Wednesday 11 April 2018

Western Sahara - the final part

Sad to report that the next morning was no better, despite near perfect weather conditions the Nightjars remained out of sight. Two birds sang briefly before the sun rose, we returned dejectedly to Aousserd for breakfast. Around the house that morning we had a singing White-crowned Black Wheatear, a Woodchat Shrike, several House Martins and four Black Kites. As there was a military base and UN base nearby we thought better than to wave our large lenses about - so no photos.
So having dipped on Sudan Golden Sparrow and Golden Nightjar, it was really important for morale to see African Desert Warbler and find Royal Tern. I think if we left Western Sahara without seeing those birds too it would put a real damper on what had been otherwise an excellent week.
We checked a site for African Desert Warbler that the Dutch guys had given us and failed to see or hear anything - I was really starting to despair at that stage. We drove back along the road and checked the same site we had been to a few days earlier (where we had also drawn a blank) and thankfully this time we had a singing male...phew! It kept its distance but still gave great views as it sang from the top of the small desert bushes.

The ultimate record shot - African Desert Warbler
A little further along the road we had a couple of Long-legged Buzzards feeding on a deceased Desert Hare.

Long-legged Buzzard (cirtensis) - Western Sahara
Birds in this region are a sub-species called cirtensis. Slightly smaller than the nominate race, pale-headed with a pale rump band and a rufous tail.
We stopped for one final check around the water tower at Tachaktant, the winds had switched around from north to south and there appeared to be far less migrants present. Although there was a female Bluethroat, two LRPs, two Spanish Wagtails and this very dark Sardinian Warbler.

Dark looking Sardianian Warbler - Tachaktant
I also came across this Chameleon walking out in the open - even more bizzare looking when they aren't clinging to a branch.

Chameleon spp.
And also a pair of Thick-billed Larks dropped in for a drink.

Thick-billed Lark, Tachkatant, Western Sahara
We enjoyed a final lunch before heading back to Dahkla.

So, we still had one last bird to try for............Royal Tern. Once again we had directions from the Dutch guys, it was now or never! And this time our luck was in - just one bird resting on the sand below the cliffs at the 20km marker on the road out of Dahkla - but you only need one bird right?

His Royal Highness!
And while we were at it there was this dark Western Reef Heron too!

Dark morph Wester Reef Heron
And the only 'quack' of the trip - Pintail.

Drake Pintail and three 'lady' Pintails
And that was it - back to the hotel and farewell to Nico and his crew. Which by the way I would like to heartily recommend and endorse Dahkla Rovers. Nico and Martina were excellent, we were well taken care of in all respects.
We totted up our list over some local beer that evening and voted Sand Cat as 'Bird of the trip'!

The local poison - Casablanca
A Stone Curlew at the airport the following morning brought our trip list to 101 - quality over quantity maybe. A pity to miss Golden Nightjar and Sudan Golden Sparrow but we compensated a little with some unexpected bonuses such as Scops Owl and snatched a draw from the jaws of defeat on the final day with Royal Tern and African Desert Warbler. For me I will never forget the morning I spent at Mijk Farm sitting beneath an Acacia tree as Bluethroats, Olivaceous Warblers, Subalpine Warblers, Wrynecks, Bee-eaters and Woodchats buzzed about me - that's what birding is about for me and it will go down as one of my most memorable birding moments ever!

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