A big birdlist with a real flavour of North Africa!
Leader Cristian Jensen and local guides. Max 12 clients.
An eleven day delight in North Africa covering the birdlife of desert, mountain, coast and wetlands, plus the spectacle of spring migration from Africa to Europe. Morocco has specialities and near-endemics only found in the south of the Western Palearctic, and the country could have been designed purely for birding! The variety of habitats includes stony deserts (hammada), sand dunes, lakes, rivers, estuaries and the immense Atlas Mountains, where we drive to around 2600m to go birding. giving it extremely interesting avifauna. The birdlife is complemented by amazing polychromatic rocky landscapes which makes driving a picturesque sequence of endless pleasure. Morocco still has a rural style of life lost in most of the European countries, which has helped birdlife for centuries. In late March passerines are migrating to Europe and the beautiful Morrocan landscape explodes into bloom, helping birds such as Nightingale, warblers and buntings on northward migration, adding an extra dimension to the tour. By fully exploring all these habitats we should find a mouth-watering hitlist of species.
Day 1 Fly to Marrakesh, where White Stork Pallid & Little Swift are abundant. Before dinner short walk around the nearby gardens will produce interesting birdwatching. Optional visit to Marrakesh city after dinner. Overnight in Marrakesh
Day 2 This morning we drive up into the High Atlas Mountains and visit Oukaimeden. As we drive along the cultivated valley floor we should find a good mix of resident and migrant species such as Woodchat Shrike, Common Crossbill, Hawfinch, Brambling, House , Rock & Cirl Bunting and we may see stunning Moussier's Redstart. Slightly higher up among the rocky slopes we will search for Barbary Partridge, Blue Rock Thrush and the endemic Levaillant's Woodpecker. When we finally reach the ski resort of Oukaimeden we will take some time to admire the stunning scenery before beginning our search of the snowline for handsome Crimson-winged Finch. Other species here include Alpine Accentor, Rock Sparrow, Water Pipit, the seebohmi race of Northern Wheatear, Red-billed and Alpine Chough and Shore Lark. Raptors to keep an eye out for include Golden Eagle and possibly the majestic Lammergeier. Overnight in Marrakesh
Day 3 From Marrakesh to El Kelaa. We will drive through the High Atlas Mountains where snowy peaks visible from miles away decorate the landscape through an unexpected series of different habitats. We have our own raptor watch point, from where we search the blue Moroccan skies for resident and migrant birds including Lanner, Barbary Falcon, Lesser Kestrel, Black Kite, Long-legged Buzzard, Short-toed and Booted Eagle. We will stop at the scenic and impressive Tizi `n' Tichka pass to admire its fabulous geological rock formations before continuing on our journey to the stony desert. The road through the mountains is extremely winding and we take our time, stopping at a few convenient locations for exciting birds such as Levaillant´s Woodpecker, Mourning Wheatear and Trumpeter Finch. Overnight in El- Kelaa.
Day 4 After a good night's sleep we will make an early morning visit to the famous Tagdilt Track. Despite the nearby rubbish tip this is still an excellent area for some very special birds. Careful searching could reveal Cream-coloured Courser, Black-bellied & Crowned Sandgrouse, Thick-billed, Bar-tailed, Desert and Temminck's Horned Lark, as well as Red-rumped and Desert Wheatear and Trumpeter Finch.One a recent trip we saw Houbara Bustard ten metres from the vehicle here! We also keep searching overhead for Lanner, Long-legged Buzzard, Booted Eagle, Montagu's Harrier and other migrants. In the afternoon we will head for the spectacular Todra Gorge, where the towering pink rock walls are home to Crag Martin, Pale Crag Martin, Alpine Swift, Blue Rock Thrush, Barbary Partridge, Rock Bunting and Bonelli's Eagle. In the open areas are Mourning Wheatear and Desert Lark, and here we have our first chance of North-west African endemic - Tristram's Warbler. Overnight at El-Kelaa.
Days 5 and 6 From El Kelaa to Merzouga. After a last look at the Tagdilt Track we drive on towards our secluded auberge at Merzouga, situated right on the edge of the Sahara. The drive east will no doubt be punctuated with stops to check out the numerous wadis and palm-fringed oases, as we look for Bluecheeked Bee-eater, Lanner and migrants such as Subalpine Warbler, European Bee-eater amongst others. A short walk before Merzouga will give us the chance to see the magnificent desert race of Eagle Owl in one of two places. Our auberge is set in attractive gardens and surrounding palm trees which attract a good variety of migrants, and the immediate area is worth checking at every opportunity for species such as Hoopoe, Woodchat Shrike, Wryneck, Rufous Bush Robin or Nightingale. We will spend a whole day checking various sites around the edge of the red sand dunes of the Erg Chebbi - the largest dune system in Morocco. Our major prize should be found around the various cafes that are dotted about the landscape, - the elusive Desert Sparrow. Other species include Fulvous Babbler, Hoopoe Lark, African Desert Warbler and Brown-necked Raven. There are sometimes seasonal lakes, which attract numerous wildfowl and waders - an amazing sight out here in the desert! It is also worth scanning the skies for migration, and as the day warms up it is possible to see good numbers of storks and raptors rising on the thermals and heading north towards their breeding grounds. We will also spend some time at dawn or dusk searching for the rather unpredictable Egyptian Nightjar, which sometimes breeds in nearby wadis. Other species in this area include Short-toed and Bar-tailed Desert Lark, Desert and Black-eared Wheatear, Dartford and Spectacled Warbler, Trumpeter Finch, Southern Grey Shrike and possibly Spotted Sandgrouse. One early morning we drive through the desert areas near the Algerian border in the search of the scarce Houbara Bustard. Overnight in Merzouga.
Day 7 Transition day from Merzouga to Ouarzazate. We will drive through the Anti-Atlas, the second Moroccan mountain range in importance; a series of rocky hills, cliffs and deep gorges of volcanic geological formations. Roadside birding will produce migrants and lots of wheatears, and perhaps Bonelli´s Eagle. We walk around Ouazarzate reservoir with a tremendous selection of birds which may include Moussiers Redstart, Wryneck, Western Bonelli´s, Western Orphean, Subalpine & Olivaceus Warbler, Desert, Northern and Black-eared Wheatear, Bleu-cheeked Bee-eater, Rock and House Bunting among other migrants. Birding around Ouarzazate gives chances of water birds as Osprey, Black Stork, Night Heron, Little & Cattle Egret, Ruddy Shelduck, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, and White Wagtail of the subpersonata Moroccan race. Overnight in Ouarzazate.
Day 8 After breakfast we drive from Ouazarzate to Taroudant. We have designed this day to avoid the strenuous and hard driving from Ouazarzate to Agadir. Several stops will produce interesting migrants, passerines, raptors, waders and storks. At Oued Iriri we will look for Bonelli’s Eagle and Southern Grey Shrike. Near Taroudant we pass through olive groves and orchards, home to Black-shouldered and Black Kites. Before dusk we search for Red-necked Nightjar. Overnight in Taroudant.
Day 9 Transfer from Taroudant to Agadir. Following the fertile Sous Valley through scrub thickets and citrus groves where we could find European Roller, Black-shouldered Kite and Western Orphean Warbler. We could find anything from Black Kite migrating overhead, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater resting on roadside wires, to skulking Subalpine Warblers or a Rufous Bush Robin in a roadside wadi. Before arrive to Agadir we will drive to Tamri where we will see one of the world’s biggest colonies of Bald Ibis, and where we hope to see Audouin’s Gull, Zitting Cisticola, Barbary Partridge, Moussier’s Redstart and Sardinian Warbler. Overnight Agadir.
Day 10 An early start will see us head to the Atlantic coast where we spend the morning in the Sous Massa National Park. We walk here to see endangered Bald Ibis, one of the rarest birds in the planet, with an important population here. We search the vegetation along the water's edge for skulking Squacco Heron, whilst the distinctive call of Black-crowned Tchagra rings out from dense cover. More easily observed birds can include Marbled Duck, Marsh Harrier, Osprey, Black-shouldered Kite, Glossy Ibis, Squacco and Purple Heron, Ruddy Shelduck, Plain Martin and possibly Tawny Eagle. Other possibilities include Savi's, Western Olivaceous and Moustached Warblers, Zitting Cisticola, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Pallid Swift, Red-rumped Swallow, Common Bulbul, and Spotless Starling. After lunch we drive along the semi-arid steppes of the Sous valley with good chances for Lesser Short-toed Lark, Cream-coloured Courser, Stone Curlew or sandgrouse. Later in the afternoon we will visit the Oued Sous - a delightful area very good for waders, terns and large flocks of roosting gulls, including Slender-billed, Audouin's and Mediterranean. Other species here include Greater Flamingo, Zitting Cisticola and Sardinian Warbler. At dusk we will check a nearby site for Red-necked Nightjar. Overnight in Agadir
Day 11 Time permitting another visit to the interesting Oued Sous before returning to the airport.
Return scheduled flight from London – Morocco, airport taxes, ground transportation, accommodation and all meals, incidental tips, and the services of Leader Cristian Jensen and local guides. Max 12 clients.