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Guide : Mick Richardson
Author : Mick Richardson

 

Day 12 - April 19th - Marrakech to Plage des Nations.
After a 4 am start to ensure that Ellen got to the airport Tarik and I returned to the hotel to collect ML and Carlyn to continue our trip north. To the north of Marrakech we left the motorway and continued to a Barrage on some minor roads through large fields of cereal crop fields were Calandra Lark Melanocorypha calandra, Common Quail Coturnix coturnix and Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis were all seen or heard.
altAt the Barrage we were very quickly greeted by the local security presence and informed that the taking of photos was not allowed but other than that we were fine to continue birding. Little Swift Apus affinis, Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica Sand and Plain Martin Riparia paludicola were soon on the list along with Eurasian and Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni, Booted Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Spotless Starling and Moroccan White Wagtail.
We continued north to Rabat where the ladies again wished to see some of the cultural aspects of the city so we spent a very pleasant couple of hours around the King Mohammed V Mausoleum and the Kasbah. Whilst we were here we added Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo and Pallid Swift.
We then made our way via a very interesting route through a large Cork Oak forest to the coast and on to our Hotel Firdaoues Plage des Nation. It was in a very nice setting and it was a great pleasure to sit and watch the sunset over the sea.

Day 13 - April 20th - Plage des Nations to Asilah.
We had a fairly early start but before we left the hotel a single Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus was seen on the beach. We left early so that we could make it up to Moulay Bousselham and meet our guide Khalill who was going to take us out on a boat trip on the main Lagoon. I hoped that we would be able to see Marsh Owl Asio capensis during the time on the boat, but Khalill informed us that as the birds were breeding it was highly unlikely but we could visit a spot later where he knew an off duty male was roosting.
Once on the boat we started to pick up birds straight away. Audouin’s Ichthyaetyus audouinii and Yellow-legged Gulls along with Sandwich Terns Thalasseus sandvicensis were the first seen roosting on a sand bar. Further around the Lagoon the waders started to appear, large numbers of Grey Pluvialis squatarola, Kentish and Little Ringed Plovers, Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus, Black-winged Stilt, Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta, Common Redshank Tringa totanus, Whimbrel, Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres, Dunlin Calidris alpina and Curlew Sandpiper were out feeding on the low water mud flats. Little Sternula albifrons, Whiskered, Gull-billed and Caspian Terns Hydroprogne caspia were all feeding over the water and Greater Flamingo and Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia wading through it. Marsh and Montagu’s Harriers Circus pygargus, Black Kite, Black-headed Gull and Zitting Cisticola were also seen from the boat. Just as we approached the landing area a bird we thought we had missed showed up, 3 Slender-billed Gulls Chroicocephalus genei were feeding amongst some surface vegetation.
We then had lunch and headed around to the far side of the lagoon where we had what for me was the highlight of the trip a male Marsh Owl.
altWe returned the guide back to his home and headed up to Larache marshes but due to the extra trip around to see the owl we were later than we had hoped and could not do this site justice but what we did see of it was impressive. On the reed and vegetation covered pools we added Red-knobbed Coot Fulica cristata, Grey Ardea cinerea and Purple Herons Ardea purpurea, Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina, Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis, Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus, Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus, Savi’s Locustella luscinioides and Moustached Warbler Acrocephalus melanopogon to the trip list. Also seen were a couple of dozen Squacco Herons, Common Coot, Mallard, Little and Cattle Egrets.
We then went to the Hotel Zelis in Asilah. Later we went out to eat in one of the local cafes on the edge of the Kasbah.

 

Day 14 - April 21th - Asilah to Ronda, Spain.
Today required an early start as we need to be on the 09:00 ferry from Tangier to Tarifa where Peter was waiting for us. On the way we saw Jackdaw Corvus monedula, White Stork and Collared Dove. Once at the ferry terminal we all said our goodbyes to Tarik our driver, sorter of lunches and good friend. The crossing was uneventful and Peter was there and waiting to zip us off to La Janda via Sierra de la Plata for the start of the Spanish birding. We were all quite hungry so as soon as we arrived at Bolonia below the Sierra we had some lunch in one of the beach side Restaurants, on a beach pool we picked up Sanderling, Common Sandpiper, Kentish Plover and White Wagtail. Spotless Starling and Stonechat Saxicola torquatus were both seen on the roof of the restaurant. The next stop was the caves on Sierra de la Plata, Crag Martin and Pallid Swifts were seen flying in to the caves and Eurasian Griffon Vulture Gypus fulvus was found on the cliffs and seen in flight. Other Birds seen included Shot-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus, Eurasian Kestrel, Jackdaw, Blue-rock Thrush and Woodchat Shrike.
altOn the vast agricultural areas at La Janda White Storks were common and several Ring-necked Pheasants Phasiannus colchicus were seen and on the large Irrigation Canal Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus, Purple Swamp-hen Porphyrio porphyrio, Common Moorhen, Mallard Anas plaryrhynchos and Greater Whitethroat were also noted. Out on the rice paddies Greenshank Tringa nebularia, Black-winged Stilt, Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus, Little Ringed Plover, Cattle and Little Egret were all found.
Then we made our way towards Ronda via Arcos de la Frontera picking up Montagu’s Harrier and Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa. We arrived at the El Molino del Puente hotel and were welcomed by Elaine and Ian. We had a very pleasant evening meal and relax.

Day 15 - April 22th - Ronda area.
After Breakfast we headed out to our first stop at Indiana on the road to Benaojan. Along the river Common Sandpiper, European Bee-eater, Serin, Nightingale and Cetti’s Warbler were all found. Distant views were had of a Bonelli’s Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus and Griffon Vultures were overhead. Our next stop was at the Caves of the Cat a little further along the same valley, where large numbers of Alpine Swifts Tachymarptis melba, Crag and House Martins could be seen flying in and out of the cave. Grey and White Wagtails were along the river, Winter Wren, Blackcap and Sardinian Warbler were all feeding in the surrounding fig trees and Red-billed Chough and Common Raven patrolled over the crags. Next we passed through the White villages of Benaojan and Montejaque, just through the latter was our next stop. We parked at the far end of a very narrow section of road through a broad gorge. Here we found Small Purple Orchid Orchis Olbiensis, Man Orchid Aceras anthropophorum, Red-billed Chough, Blue Rock Thrush and Griffon Vulture. We then moved on to a grassland area near the white village of Grazalema called La Rana. altHere we found Sawfly Orchid Ophrys tenthredinifera, Lange’s Orchid Orchis langei, Yellow Bee Orchid Ophry Lutea and Sword-leaved Helleborine Cephalanthera longifolia. At La Rana European Bee-eaters, Southern Grey and Woodchat Shrikes, Serin, European Greenfinch and Crested larks were present along with Champagne Orchid Orchis Champagneuxii and it’s hybrid with Pink-butterfly Orchid Orchis papilionacea. Lunch was the taken in Grazalema in the main square. Later we drove up to the view point on the road between Grazalema and Zahara where we had good views of Griffon Vulture, Red-billed Chough and Rock Bunting Emberiza cia. Dull Bee Orchid Ophrys Fusca and Italian Man Orchid Orchis Italica were also at this site. We continued down towards the village of Zahara passing wonderful views of the lake in the valley. Once passed the village we stopped in a small Olive grove where Woodcock Orchid Ophrys Scolopax, Mirror Orchid Ophrys Speculum, Small-flowered Tongue Orchid Serapias parviflora and some well over with Giant Orchids Barlia robertiana were all located.
The late afternoon was spent in Ronda where Blue Rock Thrush and Lesser Kestrel were both seen in the Tajo. The ladies spent sometime in a couple of shops and we then made our way back to the hotel.

Day 16 - April 23th - Ronda to Malaga.
We got up and went for a walk in the hotel gardens which the owners had strimmed the day before. Here we saw European Goldfinch, Winter Wren, Cetti’s Warbler, Nightingale, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Pallid Swift, Woodchat Shrike and Serin. At 11:30 we picked Pieter up and made our way down to the Hotel Vincci Málaga, were we all said our goodbyes.

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