Twitching our way around Morocco

Twitching Our Way Around MoroccoPlanning a trip to the Desert in mid-July seemed mad when we first discussed it, in the rain in Scotland, but we are not the sort of people to be put off an idea simply because it doesn’t seem entirely sensible so we trawled the internet and booked a 5 day tour, with Authentic Morocco, from Marrakesh to the Erg Chigaga region of the Sahara; ending the trip in Essaouira.

We asked a never-ending stream of questions before we left; these mainly cantered around a desire to not be too directed or ‘mothered’ and the need to stop at irregular intervals to look at various birds which might put in an appearance. All our questions were answered patiently and efficiently, so we booked the tour.

The trip more than lived up to our expectations. We felt that our enjoyment was the most important thing and our driver was helpful, kind and patient; he made a special effort to introduce us to areas ‘off the beaten’ in order to help us see more wildlife. On top of this we were taken to stunning and remote Kasbahs, experienced spectacular landscapes and stayed in fantastic accommodation.

Tony was looking forward to watching the varied birds of the area, but realized that midsummer would not produce the migrants that Morocco hosts every autumn and spring. However, due to our patient driver and the well thought out route, many birds were spotted as we went along and these included many we had not seen before and a fantastic array of desert species. The full list is below.

As for the Sahara in July? The Mhamid and Erg Chigaga leg of our trip was phenomenal. The desert was beautiful and peaceful, and a real treat lay in spending the day with an Ait Atta semi-nomadic family and learning just a little of how to survive and thrive in such a seemingly hostile environment; the tour was the highlight of our time in Morocco.

Would we recommend the desert in mid-July? Absolutely!

We were in very safe hands with Authentic Morocco.

Bird List for Morocco

Marrakesh: House Bunting, Collared Dove, Common Bulbul, Little Egret, Spanish Sparrow, House Sparrow, Common Swift, Peregrine or Lanner Falcon (pair), Storks (Spectacle of up to 150 circling at one point)

Marrakesh to Ouzazate: Booted Eagle, Kestrels, Egyptian Vulture, Barbary Falcon (pair), Crag Martin, Choughs (yellow or red-billed)

Ounila Valley: Black Wheatear, Mourning Wheatear, Serin, Goldfinch, Great Tit, Crested Lark, Trumpeter Finch, Blackbird, Spotted Flycatcher, Great Egret, Olivaceous Warbler, Tawny Pippit

Ouzazate to Mhamid via Draa Valley: Southern Grey Shrike, Turtle Dove, White crowned Wheatear, Hoopoe Lark, Brown Necked Raven (Common around Mhamid), Yellow Wagtail, Swallow

Sahara Desert from Mhamid to Erg Chigaga: Hoopoe, Fulvous Chatterer, Dupont’s Lark, Desert Sparrow, Black-crowned Tchagra, Bar-Tailed Lark, Desert Wheatear, Sand Grouse (one seen, type Uncertain), Temmincks Lark

Mhamid to Ouled Berhil: Blue-Cheeked Bee Eater, Woodchat Shrike

Ouled Berhil to Essaouira via Tamri Lagoon Nature Reserve: Calandra Lark, Black Kite, Little Swift, Spotless Starling, Waldropp (20! Counted at Tamri Reserve), Adounin’s Gull, Red-Billed Tropic Bird, Spoonbill, Grey Heron, Little Tern, Long Legged Buzzard, Herring Gull, Yellow Legged Gull, Corys Shearwater, Cormorant (NW African colouration), Greenshank, Whimbrel, Green Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Little Ringed Plover, Eleanora’s Falcon, White Wagtail, Magpie, Red-Rumped Swallow