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The Complete Circuit
13th - 26th February 2018
Morocco is both scenic and exciting and offers the richest birdlife to be found anywhere in North Africa. This tour is designed to cover all of the major habitats and important birding areas, giving us a good chance to see almost all of the region's numerous target species, many of which can be found nowhere else within the Western Palearctic. Our journey takes us from the snow-capped Atlas Mountains, where targets include Levaillant's Woodpecker, Crimson-winged Finch and Atlas Horned Lark to the Atlantic Coast where Bald Ibis and African Marsh Owl are amongst the many birds we hope to encounter. In addition we will also visit a number of Desert locations, where birds include Desert Sparrow, Pharaoh Eagle Owl, Egyptian Nightjar, Fulvous Chatterer and Greater Hoopoe-lark. While other targets include Moussier's Redstart, Black-crowned Tchagra, Double-spurred Francolin, Plain Martin, Red-rumped Wheatear, Tristram's Warbler, African Desert Warbler, Common Bulbul and House Bunting,...etc!
We start with a morning flight direct to Marrakech, where we will meet our local guide before driving up into the High Atlas Mountains, hopefully managing to locate our first target - House Bunting before leaving the airport. Our drive along the mountain road will provide us with truly stunning scenery, though we must keep our eyes open for another of the region's most sought-after birds, the beautiful Moussier's Redstart. Among the rocky slopes, we will search for the endemic Levaillant's Green Woodpecker, while others may include Blue Rock Thrush, Black Redstart, Rock Bunting and Red-billed Chough. Continuing higher still, we reach the ski resort at Oukaimeden (2600m), where we will check the snowline for the handsome Crimson-winged Finch and Atlas Horned Lark. Other birds of note here include Black Wheatear, Rock Sparrow, Water Pipit and perhaps Alpine Accentor, while above us flocks of Alpine Chough wheel overhead.
After an early breakfast we leave the mountains behind, perhaps pausing again en route for Levaillant's Green Woodpecker should we have missed it on the way up. We then travel through the flat plains of Marrakech, north-west via Casablanca to Rabat for a three night stay. En route we should find a good mix of resident species such as Southern Grey Shrike, Little Owl and Spotless Starling, as well as the local race of Magpie (Maghreb Magpie) considered by some to be a separate species. We will also make a number of birding stops to look for Calandra Lark.
An early start is essential today for a trip to the King's hunting forest (The Zaers), a remnant Cork-oak woodland home to an isolated population of the Double-spurred Francolins, although a degree of luck will be needed to see this secretive game bird. There are however in addition to the francolin, many other interesting birds to be found here, including Black-shouldered Kite, Barbary Partridge, Serin and African Blue Tit. We'll spend the afternoon along the Atlantic coast, visiting lagoons and saltpans including an excellent freshwater lake, Lac de Sidi Bourhaba, where we hope to find good numbers of Red-knobbed Coot on the lake along with Marbled Duck and White-headed Duck.
After breakfast we head north to the Merdja Zerga (the Blue Lagoon). This large coastal lagoon teems with thousands of birds, but it is best know for its African Marsh Owl, being the only outpost for this sub-Saharan species within the Western Palearctic. We will also scan the beach and Atlantic Ocean where we can expect to find a long list of wintering waders, gulls and terns, including Audouins and Mediterranean Gulls.
Driving south-east to Zaida, we will stop firstly to see Lesser Kesterl in town of Azrou. Later, as we pass through the Middle Atlas we again have excellent opportunities to see Levaillant's Woodpecker and Ruddy Shelduck. In the Cedar forests we may also see Woodlark and Firecrest as well as Barbary Macaque.
We will leave early for the high-plains near Zaida, where Thekla and Lesser Short-toed Larks should be easily encountered as we search for the elusive Dupont's Lark, a difficult species with a knack of disappearing amongst the grass tussocks. Afterwards we will head south to the edge of Sahara, stopping en route for species such as Desert Lark and White Crowned Wheatear. We'll also visit a spectacular gorge, home to Crag Martin, Rock Bunting and Blue Rock Thrush. Finally we arrive at our desert hotel for the two nights.
For many today might be the highlight of the tour, as we dedicate the whole day to exploring the spectacular sand dunes at Erg Chebbi - the largest dune system in Morocco. Our main target will be the highly prized Desert Sparrow and by visiting several cafes in the region we will stand a good chance of success. Several other highly sought-after species are also to be found here, including Brown-necked Raven, African Desert Warbler, Fulvous Chatterer, Spotted and Crowned Sandgrouse, Cream-coloured Courser, Bar-tailed Lark, Greater Hoopoe-lark and Lanner Falcon. We will also hope to find Pharaoh Eagle Owl or Egyptian Nightjar at a daytime roost. In addition, if rains have been plentiful a nearby seasonal lake can be very interesting, with ducks, waders and their attendant raptors..,
After an early look at the desert around our hotel, we will head west and stop at a site to search for Scrub Warbler, Spectacled Warbler and Thick-billed Lark. Next we continue westwards to the Todra Gorge where we'll look for Tristram's Warbler, Black Wheatear and Bonelli's Eagle! We finish the day at the infamous Tagdilt Track, a high altitude stony desert home to many sought after larks including Thekla, Desert, Thick-billed, Temminck's Lark and Greater Hoopoe-lark. Desert and Red-rumped Wheatears also occur and with luck we may see Cream-coloured Coursers and Black-bellied Sandgrouse.
We will begin at the Tagdilt Track, where we can look for any species we may have missed yesterday. Then we shall continue west, searching the roadside desert for Mourning Wheatear as we travel to our next destination at Mansour Eddahbi. This is a good site for Maghreb Lark, a species split from Crested Lark as recently as 2016. While here we also have a good chance of seeing Ruddy Shelduck along with a selection of waders and herons.
Continuing west, we will journey over the Anti Atlas mountains, into the Souss Valley and on to Agadir. Initially we will keep our eyes open for various larks and wheatears by the roadside. Then once in the Souss Valley we could begin to encounter another of the region's most sought after specialities - Black Crowned Tchagra, while others may include Laughing Dove, Black Kite, Cirl Bunting and Spanish Sparrow. We will also visit a nearby town where Little and Pallid Swifts can often be found overhead.
Today we will visit Tamri, where we will search the scrub and fields adjacent to the coast for the critically endangered Northern Bald Ibis, one of the rarest birds in the planet. We will also visit a productive stretch of coastline where we will search through the many gulls for Audouins Gull, as well as spending some time at Cap Rhir which may produce passing shearwaters and skuas.
On the Atlantic Coast, south of Agadir is the famous Oued Massa and today we will leave early to make the most of our time here. In the adjacent farmland we will look for Black-crowned Tchagra, along with Common Quail, Laughing Dove and Moussier's Redstart. We will also look for the tiny Plain Martin, another of the region's most sought-after specialities. At the Oued Massa itself we may see Marbled Duck and Ruddy Shelduck, while Common Cranes may also be present. Nearby we will also visit Oued Souss - an excellent area often teeming with birds. Amongst the gulls we may find Audouin's, Mediterranean and Slender-billed Gulls, while waders might include Black-winged Stilt and Kentish Plover. Greater Flamingo is usually present in good numbers and Spoonbill, White Stork, Stone Curlew and Osprey also occur.
Today we transfer from Agadir back to Marrakech, via the Atlas Mountains, making a number of birding stops by the roadside along the way. Late in the afternoon we arrive back in Marrakech, where we can either relax for a while and enjoy the local Common Bulbuls and House Buntings by hotel, or for the more adventurous, visit the old quarter and the impressive Jema-el-fna square, an unbelievable experience for any visitor, with snake charmers, water sellers and spice stalls.
After breakfast we depart for the airport, concluding the tour.
Target Birds: Pharaoh Eagle Owl, African Marsh Owl, Egyptian Nightjar, Double-spurred Francolin, Northern Bald Ibis, Lanner Falcon, Barbary Falcon, Cream-coloured Courser, Spotted Sandgrouse, Crowned Sandgrouse, Laughing Dove, Little Swift, Plain Martin, Levaillant's Woodpecker, Desert Lark, Bar-tailed Lark, Thick-billed Lark, Dupont's Lark, Temminck's Lark, Greater Hoopoe-lark, Desert Sparrow, Desert Wheatear, Red-rumped Wheatear, Mourning Wheatear, White-crowned Wheatear, Scrub Warbler, Tristram's Warbler, African Desert Warbler, Common Bulbul, Fulvous Chatterer, Brown-necked Raven, Trumpeter Finch, Crimson-winged Finch and House Bunting,...etc!
|Total Cost £1995
Single room supplement £130
Air Price £200
Ground Price £1795
5 Places Available
All Flights, All ground transport once in Morocco, 13 nights accommodation, All meals, Entrance fees and Guiding services throughout .
Insurance, Tips, Alcoholic drinks and Items of a personal nature.
Dave Read & Local Guide
Maximum of 10 plus leaders
The tour will be run at a moderate pace with no long treks, although a degree of fitness is required for some walks. Temperatures can vary from below freezing at altitude to quite warm in the deserts, although during February it can still be cool even here, especially early morning. There are no special health requirements and insects are not usually a problem. Accommodation will vary, especially in more remote areas, although the hotels are predominantly good, with private facilities. Some long drives are essential, but will be broken up with birding and comfort stops. A visa is not required.
Many of the flights and the flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more information about financial protection and the ATOL certificate go to www.atol.org.uk/ATOLCertificate
Northern Bald Ibis
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