A banner.full


WEATHER:  a bright sunny start to the day at last! Late afternoon we had high winds and a sandstorm in the desert region at Merzouga!!

Talk about a day of two halves!! We had a perfect morning and early afternoon then as we drove into the Sahara region the wind picked up and so did the sand, it was awful birding conditions.

this Seebohm Wheatear was seen just outside our gates - photo by Tony Moore

Late news from yesterday was that of a Little Owl sighting on the roof of our Riad, two of the group saw and several more heard it calling.

We left our beautiful Riad in Boumalne Dades at 7:30am and headed south-east towards Merzouga, our first planned stop was just 20 minutes down the road, an ancient wadi with cliffs on either side, our target birds were Pharaoh Eagle Owl and Magreb Wheatear.

We had a short encounter with a female Magreb Wheatear on the way down the ramp into the wadi, we lost sight of her very quickly. Two local guys were waiting for us and they quickly showed us the Owls. The female sitting on a nest (viewed from a great distance I must add) and a little further on they pointed out the male standing in a hole. Smashing!!

These local guys also knew of a second pair that would be showing much better so off we went. Before we had moved very far, we bumped into a pair of Magreb Wheatears and they showed extremely well. At the second owl site we were shown a Lanner Falcon sitting on a nest and the pair of Eagle Owls were fantastic, job done we were on our way.

The male Magreb Wheatear - photo by Tony Moore

a distant shot of the Pharaoh Eagle Owl - by Tony Moore

We spent two hours getting to our next destination but we stopped a couple of times and we saw Black Kite and a possible Marsh Harrier from the bus. Our second stop involved buying lunch supplies in Goulmima before stopping a little further east to eat it, but only after we had been for a birding walk.

Our target bird in a large dried out wadi was the Streaked Scrub Warbler, this tiny bird hops around the clumps of vegetation stretching up from the ground and picking morsels of food from beneath the leaves. We found a male after about 15 minutes of looking. It showed well for everyone and it was obviously gathering food for chicks, it disappeared after about 10 minutes with a beak full of goodies.

Streaked Scrub Warbler - eating a small Praying Mantis - photo by Tony Moore

Other birds seen in the wadi included: Desert and Black-eared Wheatears, Woodchat Shrike, a small flock of Trumpeter Finches and a Willow Warbler.

a small flock of Trumpeter Finches - by Tony Moore

We ate our lunch back at the bus and then moved on to a river a few kilometers south of Goulmima. The river wasn’t flowing but a few pools were still scattered along the river bed. We quickly found Green Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Ruddy Shelduck and quite a few warblers. Subalpine, Bonelli’s and Willow Warblers were seen as well as Desert Lark, Desert and White-crowned Wheatears and David and Sue found a pair of Magreb Larks!

Ruddy Shelduck in flight by Tony Moore

As we drove south towards Erfoud it was obvious that the wind was picking up, sand was blown across the road and great clouds of it could be seen ahead of us.

South of Erfoud it was quite bad, the road being obscured in places. The last few miles were a bit of a nightmare but we still managed to see Brown-necked Raven and more White-crowned Wheatears.

an artistic shot of the Brown-necked Raven on the Erg Chebbi dunes - by Tony Moore

At Café Yasmina we checked-in and as we walked to our rooms a Blue-cheeked Bee-eater flew over the hotel, calling! After we had settled into our rooms we went for a walk around the grounds. Wherever there was shelter, there was birds, mainly Subalpine and Bonelli’s Warblers but the odd Willow Warbler and a Chiffchaff sp.

Talking later to the Spanish Ringing Team, who had nets set up in the Tamarisk scrub, I learned that a flock of nine Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters were in the area and two had been caught in the nets, fingers crossed for tomorrow (if the wind dies down).