2 March 2014

‘We flew into Agadir on 6 Feb 14 & met our hired car peeps. After a 1.5 day of driving, 1150 km drive we finally arrived into the Southern coastal town of Dakhla: our base for the next 5 nights. Pre-warned by other trips, we had prepared lots of photocopies of a questionnaire & our passports as there are many police checkpoints once you cross South into Western Sahara. While you don’t actually need to provide this paperwork, you would loose hours filling in each pointless question person by person given the number of checkpoints. Instead you just hand the papers over & are quickly on your way. 

Brief roadside stops on the way South produced Red-rumped Wheatears & the first Bar-tailed Desert & Hoopoe Larks as well as Long-legged Buzzards & Lannars. First proper stop was Dakhla Bay where the Dakhla peninsula sticks out from the coastline. This provides opportunities for Waders, Gulls & Terns to feed up as well as seawatching opportunities. This produced the first goody of the trip: the African race of Royal Terns which look more similar to Lesser Crested Terns than their American cousins. 

The following morning (8th) it was an 04:00 start to head out for 52 km to the start of the 216 km road East into the desert to the small town of Aoussard (Awserd). This is dry arid country, but good for mammals. We spent several nights spotlighting along this road as well as days birding it. Occasionally, sleep was allowed in the trip. The first morning of spotlighting was quiet, but good views of several Jerboas (like a hamster on speed which bouncing around like a kangaroo) & Gerbils sp. I’m sure RW will figure out the species involved for his report, but the Jerboas were full of character. Dawn saw us exploring an Acacia & grassy area where we quickly found the stunning Cricket Warblers (the Punks photos looked good & we weren’t disappointed). Further searching that day produced a few Black-crowned Finchlarks (another bird that just sneeks into the Western Palearctic). Other highlights were African Desert Warblers (a much brighter golden Warbler than the Asian DWs I was watching in Gujarat a few weeks ago) as well as Cream-coloured Coursers, Stone-curlews, Southern Grey Shrikes, White-crowned Black & Desert Wheatears. Throughout the day, I was suffering with a near life-threatening bout of man flu that had developed & by late pm, was too tired to twitch the enematic sounding Fat Sand Rats that R & J had found. Hoped I would see them later in the trip, but they proved elusive. I kept going that evening with the driving till about 22:00 while the others were spotlighting, till I had had enough & handed over the driving to John & had to kip in the car. 

The cold hadn’t cleared the following day, so took a day out while the others did some local seawatching before going out for most of the night for mammals along the Aoussard road. This results in their target species: Sand Cat along with Ruppell’s & Fennec Foxes. 

It was the following lunchtime (10th), before they surfaced from sleep & I was also feeling a lot better, so I joined them for seawatching & night time mammals. The seawatching was quiet: a few Stormies, Bonxies & Arctic Skuas along with good numbers of Audouin’s Gulls, even more LBBGs & a few Caspian Terns. The mammal watching turning into an all night drive from 21:00 to dawn with 2 Striped Polecats (stunning), both Foxes, but sadly no Sand Cats. Also a Pharoah Eagle Owl was seen & photographed. 

Dawn on the 11th again saw us at the Cricket Warbler site at km 192 along the road, but with a new target to look for. On my day of resting, I was looking at the excellent Go South website to see a very recent posting of a pair of Sudan Golden Sparrows had been in with a roaming 200 strong Desert Sparrow flock. There are only a handful of SGS records for Western Sahara so a good bird to look for (as well as being a tick for all 3 of us). R&J had seen this flock briefly on the first visit, but they were very mobile & quickly headed off from view. After some chasing of the flock, it was clear that there were at least 3 males & a female SGS in the mobile flock, but as the flock broke up & reformed, none of us could we sure there weren’t more. But an excellent Western Palearctic goodie was under the belt. There were also a couple of Great Spotted Cuckoos here. We stopped & birded back at various points along the road, hoping for a Dunn’s Lark, but without success. A final stop saw JW finding a party of Temminck’s Horned Larks. 

Reaching Dakhla Bay, we had more views of the Royal Terns, until an interesting Wheatear disappearing over a sand cliff caught my eye. Further views of the tail pattern confirmed my first Black Wheatear since 1990. Got some nice photos confirming the id. The following day, RW asked me to check the photos as Black Wheatears don’t commonly occur South of the Atlas. Fortunately, the photos confirmed the initial id of a female Black Wheatear (& not a cocked up sub adult WC Black Wheatear). So a second good species for the day. 

The following morning (12th) saw us back looking for the Temminck’s Horned Larks, where we had a Lark bonanza with several Thekla & Thick-billed Larks & a couple of Desert Larks. Then it was the long dull drive North for the next 2 days, finishing with late pm birding at Oued Massa in Southern Morocco. This is a site known to many birders who have visited Morocco as the Black-headed Tchagra site. RW saw one, but JW & myself only managed to hear them, due to insufficient time. But lots of good birds here including the stunning Mousier’s Redstart. At dusk, there was a Red-necked Nightjar on the track which allowed a couple of confirmation photos. Attempts to do some spotlighting was hampered by a puncture followed by discovery the spare was also knackered. 

The following day (14th) was back to Oued Massa, where I caught up with Plain Martin (my third WP tick in addition to the 2 World ticks) as well as a good selection of other species. Bald Ibises were around, but we didn’t pay a guide to take us to the site, so missed them on this trip. Scored another puncture on a different tyre due to a screw, but when the tyre was off it was clear it was a good thing given there was a lot of metal showing on one edge of the tyre. The morale of the story is Dakhla cars are not a reliable car company to use & birders should be well aware of their care free attitude to safety or quality of their cars. But given RW had experienced a lot of problems with Hertz on his first trip, then clearly the big boys are just as bad. But in future I will personally be checking all the tyres on hired cars. While we had put a lot of miles on the tyres, its not fair to say it was our fault to say we wore out the tyres. 

The final afternoon (14th) & morning of the 15th were spent to the East of Agadir looking for the elusive Cuvier’s Gazelles, which lived up to their elusive expectations. Highlight was a showy pair of Tristam’s Warblers. 

There will be photos & a longer write up of the trip on the blog (in probably about a months time), once I’ve got over the backlog of a lengthy Indian trip. Anybody, contemplating a visit to Western Sahara then feel free to get in touch’ (Steve Smith, Blog http://birdingpooleharbourandbeyond.blogspot.co.uk/.https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/WestPalBirds/conversations/messages/6276

Richard’s trip report is available on the Trip Report webpage

Laisser un commentaire

Votre adresse e-mail ne sera pas publiée. Les champs obligatoires sont indiqués avec *