Birding in Morocco- Mount Atlas Mountains, Ouarzazate to Merzouga

Driving along Mount Atlas Mountains was not easy at all, especially with so many hours of twirls and curls through mountains! But whenever there’s an area to pull over and take a break from the treacherous driving, I savored those opportunities to look into trees and scrubs and one of my best catch was the Levaillant’s Green Woodpecker. 🙂 Other findings include Cirl Bunting, and European Goldfinch!

European Goldfinch and Levaillant's Green Woodpecker

European Goldfinch and Levaillant’s Green Woodpecker

Cirl Bunting

Cirl Bunting

The drive from Ouarzazate to Merzouga Desert along N9 highway was pretty straightforward! Along the way, there were nomads with their herd of sheep, camels and of course there were birds around those large patch of desert scrubs! Woodchat Shrike, Great Grey Shrike, Streaked Scrub Warbler, Spectacled Warbler were some of the birds seen!

Woodchat Shrike and Great Grey Shrike

Woodchat Shrike and Great Grey Shrike

Spectacled Warbler and Streaked Scrub Warbler

Spectacled Warbler and Streaked Scrub Warbler

A small flock of Fulvous Babbler, also known as Fulvous Chatterer  gave away their hiding spot easily by their noisy calls! But at the same patch, another lark, later identified as Bar-tailed Lark (note the black band at tail end) was seen! 🙂  Amongst the Crested Larks seen wandering around, there was one in particular with a longer bill, the Long-billed Crested Lark. Will there be a split soon? 🙂

Fulvous Chatterer or Fulvous Babbler

Fulvous Chatterer or Fulvous Babbler

Bar-tailed Lark

Bar-tailed Lark

long-billed crested lark (right) and crested lark (left) comparison

long-billed crested lark (right) and crested lark (left) comparison

At Ouarzazate, there is a barrage at Mansour Eddahbi known for waders and ducks. But I didn’t see much- just Ruddy Shelducks, Moroccan Wagtail and Collared Pratincole!

Right to left- collared pratincole, ruddy shelduck, Moroccan wagtail

Right to left-collared pratincole, ruddy shelduck, Moroccan wagtail

Birding in Morocco / Marrakech – Merzouga, Sahara Desert 赏鸟在撒哈拉大沙漠

I could hardly spew any words when the magnificent clutch of sand dunes laid before my eyes as my car hurtled towards it! The view was more than breath-taking but on a second thought, it was very hard to imagine how birds survived in the desert! I was told that it wasn’t easy to find the desert sparrow and desert warbler in the desert, as scrubs were scarce and with the dominating population of house sparrows, these desert birds were pushed further deeper into the desert making them harder to find! :-/

To beat the blazing heat, birding started as early as 0700! Driving on sand dunes was just as challenging as walking on them with gear. For almost an hour or so, I didn’t see anything, not even a desert beetle! It was not until I sauntered towards a stone house about 20 miles away that both the Desert Sparrow and Desert Warbler were sighted!

desert sparrow in Sahara Desert

desert sparrow in Sahara Desert

desert warbler

desert warbler

At Merzouga, another must-see bird is the Egyptian Nightjar. A Berber family actually looked after these nightjars, making sure they were not disturbed. To see them, just offer a tip and they would guide you to the place they roost. 🙂 Other birds to look out for include the Little Owl, Lesser Kestrel and the Spotted Sandgrouse, where the former roosted on an old clay house with Lesser Kestrel taking a break from the blazing heat in the same building, and the Spotted Sandgrouse was found when a flock was sighted off road! 🙂

Egyptian Nightjar

Egyptian Nightjar

Lesser Kestrel

Lesser Kestrel

Little Owl

Little Owl

Spotted Sandgrouse

Spotted Sandgrouse

At the clutter of accommodation in the desert, House Sparrow, Brown Necked Raven and Bee eater were commonly seen roosting near the water tanks!

Other birding places within Merzouga, include the Merzouga lake! Perhaps I have seen flamingos at a much closer distance in West India- Little Rann of Kutch , it was a bit of a dismay to see them so far…

Even at the lake, nomads came out of nowhere and tried to sell souvenirs such as stones. I bought one, not because I find it pretty…but nomads lead a poor, basic life…a souvenir didn’t cost much, but it would support the livelihood of a nomad and his family. 😛

European Bee-Eater, House Sparrow, Brown Necked Raven

European Bee-Eater, House Sparrow, Brown Necked Raven

merzouga desert

merzouga desert

merzouga desert

merzouga desert

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???  >.<“

Birding in Morocco- Oukaimeden, Marrakech 观鸟在摩洛哥

Probably to many British and European birders, Morocco is a place where they could just visit and bird for the weekend. Coming from Asia, Morocco is a totally new place to me. I am enthralled by the idea of seeing flying carpets and Aladdin (maybe I watched too many Disney movies?) 😛 I am not sure why my brain relates that to Morocco! But for a place to be close to the Sahara desert, certainly heightened my determination to tramp there (of course with the hope to see some flying carpets!!!)

My Itinerary

Marrakech -Oukaimeden, Boulmain area, Mount Atlas mountains and the Sahara desert

My first stop was Oukaimeden! Situated about 75km out of Marrakech, the drive was about 2.5 hours from the airport! Despite treacherous road conditions, my driver was very experienced, and I got to enjoy the breathtaking views of the mountains that undulated before me as we” twirled” up the peak!

Needless to say, one of the highlights of my trip was to see my “devil” bird- Horned Lark (see those devilish horns? :)) At the peak of Oukaimeden, I was immediately greeted by the Horned Lark, Crimson-Winged Finch, Rock Sparrow…and how could I forget the Seebohm’s Wheatear ? >.<” I had to ford streams just to get a record shot of it!

Rock Sparrow and Horned Lark

Rock Sparrow and Horned Lark

crimson winged rosefinch

crimson winged rosefinch

Seebon's wheatear

Seebon’s wheatear

The accommodation we spent the night had a great patio!! As the three of us (guide, driver and me) had breakfast (breakfast was just bread and jam…cough),  we were greeted by a load of House Buntings, that flew in and out of the hotel… (hence its name I think!!). They seemed very familiar with the place and they roosted in comfort on their favourite perch- couch, cushion, shelves, etc.!  Other birds seen at the hotel area were blackbirds and Cirl Buntings and also Common Bulbuls (not common to me…XD)!

Common Bulbul

Common Bulbul

house bunting

house bunting

house bunting  on treasure box!

house bunting on treasure box!