Thursday, April 24, 2014

Morocco--Day 10: Merzane, Jorf, Todra Gorge and Tagdilt Track

We were up for an early breakfast so that we could try for the fulvous babbler again, hoping that it would still be on its roost.  Our 3 days of 4 wheel driving were over, and we were very glad to be back in the van and reunited with Mustafa.  We arrived at the fulvous babbler roost about 8 AM only to find no babblers again.  We began to slowly drive the roads listening for them when we were distracted by a wheatear that flew by.  So we turned around to chase after it which proved very fortunate as we located a single babbler back at the roost site (all photos in today's post are Laura's unless indicated otherwise.  Click on any photo to enlarge).

After so many attempts over the past 3 days to find this species, we were pretty elated.  Near the same spot we also had some very nice looks at trumpeter finches. 

And we found a grey shrike who clearly had been feeding recently on its prey.

We headed down the road towards the town of Jorf to see if we could locate one of the most anticipated birds of the trip--blue-cheeked bee-eater.  As we were pulling into town I spied a couple perched on a wire.  

They proved to be very cooperative and many photos were taken over the next 15 minutes.  Even though the trip was barely half over, Marty was so taken with them that he predicted this was going to be the prettiest bird of the tour.

After we had gorged our appetites for this incredibly colorful bird, we stopped in town to get our daily bread ration, and admired the olive stand (my photo).

Our next destination was the Todra Gorge which is pretty well known for its spectacular cliffs rising above a mountain stream.  It also has become a rock climbing spot favored by American and European youth traveling thru Morocco.

Getting up the gorge thru the town proved to be a major challenge since they were in the process of rebuilding part of the road. Once we were reached the heart of the gorge, we saw many crag martins cruising for insects over the stream, and gray wagtails feeding among the rocks in the water.

Other birds of note in the gorge were house buntings, blue rockthrushes, and a black redstart shown below.

After being reintroduced to our standard picnic lunch, we drove a bit further up the gorge where we located Tristram's warbler, another hoped for bird today since we would not again be in such good habitat for locating it.

We survived the road construction on the way back down, and made the turn towards Boumalne where we would be staying the night.  Our afternoon objective was a place called the Tagdilt Track.  We first worked an area that another bird guide had told us he had found a Mahgreb wheatear.  We worked it pretty well, but did not locate the bird.  We did find a fat sand rat though.

We then headed over towards the town dump to try for black-bellied sandgrouse.  We spent the rest of the afternoon criss-crossing a fairly large area, but had no luck with the sandgrouse.  We did see plenty of Temminck's larks which look very much like our horned larks in the U.S.

As the sun was setting we pulled into Kasbah Tizzarouine which it turned out was also lodging for a good sized group of motorcyclists, and 2 other birding groups.  Dinner was either soup or salad, which were both very good, and then a lemon chicken with olives tagine--a classic Moroccan dish that definitely lived up to its reputation.  Our bird list review for the day found that we had added 6 more new trip birds.  Tomorrow we will be heading to Ouarzazate.  Stay tuned!

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