Erg Chebbi, Morocco

 

Southern Morocco

Dates: 7th - 18th March 2020

This classic tour takes in all the key sites of southern Morocco from the coast around Agadir, to the edge of the Sahara Desert at Merzouga and the High Altas at Oukaimeden. Although this is not a photographic holiday there will be many opportunities to capture images of the superb birdlife and the stunning scenery.

Bald Ibis, MoroccoMoussiers Redstart, MoroccoBlack-shouldered Kite, Morocco

We begin on the coast around Agadir where we'll explore around Tamri and Cape Rhir which is an excellent area to find the endangered Bald Ibis. The Moroccan population of this charasmatic bird was until recently the only viable, wild population in the world although there is now a small introduced population in southern Spain. It still teeters precariously near to extinction and is one of the prize birds to be found in Morocco. The river running through the village of Tamri to the coast is also good for gulls and terns and you could expect to see various species including Audouin's Gull. On the southern side of Agadir lies the Souss-Massa National Park with the mouth of the Oued Souss entering the Atlantic just south of Agadir. The estuary here is excellent for waders, terns and gulls and a nice selection of species should be found including Greater Flamingo, Spoonbill, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt and Slender-billed Gulls amongst many others. The Royal Palace nearby is also a site for Red-necked Nightjar which may be found on sandy tracks at dusk. A little further south lies the Oued Massa where we should be able to find more waterbirds as well as Black-crowned Tchagra, Moussier's Redstart, Barbary Partridge and various migrants. Other birds should include Black-shouldered Kite, Southern Grey Shrike and Little Swift amongst many others.

White-crowned Black WheatearTrumpeter Finch, MoroccoHoopoe Lark, Morocco

Leaving the coast we head inland along the Souss Valley towards Taliouine, passing throught a variety of habitats including argana forest as well as orchards and cultivated areas that should provide a good selection of birds including Long-legged Buzzard, Black-shouldered Kite, Booted Eagle, Hoopoe, Southern Grey Shrike, Black-eared Wheatear and Great Spotted Cuckoo. As we continue across the desert areas we're likely to pick up various larks including Desert Lark, Short-toed Lark and Thekla Lark, Wheatears will also feature including Desert Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear and Seebhom's Wheatear whilst Cream-coloured Courser and Trumpeter Finch can also be found. Any wet areas are certainly worth a stop along our route as they provide a life line for north bound migrants. These could include many warblers such as Bonelli's Warbler, Orphean Warbler and Subalpine Warbler as well as Nightingale, Woodchat Shrike, Yellow Wagtails and various herons. Coming across terns, waders and maybe crakes along rivers in the midst of an inland desert region is incredibly exciting as we get an inclination of what these birds go through to reach Europe from their wintering grounds further south.

Thick-billed Lark, MoroccoSpotted Sandgrouse, MoroccoDesert Warbler, Morocco

We pass through Ouarzazate and on to Boulmane du Dades where we'll explore the famous Tagdilt Track. The area is excellent for certain desert species such as Temminck's Horned Lark, Hoopoe Lark, Thick-billed Lark, Red-rumped Wheatear, Desert Wheatear, Cream-coloured Courser as well as both Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse. Lanner Falcon and Long-legged Buzzard may also be seen whilst a small orchard to the south often holds migrant warblers and chats. A little further east we'll visit the spectacular Todra Gorge where we should hopefully spot Bonelli's Eagle as well as the resident Blue Rock Thrush and Moussier's Redstart. Cultivated areas will also hold migrants such as Nightingale and various warblers whilst a walk along the gorge will provide us with opportunities to photograph House Bunting aswell as various wheatears and larks. From here we'll make our way to the far south-east of the country and the stunning Erg Chebbi sand dune on the edge of the Sahara. The whole area between Merzouga - Rissani and Erfoud holds a mouth-watering aray of birds including Egyptian Nightjar, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Crowned Sandgrouse, Spotted Sandgrouse, Barbary Falcon, Desert Sparrow, Desert Warbler, Pharaoh Eagle Owl, Fulvous Babbler, Brown-necked Raven and many more larks and wheatears.

Crimson-winged Finch, MoroccoLevallaints Woodpecker, MoroccoAtlas Horned Lark, Morocco

We leave the south-east and make our way back towards the High Atlas stopping at sites for Mahgreb Wheatear on route. We wind our way up to the Tizi-n-Tichka pass which lies at 2,260m and the high point on the way to Oukaimeden. Stops along the route should produce migrants as well as Levaillant's Woodpecker which is fairly common in the area along with the local race of Great Spotted Woodpecker. Continuing on we'll reach the ski resort at Oukaimeden which may well still hold plenty of snow at this time of year and is very busy at weekends with day trippers from Marrakech. This is our last hot spot for Moroccan specilaities which should include Crimson-winged Finch and Atlas Horned Lark as well as Rock Sparrow, Rock Bunting, Alpine Accentor, Seebhom's Wheatear, Alpine Chough and Golden Eagle. Finally we'll end this exciting tour of southern Morocco with our last night in Marrakech before flying home.

Short list of species: Bald Ibis, Long-legged Buzzard, Black-winged Kite, Barbary Falcon, Lanner Falcon, Cream-coloured Courser, Spotted Sandgrouse, Crowned Sandgrouse, Pharaoh Eagle Owl, Red-necked Nightjar, Egyptian Nightjar, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Levaillant's Woodpecker, Desert Lark, Bar-tailed Lark, Thick-billed Lark, Hoopoe Lark, Moussier's Redstart, Seebohm's Wheatear. Maghreb Wheatear, White-crowned Wheatear, Desert Wheatear, Red-rumped Wheatear, Scrub Warbler, African Desert Warbler, Trsitram's Warbler, African Blue Tit, Black-crowned Tchagra, Brown-necked Raven, Desert Sparrow and Crimson-winged Finch.

Cost: £1,500 (not including flights) We can help arrange flights if required.

Price includes 11 nights accommodation, all meals and transport throughout the tour.

Accommodation: En-suite rooms provided by a local tour company.

Transport: This is provided in an 8-seater minibus with a local, professional driver. 4x4's and a local guide will be used in the desert region around Merzouga.

Group size: 7 (maximum)

Booking: Please email: steveduffield70@gmail.com

Where to meet: If you are leaving from London Gatwick I'll be there to meet you for the flight; otherwise I'll see you in the airport at Agadir where the tour starts. We return to the UK from the airport in Marrakech.