Thursday, 2 June 2011

Morocco- The final few days.

Unfortunately during the walk to look for the Eagle Owl,mentioned in yesterdays post, I started feeling quite ill, so missed an evening with torches looking for mammals and lizards in the desert. The next morning I was feeling slightly better and after breakfast we decided to take a 4-wheel drive trip into the dunes with a guide, we stopped at a couple of dwellings before we found our first DESERT SPARROWS of the trip, Stephen had really wanted to see these and despite searching around Yasmina where they had bred, we'd had no luck, so this was a great start. We drove on finding a HOOPOE LARK next, this was to be outdone as it landed near to some kind of fox this was a FENNEC, a large eared desert fox, there were two cubs that disappeared quickly and an adult that sat tight and watched what we were up to.
Fennec, a great surprise!

The desert here was a mixture of stony desert and dunes, with small patches of vegetation appearing now and then, one such patch held 5 CREAM COLOURED COURSERS including at least 3 young birds, also here were 2 BAR-TAILED DESERT LARKS my second new bird of the day. The guide was in touch with one of the local Bedouin villagers he had located our next new bird after circling round, a HOUBARA BUSTARD came into view, we watched it for a while as it walked between small patches bushes, apparently there were two birds in the area and there had been up to five birds back in March. We made our way across more stony desert, the driver slowed and we were looking at a small group of SPOTTED SANDGROUSE, 8 in all, two threes and a two, these birds were very confiding and let us within a few feet they were really well marked, I had only seen my first of this group of birds in February, so to find more was more than welcome! Finally we headed back to the Yasmina for lunch. It was decided that we would head out later to let it cool down, I took the opportunity to grab some sleep which I thought might help, I grabbed my bins, camera etc. at 4pm and sat waiting to head out, I don't think I looked too good as Stephen went off to get some water with a bit of sugar and salt in! I went back to bed discretion being the better part and all that! The others did get out and found 3 Egyptian Nightjars !!!, Greater Flamingo, Red Crested Pochard and Gull Billed Tern amongst others.
The next morning was the start of our long journey back towards Fez, a BLACK WINGED STILT had found it's way on to the water around the Yasmina which had only been there for two days and where there had been none for two years previous according the owner! Luckily where the Nightjars were seen the night before was on our way and the birds had been found within minutes, so we stopped so that I had a chance of seeing one of these stunning birds, it took sometime but eventually I heard Phil shout from some distance away, Stephen had found one, with renewed energy I reached the spot and Stephen had the bird in his scope,  EGYPTIAN NIGHTJAR stunning!! A bird I had read about in Heinzel, Fitter and Parslow from before the age of 10!! and always wanted to see.
Female Spotted Sandgrouse

Male Spotted Sandgrouse

Egyptian Nightjar

Egyptian Nightjar

We continued north adding LAUGHING DOVE, another HOOPOE, BLUE CHEEKED BEE-EATER, oh and BLACKBIRD! Then another stop 43km from Er Racchidia gave us a chance to walk another area of low vegetation. Here, Thekla Larks were carrying food and a SOUTHERN GREY SHRIKE perched on a small bush and a pair of DESERT WHEATEARS were also busy feeding. We spread out and before long we were watching FULVOUS BABBLER,it sat for a while in a bush then jumped off and ran through the low scrub, when it disappeared Phil called out SCRUB WARBLER! yet another speciality of the area, this tiny warbler hardly stayed stayed still for a second, eventually we all had good views. We still had a long way to go, we arrived in Zaida early evening, just in time for another half hours watching before our meal, by which time I was feeling fine but Stephen was now suffering! The evening stint did produce SHORT TOED EAGLE and 2 LANNERS.
Another unknown Lizard, for now!

Distant High Atlas from Zaida

The final day and Dave chose a route back to the airport that is not travelled much by British birders, we saw several LITTLE OWLS, looking paler than the birds we get here, more RED-RUMPED WHEATEARS, BLACK WHEATEAR, BLACK EARED WHEATEAR, DESERT WHEATEAR,  SHORT TOED LARK (200+), CALANDRA LARKS, there were birds at every stop we saw BOOTED EAGLE and BLACK KITE.
Young Desert Wheatear

Little Owl

Moussier's Redstart

One stop produced 5 SPECTACLED WARBLERS and 6 TRUMPETER FINCH. We were looking for Temminck's Horned Lark, we came across a pair of Horned Larks, which after a lot of debate and checking against pictures from one of Dave previous trips, were confirmed as TEMMINCK'S HORNED LARK, so a tick even on the last day, what a great trip! A big thanks goes to Dave Walker for sorting out the itinerary and booking everything, which couldn't have gone more smoothly and to the rest of my companions on the trip that all made it a thoroughly memorable and enjoyable week.
Some colour in Morocco!


John said...

Hi Alan,
An obviously fantastic trip in a fantastic country! Such a shame that you didn`t feel too good, but glad you got to see the Egyptian Nightjar. I am extremely envious of the Fennec Fox, what a beauty! The flowers at the end are particularly beautiful.
Thanks for paying a visit to my blog and the `Follow`.

ShySongbird said...

A holiday and a half Alan! As John said it was a shame you were under the weather for part of it but you still made the most of it.

Great photos again, love the one of the Fennec! How nice that you got to see the Egyptian Nightjar. After wanting to since a child, it must have been a very special moment!

The last photo is lovely and reminded me very much of an Impressionist painting.

Warren Baker said...

That last photo is the best of all Alan, what a picture!

Alan Pavey said...

Hi John, the Fennec was a real bonus, I enjoyed your blog and look forward to following it :-)

Hi ShySongbird, Thanks, the Nightjar was a strange one to capture my imagination but it was one that has always fascinated me!

Hi Warren, Thanks, the colours were quite amazing especially after all that desert!!