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Thursday 30 November 2017

Morocco Day 7

This cracking Desert Shrike spent most of it's time around my tent on the dunes of Erg Chibbid, Merzouga.

  No Desert Sparrow to join me for breakfast this morning. Instead I had the usual two, the White-crowned Black Wheatear and Desert Shrike. Also, something I always wanted to see in the Sahara and that's Swallow and there was a single hawking around my tent! I was leaving Merzouga and said goodbye to Youssef and made my ways onto the N13 towards Rissani where I will be staying for the night. Before I left, I gave a quick look at the dam again. Looking over the water I could see single Little Egret, Grey Heron, Moroccan Wagtail and 2 Kentish Plover. From a distance I could see some duck coming my ways. With my naked eye they looked like Shelduck but I'm in the Sahara. I put my bins up, bloody ell! 5 Shelduck! It was so strange to see them flying past Erg Chibbid and then after circling a few times, settled on the water before making there ways to the shore. If that wasn't enough, I could hear sandgrouse and 9 Spotted Sandgrouse touched down on the NE shore. They had a quick drink and were gone. I left the Shelduck to rest and saw an area north beyond the lake that might be worth a try for Desert Warbler. A wagon drove past in between the lake and the area I was aiming for. I got in my car instead.


The Desert Shrike was eyeing up it's breakfast

Crazy to see 5 Shelduck fly in over Erg Chebbid!

These 9 Spotted Sandgrouse came in for a drink very briefly at the far end of the dam

This Moroccan Wagtail is the only one I've seen so far

  I found the right turning off the R702 towards Erg Chebbid Hotel and drove down towards the building. Mid way there's a Acacia and I pulled up by the side of the tree. Jumped out and heard a Desert Warbler!! I thought the habitat was ideal but I thought I would have to walk a bit before seeing one. I ain't seen this one yet as it was in sub-song out of sight. I caught it fly off low into some cover a long ways off. A few minutes later I relocated it and for the next twenty minutes it showed down to a meter giving me crippling views! The five birds I saw a few days ago, were very good but this was awesome! It returned to the Acacia and started to sing before flying into cover to where I was standing! I left it as I could see a male Desert Wheatear nearby. There were also 2 Hoopoe and 7 Bar-tailed Desert Lark, 2 Desert Shrike, 5 Chiffchaff, 4 White Wagtail and a single Stonechat. I saw a few more Hoopoe Larks on the N13 out of Merzouga from the car.

For Desert Warbler, it don't get better than this!!

The Acacia that the Desert Warbler was singing from

The habitat where I found the Desert Warbler with the Dam in the distance

2 Hoopoe Lark were also in the area

Wednesday 29 November 2017

Morocco Day 6

After seeing 24 Desert Sparrow yesterday I went and found this female! Well, it found me, because it came down and joined me for breakfast!

  I slept well in my tent and at 06.30, I ventured out as the sun was rising. I thought I'd check out the House Sparrow roost just in case I missed a Desert Sparrow last night when they were coming into roost. No Desert Sparrow but after 30 minutes I counted over 820 House Sparrow leave the roost!! I also saw the male Spannish Sparrow very briefly. If you include the 300+House Sparrow in the second roost that I had yesterday, that's a staggering 1120 House Sparrow!!
  I returned to camp and Youssef had breakfast ready. Getting stuck into my egg, I could hear the twitter of a Yellowhammer in the tall Palm above me. I knew what that was and lept from my seat with my camera. A female Desert Sparrow! She came down and started looking from scraps from beneath my table where I just been! It was obvious that she had been here before and when I told Youssef, he told me that he had five birds that visit regularly. And he proved it by showing me a pic which included two males! For now I was pleased with this female that stuck around for ten minutes before flying low over the dunes deeper into the Sahara Desert! My plan today was to go and look for my own Desert Sparrow as I believed there had to be others around this area and not just at the well known places where they are found. I was right and she gave crippling views.
  There were also 2 Pied Wagtail, the Desert Grey Shrike, 2 Kestrel, some 30 Beown-necked Raven flew out into the desert and permanently around the camp, a single White-crowned Black Wheatear.

This is what I woke up to this morning Erg Chebbid!

Over 820 House Sparrow left this roost this morning with a the male Spanish Sparrow

This female Desert Sparrow was quite unexpected guest at my breakfast table!

This White-crowned Black Wheatear spends all it's time in the camp area

Anyone in Merzouga, stay at Cafe Camp Saharatime. You will not be disappointed. Youssef was a great host and superb cook. His driving was OK. Also, Erg Chebbid looks over you! The Palm in every photo is where I first heard the Desert Sparrow 

And then she came down under my breakfast table and chair!
  After Breakfast, Youssef asked me what I'm doin today? I thought I'll check out the dam and lake just up road 'I'll come with you' As long as you don't drive my car, I thought. 'I'll show you around' I couldn't say no 'I'll drive your car' You will? He stayed on the main track to the dam where the only birds of note were 2 Little Egret and Grey Heron and then, he drove off road on to areas I would never think of goin and we were a long aways from anywhere in the stony desert. At times, I thought we were goin to get stuck 'I'm so pleased you got us through that deep sandy track, I didn't want to die out here!' As cool as Yasussef is 'Don't worry my friend, your safe with me' I am!? As he approached the lake, I could see that it was still pretty muddy from where the lake was starting to dry up and he was heading straight for this muddy area. All I could think was, please don't get us stuck in the mud. sand yes, but mud, please no! He came to a halt just as we were going to hit the mud!
  Anyways, he got us to the lake with no harm done to my car and this time there were lots of birds to see. Unfortunately, Some other folk were already there and ducks were flying away including 2 Pintail with over 40 Teal. On the water there were 11 Shoveler, 56 Ruddy Shelduck, 8 Kentish Plover and a single Cormorant. A Long-legged Buzzard flew overhead with over 40 Brown-necked Raven. 

Youssef blowing back up the tyres after we let them down yesterday to try and get the car out of the sand while Youssef was driving. Not me!

Back streets of Merzouga

Lac Dayet Srij Lake

2 female Pintail with a single Teal

There were up to 11 Shoveler on the lake

And 56 Ruddy Shelduck

Also a Cormorant flying around

  We returned to my car 'I will take you to the mountains' Not in my car! I don't think so! I said to Youssef in a gentle manner, 'Erm, can we just stay in this area Youssef? We can see the mountains another time' It turned out he said, I will take you towards the mountains. Making our ways towards the mountains, the track went through a patchy Tamarisk area and immediately a Tristram's Warbler flew across in front of us. I jumped out and got cracking views of a male! Out of the Tamarisk and back onto the tracks of the stony desert where we saw 4 male Desert Wheatear and 5 Hoope Lark.
  We made it to the camp and Yousseff said 'after dinner I'll take you to the otherside where we can see lots of birds' I nodded and had a cracking lunch and then drove off without Youssef.

The area next to the lake where I found the warbler

Male Tristram's Warbler

I saw another 4 male Desert Wheatear

Another greast South African band, ASA