We were looking for Dupont's Lark and following the maps in David Gosney's book, we soon reached the spot on the Zeida Plain. It was 6am, the sun still hadn't risen just yet and it was very chilly. We could see small little brown shapes darting around the scrub and could hear some larks beginning to sing but no sign of any Dupont's. The first birds to show well though were a pair of Desert Wheatear. The last time I saw this species was in November 2011 on Bray Head in Wicklow, Ireland. I remember wondering at the time how would a desert species survive an Irish winter, but they seemed very happy there on that cold desert morning, so no problem to them. As the morning brightened up we could hear plenty of Lesser and Greater Short-toed Larks singing. We walked in separate directions looking and listening for Dupont's Larks. A party of three Ruddy Shelducks flew over and I had a single Trumpeter Finch alongside a Lesser Short-toed Lark. Nick soon called me over though when he picked up a lone Thick-billed Lark poking around the scrub. I tried for some record shots but the bird just seemed to vanish. Still an impressive species though.
|First light on the Zeida Plains|
|Red-rumped Wheatear, Zeida Plains, Morocco - 24th May 2013|
By 8.30am it was starting to really warm up, although we had dipped on Dupont's Lark, we had seen some decent species, several of them lifers for me. Before reaching the car we came across this rather approachable Thekla Lark. We both got shots before deciding that it was time for breakfast.
|Thekla Lark - Zeida Plains, Morocco - 24th May 2103|
After breakfast we set off once again. This time we were headed for the Tizi-n-Tairhemt pass. Taking 'gen' from Josh Jones trip report, we were looking for an area where we might see Tristram's Warbler, a species I've longed to see. We parked at the hairpin bend and descended into down into the valley.
|Tristram's Warbler site|
|Male Moussier's Redstart, Tizi-n-Tairhemt pass, Morocco - 24th May 2013|
|Serin, Tizi-n-Tairhemt pass, Morocco - 24th May 2013|
We continued on through the mountains, as the river ran close to the roadside, Nick pulled over and said it might be worth checking the stream for Moroccan Wagtail ('Subpersonata' White Wagtail). It turned out to be a good call, as soon as we had started to scan the gravel edges of the river we picked up a pair feeding some young. The male is a very striking bird indeed, so well worth seeing. Present also were a pair of Grey Wagtails, these too were feeding young.
As we descending the mountain pass the countryside began to green up a bit. We stopped when we noticed a Hoopoe flying into a nice looking roadside orchard. Both of us felt it might be good for Western Olivaceous Warbler, and at the far end of the orchard we were in luck. A single bird was singing from deep cover.
|A nice looking orchard - with Western Olivaceous Warbler buried in there somewhere|
|Western Olivaceous Warbler|
|Rufous Bush Robin, near Errachidia, Morocco, 24th May 2013|
To see a short movie clip click here
As usual time was pressing on and we had one more target to aim for. Outside the town of Rissani, on the road to Merzouga, is a well known site for Egyptian Nightjar.
We hit Rissani at rush-hour (honestly, it was mayhem). We followed the maps on David Gosney's guide but managed to get a little lost, once again our dodgy french was used on some poor gendarme and we were soon on the right track. Just beyond the Auberge Tresor we pulled over and got our gear out. The sun was dipping, the moon was up and we walked the dry desert piste looking and listening for 'jars. We wondered how they must roost in the direct desert sunlight and Nick mentioned that they must try to find the shade of a small acacia bush. We took separate paths and pretty soon Nick was out of sight. I walked along a dry wadi where short stunned acacias spread out in a line in front of me. Every five yards or so I would stop and scan the acacias for twenty yards in front of me looking for a roosting bird. After twenty minutes I had drawn a blank and was running out of acacias to check. Just then I noticed an interesting shape sitting under an acacia about twenty yards in front of me. I quietly set my tripod and camera up, pulled a couple of shots and as I cropped them on the viewfinder I could see it was roosting Egyptian Nightjar. I texted Nick to say I had a roosting bird and he appeared from a ridge about five hundred yards in front of me. I waved to him and pointed in front of me, he had joined within five minutes. We stayed for about twenty minutes watching the bird. Just as the light was almost gone it suddenly got up and flew off into the gathering gloom. What a bird, if you weren't looking for it you would walk right past it such is its plumage.
|Egyptian Nightjar roosting near Rissani, Morocco - 24th May 2013|