Wednesday 28 April 2010

Morocco – Round-up

Here is one last Moroccan post to summarise the trip: Travel arrangements; we took a Thompson flight out of Gatwick to Agadir, booked it late in 2009 to get the best deal. With respect to the car hire again we booked in advance but paid when we got there, using the internet we used “Budget” and picked it up at the airport without any problem, though they do take a rather large reservation on your credit card. Driving is not a major issue; vehicles in the towns will go anywhere they choose and motor bikes will come at you on the wrong side of the road, but every thing tends to happen slower than in the UK so you can react accordingly. For Hotels, we used the Petit Sued in Agardir, very friendly, clean, great breakfast and very good value. In the northern Sahara we use the Fort Bou Jerif’s a little more expensive, but look at their web site, they live up to everything they say and more! That’s about it really, change your money out there and only Sterling is accepted in most banks, though cash machine are much more available than last year. Travellers cheques were not good news. Take an international driving licence, we were stopped twice and the IDL did the trick both times. Pay the man who looks after your car when it’s parked on the street at night. Take sweets or pens for the children you will meet everywhere and buy a packet of cigarettes for the kind men who talk to you whilst you are scoping or taking photo’s for the most part they mean very well.
Life bird count: 394 Year bird count: 183 Month bird count: 148
Photo: Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)

Thursday 15 April 2010

Morocco – Return to Agadir – 26th March 2010

After a great day out in the desert it was time to return north to Agadir, so after having a wonder around the grounds, seeing Spectacled Warbler, Spanish Sparrow, Yellow Wagtail & Orphean Warbler we decided on a coastal route back and headed off. Once on the outskirts of Guelmin we too the North west coast bound road to Sidi Ifni and then the coast road up to Aglou-Plage before having to head inland again to the main drag up to Agadir. Along the stretch to Sidi Ifni had distant views of Barbary Falcon and regular Thekla Larks, but it wasn’t till we were looking on the Oued Sous that we saw anything else new and that was a White Stork, by the wash away bridge at Inezgane. It was then a short drive through town back to the hotel.
Life bird count: 396 Year bird count: 176 Month bird count: 142.
Photo: Thekla Lark (Galerida theklae); Spainish Sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis)

Monday 12 April 2010

Morocco – Fort Bou Jerif’s Desert Surrounds – 25th March 2010

For this day, as most of the area to be covered was at best by track, we decided to ask the Hotel to arrange for a local driver to take us out. So by nine in the morning we were enjoying the rest from actually driving and aboard a Landrover heading generally towards the sea.

Crested Larks, Red-rumped Wheatear and Black-eared Wheatear were abundant. We soon reach the river, surprisingly little to see, Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher and Grey Heron. By lunch we were at Plage Blanche with Sandwich Tern & Yellow-legged Gull on the shore line and Cormorant & Gannets offshore.

In the afternoon we had Bar-tailed Lark, Temminck’s Lark and Rufous Bush Robin, along with many Camels before we started to head back with views of a Booted Eagle on the way and Richard’s Pipit on the track side.

Life bird count: 395 Year bird count: 172 Month bird count: 138

Photo: Red-rumped Wheatear (Oenanthe moesta); Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe hispanica)

Saturday 10 April 2010

Morocco – Across to Fort Bou Jerif – 24th March 2010

To get across to where we were going to spend a couple of night we back tracked to Guelmin and took the road out to Laksabi, then, what turns into a rather bumpy track out across the desert to “The Fort”.

Crossing the Oued Noun, some where east of Laksabi, around the bridge we had superb views of two Marbled Teal along with Little-ringed Plover and Common Sandpiper, then yet more Trumpeter Finch came into to drink.

Having finished at the river it was pure scrub all the way, I guess as the warmer weather takes over this will be completely barren desert but for us it was covered in green Euphorbia. Birds just pop up, mainly Wheatears and Larks, then big surprises, first a Honey Buzzard sitting on a pylon, then out of the scrub about 100m from the track a Marsh Harrier, along with numerous Fat Sand Rats and regular Montagu’s Harriers.

As we closed on the Hotel a Bonelli’s Eagle soars up over a middle distant ridge.

Life bird count: 394 Year bird count: 166 Month bird count: 130

Photos: Fat Sand Rat (psammomys obesus);

Thursday 8 April 2010

Morocco – South to Guelmim – 24th March 2010

Our visit this year was centred around seeing some desert species and in order to stand any chance of doing that we had to head further south. So we pushed down over 200km through Tiznit and Guelmim, the next town on the sign posts was Tan-Tan, but there was no need to go that far.

En-route we saw Montagu’s Harrier, Black Wheatear, White crowned Wheatear, Rock Sparrow and Rock Thrush. At about 10km past Guelmim the road crosses the Oued Sayed, here we pulled off the road and drove along a track very close to the scrub. We soon saw Tristram’s Warbler amongst the Crested Larks, then further on Trumpeter Finch and Rock Bunting. We headed on a few kilometres before turning right into a small village for House Bunting and Desert Weatear.

Life bird count: 389 Year bird count: 162 Month bird count: 119

Photos: Trumpeter Finch (Bucanetes githaginea); Montagu’s Harrier (Circus pygargus)

Tuesday 6 April 2010

Morocco – Massa – 23rd March 2010 (part 3)

Back tracking from Sidi Ouassai, we stopped to pick up a Plain Martin, Red-rumped Swallow and Black-crowned Tchagra, particularly pleased with the Martin as it was a good clear view. We were going to drive onto the reserve but there was such a gathering of “Guides” that we could see it was going to be a stress, so taking the track signed posted to the restaurant at Sidi-Rbat we headed across the open fields. Lots of Thekla Larks here, though to be honest distinguishing between Crested in this area can be rather hit and miss, then a single Lesser Short-toed Lark very close to the track. We also saw Locust and Ground Squirrel. A good drive, rather bumpy and we didn’t make it to the restaurant before we turned about and headed back to our Hotel.
Life bird count: 389 Year bird count: 152 Month bird count: 116
Photo: Barbary Ground Squirrel (atlantoxerus getulus); Lesser Short-toed Lark (calandrella rufescens)

Sunday 4 April 2010

Morocco – Massa – 23rd March 2010 (part 2)

We then decided, that rather than heading onto the National Park, we’d continue on the road to Sidi Ouassai, so from the flats around the river the road climbs up and we see a Little Owl sitting in one of the road side trees.

As the trees get fewer it is vital you scan the fences because here we found Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, Willow Warbler, Subalpine Warbler and Chiffchaff.

Eventually we hit the coast at Sidi-Ouassai and there are several Kestrels being flighty around the buildings, along with Laughing Dove.

Life bird count: 389 Year bird count: 134 Month bird count: 101

Photo: Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

Saturday 3 April 2010

Morocco – Massa – 23rd March 2010 (part 1)

On our first full day we take the main road south out of Agadir and keep following the signs to Tiznit, before long we leave the hustle and bustle of the towns on the edge of the city and join the steady stream of buses, lorries and taxis going south, once through Sidi Bibi we know we are “out of town”.

We look for a sign to a camping site to the right. It’s some 15 or 20 miles down the road from Sidi Bibi and what’s more if you miss the first, there is a second less than a mile further on. We take the first right turn and enter bird land. The road is narrower and each side is scrub or crops. Both Thekla and Crested Larks are very common. Moussier’s Redstarts are frequent, as are Grey & Woodchat Shrikes.

Once we had gone through to the village of Arhbalou we started to see the effects of the recent heavy rain fall and in the flooded fields very close to the road are Greater Flamingo, Cattle Egret, Little Egret & Black-winged Stilt.

Life bird count: 389 Year bird count: 130 Month bird count: 95

Photo: Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)

Friday 2 April 2010

Morocco – Agadir – 22nd March 2010

Before we start the serious stuff, when you arrive in Agadir from a cold Gatwick in late March, things hit you.

Firstly the Swallows are in full muster and darting around like it’s mid summer in the UK, Swifts are also about, but not in great numbers. Gulls are everywhere, mainly Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged. Then when you are in your Hotel or walking out, you hear a loud melodious call, your thoughts will go to exotic species, but you will soon discover they are Bulbuls and they can be seen in the streets taking cover in the road side trees. Finally you will look at the Sparrows and notice all is not as it seems because occasionally they will turn out to be House Buntings. You are in North Africa!

Life bird count: 389 Year bird count: 123 Month bird count: 85

Photo: Common Bulbul (Pycnonotus barbatus)