Au revoir Morocco

I’m just using a french word in the title here, it doesn’t mean anything. Neither of us speak french, which is truly detrimental when travelling Morocco. Everyone speaks french here and not being able to, feels almost barbaric. We’ve managed with english and sign language.

In total, our Morocco trip must be considered a success, the species we had on our list we missed were Dupont’s Lark, Tawny Eagle, Dark Chanting Goshawk and Egyptian Nightjar. Some of these we’ll repair later. We’re returning here in April, migration species and the Small Buttonquail. We’ll try to do some repairing then.

These last days from Agadir to Marrakesh we had some great birding as usual. We started the morning in Agadir with just casual birding in Oued Sous, nothing spectacular there though. One of the palace guards came running whistling loud, waving. We just walked away, pretending ignorance. The wild-goose-chase project of  Sunday 19 was to search Sous Valley for Tawny Eagle and the probably extirpated Dark Chanting Goshawk. The last sighting of the Goshawk is more than 10 years old. Planting ourselves on a hill, we got our number 350 – Short-toed Eagle.

Short-toed Eagle
Short-toed Eagle

The Short-toed Eagles are migrating north, and later next day driving across the High Atlas, in a high altitude pass, we saw flocks of Short-toed Eagles going north. Migration has started, driving further we saw newly arrived flocks of Red-rumped Swallows, Common Swift and Sedge Warbler.

Red-rumped Swallow
Red-rumped Swallow

Camping the night in a dry river bed which is a known nesting site for Egyptian Nightjar. We had red recent reports of Egyptian Nightjars that have just arrived at Merzuga. We didn’t hear any though.

Sunday 19, the project of the day is to find the sub species Mahgreb Wheater. According to IOC it’s a Mourning Wheatear, but according to Lars Svensson and the Collins guide, it’s a full species. We followed the Gosney guide, driving slowly along a road known to host the Wheatear. It’s a species that has steep rocky slopes as it’s habitat. We searched such areas to no avail. Eventually Erik says – I think it’ll sit in a bush on flat ground – Mårten and I go – Yeahh .. sure. One minute later, Erik finds it on flat ground, in a small bush.

Maghreb Wheatear
Maghreb Wheatear (male)
Maghreb Wheatear (male)
Maghreb Wheatear (male)
Maghreb Wheatear (female)
Maghreb Wheatear (female)

With the Wheatear (which WILL be split) in the bag, we decided to cross the Atlas mountains before dark. The Mourning Wheatear female looks like the male, this subspecies has the female all different.

Slept at nice hotel at Ait Ourir.

Last real birding day in Morocco, High Atlas and high altitude species at the ski resort Oukaimeden which at least for birders is more famous for the African Crimson-winged Finch than it is for its slopes. We had read quite a few birding reports with groups failing to get all the way to the end of the road due to weather conditions. Not to worry, we got there and lot’s of high-altitude birds there, in particular the price bird.

African Crimson-winged Finch
African Crimson-winged Finch
African Crimson-winged Finch
African Crimson-winged Finch

This bird recently used to be the same as the similar looking Eurasian Crimson-winged Finch which we’ll tick in Turkey, but is now a split. This appears to happen quite often with species that are the same/similar, but have radically geographically distributions. Same thing with the Desert Warbler. Lot’s of other good birds at Oukaimeden.

Rock Sparrow
Rock Sparrow
Rock Sparrow
Rock Bunting
Red-billed Chough
Red-billed Chough
Alpine Chough
Alpine Chough
Alpine Accentor
Alpine Accentor

As well as the locally resident Horned Lark which is a possible future split

Atlas Horned Lark
Horned Lark

Now that we’re diverging into the mine field of sub species, why don’t we all go full dutch, i.e split everything. I give you the Atlas Chaffinch  and the Moroccan Pied Wagtail

Atlas Chaffinch
Atlas Chaffinch
Pied Wagtail (ssp subpersonata)
Pied Wagtail (ssp subpersonata)

Final remarks on this Morocco trip. Morocco is a very easy country to travel, people are friendly and helpful, and even though we don’t speak French, everything went smooth and easy.  Massive amount of police check points, especially in the south. However, the policemen are correct and friendly, it just takes time. We’d like give super special thanks to  Mohamed Amezian who has provided excellent help on a number of occasions when we were stumped. Thanks!! and hopefully we’ll hang some on our April return trip.

 

1 thought on “Au revoir Morocco”

  1. Wow, thanks for this very interesting story and great pics. I will follow you journey with great interest! BTW, the links to places to visit and stay at makes it extra interesting. /Martin

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