Birding trips to Morocco, spring 2018

By MaghrebOrnitho | 12 June 2018

Here is a summary of three birding trips to Morocco led by Mark Beevers with Rockjumper Birding Tours this spring. It includes only interesting and sought-after species (e.g. some North African endemic species and subspecies, and localised, rare or uncommon species,…). Mark will send all national rarities to the Moroccan Rare Birds Committee (MRBC) in due course.

February / March Tours (two):

2nd February. Oukaïmeden: seven Alpine Accentors and 20 African Crimson Winged Finches.

23rd February. Tizi n’Test: immature Golden Eagle near the top. Ouirgane: Pair of Siskins. Oued Souss: First winter Little Gull and 50 Mediterranean Gulls.

24th February. Pelagic off Agadir: three-four European Storm Petrels, four Manx and four Balearic Shearwaters (plus five unidentified), first winter Black-legged Kittiwake and a pale phase Pomarine Skua. Oued Tamri: five Ferruginous Ducks.

25th February. Oued Massa: c. 50 Northern Bald Ibis and 25 Common Cranes. Oued Souss: 25 Marbled Teal and 80 Eurasian Spoonbills.

26th February. 123 km west of Ouarzazate: c. 20 Cream-coloured Coursers and single flock of c. 70 Thick-billed Larks.

27th February. Tagdilt Track: 11 Cream-coloured Coursers and 40 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse.

28th February. KM43 between Errachidia and Tinejdad: One Isabelline Wheatear and four Streaked Scrub Warblers.

2nd March. Erg Chebbi: 60 Spotted and 26 Crowned Sandgrouse coming to drink and one Egyptian Nightjar.

3rd March. Tagdilt Track: 16 Cream-coloured Coursers. Barrage El-Mansour Eddahbi: two Black Storks.

5th March: Road up to Oukaïmeden: Northern Goshawk. Oukaïmeden: 200 Alpine and 50 Red-billed Choughs and 60 African Crimson Winged Finches.

6th March: Ourika: Tawny Owl seen. Tizi n’Test: six Ring Ouzels at the top. Oued Souss: 280 Greater Flamingos, first winter Little Gull, c. 100 Mediterranean Gulls and first winter Common (Mew) Gull.

7th March. Oued Massa: 22 Common Cranes. Tamri: c. 30 Northern Bald Ibis and c. 200 Audouin’s Gulls.

8th March: Barrage El-Mansour Eddahbi: Red-throated Pipit.

9th March. Tagdilt Track: 21 Cream-coloured Coursers, ten Black-bellied Sandgrouse and 15 Thick-billed Larks.

11th March. Erg Chebbi: c. 50 Crowned Sandgrouse coming to drink and one Egyptian Nightjar.

12th March. Tizi n’Tichka: Four (possibly five) Pale Crag Martins.

May tour:

2nd May. Oukaïmeden: Tawny Owl heard on access road, up to six Seebohm’s Wheatears on two visits, pair of African Crimson-winged Finches and 20 Rock Sparrows.

3rd May. Pelagic off Agadir, out to 22 miles offshore: 40 European Storm Petrels, one White-faced Storm Petrel (at 30.26.31.3 N, 10.02.16.6 W, photo below ), 200+ Black Terns, two adult summer Sabine’s Gulls (30.26.31.3 N, 10.02.16.6 W) and two Artcic Skuas plus Hobby over Agadir. Tamri: 70 Northern Bald Ibis and 21 Eurasian Spoonbill on the estuary.

4th May: Oued Massa: Ten Northern Bald Ibis, seven Glossy Ibis, female Little Bittern, 350 Common Ringed Plover, 200 Dunlin and two Eleanora’s Falcons. Oued Souss: four Marbled Teal, 15 Eurasian Spoonbill, two Pied Avocet, 125 Common Ringed Plover, 100 Dunlin, nine Little Stints, ten Mediterranean Gulls, first winter Little Gull (from February), 13 Lesser Crested Terns counted flying downstream, 30 Black Terns and three Eleanora’s Falcons.

5th May. Barrage El-Mansour Eddahbi: one Temminck’s Stint.

6th May. Tagdilt Track: male Houbara Bustard (photo below), five Cream-coloured Coursers, 25 Black-bellied and seven Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, seven Thick-billed Larks and a male Maghreb Wheatear (east of the road to Ikniouen. Dades Gorge: pair of Bonelli’s Eagles.

7th May. Todra Gorge: Family party of Tristram’s Warblers. Between Tinejdad and Errachidia (km 43): five Thick-billed Larks, family party of Streaked Scrub-Warbler, one Desert Warbler and a male Greenland Wheatear.

8th May. Erg Chebbi: 125 Spotted, 200 Crowned and one Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Egyptian Nightjar, five Desert Warblers and three male Desert Sparrows. Rissani: 23 Honey Buzzards, 250 Brown-necked Ravens and three Eastern (Saharan) Olivaceous Warblers.

9th May. Erfoud. 60 Honey Buzzards migrating north.

10th May. Zaida Plain: four Cream-coloured Coursers, Dupont’s Lark (three seen and one heard). Midelt: 40 Honey Buzzards migrating north. Aguelmame Sidi Ali: 120 Ruddy Shelduck.

11th May. Oued Loukkos: 46 Griffon Vultures and an immature Egyptian Vulture migrating north, 70 Collared Pratincoles, Caspian Tern, six Brown-throated Martins and five singing Savi’s Warblers.

12th May. Asilah area north of road R417: No sign of any Great Bustards. Sidi Boughaba: 50 Collared Pratincoles, a Lanner Falcon, a late female Pintail, one Marbled Duck, 14 Ferruginous Ducks, minimum of 74 White-headed Ducks and pair of Hobbies mating.

13th May. Zaer: four Black Storks. Casablanca: one Lesser Crested Tern migrating north.

Also seen on tour but site details withheld were Pharaoh Eagle Owl (pair with one young), Lanner Falcon (pair with two young), Red-necked Nightjar, plus all the usual expected species.

Mark Beevers (Rockjumper Birding Tours)

England

White-faced Storm Petrel / Océanite frégate (Pelagodroma marina), off Agadir, Morocco, 3 May 2018 (Gil Ewing).

White-faced Storm Petrel / Océanite frégate (Pelagodroma marina), off Agadir, 3 May 2018 (Gil Ewing).

Houbara Bustard / Outarde houbara (Chlamydotis undulata), Tagdilt Track, Morocco, 6 May 2018 (Gil Ewing).

Houbara Bustard / Outarde houbara (Chlamydotis undulata), Tagdilt Track, 6 May 2018 (Gil Ewing).

4 thoughts on “Birding trips to Morocco, spring 2018

    1. MaghrebOrnitho Post author

      Thanks Paul for the comment!

      With birds being released regularly at a few sites in Morocco, the status of every bird is indeed difficult to ascertain. While released birds can be found at Tagdilt Track and other areas, wild birds can also be found at these places. I think that an important aspect should be acknowledged here. When they started to release the captive-reared birds, first in Morocco and then also in Algeria, wild birds were still in the traditional range of the species (It’s true that they were heavily hunted in some areas, but they were still present in other less accessible areas). Therefore, I tend to see that the species in Morocco is a mixture of individuals from the wild and released stock, but not an entirely ‘reintroduced species’ because wild birds were never went extinct before the release operations started.

      Tracking studies have shown that Houbara Bustards can move great distances, but still I believe there are places not reached by released birds (especially south of Lower Draa valley). Please see this blog-post: http://www.magornitho.org/2013/12/wild-houbara-bustard-safia-reserve/

      From the birding point of view, I think it’s up to the birders who observe the bird to judge. By observing the bird’s behavior and the circumstances of the observation, they can judge if they are looking at a wild bird or not. As I haven’t seen the species yet, I will do the same when I see it.

      Mohamed

      Reply
  1. Mark Beevers

    Hi Paul and Mohamed,
    Re the Tagdilt Bustard who can say if this is a released bird or not, no idea. I wasn’t aware that Houbara’s may have been released in that area but it is the first I have seen there in 14 visits since 2007. I have also seen a single bird and a pair in two different years in the Erg Chebbi area since 2010. On each occasion the birds behaved as I would expect a wild bird to e.g. the Tagdilt male was always walking away from us and we never got closer than a couple of hundred metre’s, hence the grainy photo. The first female I saw at Erg Chebbi was seen from 400 metres and as we moved closer in our vehicles did a disappearing act never to be seen again, the second vehicle never even got onto the bird. The pair that we had there a also behaved as I think wild birds would. Our local guide found a male but as we drove up to him the bird disappeared (they just flatten themselves to the ground becoming invisible) we continued driving and after we’d gone 200 metre’s past where we thought it should be the bird got up and went obliquely away from us in to a gully. As we hadn’t had good views we followed to the edge of the gully and the pair then walked out the opposite side of the gully and quickly away from us. On all three occasions were unable to get closer than a couple of hundred metre’s. To me that suggests wild birds but who knows. Good job I’ve also seen them a few times on the Canaries, where particularly on Lanzarote you get very close good views (down to 30 metres). Cheers. Mark

    Reply
    1. MaghrebOrnitho Post author

      Thanks Mark for the details about your firsthand experience with the Houbara in Morocco. I will refer to this comment/discussion each time someone asks me this question about the species.

      Thanks again Paul for asking the question in the first place (a question, I know, is almost in everybody’s mind).

      Mohamed

      Reply

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