GT 1 Bw. Period: February to April
I am a Moroccan mountain guide and desert, experienced, in addition to a modest knowledge in the discovery of birds, I take care of all the organization and logistics, and guide as assistant, on all places you want for the bird watching.
Morocco is situated in the northwest corner of Africa, between c 21° and 36° N, and is basically an African country with a large Mediterranean region. Except for the extreme south that is part of the Sahara, rains fall mainly during the cool season (October – April) and the summers are hot and dry; drought prevails in the Saharan region throughout the year. Friendly people, great scenery and bird specialities; Morocco is one of the favourite destination for birders in search of endangered or rare species such as Bald Ibis, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Tawny Eagle, Eleonora’s Falcon, and African Marsh Owl, as well as other species such as Dupont’s Lark, Moussier’s Redstart, Desert Warbler, Black-crowned Tchagra, and Desert Sparrow.
The Country divides into a number of geo-physical regions, and this influences the birds that are found there.
Mountains, 5 ranges are aligned along a NE – SW axis, and these include the Rif along the Mediterranean coast (2456m, Jbel Tidighine); the Central Plateau (1627m, Jbel Mtouzgane); the Middle Atlas (3340m, Jbel Bou-Naceur); the High Atlas (4167m, Jbel Toubkal) and the Anti-Atlas (3304m, Jbel Siroua). Despite high human and animal pressure, forests of broad-leaved and coniferous trees are still widespread.
Atlantic Morocco includes rich agricultural plains and more barren and dry plateaux. Most of the original forest has been turned into matorral- or shrub-type vegetation after intensive cutting and grazing, but some has been well preserved (eg ‘Forêt de la Mamora’ with Cork Oak in the Rharb) however, large tracts of eucalyptus have been planted. The Souss valley, with its unique Argan woodland, lies between the High and Anti-Atlas.
Eastern Morocco, except for the area adjacent to the Mediterranean coast, is dry with especially hot summers and cold winters; the High Plateaux rise to over 1000m and are covered with a steppe type vegetation dominated by Artemisia herba-alba and Stipa tenacissima.
Saharan Morocco lies to the south of the High and Anti-Atlas. In the Eastern part, palm oases stretch along the rivers (Oueds) but the region is mainly large stony regs (pebble desert) covered with Hammada scoparia; acacias thickets grow along the wadi bottoms. The drought is attenuated in a 15-200 km wide strip along the Atlantic coast, which receives moisture from the ocean; the coast is mainly rocky.
454 species have been recorded in Morocco and 209 regularly breed there. Most (c85%) breed north of the Atlas Mountains, because of the moister climate and more diversified habitat, so only about 35% breed in the Saharan region.
Every year, millions of West European migrants go to and pass through Morocco, mainly from late July to early November in the autumn, and from March to May in the spring. Most, especially passerines, migrate by night or over-fly too high to be seen during the day; others, like waders and gulls, often stop at wetlands to refuel, and provide unforgettable sights. The Straits of Gibraltar is famous for concentrating soaring birds, especially storks and raptors.
120 species are regular winter visitors, including 34 that are at the southern limit of their wintering range. 115 other species have been recorded as accidental visitors, either from Europe and Asia (e.g. Great Knot and Pectoral Sandpiper); from Tropical Africa (e.g. Brown Booby and Lesser Flamingo); or from Northern America (e.g. Blue-winged Teal and Laughing Gull).
Several wetlands spread along the Atlantic coast that are rightly famous for their migrant and wintering waders and gulls. These include Merja Zerga, Lac de Sidi Bou-Rhaba, Sidi-Moussa-Oualidia lagoons, and the Souss and Massa estuaries along the North coast, Khnifiss lagoon and Dakhla and Cintra Bays along the Saharan coast. The islets off Essaouira shelter a colony of Eleonora`s Falcons. The Mediterranean coast includes two major wetlands: Sebkha Bou-Areg and the Moulouya estuary.
Mountains shelter a rich avifauna; this can be seen best on the Plateau des Lacs in the Middle Atlas (Crested Coot, Levaillant’s Woodpecker, etc.) and at Oukaimeden in the High Atlas (Atlas Shore Lark, Alpine Accentor, Rock Sparrow, & Crimson-winged Finch).
Many desert-living species, including larks, wheatears and sandgrouses, are widespread in desert Morocco; others are more restricted in range, and birding hotspots include the temporary lake of Merzouga near Erfoud (waders and ducks in the desert!) bordered by the only large Moroccan sand dunes, the so-called Erg Chebbi (Desert Warbler, Brown-necked Raven, Desert Sparrow et al); and the Barrage Mansour-Eddahbi near Ouarzazate.
The Souss valley is famous for Dark Chanting Goshawk and Tawny Eagle, and the Straits of Gibraltar for the impressive raptor migration.
There are, of course, hundreds of other sites worth exploring for Ruddy Shelduck, Marbled Teal, Black-winged Kite, Booted and Bonelli’s Eagles, Lanner and Barbary Falcons, Double-spurred Francolin, Purple Gallinule, Houbara and Great Bustards, Cream-coloured Courser, Desert Eagle Owl, Plain Swift, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Scrub and Tristram’s Warblers, Fulvous Babbler or Black-crowned Tchagra… so, when you visit, explore for yourselves.
Accommodation & Road Transport:
The hotels are mostly of good standard, sometimes medium grade. Road transport is by small coach or minibus (and by 4×4 vehicles at Merzouga) and roads are mostly surprisingly good.
The walking effort is mostly easy, but there are a few fairly long walks, mostly on flat terrain.
Rather variable. Many days at lower altitudes are warm or hot, dry and sunny, but sometimes it is cool and overcast. There may well be some rain at times. At higher altitudes conditions range from cool to distinctly cold.
Since February to April
The diversity of Morocco’s habitats is reflected in its list of desirable birds: Double-spurred Francolin, Northern Bald Ibis, Cream-coloured Courser, Pharaoh Eagle-owl, Marsh Owl, Little Swift, Levaillant’s Woodpecker, Peregrine Falcon (pelegrinoides), Black-crowned Tchagra, Dupont’s, Thick-billed and Temminck’s Larks, Plain Martin, African Desert and Tristram’s Warblers, Fulvous Chatterer, Red-rumped Wheatear, House Bunting, Crimson-winged Finch and Desert Sparrow.
Marrakech 2 nights.
Day 1: We arrive at Marrakech airport and make the short transfert to the hotel, located in the Hivernage area of the city. We stay in Marrakech for 2 nights. There may be time for a short orientation walk and some urbain birding before dinner.
Day 2: Today, we head to the ski resort of Oukaimden, where we look for a whole range of alpine species which we would not expect to see elsewhere on the holiday. There is the option of talking the ski lift to 3000m which offers fantastic views of the surrounding snow covered peaks and a good opportunity to see high altitude species such as Alpine Accentor and Horned Lark and Crimson-winged Finch. We’ll take an afternoon drive into the Ourika Valley, seeing small villages and looking for unusual warblers, Moussier’s Redstart and Levaillant’s Green Woodpecker. Dinner at the Medina.
Boumalen Dades 2 nights
Day 3: After breakfast, we star tour journey over the spectacular Tizi n’ Tichka Pass with birding stops in road, to the desert town of Boumalen Dades, where we stay for two nights. The mountain pass offers stunning views and we’ll look skyward for migration birds of prey as we travel.
Day 4: We’ll walk through the Dades Gorge valley today with views of fantastic rock formations as we look for a range of interesting passerines. We then visit the stone desert along the Tagdilt Track for many of the special arid habitat species, particularly wheatears, larks, Sandgrouse and Cream-colored Courser.
Merzouga 3 nights
Day 5: We follow the road to Merzouga today possibly stopping on the Tagdilt Track again. We’ll make stops at wadis on the way and enjoy a picnic lunch en route.
As we reach the edge of the Sahara we’ll try to seek out a roosting Pharaoh Eagle Owl before sunset. We then reach Merzouga where we stay for three nights.
Day 6&7 : We spend two days birding in the Sahara desert, including some time in 4×4 vehicles hoping to seek out Lanner Falcon, Desert Sparrow, Fulvous Babbler, Desert Warbler, Brown-necked Raven and Egyptian Nightjar and Spotted and Crowned Sandgrouse plus many more desert birds. We will walk up on the amazing vast dune system of Erg Chebbi at sunset for great photographs.
Day 8 : Today is primarily a travel day through the stunning scenery of the Anti Atlas. We’ll make refreshment stops, perhaps a walk en route and look out for the rare Maghreb Wheatear and Blue-cheeked Bee-eater. If time allows, we will visit Barrage El Mansour Eddahbi, a large lake close to Ourzazate, where we’ll look for many migrant wildfowl and waders. We overnight in Ouarzazate for one night.
Agadir 3 nights:
Day 9: We will watch for Maghreb Wheatear, other desert species and the striking African Blue Tit as we depart the desert and travel to Agadir on the Atlantic coast. After a visit to the old Kasbah town of Ait Ben Haddou, we follow the Souss Valley, possibly stopping in an Argan forest to look for Black-winged Kite, in particular before we reach the coast. We stay in Agadir for three nights.
Day 10: Today will be spent in the estuary of the Oued Massa. This is an amazing place for unusual resident birds, particularly the skulking Black-crowned Tchagra but also for numerous migrants stopping over in the wetlands as they follow the coast northwards.
Day 11: We venture north of Agadir today along the stunning scenery of the Atlantic coast, towards the village of Tamri, where we’ll look for the globally threatened Northern Bald Ibis near one of its few nesting colonies. We will return to Agadir to watch for Red-necked Nightjar feeding on moths at floodlit King’s Palace.
Day 12: Returning to Marrakech today, we’ll make a stop in the city for an independent lunch and possibly a visit to the Djemaa el Fna square, while having our last sightings of Morocco’s urban birds, before arriving at the airport for our flight to London.
Please contact us to know our prices.
It is essential to have with you your Tour Leader Ornithologist.
Price includes :
-Accommodation in double or twin rooms in half board.-All transport in Morocco including 4×4 for a day in Merzouga.- Guidance services.-The services of an assistant in Merzouga-The services of a guard at Souss Massa Parc-1 dinner in town in Marrakech.-1 lunch in Merzouga-2 bottles of mineral water per person per day.
-Flights from London to Marrakech
-Use of the ski lift in the ski resort in Oukaimden