Monday, May 5, 2014

Morocco--Day 16: Arghoud Beach, Cape Rhir, Tamri and the Souss Estuary

After another fine breakfast, we said our goodbyes to Latifa and her husband Said, and to the English woman, who was spending a week in the area, that we got to know a bit while having dinner and breakfast at La Maison Anglais.  We had some driving to reach the other side of Agadir which has become the sardine fishing capital of the world.  Once we reached the Atlantic coast, we stopped at Arghoud beach to see what was about.   

There was a group of mostly lesser black-backed gulls loitering with the occasional yellow-legged gull mixed in.  We also found some lovely Audouin's gulls with their red and black beaks (all photos in today's post were taken by Laura.  Click on any photo to enlarge).

While scanning the water we found a few gannets feeding very far out, but the surprise was a raft of balearic shearwaters which number only about 2000 pairs in the world.  This was a great pick up for our trip, and a life bird for all of us.

We continued up the coast to reach the breeding area for the northern bald ibis of which there are now only about 500 still in the wild.  Their habitat has been greatly reduced to where they live in a very small area along the Atlantic coast near Agadir.  Whereas in the U.S. we would expect to find an ibis feeding in a wetland or wet fields, the northern bald ibis prefers sandy semi-arid land that also may have some grazing and small agricultural plots mixed in.

We stopped at Tamri to scan the estuary, but found no ibis present.  We drove another 15 minutes up the road to reach an area near the breeding cliffs.  As soon as we came upon the right habitat we began to see ibis.  We got out of the van, and spent the next 15 minutes watching as many as 20 of the birds feed, and move at times to a new spot to eat.  Their feathers were most beautiful, but the bald head was not so great.

We turned around to work our way back to Agadir and our lodging.  First though we found a nice quiet beach to have some lunch, and to scan the water.

On our way into town we spotted a couple of purple herons taking in the warm sun.

About 2 PM we checked into our French owned hotel, La Pergola, located on the edge of Agadir, and then headed over to the Souss Estuary.   We were blessed with continuing sunny weather and many birds.  The greater flamingos were a big hit.

The pied avocets were also a crowd pleaser.

As we worked our way down the estuary we kept finding new birds including a common redshank.  We also found Eurasian curlews, black-tailed godwits, dunlins and curlew sandpipers, a Moroccan white breasted cormorant and a common shelduck.

The next really good trip bird was a collared pratincole that initially we saw sitting on the mud.  It took off and seemed to be heading away.  We kept watching as it got more and more distant, and figured it was going to just keep on going when it reversed direction and came back near us very quickly.  It settled on the mud again where it stayed for a bit until it was harassed by a lesser black-backed gull.  This time when it took off it did not return, but we did end up finding 7 different species of gulls in the same area including a surprise greater black-backed gull mixed in with the lesser, slender billed, black-headed, yellow-legged, Audouin's and mediterranean gulls.  We also saw sandwich, gull-billed and whiskered terns in the bunch.

As we were heading out we flushed a stone curlew, but the last great get for the day was barbary partridge.  We were thinking that we were going to miss this Mahgreb endemic since we were down to just one more day of birding, so you can imagine our elation when Mustafa pointed 1 out just to the left side of the van.  It of course immediately disappeared.  After 5 minutes many in the group still had not gotten good looks at it.  Martin said he thought it would work its was up the ridge if we played a tape of its call.  We just needed to be patient.  Sure enough after a few more minutes we were able to see as many as 4 birds.  The barbary partridge reminded us of a chukar.

We got back to our hotel about 6 which gave us time to freshen up before dinner.  The first course was either soup, or a salad concocted from several choices on the trolley.  Adrian had been raving about this salad course, and we were not disappointed.  The rest of the meal was another round of the famous lemon chicken tagine followed by creme caramel.

We did our bird list review and added another 11 new trip birds.  Martin also had his computer, and showed the group a photo of the mystery warbler from 2 days before.  Using an application on his computer, he walked us thru the key details of the bird based on a book he had that specialized in distinguishing field marks.  This book has no bird photos, just lists of these defining field marks.  The analysis showed that we had found a marsh warbler which is quite rare in Morocco.  With just 1 full day of birding to go before we would be heading home, we still had some more hoped for birds on our list to look for on our final day.  Stay tuned!


  1. Does this book happened to be "Advanced Bird ID Handbook: The Western Palearctic ..." by Nils Van Duivendijk?

    I always wondered how it would work if you try it on birds that you are not familiar with.