Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Morocco - A Birder's and Twitcher's Paradise

Eleonora’s falcon

"The term twitcher, sometimes misapplied as a synonym for birder, is reserved for those who travel long distances to see a rare bird that would then be ticked, or counted on a list. The term originated in the 1950s, when it was used for the nervous behaviour of Howard Medhurst, a British birdwatcher"

For a majority of people Morocco is a destination for exciting culture, history, music, great cuisine and spectacular scenery. However, for a special group of people, Morocco has another lure - birds. Most people don’t envision Morocco as being one of the world's top birding spots, yet, according to Bergier & Thévenot (2006), there are 454 species of birds in Morocco. Research indicates that of these, only five have been introduced to the country by humans. Of the bird species that occur in Morocco, 449 are indigenous to the country. Of these, 156 are considered to be rare or accidental and fifteen are globally threatened.

Talk to a birder about the chance to see a a Waldrapp, and their eyes glaze over - mention the bone-crushing Lammergeier, and they foam at the mouth! Yet both are possible to find in Morocco.

Another factor that makes Morocco a great birding destination is the range of habitats, that vary from the spectacular Atlas Mountains, to stoney desert, coastal wetlands and the dunes of the Sahara.

In 2018, Victor Emanuel Nature Tours (VENT) is organising a tour: Culture and North African Endemics in the Atlas Mountains and Sahara Desert. The tour will  leave from Marrakech and run from March 1st to 16th.  Lead by Machiel Valkenburg, the tour is limited to 10.

The Northern Bald Ibis or Waldrapp, Geronticus eremita, 

The tour will kick off along the Atlantic coast at Agadir where the nearby Souss Massa National Park is home to the endangered Waldrapp. The wetlands of Oued Souss will be scoured for Marbled Teal; Audouin’s, Slender-billed, and Mediterranean gulls; and Squacco and Purple herons, as well as dozens of other marsh dwellers.

Then from Marrakech the tour will head up to Oukaimeden in the High Atlas to look for Crimson-winged Finch, “Seebohm’s” Northern Wheatear, and Moussier’s Redstart. It is here that it is just possible the group will see the bone-crusher, Lammergeier, the bearded vulture that is the only known animal whose diet is almost exclusively bone.

The Lammergeier or Bearded Vulture; Gypaetus Barbatus 

The desert birding will begin in the stony desert of the Tagdilt Track looking for Thick-billed and Hoopoe larks. Cream-colored Courser, Crowned and Spotted sandgrouse, Red-rumped Wheatear, and more larks will hopefully be found among the rocks. On the way to the Sahara there will be a chance to explore the Dades Gorge, the realm of Bonelli’s Eagles and Long-legged Buzzards.

A full day exploring the Erg Chebbi dunes by 4×4 will be the highlight of the trip for those wanting to see the famous dunes of the Sahara. In this desolate landscape are myriad birds: Barbary and Lanner falcons, two species of sandgrouse, Desert Warbler, Desert Sparrow, Pharaoh Eagle-Owl, Egyptian Nightjar, and Brown-necked Raven.

Tour leader Machiel Valkenburg

For more information visit VENT BIRDING


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