Saturday, 30 April 1977

MOROCCO April 1977: Ouarzazate to the coast & north


23 April.  From Boumalne we continued west to Ouarzazate seeing a Houbara Bustard and five species of wheatears, including our first Mournings, but otherwise it was a quiet day.  Being surrounded by a crowd of kids whenever we stopped for petrol took a bit of getting used to especially when hands and arms came through the smallest gaps in the windows.
flat desert at Jbel Tifernine
soon gave way to canyons at Tizi-n-Tinififft
Andrew, Nigel, Chris, Dave, Pete Naylor, Richard B, Geoff, Ken and Pete C at Tizi-n-Tinififft
Tour
24 April.  Camping near to the town the crowd of onlookers as we packed up our tents came as no surprise but was somewhat disconcerting.  I was concerned about having my binoculars stolen and only took them off once (inadvertently) during the trip.  I even slept with them on which wasn’t always comfortable but was certainly paranoid!  We slowly drove to Aoulouz where we saw 4 Bald Ibis with one large youngster at a breeding site on the cliffs.  As we continued on to Taroudant I counted 23 Great Grey Shrikes spaced along the telephone wires by the road.  We saw our first Black-headed Bush Shrike in roadside scrub and heard a Red-necked Nightjar at dusk.
Bald Ibis nesting at Aoulouz 
greener land near Aoulouz
25 April.  We camped near Taroudant and looking around the area in the morning Chris flushed a Red-necked Nightjar which we were all fortunate to see quite well.  We drove slowly towards Tifnit seeing two Black-shouldered Kites and three Moussier’s Redstarts by the road.  Twenty-two Bald Ibis were feeding in fields near Tifnit and in fading light a look at nearby Oued Messa on the Atlantic Coast produced a range of wetland birds including Marbled Teal and a flock of eleven Fulvous Whistling Duck, a new bird for the Western Palaearctic.
very poor shot of my first ever Black-shouldered Kite
Moussier's Redstart
Blad Ibis feeding in 'fields' near Tifnit 

26 April.  We spent all morning at Oued Messa where there had been a fall of migrants.  Flycatchers were most evident with 80 Pied and 100 Spotted seen along with 500 flava Wagtails, 10 Nightingales and a good selection of warblers and chats.  The Fulvous Whistling Duck were still at Oued Messa while flocks of Black-bellied Sandgrouse flew in to drink.  We also saw 32 Bald Ibis and a Baillon’s Crake (another new bird for me) before returning to Tifnit.  Here 3 Bald Ibis, 3 Cream Coloured Courses and 3 Moussier’s Redstarts were completely outnumbered by 200 Spotted and 30 Pied Flycatchers.  We finished the day further up the coast at Oued Sous where an Audouin’s Gull (also new for me) and a good selection of terns and waders were seen.
Whiskered Tern at Oued Messa

Wood Sandpiper
Grey-headed or Spanish Wagtail
the rather distinctive subpersonata race of White Wagtail
Flamingoes, Grey Herons and a Ruddy Shelduck at Oued Messa
Black-winged Stilt
more impressive against the dunes
Stonechat
Little Owl
27 April.  The morning at Oued Sous was something of an anticlimax with 500 Swifts flying north the only evidence of migration.  We continued up the coast to Essouria where two Eleanora’s Falcons were seen at Diabat.  From there we headed for Marakesh and Imlil.
two more Cream-coloured Coursers near Oued Sous
 28 April.  We had a day in the Atlas Mountains heading from Imlil to Oukaimeden.  The weather was poor and time was not on our side so we didn’t follow up a calling levaillanti Green Woodpecker on the way up, only later was it regarded as a different species.  At Oukaimeden we saw breeding Shore Larks, 10 Crimson-winged Finches, seebholmi Wheatears and both species of Chough before the weather closed in completely and we descended and started the long drive back north.
Pete Naylor and Dave Norman on a mountain track near Ansi
road near Imlil
Imlil, a rather forbidding hillside village
distant terraces looked enticing but somewhat inaccessible from where we were
snowy peaks were our eventual destination
very poor shot of Crimson-winged Finch
local  Shore Larks on the breeding grounds
Chough
Ait-Lekak
in deteriorating weather
29 April.  We drove steadily north from Mechra-Benabbou to Mohammedia and finally Mehdia where at dusk we saw two African Marsh Owls.
Group photo somewhere in northen Morocco April 1977.  Me, Pete Naylor, Dave Norman, Geoff Bond, Chris Murphy, Andrew Moon, Ken Dummigan, Pete Campbell, Richard Bosanquet and Nigel Redman.  1970s fashion not too prevalent, unlike haircuts ... 
30 April.  We drove from Mehdia to Merdia Lerga with a brief stop in the Foret de la Marmora where we saw 6 Golden Orioles and a Pied and two Spotted Flycatchers.  Six Montagu’s Harriers and 150 Collared Pratincoles were the best sightings at Merdia Lergia and we continued on to Pont Mohammed.

1 May.  We drove to Ceuta and crossed back into Spain seeing 7 Puffins on the crossing.  We returned along the coast to Malaga.  It was a most enjoyable trip to a very spectacular country and I saw just under 50 new birds.  We found the locals a bit trying at times although they probably thought the same of us.  Many thanks to all my companions, but particularly Pete Naylor, for making it such a memorable and successful trip.  I'll always remember it fondly as the first time I'd been outside Europe.  It cost me just £130 in total and I saw 215 species of which 46 were new.  £3 per new bird, those were the days!

[blogged January 2013]

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