Birding in Morocco- Tagdilt Track, best known birding site in Marrakech

I was told by friends that Tagdilt Track is the place to go for birding and its probably the best known birding site in Morocco for desert loving birds like larks and wheatears! But what they didn’t tell me is Tagdilt Track is actually a dumpster site…! @__@” When I got out of the vehicle, I was immediately surrounded by flies, and I tried to keep my mouth shut…you know, just in case. :-/ Indeed there were quite a lot of birds seen here, all new to me…but its really not easy to walk on a rubbish valley on a bright sunny day; the smell, the heat and flies really got on my nerves!

Anyway, here are some of the wheatears seen along Tagdilt Track! From left- Black Eared Wheatear, Mourning Wheatear, Red-Rumped Wheatear and the Black Wheatear and there is also the Desert Wheatear! 😛

Black Eared Wheatear, mourning wheatear, Red-Rumped Wheatear, Black Wheatear

Black Eared Wheatear, Mourning Wheatear, Red-Rumped Wheatear, Black Wheatear

Desert Wheatear

Desert Wheatear

At the Tagdilt Track, there is no shortage of Temminck’s Lark! I just love their devilish horns, and I immediately compared the length of their “horns” to those of Horned Lark! Other larks seen include the Thekla Lark , Crested Lark, Hoopoe Lark and Thick Billed Lark! Its a delight to see them, but its also makes me sad to see them rummage through the dumpster site… 😦

Temminck's Lark

Temminck’s Lark

Thekla Lark and Thick Billed Lark

Thekla Lark and Thick Billed Lark

Crested lark and Hoopoe lark

Crested lark and Hoopoe lark

Seeing a flock of Trumpeter Finches was a nice surprise! Note that their calls don’t sound anything like a trumpet! Here’s how they sound like! http://www.xeno-canto.org/browse.php?species_nr=&query=trumpeter+finch

It was pretty hard to get a decent photo of these Trumpeter Finches as they move swiftly from bush to bush! Another highlight was seeing a Black Bellied Sandgrouse!

trumpeter finch

trumpeter finch

black bellied sandgrouse

black bellied sandgrouse

Now, where’s that Cream Colored Courser I was bound to see???  >.<“

West India- Rann of Kutch, where the thrill begins!

Maybe it’s a tomfoolery act to venture into the desert just like that, but being adventurous and all, I really wanted to venture into this little known area in West India, Rann of Kutch! 😛 In the early months of planning, I tried to contact a local tour operator to help cater to my accommodation and transportation needs…but the countless exchange of emails (language barrier) was a painful ordeal! I finally gave up and directly contacted Mr. Muzahid Malik, owner of Rann Riders and he took care of everything.
Just as I thought everything went well as planned, my flight from Kerala to Mumbai delayed (Grr…)! I was totally frenzied at that time! I could miss my connecting flight from Mumbai to Ahmedabad and the thought of it was enough to put me in panic mode! The frantic wait at the domestic airport was a nightmare…my eyes were practically “glued” on to that electronic flight departure board while I clutched my hands, and waited fervently for that magic moment! The torment finally ended when that “magic” electronic board announced that the plane would leave in 2 hours! Very quickly, I tried to do the maths…it seemed I would have to run to catch my connecting flight…if it waits for me!
The flight time from Kerala to Mumbai was about 2 hours. Upon arrival, I dashed to the transit hall to catch my flight…luckily, the plane waited for me… haha! 😛
After a mere 50 minute flight, I landed in Ahmedabad and was soon picked up by the driver arranged by Mr. Muzahid! The lengthy 2 hour ride to Dasada was horrendous as the driver drove with speed without using his brakes! Yikes! Anyway, as the car drove deeper into the vast empty land in sheer darkness, the clear skies let the stars shine gloriously! Those huge clusters of stars looked like fine-cut jewels, and some even like chips of ice that left me overwhelmed with awe and amazement!
It was already past midnight when we arrived at the hotel, and I was immediately greeted by some ducks, a goat and a dog. 😛 The nights were cold at the Rann of Kutch in January, but thankfully I was kept in “mint” condition as duvets were provided at Rann Riders! 😛

As the jeep sped towards the desert in the morning, I saw some birds on wires but the driver had no intention to stop! I had no choice but to call out to him several times to stop so I could take some shots of the birds! Apparently, the driver assumed that those birds on wires are very common and hence not worth for a stop! XD
By mid morning we arrived in the desert. This place is almost a monochromatic visual; no trees, just shrubs, barren landscape and plenty of Wild Ass!
But before I could get any decent shots of Wild Ass, my driver alerted me.

” Look, Indian wolf! It’s rare!” He exclaimed.
” Where, where?” I asked.
” It’s there over the white border…!” He replied.
” You mean that dog?” I asked naively…it looked like one to me, it still does! 😛

Indian wolf

Indian wolf

The Indian Wolf was a nice surprise, but we were actually looking for the Houbara Bustard at that time! We finally found 2, but these bustards were fast runners, we had to chase after them to get some decent shots!

houbara bustard (macqueenii)

houbara bustard (macqueenii)

As we sauntered across the land of sand, a long-legged buzzard caught our attention-it had captured a short-eared owl (sniff)! Despite we were so close, the buzzard refused to leave as he firmly guarded his catch of the day!

long legged buzzard captured short eared owl

long legged buzzard captured short eared owl

By the time we began our journey back to the hotel, it was nearly mid noon and I was a little parched by then….what a morning! 😛
Below were some of the birds and Wild Asses seen on that day!

sand lark and demoiselle cranes

sand lark and demoiselle cranes

Hoopoe, black winged kite, variable wheatear

Hoopoe, black winged kite, variable wheatear

desert wheatear and short toed lark

desert wheatear and short toed lark

Indian roller, crested lark

Indian roller, crested lark

rosy starling

rosy starling

Wild Ass

Wild Ass

 

rann of kutch

rann of kutch