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WEATHER: dull and overcast all day, quite cold for Morocco at this venue, 11C all day with a wind chill factor of a few degrees too!

It was dull and misty and breezy and cold as we set off on foot after our 7am breakfast. We headed out onto the stony plains right outside the hotel and headed straight for a rubbish tip. We had seen House Bunting at the hotel and we quickly located a couple of Thekla Larks just outside the compound. Walking on the dry stony landscape was easy and we soon found a few species to keep us happy despite the weather.

The ubiquitous Thekla Lark - by Tony Moore

A Desert Lark was seen alongside a small bunch of Trumpeter Finches and we then found a female Red-rumped Wheatear, a Northern Wheatear and a pair of Desert Wheatears. Apart from a few hirundines flying over that is all we saw in the first 40 minutes of our day.

Our driver Idris then picked us up and we drove the short distance to the beginning of the Tagdilt Track. A super-dump sits right on the track and we decided to walk to it from the main road, the bus followed us.

Despite the heaps of rubbish, builder’s waste and endless litter strewn across the land we saw quite a few birds. First we found a beautiful male Red-rumped Wheatear, several desert Wheatears and them a very obliging Temminck’s Horned Lark landed on the track and walked right up to us! The photographers were in dreamland!

Red-rumped Wheatear - Tony Moore

the very obliging Temminck's Lark - Tony Moore

Desert Wheatear - Tony Moore

Unusually, we found two Cream-coloured Coursers near the tip, these birds are often a few kilometers further on, well away from the rubbish. As we got near the main rubbish compound, which is fenced off, we added White Wagtail, two Black-bellied Sandgrouse which flew over us and more Thekla Larks.

We searched for Thick-billed Lark and pulled out Tawny Pipit (2), Yellow Wagtails (10+), Greater Short-toed Larks (20+) and lots more wheatears. Finally we located a pair of Thick-billed Larks, a great sighting for us.

a pair of Thick-billed Larks in the rubbish area - Tony Moore

We continued our drive along the Tagdilt track stopping to look at more of same birds except the Coursers were very much closer this time. At a large compound, where an olive grove and some agriculture was going on, we walked along a fence-line hoping to see some migrant birds but all we got was another Black-bellied Sandgrouse and lots of Blackbirds.

Cream-coloured Courser - Tony Moore

We drove off the plains and visited another cultivated area which was sheltered by mature trees and shrubs. There we saw our first Laughing Dove but the trees and shrubs were quite bereft of birdlife. We did see Thekla lark, Desert Lark, Common Redstart, Serin, Blackbird, but no migrant warblers or Bee-eaters. After driving into town to buy picnic supplies we drove along the Dades Valley towards the gorge. We visited the famous  ‘Monkey’s Fingers’ rock formation before stopping a little further on to eat our lunch by the roadside.

The group watching Tristrams Warbler - this is not a photographic tour!!

A short walk up a dry riverbed produced lots of House Sparrow and Common Bubul sightings but no migrant warblers in the bushes. An open area with scrub came up trumps with a pair of Tristram’s Warblers. How cool was that, the male bird showed extremely well and keep popping out and giving us a short burst of song. Once the again the cameras were a-clicking! Our target bird was now safely in the bag and in the can!!

two shots of the very amenable Tristram's Warbler taken by Tony Moore

At the very picturesque head of the gorge we walk for a while noting a couple more Tristram’s Warblers briefly, a few Black Wheatears, lots of Rock Doves, also Black Redstart, Common Redstart, Crag Martin, Blue Rock Thrush and more House Sparrows.

After stopping for a coffee at the head of the Gorge Restaurant we headed back down the steep road which has several very tight switch-backs. A Bonelli’s Eagle circled very high above just before we left. At the bottom we drove for a couple of kilometers and stopped near a small bridge with a stream running under it.

We then spent a good hour enjoying some great birding, many species were flitting about in the bushes, especially migrant warblers. Siskins were coming down to bathe in the stream with House Sparrows and a single Garden Warbler.

Eurasian Hoopoe - Tony Moore

Olivaceous Warbler - Tony Moore

Bonelli’s Warblers were abundant as well as Serins, some of the group tracked down a Common Nightgale and got good views of it whilst others spent time on watching a very colourful Great Spotted Woodpecker.

the very red-coloured Great Spotted Woodpecker

Some small plots of cultivated fields were also quite interesting, some Alfalfa fields held quite a few species including several Tree Pipits. We found Subalpine Warbler, Olivaceous Warbler and Willow Warbler. A couple of Hoopoes made an appearance, we saw Common Kestrels, White Stork, House and Sand Martins, Red-rumped and Barn Swallows. It was a superb ending to the day.

Tree Pipit

Dinner was at 8pm we completed the bird-log just before. Tomorrow we head off into the desert region where more exciting species await us.