Friday, April 25, 2014

Morocco--Day 11: Tagdilt Track, Kasbah Amridil, Amerzgane and Ouarzazate

After another typical Moroccan breakfast of yogurt, Moroccan crepes, yellow pound cake, and tea and coffee, we left at 7 AM to work the Tagdilt Track again.  First up was a second try for the Mahgreb wheatear which is usually the toughest wheatear species to find.  We spread out over a fairly large area and slowly walked through it.  Laura flushed a very large hare, and we turned up a few birds, but not the Mahgreb wheatear.

After maybe 30 minutes, Adrian signaled to the group to come to him so we all worked our way over to where he had a wheatear.  After lots of scoping and very good photog work, we were very pleased that we had confirmed the ID of an Isabelline wheatear which is rare in Morocco (all photos in today's post are Laura's unless indicated otherwise.  Click on any photo to enlarge).

On our way back out from the Isabelline site, we also had nice looks at a little owl--our 4th of the trip.

We returned to the area from late the day before to look again for black-bellied sandgrouse.  We spent probably 90 minutes working through the open desert.  We saw several hoopoe larks including one in flight display.

We also found a few Thekla larks, but in the end no sandgrouse.  At one point we found one of the birding groups from last night's lodging.  They were English, and were scoping thick-billed larks which we had seen a few days earlier. As we passed their van we were a bit jealous of the tea service set up in the back, so we headed off towards our lunch destination.

Lunch was under a large tree next to a dry river bed that abutted Kasbah Amridil in Skoura.  This is a very old Kasbah that is being restored.  Marty is posing in front of the section of the building that is on the 50 dirham bill.  We toured only part of the massive structure while Martin and Mustafa organized lunch.

After lunch we still had some driving to do to reach Amerzgane where Adrian has had the most success in finding the Mahgreb wheatear.  Along the way we saw a Bonelli's eagle land on a micro-wave tower.

We passed right through Ouarzazate and drove 40 more kilometers to get to the wheatear site.  Our hopes were briefly raised when we found the very similar looking red-rumped wheatear.

Shortly after that sighting we pulled over and got out to walk a promising wadi.  I found a scorpion.

Then we discovered a female Mahgreb wheatear.  A nice looking bird, but not nearly as dramatic as the male form.  So we went down the road a bit further to try again.  Most of us got out of the van, and started to walk up a hillside.  Soon Marty yelled that a male Mahgreb had just flown over his head.  We continued up the hill and finally got distant views of it, but unfortunately no photos.  When we all got back together we found out that Doreene and Gretchen who stayed on the bus as Mustafa moved it a bit further down the road ended up having very good views of the bird before it flew up to the rest of us.

It was starting to get pretty late, so we climbed back into the van for the drive back to our night's lodging--Dar Daif.  This turned out to be the most interesting and best accommodations of the trip.  It was 2 homes that were combined into one Dar, and had 4 levels to it.  The tiling throughout the place was exquisite.  We were asked to wear slippers provided by the Dar while we were in the house.

Dinner was probably considered by most of our group as the best to that point of the trip.  We began with excellent legume soup and pita bread.  Then a banana/strawberry palate cleanser was followed by a very fine chicken bisteeya, and a vegie tagine.  Dessert was an apple/date tart.  While we ate an older Moroccan man played the lotar, and sang his short medley of songs.  Our trip bird list for the day grew by 3 new birds.  Tomorrow we will make the climb back up into the High Atlas mountains.  Stay tuned!

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