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Morocco (coast)

 

   

5-10 March 2014

Observers: F. & L. Simpson

 

Introduction


 

Following a birding trip to the High Atlas and deserts in 2007 and a travel photography trip in 2011, we were keen to return to bird the west coast with the hope of seeing and possibly sound recording four target species: African Marsh Owl (Asio capensis), Double-spurred Francolin (Pternistis bicalcaratus), Black-crowned Tchagra (Tchagra senegalus) and Plain Martin (Brown-throated Martin) (Riparia paludicola). Considering the distance between Larache and Agadir, we probably tried to do too much in the short time allocated but all four species were seen as well many other great birds. Spring migration was in full flow and many species were singing. Unfortunately we experienced some rather mixed weather with strong winds and nocturnal storms in addition to warm days.

 

 

 Highlights


 

Double-spurred Francolin, Barbary Partridge, maroccanus Cormorant, Northern Bald Ibis, Long-legged Buzzard, Lanner Falcon, Red-knobbed Coot, Eurasian Crane, Caspian Tern, Laughing Dove, Great Spotted Cuckoo, African Marsh Owl, Little Swift, Plain Martin, Moroccan White Wagtail, Bluethroat, Moussier's Redstart, Moustached Warbler, African Blue Tit, Black-crowned Tchagra, Common Bulbul, mauritanica Magpie, africana Chaffinch, House Bunting.

 

 

Logistics


 

Flights

London Stansted to Rabat-Salé (RAK) with Ryanair cost a £167.24 two including two 15 Kg check-in baggage pieces.

 

Ground Transport

Car hire with Payless was booked through Holiday Autos costing £81.75 for a compact 4-door with air con and unlimited mileage but without damage excess waiver. Tank was supplied empty and we had to pay for the airport car parking as Payless have no office there and operate a 'meet-and-greet' transaction. The coastal motorway has pay tolls. The biggest charge was between Agadir and Marrakech at 140 Dirhams (£10.60).

 

Accommodation

Ranged from 250-420 Dirhams (£18.90 -£31.80) per night for a room for two.

Moulay Bousselham: Asked for a specific hotel but got conned in to staying at a 'guest house'.

Témara: Hôtel Panorama

El Jadida: Hôtel El Morabitine

Parc National Sous Massa: Cabin at Camping International de Sidi Wassay.

 

Maps

Insight Travel Map. Morocco 1:800 000 was sufficient for our purposes. Garmin GPS utilised for grid references.

 

 

Literature, references & site guides used


 

•     Trip reports were obtained from cloudbirders.com (the new Internet portal to birding travel and birdwatching trip

•     reports) and birdtours.co.uk and the most useful for our purposes are listed below:

    Albegger, E. et al. Morocco and Western Sahara, 4-22 April 2010. Internet published Trip Report.
    Bonser, R. 2005. Morocco, 3-10 April 2005. Internet published Trip Report.

    Collaerts, E. et al. Morocco, 28 April - 6 May 2012. Internet published Trip Report.

    Jönsson, O. et al. Morocco, 16-25 February 2007. Internet published Trip Report.

    Matheve, H. et al. Morocco, 9-24 April 2011. Internet published Trip Report.

    Schouten, A. & Peters, A. Morocco, 9-27 April 2011. Internet published Trip Report.

    González Ortega, D. et al. Morocco and Western Sahara, 20-29 January 2012. Internet published Trip Report.

 

    Bergier, P & F. 2003. A Birdwatchers' Guide to Morocco. Prion Ltd.
    Gosney, D. 1996. Finding Birds in Northern Morocco. Gostours Guide.
    Gosney, D. 1996. Finding Birds in Southern Morocco. Gostours Guide.

    Insight Travel Map. Morocco 1:800 000.

 

 

Itinerary


 

Day 01       05/03/14     Rabat > Kenitra > Moulay Bousselham > Merja Zerga (Meroia Lerga)
Day 02       06/03/14     Moulay Bousselham > Larache > Oued Loukkos > Témara
Day 03       07/03/14     Témara > Sidi Yaya Zaër > Sidi Bettache > Cassablanca > La Jadida
Day 04       08/03/14     La Jadida > Essaouria > Tamri > Agadir > Parc National de Sous Massa
Day 05       09/03/14     Parc National de Sous Massa > Agadir > Marrakech > Témara
Day 06       10/03/14     Témara > Sidi Yaya Zaër > Sidi Bettache > Témara > Rabat

 

 

 

The Diary


Day 1
Wednesday 5 March 2014
Rabat > Kenitra > Moulay Bousselham > Merja Zerga (Meroia Lerga/Merdja Zerka)


 

Rabat-Salé Airport
Picked up the hire car with empty tank (600 Dirhams to fill 37 litres) white noting singing Serins, displaying Zitting Cisticola, Cattle Egret and Common Kestrel. This was the first on many Cattle Egrets and the most abundant species we noted on the west coast of Morocco. They were everywhere from roundabouts in the centre of Rabat, open rubbish tips on the edges of towns, the farmland and marshland in the countryside.

 

Rabat-Salé Airport > KenitraMoulay Bousselham
Species noted on the drive north on the A1 motorway towards Larache: Cattle Egret (inc c200 following a tractor), White Stork, Kestrel sp, Goshawk (3) displaying over pine forest north of Kenitra, Raven, Spotless Starling, Crested Lark, Jackdaw, and Barn Swallow. Stopped at a service station for coffee, noting Stonechat and Barn Swallow around the garden area. House Sparrows were freely coming and going inside the cafe with customers entering and exiting. Less bold individuals looking for scraps around the tables outside. Total road roll Rabat to Moulay Bousselham exit = 38 Dirhams. Took the R406 towards Moulay Bousselham. White Wagtail and Collared Dove noted. In Moulay Bousselham: we asked for a specific hotel but got conned in to staying at a 'guest house'. Observed Audouin's and Yellow-legged Gulls passing along the coast.

 

Merja Zerga (Meroia Lerga/Merdja Zerka)
Tried birding on the tracks along the eastern side of the lake but the roads were bad: pot-holed and muddy. Passed what appeared to be a tip on the south side of Gnafdi (Gnafda) which held about 250 of the dirtiest Cattle Egrets I've ever seen. Many were in full breeding plumage but also soiled from foraging in the waste. The lake was distant but the area was good for raptors with Black-winged Kite, Montagu's Harrier and Long-legged Buzzard.

 

As the evening was approaching we headed back for dinner in time to get down to the favoured Marsh Owl site near the campsite on the east side of Moulay Bousselham. Dinner at Cafe Milano was 104 Dirhams for two (Tajine de Poullet, fries, bread, olives, banana shake & apple juice).

 

For the Marsh Owl site at Merja Kahla, we turned right (south, while heading eastbound out of town) at the Gendarmerie (where we left the car), down the sandy track signposted 'Flamants Loisirs Complexe Touristique, turned right at the fork and headed down the west wall of the camping ground, then turned left towards the houses which overlook the marsh/heath bordering the lake. Around 500+ Cattle Egrets were wheeling around in a single white cloud on the other side of the lake. As expected, some appeared on a bike claiming to be able to show us the Hibou. He took us to his father's house (Khalil Fachkhir, tel: 0663095358) and soon we were up on his rooftop terrace with a mint tea, watching some Pallid Swifts, and waiting for the Marsh Owls to emerge from their roosting site in the campsite to the north. Five minutes after sunset, three Marsh Owls appeared at 18:35 over the trees of the campsite, circling around for several minutes (briefly calling), them passing right over our heads and out to hunt over the lakeside. After a further ten minutes they appeared to settle down and were soon lost to view as darkness fell. Heading back we heard a Little Owl above the frog chorus but the evening had been too windy to sound record anything. Bring mosquito repellent!

 

Mouth of Merja Zerga from Moulay Bousselham © Fraser Simpson  ·  www.fssbirding.org.uk

 

 

Day 2
Thursday 6 March 2014
Moulay Bousselham > Larache/El Araich > Oued Loukkos/Oued Loukos > Témara


 

Moulay Boussleham
Woke up late at 08:30 and had a brief look at the slope down to the beach (photo below). A few Common and Iberian Chiffchaffs were flitting around the minimal cover and passing along the shoreline were single Caspian and Sandwich Terns, and several Audouin's Gulls and Slender-billed Gulls. Had a brief look at the tidal mouth of the Merja Zerga noting Yellow-legged Gulls/Lesser Black-backed Gulls (200+), sinensis Great Cormorant, Audouin's Gull (5), Crested Lark, Spotless Starling and House Sparrow. Drove north towards Larache.

 

Moulay Boussleham © Fraser Simpson  ·  www.fssbirding.org.uk

 

Oued Loukkos marshes, Larache

We drove the P4401 track heading south (from the N1 on the north-east side of the city) on the west side of the bridge over the Loukkos river, towards the Barrage Oued Loukkos.

 

· 1st stop at small pools, south of the main bridge over the river, at the blue factory: 35° 11' 26.1" N  6° 07' 54.7" W
Water Pipit (2), Black-winged Stilt (2), Iberian Yellow Wagtail (4), Little Ringed Plover (1), Little Egret (1), White Wagtail (2), Water Pipit (2), Redshank (3), Yellow-legged Gull, Zitting Cisticola, and Stonechat.

 

Oued Loukkos marshes © Fraser Simpson  ·  www.fssbirding.org.uk

 

· 2nd stop at the first main marshes/floods, just after passing under A1 road bridge: 35° 10' 26.1" N  6° 06' 39.4" W
The whole 5 Km along this track produced some excellent birding and the heavy winter rains had probably extended the marshes beyond their usual capacity. Here, it really felt like we were in Africa with the numbers of wetland birds present. Red-knobbed Coot (Crested Coot) (3 prs), Red-crested Pochard (pr), Ferruginous Duck (4), Glossy Ibis (22), Spoonbill (42), Great Egret (1), White Stork (14 circling), Marbled Duck (pr), Purple Heron (1), Little Gull (1), Black-winged Stilt (80+), Bluethroat (2), Long-legged Buzzard (2), Marsh Harrier (2), Mediterranean Gull (1), Caspian Tern (1), Iberian Yellow Wagtail (10+), Black-tailed Godwit (1), Little Egret (11), Sand Martin (6), Common Chiffchaff singing, Serin, Sardinian Warbler, Grey Heron (4), Zitting Cisticolas displaying, Little Grebe (3 prs), Cetti's Warbler singing, Crested Lark, Mallard (f + b/7), Stonechat, Black-headed Gull (5), Lesser Kestrel (male), Barn Swallow (2), Moorhen (pr) & White Wagtail.

 

In the next kilometre, most of the above species were in view along with Squacco Heron (3), Crested Coot (34), Ruff (6), Common Bulbuls, Common Snipe (1), Iberian Yellow Wagtail (25+).

 

The wind had settled down this morning and I made some sound recordings from the trackside. Several wagtails were feeding very close to the edge of the track since the water was close and appeared to have recently flooded the track.

 

Iberian Yellow Wagtail  Motacilla flava iberiae


Sonogram of Iberian Yellow Wagtail calls

Oued Loukkos marshes, Morocco  35° 10' 26.1" N  6° 06' 39.4" W  6 March 2014

Flight calls from passing birds with a nearer bird taking flight at 4.6 sec.

[File name: iberianyellowwagtailLS111761ecut]

    Iberian Yellow Wagtail

     

White Wagtail  Motacilla alba


 Sonogram of White Wagtail call

Oued Loukkos marshes, Morocco  35° 10' 26.1" N  6° 06' 39.4" W  6 March 2014

Flight call from passing bird.

[File name: whitewagtailLS111758ecut]

    White Wagtail3

     

Black-winged Stilt  Himantopus himantopus


Sonogram of Black-winged Stilt calls while feeding

Oued Loukkos marshes, Morocco  35° 09' 28.5" N  6° 06' 09.6" W  6 March 2014

Calls from a feeding bird.

[File name: blackwingedstiltLS111764ecut]

    Black-winged Stilt 2

     

Glossy Ibis  Plegadis falcinellus


Sonogram of calls from a Glossy Ibis

Oued Loukkos marshes, Morocco  35° 10' 26.1" N  6° 06' 39.4" W  6 March 2014

Calls from a bird in flight.

[File name: glossyibisLS111761ecut]

    Glossy Ibis

 

Oued Loukkos marshes © Fraser Simpson  ·  www.fssbirding.org.uk

 

· 3rd stop at the large, open flooded fields/marshes east of the village on the hill: 35° 09' 46.0" N  6° 06' 25.9" W
Glossy Ibis (52 - some feeding in drier areas with sheep), Marbled Duck (4), Black-winged Stilt (70+), Greenshank (4), Squacco Heron (1), Caspian Tern (1), Whiskered Tern (3), Curlew (2), Common Bulbul, Raven calling, Marsh Harrier (3), Little Egret (20+), Purple Heron (1), Grey Heron (4), Zitting Cisticola, Cattle Egret, Spotted Redshank (1), Ruff (4), Linnet (pr), White Stork (3), Black-headed Gull (30), Iberian Yellow Wagtail, Corn Bunting, White Wagtail, and Cetti's Warblers singing.

 

Moustached Warbler  Acrocephalus melanopogon


Sonogram of Moustached Warbler song

Oued Loukkos marshes, Morocco  35° 09' 28.5" N  6° 06' 09.6" W  6 March 2014

Distant bird singing from marsh side area of reeds and Juncus.

[File name: moustachedwarblerLS111767ecut]

    Moustached Warbler

 

 · 4th stop at the main marshes on the right, c4 Km south of the main road: 35° 09' 28.5" N  6° 06' 09.6" W
Species visible (more hidden in the vegetation): Purple Swamphen (10+), Moustached Warblers singing, Caspian Tern (6), Ruff (143), Black-tailed Godwit (54), Avocet (4), Osprey (1), Marsh Harrier (6), Black-winged Stilt (100+), Green Sandpiper (5), Spanish Sparrow (2), Spoonbill (1), Greenshank (1), Redshank (10+), Common Snipe (1), Iberian Yellow Wagtail (55+), Corn Bunting (10), Goldfinch (23), Stonechat, White Wagtail (6+), Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Yellow-legged Gull, Serin displaying, and Moorhen. Further along towards the barrage, there were at least 12 sinensis Cormorants in the trees along the riverbank and pair of Kingfishers zipping up and down the river.

 

Drive south to Témara
Stopped for coffee/ice-cream at a service station with singing Common Bulbuls, Serins and Greenfinches. A glance at the sky revealed a loose group of 62 migrant White Storks heading north - would they reach Spain by nightfall or rest before crossing tomorrow? A Common Chiffchaff was calling and we observed our first male North African Chaffinch of the trip. Towards Rabat, two Little Owls noted perching on roadside posts and several mauritanica Magpies were seen. Road tolls on the motorway peage between Larache and Rabat totalled 48 Dirhans. Stayed at Hotel Panorama in Témara.

 

 

 

Day 3
Friday 7 March 2014
Témara > Tamesna > Forêt de Sidi-Bettache > Sidi Bettache > Cassablanca > El Jadida


 

Témara > Tamesna> Sidi Yaya/Sidi Yahya des Zaër > Sidi Bettache
We eventually found our way to the Francolin site in the Forêt de Sidi-Bettache after several false start and getting lost. On the N1 heading westbound through Témara, take the southbound (left-hand turn) R403/Avenue Moulay Hassan I after passing the Total filling station and the Afrique filling station. Sidi Yahya des Zaër is sign-posted but the village itself seems to have become engulfed by the new town of Tamesna. At the second roundabout, take a right turn towards Sidi Bettache.

Several roadside pools held Red-crested Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, Crested Coot, and Little Egret. Black Kites became regular and Black-winged Kite and Little Owl were where the road entered more wooded areas.

 

Black-crowned Tchagra habitat, Sidi Yaya-Sidi Bettache © Fraser Simpson  ·  www.fssbirding.org.uk

 

17 Km north of Sidi Bettache, on road R403  33° 42' 31.4" N  6° 55' 18.8" W
After passing the white roadside 18 Km post, there is a small white monument on the right, then a few hundred metres on up the hill there is an inconspicuous track to the right leading off to a car park. Almost immediately after getting out of the car, I heard with melancholic whistles from a distant Black-crowned Tchagra (Bush-Shrike). The song really does carry far and the bird was eventually located in the scrub and trees at the 17 Km post. Unfortunately the area was sealed off with a high fence, but the Tchagra was just close enough to make some sound recordings despite many noisy trucks passing. Great Spotted Woodpecker, Sardinian Warbler and Greenfinch were noted but is soon became apparent that no Double-spurred Francolins were vocalising at this time of the day and so the chances of locating on were remote. However, now that we knew the route we planned to come back for dawn on our last morning before the flight home.

 

Black-crowned Tchagra  Tchagra senegalus


Sonogram of Black-crowned Tchagra song

Forêt de Sidi-Bettache, Morocco  33° 42' 31.4" N  6° 55' 18.8" W  07 March 2014

Song uttered from evergreen scrub/Asphodelus pasture bordering cork oak forest.

[File name: blackcrownedtchagraLS111780ecut1]

    Black-crowned Tchagra

     

 Black-crowned Tchagra  Tchagra senegalus


Sonogram of Black-crowned Tchagra song in flight

Forêt de Sidi-Bettache, Morocco  33° 42' 31.4" N  6° 55' 18.8" W  07 March 2014

Song phrases uttered from a male in flight -listen carefully between 0.8 and 2.6 secs for 'wing-fripping'.

[File name: blackcrownedtchagraLS111780ecut2]

    Black-crowned Tchagra

 

Forêt de Sidi-Bettache, 10.5 Km north of Sidi Bettache  33° 39' 36.9" N  6° 53' 11.3 W"
Explored the Cork Oak woodland along the roadside here with African Blue Tit and North African Chaffinch fairly common. Also noted Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Cuckoo, Great Tit and Blackbird.

Drive south to El Jadida, via Cassablanca
The next plan was to head south to Agadir but decided to stop early in the evening at Hötel El Morabitine in EL Jadida. A pair of Sparrowhawks were soaring over a service station about 30 kilometres north of Cassablanca.

 

Cattle Egret roost, La Jadida © Fraser Simpson  ·  www.fssbirding.org.uk

 

El Jadida
Looking out of the fourth floor window towards the sea, there was a steady stream of Cattle Egrets passing to roost. Went for a walk along the beach in the last 20 minutes before sunset. Around 120 Pallid Swift were overhead and began rising to roost at altitude. Around 40 Yellow-legged Gulls along the tide line. After walking through a small park behind the promenade, we located the roost of hundreds of Cattle Egrets in the walled Royale Paradis gardens. More birds were still arriving well after sunset. Blackbirds alarm calling.

 

 

 

Day 4
Saturday 8 March 2014
La Jadida > Essaouria > Tamri > Agadir > Parc National de Sous Massa


 

El Jadida
Waking up in Hötel El Morabitine, we heard a House Bunting singing at 06:40h. Looking out of the window and the Cattle Egrets were in reverse, leaking their secure, urban roost site to feed in the surrounding countryside. Common Bulbuls were calling from the street below.

 

El Jadida > Sidi Smaïl > Bouguedra > Essaouira

Continuing the drive south towards Agadir, the first Laughing Doves of the trip were seen perched on roadside Prickly Pears from 30 kilometres south of El Jadida. Towards Safi province it was apparent that large numbers of Barn Swallows were heading north and Crested Larks were particularly numerous along the roadside. Also noted: Cattle Egret (still abundant), White Stork, Stonechat, House Sparrow, Kestrel sp, Spotless Starling, Corn Bunting, Calandra Lark, Woodchat Shrike, Montagu's Harrier, Southern Grey Shrike (7), Common Bulbul, Moussier's Redstart, White Wagtail, Collared Dove, Magpie, Greenfinch, Sardinian Warbler, Feral Pigeon, North African Chaffinch,

 

Tamri > Cape Rhir (Cao Rhir)
With little time to spare we decided not to stop for long and explore the Tamri area. A flock of 12 Northern Bald Ibis were seen in flight to the north of the town and a couple more beside the road on the southern side. Ravens were common and we saw our first maroccanus Cormorants in the sea.

 

Cao Rhir © Fraser Simpson  ·  www.fssbirding.org.uk

 

Camping International de Sidi Wassay
Heading south on the N1 from Agadir (after long delays and lots of traffic) we turned right for sign-posted campsite. This road led to the coast after crossing a ford/low bridge over the Oued Massa. This most notable sighting was the large numbers of migrant Red-rumped Swallows - perhaps 50 birds around the river.

 

Once at the campsite we checked in to a cosy, hobbit-like bungalow decorated with Moroccan fabric inside. From here we observed singing Moussier's Redstarts right outside the doorway, but it was too windy to sound record them.  A male Moroccan White Wagtail was sitting by the swimming pool and 30+ Pallid Swifts were overhead. Down on the beach, several Iberian and Common Chiffchaffs and Subalpine Warblers were flitting around in the minimal herb-layer, looking for insects and hiding in crevices in the foreshore sand/rock formations when approached. One male Subalpine Warbler even flew to a rock pool to procure some insects. A flock of five Spoonbills flew north and there was a steady movement of Barn and Red-rumped Swallows, and House and Sand Martins.

 

After dark a Stone Curlew was heard. Spectacular thunderstorm during the night.

 

Wassay Beach © Fraser Simpson  ·  www.fssbirding.org.uk

 

 

Day 5
Sunday 9 March 2014
Parc National de Sous Massa > Agadir > Marrakech > Témara


 

Parc National de Sous Massa  30° 01' 51.6" N  9° 38' 38.8" W
Left the campsite before sunrise and headed to the ford/bridge over the Oued Massa at 30° 01' 51.6" N  9° 38' 38.8" W. This bird-rich area held some freshwater marsh, mud, and Tamarisk, surrounded by low-intensive farmland. I spent an hour searching through all the hirundines here, eventually finding a single Plain Martin (Brown-throated Martin). The Moroccan race of Great Cormorant was seen well here (6 birds) and an overnight roost of 140+ migrant Black Kites was observed awakening (from 07:25) and continuing their journey to the north. Species noted: Great Spotted Cuckoo, Laughing Dove, Black-crowned Tchagra, Long-legged Buzzard, Moustached Warbler, Bee-eater (40+), Red-rumped Swallow (10), Common Bulbul, Osprey, Kingfisher, Marsh Harrier (3), Moussier's Redstart, Black-winged Kite, Green Sandpiper, Sedge Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Pallid Swift, White Stork, Black-winged Stilt, Crested Lark, Sardinian Warbler, Sand Martin (7), House Martin, Barn Swallow (30+), Iberian Yellow Wagtail, Cetti's Warbler (3 singing mm), Common Sandpiper (2), Moroccan White Wagtail (1), Eurasian Coot (27), Moorhen (several pairs), Little Grebe (4 prs), Common Chiffchaff, Subalpine Warbler, Grey Heron (5), Common Kestrel, Blackbird, Feral Pigeon, Greenfinch (2 singing mm).

 

Oued Massa © Fraser Simpson  ·  www.fssbirding.org.uk

 

After this we headed towards the main entrance to the park. At the junction Route El Kharije and Route Sid Rbat on the edge of Massa village, we met a man who said he was an official park guide (despite being a few kilometres from the park) though he did have an official badge and an SEO shirt. He offered to guide us to anything we wanted to see... Marbled Duck, Cream-coloured Courser, Bald Ibis, etc... for 150 Dirhams per hour. We were low on money and petrol having not replenished either when we passed Agadir. With only a100 Dirhams left to offer he accepted this and my request for a singing Tchagra. He parked his moped and jumped in our car and he took us across the flood plain farmland on muddy tracks. The wind was still strong and so the chance of make some sound recording was unlikely. Then we stopped and walked along the field boundaries and irrigation ditches, flushing three Quail and 100+ Iberian Yellow Wagtails. Displaying Zitting Cisticola were abundant as well as many Phylloscopus warblers, probably grounded by the recent wind and last night's storm. Other good birds seen included Bluethroat, Collared Pratincole, Stone Curlew, Purple Heron, Moussier's Redstart, Bee-eater, Laughing Dove, Common Snipe, Moroccan White Wagtail, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Crested Lark, Common Kestrel, Linnet, Blackbird, and Collared Dove. Eventually a pair of Black-crowned Tchagras were located by our guide and while they mainly silent, close views were obtained of them on the ground, running between the crops and hopping back into the scrub.

 

Oued Massa floodplain © Fraser Simpson  ·  www.fssbirding.org.uk

 

When our hour was up, the guide departed and asked for our Gosney guide booklet to Finding Birds in Southern Morocco as a souvenir. We continued towards the national park and located a very vocal Black-crowned Tchagra within five minutes (I know, I should become a guide) just south of the village of Sidi Binzarne. This area (in the photograph above) was partially sheltered by the hillside (with rocky undercliff) on the right (north) and using the car and door as a shelter I managed to get some recordings of both the male singing and the pair duetting once the female joined in.

 

 

Black-crowned Tchagra  Tchagra senegalus


Sonogram of Black-crowned Tchagra duetting song

Oued Massa, Morocco  30° 02' 41.1" N  9° 38' 46.3" W  09 March 2014

Duetting song uttered from a pair in a Tamarisk in the flood plain of the Oued Massa.

[File name: blackcrownedtchagraLS111810ecut2]

    Black-crowned Tchagra

     

Black-crowned Tchagra  Tchagra senegalus


Sonogram of Black-crowned Tchagra song

Oued Massa, Morocco  30° 02' 41.1" N  9° 38' 46.3" W  09 March 2014

Song uttered from spiny scrub in the flood plain of the Oued Massa.

[File name: blackcrownedtchagraLS111810ec]

    Black-crowned Tchagra

     

Common Chiffchaff and Subalpine Warblers were everywhere along with smaller numbers of Willow Warblers. Other species noted on the drive to the reserve car park included Glossy Ibis (14), Moussier's Redstart, Laughing Dove, Woodchat Shrike, singing Cirl Bunting, singing Nightingale, several singing Sardinian Warblers, singing Corn Bunting, Northern Wheatear, Crested Lark, Spotless Starling, White Stork, Cetti's Warbler, Sparrowhawk, Goldfinch, Blackbird, and Little Ringed Plover (3).

 

Oued Massa © Fraser Simpson  ·  www.fssbirding.org.uk

 

When we arrived at the car park, we were once more approached by guides. We headed towards the mouth of the river on our own. The birding was fairly quiet until I heard the distinctive sound of distant Eurasian Cranes. Looking towards the south side of the river, around 26 Cranes were settling in the near hillside. More birds had possibly already landed. The river held few species, the highlights being Whiskered Tern (4) and an Avocet. Other species noted: Black-crowned Tchagra (2-3 singing mm), Hoopoe, Spectacled Warbler, Black Kite, Barbary Partridge (pr), Woodchat Shrike, Moussier's Redstart, Common Bulbul, Bee-eater, Audouin's Gull (23), Stonechat, Serin, Crested Lark, Zitting Cisticola, Grey Heron (23), Linnet, Sardinian Warbler, Green Sandpiper, Yellow-legged Gull (12), Common Sandpiper, Goldfinch, and Moroccan Cormorant. Departed at 12:30 for the drive north.

 

Drive north on the A7 motorway to Marrakech via Agadir
Species noted on the drive north to Cassablanca via Marrakech: Little Swift (petrol station near Agadir), Moroccan Magpie, Laughing Dove, Lanner Falcon, Cattle Egret, Black Kite, Barbary Partridge, Rock Bunting, Red-rumped Swallow, Spotless Starling, Southern Grey Shrike, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, Lesser Black-backed Gull, House Sparrow, Collared Dove, Feral Pigeon, and Kestrel sp.

 

 

Day 6
Monday 10 March 2014
Témara > Sidi Yaya > Sidi Bettache > Témara > Rabat


 

Forêt de Sidi-Bettache, 17 Km north of Sidi Bettache  33° 42' 35.0" N  6° 55' 33.5" W
This morning we arrived before sunrise with the aim of hearing and seeing the Double-spurred Francolins. Parking in the hidden car park just past the white monument between Km posts 17 and 18, we flushed a Barbary Partridge. Within a minute or two the Francolins were heard. The guttural, harsh rasping was heard from 3-4 scattered birds but none could be located due to the restricted views afforded by the topography of the area. I walked up the roadside towards the Km-18 post, walking in to the scrub on the right (west) side of the road noting singing Cuckoo, Nightingale, Sardinian Warbler, and a Black-crowned Tchagra on the other side of the road. No views of the Francolins were obtained so I returned to the car park, where a pair of Barbary Partridges were at the roadside. Looking west from the car park I eventually observed two different Francolins in flight. Eventually their advertising calls ceased by 07:50.

 

Double-spurred Francolin habitat, Sidi Yaya-Sidi Bettache © Fraser Simpson  ·  www.fssbirding.org.uk

 

 

Double-spurred Francolin  Francolinus bicalcaratus


Sonogram of Double-spurred Francolin song

Forêt de Sidi-Bettache, Morocco  33° 42' 35.0" N  6° 55' 33.5" W  10 March 2014  07:06 h

Song uttered from evergreen scrub bordering cork oak forest.

[File name: doublespurredfrancolinLS111824e]

    Double-spurred Francolin

     

Barbary Partridge  Alectoris barbara


Sonogram of Barbary Partridge calls

Forêt de Sidi-Bettache, Morocco  33° 42' 35.0" N  6° 55' 33.5" W  10 March 2014

Clucking calls from a bird in Asphodels at the roadside.

[File name: barbarypartridgeLS111819ecut]

    Barbary Partridge

     

Crested Lark  Galerida cristata


   Sonogram of Crested Lark calls

Forêt de Sidi-Bettache, Morocco  33° 42' 35.0" N  6° 55' 33.5" W  10 March 2014

Calls on the ground.

[File name: crestedlarkLS111784ecut]

    Crested Lark 2

     

Crested Lark  Galerida cristata


  Sonogram of Crested Lark calls

Forêt de Sidi-Bettache, Morocco  33° 42' 35.0" N  6° 55' 33.5" W  10 March 2014

Soft, quiet calls from the ground.

[File name: crestedlarkLS111785ecut]

    Crested Lark 3

     

Sardinian Warbler  Sylvia melanocephala


 Sonogram of Sardinian Warbler song

Forêt de Sidi-Bettache, Morocco  33° 42' 35.0" N  6° 55' 33.5" W  10 March 2014

Song uttered from evergreen scrub bordering cork oak forest.

[File name: sardinianwarblerLS111835ecut]

    Sardinian Warbler3

 

 

Forêt de Sidi-Bettache, 10.5 Km north of Sidi Bettache  33° 39' 36.9" N  6° 53' 11.3 W"
Moved on to the Cork Oak woodland at 33° 39' 36.9" N  6° 53' 11.3 W". Several African Blue Tits and North African Chaffinches were singing close to the roadside. More distantly, Hoopoe and Cuckoo were heard while Black Kite, Black-winged Kite and Long-legged Buzzard were observed overhead. Also noted: Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Iberian Chiffchaff, White Stork, Cattle Egret, Jay, Sparrowhawk and Greenfinch. Further along the road at Km-17, a Stone Curlew flew over the road and landed in an adjacent field.

 

Cork Oak forest, Sidi Yaya-Sidi Bettache © Fraser Simpson  ·  www.fssbirding.org.uk

  

African Blue Tit  Cyanistes teneriffae


Sonogram of African Blue Tit song

Forêt de Sidi-Bettache, Morocco  33° 39' 36.9" N  6° 53' 11.3" W  10 March 2014

Singing male Cork Oak forest with Asphodelus understory.

[File name: africanbluetitLS111795ecut]

    African Blue Tit

 

African Chaffinch   Fringilla coelebs africana


Sonogram of African Chaffinch song

Forêt de Sidi-Bettache, Morocco  33° 39' 36.9" N  6° 53' 11.3" W  10 March 2014

Territorial male singing from Cork Oak forest with Asphodelus understory.

[File name: africanchaffinchLS111848ecut]

    African Chaffinch

     

African Chaffinch   Fringilla coelebs africana


  Sonogram of African Chaffinch calls

Forêt de Sidi-Bettache, Morocco  33° 39' 36.9" N  6° 53' 11.3" W  10 March 2014

Call from a female in Cork Oak forest with Asphodelus understory.

[File name: africanchaffinchLS111847ecut]

    African Chaffinch

 

Great Tit  Parus major


Sonogram of Great Tit song

Forêt de Sidi-Bettache, Morocco  33° 38' 33.6" N  6° 52' 42.5" W  10 March 2014

Territorial song from cork oak woodland.

[File name: greattitLS111796ecut]

    Great Tit5

 

Great Tit  Parus major


Sonogram of Great Tit song

Forêt de Sidi-Bettache, Morocco  33° 38' 33.6" N  6° 52' 42.5" W  10 March 2014

Territorial song from cork oak woodland.

[File name: greattitLS111786ecut]

    Great Tit6

     

Blackbird  Turdus merula


 Sonogram of Blackbird song

Forêt de Sidi-Bettache, Morocco  33° 39' 36.9" N  6° 53' 11.3" W  10 March 2014

"Chook-chook" alarm call uttered from a cork oak in response to the sound recordist.

[File name: blackbirdLS111837ecut]

    Blackbird8

     

Eurasian Jay  Garrulus glandarius


 Sonogram of Eurasian Jay calls

Forêt de Sidi-Bettache, Morocco  33° 39' 36.9" N  6° 53' 11.3" W  10 March 2014

Calls, probably used in alarm.

[File name: jayLS111850ecut]

    Eurasian Jay

     

European Greenfinch  Carduelis chloris


Sonogram of Greenfinch song

Forêt de Sidi-Bettache, Morocco  33° 39' 36.9" N  6° 53' 11.3" W  10 March 2014

Simpler perched song with short phrases.

[File name: greenfinchLS111849ecut]

     

 

Rabat-Salé Airport
Heading back from Témara to the airport, we managed to end up in Rabat (where no one would appear to have passed a driving test) but survived and got to the airport at Salé, noting lots of urban Cattles Egrets on the way. Species noted around the airport car par included nesting White Storks, singing Serins, Common Chiffchaffs and Common Bulbuls, Greenfinch, Blackbird, Crested Lark and House Sparrow.

The last species noted on this trip? Two Cattle Egrets in the grassland around the runway.

 

 

 

 

 

  

 All photographs © 2014  F. S. Simpson

Fraser's Birding Website · fssbirding.org.uk

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