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Spanish Pyrenees

Birdwatching Holidays in Spain

22192 Loporzano (Huesca) – Spain

tel/fax 00 34 974 262027 or 01638 664598

e.mail: //

Josele J. Saiz - NIF 38491538A



From Atlas Mountains to the Sahara Desert

10 March to 20 March 2006

Tour Leader : Josele J. Saiz
Party :

Andy Howes & Paul Stammers

Christine Lynn & Beryl Smith

Mike Chester & Howard Broughton

Kit Price Moss & Dorian Moss

Ian Cox & Sara Jones

Shirley Locker & Elwyn Bowles

Phil Lanston & Frank Pockering

Roy Nixon & Roy England

Our group of sixteen persons arrived in Agadir as dusk fell and we soon joined up with Josele Saiz of the Boletas Birdwatching Centre (Spain) ( ), who was to be our guide. After an early breakfast next morning we headed south in our spacious 30 seat coach to the Oued Massa, where together with an afternoon visit to the Oued Sous, we amassed a huge first day total of 99 species. With the temperatures into the 70’s a long walk towards the estuary provided highlights, which included good views of Moussier’s Redstarts, Squacco Heron, Ferruginous and Marbled Ducks, several hundred Glossy Ibis, Black Crowned Tchagras, and a superb male Black Eared Wheatear (the first of eight ‘oenanthes’). In the Oued Sous adjacent to the Royal Palace (where the king was apparently in residence) we were constantly harassed by the army, but we kept our distance adding 20 species of waders before capping the day off nicely with a nice view of a perched Red Necked Nightjar, albeit in the gathering gloom and close to the palace perimeter.
The following morning, after grilling the flocks of Pallid, Common and Little Swifts swirling above our Agadir hotel, we went straight to Tamri, where a total of 63 Bald Ibis was a five fold increase on our total of just ten years ago. A couple of beach searches located a good number of Audouin’s Gulls before we set off on the long drive along the Sous valley to Ouarzarzate, the ‘springboard’ into the desert. We made a brief stop at a gorge just west of Aoulouz where we saw our first Barbary Falcon and Long Legged Buzzard. Further along this road, about 100 kms short of Ouarzarzate we made a brief stop and found a flock of 45 Short Toed Larks amongst the gravel desert landscape. On the other side of the road a Mourning Wheatear was a particularly welcome find and as the light faded two Ruddy Shelducks flew across the mountainside and occupied a probable roost site quite close to us. Nearby, Ouarzarzate was a local one night stop.
Next day began at a wadi on the north side of the local reservoir. White Crowned Black and Desert Wheatears were easy finds along with Spanish Sparrows. Subalpine Warblers were going to be seen most days but two members of the group had a quick view of a couple of Spectacled Warblers here before we moved on along the Dades Valley towards the famous Tagdilt Track, just east of Boumalne. With only Red Rumped Wheatears and a Long Legged Buzzard amongst the wind-strewn rubbish birding was difficult here, but moving a couple of miles or so east onto another track brought a late afternoon ‘revival’ with a few each of Desert, Short-toed, Temminck’s Horned and Hoopoe Larks, all very close to us. Further east towards Tinerhir a roadside stop rewarded us with Short Toed Eagle, a perched Lanner and finally an Eagle Owl of the race Ascalaphus, roosting at its probable nest site. It’s always good to end the day with a good bird (so somebody said ?)
Next morning we returned to the Tagdilt Track, which should have been our best chance for Thick Billed Larks and Cream Coloured Coursers. We repeated the previous afternoon’s species, but alas no Thick Billed Larks or Coursers. Heading east again we decided to explore the roadside and found yet another Mourning Wheatear. Our final destination on this day was the Todra Gorge and the star birds were a pair of Rock Martins with their distinctive flight routines being performed close above. The real target here though was Tristram’s Warbler and we had to travel about ten kilometres along the valley before locating two of these beautiful ‘sylvia’ warblers giving nice telescope views for the whole group (and this was a feature of the whole tour). As we left a couple of Barbary Partidges were disturbed by some Berber children. A tired group later checked into the Tinerhir hotel for a second night.
We were next heading for the real desert – Erfoud and Merzouga and with the temperature getting hotter by one or two degrees of Fahrenheit each ‘eastward’ day the birding expectation was increasing also. A roadside stop to watch an Egyptian Vulture resulted in us walking a small area of desert where we stumbled on two Thick Billed Larks and two Bar Tailed Desert Larks – how lucky can you get ? Trumpeter Finches were located at nearby village before we abandoned our coach in favour of four 4-wheel drive land-rovers for the final run across the desert to the outpost of Merzouga. Birds were not numerous by any stretch of the imagination although a family party of Fulvous Babblers were new for most members of the group. By the Desert Inn a large dry wadi boasted a good number of species, the best of which was probably a Western Bonelli’s Warbler, again seen by all in the telescopes. It was dark on arrival at the Auberge.
Next morning, with 4-wheel drive now the only option in this area, we checked out the numerous little settlements across the sandy wastes and at one we were checking out and photographing up to four Desert Sparrows when a 24 strong party of Spotted Sandgrouse announced their approach and flew close, directly above the amazed group. We were seeing our first Brown Necked Ravens now, but it was going to be a long hot day before we could track down a single African Desert Warbler. Back at the palm grove near the auberge a flock of two dozen Bee Eaters included up to three Blue Cheeked Bee Eaters, but half the group were absent for one reason or another.
All too soon and back in the coach after 200 or so tortuous off-road kilometres, it was time to head west again before tackling the winding roads of the Atlas Mountains on the way to Marrakech. Near Erfoud one keen eyed observer spotted a couple of perched birds which turned out to be Blue Cheeked Bee Eaters, so everyone now had half an hour to grill these beautiful creatures. With the wind now increasing, sand storms were becoming a problem and our only option was to continue through to Ouarzarzate, again a one nighter on the long journey back. We had time to repeat the reservoir wadi next morning and added four more species to our steadily growing total. Migrating Black Storks and a very obliging Olivaceous Warbler were the star turns, but a fruitless stop for a certain woodpecker species north of the Tizi-n-Tichka Pass did result in nice views of a Goshawk racing across the forest slopes. Further on and about 40 kilometres short of Marrakech a raptor sighting from the bus resulted in us stopping and witnessing up to eight Booted Eagles, a slightly lesser number of Short Toed Eagles, a Lanner, a Long Legged Buzzard, a Black Kite and a couple of Barbary Falcons, pretty well simultaneously. A great end to the day.
The final day was now on and our targets lay in the higher reaches of the Atlas. Being Sunday we knew there would be plenty of weekend tourists taking advantage of the ski slopes and so it was to be. First though we had to locate ‘that’ woodpecker and it was at its favoured location. Fortunately though a couple of keen eyed ladies (in the group) spotted one right by the roadside. We were almost out of the trees and luckily there was somewhere to park the coach at that very moment. A pair of Levaillant’s Green Woodpeckers here, on the ground, were probably the best birds of the trip in the bright sunshine and they were not about to disappear as everyone had ample views. At the Oukaimeden ski station there were huge mixed flocks of both Alpine and Red Billed Choughs, also Horned Larks probably numbered over one hundred across the whole of the ‘basin’. There were good views of Rock Sparrows here too, but despite over four hours of searching at an altitude of nearly nine thousand feet we were not to locate the Crimson Winged Finches we had come so far to see. The good bird at the end of this day was however a fine male Seebohm’s Northern Wheatear – again telescoped and photographed well (hopefully) by the digi-scopers.

Back in Marrakech and we had logged up just 2000 kilometres in our coach (plus those off road kilometres). Thanks to the tireless work of Josele Saiz, and some very keen ‘spotters’ within the group the species total was 179, too many to mention all by name, but those seen on most days included Cattle Egret, White Stork, Black Kite, Long Legged Buzzard, Kestrel, Laughing and Collared Doves, Pallid Swift, Hoopoe, Crested and Thekla Larks, Swallow and Red Rumped Swallow, Common Bulbul (everyday), Blue Rock Thrush, Chiffchaff, Subalpine Warbler, White Crowned Black and Desert Wheatears, Southern Grey and Woodchat Shrikes, Serin and House Bunting.

Some ‘common’ birds require a special mention in this report too, so are you a ‘lumper’ or ‘splitter’ ? Whilst Magpie of the race ‘mauritanica’ only displays a subtle plumage difference, Blue Tit of the race ‘ultramarinus’, and Chaffinch of the race ‘africana’ are very different birds from their northern counterparts – worth another look in your field guides ?

Andy Howes et al.


X – seen h/H –

Recorded only birds seen or heard by two people


Scientific Name

Little Grebe

Tachybaptus ruficollis


Great Crested Grebe

Podiceps cristatus


Cory's Shearwater

Calonectris diomedea

Manx Shearwater

Puffinus puffinus

Balearic Shearwater

Puffinus yelkouan mauretanicus

Northern Gannet

Morus bassanus

Great Cormorant

Phalacrocorax carbo maroccanus


European Shag

Phalacrocorax aristotelis

Grey Heron

Ardea cinerea


Purple Heron

Ardea purpurea


Little Egret

Egretta garzetta


Squacco Heron

Ardeola ralloides


Cattle Egret

Bubulcus ibis


Black-c Night Heron

Nycticorax nycticorax


Little Bittern

Ixobrychus minutus

Great Bittern

Botaurus stellaris

Black Stork

Ciconia nigra


White Stork

Ciconia ciconia


Bald Ibis

Geronticus eremita


Glossy Ibis

Plegadis falcinellus


Eurasian Spoonbill

Platalea leucorodia


Greater Flamingo

Phoenicopterus ruber


Ruddy Shelduck

Tadorna ferruginea


Common Shelduck

Tadorna tadorna


Eurasian Wigeon

Anas penelope


Anas strepera


Common Teal

Anas crecca



Anas platyrhynchos


Northern Pintail

Anas acuta


Anas querquedula

Northern Shoveler

Anas clypeata


Marbled Teal

Marmaronetta angustirostris


Red-crested Pochard

Netta rufina

Common Pochard

Aythya ferina


Ferruginous Pochard

Aythya nyroca


Tufted Duck

Aythya fuligula


Common Scoter

Melanitta nigra


Pandion haliaetus


European Honey Buzzard

Pernis apivorus

Black-shouldered Kite

Elanus caeruleus


Red Kite

Milvus milvus

Black Kite

Milvus migrans



Gypaetus barbatus

Egyptian Vulture

Neophron percnopterus


Griffon Vulture

Gyps fulvus

Short-toed Eagle

Circaetus gallicus


Western Marsh Harrier

Circus aeruginosus harterti


Northern Harrier

Circus cyaneus

Montagu's Harrier

Circus pygargus

Dark Chanting Goshawk

Melierax metabates theresae

Eurasian Sparrowhawk

Accipiter nisus punicus


Northern Goshawk

Accipiter gentilis


Common Buzzard

Buteo buteo

Long-legged Buzzard

Buteo rufinus cirtensis


Tawny Eagle

Aquila rapax belisarius

Golden Eagle

Aquila chrysaetos homeyerl

Bonelli's Eagle

Hieraaetus fasciatus


Booted Eagle

Hieraaetus pennatus


Lesser Kestrel

Falco naumanni

Eurasian Kestrel

Falco tinnunculus


Eleonora's Falcon

Falco eleonorae


Falco columbarius

Eurasian Hobby

Falco subbuteo

Lanner Falcon

Falco biarmicus erlangeri


Barbary Falcon

Falco peregrinus pelegrinoides


Peregrine Falcon

Falco peregrinus minor

Barbary Partridge

Alectoris barbara spatzi


Double-spurred Francolin

Francolinus bicalcaratus ayesha

Common Quail

Coturnix coturnix

Common Pheasant

Phasianus colchicus

Common Crane

Grus grus

Water Rail

Rallus aquaticus


Crex crex

Little Crake

Porzana parva

Baillon's Crake

Porzana pusilla

Spotted Crake

Porzana porzana

Purple Swamphen

Porphyrio porphyrio

Common Moorhen

Gallinula chloropus


Red-knobbed Coot

Fulica cristata

Eurasian Coot

Fulica atra


Houbara Bustard

Chlamydotis undulata undulata

Eurasian Oystercatcher

Haematopus ostralegus


Black-winged Stilt

Himantopus himantopus


Pied Avocet

Recurvirostra avosetta


Eurasian Thick-knee

Burhinus oedicnemus saharae


Cream-colored Courser

Cursorius cursor

Collared Pratincole

Glareola pratincola

Northern Lapwing

Vanellus vanellus

Eurasian Golden Plover

Pluvialis apricaria

Black-bellied Plover

Pluvialis squatarola


Common Ringed Plover

Charadrius hiaticula


Little Ringed Plover

Charadrius dubius


Kentish Plover

Charadrius alexandrinus


Eurasian Dotterel

Charadrius morinellus

Eurasian Woodcock

Scolopax rusticola

Jack Snipe

Lymnocryptes minimus

Common Snipe

Gallinago gallinago


Black-tailed Godwit

Limosa limosa


Bar-tailed Godwit

Limosa lapponica



Numenius phaeopus

Eurasian Curlew

Numenius arquata


Spotted Redshank

Tringa erythropus

Marsh Sandpiper

Common Redshank

Tringa totanus


Common Greenshank

Tringa nebularia


Green Sandpiper

Tringa ochropus


Wood Sandpiper

Tringa glareola

Common Sandpiper

Actitis hypoleucos Hypoleucos


Ruddy Turnstone

Arenaria interpres


Red Knot

Calidris canutus



Calidris alba


Little Stint

Calidris minuta


Temminck's Stint

Calidris temminckii

Curlew Sandpiper

Calidris ferruginea



Calidris alpina



Philomachus pugnax

Great Skua

Stercorarius skua

Pomarine Skua

Stercorarius pomarinus

Arctic Skua

Stercorarius parasiticus

Audouin's Gull

Larus audouinii


Western Yellow-legged Gull

Larus cachinnans michahellis


Lesser Black-backed Gull

Larus fuscus graellsi


Black-headed Gull

Larus ridibundus


Slender-billed Gull

Larus genei

Mediterranean Gull

Larus melanocephalus

Herring Gull

Gull-billed Tern

Sterna nilotica


Caspian Tern

Sterna caspia

Lesser Crested Tern

Sterna bengalensis

Sandwich Tern

Sterna sandvicensis


Roseate Tern

Sterna dougallii

Common Tern

Sterna hirundo

Arctic Tern

Sterna paradisaea

Little Tern

Sterna albifrons

Whiskered Tern

Chlidonias hybridus

White-winged Tern

Chlidonias leucopterus

Black Tern

Chlidonias niger

Greater -black Back Gull


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