7 April 2013

Rock Martins at Bagaa, Tafilalt, Morocco

On 15 March 2013, while having a picnic lunch at an oasis near the village of Bagaa, in Tafilalt, eastern Saharan Morocco, we found a flock of about 10 Rock Martins Ptyonoprogne fuligula resaharica flying around the dunes and scattered trees at the edge of the oasis. This is a poorly understood species in Morocco, and being aware of the potential identification pitfulls with Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris and even hybrids, we watched and photographed the birds for about an hour. The photos below are of several birds (note that I pushed the exposure by about 1 stop to bring out the detail against the sky).

Rock Martin Ptyonoprogne fuligula resaharica, this race previously considered a separate species from Rock Martin - Pale Crag
Martin P. obsoleta. Note the whitish throat, dark grey underwing coverts with paler grey axillaries (cf. all blackish on Crag Martin
P. rupestris) and greyish undertail coverts with pale fringes.

The contrast between the darker grey underwing coverts and the paler grey axillaries can be seen well in this pic, despite the
underwing being in shadow (click to enlarge). Also note the whitish edges to both the undertail coverts and uppertail coverts.

For comparison, this image was taken with no exposure compensation

Note the faint whitish fringes to the undertail coverts. To us the white tail spots looked more obvious than we expected
for this species after consulting the literature.

Even at a distance the pale bluish-grey upperparts were obvious, as was the contrast with the darker primaries, secondaries,
primary coverts, medium coverts and greater coverts.

The Collins Guide mentions a pale forehead but I can find no sign of this feature on any of the birds I have photos of.

The white tail spots were generally not visible on the upper tail when closed

The black lores against the pale grey face give the impression of a mask which is more obvious than on Crag Martin

We'll be submitting this record to the Moroccan Rare Birds Committee (MRBC) shortly. More on this here:
http://gwentbirding.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/cover-me-porkins-im-going-in.html
http://peteralfreybirdingnotebook.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/moroccan-post-trip-tick.html
http://creamteabirding.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/morocco-african-rock-martin.html

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