ABS Moroccan Tour

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Many members had enquired about the possibility to have an ABS tour for birding in Morocco. In fact, when we responded with an idea for the tour back in the spring, we received an amazing response from members emailing us. The idea for a tour proved difficult as the Society does not have the legal statutes to engage in a tour of this nature, so we had to explore various avenues on how we might deal with organising such a tour. We have now been able to instigate a method that will allow us to offer a Moroccan Tour for members, we have established a stand-alone bank account to handle deposits and payments whereby we can show complete transparency on monies received and costs, enabling members assurances the tour is being organised on a ‘at cost’ basis. The tour price is only available to paid up members of the Society. Any surplus funds after costs will be donated to the ABS Conservation Fund. BTW the header photo is Egyptian Nightjar male!

Tour Dates. The tour will be taking place between 30th March and 9th April 2023 and will be for a duration of 10 nights and 11 days. Dates are now confirmed for flights with Ryanair on journeys from Malaga to Marrakech and the return to Malaga, the tour cost is based on members making their own way to Marrakech. Of course, members living outside of Spain can make their own arrangements for direct flights to Marrakech from their country of residence, but please be advised that collection from and drop to the Marrakech airport will be for your own account, taxis are plentiful and the hotel is just 10 minutes away from the airport.

Tour Costs. The tour costs will include Guiding, Transport, Accommodation and all meals, all other expenses including drinks will be for your own account. Depending on numbers taking part the cost is expected to be in the region of 1250 per person, obviously the more participants we have then the lower the costs, please note a single supplement of 100 euro will apply at cost. Airport collection and drop-off only for the following flights:
Málaga – Marrakech on 30/3 2023 departure 23.30
Marrakech – Málaga on 9/4 2023 departure 06.00

Insurance. Participants are responsible for their own insurance and ABS will not be liable for medical attention, cancellation or other eventualities arising during or pertaining to the tour under any circumstances.

Note: For those wishing to arrive before the tour or stay longer after the tour has finished, we are able to make arrangements for your accommodation via our ground agents, also cultural tours of Marrakech can be made through our agents (see Day 10. 8th April). For those arriving before and/or departing after the main tour please see above regarding airport collection and drop off.

If you would like to participate in this exciting tour, please email us at abs.sociedad@gmail.com so we can keep you informed. Upon confirmation of your reserved place you will be requested to pay a deposit of 300 euro per person. See bank details for making your payment:

Full bank details for payments from abroad and Spain:

Name of account: ABS Moroccan Tour
IBAN ES89 2100 3819 9102 0023 1659
SWIFT / BIC CAIXESBBXXX
Name of bank: CaixaBank
Address: Ave MALAGA, 11
29400 RONDA, (Málaga)
España
Tel. 00 34 952164010

Important. We advise those members who have decided to join the tour to urgently book their flights between Malaga and Marrakech as these flights are very popular and will be fully booked early. A reminder the outbound flight is for the 30th March and homeward return flight is on the 9th April 2023.

The Country and tour itinerary.

Morocco is one of the most beautiful countries in the region and one of few places where you really can get the true 1001 nights feeling. On this trip we focus on Morocco’s mountains and deserts. A road-trip for the adventurous who like the idea of traveling off the beaten track to see special birds and habitats. We will however stay in very comfortable Kasbah style hotels and taste genuine, local food. When we get to the real desert, we will be driven in 4×4 vehicles so we can move freely in that habitat and seek those elusive target birds. Our leader has done more than 40 trips to Morocco and knows all the best sites for all the specialities, we will also have a resident guide with us throughout the tour. In addition, we also use local guides at times. Egyptian Nightjar, Cream-coloured Courser, Desert Sparrow, Pharaoh’s Eagle Owl, Fulvous Babbler, are some of the birds we will target in the Sahara. Sandgrouse, Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, several species of Wheatears and Larks are also on the menu and of course the birds of the High Atlas like Crimson-winged Finch and Levaillant’s´s Woodpecker. At this time of the year there’s also a lot of migrating birds around and any bush can hold birds of interest.

House Bunting

Day 1. 30th March
Unfortunately, our flight time from Malaga means it will be check-in to our hotel and off to bed.

Day 2. 31st March
After a relaxed breakfast we will begin our journey across the Atlas Mountains south towards Ouarzazate, our first destination of the tour. But we will have time for many stops before that, especially up in the mountains where we will keep our eyes open for Levaillant’s Woodpecker, Barbary Partridge, Tristram’s Warbler and Moussier’s Redstart. Raptors to look out for are Barbary Falcon and Golden Eagle, but since it´s migration time, anything can be possible. We will do stops above 1,000 meters, so warm clothes can be good to have ready. We recommend you bring a warm sweater, and a wind stopping jacket & trousers, even if we only spend the first and the last days at this elevation. Pretty soon we will start to see the first exotic Wheatears; Mourning Wheatear, Black Wheatear, White-crowned Wheatear and eventually perhaps the first Desert Wheatears. Our base hotel lies surrounded by palm trees with the Atlas Mountains in the backdrop. There’s a pool and a nice terrace embed with trees and bushes. The weather varies a lot here between cool or balmy, mainly depending on the wind. Northerly winds will produce cold weather, but normally days are pleasant, and nights are cooler this time of the year. (Today’s transfer is 198 km, effective travel time estimated to 3 hours without stops).

White-crowned Black Wheatear

Day 3. 1st April
Today we need to start early to make the 300 km we need to travel to reach the sand dunes of the Sahara. We still have time for plenty of bird stops. We´ll keep our eyes open for birds like Trumpeter Finch, Lanner Falcon, Desert Wheatear, but also different migrants. White Wagtails of the handsome subspecies subpersonata are not numerous but we´ll certainly try our best to see some. The open habitats are a tough challenge when it comes to spotting birds, but with more eye we might be rewarded with Spotted- or Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Fulvous Babblers, Cream-colored Courser and other good species. Our journey continues south through palm tree plantations in the Agdz and Draa Valleys, where there could be all sorts of migrating birds around, Raptors, Wheatears, Warblers, Wagtails and Pipits. Maybe we have already seen the first Subalpine Warblers in the hotel garden before breakfast.  Most likely also the first Common Bulbuls and House Buntings. Temperatures down here will be considerably higher than yesterday, and it will feel nice to stretch our limbs on a walk along the river to find some new birds. Laughing Dove, Spectacled Warbler, White-crowned Wheatear and Blue-cheeked Bee-eater are some of today’s target birds to be seen on our long journey today. We will also look for Bonelli’s Eagle as we cross a mountain range before coming to the Draa Valley. We then need to make progress on our journey to the Erg Chebbi dune complex, but we will of course stop for any bird sightings and also a lunch break. Our destination hotel (Hôtel Dunes d’or) will be home for 2 nights and the surrounding mature Tamarisk Trees and a water outfall can provide some excellent birds for late evening and early morning walks. (Today’s transfer is 305 km, travel time estimated to 4 hours, but with stops it will take us the best part of the day).

Day 4. 2nd April
Today we will explore the areas around the Erg Chebbi – so we will enter 4×4 jeeps and drive straight out into the habitat. The area around Merzouga is also interesting with the temporary lake Dayet Srji. If it holds water, it attracts Flamingos, a variety of Ducks and Waders and other migrating waterbirds. However, it can be dry for several years, so nothing is guaranteed. Nonetheless today we have good chances on seeing local specialties like Fulvous Babbler – not always easy, African Desert and Scrub Warbler, Cream-coloured Courser, Hoopoe Lark and Spotted Sandgrouse. The gorgeous little Desert Sparrow is naturally a focus here as well, because the vast, remote desert areas with small human settlements, is the true habitat of this species. On the drive we pass tamarisk areas and small berber fincas, we look out for Sandgrouse, Brown-necked Raven, Bar-tailed Lark, Desert- and White-crowned Wheatears. As the desert changes in texture to finer sand and grass tussocks it’s time to look more carefully for one of the most charming species on the trip – Cream-coloured Courser. Flocks of Trumpeter Finches, Desert Larks will most likely appear around us. As will the pale sandy brown desert form of Crested Lark that has just recently been separated to a seperate species named Maghreb Lark. After lunch in one of the nearby villages, we go to look for Pharaoh´s Eagle Owl and/ or the bird magnet Dayet Sjri if it holds water. We will also do our best to find the enigmatic Egyptian Nightjar.  On this destination we employ a local bird guide to find the rare birds. Night at our hotel. Here we can let ourselves be embraced by the silence, the sky, the sand and the infinity of the Sahara.

Crowned Sandgrouse

Day 5. 3rd April
A walk around the hotel garden – with old trees and green bushes, can produce migrating birds resting after their crossing of the desert. A nice pre-breakfast activity. Today we hit the road again and head back west towards the Boumalne du Dades. We will travel through a good mix of habitats from Tinejdad to Boumalne du Dades with its extensive palmeries and lush wadis. If we haven’t seen Fulvous Babbler yet, today is the last chance. We will aim to have lunch before reaching Boumalne. After lunch we will visit a gorge where we hope to see nesting Lanner Falcon, Pharaoh’s Eagle Owl and Maghreb (Mourning) Wheatear, then we can explore the stone desert areas around the famous Tagdilt track where we will look for specialties like Thick-billed Lark, Temminck’s Horned Lark and Red-rumped Wheatear. The last two have a good population here.  Our Hotel Xaluca Dades is close to Tagdilt and has several amenities including a bar and lounge area. (Today’s transfer is 260 km, travel time 3 h, 37 min).

Day 6. 4th April
Today we will mix habitats from birding the high plateau east of Boumalne searching for lark and wheatear species and hope for surprises such as Stone Curlew and Black-bellied Sandgrouse, we transect the plains, stopping to scan favourable areas to try to find the elusive Thick-billed Lark and perhaps Fat Desert Rat. We will take lunch in a family hostel where we can look for Moussier’s Redstart and European Bee-Eater among other smaller birds, hopefully we will tally six species of wheatears including the very handsome Red-rumped Wheatear.  After lunch we explore a couple of green areas, cultivated by local villagers, to look for migrants such as rollers and several warbler species. We will then make our way up the Dades exploring the gorge for more migrant birds and some resident birds such as Tristram’s Warbler and Rock Bunting, near to the narrow gorge Bonelli’s Eagle breed, so we might have good views with a bit of luck. We can take a break for a coffee or Mint Tea and make a slow journey back to our hotel and admire some amazing geological features along our way.

Cream-coloured Courser

Day 7. 5th April
If we feel need for more stone desert birds, we take another drive down the Tagdilt track with inhabitants like Thick-billed Larks and Red-rumped Wheatears, Long-legged Buzzards, and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse. If we haven’t got proper views of Mourning Wheatear we will make a short detour to target them. We will try several small dirt tracks but will need a bit of luck with this tricky species. The time should allow us to check the reservoir by Ouarzazate where Crested Coot and Marbled Teal might be seen. Good chances for raptors on migration as well. The hills around Ouarzazate and Tiffoultote are covered with bushes and can attract tired migrants. We also look for Lanner and Barbary Falcons. Night at local hotel. (Today’s transfer is 117 km, travel time 2h)

Day 8. 6th April
On our way back up through the Atlas Mountains we can admire the landscape as we have more chances to look for birds like Seebohm’s Wheatear, Levaillant’s´s Woodpecker, Barbary Partridge, African Blue Tit, and most likely some raptors. Maybe we fancy a stop at the ruins of Taddert or the highest pass of the Atlas. New for this year is that we go further up into the high Atlas. Our last destination of the trip is Oukaimeden – a ski resort on 2.650 meters elevation.  A site known for good birds like African Crimson-winged Finch, Rock Sparrow, Atlas Horned Lark and more. There can still be some snow around this time of the year so make sure to bring gloves, a scarf, and a hat. The reward will be some fine birds and amazing scenery. Night in hotel near to Oukaimeden. (Today’s transfer is 229 km, travel time 4 h 30 min)

Atlas Horned Lark

Day 9. 7th April
We will do as much birding as we can around Oukaimeden. Here we will see Red-billed and Alpine Chough, Seebohm’s Wheatear, Rock Sparrow and search for African Crimson-winged Finch and Atlas Horned Lark. On our departure we will look for Dipper, Blue Rock Thrush and Black Wheatear to name but a couple of common species before we setoff on our drive of the last 80 km to Marrakech to get our hotel in Marrakech, we will also bird our journey to Marrakech.

Moussiers-Redstart

Day 10. 8th April
Today is a rest day, but also the chance to explore the exotic sights of Marrakech. A guided tour can be arranged via our ground agents and we recommend it if you want to see the essentials of this wonderful city.

Day 11. 9th April
An early morning departure from Morocco.

We mustn’t forget to mention The Scenery!

The bustling markets of Marrakech
Snow covers the peaks of the High Atlas Mountains
The Palmeries of the Draa Valley
A view across the sands of the Erg Chebbi
The high plateau of Boumalne
Unique geological feature of the Gorges de Dades
An unforgettable sunrise in the Sahara Desert

Landscapes to thrill and enthral will be a feature of our ABS Moroccan Tour.

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