Thursday, 17 March 2011


In the past I've been away at xmas a few times, it's shit loads more expensive but gets me out of having to sit at my sisters with screaming kids and family I hardly know all day! Actually the real reason is when I had a proper job I had to use 3 days of annual leave over the xmas period which pissed me off so me and Gristi used to go away so we didn't lose any of our holidays.

We've done Morocco before, in 2007 and it was fantastic so decided on a return visit. This time Towel (Rael) Butcher and Blue (Pete) Wragg made up the rest of the team. We flew manchester to Marrakech with Thompson and hired a Fiat Punto which was too small in all honesty but being xmas cost about 3 million quid! Honestly some of the other Spurn lads went a month beofre us and got a Land Cruiser sport for about a hundred notes more than we paid!

We booked digs for the first couple of nights over the internet and then just found them on the day for the rest of the trip. We paid no more than a tenner each per night and everywhere we stayed the rooms were fine. To be fair as long as they had beds and warm water we'd have been happy.

The trip was essentially a re-run of the previous visit with us doing the mountains around Ouikimaiden, the coast around the Oued Souss and Oued Massa, the desert areas around Golimine and as far south as Tan Tan Plage and Kniffiss Lagoon.

It's been too long since we were there to remember all the funny little anecdotes, which probably means there weren't any!  So here's a few pics instead.

Light wasn't great in the mountains with a lot of cloud and some light snow flurries but I was quite pleased with this Crimson winged Finch which came fairly close.  Most of them were a bit distant for a DSLR

Love these thingsthey really are stunning, they just look right.  Surely only Azure and White Headed Long-tailed are better.

Mahgreb Magpie are pretty smart looking too much slimmer and with less white than our own, bet they still eat all the small birds tho!

Funny isn't it how some trips are so different despite being the same?  The last trip to Morocco we didn't see these at the Massa and only jammed them whilst checking a reservoir for drinking Sandgrouse.  This time they were everywhere in the hillside above the Oued.   Sitting right out and singing, They always seem to manage to position some vegetation between them and my lens but I'm still really pleased with these pics.

I really like this area at Goulimine, we've cleaned up each time we've visited.  This is the first time I've seen Trumpeter Finch here but you get a lot of Hoopoe Larks and some large flocks of Lesser Short-toed with smaller numbers of Short-toed, Desert and Bar -tailed in with them.  We've managed a few Thick-billed each time as well.   

Desert Lark, note the long dusky bill, whereas the Bar-tailed below has a much shorter more conical bill that is very pale giving it a cuter face.

Also when it has a good stretch like this you can see the clean cut tail band, this I find really hard to see as they fly past, as many birds do here as they seem to move between fields constantly.

These Thicky pics are from 2006 taken with my old Canon S2 so the quality isn't as good as it could have been with the 50d but they didn't show as well this time.

Just south of the desert area for the larks we visited a dryish river bed, in 2006 it was really good holding a few Spectacled Warblers and Red-rumped Wheatears, this time all we saw were a couple of Southern Grey Shrikes. Some serious amount of water had gone through here at some time recently and lots of the bushes were trashed which was probably the reason for fewer birds.

In 2006 this site also held a small flock of Crag Martins and at least 2 of these.  Rock Martin isn't supposed to occur in Morocco according to some trip reports, I've got a series of pics that seem to prove otherwise

Just south of the Goulimine town we found a man made reservoir with a overflow at one end which had formed a pool.  We had Ruddy Shelduck, and a few waders here mainly Kentish Plover and Little Stints but a few Green Sands and a Common Sand too.  In the scrub to the east were a few Scrub Warblers but the best was this superb Lanner which flew across the road carrying what we assumed was a Desert Rat, it then landed on the nearest pylon and ripped it apart, cracking bird.  Lanners got much commoner as we went further south with us seeing them at most sites south of Goulimine.

Down at Kniffiss lagoon we were hoping for Kelp Gull, well I was at least the others couldn't have cared less!  However after sitting looking at an island with a couple of piles of stones on it and willing the Gulls to be what I wanted we had to come away saying they looked like Great-black Backed or were too far away for us to do them.  So when Birding World landed on the doorstep the other day I was heartened to read the article suggesting that Kelp Gull is only present during the summer months.  The Caspian Terns were nice though.

On the last day we found some really nice agricultural land further inland from the sea at Massa where it's freshwater (the sea has breached the mouth of the river turning it saline and it's much degraded for birds on previous years) and had a cracking afternoon, it's a shame we didn't find it sooner as we'd have all been happy spending at least a full day here.  I took literally thousands of pics of these to get the ones here but I reckon they're some of the best pics I've taken with this camera.  Other birds here were Glossy Ibis, Marbled Duck, Bonelli's Eagle, Black-shouldered Kite and Brown-throated Sand Martin.

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