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WEATHER: Beautiful clear sky to start, then fantastic sunshine all day spoilt only by a strong wind which increased throughout the day.. Top temp 20C.

We had a great day today with some exciting sightings as we travelled through some of the most scenic landscapes that Morocco has to offer.

The view from the hotel terrace this morning

We ate breakfast at 6:30am and we had the bus loaded up before 7:30am and we were on our way under a clear blue sky. Our first stop was only 15 minutes along the Ourika Valley. A regular stop of mine and my favourite place to look for Levaillant’s Woodpecker. We noted Cattle Egret, Grey Wagtail, Red-rumped Swallow and Common Bulbul as we travelled.

As soon as we got off the bus we were greeted by a chorus of bird song and within minutes a female Levaillant’s Woodpecker flew into view. It showed briefly before flying off into the valley, but what a great start. We quickly listed a lot of common birds, such Serin, Greenfinch, African Blue Tit, African Chaffinch and Wren.

A flock of six or so Little Swifts swarmed above us with Red-rumped & Barn Swallows, House Martins and a couple of distant Crag Martins.

Next we took took a path down to the river, along the way we could hear Blackcap, Greenfinch, Serin, Cetti’s Warbler and the noisy Common Bulbul but there was no sign of the woodpecker even though it calleda few times.

At the river we found several Tree Pipits, Little Ringed Plover and a Moroccan Wagtail. Then the Levaillant’s Woodpecker reappeared, this time it was a male that sat in full view for about 10 minutes.

On the way back we had good views of Cetti’s Warbler and some of the group saw Willow Warbler and then Bonelli’s Warbler.

Passing further down the valley we turned off for Ait Ourir and after 30 minutes we stopped at the roadside for another birding spell. From where we stood we had a terrific panoramic view across scrub land, pastures, olive groves, woodland, hedges and ditches.

the view back to the Atlas Mountain from our vantage point along the road

As we emerged from the bus a Great-spotted Cuckoo flew into a bush not far away but before any of the group saw it they were distracted by the appearance of at least 3 Common Cuckoos. Further distraction occurred in the form of Barbary Partridges, they flew in but were hard to see in the scrub. Magreb Magopies were chasing the cuckoos around and eventually they flushed out two Great-spotted Cuckoos, so all the group got to see them at last. Before we left the area we had good close views of Thekla Lark, as well as distant sightings of Sardinian Warbler.

We then put in some miles as was entered the Tichka Pass, the gateway through the Atlas Mountains, the scenery was just stunning, it was drier than usual so the colourful spring flowers were not on show. We made a quick stop to watch a Booted Eagle but generally the number of raptors was disappointing today.

Once through the pass we dropped down into warmer climes, a lunch stop produced very little, Black Wheatear, Thekla Lark and our usual walk through a pine plantation was abandoned because the wind was blowing a gale.

 As the landscape changed so did the vegetation and the temperature. It was 21C as we made our across the flat plains towards Quarzazate. We were faced by an arid, flat, landscape with poor vegetation, the only greenery was seen along the rivers and streams. We never made another stop because of the windy conditions until we reached the huge Reservoir at Quarzazate.

We drove along a dirt track to get to the reservoir but we were very disappointed to find that the water level was extremely low, in fact the water itself was about a mile away from us. The windy conditions didn’t help, all we saw was a couple of Common Shelduck, White Wagtails and and a few genuine looking Rock Doves. On the scree slopes we found our first Desert Wheatear and a male Northern Wheatear.

A further 90km was covered before we arrived at our hotel on the outskirts of Boumalne Dades, we sat to eat at 7:30pm it was another delicious tajine. Our bird log was short but full of quality sightings, despite the windy conditions we managed to see some nice species today.