Working for birds in Africa


Wed, 01/23/2013 - 14:06 -- abc_admin

Cream-coloured Cousers Cursorius cursor, Ouarzazate, Morocco

Image Credit: 
John Caddick

There are several wetlands along the Atlantic coast which are rightly famous for their migrant and wintering waders and gulls. These include Merja Zerga, Lac de Sidi Bou-Rhaba, Sidi-Moussa-Oualidia lagoons, and the Souss and Massa estuaries along the north coast, and Khnifiss lagoon and Dakhla and Cintra Bays along the Saharan coast. The islets off Essaouira hold by far the world’s largest colony of Eleonora’s Falcons Falco eleonorae. The Mediterranean coast includes two major wetlands: Sebkha Bou-Areg and the Moulouya estuary.

The mountains shelter a rich avifauna: the Plateau des Lacs in the Middle Atlas is best for Crested Coot Fulica cristata and Levaillant`s Woodpecker Picus vaillantii; Oukaimeden in the High Atlas is best for Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris, Alpine Accentor Prunella collaris, Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia and Crimson-winged Finch Rhodopechys sanguineus.

Many desert species including larks, wheatears and sandgrouse are widespread in desert Morocco. Birding hotspots include the temporary lake of Merzouga near Erfoud and the Barrage Mansour-Eddahbi near Ouarzazate for waders and ducks. In the desert bordered by the only large Moroccan sand dunes, the so-called Erg Chebbi is best for Desert Warbler Sylvia nana, Brown-necked Raven Corvus ruficollis and Desert Sparrow Passer simplex.

To see raptors, the Souss Valley is famous for Dark Chanting Goshawk Melierax metabates and Tawny Eagle Aquila rapax, and the Straits of Gibraltar for the impressive raptor migration.

There are hundreds of other sites worth exploring and we would encourage visitors to explore areas for themselves. The possibilities exist for the alert birder to see a wide range of species which might include Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus, Double-spurred Francolin Francolinus bicalcaratus, Cream-coloured Courser Cursorius cursor, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater Merops persicus, Fulvous Babbler Turdoides fulvus and Black-crowned Tchagra Tchagra senegala.


In order to see Northern Bald Ibis Geronticus eremita, the best area is the estuary at Tamri, (55 km north of Agadir) especially around the middle of the day when the birds often rest there. The steppe on the south side of the estuary is worth walking over and keep looking for birds flying along the coast especially towards dusk. Another area worth scanning is north of the Cap Rhir lighthouse. If you go to Tamri, make a point of buying a drink or eating there too, and mention to people why you've come. There's even a cafe called Cafe Ibis Chauve which shows that the connection has been made that the birds are attracting tourist revenue. This is an important link for the future of this species.

The colonies themselves are strictly protected and birders trying to approach them will be sent away by the wardens and reported to the Park authorities. There have been problems with irresponsible birders and even tour guides, and although they may feel they're doing no harm, they are at least attracting attention to the area. The Park is planning to develop other ways to see the birds, and we will post any developments on this.

It is very disturbing to note that a minority of irresponsible visitors such as a recent group in early May 2009 (who we know from wardens' records that the leader has previously ignored the well known request among all birders to avoid the colony), continue to approach the colony itself. This is particularly disappointing and embarrassing to the responsible birding community. The wardens are locally appointed and trained (one key tangible benefit of the ibis to the village communities closest to the colonies and roosts, and one which indirectly links and informs the locals of the importance of the ibis), and their priority role is to keep all visitors away from the site as well as systematically monitoring the breeding birds. This recent birding party of birders from England refused to accept the wardens request to leave and became abusive before photographing the birds anyway. Through their attitude they appear to condone others in approaching and jeopardising the largest remaining colony of this species in the world.

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