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Atlantic Coast Oct. 2007

Day 1 - 5

Tourleader/Trip Report: Peter Jones

Morocco – Atlantic Seaboard and Souss / Anti Atlas Regions
Although the trip was initially designed to investigate the north and western Atlantic side of Morocco with a view to organising future tours to Morocco, a number of clients accompanied this trip and we managed to locate several good species and sites. Despite a pre-occupation with discovering accommodation and routes, we nevertheless had several opportunities to relax and spend time locating target species i.e. Bald Ibis etc. As is the policy of Spanish Nature, we always visit new destinations/routes at least two times, so a further trip is imminent to finalise routes, birding sites and accommodation (November 2007). However, we are able to present a few details of our initial trip and make some observations which we hope will be of value to others planning to visit this part of Morocco.

Day 1 - October 12th - Tangier – El Jadida

Spanish Nature being based of course in Spain and because this was first and foremost an exploratory tour, we set-off from Tarifa and landed in Tangier. The first day 12th October was spent trying to make as great a distance as possible towards Agadir. Our first night was spent at El Jadida and due to the time travelling we had little opportunity to go birding. We did observe Golden Plover, Turnstone immediately in front of our beachside Hotel.

Day 2 - October 13th - El Jadida – Agadir

sandwich-ternToday we were able to spend more time and visit various sites along the coastal road from El Jadida to Agadir and in particular between El Jadida and Essaouira. Most of the salt lakes/lagoons produced good numbers of waders including Little Stint, Whimbrel, Grey Plover and of course Black-winged Stilts. Also gull roosts were evident with very good numbers of Audouin’s Gull with a surprise of a solitary Herring Gull Larus argentatus among Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls. Sandwich Tern was also present in high numbers. Raptors were seen well along the cliff tops on this journey and Lanner, Peregrine and Barbary Falcon all showed extremely well. The beach and lagoon at Tamri was fruitful and gave Garganey, Marbled Teal, Red-knobbed and Eurasian Coot, Shoveler, Crested and Common Pochard, Teal, Mallard, Spoonbill, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Peregrine, Reed Warbler, Whinchat, Ring Ouzel, Little Tern and Royal Tern etc.

Day 3 - October 14th - Agadir – Tiznit

thekla-larkWe found very little to recommend a return to Agadir as a place to stay, but it did have the compensation of being well placed to explore the Souss and Souss Masa reserve. Here we found Skylark, Thekla Lark, Crested Lark, Hoopoe Lark, Bonelli’s Eagle (2 adults and 1 juv), Short-toed Eagle, Osprey, Barbary Falcon, Marsh Harrier, Lesser Kestrel, Stone Curlew, Whimbrel, Bluethroat, Pied and Spotted Flycatcher, Willow, Orphean, Reed, Cetti’s, Fan-tailed, Spectacled Warblers and 00’s Chiffchaff, Yellow, White Wagtails, Moussier’s Redstarts and of course our target Bald Ibis! We found a good number of other species and these are contained within the listing at the end of this report.

Day 4 - October 15th - Tiznit – Cap Draa (Tafnidilt)
Apart from one stop between Tiznit and Guelmim (producing Spanish Sparrow), we made time to stop several times south of Guelmim. Very soon we found Fulvous Babbler, Thick-billed Lark, Temminck’s Horned Lark, Theklas and Crested Lark, Yellow Wagtails, Trumpeter Finches, Long-legged Buzzards, Lanner Falcon, Lesser and Common Kestrels, but the real bonus was a new and undisclosed site for Pharaoh Eagle Owl (no requests please after the swamping of the site at Rissani). Soon after arriving at Cap Draa we had time for a short walk in the surrounding desert and soon found Desert Warbler!

Day 5 - October 16th - Cap Draa – La Ayoune
red-rumped-wheatearIntending to return and further explore the Oued Draa we setoff for the long journey to La Ayoune. Before reaching Tan Tan we had an adult and juvenile Bonelli’s Eagle and some kilometres later we had another adult! South of Tan Tan and turning left to join the coastal road for La Ayoune before El Ouatia (Tan Tan Plage) we soon spotted Osprey and several Long-legged Buzzards, but surprisingly we also found Common Buzzard. Here we saw Common Kestrel frequently and less commonly Lanner Falcon and a solitary Peregrine. All the Oueds are worth a look here and large gull and tern roosts were seen at all of these outlets including Lesser Crested, Sandwich, Common and Little Terns. Knot and other waders were present in good numbers and large southerly movements noted for Gannet and a single Artic Skua! Feature birds for me since travelling south of Agadir were the Wheatears Black, Red-rumped and Desert all common, with Northern clearly following the western seaboard for the southerly journey in large numbers.

Day 6 - 10

Day 6 - October 17th - La Ayoune – Tafnidilt Oued Draa
We found the surrounding area of La Ayoune very poor for birds and the high profile of the local military made exploration difficult. Here we decided to head back North and what we considered richer birding. South of Tah was quiet and uneventful, but certain areas seemed like they might produce good returns, but apart from Tawny Pipit we found the next best area was the desert area around Tarfaya with good numbers of Hoopoe Lark providing entertainment (always a welcome and favourite bird). Foum Agoutir was an area rich in seabirds and waders, here we had Caspian, Black, Little, Gull-billed, Common and Sandwich Tern. We repeated our stops at all the Oueds south of El Ouatia and again were rewarded with more seabird and wader numbers including Lesser-crested Tern yet again. We also noted a Lesser Black-backed Gull with a Blue colour ring on its left leg coded in Black Y040 so any ideas?

Day 7 - October 18th - Tafnidilt Oued Draa
fan-tailed-warblerA day to relax and lunch in the wilds of the lower Oued Draa. We were hopeful of finding Streaked Scrub Warbler, but sad to say we dipped, but we found Tristram’s, Spectacled, Sub-alpine and other warblers. Also a number of Bluethroats, Redstarts and Turtle Dove were here. Montagu’s and Marsh Harrier also were seen throughout the day. Also rather late in the year we found Bush Chat Robin! Whinchat along with Northern Wheatear were common through the valley and on the more arid areas we found more Hoopoe Lark.

Day 8 - October 19th - Tafnidilt – Taroudant

Very soon into our journey north we spotted a juvenile Golden Eagle and it showed well for 15 minutes. In the same area we had Temminck’s Horned Lark and Thick-billed Lark. After Guelmim we made a side journey to Bou Jerif and here we had excellent views of Montagu’s Harrier and discovered a very promising river site, here we added Pallid and Common Swift, Wood Sandpiper and Black-eared Wheatear to our day list. In the open desert we had Whinchat and many warblers, together with the African sub species of Magpie near a camp site. We regretted we had to leave this area as the journey to Taroudant involved many more kilometres. Definitely a site we will visit again!

Day 9 - October 20th - Taroudant – Marrakech

stone-curlewOur journey to Marrakech is probably one of the most scenic routes you can take in Morocco, crossing the Atlas Mountains via the Tiz-n-Test pass. The landscape was breathtaking and here we were able to add Crag Martin, Rock Bunting and Chough to our growing species list. Descending to Marrakech we managed Sparrowhawk, Black Shouldered Kite and several Blue Rock Thrushes. Coal Tit and later in the villages House Buntings were to make our list for the day respectable.

Day 10 - October 21st - Marrakech – Tangier
The greatest surprise of the day was to discover the completion of the motorway link between Marrakech to Settat. The opening reducing our time for the journey to Tangier by over an hour and perhaps nearer to two hours! Very early into our journey we added Cream-coloured Courser, Calandra Lark and Black Kite to our tour list.

Impressions and summary
Our exploratory journey involved a round trip of some 4,000kms and of course we would not intend to repeat such an arduous route for future tours. Travelling such large distances necessarily reduced actual time spent looking for birds but, as our species listing shows, we managed a reasonable total.
Our objectives of identifying and discounting birding sites, plus finding good accommodation were for the largest part achieved. We intend to visit the area/s again during November 2007 to finalise the route and further investigate some potentially attractive birding sites.
magpie-mauritanicaFor those planning a visit to Morocco and intending to visit some of the above areas, then we can at least give you an idea of where not to waste time! Sadly some past recommended sites have either been destroyed or have degenerated to such an extent as to make further visits practically worthless. We saw nothing that would encourage us to explore further south than Tarfaya, but of course there may be sites further south of La Ayoune where it might be possible to see rare species. Our reasons for restricting our journey further south were because of time and fatigue! A very big disappointment for us was the area surrounding Taroudant. The raptor sites and especially the Argana forest area in and around Tafingoult were devoid of many species and the forest area looks to be a mere remnant of what must have previously been a prime site! Goat grazing and felling have left this area a shadow of its former self.
Upon further investigation and exploration, planned for this year, we will post another report and more accurately detail those areas we feel can be given a ‘miss’.

Bird List

The species list below gives all the species we have seen during our trip. We have given the english as well as the latin names.

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Eared Grebe Podiceps nigricollis
Cory's Shearwater Calonectris diomedea
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus
Northern Gannet Morus bassanus
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
White Stork Ciconia ciconia
Waldrapp Geronticus eremita
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea
Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna
Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope
Gadwall Anas strepera
Eurasian Teal Anas crecca
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Northern Pintail Anas acuta
Garganey Anas querquedula
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris
Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina
Common Pochard Aythya ferina
Osprey Pandion haliaetus
Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus
Black Kite Milvus migrans
Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus
Western Marsh-Harrier Circus aeruginosus
Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus
Eurasian Buzzard Buteo buteo
Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos
Bonelli's Eagle Aquila fasciatus
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni
Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Lanner Falcon Falco biarmicus
Barbary Falcon Falco pelegrinoides
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Red-knobbed Coot Fulica cristata
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra
Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta
Eurasian Thick-knee Burhinus oedicnemus
Cream-colored Courser Cursorius cursor
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus
European Golden-Plover Pluvialis apricaria
Black-bellied Plover Pluvialis squatarola
Common Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
Snowy Plover Charadrius alexandrinus
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata
Common Redshank Tringa totanus
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
Red Knot Calidris canutus
Sanderling Calidris alba
Little Stint Calidris minuta
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea
Dunlin Calidris alpina
Parasitic Jaeger Stercorarius parasiticus
Audouin's Gull Larus audouinii
Herring Gull Larus argentatus
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus
Gull-billed Tern Sterna nilotica
Caspian Tern Sterna caspia
Lesser Crested Tern Sterna bengalensis
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis
Royal Tern Sterna maxima
Common Tern Sterna hirundo
Little Tern Sterna albifrons
Black Tern Chlidonias niger
Rock Pigeon Columba livia
Common Wood-Pigeon Columba palumbus
Eurasian Turtle-Dove Streptopelia turtur
Eurasian Collared-Dove Streptopelia decaocto
Barn Owl Tyto alba
Pharaoh Eagle-Owl Bubo ascalaphus
Tawny Owl Strix aluco
Little Owl Athene noctua
Common Swift Apus apus
Pallid Swift Apus pallidus
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
Hoopoe Upupa epops
Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major
Desert Lark Ammomanes deserti
Greater Hoopoe-Lark Alaemon alaudipes
Thick-billed Lark Ramphocoris clotbey
Calandra Lark Melanocorypha calandra
Greater Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla
Lesser Short-toed Lark Calandrella rufescens
Crested Lark Galerida cristata
Thekla Lark Galerida theklae
Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis
Temminck's Lark Eremophila bilopha
Bank Swallow Riparia riparia
Eurasian Crag-Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Common House-Martin Delichon urbica
White Wagtail Motacilla alba
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava
Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris
Common Bulbul Pycnonotus barbatus
Blue Rock-Thrush Monticola solitarius
Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus
Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis
Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti
Eurasian Reed-Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus
Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
Iberian Chiffchaff Phylloscopus ibericus
Wood Warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
Greater Whitethroat Sylvia communis
African Desert Warbler Sylvia deserti
Western Orphean Warbler Sylvia hortensis
Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans
Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala
Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata
Tristram's Warbler Sylvia deserticola
Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata
European Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca
European Robin Erithacus rubecula
Bluethroat Luscinia svecica
Rufous-tailed Scrub-Robin Cercotrichas galactotes
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros
Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus
Moussier's Redstart Phoenicurus moussieri
Whinchat Saxicola rubetra
European Stonechat Saxicola rubicola
White-tailed Wheatear Oenanthe leucopyga
Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucura
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
Red-rumped Wheatear Oenanthe moesta
Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica
Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti
Fulvous Chatterer Turdoides fulvus
Coal Tit Periparus ater
Great Tit Parus major
Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus
African Blue Tit Cyanistes teneriffae
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea
Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica
Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax
Eurasian Jackdaw Corvus monedula
Common Raven Corvus corax
Spotless Starling Sturnus unicolor
Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus
Rock Bunting Emberiza cia
House Bunting Emberiza striolata
Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris
European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
Eurasian Linnet Carduelis cannabina
European Serin Serinus serinus
Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githaginea
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis
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