We stopped alongside a long stretch of dry vegetation and decided to check it for Desert Warbler. I left my gear in the car because the wind was blowing up a lot of very fine sand, I'm sure my camera would have loved that! We didn't see any Desert Warblers but did find a couple of Desert Larks and a single Hoopoe Lark so I was well happy with those two additions to the list.
From there we headed back through the town of Rissani, much easier to negotiate now that the rush hour was over. We stopped at the football stadium just before the bridge and began to check the row of large Tamarisks for Saharan Olivaceous Warblers (reiseri). Almost straight away we had at least one male singing, in addition to a pair going in and out of a nest.
|Saharan Olivaceous Warbler, Rissani, Morocco - 25th May 2013|
|'Morrocan' White Wagtail (subpersonata), Rissani, Morocco - 25th May 2013|
|Female White-crowned Black Wheatear, Rissani, Morocco - 25th May 2103|
Using the Gosney guide once more we arrived at the appointed place for the Eagle Owl. The map in the book shows it to be about a 2km walk from the road to the spot. In the midday heat with 10kg of gear it felt more like 3 or 4kms. Although there were plenty of faeces streaked ledges on the cliff face we couldn't find the Owl at all. We gave up and started to hike back. Within about 500 meters of the road we met with a local on a moped call Lahcen Ouacha. He offered to show us Eagle Owl, Lanner and Spotted Sandgrouse all within an hour. At first we were a little suspicious but Nick negotiated a good rate (100 Dirhams per bird with a 'no bird-no fee' caveat). We walked back to the car and followed him on his moped towards the Eagle Owl spot.
|Lahcen Ouacha leads the way|
|Roost spot for 'Pharoah' Eagle Owl|
|'Pharoah' Eagle Owl - just!|
|Spotted Sandgrouse - near Rissani, Morocco - 25th May 2013|
We paid Lahcen his fee and were on our way. Incidentally, if you are planning on visiting the area Lahcen's contact details are email@example.com / +212 671146336. He comes highly recommended as a guide.
|Celebrating Lanner with Lahcen Ouacha|
|Female Seebohm's Wheatear|
|Male Seebohm's Wheatear|
I left the Wheatears for a moment and walked back along the road towards Nick so I could see the Red-knobbed Coots. Although I had seen the species in 2007 and 2011 at S'Albufera in Mallorca, they are introduced there. Here they are the real McCoy, so important for me to see them.
So, I hoped you've enjoyed this account of our short trip to Morocco. What a country for birding. Good infrastructure, good light, great birds and friendly people. We didn't see Dupont's Lark or Levaillant's Green Woodpecker but, if I needed one, there are now at least two reasons to return.