Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Morocco- Part 1

We arrived at Fez airport around 7.30pm on the 19th May, seems along time ago already! We being Dave, Gill, Chris, Phil, Stephen and myself. Around the airport building there were SPOTLESS STARLINGS several SWIFTS, a NIGHTINGALE was singing as were TURTLE DOVE and COMMON BULBUL. Something I didn't expect was that it was raining, lightly at first but once we were underway, having found our 9 seater Hyundai that was going to take us on our trip, the rain became pretty torrential, interspersed with great flashes of fork lightning!!! This did make the journey a little more tricky than it may have been but with only one wrong turn we arrived in Azrou before 10pm and the tagine was waiting for us, very good it was to.
We woke to bright sunshine, CATTLE EGRETS (one of the commonest bird on the trip) commuted to and from their nests and as we stopped to get supplies, we found LESSER KESTRELS and WHITE STORKS around the town. We headed to the Foret de Cedres and found ATLAS FLYCATCHER within minutes, one of our target species, a nice male singing and showing well. We split up and searched more of the wooded area, finding WOODLARK, FIRECREST, 'AFRICAN' BLUE TIT, BLACK KITE, BOOTED EAGLE, a superb ROLLER as well as many SERIN a single SHORT TOED EAGLE and a distant calling QUAIL. What a great first stop when we got back together the ATLAS FLYCATCHER showed very well again this time with a female gathering nesting material, a SHORT TOED TREECREEPER and NUTHATCH also appeared in the same tree along with a surprise WOOD WARBLER.
Booted Eagle

Atlas Flycatcher

Moving north through Ifrane, the habitat changed to rocky outcrops surrounded by various grasses and wild flowers. Dave found a suitable place to pull over, several birds were singing, THEKLA LARK being the closest, pretty much the next bird was a SEEBOHM'S WHEATEAR, both Atlas Flycatcher and Seebohm's Wheatear are potential splits from Pied Fly and our Northern Wheatear and some bodies already recognise them as their own species as they are very different from the nominate races in both cases. Anyway, while I was heading over to look at Butterfly Orchids with Gill, Stephen shouted 'MOUSSIER'S REDSTART', the orchids weren't going anywhere so when I got to Stephen I managed a quick view of this stunning Redstart ,one bird I was really looking forward to before the trip started. We added BLACK EARED WHEATEAR, ROCK SPARROW and SPARROWHAWK before moving on to Lake Aaoua. I have never seen so many BLACK NECKED GREBES! at least 200 maybe 300 nesting on the lake, quite a spectacle, with CRESTED COOTS, BLACK WINGED STILTS several singing GOLDEN ORIOLES, including a male that sat out in the open albeit distantly, there was certainly a lot going on, the first of many RUDDY SHELDUCK were also seen here plus some more familiar birds, LITTLE RINGED PLOVER, COMMON SANDPIPER, GADWALL, POCHARD, SHOVELER, GREAT and LITTLE GREBES. It seemed we were packing a lot into the day and so it continued. Dave stopped at a likely field and we saw around half a dozen CALANDRA LARKS, my fifth lifer for the day!!
Butterfly Orchid

Cattle Egrets in really good plumage

We still manage to make another two stops the first was a real raptor fest!! Dave counted at least 70 LESSER KESTRELS in the air at once, while a distant flock of birds turned out to be 20 HONEY BUZZARDS, below these a GRIFFON VULTURE sailed over the treetops heading north then a LANNER flew along the treeline behind us add to this the LONG LEGGED BUZZARD picked up by Chris and distant SHORT TOED EAGLE, it was difficult to know which way look, did I mention the BLACK KITE!!! After we tore ourselves away, we stopped again at the Foret de Cedres where Stephen and I were lucky to add my sixth tick of the day LEVAILLANT'S WOODPECKER, unfortunately the others missed it but we were heading back this way before going south in the morning.
Levaillant's Woodpecker

Unknown Lizard, as yet.

View from Foret De Cedres

We found the Levaillant's without too much trouble in the morning and had great views of 2 Rollers some more Atlas Flycatchers, Firecrest, Chaffinch (another different race with more greeny grey tones than ours), HAWFINCH, RAVEN, CUCKOO, a singing Golden Oriole, I almost forgot the HOUSE BUNTING, a new bird for me, that was perching on the rooftops and singing away, before we left in the morning!!
The next leg of the journey took us south to Zaida as we made our way through the mid Atlas our first surprise was a small troop of BARBARY APES, they are only found here apart from the feral population on Gibraltar, so this was a real bonus. The scenery gradually changed from forested mountains to slightly drier rocky terrain with smaller bits of vegetation, we dropped in on another lake, which I forget the name of! Here we had SPECTACLED WARBLER, BLUE ROCK THRUSH plus more Seebohm's Wheatear and Moussier's Redstart. We moved on from the lake, keeping our eyes on the roadside rocks and posts, our first WOODCHAT SHRIKE appeared on a wire and a stop in a rocky gorge produced 2 new birds for me, ROCK BUNTING and BLACK WHEATEAR. We found a hotel in Zaida and spent the last part of the day at a site for larks and wheatearsWHEATEAR, a great way to end an enjoyable day.
Barbary Ape

Thekla Lark

Lesser Short Toed Lark


John said...

Some great photo`s there of a an obviously great trip! I was lucky enough to visit Morocco in December 2009, a great country with some fantastic wildlife, hopefully, one day I will go back.
Can`t wait for your next instalment!

ShySongbird said...

Wow! What a great time you had and you saw so much! You must have felt like a child in a sweet shop, I know I would have :) Lovely photos too. You will have so many memories to look back on, I'm sure you will never forget it.

I was struck by how much the woodpecker looked like our Green! Loved the colourful orchid and the pretty little Lark but I enjoyed seeing all the photos:)

Alan Pavey said...

Hi John, I really enjoyed the trip and like you would definitely go back, I hope we both get the chance to go back sometime.

Hi ShySongbird, We had a great time, I have been really spoilt this year, the woodpecker is pretty similar to ours and the call is similar, there were larks everywhere!

Greenie said...

Alan ,
Really enjoyed Part 1 of your adventure .
You certainly didn't go short on birds .
Great set of pictures too , really liked the 3 Cattle Egret one .
Look forward to the next episode .

Kieron said...

Welcome back Alan, your May certainly hasn't been dull!

Alan Pavey said...

Hi Greenie, I'm pleased you enjoyed the first part, I hope the others match up to it!! :-)

Hi Kieron, Thank you, May has certainly been a good month for me!

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