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Morocco Birding Trip report Feb 2011

This year Morocco's desert is suffering a severe drought conditioning the landscape and the birds. This specially affects the interior wetland areas and the steppes been all dry, dough we managed to see most of the Moroccan specialties. This tour was excellent thanks to a marvelous group that fill the air with the laughs and good humor. The spotting skills and the great knowledge on birds of most of the members was excellent and produced 13 sightings of Lanner Falcons, 17 Fulvous Babblers, 80 Spotted Sandgrouse, 42 Crown Sandgrouse; just to mention some of the highlights in numbers.

Click here to see bird photos from one of the members of the group (John Fraser) or if you prefer to see some of his photos from lanscapes, people or other animals click here

Birding Areas and itinerary: Atlas Mountains, Tagdilt plains, Boulmane Dades, Todra Gorge, Desert areas of Ergg Chebi, Merzouaga, Rissani, Ouarzazate, Agadir, Souss Massa National Park, Tamri and Marrakesh,

Group Members: Mike T; John F; Tommy M; Judith A; Jens S; Pete W; Len M; Cliff B; Lise B; Colin B; Raymond E.

Bird guide: Cristian Jensen


Part of the group arrived and we went to an Atlas valley, where we had our first Levaillant's Woodpecker, the north African subspecies of the Dipper, Grey Wagtails, the Moroccan subspecies of the Great Tit, and Chaffinch, Bulbuls, Blue Rock Thrush, Moussier's Redstart and 7 Barbary Partridges. We had a lovely Tagine and a Moroccan salad and we headed to Marrakesh to pick up the rest of the group and after we went to our luxurious hotel.


After breakfast we headed towards the highest areas of the Atlas. We stop in the way to see another Levaillant's Woodpecker, African Blue Tit, African Spotted Woodpecker, Moroccan Coal Tit, Rock Bunting and then directly to see Crimson's Winged Finch, Shore Lark, Rock Petronia, Yellow and Red-billed Choughs, Long-legged Buzzards. After seen all the Moroccan specialties we went to have a lovely tagine and then we drove to Marrakesh were we had a city tour and admire the square and the Medina, also we took some photos from Little Swifts at a big colony and we also had some Pallid Swift passing in the streets.


Today we had a transfer day but not without some stops. Our first stop produced Lanner Falcons, Crossbills (endangered ssp in Morocco), African Chaffinch, Barbary Partridges, Lesser Kestrels and our first Long-legged Buzzard. We had a stop for lunch after seen our first White Crown wheatears and admire the beauty of the Kashba Village. In the last bit of driving before getting to our luxurious hotel produce a pair of Lanner Falcons perched on a very close tree and a Spotted Cuckoo inside hiding from the two predators. The staff from our fabulous hotel, with a dinosaur fossils and exquisitely decorated were waiting for us with a delicious cup of tea.


After a complete breakfast we went to some steppes were many birds were waiting for us: Red-rumped and White-crown Wheatears, Bar-tailed Desert Lark, Hoopoe Lark, Temmink's Lark, Lesser and Greater short-toed Larks, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Lanners, Long-legged Buzzards, Golden Eagle, just to mention a few highlights. Cliff and Lisa could enjoy the geological complexity of Morocco and though was and incredible country for the many types of stones, minerals and fossils (specially Lisa collected a good and heavy collection of beautiful stones and I hope she didn't have to pay extra weight in her flight home).

The vast depression with the snowy Atlas mountains as a background makes an unique landscape that we won't forget in our lives.


Transfer day to the desert with a few stops in our way to see Maghreb Wheatear (Mourning's W. endemic taxon in Maghreb), Desert Lark and Scrub Warblers. We also did some comfort stops in beautiful places so we could enjoy the marvelous Moroccan Landscapes and get few Tristam's Warblers, Lesser Kestrels, Spotted Sandgrouse and our first Fulvous Babblers.


Desert day trip to the Sahara Desert with 4x4. We distributed in 3 cars and we headed to see Desert Sparrows, Cream-coloured Courser, Brown-necked Ravens, Tristam's Warbler, Desert Wheatear, Bar-tailed and Hoopoe Larks. We saw them all some with difficulties because Collin and Pete decided to wear shorts showing their bright white legs and scaring them as they walk. Desert Warbler took a while but after a couple of attempts in suitable habitat we saw one bird. In a river with a stream of water we had a pair Moroccan Wagtails and a couple of Ruddy Shelducks. Our hotel in front of the Dunes provide us spectacular sunrise and sunsets with nights full of stars and the bright Moon illuminating tenuously the palms, the dromedaries and houses of the near village.


After breakfast our 4x4 were ready to climb in any rock hill or sand dune close to the Algerian border. Our Brits had specially fun getting stock several times and needed help from the other cars but all this was nothing for our experienced drivers and after few minutes we were on the move again. Just few minutes after starting we were watching hundred of Trumpeter Finches drinking, Crown Sandgrouse, Lanner Falcons, Desert Peregrine Falcon, Desert warbler and Desert Wheatear. We did some searching in the desert, finding some Coursers, Desert Larks, Desert Crested Larks, Bar-tailed Desert Larks, and Hoopoe Larks. In our lunch stop under an acacia were we had our typical Moroccan sandwiches we found two desert Warblers and two Tristam's Warblers. We had a tea in one of the local houses in a near village were people bought original fossils even fossil-vertebrates. In the afternoon we were watching a Pharaoh Eagle Owl after a little “climb” were Mike and Cliff could take some photos with digiscoping. John and and Tommy took some photos with their 400mm and Collin was very happy been one of his favorite birds..


Today's was our transfer day to Ouarzazate. But before we took our local bird guide and we went to see a group of Spotted and Crown Sandgrouse. Also in the area we saw Maghreb, White-crown and Desert Wheatears, Bar-tailed and Desert Larks. We had many ours of driving and we couldn't afford to spent many more stops. Even do we managed with some more Trumpeter Finches, Laughing Doves and a couple of Golden Eagles. At our arrival to the hotel some of us had time to do some birding in the orchards while the other took a rest at the hotel. We saw many Ruddy Shelducks, hundreds Black Kites going to roost and an Eagle Owl flew in the sunset light.


After breakfast we had very productive local birding in the surroundings of the hotel. House Bunting was singing in the car park, Bulbuls, Laughing Doves were seen flying from palm to palm. Then aquatic or migrant birds were plentiful like Ruddy Shelducks, Shoveler, Storks by thousands, Coots, Martins and Swallows including Red-rumps (this last species made Len very happy), Marsh Harrier, Osprey, Cormorants, Pintails, Teals, Greenshanks, Little Ringed Plovers, Kentish Plovers, Spoonbills, a distant Flamingo made another smile on Ray's face. Other birds very buzy feeding and hiding like Chiffchafs, and Subalpine Warblers entertained Mike and Judith.. Before transferring to the coast we saw a massive group of Trumpeter Finches several hundreds feeding on the ground.

We arrived to our hotel with enough time for a drink and do the checklist before going for dinner.


Today we visited some wetland areas were we saw Tchagras, as one of the stars, Marbled Teals up to 40 individuals (one of Judith favorite birds together with the Garganey), Spoonbills, Flamingos, Squacco Heron, Egrets, Ospreys, Bonelli's Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Moussier's Redstar, House bunting, Spanish Sparrows and a good bunch of waders like Redshanks, Greenshanks, Greensanpipers, Common Sandpipers, Kentish and Little and Common Ringed Plovers, Stonecurlews. Plain Martin was one of the few lifers from Jens made him very happy. In the evening we had Red-necked Nightjars and a pair of Long-eared Owls.


Our last day we went to see the Audouin's Gulls, Sandwitch Terns, Gannets and Spectacled Warbler, but the star of the day were the Bald Ibis that we saw without disturbing them and very close. We could see the beautiful glossy greens and purple of their feathers and the red head of this critically endangered species World wide. John really enjoyed this bird and managed to get some good photos. After this we did our transfer to Marrakesh were people took their flights home, except me and Tommy that staid for few more days to enjoy the city and the birds.

Bird Species list

  • With * means only heard **seen only by one of the members
  • 1.Little Grebe
  • 2.Great Crested Grebe
  • 3.Northern Gannet
  • 4.Moroccan and Northern Great Cormorants
  • 5.Grey Heron
  • 6.Little Egret
  • 7.Squacco Heron
  • 8.Cattle Egret
  • 9.White Stork
  • 10.Bald Ibis
  • 11.Eurasian Spoonbill
  • 12.Greater Flamingo
  • 13.Ruddy Shelduck
  • 14.Common Shelduck
  • 15.Eurasian Wigeon
  • 16.Common Teal
  • 17.Mallard
  • 18.Northern Pintail
  • 19.Garganey
  • 20.Northern Shoveler
  • 21.Marbled Teal
  • 22.Osprey
  • 23.Black-shouldered Kite
  • 24.Black Kite
  • Short-toed Eagle**
  • 25.Western Marsh Harrier
  • Northern Harrier **
  • 26.Montagu's Harrier
  • 27.Eurasian Sparrowhawk
  • 28.Long-legged Buzzard
  • 29.Golden Eagle
  • 30.Lesser Kestrel
  • 31.Eurasian Kestrel
  • 32.Lanner Falcon
  • 33.Barbary Falcon
  • 34.Peregrine Falcon
  • 35.Barbary Partridge (with a little broad mustache – hybrid peregrine?)
  • 36.Common Moorhen
  • 37.Eurasian Coot
  • 38.Black-winged Stilt
  • 39.Pied Avocet
  • 40.Eurasian Thick-knee
  • 41.Cream-colored Courser
  • 42.Black-bellied Plover
  • 43.Common Ringed Plover
  • 44.Little Ringed Plover
  • 45.Kentish Plover
  • 46.Common Snipe
  • 47.Black-tailed Godwit
  • 48.Bar-tailed Godwit
  • 49.Eurasian Curlew
  • 50.Common Redshank
  • 51.Common Greenshank
  • 52.Green Sandpiper
  • 53.Common Sandpiper
  • 54.Sanderling
  • 55.Little Stint
  • 56.Ruff
  • 57.Audouin's Gull
  • 58.Western Yellow-legged Gull
  • 59.Lesser Black-backed Gull
  • 60.Black-headed Gull
  • 61.Mediterranean Gull
  • 62.Sandwich Tern
  • 63.Spotted Sandgrouse
  • 64.Black-bellied Sandgrouse
  • 65.Crowned Sandgrouse
  • 66.Rock Dove / Feral Pigeon
  • 67.Common Woodpigeon
  • 68.Eurasian Turtle Dove
  • 69.Eurasian Collared Dove
  • 70.Laughing Dove
  • 71.Great Spotted Cuckoo
  • 72.Pharaoh Eagle Owl
  • 73.Little Owl
  • 74.Long-eared Owl
  • 75.Red-necked Nightjar
  • 76.Pallid Swift
  • 77.Little Swift
  • 78.Common Kingfisher
  • 79.Eurasian Hoopoe
  • 80.Great Spotted Woodpecker
  • 81.Levaillant's Woodpecker
  • 82.Bar-tailed Lark
  • 83.Desert Lark
  • 84.Greater Hoopoe Lark
  • 85.Greater Short-toed Lark
  • 86.Lesser Short-toed Lark
  • 87.Desert Crested Lark
  • Mediterranean ssp Crested Lark
  • 88.Thekla Lark
  • Wood Lark *
  • 89.Horned Lark
  • 90.Temminck's Lark
  • 91.Bank Swallow
  • 92.Plain Martin
  • 93.Eurasian Crag Martin
  • 94.Barn Swallow
  • 95.Red-rumped Swallow
  • 96.House Martin
  • 97.White Wagtail
  • 98.Moroccan Wagtail
  • 99.Spanish Yellow Wagtail
  • 100.Grey Wagtail
  • 101.Meadow Pipit
  • 102.Common Bulbul
  • 103.White-throated Dipper
  • 104.Eurasian Wren
  • 105.Blue Rock Thrush
  • 106.Eurasian Blackbird
  • 107.Song Thrush
  • 108.Mistle Thrush
  • 109.Zitting Cisticola
  • 110.Streaked Scrub Warbler
  • 111.Cetti's Warbler
  • Sedge Warbler**
  • 112.Eurasian Reed Warbler
  • 113.Willow Warbler
  • 114.Common Chiffchaff
  • 115.Iberian Chiffchaff (visual identification was positive for this taxon but we didn't hear the call)
  • 116.Western Bonelli's Warbler
  • 117.Blackcap
  • 118.African Desert Warbler
  • 119.Subalpine Warbler
  • 120.Sardinian Warbler
  • 121.Spectacled Warbler
  • 122.Tristram's Warbler
  • Dartford Warbler**
  • European Robin**
  • Bluethroat**
  • 123.Black Redstart
  • 124.Moussier's Redstart
  • 125.Common Stonechat
  • 126.White-crowned Wheatear
  • 127.Black Wheatear
  • 128.Mourning Wheatear
  • 129.Red-rumped Wheatear
  • 130.Desert Wheatear
  • 131.Fulvous Babbler
  • 132.Coal Tit
  • 133.Great Tit
  • 134.African Blue Tit
  • 135.Desert Grey Shrike
  • 136.Moroccan Coastal Grey Shrike
  • 137.Black-crowned Tchagra
  • 138.Moroccan Magpie
  • 139.Red-billed Chough
  • 140.Yellow-billed Chough
  • 141.Brown-necked Raven
  • 142.Common Raven
  • 143.Spotless Starling
  • 144.House Sparrow
  • 145.Spanish Sparrow
  • 146.Desert Sparrow
  • 147.Rock Sparrow
  • 148.African Chaffinch
  • 149.Red Crossbill
  • 150.European Greenfinch
  • 151.Eurasian Siskin
  • 152.European Goldfinch
  • 153.Eurasian Linnet
  • 154.European Serin
  • 155.Crimson-winged Finch
  • 156.Trumpeter Finch
  • 157.Rock Bunting
  • 158.Ortolan Bunting
  • 159.House Bunting
  • 160.Corn Bunting


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