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WINGS Birding Tours – Itinerary

Morocco in Fall

Saturday 2 November to Saturday 9 November 2019
with Stuart Elsom as leader

Price: $2,250*

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featured image

A Moroccan scene. Photo: Bryan Bland

Agadir lies on the Atlantic coast far enough south to enjoy a warm winter climate and consequently the surrounding areas are rich in birdlife, holding large numbers of wintering European birds as well as an interesting resident population that includes several African species. Within easy reach of Agadir there are many different habitats: sandy and rocky seashores, reed-fringed estuaries, cultivated valleys, dramatic mountains and open desert. During the tour we’ll sample this diversity, looking at a wide cross-section of the birdlife. The estuaries to the south of the town are undoubtedly two of the best birdwatching sites in the country, and the spectacular mountains inland host some fascinating species. A new feature in recent years has been a pelagic trip out of Agadir (and alternate activities for those who can’t countenance time at sea). During the week we’ll spend one night at Goulimime, the gateway to the Sahara, so that we can explore this remote area in search of the more southerly desert species. For the rest of the tour we’ll be based in one hotel, allowing for “time out” and optional sightseeing trips as well as exciting birdwatching.

Day 1: The tour begins with a flight from London to Agadir. Flight times permitting we will visit the wide sandy estuary of the River Sous, frequented by large flocks of shorebirds, gulls and terns. There is usually a small flock of Greater Flamingoes and a few White Storks present here and while the shorebirds will probably be familiar European species, the gulls can include Mediterranean, Slender-billed and Audouin’s and the terns Royal and Lesser Crested. Around the edge of the estuary we’ll see Fan-tailed Warbler, Common Bulbul, Moussier’s Redstart and perhaps Bluethroat and Black-headed Bush-shrike. Night in Agadir.

Days 2-4: To the north of Agadir the spectacular Atlantic beaches hold hundreds of gulls and terns and there is a cliff-nesting colony of Bald Ibis, which can sometimes be seen feeding along the road. Also to the north the rocky foothills of the High Atlas provide slopes of cistus, evergreen oaks and juniper where we’ll search for that delightful North African endemic, Tristram’s Warbler. Black Wheatear, Cirl and Rock Buntings and Blue Rock Thrush should also perform for us. The roads here wind up through crag-clasping Berber villages to the well-vegetated amphitheater of Imouzzer, where the pools beneath the three waterfalls attract Crag Martins, wintering warblers and higher-elevation species such as Atlas Crossbill and Jay. Bonelli’s Eagle usually puts in an appearance too. The road now continues throught to the coast at Tamri, and we could finish our day with Bald Ibis.  

A recent feature on this tour is a pelagic trip out from Agadir, weather permitting of course. When we first introduced this, we encountered Great and Sooty Shearwaters, British, Leach’s, Madeiran and Wilson’s Storm-Petrels, Sabine’s Gull, Grey Phalarope and all four skuas mingling with the large flocks of ever-present Cory’s and Scopoli’s Shearwaters. Last year was not as productive but seabirding is notoriously unpredictable and we live in hope. Or, of course, you can spend the day relaxing on the beach, swimming in the hotel pool, shopping in the souks or exploring the tourist delights of Agadir. 

An hour’s drive south of Agadir is a desert area where Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse can be found. Nearby is the estuary of the River Massa, traditionally the place where Jonah was cast up by the whale. This was once the richest ornithological site in Morocco used by large numbers of birds both during migration and in the winter. The deeper water attracts many waterbirds, and herons, egrets and ducks are well represented, maybe including Marbled and Ferruginous Ducks, Red-crested Pochard and Ruddy Shelduck. Many unusual birds have been found here over the years and the list of vagrants is long; in 2004, for example, we found an Isabelline Shrike - a first for Morocco. The last two years have been less productive but we could still see almost anything. Some of the more regular species we’ll look for are Black-headed Bush Shrike, Squacco Heron, Brown-throated Sand Martin, Spotless Starling, Spanish Sparrow and House Bunting. Laughing Dove has also colonized this area in recent years and the agricultural fields could hold Black-shouldered Kite, Short-toed and and Booted Eagles, Hoopoe and Glossy Ibis. Most importantly we have another chance for Bald ibis. Nights in Agadir.

Day 5: During the week we’ll spend one night in Goulimime. We may pause en route for a roadside Desert Lark or Black Wheatear but we’ll search for other representatives of those two families (Temminck’s Horned, Thick-billed, Lesser Short-toed, Bar-tailed Desert and Hoopoe Larks and Desert, Red-rumped and White-crowned Black Wheatears) in the deserts south of the town. Lanner, Barbary Falcon, Trumpeter Finch, Cream-colored Courser, Fulvous Babbler and the delightful Streaked Scrub Warbler are also possibilities. Night in Goulimime

Days 6-7: Where we spend our final days will depend on our remaining targets. The valley of the Sous runs inland past the old walled city of Taroudannt. Black-shouldered Kites, Long-legged Buzzards, and Peregrine and Barbary Falcons are possible here and there is a good chance of Fulvous Babbler. We may stop at Taroudannt and walk around the old souk which, though not as extensive as the one in Marrakech, still gives a good impression of a typical Arab market with narrow alleys, stalls piled high with goods and exotically-smelling spice shops. Even more impressive is the Anti-Atlas mountain circuit to ochre-tinted Tafrout, where the farming population is sufficiently remote to preserve its old traditions and brightly-coloured dress. Red-billed Chough, Golden Eagle, Blue Rock Thrush, and Rock Sparrow are typical target birds. En route are desert areas which could give us another chance for Thick-billed and Desert Larks, Trumpeter Finch, White-crowned Black Wheatear and Black-bellied Sandgrouse, but the abiding images are of the breathtaking views and spectacular scenery. Nights in Agadir.

Day 8: Depending on flight departure times we might have a final morning’s birdwatching around the ever-productive Sous or Massa estuaries before we catch our flight back to London, where our tour concludes.

Updated: 05 January 2015

Prices

  • 2019 Tour Price : $2,250
  • Single Occupancy Supplement : $240
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Notes

This tour is organized by our British company, Sunbird. Information on Sunbird and an explanation of Sunbird tour pricing can be found here.

* Tour invoices paid by check carry a 4% discount. Details here.

This tour is limited to 10 participants with one WINGS leader.

Participants who wish to meet the group in Agadir should contact the WINGS office.