Sunday, 7 March 2010

Morocco - February 2010 Part 4

Lammergeier - Oukaimeden

Crimson winged Finch - Oukaimeden

Crimson winged Finch

Alpine Chough

Red billed Chough

Black crowned Tchagra - Sous valley

Moussier's Redstart

Moussiers Redstart

Hoopoe Lark

Thekla Lark
Day 9

We drove south of Agadir to the Sous river, we didnt actually get to the main river because of the extensive flood water. As it was I had to take shoes and socks off to wade to a bridge which nearly crossed a tributary of the Main river. The site had loads of potential as the flood plain was well vegetated with plenty of habitat for migrants. From the bridge we picked up Wryneck and Grasshopper warbler as well as another Moroccan speciality Black crowned Tchagra. We searched the river for hirundines. We could see a group down river but having lost access to the main site for Plain Martin as a result of flooded roads we were desperate to try and locate them here. The birds we were looking at were Swallows and Red rumped Swallows but we picked out something smaller flying up river towards us. It looked more and more hopeful as the two birds continued to fly towards the bridge. As they flew over us we could confirm Plain Martin.
Other birds seen in the area included: Glossy Ibis c60, Grey headed Wagtail, Moussier's Redstart, Marbled Teal. We moved on to have lunch at the De sous Massa reserve. A walk towards the estuary produced good views of Subalpine warbler and Blue rock thrush as well as more distant views of Marbled Teal, Ferruginous Duck, Pintail and Cormorant. On the drive back we had yet more Cream coloured Coursers and Stone Curlew. We decided to have another attempt at the Red necked Nightjar, as before we had a fleeting glimpse as it was picked out in the beam of a torch flying low into the trees.
Day 10

The day involved a long drive back to Marrakech and then on to the Ski resort of Oukaimeden in the High Atlas mountains. At one stop for coffee we had great views of a Black shouldered Kite circling above us with a group of Little Swifts. The temperature at mid morning near Marrakech was 31 but even though it got a little cooler as we started to climb into the Mountains we still had an over heating problem with the Mini bus. We made several stops as the driver nursed the bus on the long ascent but we made good use of the time recording Short toed, Booted and Golden Eagles on our way to the summit. We reached our hotel and were out again to explore the gardens and tracks leading up to the snow covered peaks. The first birds we encounted were Choughs, both Red billed and Alpine species filled the skies and were also very confiding amongst the tourists. Other birds seen during the afternoon were Black Redstart, Alpine accentor, Rock Sparrow and Rock Bunting.
Day 11
We woke to a howling gale the next morning. Prospects for birding looked bleak as the wind whipped up a penetrating dust. We soldiered on up to the ski lifts. It wasn't until the top lift that we started to see birds as the wind abated. Flocks of finches were feeding on the patched of bare eath at the bottom of the snow line and some came to feed amonst some disguarded Walnut shells. Crimson winged Finches were all around giving great opportunities to take a few snaps. By this time the group had fragmented searching at different levels along the track. The highest group saw it first. A large raptor with a diamond shaped tail. An immature Lammergeier flew over our heads and landed in a col. Wow! A bird I'd always dreamed of seeing. I'll never forget that moment, quite emotional. As we pulled ourselves together we were conscious that other members of our group further down the track may not have seen it, but luckily everyone had. Not the rarest bird we'd seen but in many ways the most impressive.
I wandered back to the hotel to try and get a coffee. Luckily they were still serving breakfast. so it was nice to sit and take in the wonderful mountain views and relax for perhaps the first time on the tour. Despite the bad weather initially it had been a very successful trip. Morocco is an amazing experience, full of contrasts. The birdlife is also diverse reflecting the many different habitats the country has to offer. Thanks must go to Peter Lansdown for his calm leadership and knowledge throughout. Thanks also to 'the team', everyone contributed in one way or another to make it a very good humoured and enjoyable trip.We found a total of 196 species and connected with all the 'special' birds except Desert Sparrow.

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