11 March 2013

Crossing the High Atlas: 11 March

Had a long drive today from Marrakesh across the High Atlas (via the Tizi n'Tichka pass at 2,260 m) down to the town of Boumalne Dades situated at the edge of the hamada - the vast stony desert plateau marking the northern extent of the Sahara.

A brief stop on the outskirts of Marrakesh picked up 4+ 'Moroccan' Magpie (NW African subspecies Pica pica mauritanica) along with 1m Blackcap and a Sardinian Warbler. Stops in the High Atlas along the N9 produced a pair of Barbary Falcon, 1 Barbary Partridge, 2 Booted Eagle, lots of 'African' Chaffinch, 2 Firecrest, 2 Coal Tit (Moroccan subspecies Periparus ater atlas), 2 Sparrowhawk (subspecies Accipiter nisus punicus), and over an excellent coffee 1 Rock Bunting, 2 Long-legged Buzzard and a Scarce Swallowtail butterfly. At the Tizi n'Tichka pass 1 migrant Lesser Kestrel, a singing Black Wheatear and 2 Common Raven were noted, and a stop for lunch added 1 Subalpine Warbler, 1 Crag Martin, another Black Wheater, 3 Barn Swallow, the first Linnet of the trip, and 2+ Barbary Ground-squirrel.

Booted Eagle

Eurasian Sparrowhawk, NW African race Accipiter nisus punicus

Long-legged Buzzard, N African race Buteo rufinus cirtensis

The first of many superb coffees

This afternoon we had our first taste of birding the hamada. 1+ Desert Lark, 4 White-crowned Black Wheatear and a male Northern Wheatear noted at a stop beside the N9, and an hour or so birding a wadi along the N10 between Ouarzazate and Boumalne Dades produced 1m Moussier's Redstart, 3 Desert Wheatear, 3-4 Thekla Lark, 1 Crested Lark and 1 'Desert' Grey Shrike of the NW African subspecies Lanius excubitor elegans (with another 4 'Desert' Grey Shrikes seen from the car).

Female Desert Wheatear

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