Saturday, March 07, 2015

Morocco/Western Sahara

Morocco/Western Sahara January/February 2015
Jonnie Fisk, Tim Jones, Stephen Menzie and Oliver Metcalf

Having visited on a whistle stop trip in 2010, OM was keen to return to Western Sahara for a bit more exploring and it wasn't too hard to convince JF, TJ and SM to come along with flights into Agadir going cheap with EasyJet and some mouth-watering target species and habitat. A quick bit of research and inspired by the Punks, we realised the potential to bump into some mega WP species, so we chose a week with the hope to spend as much time as possible searching these out as far south as possible.

Food and accommodation were all found cheaply as expected, we paid as little as 30p a litre for Diesel in Western Sahara! We made it through the multiple police and army checkpoints fairly easily with a plentiful supply of 'fish' (forms with all your personal details on, more info here and here)


Flew in Gatwick to Agadir, then drove south to Guelmine before continuing overnight towards Dakhla

Overnight drive to Dakhla stopping at first light 132km north of Dakhla before arriving at Dakhla around mid-morning

Overnight in Dakhla, headed down the Aousserd road stopping at Gleib Jidane finishing at Oued Jenna at Dusk

Overnight in Aousserd before working our way back up the road to Dakhla, evening mammal drive down the Aousserd Road

Overnight in Dakhla, day in 4x4 visiting Bir Anzarane and working our way back to Dakhla

Drive north to Laayoune, birded Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra then Khniffis Lagoon

Overnight in Tiznit, birded Oued Massa most of the day

Overnight in Agadir then flew back in morning.

Species List

Brent Goose Branta bernicla bernicla
10 Dark-bellied birds in Dakhla Bay on 30/01 was one of the surprises of the trip....

Honest (SM)
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea
First 2 seen at Oued Boukila with 2 more in Dakhla Bay and an amusing pair at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra

Flying round making crazy wheezing calls (TJ)
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos

Pintail Anas acuta
Lots in the distance at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra

Shoveler Anas clypeata
Loads in the distance at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra

Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris
First seen at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra in the dark during a stop on the long drive south on 29or30/01!
Up to 42 seen properly there in daylight on 03/02

Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis
1 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 03/02

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
1 at Oued Massa on 04/02

European Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus
Plenty noted offshore from Dakhla with 20+ seen on 30/01 etc

Gannet Morus bassanus
Plenty seen offshore from Dakhla.

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis/lucidus/maroccanus
Plenty of white breasted birds seen in Western Sahara

Cattle Egret Bulbucus ibis
Not the first bird of the trip much to the disappointment of OM but plenty seen at various locations

Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Plenty noted around Dakhla and Oued Massa with a presumed hybrid Little x Western Reef (E.gularis) at Oued Massa on 04/02

Presumed hybrid bird (TJ)
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Fairly common especially around Dakhla Bay.

White Stork Ciconia ciconia
Flock of c.15 seen at Oued Massa on 04/02

Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus
Plenty around Oued Massa on 04/02

Bald Ibis Geronticus eremita
A flock of 76 were seen in flight north of Oued Massa thanks to some rally style driving by OM on 04/02

Whizzing around not wanting to land (TJ)
Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
Plenty noted around Dakhla including several colour ringed birds.

Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus
Scattered groups around Dakhla Bay.

Osprey Pandion haliaetus
Seen in most habitats from middle of the desert to rubbish tips!

Eating it's lunch, while we ate ours (TJ)

Black Kite Milvus migrans
Just 1 seen the whole trip, at Oued Jenna on 0/02

Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus
Some nice males heading north as well as hunting birds at Oued Massa

Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus cirtensis
At least 5 seen along the Aousserd Road including an obliging pair at KM42, all extremely pale birds

Striking (TJ)
Sparrowhawk Accipiter nissus
Just the 1 seen at Oued Massa on 04/02

Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Noted in most villages/towns 

Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni 
At least 2 seen hunting north of Dakhla

Peregrine Falco peregrinus brookei
1 over Dakhla on 30/01

Lanner Falco biarmicus erlangeri
A massive female at Oued Boukila on 29/01
A male seen perched distantly at KM 205 along the Aousserd Road

Distant! (TJ)
Water Rail Rallus aquaticus
One calling away near where the Allen's Gallinule was meant to be at Oued Massa on 04/02

Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Lots at Oued Massa.

Coot Fulica atra
c.40 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra and 2 at Oued Massa.

Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus
Seen around Dakhla Bay

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Plenty at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra and Oued Massa

Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus
1 seen well at night in Laayoune on 29/01
1 calling over Dakhla
1 murdered by SM whilst driving out of Dakhla

Cream-coloured Courser Cursorius cursor
2 by roadside 132km north of Dakhla on 30/01
2 at the start of the Aousserd Road on 31/01

Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubis
At least 4 at Oued Boukila and other birds seen at Dakhla and Oued Massa.

Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
Abundant in Dakhla Bay

Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus
Plenty in Dakhla Bay and Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra

Grey Plover Pluvalis squatarola
Several around Dakhla Bay

Knot Calidris canutus
A few in Dakhla Bay

Sanderling Calidris alba
Plenty around Dakhla

Turnstone Arenaria interpres
A few around Dakhla and Tarfaya

Dunlin Calidris alpina ?
Abundant in Dakhla Bay

Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea
5+ seen in Dakhla Bay

Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
4 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra 

Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
1 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra

Redshank Tringa totanus
Plenty around Dakhla Bay

Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus
3+ at Oued Massa on 04/02

Greenshank Tringa nebularia
Several around Dakhla Bay

Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa islandica?
First seen at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra and c.20 at Oued Massa.

Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica
Plenty seen around Dakhla Bay with several colour ringed birds

Curlew Numenius arquata
A few around Dakhla Bay

Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
At least 10 around Dakhla.

Snipe Gallinago gallinago
1 flushed by Barn Owl on 29/02 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra

Great Skua Stercoarius skua
Omnipresent offshore at Dakhla and also seen from Tarfaya during a brief sea-watch 

Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus
Scattered around Dakhla Bay

Slender-billed Gull Chroicocephalus genei
Up to 20 seen in Dakhla Bay on various dates

Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus
Up to 3 1w noted around Dakhla, including a red darvic'd bird with an unusually replaced primary.

Not that we managed to read the code! (TJ)
Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis ?

Audouin's Gull Larus audouinii
Plenty around Dakhla with probably 200+ 

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus graellsi
Tonnes on the various tips at Dakhla etc

Sat-tagged bird as well as quite a few darvic'd birds (TJ)
Heuglin's Gull Larus heuglini
a presumed juv at Khniffis Lagoon on 03/02 (not that we had a clue what it was at the time!) 

strange looking beast (TJ)
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus
at least 4 adults at Khniffis Lagoon on 03/02

Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus
a juv at Khniffis Lagoon on 03/02 had been present sev weeks before

Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis
Seen around Dakhla Bay

Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia
Lots around Dakhla Bay
Royal Tern Sterna maxima
Several seen around Dakhla seen from several different stops around the bay etc

Lazing on the cliff top (TJ)
Spotted Sandgrouse Pterocles senegallus
A flock of 12 flew over Gleib Jidane on 31/01

Feral Pigeon Columba livia domesticus

Woodpigeon Columba palumbus
2 seen around Agadir

Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto

Laughing Dove Streptopelia orientalis
A few seen in various towns around Western Sahara

Great Spotted Cuckoo Clamator glandarius
A single just north of Dakhla on our way back from Bir Anzarane on 02/02

Pharaoh Eagle Owl Bubo ascalaphus
2 nests shown to us by Mohammed Lemine around the Southern end of the Aousserd Road on 01/02
1 flushed out of Oued Jenna much to the surprise of TJ on 02/02

Cracking orange eyes (TJ)
Barn Owl Tyto alba
1 hunting over Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra at a nightime stop on 29 or 30/01

Pallid Swift Apus pallidus
Several seen over Oued Massa on 04/01

Kingfisher Alcedo atthis atthis
1 at Oued Massa on 04/02

Crested Lark Galerida cristata
Several around Oued Massa on 04/02

Thekla Lark Galerida theklae
First seen in the Anti-Atlas on 29/02 and noted at most desert locations after this.

Punk Thekla (TJ)
Desert Lark Ammomanes deserti payni
A flattened bird on the road 22km south of Guelmine
2 present at KM 205 along the Aousserd Road on 01/02

Jonnie's 'mascot' till it started to smell... (JF)

Bar-tailed Lark Ammomanes cinctura
First 2 were 22km south of Guelmine on 29/01 near the hill west of the road
2 were 132km north of Dakhla
at least 5 at KM205 on Aousserd Road and several others noted along the Aousserd Road

(African) Dunn's Lark Eremalauda dunni dunni
Following a report from early December 3 showed well at KM 205 along the Aousserd Road on 02/02
We then made more of an effort to stop for flyover 'Bar-tailed Larks' and found 1 at KM197 and 2 at KM196 (near the sign for Achohada Laglat Cemetery). 

Singing and alarm calls recorded and uploaded to Xeno-Canto here the only recordings on the Xeno-Canto Database. 

Cracking little Larks (TJ)
Black-crowned Sparrow Lark Eremopterix nigriceps albifrons
An impressive flock of 30+ at Oued Jenna on 01/02

Cracking males (TJ)
Thick-billed Lark Ramphocoris clotbey
A very flukey pair were found 132km north of Dakhla after a decision to randomly stop once it was light on our first morning 30/01

Temminck's Lark Eremophila bilopha
4 132km north of Dakhla with the Thick-billed Larks on 30/01
Also a single at Gleib Jidane 

Hoopoe Lark Alaemon alaudipes alaudipes
Probably the most abundant lark of the trip with birds heard singing at nearly every stop in the Sahara, with lots of tumbling roadside birds!

Brown-throated Martin Riparia paludicola
2 showed well from the 'usual' bridge at Oued Massa on 04/02

Strange little faces on them (TJ)
Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris
20+ at Oued Massa on 04/02

Rock Martin Ptyonoprogne fuligula
2 at Oued Jenna on 01/02

Swallow Hirundo rustica
Several bombing north through the desert with hundreds over Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra and Oued Massa.

House Martin Delichon urbicum
Various birds seen with plenty in with Swallow flock at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra

Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis
Single at Oued Boukila on 29/01 and plenty at Oued Massa.

Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus
3 at Khniffis Lagoon on 03/02
4+ at Oued Massa on 04/02

White Wagtail Motacilla alba alba

Yellow Wagtail Flava flava iberiae
Some spanking male Iberians showed well at Oued Massa with probably 15+ birds noted throughout the day.

Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
1 at Khniffis Lagoon on 03/02

Robin Erithacus rubecula
1 at Oued Massa on 04/02

Bluethroat Luscinia svecica
2 including a singing male at Oued Massa on 04/02

Moussier's Redstart Phoenicurus moussieri
First seen on 29/02 during drive through Anti-Atlas, the found easily around Oued Massa on 04/02

Cracking birds (TJ)
Northern Wheatear Oenathe oenathe
A scrotty pair on the tip at Dakhla

White-crowned Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucopyga
First seen at KM 205 with at least 4 there on, a pair were our alarm clock on 02/02 in Aousserd

Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucura
First seen in the anti-atlas and then subsequently at several roadside stops including 3 108km north of Dakhla

Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti homochroa
Most abundant wheatear sp of the trip with pairs seen at most stops/from car in the desert mainly Western Sahara

Some very showy birds (TJ)
Red-rumped Wheatear Oenanthe moesta
First pair was seen at Oued Boukila on 29/02
After this several other birds noted at Gleib Jidane and various other stops.

Really nice Wheatears in a stunning setting (TJ)
Stonechat Saxicola rubicola rubicola
Plenty around

Blackbird Turdus merula mauritanicus
Cool long tailed Moroccan race seen around Agadir

Scrub Warbler Scotocerca inquieta saharae
At least 3 were at Oued Boukila on 29/01
Another in scrub near a sign for Centre Bir Anzarane north of Dakhla on 30/01

Cricket Longtail Spiloptila clamans
After struggling to find any in Oued Jenna and none at any other likely looking habitat patches along the Aousserd Road on 01/02 it was a surprise to find at least 4 at KM205 on the Aousserd Road on 02/02 whilst trying to re-locate the Dunn's Larks.

Munching on a big red caterpillar (TJ) 
Western Orphean Warbler Sylvia hortensis
a single in Oued Jenna on 02/02

Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala melanocephala
Up to 5 found in various Oueds

Showy bird at Oued Massa (TJ)
Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata
The standard sylvia along with Subalp

Subalpine Warbler Sylvia whoknows

Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus
2 at Oued Massa.

Fan-tailed Warbler Cisticola juncidis
Common around Oued Massa

Very showy birds (TJ)
Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti
Good views had around Oued Massa

Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus ?
2+ heard singing at Oued Massa

Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita

Great Tit Parus major
1 at Oued Massa.

African Blue Tit Cyanistes ultramarinus
Heard only in Agadir around the Kings Palace on 29/01

Southern Grey Shrike Lanius exubitor elegans
Easily seen from the car once in Western Sahara.

Obligatory bird of the desert (TJ)
Black-crowned Tchagra Tchagra senegalus
at least 1 heard only at Oued Massa on 04/02

Common Bulbul Pycnonotus barbatus

Fulvous Babbler Turdoides fulva
A cracking family group in Oued Jenna on 02/02

Really inquisitive birds in a family group (TJ)
Magpie Pica pica mauritanica
Cool Mauritanian race birds seen at various places between Agadir and Oued Massa

Brown-necked Raven Corvus ruficollis
Plenty seen along the Aousserd Road

Spotless Starling Sturnus unicolor
The first bird of the trip and in most towns and villages in Morocco

House Sparrow Passer domesticus

Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis
Only a handful seen including a presumably migrant flock flying north at Oued Boukila on 29/01

Desert Sparrow Passer simplex
Odd 1 or 2 seen around Oued Jenna and in various Oueds between there and Aousserd as well as probably 60+ at Bir Anzarane on 03/02

Desert Sparrow nest found near Aousserd (JF)

One of the undoubted highlights of the trip, following up a report of a single male we were shocked to find 28+ at Bir Anzarane! More details here including how to see them if planning a trip

Unexpected species of the trip (TJ)
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs africana
African race birds seen at Oued Massa

Linnet Carduelis cannabina  
Heard flying over at Oued Sayed

Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
Several birds at Oued Sayed

Greenfinch Chloris chloris
Again at Oued Sayed

Serin Serinus serinus
Lots around Oued Massa

Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githagineus
2 males came into drink at Gleib Jidane on 01/02

Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus
3 around Oued Massa including a spanking male

Stunning (TJ)
Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra
2 at Oued Massa

Rock Bunting Emberiza cia
1 seen from the car in the Anti-Atlas

House Bunting Emberiza sahari
JFs favourite bird of the trip, with a woop at everyone seen! Luckily we didn't see any non-flyovers-from-a-moving-car till Oued Massa on 04/02 

Like House Sparrows in most villages etc (TJ)


Fennec Fox Vulpes zerda
1 seen in daylight at Bir Anzarane near the Sudan Golden Sparrow site was a surprise after been torn away from the watering hole on 03/02

Fennec prints (SM)

Lesser Egyptian Jerboa Jaculus jaculus
1 showed amazingly well during the night drive on 02/02 allowing approach to 10ft!

Desert Hedgehog Paraechinus aethiopicus
1 during the night drive on 01/02 and showed well in the morning 02/02 after Mohammed put it in the back of the 4x4!

ID Confirmed (SM)

Savannah Hare Lepus microtis?
Several noted during night drives including a boxing pair near Aousserd on ... and a few flushed out of Oued Jenna during the day. A dead one near Laayoune.

Dazzled (TJ)
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus (the non-retarded variety...)
At least 4 followed a barely sea-worthy boat into Dakhla on 31/01 

Barbary Ground Squirrel Atlantoxerus getulus
Several at a random stop in the Anti-Atlas

Dromedary Camel Camelus dromedarius
Are there any 'wild' Camels left? Didn't stop JF getting excited!

One of the most disgusting looking newly born animals, closer viewing not recommended! (SM)


Spur-thighed Tortoise Testudo graeca ?
A sharp spot by OM whilst watching Barbary Ground Squirrels made for fits of laughter!

snoozing (SM)
Helmeted Gecko Tarentola chazaliae
Found under a rock north for Dakhla and took a dislike to JF making amazing growling/buzzing noise threat display!

Crazy Gecko (JF)
Stendodactylus mauritancicus

Crazy eyes (SM)
Moorish Gecko? Tarentola mauritanica


Uromastyx sp?

Scorpion sp

Waiting for Sudan Golden Sparrow (TJ)

Post Sudan Golden Sparrow L-R Oliver Metcalf, Jonnie Fisk, Mohammed Lemine (ANI), Stephen Menzie and Tim Jones. (TJ)

'THE' watering hole (SM)

Golden Sparrow selfie (SM)

The 'farm' (SM)
Anti-Atlas stop, first Moussier's, Thekla and Black Wheatear also Rock Bunting here (SM)

TJ and JF foolishly went down-wind of this outflow pipe at Dakhla and amazingly survived... (SM)
Aousserd accommodation, Bedouin style (yes it is on a basketball court...) (JF)

The only habitat we found the Cricket Warblers in (SM)

Dunn's Lark habitat at KM205 on the Aousserd Road (SM)
Fennec Fox habitat (SM)

The legendary Oued Jenna (SM)
The Sahara from a Pharaoh Eagle Owl nest spot (SM)

Dawn at Oued Massa, dipping on Allen's Gallinule (SM)
Shrike larder (SM)

JF getting crippling views of Bubo breadus (Sm)

Staple diet (SM)

For any more questions drop any of us a line via email, Twitter, Facebook etc etc.


Don't forget to check out the ANI Facebook page here, a lot of this trip would not have been possible without them!