After breakfast we began the 300km journey south towards Merzouga, we could see the High Atlas mountains as we began our journey, which would skirt the mountains giving more great views of the ever changing scenery. Our first stop was a gully with scattered trees, there were Black Wheatear and Rock Bunting here but the main reason for the stop was Tristram's Warbler, after a few minutes Stephen called over to say he had one then we could hear it singing, eventually the TRISTRAM'S WARBLER, sat up a few times singing and did a few fly pasts, it sounded and looked very similar to Dartford Warbler but had a small white moustachial stripe and some rufous colouring in the wings, we also heard CHOUGH, picked up by Dave, Moussier's Redstart also put in another appearance. The next stop, over looked a the river Ziz cutting it's way through the mountains, we had good views of Desert Orange Tip butterfly here, there were CRAG MARTINS above us then our only LITTLE SWIFTS of the trip showed well by the entrance to a short road tunnel. Onwards and another new bird for me started appearing by the roadside WHITE CROWNED BLACK WHEATEAR a real stunner, as we drove on I spotted something on a bush, possible babbler was my first thought, after some searching it turned out to be RUFOUS BUSHCHAT, in fact 2 birds, there wasn't much more here but Common Tiger Blue was a new another new butterfly and really well marked.
|Desert Orange tip|
|White crowned black Wheatear|
We only made one more stop where the river Ziz met the Erfoud, so we were told, this was really busy several BLUE CHEEKED and EUROPEAN BEE-EATERS hunted over the river OLIVACEOUS WARBLERS were everywhere our only CETTI'S WARBLER for the trip was heard here and HOOPOE flew across the river, we gave this a reasonable amount of time and it was worth it when a BARBARY PARTRIDGE showed on the bank on the far side, Little Ringed Plovers were also flying up and down the river. Our day ended with a 14km drive along the track to Hotel Yasmina situated on the edge of the Sahara, in an area called Erg Chebbi. We were overlooked by a White Crowned Black Wheatear while we ate tagine, as the bird roosted in the restaurant!!
We had a site for one of the desert specialities we were looking for, it was reasonably large wadi of low vegetation, we spread out and within 20 minutes or so we found DESERT WARBLER, what was amazing is how this little warbler survives in an area that looked at first glance as if there was nothing there, it ran around on the ground and I saw it pick up a grub and feed it to it's young, so there are obviously things out there but it must be hard work! Five of us walked on as Dave went back to move the car further along the track, on his way back he had HOOPOE LARK, I managed a glimpse of this bird flying, luckily as we wandered on I found a bird much closer which showed well, often running between bushes and then doing a display flight, showing it's dramatic wing pattern,we also found several more Desert Warblers here, with probably 7-8 seen in total. A couple more stops in similar habitat weren't overly productive but it was pretty hot by now, DESERT LARK and STONE CURLEW were added to the list before we went looking for Pharaoh Eagle Owl. It was a reasonable walk to the area these birds are seen. A pair of Blue Cheeked Beeeaters showed well on the way and a few Ravens could be seen in the distance on a rocky outcrop, as we got closer many birds were in the air, these were BROWN NECKED RAVENS may be as many as 200 birds thermalling together, with a few still sitting on the rocks where the brown neck could be seen. A search of the cliff face unfortunately didn't reveal any owls but a pair of Lanner falcons flew in and sat on the rocks for a while and Stephen found another Rufous Bushchat, which was seen again later with a Desert Wheatear. Just one more instalment to go!