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Marroc, Atlas and deserts

Morocco; from Atlas to Sahara


Southern Morocco provides wonderful birdwatching in bizarre settings. This is an area of endless steppes and semi-deserts with towering Atlas as a snowed setting. Here desert birds are common with several kinds of Warblers, Wheatears and Larks. Beside this area, the coastal area around Agadir hosts some of most scarce birds in the Western Palearctic including Northern Bald Ibis and Black-crowned Tchagra.

The Atlas, the largest mountain chain in Northern Africa is also a paradise for birdwatchers since here live regionals such as Levaillant's Woodpecker, Tristam's Warbler, Moussier's Redstart or Blue-cheeked Bee-eater (left).

DAY PLANNING

Day 1. Asni-Oukaïemeden. After an early morning start in Marrakech we will explore area around Asni which provides one of the best places to look for Levaillant's Green Woodpecker. Once we got nice views of them we will move to Ouakaïemeden, a sky resort placed in the center of the Atlas. Due to its high altitude (over 2.500 metres) this is a worderful site to look for high mountain specialities such as Alpine Accentor, Red-billed and Alpine Choughs and the very scarce Crimson-winged Finch (right). In our way up and down we would have chances for other interesting species such the recently splited African Blue Tit, Dipper, Rock Bunting and Ring Ouzel. 

Day 2. Marrakech - CapTamri. A short transfer will lead us to Cape Tamri, a worldwide famous natural site for Northern Bald Ibis. Here it is located the last reliable colony of the species concentraring over 90% of the bird left in the world. Other birds here include Red-rumped Swallow, Blue Rock Trush, Black-crowned Tchagra, Thekla Lark & Barbary Falcon. The area is also noted for the variety of migratory birds. In the afternoon we will enjoy some see watching. This area can produce excellent birdwatching as thousands of birds fly North in their way to their nesting sites in North Atlantic. Species may include Northern Gannet, Shooty, Great & Cory's Shearwaters, Skuas and a good variety of gulls.

Day 3. Souss-Massa National Park. We will spend most of the day in the Souss-Massa National Park. Here is one of the best places to spot Black-crowned Tchagra and, along with them, Warbler, Marbled Duck, White-headed Duck, Greater Flamingo, Moussier's Redstart, the scarce Brown-throated Sand Martin and a large variety of migratory birds (a male Pallid
Harriers was the highlitgh in our 2014 issue). After exploring these areas we will enjoy of some other good birds such as African Magpie (a next split) and Spanish Sparrow. Afternoon transfer to Marrakech for a two nights stay.


Day 4. Marrakech-Boulmane du Dades.
This day we will cross the Atlas. In the long road we will have several chances to see quite a lot of specialities including Long-legged Buzzard, Barbary Partridge, Common Bulbul, Thekla Lark as well as some little beauties such as Tristam's Warbler or Moussier's Redstart. Near Ouarzazate we will stop in search of desert specialities including Scrub & Desert Warblers. Arrival to Boulmane du Dades for a two nights stay.

Day 5. Boulmane du Dades. During the morning we will explore the never-ending steppes inmediatly South of Boulmane. Here the list of specialities is specially long and an average day it would include Temminck's (right), Thekla, Lesser Short-toed, Desert & Greater Hoopoe Larks; Black-bellied & Crowed Sandgrouses; Desert, Red-rumped , White-crowned & Mourning (halophila) Wheatears & Cream-coloured Courser. Here Lanner Falcons are not scarce and they can appear at any moment. In the afternoon we would explore the scenic Gorge du Dades. Barbary Partridge, Black Wheatear, House Bunting as well as Olivaceous & Tristam's Warblers can be surprisingly common here.


Day 6. Boulmane - Gorge du Todra.
 We will start the day again in the massive plains South of Boulmane in search of those specialites missed the previous day as well as looking for scarce birds such as Thick-billed
Lark (right) or (even) Houbara Bustard (not recorded in recent years at this point..). We will then follow our way East to visit the steep Gorge du Todra.

Here Bonelli's Eagle is a common view as so is Scrub & Tristam's Warblers. Along these deep canyon Rock Martin has been recorded several times so it is always interesting to check all Crag Martins flying around! The oases before entering the gorge are a wonderful place for passage birds and Wryneck, Nightingales (including a Eastern Subalpine Warbler in our 2015 issue) are common along with Common Bulbuls and Rock Sparrows. Overnight in Gorge du Todra.

Day 7. Gorge du Todra - Merzouga. In the morning we would enjoy of the fresh combination of the Atlas and the oases around. Blue Rock Thrush and Woodchat Shrike common and parties of passage raptors fly North over this point. We will continue East towards Arfoud. During our way we will check some place where we would have chances for scarce species such as Scrub Warbler and Trumpeter Finch. After the arrival to our hotel in Merzouga we will enjoy of some birding in the gardens of the hotel. Here parties of Fulvous Babbler activatly move around and White-crowned Wheatear, Maghreb Larks and Laughing Doves are easily found within the area. Stay in Merzouga for three nights.

Day 8. Merzouga. Merzouga is one the Morocco's door to Sahara. Here the landscape is composed by a huge variety of desert and semi-desert ecosystems. Our hotel is facing the scenic Erg Chebbi. This morning we will explore the desert areas around our hotel as well as Merzouga's temporary lagoon. Some specialties living here include Greater Short-toed, Greater Hoopoe and Bar-tailed Larks, Egyptian Nightjar (image above)Cream-coloured Couser, Blue checked Bee-eater and Spotted Sandgrouse. Merzouga lagoon is an excellent spot and provides great sights on Brown-necked Raven, Greater Flamingo, Ruddy Shelduck, Marbled Duck (above left), Black-winged Stilt and a variety of waders. We will anyway make a special effort to find out the very scarce Desert Sparrow (above) and the elusive African Desert Warbler!! During the afternoon we will go for the scarce and secretive Pharaon Eagle Owl...

Day 9. Merzouga.  This day we will drive into the desert to look for one of the scarcer birds in Morocco. Houbara Bustards live in non-disturbed desert areas and their locations are well protected. During our way we may find several desert-living specialties such as Spotted & Crowned Sandgrouses (below left), Desert Sparrow (right), Lanner Falcon or Thick-billed Lark. Here all scrubs and little trees are likely to be absolutely full of passage birds including Subalpine, Western Orphean & Western Bonelli's Warblers, Common Redstart, Iberian Chiffchaff and many other. Other birds here include Hoopoe (above right) and European Bee-eater. In the afternoon we will re-visit Merzouga lake looking for some new species.

Day 10. Merzouga - Marrakech. Early morning start to explore a small wetland close to Rissani. Here we may locate Sedge & Common Reed Warblers (Aquatic Warbler was found here in our 2015 issue!) and the recently split Moroccan Pied Wagtail. Little and Spotted Crakes are not uncommon. Desert specialties here includes Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Desert Lark, Trumpeter Finch and Little Owl. Saharan Olivaceous Warbler is a common breeder in the trees around. Transfer to Marrakech expecting to arrive at late afternoon. When arriving to Marrakech we will enjoy the last dinner of the trip and the last overnight (included in the price) in the city.



Moroccan Tours

Morocco; Atlas & Deserts Tour

Price per person:

   1700€

single room surcharge:
300€
deposit:
400€

  13th to 22th March, 2018            

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WHEN TO VISIT MOROCCO?

Strong heat in most Moroccan birding locations points out early spring as best season for birdwatching in the country, with moderate temperatures along both North & South tours. All months from March to June are highly recommended.