The unsound approach

 

with Alex Lees, Richard Moores & Dan Brown 

 

Back in 2006 RDM and AL visited Morocco for 10 days in March, they had originally planned to do the neoclassical birding circuit, but plans were changed on the plane upon reading Bergier & Bergier. The team decided to drive south into Western Sahara where Black-crowned Sparrow-larks and Desert Sparrows had been found on the two previous occasions that birders had visited the road to Aoussard. The trip was a spectacular success with the discovery of Dunn's Larks, confirmation of breeding Desert Sparrows, tens of Black-crowned Sparrow-larks, 22 Royal Terns and a choice haul of vagrants including Laughing and Great Black-backed Gulls, Madeiran Storm-petrels, Brent Geese (7), Spotted Crake and Yellowhammer. With a haul like that we had planned to return but an opportunity did not present itself for neary four years and after expressing interest DB was hauled on board too - you can never have enough eyes (or drivers) in the deep south. 

Two 2006 highlights & L. marinus! (AL)

 

Thus a new trip was planned with as strong an emphasis on mammals as birds. Extensive night drives on our previous visit had produced Saharan Striped Weasel, African Wildcat, Fennec Foxes and Lesser Egyptian Jerboas as well as Risso's and Bottle-nosed Dolphins at sea. This time we also came prepared to mistnet and record bats, which are extremely poorly recorded in the region. We aimed to divide our time between the deep desert and coastal migrant traps but even so seven days - which may be enough for Craig David, was a painfully inadequate amount of time to do the region justice. Other wildlife in the region are also well represented, although the exact status of species like this, this and this remains unclarified.

 

Dakhla Bay - holding 22% of the shorebirds in Morocco, is probably one of the best vagrant traps in the Palearctic (AL)

 

Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra, Laayoune an amazing wetland area that is probably a key stopover and wintering site for many Afrotropical migrants (AL) 

 

The Desert between Bou Craa and Galtat Zemmur - we saw no birds in a 60 km transect (DB)

 

Aoussard Road - we were plagued by sand storms on both days - probably why we missed Dunn's Lark and Desert Warbler (DB)

 

A prosthetic limb should be an essential addition to every birder's first aid kit... (AL) Seriously, it is estimated that some 100,000 km² of Western Sahara may be affected by a large number of mines and unexploded ammunition (UXOs). The risk is greatest east of the Berm, especially in the areas of Mehaires, Tifariti and Bir Lahlou where the Royal Moroccan Army (RMA) conducted offensive operations in August-September 1991. Information on the relative risk of landmines in the Moroccan controlled region is difficult to come by, local officials suggested that we should not leave the roads at any point, yet the area is littered with vehicle tracks (not terminating in craters), best resources we could find delimiting mine fields are here and here. Basically we took our lives into our own hands and went off-piste everywhere except the immediate vicinity of Aoussard, which lies close to the berm and does have warning signs. 

 

Sand people (RDM)

 

Itinerary

 

20.01.10

 

We flew into Agadir with the standard airline arriving shortly after nightfall, after buying some food and a duvet for Rich we drove south to Oued Draa. Night in car/tent. 

 

 

21.01.10

 

Birded Oued Draa from dawn before continuing south to Tan Tan Plage, Oued Chebeika, Oued Fatma, El Ouarr, Kniffhis Lagoon, Tarfaya, Laayoune and Oasis Lemseyed. We obtained a permit to visit Kniffhis from the small town of Akhefennir north west of the reserve; this took about 10 minutes and we suggest all viisting birders make the effort. Night spent camping at Oasis Lemseyed.

 

22.01.10

 

A couple of hours at Oasis Lemseyed in the morning followed by a stop at the Pied Crows and then briefly on the east side of Dakhla Bay. We tried Gleb Djiane for bats and potential Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse but drew a blank on either, returning late on to get a room in Dakhla.

 

23.01.10

 

Early morning spent around Dakhla - checking the cultivated fields at Taorta for migrants, then the central part of the bay followed by Pointe de la Sarga. After apparently fixing the torch we then set off down the road to Aoussard, where we made camp.

 

24.01.10

 

Full day on the Aoussard road, travelling as far as the town, camping about half way back up to Dakhla.

 

25.01.10

After fixing a puncture we tried a few more stops on the way back to Dakhla where we got the tire repaired. Evening watch from the cliffs on the west side finally paid off for the dolphins. We then drove north through the night back to Oasis Lemsyed.  

 

26.01.10.

Checked the oasis first thing then drove east on the road to Guelta Zemmur, before back-tracking to Laayoune where we checked the Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra. Drove north before stopping at a hotel in Tan Tan. 

 

27.01.10

Headed back to Agadir via Oued Boukila and a spot of batting at Oued Massa. Car valeting sesh and repair with super glue, seems to have worked....

  

 

Systematic List

 

Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea

350 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 26.01.10

(AL)

 

Shelduck Tadorna tadorna

5 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 26.01.10

 

Common Teal Anas crecca

90 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 26.01.10

Northern Pintail Anas acuta

120 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 26.01.10

Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata

300 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 26.01.10

 

Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris

A minimum count of 133 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 26.01.10 which must make this site one of the most important for this species in Morocco, although the IBA only states 'small numbers' of this species as being present. 

 

(AL)

 

Common Pochard Aythya ferina

3 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 26.01.10

 

Common Scoter Melanitta nigra

3 offshore at Oued Chebika on 21.01.10

200+ offshore at Oued Fatma 21.01.10

 

Common Quail Coturnix coturnix

1 calling at Oued Massa on 27.01.10

 

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis

5 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 21.01.10

10 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 26.01.10

 

Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis

4 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 21.01.10

4 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 26.01.10

 

Northern Gannet Morus bassanus

40 in Dakhla Bay on 22.01.10, a distant flyby by an adult type with all dark secondaries provoked a flurry of expletives

 

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo

lucidus birds noted south of Khniffis

 

Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis

Abundant around Agadir, several at Dakhla, and at least 200 came into roost at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 26.01.10

  

Little Egret Egretta garzetta

Small numbers noted at coastal wetlands throughout, 40 roosted at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 26.01.10

 

Great White Egret Ardea alba

1 at Oued Massa on 27.01.10 (RDM only) 

 

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea

 

White Stork Ciconia ciconia

1 between El Marsa and Boujdour on 22.01.10

24 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 26.01.10

 

Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus

35 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 26.01.10 (see video)

 

Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia

4 at Oued Chebika on 21.01.10

30+ at Khnifiss Lagoon on 21.01.10

100+ in Dakhla Bay

65 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 26.01.10

2 at Oued Chebeika 21.01.10

 

(AL)

 

Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus

300+ at Khnifiss Lagoon on 21.01.10

400+ in Dakhla Bay on

110 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 26.01.10

98 at El Ouarr 21.01.10

 

Black Kite Milvus migrans

1 at Café Restaurant  ChtouKan (Km360 south of Laayoune) on 21.01.10

 

Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus

1 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 26.01.10

1 in Dakhla Bay on 25.01.10

 

Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus

1 at Dakhla to Aoussard road, Km25 to Km24 - Oued Jenna on 24.01.10

 

Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus

Circa 20 seen during the trip across the entire region.

 

(DB)

 

Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus)

1 resting on pylons then hunting (so possibly a wintering bird?) at Bou Kraa on 26.01.10

 

(DB) 

Osprey Pandion haliaetus

Recorded at all coastal wetlands 

Kestrel Falco tinnunculus

Small numbers noted throughout

 

Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni

1 adult male 15 km north of Dakhla on 25.01.10 

 

Lanner Falco biarmicus

1 at Oasis Lemseyed on 22.01.10, 1 in Oued Jenna on the Aoussard Road on 24.01.10 and 4 others at various points by the main N-S road.

Barbary Falcon Falco pelegrinoides

1 at Gleb Jdiane on the Aoussard Road on 23.01.10, still a description species on account of the potential for confusion with 'Atlantic' Peregrines ssp. brookei see the Go South website for ID criteria.   

 

(AL)

 

(DB)

 

Moorhen Gallinula chloropus

 

Coot Fulica atra

Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra - Laayoune - 100+ on 26.01.10 (no sign of any knobbers)

 

Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus

 

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus

500 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 22.01.10

 

Avocet Recurvirosta avocetta

45 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 26.01.10. 

 

Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus

Good views (see below) of one whilst spotlighting in wadi at Oasis Lemseyed. Also 6 at dawn at Taorta on 23.01.10, several heard at Laayoune on 26.01.10 and one at Oued Boukila on 27.01.10.

 

(AL) 

(DB)

 

Cream-coloured Courser Cursorius cursor

A pair at Café Restaurant  ChtouKan (Km360 south of Laayoune) on 21.01.10, 6 along the Aoussard road on 24-25.10.10, 1 over the road at km 401 to Laayoune,  and 3 on the road to Gelta Zemmur on 26.01.10.

(AL)

 

Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius

40 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 26.01.10. 

 

Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula

 

Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus

80 at Pointe de la Sarga on 23.01.10

 

 

wader medley (AL)

 

Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola

30 at Pointe de la Sarga on 23.01.10

 

Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus

2 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 26.01.10.

 

Knot Calidris canutus

 

Sanderling Calidris alba

 

Little Stint Calidris minuta

175 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 26.01.10, smaller numbers elsewhere.

 

Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea

25 at Pointe de la Sarga on 23.01.10, 10 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 26.01.10.

 

(DB) 

 

Dunlin Calidris alpina

 

Ruff Philomachus pugnax

8 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 26.01.10.

 

Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago

c. 20 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 26.01.10 

 

Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa

Several at Oued Chebeika 21.01.10

5 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 26.01.10

 

Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica

 

Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus

 

Curlew Numenius arquata

 

Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos

Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra – Laayoune :

 

Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola

 

Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus

Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra – Laayoune :

 

Greenshank Tringa nebularia

Khnifiss Lagoon :

 

Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus 

Redshank Tringa totanus

 

Turnstone Arenaria interpres

 

Grey Phalarope Phalaropus fulicarius

Another of the trip's surprises, one was discovered at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 21.01.10 and was still there on the 26.01.10

 

(DB)

 

(AL)

 

Slender-billed Gull Chroicocephalus genei

2 at Khnifiss Lagoon on 21.01.10

40 in Dakhla Bay on 22.01.10 and 35 on 25.01.10

8 at Pointe de la Sarga on 23.01.10

 

Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus

1 at Pointe de la Sarga on 23.01.10, c 80 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 26.01.10

 

"Grey-hooded Gull" epitath

 

late on the 25th AL saw a wing with dark wingtips drop into a flock of Royal Terns, RDM fired off a single shot and DB leapt out of the car as the bird immediately headed off into the sunset, managing to get a crucial series of record shots (here massively cropped), AL and RDM couldn't get on the bird as it disappeared into the melee. We hemmed and hawed over it till we got home and sent the pics round a few folk who seemed happy enough. After the report went live, P. Adriaens and C. Batty emailed in to express their concern about the bird's apparent white outer 2 primaries, an undocumented hybrid? We hadn't noticed this in the images and we wondered whether it could have been a photo-artefact as the bird seemed to show pro GHG features such as extensive black wing-tips, dark mantle (cf contrast between the rump and mantle in the 3rd pic in the series) and dark underwings (at least the primaries). A quick email to KMO laid the beast to rest:

 

Thanks for mailing concerning the small gull from West Sahara. I understand why you are frightened about image 635, which show a heavily marked Black-headed. Also have a look at p. 442 - Black-headed Gull upper wing variation in 1.years! During the preparation of "Gulls" we were immedialety struck by the individual variation in 1-year BHG, and surprised, that this point have drawn little attention in the past! The presence of pale streaking in wing-tip, as well as whitish underwing-coverts, will exclude Grey-headed, which will show solid black wing-tip as well as grey under wing-coverts. Based on the jizz, the bird perfectly fits Black-headed, with Grey- (and Brown-headed) headed Gull showing stronger bill and somewhat more massive body than the slender-billed, small-bodied Black-headed. The photoes are argumently most just "record shots", but there seems to be white even in lower surface of primaries, creating narrow white trailing edge to outerwing, contrastring well to dark inner primaries (the contrast to whiter underwing enfording dark inner pp.), again suppporting Black-headed.  Thus, the bird is a well-marked black-headed, a not too unusual variant, which invites to being identifyed as Grey- of Brown-headed Gull. Thanks for mailing the bird, and i hope I do not get too many enemies of Punkbirder:).

 

(DB) 

 

Small gulls now blacklisted too.....(RDM)

 

Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus

35 at Pointe de la Sarga on 23.01.10

 

Audouin's Gull Larus audouinii

900 at Oued Chebika on 21.01.10

5 at Tan Tan Plage 21.01.10

10 at Pointe de la Sarga on 23.01.10

Khnifiss Lagoon

Dakhla Bay

 

part of the mega flock at Oued Chebika (AL)

 

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus

tens of thousands present in Dakhla Bay

3,000 at Tan Tan Plage 21.01.10

 

Dan looking semi-pro (RDM)

 

Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis

 

large crappy dark-backed gulls Larus sp

7 adults and 1 4cy at Khnifiss Lagoon on 21.01,10

 

Old school style punkbirder record shots of no use what-so-ever (AL)

 

Little Tern Sternula albifrons

6 distant birds in Dakhla Bay on 25.01.10 were grey-rumped - presumably ssp guineae

 

Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia

Highest count of 330 at Pointe de la Sarga on 23.01.10, also recorded at Oued Chebika, Khnifiss Lagoon and elsewhere in Dakhla Bay.

 

Royal Tern Sterna maxima

18 in Dakhla Bay on 22.01.10 and 49 in 25.01.10

 

(AL)

'African' Royal Terns (AL) noted the two with orange legs!

 

Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis

5 at Tan Tan Plage 21.01.10, 150 at Pointe de la Sarga on 23.01.10, various other groups in Dakhla Bay.

 

Crowned Sandgrouse Pterocles coronatus

7 at Gleb Jdiane (Awserd Road) on 22.01.10, these came into drink in the evening at 1835, we had initially planned to return too see Spotted Sandgrouse at the same drinking pool but decided to pioneer Galtat Zemmur instead....

 

(AL)

 

Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto

 

Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis

10 at Dakhla on 22.01.10

2 at Oued Massa on 27.01.10

 

Great Spotted Cuckoo Clamator glandarius

7 on Dakhla to Aoussard road, 24-25.01.10

GSCuckoos on the Awserd Road (AL)

 

Little Owl Athene noctua

1 on Galtat Zemmour Road, 189 km to GZ

 

Alpine Swift Apus melba

1 between Oued Draa and Tan Tan on 21.01.10

Common Swift Apus apus

Large mixed flocks of Common and Pallid Swifts noted at Laayoune on 26.01.10 and at Oued Massa on 27.01.10

Pallid Swift Apus pallidus

See above, Pallids are noted at a few other localities.

Little Swift Apus affinis

4 at Dakhla on 22.01.10, 4 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 26.01.10

 

Hoopoe Upupa epops

1 at Taorta (Dakhla) on 22.01.10

 

Black-crowned Sparrow-lark Eremopterix nigriceps

Much harder to come by than on our March trip when they were singing up and down the Dakhla to Aoussard road, this time we had 30 at Oued Jenna (Km 192, 193) and 1 in a wadi at km 96.

 

(DB)

 

(RDM)

 

Desert Lark Ammomanes deserti

5 at Oasis Lemseyed on 21.01.10

4 on Geltat Zemmour Road, 189 km to GZ 

 

(AL)

 

Bar-tailed Desert Lark Ammomanes cinctura

c. 40 on Dakhla to Aoussard road 24-25.01.10.

15 at km189 to Gelta Zemmur

 

Temminck's Lark Eremophila bilopha

4 came into drink at Gleb Djiane on 22.01.10

5 at km189, 6 at km 192, 9 at km 173 to Gelta Zemmur.

(RDM)

 

Hoopoe Lark Alaemon alaudipes

Recorded widely at all desert sites and frequently by the roadside.

 

Thick-billed Lark Ramphocoris clotbey

4 flew across the road c4km west of Gleb Djiane on 22.01.10

9 at km 104 Aoussard Road on 25.01.10 

1 was seen from the car 22km south of Guelmime

 

Lesser Short-toed Lark Calandrella rufescens

  

Thekla Lark Galerida theklae

(DB)

 

Plain Martin Riparia paludicola

Oued Massa 5 on 27.01.10

 

Sand Martin Riparia riparia

 

Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris

 

Rock Martin Ptyonoprogne fuligula

Dakhla to Aoussard road, Km25 to Km 24 - Oued Jenna : 3 or 4

 

 

Rock-on (AL)

 

Swallow Hirundo rustica

 

Saharan odyssey (AL)

 

House Martin Delichon urbicum

11 came into roost at Oasis Lemseyed on 22.01.10

Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris

3 at Taorta on 23.01.10, 1 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 26.01.10

Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis

c. 10 at Oued Draa on 21.01.10, 5 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 26.01.10

Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus

3 at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 26.01.10

 

White Wagtail Motacilla alba

Huge roost at dusk at the Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra, probably involving in excess of 10,000 birds, making this site an extremely important stopover location for this species. 

 

Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava

male 'Spanish Wagtail' seen at Pointe de la Sarga on 23.01.10

 

Common Bulbul Pycnonotus barbatus

Oued Massa : 10+ on 27.01.10

 

Robin Erithacus rubecula

Oasis Lemseyed - 2 on 22.01.10, this species winters at least occasionaly south to central Mauritania. 

 

Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros

1 at Oued Massa on 27.01.10

 

Moussier's Redstart Phoenicurus moussieri

Several at Oueds Draa and Fatma 21.01.10, 1 at Oasis Lemseyed on 26.01.10 and widespread around Oued Massa on 27.01.10.

 

Dinas anyone? (DB)

 

Stonechat Saxicola torquatus

Recorded at Oued Draa, Aoussard Road and at at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra.

 

Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe

2 at Pointe de la Sarga and 1 at Taorta on 23.01.10, also recorded at Oued Draa.

 

Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti

widespread.

 

(AL)

 

photographing deserti - come to Western Sahara for the spectacular scenery (RDM)

 

Red-rumped Wheatear Oenanthe moesta

Pair at Oued Draa 21.01.10, 2 between El Marsa and Boujdour on 22.01.10, one near Oasis Lemseyed on 26.01.10

White-crowned Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucopyga

 

(DB)

 

Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucura

Recorded at Oued Draa, Oasis Lemseyed and occasionaly at the roadside.

  

Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius

One in song (below) at Oasis Lemseyed on 22.01.10 and one at Oued Massa on 27.01.10. 

 

(AL)

 

Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus

A male at Oasis Lemseyed on 26.01.10, this species is a vagrant to West Africa and Western Sahara is probably on the southernmost fringe of this species' regular wintering area.

 

Blackbird Turdus merula

 

Song Thrush Turdus philomelos

At least two at Oasis Lemseyed on 22.01.10.

Cricket Longtail Spiloptila clamans

57 recorded on the Dakhla to Aoussard road, see Table 1 for a breakdown of records. A conspicuous inhabitant of the areas of long grass and Acacia scrub but probably easy to miss if you don't play minefield roulette (as we didn't in '06).

 

(AL) 

(RDM) 

 

Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti

One heard calling in Agadir airport carpark on 20.01.10 plus several at Oued Massa on 27.01.10. 

 

Grasshopper Warbler Locustella naevia

Cracking views of several birds including one feeding in and around a couple of tiny bushes at the police checkpoint between El Marsa and Boujdour and the bird below, photographed at Gleb Djiane (both on 22.01.10), at least 4 birds calling at Oasis Lemseyed on 26.01.10. Many of these birds may be wintering rather than on passage.

 

(AL) 

 

Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus

1 calling at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 26.01.10

Eurasian Reed-Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus

1 at Oasis Lemseyed on 22.01.10

Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla

10 at Oasis Lemseyed on 22.01.10, a few singles elsewhere.

Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata

Along with Desert Wheatear, perhaps the most conspicuous inhabitant of the Desert.

 

(AL)

 

Tristram's Warbler Sylvia deserticola

1 at Oasis Lemseyed on 26.01.10

Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans

Minimum of 10 individuals at Oued Jenna on the Aoussard road km 192-193 on 24.01.10. 

 

Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala 

 

Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus

One heard calling by all three team members shortly after dawn at Oasis Lemseyed on 22.01.10, the bird could not be refound on 26.01.10 and was never seen at any point, but large parts of this site are out-of-bounds. To our knowledge the third most southerly record of this species in the WP. 

Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita

High count of 25 at Oasis Lemseyed on 22.01.10, singles/small groups recorded throughout. 

(DB)

 

Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus

 

One at Oued Jenna on the Aoussard road km 192-193 on 24.01.10. 

 

Fulvous Babbler Turdoides fulvus

13 on the Aoussard road (see Table 1), 10 at Oasis Lemseyed on 21-22 & 26.01.10 and 9 at Geltat Zemmour Road 189 km to GZ

 

(AL)

 

Great Tit Parus major

Oued Massa 27.01.10

 

Black-crowned Tchagra Tchagra senegala

One heard at Oued Massa on 27.01.10

 

Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis

Another typical desert inhabitant recorded widely. 

 (AL)

(RDM)

 

Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator 

One at Oued Saquiat Al-Hamra on 26.01.10.

Magpie Pica pica

Several around Agadir on 27.01.10.

 

Pied Crow Corvus albus

Andy Clifton's threesome were still present at Café Restaurant Chtoukan on 21.01.10

 

(AL)

 

display (AL) 

(DB) 

 

Brown-necked Raven Corvus ruficollis

(DB)

Spotless Starling Sturnus unicolor

40 at Oued Massa on 27.01.10

 

House Sparrow Passer domesticus

 

Desert Sparrow Passer simplex

An easy to find inhabitant of the Acacia desert on the Aoussard road - for a full breakdown of records see Table 1. The highest concentration were found at an open dump at km 100 where 108 birds were visible at once - the true figure was probably closer to 120. This site might also prove fruitful for Sudan Golden Sparrow.

 

(AL)

 

(DB)

 

(RM)

 

Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs

Oued Massa : 1 on 27.01.10

 

Serin Serinus serinus

Several at Oued Massa on 27.01.10

 

Greenfinch Carduelis chloris

 

Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis

Several at Oued Massa on 27.01.10

 

Eurasian Linnet Carduelis cannabina

 

Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githagineus

15+ at Oued Draa on 21.01.10

3 at Oued Boukila on 27.01.10

 

 

top trumps (DB)

 

Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus

2 at Oued Massa on 27.01.10

 

House Bunting Emberiza sahari

Single singing at Tan Tan on 27.01.10

 

Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra

Several at Oued Draa 21.01.10 and Oued Boukila on 27.01.10.

 

Mammals (in no particular order)

 

Algerian Hedgehog Atelerix algirus

A single was noted dead on the road over the hills between Bouizakarne and Tiznit on 27.01.10

 

Desert Hedgehog Paraechinus aethiopicus

Once again, no live sightings. A single dead on the road at km 136 Aoussard Road on 24.01.10.

 

Can I tick it? (RDM)

 

Egyptian Slit-faced Bat Nycteris thebaica

10+ roosting in an abandoned canalisation at Oued Massa on 27.01.10

 

Lesser (Sundevall's) Leaf-nosed Bat Hipposideros caffer

5+ roosting alongside Egyptian Slit-faced Bats (see above)

 

Also, some other bats in Western Sahara (paper in prep)

 

Fennec Fox Vulpes zerda

We had skored five of these beauties in quick succession during our trip in 2006. However, our views then were brief as they quickly scarpered to the horizon. This time Dan squeaked a brace of them into the passenger seat (well, almost).

 

How good is this?! (DB)

 

Very bloody good! (DB)

 

Caracal Caracal caracal

Prints of this species noted at Oued Boukila on 27.01.10. Presumably this species enjoys feasting on the large numbers of dozy Fat Sand Rats present at this location.

 

Need a holiday? Come see me (DB)

 

Atlantic Hump-backed Dolphin Sousa teuzii

At least two team members trip highlight. We had given this species considerable effort back in 2006 only to come away empty handed, so to pull it out of the bag during our last check of the Dakhla Bay during this trip constituted an evening session Steve Lamacq (ask your dad) would be proud of. Dakhla Bay is the northernmost site for this species, for more on the Bay's cetaceans see here

 

 

 

My humps (DB)

 

Joy unconfined after getting a WP cetacean mega on (DB)

 

Lesser Egyptian Jerboa Jaculus jaculus

In contrast to our trip in 2006, when these boys were hopping all over the road during our spotlighting sessions, we didn't manage to connect with a live one (or maybe we did)...

 

 

Dead specimens noted at km 145 Aoussard Road

 

Hare sp.

The books say Cape Hare Lepus capensis, we're not convinced, currently, all hares from North Africa are considered cape hares, except for one isolated population of Savanna Hare (Lepus victoriae) in north-western Algeria (environs of Beni Abbès). ......

 

Fat Sand Rat Psammomys obesus

2 at Tan Tan Plage +110km (heading west) in rubbish tip to south of road, probable at Oued Draa 21.01.10 and c 10 at Oued Boukila on 27.01.10.

 

(RDM)

 

(AL)

 

Herps

 

? email us! (AL)

 

Smooth Snake sp, Oued Massa (DB)

 

Brongersma's Toad, Gleb Djiane (DB)

 

same again (AL)

 

Other Stuff

 

Yellow-tailed Scorpian, Oued Massa (DB)

 

Despite dipping Red-nobbed Coot at Laayoune we did at least score these (DB) 

 

Afterforward on shifting baselines

 

Our journey into Western Sahara was underpinned by some wild dreams - was the old report of Golden Nightjar in error or is this species an occasional vagrant (or even migrant breeder), was the record of Cheetah from Dakhla in 1999 just a vagrant, the last in the country or a wanderer from further south? Scope for Aftrotropical vagrants is obviously high, Sudan Golden Sparrows are probably more than just erratic visitors. Hooded Vultures, Dark Chanting Goshawks, Speckled Pigeons, African Morning Doves, Blue-naped Mousebirds, Kordofan Larks, Red-chested Swallows and Chestnut-bellied Starlings could all be on the cards. Not to mention African Swallow-tailed Kites.

 

Its easy to get carried away dreaming of the possibilites but more often than not we were left lamenting what had been lost. Pause to reflect for a moment on the chain of extinctions that continues to unfold on this corner of Africa. Birders visiting in the 1990s might have hoped to see Dark-chanting Goshawks, Tawny Eagles and Slender-billed Curlews, in the 80s it was still possible to find Demoiselle Cranes and Arabian Bustards. A visitor in the 70s might have hoped to see Ostriches, Lappet-faced Vultures and Helmeted Guineafowl. What is really mind blowing is the fact that in the 20s there were still Barbary Lions and Hartebeest in the Atlas and calving Northern Right Whales in Dakhla Bay.....  Will we let Bald Ibis and Little Buttonquail go the same way this decade?

 

Acknowledgments

 

Thanks to Messrs: Adriaens, Batty, Bonser, Holden, Piner & Vantieghem for the latest gen.

 

We spent about 2hrs in Dakhla trying to fix our spotlight and/or buy a new one. The one we fixed broke again and the new one was rubbish... AL can be seen here selling Dan for a tin of peanut butter and a 5 mill candlepower beam (DB) 

 

When in Rome (DB)

 

 

Part of the local HGV test is the 'attempt to stop on a wet hill with no brakes and no tyre tread', this guy did admirably (DB)

 

 

War, yearlisted (AL) We tried to make our Peugeout 206 shell-proof by packing as much stuff as possible into it and reinforcing the chassis with mist net poles and stale baguettes.

 

Remains of one of the Danish birder's on the ill-fated Sahara mission of '08 (AL)  

 

 

 

A surprise find on the road to Gelta Zemmur - we all knew that the Western Sahara conflict had put American diplomacy in a sticky situation but who would have known that the American Ornithologist's Union would get involved and man a bird observatory within miles of the berm.... (DB)

 

Team Desert Storm - Video here (DB)

Table 1. Breakdown of records from the road to Aoussed.

KM marker TO Aousserd Species 24.01.10 25.01.10
17 Thick-billed Lark 3  
25 Long-legged Buzzard 1  
50 Great Spotted Cuckoo 2  
66 Hoopoe Lark 1  
  Desert Wheatear 1  
71 Brown-necked Raven 10  
92 Fennec Fox 1  
96 Black-crowned Sparrow Lark 1  
  Desert Wheatear 2  
  Spectacled Warbler 1  
  Chiffchaff 1  
99 Hare Sp 1  
104 Thick-billed Lark 9  
118 Desert Sparrow 108  
  Brown-necked Raven 6  
122-123 Cream-coloured Courser 3  
  Bar-tailed Lark 20  
  Desert Lark 1  
  Hoopoe Lark 1  
126 Desert Sparrow 1 9
  Desert Wheatear 3 3
  Spectacled Warbler 3 3
  Bar-tailed Lark 4 15
  Hoopoe Lark 1 1
  Southern Grey Shrike 1 3
  Barn Swallow 1  
  Long-legged Buzzard 1  
136 Cream-coloured Courser 1  
  Desert Hedgehog 1  
145 Lesser Egyptian Jerboa 1  
146 Fennec Fox 1  
147 Cream-coloured Courser 1  
147.5 Cream-coloured Courser 1  
  Bar-tailed Lark 1  
  Brown-necked Raven 1  
155 Hoopoe Lark 1  
173-174 Cricket Longtail 12  
  Fulvous Babbler 3  
  Desert Sparrow 7  
  Spectacled Warbler 6  
  Hoopoe Lark 3  
  Bar-tailed Lark 2  
  Great Spotted Cuckoo 1  
  Southern Grey Shrike 3  
175-176 Desert Sparrow 3  
  Southern Grey Shrike 9  
  Desert Wheatear 3  
  Spectacled Warbler 5  
  Great Spotted Cuckoo 1  
  Barn Swallow 5  
188 Hare Sp 1  
    West of road East of road
192-193 Cricket Longtail 15 15
  Rock Martin 4  
  Desert Sparrow 8  
  Black-crowned Sparrow Lark 30 1
  Fulvous Babbler   7
  Lanner   1
  Sparrowhawk   1
  Stonechat 1  
  Great Spotted Cuckoo 1  
  Southern Grey Shrike 10  
  Western Subalpine Warbler 10  
  Chiffchaff 25 20+
  Willow Warbler   1
  Sardinian Warbler 1 3
  Spectacled Warbler 20 10+
  Desert Wheatear 2  
  Hare Sp   1
207 White-crowned Black Wheatear 1  
209-210 Cricket Longtail 7  
  Hare Sp 1  
211-212 Cricket Longtail 8  
  Desert Sparrow 2  
  Great Spotted Cuckoo 2  
  Southern Grey Shrike 1  
  Spectacled Warbler 2  
  Chiffchaff 4  
  Hare Sp 1  
The Road Beyond Aousserd      
Tichla 125 Desert Sparrow 1  
Tichla 128 White-crowned Black Wheatear 1  
  Spectacled Warbler 2  
  Desert Wheatear 1