Monday, 4 February 2013

Morocco - Part 1 of 6

Just about this time last year, I and 7 other birding friends took a 12 day trip to Morocco, mainly for birds but also to get a taste of this exotic country!  We hired a driver via the bird tour company Naturetrek but decided to find the birds ourselves rather than hire a bird guide too. As it turned out, Halim our local Moroccan driver didn't speak English, so we all had to try and drag up our school learnt French, which made things interesting to say the least! (-:

We flew into Marrakesh and spent the night there before driving up into the foothills of the Atlas mountains. Before the drive up into the mountains, Halim took us to see the Grand Mosque in Marrakesh. If I thought London driving was crazy, it's nothing to the driving we encountered on a daily basis in Morocco! (Click to enlarge photos)
One of the most common birds we saw throughout our trip was the aptly named Common Bulbul. This one was taken in the grounds of our hotel on the first morning.
This pair of Spotless Starlings was in the grounds of the Grand Mosque. Their plumage, as well as being spotless, was also somewhat oily looking. As far as I remember, they sound the same as our European Starling.
Soon after visiting the Grand Mosque, we were leaving Marrakesh and driving up into the foothills, heading towards are hotel at Ouirgane. The scenery was beautiful.
This was the wonderful view from our hotel Ksar Shama at Ouirgane.
This turned out to be one of our favourite hotels, with stunning views but also with lovely food. Our first evening meal was beautifully served Tagines (slow cooked casseroles). We had to get used to the low seating and tables! Not tooooo much of a chore for me! (-:
Day two found us driving up high into the Atlas mountains. We were extremely lucky with the weather. Some official tours I know have been ruined due to bad weather and the high passes being blocked with snow. Our destination was the ski resort at Oukaimeden. 
We were pleased to see two of our target species here almost straight away. The Red-billed Chough and it's more alpine cousin, the Yellow-billed Chough. 
One of the stunning views up there. I think cameras can never really do real justice to views like this!
One of our most wanted target species of the whole trip was the diminutive and very difficult to see Crimson-winged Finch. Difficult because it depends on whether the conditions are right as to whether the birds will be there or not. We were lucky and after some time looking, we found our quarry! Crimson is a bit of a misnomer as its more of a soft pink in the wing. The birds were quite skittish, so this is the best shot I could get.
It was time for lunch. You can't get much of a better lunchtime location I don't think! 
I could have picked better guests for lunch though!!!! This chap was tiny, but apparently can pack a nasty sting!
After lunch and a somewhat breathless hike around (the air was noticeably thinner up there), we enjoyed watching a Raven buzzing a Long-legged Buzzard. 
There will be more from Morocco soon.


Roy Norris said...

A great set of images Jen.
Glad you returned safely after all that.

Jenny said...

Thanks Roy, there are more adventures to come yet! (-;

Pix at Under the Oaks said...

Jenny what an amazing trip. Your pictures are awesome. I am looking forward to more.. :)

ShySongbird said...

What an exciting place to visit Jenny! The scenery is stunning!! Very well done with the bird sightings. I too would have opted out of using a bird guide, far more fun to discover them for yourself and I'm sure you did lots of research before you went. So glad you managed to find the Crimson-winged Finch :-)

Jenny said...

Hi Pix, I'll try and post another part tomorrow hopefully....

Hi Jan, Yes, half the fun is doing the research on where to go and what to see. We had an itinerary sorted out before we left. Just had to find the birds then! (-:

Steve Borichevsky said...

What an adventure! I'd probably gain 20 lbs, I love Moroccan food.

Mary said...

What a terrific opportunity! I laughed at the low table imagining my husband sitting at one :-) How wonderful that you found so many of the birds you were looking for and the photos are great. Do you still have the same email address? I sent you what I thought might be photos of a Ross's goose. Look forward to the rest of this series.

Jenny said...

Hi Steve, the food was good on the whole, specially away from the touristy areas!

Hi Mary, we didn't have to sit down low everywhere, but again it was mostly away from the touristy areas!, yes that's my e-mail address. I'll get back to you about the photos today hopefully! (Saturday)