Friday, April 18, 2014

Morocco--Day 6: Over the Mountains into the Desert

We were on the road at 7 AM to make the drive up through the mountain pass which would be our gateway to reach the edge of the Sahara desert.  We had about a 4 hour drive over some slow sections of highway to reach our first birding site.  We piled out of the van and slowly began to work our way down what we would call a dry wash, but is known as a wadi in Morocco.  Our target bird was the scrub warbler that reminded me a bit visually of a wrentit.  Like the Dupont's lark, they like hiding in the scrub, running along the ground.

Before we found the warbler we had a flock of thick-billed larks fly by us, but after they landed they were not very cooperative when it came to getting a photo.  Dan was the first to spot a scrub warbler which led to over 30 minutes of trying to circle around it and its mate.  We never were all that successful as they would fly off and then hide again in the scrub, but Laura did get a diagnostic shot (click on any photo to enlarge).

When we returned to the van we found Mustafa talking with a man who it turned out works for a group from Qatar who raises and releases the rare Houbara bustard.  The birds have radio tracking devices so that "wealthy" people from Qatar can come to Morocco to hunt them with falcons.  We did not seen any Houbara bustards while chasing around the scrub warbler, but we did find our first brown-necked raven of the trip as we drove to Erfoud.

After lunch at a scenic overlook, we drove for another hour to reach our next target--the spotted sandgrouse.  On the way we saw quite a few different wheatear species including white-crowned.  As we were beginning to search for the sandgrouse, a Moroccan road up on a motorbike.  We thought he was one of the numerous locals who approach tourists trying to sell fossils.  It turned out he was a local bird guide, Brahim, who Adrian finally recognized (my photo).


We did find many of the spotted sandgrouse which we were able to observe for 10-15 minutes before something caused them to flush.

Having bagged the sandgrouse, we next headed to a location that a pharoah eagle owl had been found roosting.  It was not the usual spot that Adrian and Martin knew about, so Brahim came along with us to show them.  We walked for about 10 minutes thru the edge of the dunes.  The owl was perched quite high up on the face of a cliff.  This photo is a teaser shot as you will discover in my next post.

The view looking away from the owl perch gives you some sense of the barren feeling of this spot (my photo).

As we were driving out we came across a red fox out at dusk in search of a meal.

It was almost dark when we arrived at our home for the next 4 nights--the Desert Inn.  This proved to be a wonderful place with very nice rooms, a large courtyard with lots of vegetation to attract birds, and a fireplace in the dining area.  Our bird review raised the trip total for new birds by 14.  Dinner was the best so far:  An egg roll with tomato and onion salad; a tagine of beef with apples and raisins; and a lemon meringue tart.  We all were off to bed early because we would be getting up at 5 AM for a very special start to the next day.  Stay tuned!

No comments:

Post a Comment