Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Morocco, Desert Sparrow, the Erg Chebbi in the Sahara Desert, 28/2 - 5/3/2013 PART 2

Part 2,      days 3, 4 & 5

Day 3

the Erg Chebbi for the Desert Sparrow

We arrived after dark last night at the Auberge Jasmina, this place is 'top class', the hotel looks directly out to the dunes of the Erg Chebbi, we unpacked our gear, then a superb evening meal, I should not have eaten so many figs, but they were rather nice  !

There was a lack of water from the shower !  Enough to wash your hands and not a lot more ! Electricity was by generator which switched off about 22.30 hours, then no light ! The night was cold and dark and I had a problem, it was those figs, but that's another story !

06.00 hours, we start our day just before sunrise, (i have recovered).

Spectacular views of the sunrise on the dunes.

Beside the hotel is a dried out lake area with lots of Tamarisk Trees.

an hour here was slow and hard work !

       Tristram's Warbler, (i did not get a very good view of this), No Tick !
*** Brown-necked Raven, 2

07.30 hours, there is light cloud, we head out, on foot, into the Erg Chebbi.

We are heading out into the desert probably a little over a mile, to a settlement where a Berber family live, a man, his wife and two children and his goats.
Beside the settlement is a clump of 3 palm trees ! This is where we hope to find the Desert Sparrow !

David has the GPS coordinates and the instructions are to follow the camel trail.
(camels shit !  Lots of it, dried out, it looks like small black stones, a trail in the vast acres of sand).

a half hour into the desert, thank goodness the light cloud shaded the sun.
The temperature is relatively cool at this time of the year in the Sahara !  wow !

Mick was full of it and setting a hell of a pace !

45 minutes into the desert, David overtaking, Mick is slowing down a bit, me 100 metres back, and Jono is somewhat behind me ! (Jono does carry a lot of photographic gear !)

an hour of difficult walking, I arrive at the Berber Settlement last !

the team has already spotted the Desert Sparrows. The Desert Sparrows, I counted 6, were living in the clump of Palm Trees, occasionally flying down to the Berber Settlement to feed in the sand.

Superb ! ! !         We have ''ticked'' a Desert Sparrow

Desert Sparrow

It does not come better than this !

a Desert Sparrow deserves a portrait ! !

Only a half hour here with the Desert Sparrows, we have to return by 11.00 hours for breakfast and it's going to be a hard slog !

Mick is off, head down ! (he's not fond of sand in his boots).
If we ever return, I will hire him a camel ! (that could be amusing as well)

Back at the Auberge Yasmina by 11.30 to a breakfast, very nice, (i avoided any more figs).

Collared Dove

We are out straight after breakfast, it must have been just after noon !

We headed out across the desert, the stony desert tracks towards Rissani, about 9 kilometres out, a dried out wadi, a bit of scrub vegetation not 60 metres wide,

Desert Warbler
Bar-tailed Lark
Hoopoe Lark
Desert Wheatear
White-crowned Wheatear, (several)
Great Grey Shrike

Desert Warbler

Hoopoe Lark

The light is a bit harsh, we move on to near Rissani, a cliff face to look for a Pharaoh Eagle-owl.

No Eagle Owl   ! ! !   
I know well how difficult it is to see, let alone find an Eagle-owl, ref my Hungary trips !

at this location

White-crowned Wheatear (again)
Brown-necked Ravens, 2 over, very good views

We move on heading back towards base to find another wadi, not so good here as the previous wadi !

Desert Warbler, 2, very elusive !

and not a lot more !   The late afternoon light is disappointing !

Dusk, we head back to Jasmina for another superb evening meal and to prepare for the next day.


Day 4

Our plan for today is to be out at first light, to visit the 9 kilometre out  wadi again, have a 3/4 hour session there, back for breakfast, pack and move on to start our return journey towards Marrakesh.
We want to get back to the Tagdilt track by about 16.00 hours for an late afternoon session and we are going to fit in a stop on route for another possible location for Pharaoh Eagle-owl !
We need to get to Boumalne for the evening accommodation !

Out at first light to the 9 kilometre wadi again !

In the silence of the barren desert, to be miles from anyone, to stand and listen to a displaying Hoopoe Lark.
Simply awesome !  

and today the light is right to get decent photo's

Bar-tailed Lark, like all desert birds are so quick on the ground, continually on the move
Desert Wheatear
Hoopoe Lark, displaying

Bar-tailed Lark

Desert Wheatear, m

Desert Wheatear, f

Hoopoe Lark

10.30 hours, the sun is higher, the light harsher,

we go back to Auberge Yasmina for breakfast, excellent breakfast, excellent accommodation.
We pack our bags, we are on the move again !

we stop off just outside Tinehir, another mountain cliff range, a possible Pharaoh Eagle-owl site.

Not much chance of me finding a Eagle Owl, needles in haystacks to me !

Then we get the nod from MICK, ''nothing goes unnoticed by his hawk-eyes'' !

Pharaoh Eagle-owl
300mm + 1.4 con + 1.6 cf, no crop.   I would guess at 60 feet away up the cliff face.

The needle in a haystack ! ! !    ''FIND'' of the TRIP'' Mick, unbelievable ! !

Pharaoh Eagle-owl       ( bit of a crop, like I like em' )

Wow !    We move on, we are running late, a bit of cloud is about, the light is not so good, !

At the Tagdilt track, we are a bit late, birds not so good, the cloud is grey no good for photography

we are making our way to the evening accommodation, a last stop beside the road! The light is poor, this grey cloud, (a bit like England) but a bonus of a pair of Mourning Wheatears.
My fifth Wheatear in Morocco !

**** Mourning Wheatear, a pair

Mourning Wheatear, f

Mourning Wheatear, m

As usual, we arrived at our overnight accommodation in the dark, as everywhere in Morocco we were treated to instant hospitality and a good evening meal.

The plans are set for the final two days.
Tomorrow morning, we are going to do the Tagdilt track again, this we are all looking forward to ! (Cream-coloured Courser was on my mind). 10.30 am breakfast, pack and then we have a long journey, maybe 5 or 6 hours to cross back over the Atlas Mountains, not much time for stops, and stay the night at Ait Ourir, nearer Marrakesh. This would be our final night.
Then the following morning we was going to go another route up the Atlas Mountains to Oukaimeden, a ski resort higher in the mountains, up in the snow !  We would stop at different altitude levels and do a bit of birding ! 16.00 hours ----Dash to the airport for our return 20.00 hours flight times.

Well, that's the plan !


Day 5

I wake up in the dark. Mick alert as ever says ''it's been raining all night''.      ''Rubbish''  !
I look out from the balcony, grey sky, drizzly rain, just like England ! Ouch, Ouch.

We have breakfast early, no hurry out this morning !
We pack our bags, load the 4 x 4 and we head off late to the Tagdilt track.  
It is grey, it is light rain, the birds are wet, you would not want a photo of one if it was possible to take one !

We spend a bit of time cruising the track seeing Temminck's Shore Lark again but no C-c Courser.
around 10.00 hours, we give up, (a bit of disappointment here). We head off for our long drive over the Atlas Mountains.

10 MILES down the road, STOP.

There is a raging torrent of water, a river 100 metres wide, running straight across the road ! We are stuck here ! No way through, no way around, another Ouch !  Rain and melt water from the distant mountains have caused this massive flash flood of water !

David thinks it will subside in a couple of hours, i had doubts !

There is nothing we can do.  We go back to to Tagdilt track and bird watch in the rain. Now up here, there is more water, more fast running rivers have appeared. We cannot venture far !

It's now about 13.00 hours, we give the river crossing another try, luck, the river has now subsided, about 12 -18 INCHES deep, the 4x4 can handle that. We are on our way again ! About 15 of these river crossings had to be made before we started our climb up the Atlas Mountains now more spectacular than ever, a lot of snow had fell in the mountains last night.

As usual, we arrive at our final nights accommodation in the dark.
Again we are made most welcome, evening meal, still not much water in the shower and it is cool !

No photo opportunities today !

Plans prepared for the the final day, ''The High Atlas''  OUKAIMEDEN.

to be continued !


  1. Super account and pictures Richard. Love the Hoopoe Larks.

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