ERG CHEBBI DUNES ALL MORNING – HOTEL YASMINA ALL AFTERNOON
WEATHER; sunshine all day, very hot in the middle of the day 35C
Our exciting trip into the desert using two 4*4 vehicles had arrived, we took a very early breakfast at 6am and before 7am we were loaded up into the vehicles and on our way.
We had a small target list of species to look for with several others expected to be seen, it was a case of quality not quantity today. After 20 minutes of dashing along bumpy tracks and through heavily sanded wadis we arrived at a small dwelling, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. A woman was stood outside a building throwing bread on the ground and our first target bird was a feeding on the bread.
DESERT SPARROW, a pair of them gave excellent views as we stood just a few meters away. A pair of Greater Hoopoe Larks also came into the yard and began picking up bread crumbs, how bizarre was that!! We also saw White Crowned Wheatear, House Sparrow and a Brown-necked Raven in the distance.
male Desert Sparrow feeding on the bread thrown down
Next we set off to see sandgrouse, our driver/guide knew of a watering hole where the grouse came down to drink. We arrived some 30 minutes later and no sandgrouse were in sight, so we drove around the general area and found none. We could hear the occasional grouse calling but we did not see any.
Back at the small artificial pool we struck gold when 3 birds appeared from nowhere and walked to the water, they were Spotted Sandgrouse. Soon after, small groups began to arrive or were seen flying over, we picked out many on the ground close by and in the distance.
Over the next hour we had a great time watching 2-300 birds flying around and landing near the water. CROWNED SANDGROUSE also appeared. At one point all the grouse took to the air as a large Peregrine dropped in for a drink. One very brave Crowned Sandgrouse dropped back down to the pool and stood not 5 meters from the very dangerous Falcon. Nothing happened of course!
Crowned Sandgrouse - this is a male
more Crowned Sandgrouse arrived
A Yellow Wagtail ‘iberiae’ dropped in and a Subalpine Warbler flitted about in one of the two shrubs near the water. We had an unforgettable time, it was so enjoyable watching the antics of the sandgrouse as they paired up and raised their tails whenever newcomers dropped in.
this Peregrine dropped in and scattered the whole flock of 2-300 Sandgrouse
then a very brave or very stupid Crowned Sandgrouse landed near the Peregrine
Another species on our wanted list Desert Warbler, we had seen one yesterday, but it did not show very well to all of the group. So, we visited a wadi with a lot of vegetation growing in it and set out on foot. It wasn’t long before we found a singing male, this time we had prolonged views of the complete bird, what a show off! In the meantime we also noted Desert Wheatears, a single Willow Warbler and Hoopoe Lark.
a couple of pictures of the African Desert Lark
The next stop was quite a distance away we travelled for another 20 minutes and came to another dwelling where a local guy got onboard our vehicle and directed us to a wadi not too far away. We all got out and the guy pointed to a sleeping EGYPTIAN NIGHTJAR, wow! Straight in scope went the nightjar, what fabulous camouflage. We walked a short distance and we were shown two more!!
Well, would you believe it, all of our target birds were in the bag before lunchtime, it had been a fantastic morning.
Greater Hoopoe Lark
We arrived back at the hotel just before lunch, it was very hot so we abandoned our planned afternoon excursion, besides, we had seen all of the desert species on our wanted list.
a common bird around the area - White-crowned Wheatear
After lunch on the terrace we dispersed and went our separate ways until 4:30pm when most of us walked the grounds for one last time. It was practically bird-less, far too hot for much activity. Even the bird-ringing group only caught House Sparrows!
out in the desert - a 'flock' of Camels walked by whilst we were watching the Sandgrouse
We did see, White-crowned Wheatear, Subalpine Warbler, Hoopoe, Yellow Wagtail ‘flava’ , Common Redstart, Bonelli’s Warbler, Barn Swallow and Sandra had a Trumpeter Finch on er roof-top patio.
Another delicious evening meal was enjoyed by all of us, our last day in the desert was over, tomorrow we have a long drive south-west towards Agadir.