Morocco birdwatching :
Morocco is a land of great contrasts, from wide sandy Atlantic beaches to snow-capped mountains over 13,000 feet high, to sand and stone sahara desert. The birds are equally diverse, from rare and highly endangered species like Northern Bald Ibis to enigmatic and difficult species like Desert Sparrow.
Scheduled flight to Casablanca and transfer to Témara Plage for a two-night stay.
We start our tour with a visit to the Zaers, a region of remnant Cork-oak woodland. The specialty of the area is an isolated population of Double-spurred Francolins but they are not easy to see and our chances are only even. However, we stand a good chance of other specialties, including Black-shouldered Kite, Long-legged Buzzard, African Blue Tit and Black-crowned Tchagra. We will also see many other species with less-restricted ranges including Sardinian Warbler and European Serin. We will next visit the superb Lac de Sidi Bourhaba that supports two of the special birds of Morocco: Crested Coot and Marbled Duck. Also in the area are Purple Swamphen, Cetti’s Warbler, Western Marsh-harrier and many wintering duck species. The rest of the day is spent at Merdja Zerga, where we will look for Marsh Owl, which has its only Western Palearctic outpost in Morocco. We spend the night in Moulay Bousselham.
Driving south-east to Midelt, we stop firstly to search for the tiny Plain Martin and then at excellent sites in the Middle Atlas for Levaillant’s Woodpecker and Ruddy Shelduck. We will check into our hotel in Midelt for one night.
We leave early to search for Dupont’s Lark at Zeida. This very difficult high-plains species is infamous for disappearing amongst the tussocks. During our walk we should see Lesser Short-toed Lark and Red-rumped Wheatear. Afterwards we head south to Erfoud. En route we may see Eurasian Crag-martin, Desert Lark and Black and Mourning Wheatears while, in a spectacular gorge, Rock Bunting, Blue Rock-thrush and Black Redstart can be found. We will end the day looking for birds in the oasis garden of our desert hotel. Two nights in Erfoud.
An early morning start to drive further into the desert. We should soon encounter Brown-necked Ravens as we head out on tracks to the dunes to eventually arrive at one of the ‘cafes’ which dot the area. Here we will start our search for the highly sought-after Desert Sparrow. By visiting all of the cafes that overlook the spectacular Erg Chebbi sand-dunes, we stand a very good chance of finding these birds. All around in the desert are various larks including Bar-tailed and Hoopoe Larks. White-crowned Black Wheatears are common, with Desert Wheatear less so, and we may see a Cream-coloured Courser or a Mourning Wheatear. In the cultivation around the desert village of Merzouga there are Fulvous Babblers, and African Desert and Tristram’s Warblers may be found in patches of sparse vegetation. If rains have been plentiful a seasonal lake near Merzouga can be very interesting, with ducks, waders and their attendant raptors. Some real rarities have turned up here including Kittlitz’s Plover. We will also search for the charismatic but elusive Thick-billed Lark.
An early morning start is essential today as we have a long journey west. We will stop at a number of sites looking for Trumpeter Finch and other species until we reach the Todra Gorge, where Blue Rock Thrush and Eurasian Crag-martin occur and we will have a chance for raptors including Bonnelli’s Eagle. We continue on to our destination, Boumalne du Dades, for an overnight stay, but not before a visit to the Tagdilt Track. The stony desert here is at quite a high altitude. Larks are well represented with Desert, Lesser Short-toed, Hoopoe and Temminck’s Lark. Desert and Red-rumped Wheatears also occur, and we may also see numbers of sand grouse flying around the area, predominantly Black-bellied but sometimes with a few Crowned or Pin-tailed Sand grouse. Trumpeter Finches are widely distributed and Cream-coloured Coursers may well be present.
The direction today is west down into the Sous Valley towards Agadir. Passing through Ouarzazate we will keep our eyes open for various larks by the roadside together with Southern Grey Shrike and Hoopoe. In the hottest part of the day we are in the right area for raptors, with Black-shouldered and Black Kites and Barbary and Lanner Falcons all possible, although there is little likelihood of the rare Tawny Eagle and Dark Chanting-goshawk. Over the town of Taroudannt there may be Pallid and Little Swifts. Three nights in Agadir.
We drive north to Tamri to search in the scrub and fields adjacent to the coast for Northern Bald Ibis. Whilst doing so we may see Moussier’s Redstart, Spectacled Warbler, Barbary and Lanner Falcons, Barbary Partridge and Black-crowned Tchagra, while offshore there may be Northern Gannets, Sandwich Terns, Balearic and Cory’s Shearwaters and skuas. On the beaches will be huge numbers of gulls, mainly Lesser Black-backed of two races but there will also be plenty of Audouin’s and a few Yellow-legged Gulls. If we see the ibises with time to spare we will return south to the Oued Sous estuary.
Today we will visit the Oued Massa, south of Agadir, which a superb estuary is holding numerous birds in the winter. In the deeper waters Greater Flamingos feed and Common Cranes can be found in family parties along the reedy edges, whilst waders and wildfowl are present in good numbers. With some luck we may see Black-bellied Sandgrouse. We will also have another chance for Black-crowned Tchagra here when we look for Laughing Doves, Spotless Starlings and Spanish Sparrows. Later in the day we will return north to explore the Oued Sous estuary, which literally heaves with birds. Numerous waders include Black-winged Stilt and Kentish Plover, whilst the gulls can include Audouin’s, Mediterranean and Slender-billed Gulls. European Spoonbill, Greater Flamingo and Osprey all occur and there is a good chance of a rarity.
Today we will drive to Marrakech arriving mid morning for a walk around the Kasbah and lunch, plus House Buntings. In the afternoon we will drive up into the High Atlas for a one-night stay at Oukaimeden. As we drive up the mountain road the scenery is absolutely stunning and we must keep our eyes open for raptors including Bonnelli’s and Golden Eagles. Levaillant’s Woodpeckers occur, as do Rock and Cirl Buntings and Black Redstart.
Dawn can be very cold here so you are advised to dress warmly! It’s worth the mild discomfort of the cold, however, to see the flocks of Crimson-winged Finches and Rock Petronias. Red-billed and Yellow-billed Choughs will be wheeling around, while Water Pipits and White-throated Dippers search the reservoir margins for food. We will explore the area around the village, seeing plenty of birds in this seemingly inhospitable environment. Shore Larks and Black Redstarts are common and Alpine Accentors are sometimes found in the gardens. The views over the mountains and across the plains are breathtaking. Later we will drop down the valley to look for the local race of Coal Tit and Eurasian Crag-martin. We will also look for Levaillant’s Woodpecker again if still needed, before dropping down to Marrakech and across the plains back to Casablanca. We will, of course, make several stops en route, still with the chance of seeing new species including Calandra Lark. Overnight in Casablanca.