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WEATHER: all day sunshine, no breeze, very hot at times. Temp 30C

It was another smashing day with all the target birds in the bag. After an early breakfast we were on the road before 7:30am. It was a lovely temperature as stopped at our first birding venue just 10 minutes along the road. A regular site for sandgrouse when there is water in the pond, but today it had dried up and there was not a sandgrouse in sight. We did find Greater Short-toed Larks, Temminck’s Lark and Desert Wheatear.

Onwards and upwards, we set off towards Goulmimi but stopped a few times along the road to look raptors and such like as well as a major stop just off the main road to look for Eagle Owl.  The owl was sitting exactly where he should have been, we had great scope views but the owl walked further into his roosting hole and disappeared before everyone got to grips with it.

Three wheatears were chasing one another around very close to us, they turned out to be Magreb Wheatears, two females and a male, a stunning looking bird. We also saw our first Desert Lark, a pair of them flitted about on the rocky hillside.

ABOVE: a female Magreb Wheatear and BELOW: the male

We walked down into a ravine, aw ide flat-bottomed canyon where an ancient river used to flow. We tried to get better views of the owl but he wasn’t playing game, we did see a pair of African Common Buzzards and a few of the group saw some Trumpeter Finches.

Just as we were about to leave a group of seven Sandgrouse landed over a ridge not too far away, we walked slowly to the ridge and inadvertently, flushed 27 birds! Doh! Some of them circled around and landed in view but quite far off, so we had in-the-scope views of 5 of them. They were Black-bellied Sandgrouse.

Trumpeter Finch

We hit the road again and only made one short stop to look at Black Kites circling over the road, before we arrived at Goulmimi. We stopped to buy lunch supplies and continued on our journey. Fifteen minutes later we pulled off the road at a wadi in the middle of nowhere where we ate our lunch.

The Saharan Scrub Warbler is quite hard to find, it lives in isolated pockets and this wadi was one of them. Usually it takes a lot of hard work and walking in difficult terrain to find them but today it took all of five minutes! Gerry and Beatrice walked across the main road and into the wadi heading south, they found a pair of Scrub Warblers straight away.

Beatrice got some pictures of the Saharan Scrub Warbler these are two of hers, back of camera shots

We spend an hour or so looking for other species in the wadi, we turned up Desert Wheatears, Trumpeter Finches, Subalpine Warbler, Great Grey Shrike and not much else.

Our journey to Merzouga recommenced with one more stop at a bridge a few kilometers south of Goulmimi. Not much water was seen in the Oued Gher, but we did find 3 Green Sandpipers, a couple of Little Ringed Plovers and on the rocky terrain we watched Desert Lark and a our first Seebohm’s Wheatear.

the Erg Chebbi Dunes - our hotel is very close to them

We arrived at out hotel, Café Yasmina which sits right at edge of the Erg Chebbi Dune System, at 4:30pm. We stopped to watch Brown-necked Ravens along the approach road. After a short settling in period we assembled on the terrace and went for a walk in the grounds of the hotel where clumps of Tamarisk grow in abundance.

We found Subalpine Warblers, Woodchat Shrike and a Northern Wheatear of the ‘Greenland’ race, we then bumped into the ‘ bird-ringers’ who set up a series of nets throughout March every year. They told us of a place to look for Saharan Olivaceous Warbler so off we went.

At the car in the front of the hotel a row of young tamarisk trees were growing and that is where we found the Warbler, a great sighting to finish off the day. We also saw several Subalpine Warblers and our first Western Bonelli’s Warbler.

A lovely dinner was taken at 7:30pm and as usual everyone went to bed around 9pm.