We have recently returned from a weeks holiday in Morocco. Now this wasn't a birding holiday but inevitably we came across a few in our travels and added 15 new species to our birds list.
We flew from Brum to Marrakech and headed out via a pre-arranged taxi to a small village called Ouirgane at the foot of the High Atlas Mountains where we had a wonderful hotel booked (Chez Momo) for 3 nights. I have to say the weather at this point was awful, we only landed at the second attempt in Marrakech and it didn't improve as we headed into the mountains. Ouirgane is at 3000ft and it was cold and wet!!
On the way though we passed through the town of Asni, which is a White Stork nest site and they duly obliged, but we didn't stop because of the Weather and we knew we would have better opportunities. Even though we had the whole of the first afternoon at Ouirgane we didn't venture out, as it was torrential.
Day 2 started with House Buntings at breakfast, these are delightful little Dunnock like birds that spend lots of time indoors scavenging off the tables:
After breakfast with the sun shining we headed out to explore the village, we soon saw lots of Common Bulbul, so our 3rd new species without trying:
We met up with a local guide who showed us around and explained a lot of the workings of the local community and the Berber people who live in the southern half of Morocco. They are a really friendly people, we stopped in a local coffee shop to avoid a sudden downpour, where I paid 25 Dirham, just a few pence less than £2 for 4 excellent small but very strong coffees! Once the rain had eased we set out again and ascended up the hillside back towards our digs. Again we picked up a couple of species, our first European Bee-eaters and a Serin:
It was a really interesting few hours. So back to the hotel for a well earned rest before dinner.
Our 3rd day saw us book a taxi for the day to take us up onto the mountains and the famous Tizz N Test pass with it's spectacular views. We told the driver about our interest in Birds so he did keep a look out for us but on the winding and narrow roads it was pretty difficult to spot things. He did find a nice spot where there was a lot of small bird activity, but nothing much out of the ordinary, Goldfinch, African Blue Tit, Blackbird and then we spotted this lovely Sardinian Warbler:
A bit further we stopped for some views and picked up A Lesser Kestrel and Chaffinch, I have to say although they are listed as the same species as 'our' Chaffinch, they seemed a lot greener on the back than we have, it confused us for a while.
We stopped again at the restored Tin Mal Mosque, which played home to Feral Pigeon and Sparrows. We eventually arrived at the pass and the views were amazing, the photos just dont do it justice:
We stopped here for an amazing lunch, a Berber Omelette, you have to have one! Whilst there we were entertained by a Booted Eagle:
and a female Mouselli's Redstart:
On the way back we made one stop when we spotted this Kestrel:
although whilst we were stopped we picked up Bee-eaters, Pallid Swift, House Martin and Swallows, as we drove of though we saw 2 species of Wheatear, Mourning and one other which we couldn't identify as I never got chance to get a photo of either.
The next day saw us head back to Marrakech for 4 nights, this time we did stop at Asni for some Stork action:
We stayed at the gorgeous Riad Alwachma in the Medina of Marrakech, this had a great roof terrace where we had breakfast most days (except when it rained!) From here we saw House Buntings and Common Bulbul, Booted Eagle, White Stork and Swifts, not bad whilst having breakfast!
As you would expect for a city birds are a bit more scarce, apart from the obligatory Pigeons and in Morocco; House Buntings. The exception though are the Storks, one of our cultural visits to the El Badi Palace was brilliant, this is where the Storks nest in the town and give some great views: