20TH TO 25TH February 2016.

A previously planned short break to Morocco had been organised on the back of many favourable reports from fellow birdwatchers . On account of the Isis threat and other terrorism in North Africa it was a destination which many people had temporarily taken off their itinery .So it proved to be a budget holiday with return flights from Stanstead to Marrakesh for £83, Four star Hotels on Bed and Breakfast basis at £23 per person per night . The low cost certainly did not detract from the quality of the experience .Picking up the hire car at the airport a three hour drive with stops took us down to Agadir on the Atlantic coast , this is an excellent base for exploring some well recommended sites , one of which is Tamri to the north .


Here the target bird is the rare Bald Ibis or as the locals would call it ‘EEEbis ‘ we were lucky to see a flock of 19 individuals with an Osprey fishing in the estuary for good measure . The shoreline yielded Sanderlings and Kentish Plovers with Common and Sandwich Terns roosting amongst Audouins and Yellow legged Gulls . In the trees and scrub inland many passerines were seen ,such as Moussiers Redstart , Blackcap and Sardinian warblers , Woodchat Shrike and Southern Grey Shrike were soon added to the list . 

Overhead a Goshawk and a Booted Eagle were soaring .On the way back Black Wheatear , Little Swift and Barbary Partridge were observed whilst watching a pod of Bottle nosed dolphins just offshore .The following day a call into Oued ( river ) Sous ( south ) and a walk along the estuary found many waders on their way northwards again . The list included both Bar Tailed and Black tailed Godwits , Redshank , Grey Plover , Greenshank , Redshank ,Spotted Redshank to name but a few . In the scrub plenty of Common Bulbuls , Goldfinches , Linnets , Serins , Turtle Doves . It was here that we were challenged in a very courteous manner by two mounted police from a patrol as we were close to the royal palace . 

The next site visited was the eagerly anticipated site at Oued Massa which is an hours drive south of Agadir . Sadly this site did not live up to expectations although it was a truly wonderful walk minus the birds . The star of the show was a Black Crowned Tchagra a shrike like bird which resides in the maritime scrub along this location . On the river a Kingfisher, Common Sandpiper, Cettis Warbler were seen but it gave superb opportunities to see donkeys and their owners working and harvesting their crops . A stop at Oued Sous on the way back gave more of the previous sightings .Leaving Agadir the return drive to Marrakesh was spectacular through a mass of variations in the landscape all with superb sunshine on them .


Marrakesh was reached having taken a short detour to ‘Mini’ Marrakesh the city of Taroudant and once we arrived the hotel once again did not disappoint ‘ The Royal Mogador Palace’ £23 per night for this –Amazing Value! This hotel had been picked for its out of town location and also easy access to the Atlas Mountains . 

So that is where we headed the next day , so from sea level the previous day to 9000 feet up in the Atlas which still has a further 4000 feet above that to the top . The destination was Oukaimeden which in actual fact is a ski resort . To ski or birdwatch became bit of a hard choice on this particular occasion but birding won . The first sight was a kettling of Choughs ( over 600 individuals ) mixed Alpine and Red Billed , flocks of Crimson Winged finches feeding on the ground in the car park and finally the holy grail Horned Lark again on the ground . A little Owl was also seen and a rather bizzare Grey Heron at this altitude . Several Black Redstarts put in an appearance . The scenery was spectacular with reflections in the lake having a rather unreal quality . 
So the drive back to Marrakesh with several stops to absorb both the views and a look at the artisan crafts took rather longer than expected . The listed Market Square was visited at night and some more local cuisine sampled prior to some bartering in the local souks, which proved to be fascinating but certainly buyer beware should be your slogan .It really is an amazing place which can extend your birdwatching and give you a completely new cultural experience and all on a budget – six days, five nights – hotel , flight , car hire etc all for £300 plus any spending money . One cannot argue against that