SOUTHERN MOROCCO

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. This colourful country is famous for its stunning scenery, a mix of mountains and deserts. Spring is the best time to visit as an array of spectacular resident birds are joined by waves of northbound migrants. Once visited, one never forgets the special beauty this country possesses. Our hosts will provide us with a typically warm and welcoming Moroccan experience.

 

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 known to birdwatchers as the Tagdilt Track. This atmospheric dry steppeland 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, through which run life-giving rivers. This is home to the Magreb form (species?) of Mourning Wheatear, the long-billed race of Crested Lark and Desert Lark. Wetlands and nearby oases attract breeding Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters and at times, flocks of migrant warblers. On the return leg we will stop at Taliouine, centre of Moroccoís saffron production.

 

ITINERARY

 

THE ATLANTIC COAST AND THE OUED MASSA

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 previous tours we have discovered various desert specialities here including Bar-tailed Desert Lark, Hoopoe Lark and African Desert Warbler; 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.

 

OUARZAZATE AND THE DRAA VALLEY

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 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 returning to breed for yet another 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.

 

BOUMALNE DU DADES AND THE TAGDILT

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. 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 Dades. We can expect great views of the majestic Bonelliís Eagle here, as well as seeing breeding Crag Martins and migrating European Bee-eaters. Amongst the palm groves dozens of Nightingales are in full song, whilst higher up, Tristramís Warblers sing their scratchy songs from roadside gullies. It all makes for wonderful birdwatching in some of the regionís most spectacular scenery.

 

TALIOUINE AND THE SPICE VALLEYS

On day nine we start the return journey towards Agadir, again crossing the stony deserts and steppe south of the Atlas mountains. We break the journey at Taliouine, the centre of the countryís saffron production, an expensive but tasty spice which is actually the stigma of a crocus Crocus sativus. 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!

 

Finally on day ten we head west back across the plain of the Oued Sous to spend our last night at Agadir. En route we will visit an oasis near Taroudant. Birdlife is plentiful in the surrounding Argan forest and we usually find Fulvous Babbler, as well as the more familiar species of the Moroccan countryside such as Cirl Bunting and Spotless Starling. Montaguís Harriers hunt the cornfields, which are full of flocks of Spanish Sparrows and colourful wild flowers at this time of year.

 

PACE

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.

 

ACCOMMODATION AND FOOD

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, one night at the Hotel Ibn Toumert, Taliouine and the last night back at the Hotel Azeni in Agadir. Rooms are of a very good standard and have en suite facilities. Packed lunches will be taken every day.

 

PRICE INCLUDES Ö..

All birdwatching excursions with expert leader, full-board accommodation (starting with lunch on 18th and ending with breakfast on 28th), local transport by mini-coach, reserve entrance fees, soft drinks at meal-times, international flights and airport taxes.

 

WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED

Travel insurance. Personal items, alcoholic drinks, laundry.

 

INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS

Return flight from both London Gatwick and Manchester to Agadir using the charter services of Thomsons. Outbound flight departs early morning, return flight arrives back mid-afternoon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 nights:

                               

Principal leader:

 

Maximum group size:

 

Cost with discount

(if you book before

3rd December 2012):

 

Full Cost:

 

 

 

 

Single supplement:

 

Deposit:

 

 

18th to 28th March 2013

 

John McLoughlin

 

12 clients with one leader

and a local driver/guide

 

 

£1790 per person sharing

 

£1890 per person sharing

 

A ground only price is available. Please contact our office

 

£190

 

£300

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

click here to see the photographs in our Morocco Album

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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