spring in the desert and Bald Ibis on the Atlantic coast



"Just wanted to tell everyone how much I enjoyed the trip to Morocco.  Everything went very smoothly, and John was a great guide.  The hotel was pleasant, and the pace was perfect. ".... 

Ms A.W. Maryland, USA


''Thank you for a wonderful trip to Morocco to see all the birds, especially all the different  wheatears.'' .... Mrs IW. Dumfries.


''Just a quick note to thank you for your leadership, friendship and good fun during the Morocco trip.'' .... Mr and Mrs A, Northwich.



click here for a pdf version of this destination write-up  -  easier to print  -  no photos


Occupying the north-west corner of the African Continent, Morocco is an excellent birdwatching destination. 

The country offers a mixture of spectacular scenery, lakes, marshes, mountains, estuaries, coastal scrub and both stone and sand desert which will all be visited during this holiday. At this time of year this wide range of habitats will produce an exciting variety of birds including waves of northbound migrants as well as some spectacular resident birds. Once visited, one never forgets the special beauty this country possesses.


The coastal strip around Agadir provides easy access to world famous marshlands, the foothills of the Atlas mountains and desert plains. Amongst the numerous resident species that will be present at the time of our visit is the rare and declining Bald Ibis. Moussierís Redstarts, perhaps the most handsome of chats, seemingly occupy all the habitats on offer. The beautiful Audouinís Gull parades on the wave cut sandy beaches. Amongst the tamarisks the striking Black-crowned Tchagra repeats its mellow whistle and Red-necked Nightjars come out to sit on the sandy tracks at dusk.


Our journey takes us inland to the stony deserts around Ouarzazate and on to the high plain between the mountains of the Central High Atlas and the Jbel Sarhro, to an area best known to birdwatchers as the Tagdilt Track. This atmospheric place is home to a host of nomadic birds including Cream-coloured Courser, Thick-billed Lark, Temminckís Horned Lark, Hoopoe Lark, Desert Wheatear, Red-rumped Wheatear and parties of Black-bellied Sandgrouse and Crowned Sandgrouse.


Rather than enduring the long drive to the desert in one go, we shall break both the outward and return journeys at verdant oases. At Ouarzazate we will enjoy spectacular views of mountain landscapes and deep gorges which are home to Mourning Wheatears and Desert Larks. Wetlands and nearby oases attract breeding Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters and at times flocks of migrant warblers. The kasbah at Ouled Berhil was formerly home to the local Pasha and will provide us with a welcoming and typically warm Moroccan experience.





On day one we fly to Agadir and transfer to our hotel in this coastal resort, which will be our base for three nights. Beaches to the north host large flocks of gulls, mainly Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed and amongst them the rather beautiful Audouinís Gull. Migrant wheatears, warblers and larks can be found on the various headlands. On our last tour in 2011 we discovered both Bar-tailed Desert and Hoopoe Larks here; it is very unusual to see these desert birds on the coast. Further north we will search for small feeding groups of Bald Ibis as they hunt for their favourite prey, lizards, on coastal hillsides.


The common resident birds here include Thekla Lark and Spectacled Warbler and there is a good chance of seeing the localised Barbary Falcon. Next we travel south to the Oued Massa where a small delta has been formed as the river meets the Atlantic. The tamarisks which line the waterways hold many local specialities such as the Black-crowned Tchagra, Moussierís Redstart and Western Olivaceous Warbler. We have a good chance of seeing the rare Brown-throated Martin which still breeds in small numbers here. Common birds include European Bee-eaters and Zitting Cisticolas whilst Stone Curlews nest in the fields and the pale desert race of Little Owl sits alert on stone walls and buildings. Upstream, winding oxbow lakes provide habitat for herons and egrets, including Purple Heron and Little Bittern, as well as Glossy Ibis and Marbled Duck.



On day four the tour heads inland across the Plain of the Sous, skirting the southern edge of the High Atlas mountains. The open country here is home to Black-shouldered Kite and Montaguís Harrier. More familiar roadside birds include the Hoopoe and the not so familiar North West African forms of Magpie, Blue Tit and Chaffinch. As we reach the stony deserts west of Ouarzazate we can expect to find Desert Larks and Desert Wheatears and, with good fortune, the striking Mourning Wheatear.


The landscape all around is simply stunning with snow-covered atlas peaks to the north and dark folded rock formations to the south. We head south through the Tizi n Tinifift pass at an elevation of over 5000 feet. The gorge here is home to Blue Rock Thrush and Black Wheatears whilst along the route we will find White-crowned Black Wheatears. Further along the Draa Valley desert oases can hold many common migrants and we should find the beautiful Blue-cheeked Bee-eater here, in small numbers at this time of year.


Moving on from Ouarzazate on day six we will check the Mansour Barrage for migrant waterbirds. The long billed race of Crested Lark can be found feeding in adjacent fields. What little vegetation growing at the roadside usually holds breeding Southern Grey Shrike and Desert Wheatear as well as migrant warblers. Our next base for three nights is the small town of Boumalne du Dades which allows us to explore the Tagdilt Plain and the surrounding areas. Our hotel sits high above the valley offering dramatic views of the oases alongside the Oued Dades which form a shaft of green through the heart of the terracotta mountains.



On our doorstep is one of Moroccoís most famous birdwatching sites, the Tagdilt Plain. This is a wonderful place for watching raptors, sandgrouse, coursers, larks and wheatears. Last spring we counted no less than one hundred Cream-coloured Coursers one evening, whilst Red-rumped Wheatears and Hoopoe Larks displayed around the plain. A multitude of small rodents, in turn, attract hunting Long-legged Buzzards and Lanner Falcons. Parties of sandgrouse, mainly Black-bellied but sometimes Crowned, fly overhead, located by their liquid calls. As well as Hoopoe Larks, other species include Temminckís Horned Lark, Bar-tailed Desert Lark and with luck Thick-billed Lark, which can be numerous here in some years.


Away from the plain we will explore the stunning Gorge du Todra, home to the majestic Bonelliís Eagle. Amongst the palm groves hundreds of Nightingales are in full song. It all makes for some wonderful birdwatching in some of the regionís most spectacular scenery.



On day nine we start the return journey to Agadir, again crossing the stony deserts and steppe south of the Atlas mountains. We break the journey near Taliouine, centre of the countryís saffron production, an expensive but tasty spice which is actually the stigma of a crocus Crocus sativus. We will stay for three nights at Ouled Berhil. Here, we are at what is essentially a biological crossroads, the transition between the high steppe stone deserts and the plain of the Oued Sous. This is a good area for migrants which we should find around the grounds of our hotel as well as the surrounding area. Interesting breeding species include Red-rumped Swallow, Black-eared Wheatear and Woodchat Shrike. This area is also good for raptors. Who knows, we may even rediscover the Dark Chanting Goshawk!



On our last full day we will visit a popular oasis near Tarroudannt. Birdlife is plentiful in the surrounding Argan forest and here we usually find Fulvous Babbler amongst the more familiar species of the Moroccan countryside. Montaguís Harriers hunt the cornfields, which are full of flocks of Spanish Sparrows and colourful wild flowers at this time of year.


Finally on the morning of day 12 we head west back across the plain of the Oued Sous towards Agadir, arriving at the airport in good time for our flight home.



Breakfast will be taken at about 7am most mornings, perhaps slightly later if the previous day has been tiring. Basic fitness is all that is required. Full days will be spent in the field and short/medium length walks on the flat will be undertaken regularly.



Full-board accommodation is provided with three nights at the Hotel Anezi, Agadir, two nights at the Hotel Karam, Ouarzazate, three nights at the Kasbah Tizzarouine, Boumalne and three nights at the Riad Hida, Ouled Berhil. Rooms are of a very good standard and have en suite facilities. Packed lunches will be taken every day.



All birdwatching excursions with expert leader, full-board accommodation (starting with dinner on 22nd and ending with breakfast on 2nd), local transport by mini-coach, reserve entrance fees, soft drinks at meal-times, international flights and airport taxes.



Travel insurance. Personal items, alcoholic drinks, laundry.



Return flight from London Gatwick to Agadir using the charter services of Thomsons. Outbound flight departs early afternoon, return flight arrives back late afternoon. It is also possible to join this tour from Manchester. Please phone for details.




11 nights:


Principal leader:


Maximum group size:


Cost with discount

(if you book before

7th December 2011):


Full Cost:





Single supplement:





22nd March to 2nd April 2012


John McLoughlin


12 clients with one leader

and a local driver/guide



£1690 per person sharing


£1790 per person sharing


A ground only price is available. Please contact our office









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