey and our one and only Slender-billed Gull!

After 3 ½ hours at Oued Sous and some great birding we drove north through Agadir heading for Tamri, the mist was slowly lifting although it was thick in places. At cape Rhir we stopped to look for Bald Ibis and before the minibus had come to a standstill we had located half a dozen birds. We had very close views of them as they fed on the mountainside, ugly, but nice to see. As the mist was lifting we decided to try some sea-watching, it was very quiet out there and apart from the usual gulls we saw about 10 Northern Gannets. Along the beach we could see a Little Egret and whilst ‘scoping’ the bird we discovered Greenshank, Turnstone, Whimbrel and Sanderling.

At Tamri we bought lunch and drove to the river just outside the town where we ate our picnic. The large brackish pool held many Common Coot, Common Sandpiper, Moroccan Wagtail, Audouin’s Gull, Spoonbill, Little Egret and whilst we were there about 20 Bald Ibis dropped in to wash. A Marsh Harrier sat in the reeds and during a short walk we found Sedge Warbler, Tree Pipit, Robin, Subalpine Warbler, lots of Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers, Serins and Sardinian Warblers.

The habitat of the Bald Ibis

Just south of Essaouira we turned off the main road to pay a visit to Oued Ksob and despite huge development in the area, including a new bridge, there were lots of birds to see. The shrubby tobacco plants held lots of Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Serins and a Moussier’s Redstart. Down by the river we had a terrific n hour watching many species coming to drink and bathe, the number of Blackcaps was astounding, we often counted ten at a time coming to drink, a conservative estimate would have been 50 – 100 in this small area.

Many other species joined the Blackcaps at the water, at ant one time you could see: Greenfinch, Blackcap, Goldfinch, African Chaffinch, Linnet, Chiffchaff, Song Thrush, Blackbird and Laughing & Collared Doves.

A goat in the canopy of a tree!!!!

Our target species the Plain Martin turned up in good numbers throughout our stay, there was probably a dozen birds in all, we could see their nest holes in the sandy bank, we also found our second target bird, Common Kingfisher, two of them graced us with their presence. A group of Cattle Egrets sat in the trees above the water, they were looking good in summer plumage, a Little Egret Joined them, we also found several waders in the river: Redshank, Greenshank, Wood, Common & Green Sandpipers, Little Ringed Plover and lots of wagtails, Yellow, White and Moroccan.

A ‘good find’ turned up whilst we scanned the row of rushes along the far bank in the form of a Moustached Warbler, it was good to compare it to Sedge Warblers that were also present. Further sightings included: a Spotted Flycatcher which is a very early record for this species, also lots of Moorhens, Spotless Starling, Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Grey Heron.

We had about an hour left before the sun went down so we walked down river from the new bridge to it’s mouth where a huge roost of Gulls could be seen. We added our first Mediterranean Gull there, but also saw lots of Audouin’s Gulls, a single Black-headed Gull, in a roost fo over 1,000 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, we saw a Shoveler in the river, Sanderling, Ringed and Kentish Plover and lots more waders mentioned above, feeding along the river bank.

In all in all it was a superb day-out, we recorded several new species in a total of 101 species, our best day-tally of the trip and a very enjoyable day.

Monday, March 26, 2012

MOROCCO - 10 DAY TOUR - DAY 9 - MARCH 25TH



Souss Massa National Park

This was our best birding day so far, the weather was gorgeous, the birds superb and the group saw several new birds, the total for the day was 86 species. We ate breakfast at 6:30am and set off for the hour-long journey southward to Souss Massa. Common Bubuls were calling loudly in the hotel grounds as we left and along the way we noted Great Grey Shrike, Spotless Starling, Moroccan Magpie, Little Swift, Laughing Dove and Crested Lark.

We stopped just before the entrance to the national park to scan the heathland and found Moussier’s Redstart, European Bee-eater, Little Owl, House Bunting, Sardinian Warbler and Common Kestrel. Our first walk began just inside the reserve perimeter, we were situated on a track high above the river and we could see for miles across fields and farmland. The birding was so good that it took us 1 ½ hours to walk a few hundred meters. We added several new species to our trip list: Marbled Duck (a flock of about 20 birds), Purple Heron, Common Coot and Glossy Ibis were amongst the first.

BLACK-CROWNED TCHAGRA - ONE OF FIVE SEEN THIS MORNING

After about 100 meters we heard our first Black-crowned Tchagra, it moved very close to us and we all had superb views of this must-see species. Other birds entertaining us were House Bunting, Black-eared Wheatear, Cetti’s Warbler, our first Garden Warbler, Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers, Blackcaps, Sardinian Warblers, Subalpine Warblers and a very showy Common Nightingale which was perched on the ground out in the open. Further along the track we could see the mouth of the river and the sand bar across it. On and near the sandbar we could see, Eurasian Spoonbills, Glossy Ibis, Greater Flamingos, a huge flock of (150+) Sandwich Terns, Caspian Tern (5), Audouin’s Gull (35), Yellow-legged, Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls. In the water we found Little Grebe, Little Egret, Moroccan Cormorant and along the shore we saw Oystercatcher, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Sanderling, Ringed Plover and Kentish Plover. The sea was very misty so we couldn’t see off shore but the track itself was superb for flowers butterflies and birds. There were Linnets, many in bright red summer plumage, Stonechats, Moussier’s Redstarts, Goldfinches and sylvia warblers mainly Sardinian and Subalpine.

BLACK-EARED WHEATEAR

At lunchtime we walked north along the coast and met Ahmed with the minibus who then drove us back into Massa to buy lunch. We ate our picnic by the side of the river where we found our first Plain Martin which was feeding over the water with many Red-rumped Swallows, Barn Swallows, House and Sand Martins. For the next 2 hours we walked along a track that ran parallel to the river and passed through many fields where Lucerne was being harvested. These fields held many species too, we found Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit, Tawny Pipit, Green Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Spotless Staring, lots of Zitting Cisticolas, a Western Olivaceous Warbler was a nice find as was two Great Spotted Cuckoos, bird of the day for many of the group. Above us we watched a Black Kite which was being attacked by a Black-winged Kite and several parties of Glossy Ibis flew over. Most of the fields held good numbers of Yellow Wagtails the majority of which were the subspecies, Iberiae, or Blue-headed Wagtail.

Tiredness eventually caught up with us so we walked back to the bus, but before we set off back to Agadir and the hotel, we spent 30 minutes looking over the river trying to get a better sighting of ther Plain Martin but all we got was another brief glimpse.

DAVE WITH A CHAMELEON THAT HE FOUND - BIGGEST ONE I HAVE EVER SEEN!

We ended the day early as pulled into the hotel car park at 5pm. We ate a peppered steak at 7:30pm before retiring at 10pm for a well earned rest.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

MOROCCO - 10 DAY TOUR - DAY 8 - MARCH 24TH

Taliouine to Agadir via the ‘Sous Plain’ passing through Aoulouz and Taroudant.
THEY DON'T LOOK TOO HAPPY ABOUT BEING OUT AT 6AM DO THEY?

A similar walk was taken down towards the river at 6:15am just as it was getting light. We didn’t find any new species for the list but we did get better views of everything because the wind had died down. Common Nightingales were singing sporadically, we found Common Redstart along with all species seen yesterday.

THE VIEW FROM THE TERRACE AT AUBERGE TOUBKAL AT TALIOUINE

The second leg on the journey to the coast was commenced at 7:30am and it wasn’t long before we stopped for a spot of birding. It was the Gorge at Aoulouz that was our destination. From the bridge just outside the town we look over a good stretch of the almost dry Oued Sous we could see into the mouth of the gorge. From our high vantage point we located a good number of species, new birds included Great White Egret and Squacco Heron, they were joined by Little & cattle egrets, Green Sandpipers, Little Ringed Plovers, Moroccan Wagtails, Water Pipits, Greenshank and Grey Herons. We then walked into the gorge and watched a few falcons on the cliffs, they were Common Kestrel and Peregrines. Hundreds of European Bee-eaters flew over us and higher up we found Marsh Harrier, our first Montagu’s Harrier, Griffon Vulture, Black Kite and another ‘first’ Short-toed Eagle.


ONE OF THE FEW LIZARDS SEEN ON THE TRIP SO FAR - AS YET UNIDENTIFIED

As we walked further into the gorge we looked down over small cultivated fields surrounded by a variety of shrubs and trees. In this vegetation we found Common Nightingale, Sardinian Warbler, many Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Chaffinches. High up in one of the trees we found a dozen or so of Black-crowned Night Herons, many were juveniles and they gave us superb views.

A few kilometers further along the sous plains we stopped again and took a short walk, we were hoping to fimd cuckoos but all we managed were a few Black Kites, Marsh Harriers, lots of Woodchat Shrikes and Black-eared Wheatears and hundreds of Bee-eaters. Over the nest 50km we must have seen over 500 Bee-eaters!! Also many Swallows and House Martins, Spotless Starlings, Common Bubul and we did get a glimpse of two Fulvus Babblers that were perched in a roadside tree. As we descended into the sous valley and the Argan Forest we noticed our first tree climbing Goats, they were incredible and some were really high up in the trees, no I hadn’t been drinking!!!

We arrived at our hotel at 2pm, we checked into our rooms and had a quick wash and change before setting off for the nearby Oued Sous. Great disappointment greeted us as we approached the river, hundreds of cars were parked along the road and we soon found out that a major golf tournament was taking place on the new golf course next to the King’s Palace, much worse news was to come, the track to the Oued Sous nature trail was closed for security purposes so we couldn’t even see the river mouth.

Nevertheless we stayed upriver and spent a couple of hours finding several species of waders, as the tide went out more mud appeared and hence more birds. We logged Redshank, Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Black-tailed Godwit, Little, Ringed, Kentish and Grey Plovers, Green and Common Sandpipers and Black-winged Stilt. We also found Greater Flamingo, Eurasian Spoonbill, White stork (150+), Little and Cattle Egrets, Grey Heron and Moroccan Cormorant.

In the salt marsh scrub we saw Zitting Cisticola and Sardinian Warblers and our best find was Stone Curlew (5). It wasn’t so bad after all but as the sun went down the breeze became a cold wind so we beat a hasty retreat and headed for the hotel and a nice hot dinner (not tajine for a change).




MOROCCO - 10 DAY TOUR - DAY 7 - MARCH 23rd

Café Yasmina to Taliouine

We were on the road by 7:30am after we had consumed a lovely breakfast at Café Yasmina, our first stop was along the Alnif road in the area of rocky cliffs and desert valleys. We drove straight to the Lanner Falcon’s nest that we visited yesterday hoping to see an adult bird. Unfortunately neither of them showed up, in the meantime, we found another Pharoah Eagle Owl sitting in a rocky crag. Other birds of note were Brown-necked Raven, White-crowned Wheatear, Thekla Lark and Trumpeter Finch.

A BAD PICTURE OF A PHAROAH EAGLE OWL - IT WAS DISTANT AND IN THE DARK

AN UNEXPECTED FIND ON THE CLIFFS - RUDDY SHELDUCK, THEY DO BREED IN THIS HABITAT!

During the next 4-5 hours we drove across the country heading towards the west coast at Agadir making several stops along the way. We bought lunch in Agdz and sat to eat it just 5km west of the town. Laughing Dove was a new addition to our list which was seen whilst we ate our picnic, we also saw Black-eared Wheater, Woodchat Shrike and European Bee-eater.

We arrived at Taliouine at 4:30pm, our accommodation was at the Toubkal Auberge on the edge of town, the auberge overlooked an area of woodland, cultivated land and the Oued Zagmouzen (which was virtually dry). Before dinner we took a walk down towards the river and despite the very windy conditions we saw quite a number of birds. Spanish Sparrow was the only new species but we did see a good variety of common woodland species. There were many Laughing Doves, Hoopoe, European Bee-eaters, African Chaffinches, Subalpine Warblers, Woodchat Shrikes, Common Bubuls and several other species.

AFRICAN CHAFFINCH SHOWING THE LOVELY GREEN BACK

Thursday, March 22, 2012

MOROCCO - 10 DAY TOUR - DAY 6 - MARCH 22nd

Café Yasmina to several areas around Rissani

Another early start found us in the dry lake area of the grounds of Café Ysamina where we watched the Desert Sparrows for a while and then watched the ringing group handle several species that they had captured in their mist nets. These birds included Common Nightingale, Common Redstart, Woodchat Shrike and Eurasian Chiffchaff.

The rest of the day was spent visiting several areas in and around Rissani, along the way we saw Bar-tailed Desert Lark, many Brown-necked Ravens, Short-toed Larks and Trumpeter Finches.

INTREPID BIRDERS LOOKING UP AT THE EAGLE OWL

The first area we visited at Rissani had small cultivated fields surrounded by palm groves and as we passed through this area we saw a group of Fulvus Babblers! After jumping out of the bus we all had prolonged views of this special bird, another prize in the bag.

FULVUS BABBLER

The next landscape we encountered consisted of large sections of sloping rock stretching up to over 50 meters in height, these rocky slopes were surrounded by areas of open sand areas. It was in this rock face that we located our second target bird, the Pharoah Eagle Owl, this was a great find and one enjoyed by all. In this area we also found Long-billed Crested Lark, White-crowned Wheatear and Short-toed Lark.

We drove back through the centre of Rissani where we picked up our supplies for lunch, after we drove to the river Ghriz for a picnic. Unfortunately the river was almost dry so not many birds were found there. We did see Little Egret, Little Grebe, Grey Heron, Moroccan Wagtail, Black-eared Wheatear, Willow Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Reed Warbler and over 40 Brown-necked Ravens were circling over the nearby rubbish dump.

The rest of the afternoon was spent searching other rocky areas for Barbary and Lanner Falcons but we only found Peregrine Falcon, the falcon was eating what looked like a Blue Rock Thrush. We also spent some time searching the open scrub areas for sandgrouse, in this aspect we had more success, we saw both Spotted and Crowned Sandgrouse. The Spotted variety numbered 13 and required quite a walk in the heat of the afternoon, they wouldn’t allow close approach. However the Crowned Sandgrouse was so much easier on our feet.


We drove to another area of scrub and as we arrived we found 9 Crowned Sandgrouse by the side of the track, they were within 10 meters of the bus and we all enjoyed superb views of them. We even crept out of the bus and took some good close pictures of them.


CROWNED SANDGROUSE - SEE THE CROWN ON THE MALE UPPER PICTURE RIGHT

It was now getting late so we set off back to Café Yasmina and as we passed through Rissani we added Little Owl to our list as we saw 3 of them perched on old buildings.

MOROCCO - 10 DAY TOUR - DAY 5 - MARCH 21st

All day in the Mergzouga area

Another early start saw most of the group assembling on the terrace of the Kasbah Café Yasmina at 6am. The visiting ringing group was putting out their nets and whilst they were doing that we went for a short walk outside of the Kasbah walls. It was dull and overcast but not too windy, we found several species before returning to the terrace. A high flying Harrier went by and a much lower Brown-necked Raven, we also saw a couple of Northern Wheatears but not much else.

Back on the terrace the ringing group let us follow them on their rounds of the mist nets, they caught 3 birds, a House Sparrow and 2 Short-toed Larks, we watched the larks being ‘processed’ and ringed before their release.

By 8am we were off in the minibus heading towards Merzouga, we stopped a few time to watch some desert species which included: Hoopoe Lark, Bar-tailed Desert Lark, Desert Wheatear and small flocks of Short-toed Larks. We took a walk in dry river bed which had a lot of vegetation and it was there that we located a pair of Desert Warbler, they showed very well down to a few meters, a lovely sighting and another Moroccan must-see species in the bag.

We continued along the track to Merzouga and onto the main tarmac road, along this road we found two Brown-necked Ravens feeding on a rubbish tip, everyone had good views in the scope. To finish of this excursion we drove over to the lake, (we knew it had evaporated but we wanted to check out the surrounding area). By the time we arrived at the ‘lake’ the wind had picked up and it was very strong so we decided to call it a day, We drove back to Café Yasmina and had lunch at 1pm. The rest of the afternoon was ‘free time’ but most of the group took a walk into the tamarisks and spent a couple of hours watching migrant birds.

In the sheltered area of the dry lake we found many Chiffchaffs, Willow Warbler, Bonelli’s Warbler, Subalpine & Sardinian Warblers, Common Redstart and Woodchat Shrike. A lovely dinner was taken at 7:30pm.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

MOROCCO - 10 DAY TOUR - DAY 4 - MARCH 20TH

DAY 4 – MARCH 20TH - BOUMALNE DADES TO MERZOUGA ERG CHEBBI SAND DUNES VIA GOULMIMA, ERFOUD AND RISSANI


Our hotel on the edge of Boumalne Dades

Today started just as yesterday did with an early breakfast and a quick visit to the small ‘dump’ near the hotel. This time we didn’t return to the hotel but instead set off for our 3 –day excursion to the desert region.

At the ‘dump’ we found all the species that we recorded yesterday with particularly good views of Trumpeter Finch, Red-rumped Wheatear, Northern Wheatear, Desert Wheatear and Short-toed Lark.

Red-rumped Wheatear

After 40km of driving due east from Boumalne Dades we pulled over to look around a well known site for Magreb Wheatear. We didn’t see the wheatear but many common species were present. Just after we loaded up the bus to leave ashout went up from the back of the bus “THICK-BILLED LARK”. Using the bus as a hide two larks approached very close and well enjoyed fantastic views of this elusive species, what a great find for us.

Our good luck continued as we stopped east of Goulmima to search for the hard-to-find Scrub Warbler, after 30 minutes of searching in the midday heat we found two of these little beauties. We also recorded Spectacled Warbler, Great grey Shrike and Desert Wheatear.

From there we set off back towards Goulmima, a brief stop at the river on the edge of town we found Black-winged Stilt, Green Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Little Egret and Cattle Egret. We then bought lunch in Goulmima and drove south towards Erfoud, we ate our picnic overlooking a river where we found a couple of Moroccan Wagtails, also a Little Stint, Blue rock Thrush, Moorhen, Sardinian Warbler and White Wagtails.

The last leg of our journey took us across the desert on rough tracks, we could see the magnificent Erg Chebbi sand dunes in the distant, they looked like golden mountains in the light of the afternoon sun, It was along these tracks we found our first Bar-tailed Desert Larks. We arrived at Kasbah Café Yasmina at 5pm with just enough time left for a quick walk around the grounds. Café Yasmina is situated directly below the Erg Chebbi sand dune system and it usually has a large seasonal lake adjacent to it. This dry winter has left the lake devoid of water but the surrounding tamarisk provides a good area for birding. It was in the tamarisk that we found a pair of Desert Sparrows, which was a great treat for the group, we also saw several Subalpine Warblers and a single Whinchat.

Long-billed Crested lark

Dinner was taken in the large dining room at café Yasmina and our last bird of the day was a White-crowned Wheatear which decided to roost in the cane-roof above our dining table!

Monday, March 19, 2012

MOROCCO - 10 DAY TOUR - DAY 3 - MARCH 19TH

BOUMALNE DADES THE TAGDILT TRACK AND GORGE DU DADES
Another early breakfast-call found us in the dining room at 6:30am and after consuming a lovely breakfast we set off on foot towards the Tagdilt Track. Our first bird of the day was a House Bunting which was on the roof of the hotel this was quickly followed by Barn Swallow and a single House Martin.

SOME OF THE GROUP - SOMEWHERE OUT ON THE TAGDILT TRACK

We walked out to the mini-dump a few hundred meters from the hotel entrance, we were hoping for a sighting of Thick-billed Lark but failed to find one, however we were happy to watch Desert Lark, Thekla Lark, Trumpeter Finch, Red-rumped Wheatear and Northern Wheatear. Our driver Ahmed brought the bus over to collect us and as we were embarking a pair of Barbary Falcons flew over.

RED-RUMPED WHEATEAR (FEMALE)

Once inside the bus we set off for the ‘new’ Tagdilt track, which is in fact a tarmac road, several stops along this road produced more species, the best was a Lanner Falcon which flashed across the road in front of the bus. We saw a Marsh Harrier attack a couple of falcons that we perched on the ground near the road, they turned out to be Barbary Falcons, probably the two seen 10 minutes ago. We saw many flocks of Short-toed Larks, our first Temminck’s Horned Lark, Desert Wheatear, Red-rumped Wheatear and, a great find, a Magreb Wheatear.

GREAT GREY SHRIKE

A visit to a mini oasis provided more sightings; 2 Hoopoes, Common Chiffchaff, Long-legged Buzzard, another Marsh Harrier, Great Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Spectacled Warbler, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, lots more Short-toed Larks, Northern Wheatear and Trumpeter finches.

DESERT WHEATEAR (MALE)

Back on the Tagdilt Track we turned west and headed out onto the ‘hammada’, this stony desert habitat is home to several sought after species. Cream-coloured Coursers gave themselves up quite easily when a flock of 25 flew over the bus, but the Hoopoe Lark took some finding, but what a great find, we actually found a bird sitting on a nest of eggs! Further searching produced Tawny Pipit, several Black Kites, a flock of White Storks, a probable distant Lanner Falcon, White Wagtail and our last bird of the morning was a Lesser Short-toed Lark.

TWO PICTURES OF HOOPOE LARK AND ONE OF THE NEST AND EGGS


At lunchtime we drove into Boumalne Dades to pick up picnic supplies before driving up through the Dades Gorge. Along the way to the head of the gorge we stopped to watch Crag Martin, Blue Rock Thrush, Black Redstart, Black Wheatear and Common Bubul. Near the top of the gorge we walked along the road whilst searching the mountain scrub for warblers. The Tristram’s Warbler was our main target and after a short while we found 3 of them, one in particular showed very well.

TRISTRAM'S WARBLER

For the last couple of hours we re-visited the Tagdilt track still searching for the Thick-billed Lark, without success. We find many of the species seen earlier and one nice find was a large number of Short-toed Larks feeding on what appeared to be a large spillage of salt, it was an incredible site.

SHORT-TOED LARKS FEEDING ON THE SALT SPILLAGE

The weather had taken a turn for the worse, it clouded over, the wind picked up and the temperature dropped, so we made a hasty retreat back to the hotel where we had a relaxing couple of hours before dinner.