|03.02.||Agadir Fish Harbour (HK & HL)|
|04.02.||Agadir - Oued Massa - Oued Sous - Agadir (HK & HL)|
|05.02.||Agadir - Cap Rhir - Tamri - Agadir (HK & HL)|
|06.02.||Agadir - Tazenakht - Ouarzazate - Boumalne du Dades|
|07.02.||Boumalne du Dades - Jorf - Erfoud|
|08.02.||Erfoud - Erg Chebbi - Merzouga - Erfoud|
|09.02.||Erfoud - Errachidia - Midelt|
|10.02.||Midelt - Zeida - Ifrane - Dayet Aooua - Meknes - Souk el Arba du Rharb|
|11.02.||Souk el Arba du Rharb - Moulay Bousselham & Merdja Zerga - Larache|
|12.02.||Larache - Asilah - Oued Loukkos - Lac de Sidi Bourhaba - Rabat|
|13.02.||Rabat - Zaers - Casablanca - El Jadida - Sidi Moussa - Cap Beddouza - Agadir|
|14.02.||Agadir - Sous Valley, Igoudar - Tamri - Agadir|
|15.02.||Agadir - 42 km south of Goulimine - Agadir|
|16.02.||Agadir - Oued Massa - Oued Sous - Agadir|
|17.02.||Agadir - Cap Rhir - Oued Sous - Agadir (KH alone)|
|18.02.||Agadir - Cap Rhir - Tamri - Agadir (KH alone)|
We left Al Massira airport at 15.05 and were in Hotel Sindibad at 15.40. Garden Bulbuls were singing in the backyard. We had hired and paid a Peugeot 309 in advance, cost 5377 FIM (8600 Dh) for 16 days, to be at the hotel at 16.30. It was brought already half an hour before, 45.837 km in the odometer.
First birdwatching at Fish Harbour one hour from 17.05: Gannets, Sandwich Terns, eight Manx/ Mediterranean Shearwaters and ten Arctic Skuas. Quite dark at 18.40, dark at 19. Dinner in "Mille et un Nuit" consisted of fish fillet/beef and fruits -- good.
Collared Dove did wake HK up at 4.43. After coffee in nearby cafe we headed for Massa. We drove past the shortcut at Tiferhal (sign missing) and found ourselves in Tassila. Driving through the village produced surprisingly a Laughing Dove and Black-crowned Tchagra showing himself very openly. Three more of the latter was heard and one seen later on the day.
A Squacco Heron was hunting at the river, eight Plain Martins were circling overhead, Spanish Sparrow was seen in warden's garden. Ducks were not very numerous, and we saw no Marbled Ducks. The warden's explanation was salt water from the sea, which had driven the ducks to the upper river.
A flock of 46 Glossy Ibises was feeding near the mouth of the river as were three Spoonbills and 11 Flamingos. On dune-hills behind the river we saw 21 foraging Cranes. Among other birds were an Osprey, Blue Rock Thrush, three male Moussier's Redstarts, two Zitting Cisticolas and a male House Bunting. Best mammal was a wolf-like Jackal seen behind the river.
At Sidi R'bat cafe we enjoyed omelette and coffee, 20 Dh, as well as the sight of 12 Audouin's Gulls, 55 Sandwich Terns, an Arctic Skua and a Manx/Mediterranean Shearwater. Wind had blocked the road from here onwards with sand, so we "had" to drive back to Massa the same riverside road.
A rain front interrupted our birding on the open fields North of Massa village after we had found six Lesser Short-toed Larks. On the way back to P 30 we saw a Woodchat Shrike near Tiferhal.
We drove through the rain front, and when back in Agadir we could continue birdwatching in warm afternoon sunshine at the mouth of river Souss. The First Bend of the river was good with 70 Black-winged Stilts, eight Stone-curlews, a 1st w Little Gull and a 1st w White-winged Tern. Little further on the river were nine Spoonbills, two of which were colour-ringed as well as five White Storks.
At the river mouth there were plenty of birds: 3.500 Lesser Black-backed and 300 Black-headed Gulls among which two Common Gulls, 300 Sandwich Terns, 100 Dunlins, 50 Kentish Plovers, Sanderling and other waders. 40 Flamingos, an Osprey and a Magpie with blue earspot of the local subspecies mauritanica. We sure would have liked to continue watching the birds, but because the light was getting off, we had to return to Agadir at 18.40.
Dinner was eaten in "Maowid Echabab": Chicken Soup and Fried Fish 31 Dh, HL ate meat for 40 Dh. 87 bird species seen so far.
Up at 5 o'clock. Now we got morning coffee at the right time in our own hotel after having given some "advice" to the personnel the night before. Soon after leaving the town at 6.25 the driving lights suddenly disappeared in complete darkness. Luckily they lit again by some clicking, but continued to disappear without warning on several occasions before dawn.
On first stop 1-2 km before Cap Rhir we heard a Black-crowned Tchagra singing. At Cap Rhir we watched seabirds for over two hours. Wind was in North, clear sky, max. temperature +20°C.
Good Gannet migration: in all 1500 flying north, most during the first hour, movement ending at 9.20. Plenty of Audouin's Gulls as well: 59, mostly ad, flying north. Mediterranean Shearwaters 12 identified, four Manx/Mediterranean. One skua sp. and six Black Scoters flying south.
Then we drove towards Tamri in order to try to find the Ibises. After some two km from the lighthouse we found a flock of 21 Bald Ibises feeding on the fields between the road and the sea at 10.20. Ourselves eating bread with "Laughing Cow"-cheese we admired the Ibises until 11.10, then continuing to Tamri Estuary.
At the Estuary we met two British fellow birdwatchers, who immediately left for the Ibises after hearing the news. We also saw three Spoonbills and 131 Audouin's Gulls there.
On the way back we noticed the gentlemen mentioned above chasing the Ibises so that we had to enjoy the sight of the birds in flight as well.
After having coffee at Tarhazoute we drove back to Agadir to get the car repaired before starting the "Grand Tour de Maroc". On the way back we saw seven Audouin's Gulls on Paradis Plage and ten on the next sandy beach plus still additional two.
In Agadir we zigzagged between the car firm and various garages and got brand new front tyres and new switching system for the lights. We noticed that the Collared Dove was no more scarce here, we saw 17. When all was done we did not have time any more to return our guide to the car firm because we had to hurry up to the Airport for KH whose plane from Brussels should have already landed at 17 o'clock.
Luckily we did not meet police before Al Massira. So the three musketeers met at 17.45, only a few minutes after KH had come out from the terminal. The fourth guy we drove back to the rental office, where the owner had already been waiting for him, sitting on the doorsteps, looking somewhat fed-up.
In the evening we made plans for the next ten days or so, eating Harira-soup and octopus, price 33 Dh with Sidi Ali, at the restaurant next door.
Up at 4.30 and to the road through wakening towns. At Oulad Teima we checked the tyres and then continued east through Souss Plain using the good 7027. It was not on our otherwise good Hildebrand's Travel Map 1988/89, but having driven it already two years ago we could expect it still to exist.
By dawn we were already on the Anti-Atlas foothills and by 8.00 in Taliouine, where we thought we had deserved morning coffee with cake. Here the temperature was somewhat lower than on the coast, but Cafe au Lait was excellent, as was the atmosphere with singing Spotless Starling and House Buntings.
At the eastern edge of Taliouine we checked riverside. KH found a male Spectacled Warbler among Blackcaps, Robins and Stonechats. The weather then turned foggy when we ascended the mountains, but it did not hinder us seeing 40 Rock Sparrows at the same stony place where Hannu Jännes had shown the species to HK and HL two years ago.
The fog disappeared completely when we got the magnificent Tazenakht Plain in our sight. Sun was shining and the temperature was over +20°C. For us this symbolized arriving at the Sahara. A male Temminck's Lark did so too, making us stop two km from the Plain edge, i.e. 20 km before Tazenakht. Searching the area for a while we found two more Temminck's and 20 Horned Larks plus two securely identified Thekla Larks.
At Tazenakht we drove a few km the Foum Zguid road (S 510) to the first mountain, mentioned by Forsten & Numminen. We saw White-tailed and Black Wheatears, Desert Larks and a male Rock Thrush, but no Mourning Wheatear this time.
We then continued through high mountainous area and Tizi-n-Bachkoum towards Ouarzazate. A male Rock Bunting on the road, plenty of Black Wheatears and Great Grey Shrikes. In Ait Bou Ktir we made a stop at an oued because of a special-looking "table" mountain. A Long-legged Buzzard was circling against the mountain, a Green Sandpiper and a pair of Trumpeter Finches were found at the oued.
After a pause for the two-o'clock coffee in Ouarzazate we were looking for desert birds at 11 km east of the town, but saw just a Moussier's Redstart. Better stop was made at pole 45 km west of El Kelaa for a male Mourning Wheatear and eleven km later for another.
We arrived at Boumalne du Dades at 16.45 and immediately drove to "Tagdilt Track" for the remaining hours of daylight.
Hoopoe Larks and Red-rumped Wheatears were singing. The latter was numerous, about 20 were seen. We heard the voice of Black-bellied Sandgrouse too, but couldn't see any. Other birds were nine Temminck's Larks, eight Lesser Short-toed Larks and a Long-legged Buzzard.
At the "Auberge du Soleil Bleu" we took a room for three at 110 Dh. Supper was good: soup, warm bread and tajine. The bird log gave good information. Four British birdwatchers told us hair-raising stories about greedy and aggressive young "car-keepers" at the Slender-billed Curlew site. At Merzouga a sandstorm had made them feel "like in hell". Also five German birdwatchers stayed overnight.
The morning was cold both in the room and outside. We spent five hours at Tagdilt Track, during which the sun and birds warmed us up.
Greatest surprise was a flock of 12 Crimson-winged Finches, which probably had descended from the mountains because of the heavy snowfalls this winter. Here were also remains of snow, on and around which these birds were searching for food, anyway. They really did look very beautiful against the snow.
Temminck's Larks were numerous, 32 in all. Also 30 Lesser Short-toed, six Hoopoe and two Bar-tailed Larks. Four Long-legged Buzzards.
A peculiar "hooing" voice from the sky was given by a Black-bellied Sandgrouse, displaying in flight. It lead us to a bigger group, which included also two Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, to our great contentment. With two more groups added, the number of Black-bellied was 28.
After having seen so many good birds we needed a double cake portion with coffee. Then we were ready to head for the east and new adventures. But we had to stop already after a quarter-of-an-hour's driving to watch and photograph the finest Lanner we'd ever seen. It allowed us doing it for some time, only changed pole a couple of times.
We saw another Lanner near Tinerhir and half by accident drove past the road which leads to Gorges du Todra. We did not turn back, because there should not be any very special birds to see.
So we continued through fine desert scenes. White-tailed Wheatears were fairly numerous; in Mellab we saw one of the very few Crag Martins of our tour and after Touroug a flock of 30 Trumpeter Finches by the roadside.
The evening watch was done at Oued Rheris, some 15 km west of Jorf, by walking in and around a dry oued the last two hours of daylight. Here we could enjoy the total silence of the desert in calm and warm evening, broken only by the delicate whistles of Hoopoe Larks. We found two Bar-tailed Desert Larks, two Desert Larks, 19 Lesser Short-toed Larks, a male Desert Wheatear and a flock of 70 Trumpeter Finches.
Best bird here was a Fulvous Babbler, perched on the top of a lone big bush and soon joined by another. Nearer investigations revealed a nest, probably belonging to the Babblers, but too high to climb in the thorny bush.
In Jorf we bought water, bread and enough tomato sardines to cross the entire Sahara if necessary and then drove to Erfoud, where we arrived at 18.45. At Hotel la Gazelle a room for three cost 135 Dh, and a supper made of something tasty mixed of meat, egg, onion, tomato and hot pepper 180 Dh. Service was friendly as was the discussion, sibling mint tea with local guys, who quite politely offered their services for example to find the Houbara Bustard.
Up at 5.30 and morning coffee served punctually at time ordered. Interesting detail was that the hotel was locked during the night from outside with no personnel inside, as far as we did notice. We left for Erg Chebbi area before seven o'clock and made our first stop at quarter to eight at the oued at "Auberge Kasbah", some 20 km south of Erfoud.
One-and-a-half hours work in the oued produced White-tailed Wheatears, seven Bar-tailed Larks and two beautiful male Tristram's Warblers. The 20 sparrows were all ordinary House Sparrows.
We then continued towards the massive Erg Chebbi, ignoring the first sign for "Yasmina", immediately after "Auberge Kasbah", probably meant for camel safaris or something like that. About eight km later we made a left turn and at 10.20 found ourselves at the northernmost of Erg Chebbi cafes, the famous "Cafe Yasmina".
The first birds seen already when approaching the cafe were Desert Sparrows drinking at a sewage ditch. Once we got out of the car at the cafe we could see Desert Sparrows everywhere. After one hour's watching we estimated their number as about 100. Seven Brown-necked Ravens also attracted our attention. Not much was left for the beautiful young lady who smilingly came out of the cafe making some dancing steps at the door, rhythmic Barbary music sounding on the background.
We also met one of the numerous guides named Ali here: Ali Ouhaddou from Cafe Sud (see Forsten & Numminen) was just visiting here. He had time to talk about birds with us, perhaps because the roads over Atlas Mountains had been blocked by snow, and no tourist buses had come through for two or three days.
Next target was Dayet Merzouga, which had been entirely dry in November (see Komi). Now there was plenty of water and over 200 ducks, which we couldn't identify owing to the distance and strong sunshine from behind the ducks. 20 Wigeon, 20 Shoveler and 25 Ruddy Shelduck were nearer. Two Little Ringed Plovers represented the waders here.
At the western end of the lake we made a couple of hours walk in hot afternoon sunshine: five Bar-tailed Larks, a female Desert Wheatear and a male Tristram's Warbler. While resting in the shade of a lonely tree we could watch the aerial display of a pair of Lanners.
There was no time to look for the Bustards at the Algerian border. Neither did we want to spend the night in the desert, so we had to turn back towards Erfoud. Following the pylon line was now not so simple as it had been in the morning, and water had cut the track at places. After a couple of extra rounds we found the right track. The sun went down at about 18.05, and we reached Erfoud at 18.20.
At La Gazelle we ate the same menu as the previous night and drank mint tea with the same chaps talking about birds and even some more universal things.
Before seven o'clock northwards along P21 and Oued Ziz. Dabchick, Moorhen, Kingfisher, singing Cetti's Warblers. Nice views over wakening villages in palm forests, thin still smoke-clouds from stoves in clear and calm morning weather. No very special birds, but male Blue Rock Thrush, male House Bunting and seven White-tailed Wheatears not bad either.
At Errachidia we searched the "Scrub West of Errachidia", but did not find much more than our first Hoopoe.
Barrage Hassan Addakhil held three Little and 17 Great Crested Grebes, 16 Cormorants and four Little Egrets.
Then, after a pause for coffee at Rich after ten o'clock we began to be in totally different-looking mountainous and partly snowy areas.
We stopped at 11.10 just before reaching Tizi-n-Talrhemt because of a pair of Bonelli's Eagles circling overhead. At the same time we heard Levaillant's Woodpecker cry in the nearby pine forest. So we spent a little over one hour in the forest and felt it quite familiar. The hard-packed snow was easy to walk on. In the forest we saw five Firecrests, five Crossbills and a Blue Tit. After passing the tizi we had two Black Wheatears and a female Blue Rock Thrush.
Arrival at Midelt already at 13.45. After having crawled through the hordes of stone-sellers we got a room for three at 3*** A Hotel Ayachi for 326 Dh. Then we drove to Zeida to have a preliminary look on the Dupont's Lark site.
The area looked promising. We identified Thekla Lark and saw a pair of Red-rumped Wheatears. Somewhat worried we noticed a Kestrel catching a lark, but could then see that it was a galerida.
After filling the tank at Zeida for 7,02 Dh per litre and having cake-coffee for 21 Dh, we drove once more to the Dupont's site at dusk. That we shouldn't have done: at 18.40 KH heard four phrases of singing Dupont's Lark while HK and HL were sitting in the car! After that total silence again.
Back again in Midelt and Hotel Ayachi we ate a three star dinner including pastis, soup, grill beef and dessert for 121 Dh per nose.
Up at 4.20, all clothing on and out at 4.55. At Dupont's Lark site 3 km S of Zeida and 1,5 km to the east of P21 from 5.25 onwards. Clear sky, no wind, dark, at least -5°C, cold.
The first Dupont's Lark began singing at 6.10 and soon a second one. KH ran a bit southwards and came back having found three more. HK and HL were pleased to run there and back as well. The Larks sang actively from dawn to about 6.50. Sunrise was at about 7 o'clock. Better-eared KH heard a Tawny Owl, too. We did not manage to beat up any of the Dupont's Larks, and thinking of hot coffee in Zeida made us give up quite easily.
At 7.30 we were in Zeida eating hot Harira and drinking coffee with cake. We had got so used to honest service, that it took several kilometres' driving northwards before we realised that we had actually been cheated double prices. We consoled ourselves with the thought that we probably were not the first.
The surrounding scenes were turning snowy again when we approached Col du Zad. From two km before the pass we mostly walked the road. Great and Coal Tits and a Mistle Thrush singing, Nuthatches and Jays, four Rock Buntings, two Bramblings, three Great Spotted and two Levaillant's Woodpeckers made the bird mixture in the sunny and snowy pine forest very fascinating.
The snowy and treeless area after the pass looked exactly like at home in North Lapland. The alpine meadows rest under thick snow, but 70 Ruddy Shelducks were still going strong on the white ice-clad plateau which proved itself Lac Aquelmane de Sidi Ali! After that we were not surprised to see here a Long-legged Buzzard, Red-throated Pipit and 25 Horned Larks. The identification of a Desert/Bar-tailed Lark in strong sunlight against snow and through car-window did not materialise, anyway.
Feelings were good again at Timahdite, where we had cafe au laits with Mothers Cake at 11.35, watching the market-day crowd swarming around. Still better when we saw a mixed flock of three White Storks and 17 Yellow-billed Choughs circling overhead near Azrou.
At Ifrane we spotted our first Red-knobbed Coot at a pond still in the town. At Dayet Aooua we couldn't see any of them, but saw two Gadwall among other ducks and heard a Siskin. Driving back to Ifrane we checked the pond NE of the town and could watch 20 Red-knobbed Coots at very near distance and heard one more Levaillant's Woodpecker.
In El Hajeb we noticed that Lesser Kestrels were not yet present. At Meknes we saw 300 White Storks and 500 Cattle Egrets at a rubbish tip. A Marsh Harrier was hunting over the vast fields.
After Sidi Kacem it became dark. A Tawny Owl was seen in the car lights.
We arrived at Souk el Arba du Rharb at 19.20 and took rooms in Hotel Gharb at 140 Dh for two and 100 for one. Not of very good level, despite of 2** A. Hot water felt good. Dinner consisting of harira, mutton-chops and mint tea was not bad either, 176 Dh for three. Warm night after the mountain coldness.
Waking up at 4.50 and out at 5.30 for the most exciting day of our tour: should we see the Slender-billed Curlew? After morning coffee in the cafe opposite the hotel we got moving at 6.05. A Tawny Owl flew in the car-lights.
We arrived at Moulay Bousselham at dawn at 6.50. Cafe Milano with the bird log was still closed, but was soon opened, and we saw the latest notes concerning the Curlew to have been written already nine days earlier. Asking the owner more up to date information just produced a smiling promise to help us if we didn't find the bird.
Finding the right track at Douar Ikaid was not difficult, and young boys running from different directions to our car despite the time being just 7.40 confirmed us being in the right place. We chose the biggest boy as the guard and walked to a nearby open grassy hill.
The weather was calm, clear and warm. Hundreds, if not thousands of waders foraging on and flying over the vast meadows. Mostly Black-tailed Godwits and Grey Plovers, maybe 1000 of each, but some tens of curlews as well. The air was full of whistling, including the flute-sound of the herdsmen. Quite soon one of the latter approached us, depicting with his fingers a curved, slender bill. When we nodded he first showed his eye and then to the right.
After some searching we really found two Slender-billed Curlews in that direction, feeding among other waders. Soon they flew nearer us, to approximately 200-300 m. We enjoyed watching them in good light. Having done this for twenty minutes we gave 5 Dh to the man and chewing-gum to the boys. The car-keeper demanded 100 Dh. He got 10 Dh and neither did he seem fully content nor did he try to break our car.
We were content. We drove back to Moulay Bousselham for Marsh Owl at the camping, but couldn't find any, despite three keen young helpers. After having omelette with chips and mint tea at Cafe Milano we headed for the southwestern shore of the lagoon to spend the afternoon there.
There we saw 220 Greylag grazing on the meadows, 13 Spoonbills flying past, Little Stints, Sanderlings, a Peregrine/Barbary Falcon chasing the waders, a flock of 40 Thick-knees roosting sheltered from the hot afternoon sun, five Kingfishers at the Nador Channel and a flock of five Lesser Kestrels migrating north.
500 Flamingos could be identified despite the distance, but most of the waders and waterbirds including a big flock of white egrets remained undetermined.
We also met Dr. Mohammed Dakki with his companions and got a lot of good information. He told us that they hadn't seen the curlews at the site later this morning. Perhaps because of the heat haze.
Preparing for the evening watch at Moulay Bousselham we saw 27 Audouin's Gulls, a Caspian Tern, a Whiskered Tern and a Grey Wagtail at the river. At the campsite we heard and saw our first Barbary Partridge for this trip. Sun went down at 18.05, and from 18.12 onwards two Marsh Owl began to hunt in front of us. A Little Owl was recorded at 18.20, and fifteen minutes later we were ready to go.
At Rharb we phoned to Finland to hear who had been elected president of the republic and to tell that we'd found the Curlews!
At Larache we got a room for three in the very good 1*A Hotel Espana at 300 Dh and ate seafood/tajine in a nearby restaurant.
Not one cafe open in the silent Larache in the morning: Ramadan had begun! Not in Asilah either. We had to find the Bustard site without coffee. After having driven about 10 km along S 612 to N of Asilah we reached the huge fields with mast construction area and stopped soon after the crossing to the latter at 7.05.
We immediately picked up five Great Bustards standing on the field, not very far from the road. We ascended the nearby small hill and found four more groups, 34 Great Bustards in all. During the next hour they were slowly grazing and did not react to donkey-drivers passing apparently quite near. A Quail, several Zitting Cisticolas, and tens of Calandra Larks were singing in the warming-up morning sunshine.
One hour later at the Oued Loukkos marshes near Larache the weather was cool and misty, and in the beginning we could just hear the ducks and waders. Meanwhile we managed to get three Moustached Warblers into five metres distance and heard one of them sing, too. Bluethroat and Reed Bunting were new for the trip, as was the Black-shouldered Kite, flying over us.
When the mist disappeared we could see plenty of ducks in the pools and counted 1500 Teal, 400 Gadwall, 300 Wigeon, 300 Shoveler, 250 Pintail, 100 Red-crested Pochard, and two Marbled Ducks before the birds began to leave and mostly flew to areas behind the river Loukkos.
Three Squacco Herons, seven Glossy Ibis, and four Spoonbills were left together with six Marsh Harriers, six Thick-knees, a Caspian Tern, Whiskered Tern, Long-legged Buzzard and an Osprey. Purple Gallinules were not easy to locate, we saw two on the opposite edge of the pools.
Back again in Larache at 13.00 we found a filling station, which served us coffee. Then we drove south, seeing the second Black-shouldered Kite for the day near Kenitra.
At Lac de Sidi Bourhaba at 16.15 we tried to watch the ducks from the west side and then the eastern shore. Among 2500 Wigeon and 300 Shoveler we found five Red-knobbed Coot.
We drove through Rabat and after some trying found the Motel Panorama des Sable D'or at Sables Eddheb, near Temara, following the recommendation of Jarmo Komi's group, who had been there previous November. Two double rooms cost 200 Dh each, chateaubriand/pepper beef 90 Dh each. New motel, good service, good food.
The situation of Motel Panorama was good as well, thinking of an early start to Francolin area in Zaers. We were up at 5.30, out at 5.50 and on the road at 6.00.
Half an hour later we were at the site at S 208 south of Sidi Yahya. A Barn Owl flew past us, and the first Double-spurred Francolins began to "sing" at dawn. During the next two hours we heard seven calling Francolins, saw one flying over the road, and saw one from the car by roadside.
No one disturbed us. Serins, Robins and Wrens were singing together with Song Thrushes and Woodpigeons. We also heard a Black-crowned Tchagra whistling loudly. Pleasant atmosphere, once again.
Three Cirl Buntings were visible by the road when we drove back to the coast through Ben Slimane. At Bouznik we paid 10 Dh and took a motorway to Casablanca.
In Casablanca we had a couple of hours' break to see the Mosque Hassan II. We also saw 13 Turnstones, two male House Buntings, and a male Black Redstart at the Mosque. Before getting out of the city a collision was nearer than ever during our tour.
At El Jadida we stopped at the Portuguese Fortress and saw 20 Little Swifts overhead.
We arrived at the Sidi Moussa salt pans by 13.30 and spent there some time sorting out the splendid gathering of birds: five Glossy Ibis, 12 Spoonbills, 300 Avocets, eight Knots, 56 Spotted Redshanks, 150 Mediterranean Gulls, 50 Audouin's Gulls, two Whiskered Terns... A nice pink-breasted adult Slender-billed Gull was the first of our trip as was the Little Tern, fishing at the pools. The swimming, winter-plumaged Red-necked Phalarope is among the most beautiful birds HK has ever seen. A moribund flamingo with yellow rings didn't look so nice, respectively. A Quail was singing on the background.
About 10 km later we saw three Black-necked Grebe, seven Glossy Ibis and eight Spoonbill. Here and later hundreds of Wigeon, Pintail and Shoveler plus an additional 100 Avocets and still 20 more Spoonbills at Oualidia Lagoon, which we passed at 15.50.
According to our original plan we should have turned towards Marrakech and Oukaimeden area here. Having already seen a good selection of mountain birds, including the Crimson-winged Finch, we decided to drive directly to Agadir.
At Cap Beddouza we did sea-watch between 16.25 - 17.10 but saw just ten Gannets plus the local 30 Audouin's Gulls and 30 Sandwich Terns. The last bird for the day was a Peregrine/Barbary Falcon seen hunting over sea-cliffs 6 km before Safi.
The most remarkable events during the remaining 300 km were a coffee-break in the first village to be reached after dusk and swapping pocket-lamps with a police constable at Ounara. HK had forgotten stopping at the "Stop"-sign in a silent and completely dark village crossing. HL got a better lamp.
We arrived at Agadir at 22.50 in good condition.
The sleeping morning: up at 7.20 and morning coffee in the hotel. On the road again at 8.30 for the Souss Plain. Nothing special at Taroudannt or after that.
First watch on the first hill before Igoudar between 10.40 - 11.20 produced only a couple of Kestrels and a Sparrowhawk. A second try on the "Triangle Hill" 3 km east of Igoudar was better: two Tawny Eagles gliding against the Atlas Mountains. First a long long glide to E and after some circling a similarly long glide to W. We could watch them about 10 minutes at 12.35.
A Buzzard, 15 Crag Martins and a Woodchat Shrike were other birds to be mentioned; singing Moussier's Redstarts were nice, too, but the species we were here for, i.e. the Dark Chanting-goshawk, had to be left for some other time, once again. In fact the sun and the abundant young company got us warm in less than an hour.
We couldn't find a satisfactory track to search the forest and decided to drive back to the coast and have one more look for Bald Ibises. The 7016 and P 40 on the north side of Oued Souss took us fast to Agadir, and we reached Tamri by 16.15.
Children earned easy dirhams telling us that the ibises were at the site one km backwards. No ibises were present, but soon a flock of 30 Bald Ibis flew past, following the shoreline northwards, and after some circling over the estuary disappeared behind the cliffs.
A Great Skua flew not far from the shore at 17.35, and in about one hour we also counted 59 Manx/Mediterranean Shearwater flying north in small groups.
The last hour of daylight was spent trying to identify a flock of 180 swifts gathering over the seacliffs. At least some of them we thought were Plain Swifts, because of their jizz, dull colouring and translucent flight-feathers. Some of them flew into cliff-holes. The conditions were not good enough for us to rule out the Pallid Swift, however.
Surprisingly, a cafe near Hotel Sindibad was open at five o'clock, despite of Ramadan. After coffee we got moving and passed Tiznit one hour later. A short stop was made at 7.10 at "Binocular Field" (see Jännes) 24 km N of Goulimine, but nothing special was seen or heard.
The first two Hoopoes for many days soon after Goulimine perhaps indicated migration, and three more were seen at some 4 - 5 km S of Goulimine where we stopped for an hour-and-a-quarter's walk at the dry Oued Sayad. It was good with two pairs of Red-rumped Wheatears, a pair of Desert Wheatears, a male Tristram's Warbler and best of all: five Streaked Scrub Warblers.
Then we continued the P 41 leading to Tan-Tan. A Long-legged Buzzard, 3 + 6 + 10 Trumpeter Finches, three Lesser Short-toed Larks and a Bar-tailed Lark by roadsides caused some short stops.
At 31 km south of Goulimine we made desert exploration for three hours until 13.00. Two Black-bellied Sandgrouse flew past us, and soon after that we heard and tape-recorded the cackling voice of Crowned Sandgrouse, but couldn't find the birds against the clear blue sky.
Lesser Short-toed Larks were numerous here, we counted 32 plus six Hoopoe Larks, four Temminck's Larks and a singing Bar-tailed Lark. A fine pair of Thick-billed Larks revealed themselves by voice, too. They stayed for a while on a gravel field by roadside.
The third good species found at first by voice was Cream-coloured Courser, two of which were feeding on a dry field. After flying to another grassy field one of them let us approach quite near and admire her as long as we wanted. One more Courser was seen in flight.
The Tawny Pipit, seen by KH was a new species for the trip as well. A male Spectacled Warbler was singing and seen near the car during our lunch.
We then drove some ten km southwards and stopped at Aouinat Ait Oussa crossing for an hour to check a mostly dry bushy oued. In the shadow of the bushes we found among others a Hoopoe, five Moussier's Redstarts, two Sardinian Warblers, and a small dark long-tailed warbler, reminding Dartford, except for its wings, which were blue-grey overall. After some twenty minutes chasing we could identify it as a Marmora's Warbler, probably 2nd cal year male.
At 42 km south of Goulimine we turned back. Passing Anti-Atlas produced a Black Wheatear and a male Rock Bunting. On the way we met the German group last seen at Boumalne and got a hot tip concerning Red-necked Nightjar heard near Agadir.
By 18.30 we were at the Royal Palace, and the Red-necked Nightjar began singing at 18.50, very actively. KH and HL saw it too, while HK enjoyed listening and tape-recording it through microphone.
Dinner was eaten in the restaurant Ibtissah, as the night before. Harira-soup, octopus/shrimp omelette, coffee, Sidi Ali, altogether 94 Dh for three. In the evening the first rain for eleven days.
In the morning the first illness for the whole trip: HL reported stomach problems and stayed in bed. KH and HK left for Oued Massa at 6.50 to see if there should be something new since 4th February.
At Massa, after night-time rain, it was half cloudy, wind in west. A Squacco Heron, seven Spoonbills, 40 Glossy Ibises at the river. Four Bar-tailed Godwits and a Whimbrel were new for the trip. Three Black-crowned Tchagras were heard whistling.
At the river mouth there was a big gathering of gulls: 2.000 Lesser Black-backs and 315 adult Audouin's Gulls plus a flock of 100 Sandwich Terns.
Seawatch at Sidi R'bat Cafe produced 30 Gannets and four Common Scoters in half an hour.
We then tried to find something new by the river at Tassila, but were interrupted by rain. 15 Plain Martins and a Laughing Dove there were not bad, anyway.
Back in Agadir we noticed that HL was already recovering. After some shopping we did a short watch at the mouth of Oued Souss between 16.40 - 17.30.
Little Gull was still present at the First Bend, as was the White-winged Tern. At the mouth of the river we saw three 1st w Mediterranean Gulls and five Audouin's Gulls among the 3.500 Lesser Black-backs, 200 Black-headed Gulls and 100 Sandwich Terns. The number of waders was bigger than 12 days before: for example 300 Dunlins and 300 Sanderlings. 200 Flamingos, a Grey Wagtail and a White Wagtail of race subpersonata should be mentioned, too.
At Cap Rhir KH saw between 7.50 - 9.15 eight Manx/Mediterranean Shearwaters, 541 Gannets, 79 Audouin's Gulls (20 already on the way at Aghdour) and about 2.000 Lesser Black-backed Gulls flying north.
A visit to Tamri Estuary produced nothing special. KH was back in Agadir at 11.00. HK and HL left the hotel at 12.10 and Al Massira Airport for Finland at 15.40.
KH visited the mouth of Oued Souss between 15.40 - 16.40 and saw five 1st w Mediterranean Gulls. Otherwise the birds were much the same as the previous day. A local guy caused some disturbance by offering company too eagerly.
The morning watch at Cap Rhir between 7.25 - 8.15 produced 440 Gannets, two Arctic Skuas, and a Great Skua flying north, 10 out of the 12 Manx/Mediterranean Shearwaters were flying south.
Checking the swifts, now 80 in number, south of Tamri Estuary did not bring solution to the identification problem. The landing of three Bald Ibis on the edge of the sea-cliffs brought some consolation, anyway. The Ibises then flew south, following the shore-line.
A male Black Wheatear at Kasbah Mountain, an Audouin's Gull in the Harbour and ten Collared Doves, and seven House Buntings in Agadir were the best birds of the rest of the day. The tough last effort produced one more - the 197th - species on our tour list: Common Swift, 30 of which circled over Hotel Sindibad just before dusk.
Now KH could relax and begin preparing himself for home tour, too. He returned the car to the rental office after 4712 km in 16 days with just no problems. Next morning KH left Al Massira for Brussels at 8.40.
Good source of information when planning this trip have been:
Heikki Karhu, Kari Haataja, Harri Liusvaara
Oued Massa: river Massa between Massa village and Sidi R'bat
Oued Loukkos: Larache marshes
Puffinus puffinus/yelkouan, Manx/Mediterranean Shearwater:
8 Agadir 3.2., 1 Sidi R'bat 4.2., 4 Cap Rhir 5.2., 59 flying North Tamri in about one hour between 17 and 18 hrs 14.2., 8 Cap Rhir 17.2., 12 Cap Rhir and 7 Tamri 18.2.
F.atra/cristata, Coot/Red-knobbed Coot:
200 Merdja Zerga 11.2., 20 Sidi Moussa - Oualidia 13.2.
P. apricaria/squatarola, Golden/Grey Plover:
400 Merdja Zerga 11.2.
S. parasiticus/pomarinus, Arctic/Pomarine Skua:
1 Cap Rhir 5.2., 1 Cap Beddouza 13.2., both probably Arctic.
Apus unicolor/pallidus, Plain/Pallid Swift:
180 gathering to circle over sea-cliffs ca. 1 km South of Tamri Estuary from 17.40 onwards 14.2.. Some individuals flew into the cliff-holes. Light conditions not very good and only a few birds seen near.
Description: Dark swifts. Seen best from under: Throat dark, only a faint pale shade. Flight-feathers paler than coverts and body. Relatively short wings, deep-forked tail. Calling actively. Voice tape-recorded. 80 watched at the site mentioned above 8.25 - 9.15 18.2.
A. apus/pallidus, Swift/Pallid Swift:
1 Agadir 3.2., 10 4.2., 5 5.2., 10 13.2.
A. cincturus/deserti, Bar-tailed/Desert Lark:
1 against snow in strong sunlight, Lac Aquelmane de Sidi Ali 10.2.
G.cristata/theklae, Crested/Thekla Lark:
Common by roadsides, seen daily, 349 in all.
S. vulgaris/unicolor, Starling/Spotless Starling:
Biggest day sum 1000 13.2.
Return to trip reports.