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Week in Marrakech - – January 2019

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Old Wednesday 23rd January 2019, 16:13   #1
dandsblair
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Week in Marrakech - – January 2019

Week in Marrakech -– January 2019

Having really enjoyed a week in Agadir staying in the 4 star Riu Tidiki Dunes just 6 weeks ago; we decided to repeat the act and go to the sister hotel the Riu Tidiki Gardens sited in the Palmeira area of Marrakech on an all-inclusive basis (also with TUI). Cost was under £290pp around 50% off list price, and we added a car hire - three days for just £58, the cost of picnic making and fuel for three days was less than £35. So for the second time in 6 weeks we had a week in the sun for two all-inclusive for under £700.

Again this was definitely not a birding trip but with the car we would go to Atlas Mountains in search of a few very sought after birds. We used Collins Europe Bird Guide and had the Dave Gosney “Finding birds in Morocco” book from our previous trip.

Rather than a day by day report I have just shown what was seen around the hotel, what we saw on trips to Oukaimeden, Imlil / Asni and Lalla Takerkoust (Nfiss).

Despite what we had read in trip reports we had no trouble with guides pushing themselves on us however the lack of snow and paying skiers at Oukaimeden did mean that vendors were all over you at the one used car park and even at 17.00 when we were leaving to get down the mountain before dark and frost set in there were no birds in this area, just lots of people, better was the area under the bins by the ski lifts opposite Car Park 2.

The weather was sunny and warm, during the afternoon it was 20-23 degrees C each day but it cooled down after 17.30 and was chilly – only around 3 C overnight and until about 10.00am when it then warmed up quickly, and it was OK to sit out by 11.00. Birds really didn’t get active until about 09.30.

Hotel and Marrakech

The hotel was a good example of a typical all-inclusive affair with most meals being buffet, a main restaurant did breakfast and evening meals and a pool restaurant did late breakfast, lunch and tea and a Moroccan specialist restaurant could be booked via the other restaurants free of charge.
All local drinks and cocktails were included in the price.
There were two outdoor pools both unheated and pretty unusable and one heated indoor pool only available 11-15.00, after that it was reserved for Spa customers, Sarah used the Spa once and was pleased with the introductory offer. There were quite extensive gardens to bird in.
The hotel ran a free shuttle bus into Marrakech.

We saw a number of birds in the grounds including; House Bunting, Spotless Starling, White Wagtail, Blackbird, Common Bulbul, African Blue Tit, Sardinian Warbler, Collared Dove, Rock Dove, Common Sandpiper, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Greenfinch, Spanish Sparrow, House Sparrow and Siskin. There were a large number of flyover White Stork each day.
On the first day Sarah also spotted us a Wryneck, sods law we didn’t have the camera with us on this very first walk and couldn’t relocate the bird.
Also around Marrakech in the parks adjacent to the Green drive (on road from city out to Oukaimeden) we saw Barbary Partridge, Grey Shrike and many Mahgreb Magpie as well as
all birds found around the hotel.
On the 15th January we saw a single Plain Swift flying over the Marrakech city walls near Sensimar Medina Garden.

Moulay Brahim Gorge and road to Asni

Around the gorge we saw Cetti’s Warbler, Siskin, House Bunting, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, but no sign of the
Barbary Ape mentioned by Gosney here.

Near Asni we had Grey and White Wagtail, Common Sandpiper, and probable Tristram’s Warbler we saw it fly
low into the deep inaccessible bushes but as there is a request to refrain from play back in this area (best in
Morocco for the bird it claims) we didn’t pursue it having seen and photographed the birds at Immouzer just last month.
We saw one Lesser Kestrel but no eagles or Buzzards.

Asni / Imlil and mountain roads above Imlil

We saw our only Moussier’s Redstart of this trip a female, plenty of African Chaffinch, African Blue Tit, Crossbill,
Great Tit, Coal Tit, Goldfinch
and Kestrel. We called in a [B]Levaillant’s Woodpecker[/B] into the bare trees about 5KM
beyond Imlil but despite us both seeing the bird fly in and the bird calling we just couldn’t locate it for a photograph, we
only had one other flight few of this bird in 3 days in the mountains valleys so not sure where they head in winter but
they are not abundant on their breeding territories. We also saw a Barbary Partridge here.

Oukaimeden and surrounds

When we arrived at Oukaimeden there was very little snow and only the 2nd ski lift was used and then only occasionally to take walkers up the hill.
Just before the reservoir and army camp on the first day there was 90 Chough (red-billed) but on the second day only 6 and on neither day was there any Alpine(yellow-billed). We also saw a Black Redstart on the wall here.
On the first day we arrived just after lunch – only the car park beyond the ski lifts was being used and so only this one we thought had possibility of birds coming to nuts and seeds dropped by vendors; as the whole town even the highest point up by the TV tower; was free from snow.
However this car park was very noisy and in three attempts we only saw flyover Chough from here. We also saw very little on the track to the pass from here – too many walkers and vendors.
This first day we stopped at the deserted car park 2, when I saw three birds land – we had distant view of Atlas Horned Lark, we then drove up to the TV tower,
along the way we spotted a couple of Black Wheatear,
a Rock Bunting and then much lower than the Tower one of only two Alpine Accentors.
After 4 O’clock we tried the car parks again – and found around 60 Atlas Horned Larks, visiting the area under the bins and then flying to the unused ski lift area, there
was also 100+ African Chaffinch, and then having almost given up on it a female African Crimson-winged
Finch
flew briefly onto the wire above and then joined the Chaffinches but they were flighty and flew off when I tried to get close for a photo. We also saw 5 Rock Sparrows on the wire.

On the second visit late afternoon the next day there were only 6 Atlas Horned Larks, a single Alpine Accentor and one or two
Crimson-winged Finches with hundreds of Chaffinch (could have been the same female we saw twice). There was no water in the stream and little in the reservoir. We did
see a few Barbary Squirrel but no dippers.

We saw our only other Levaillant’s Woodpecker, flight view just before the turn off to the Asni road on the way down (camp / foret
sign) and I’m pretty sure we missed a Seebohm’s Wheatear near here an unidentified Wheatear flew into the rocks but we couldn’t pick up the bird and identify a potential lifer.

Lalla Takerkoust (Nfiss River).

A very scenic site but not a lot seen. We only had Siskin, White Wagtail, Cormorant, Kestrel, Coot and Greenfinch.
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Last edited by dandsblair : Wednesday 23rd January 2019 at 17:25.
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Old Wednesday 23rd January 2019, 17:33   #2
dandsblair
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Conclusion and list

Conclusion:

Whilst we enjoyed our week in Marrakech, if we could only have had one of the two weeks then the birding and weather is better around Agadir in December / January. If considering Marrakech again I would probably wait until March / April when days are longer, weather is hotter in the mornings and birds are returning to breeding territories.

Bird List

Cormorant White Stork Grey Heron Marsh Harrier
Lesser Kestrel Kestrel Coot Rock Dove
Collared Dove Wood Pigeon Mallard Moussier’s Redstart
Common Sandpiper Sardinian Warbler White Wagtail Black Wheatear
Willow Warbler Chiffchaff Wryneck Barbary Partridge
Blue Rock Thrush Spanish Sparrow Blackbird House Sparrow
African Blue Tit Great Tit African Chaffinch Goldfinch
Mahgreb Magpie Rock Bunting House Bunting Greenfinch
Southern Grey Shrike Spotless Starling Siskin Atlas Horned Lark
Levaillant’s Woodpecker Alpine Accentor Grey Wagtail Coal Tit
African Crimson-winged Finch Plain Swift Rock Sparrow
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__________________
Life List - David 5060 - Sarah 5021 Last bird David. Black-crested Bulbul Sarah - Black-crested Bulbul
https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets/

Last edited by dandsblair : Wednesday 23rd January 2019 at 17:35.
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