Morocco: High Atlas and Sahara March 2022

Magnificent at any season, the Atlas Mountains and desert regions of Morocco boast the richest birdlife in North Africa and our spring tour visits this beautiful and incredibly varied country at its best. The Northward rush of migration through the desert oases and mountain passes is in full flow and March is also the optimum time to seek out Morocco’s long list of outstanding breeding birds from Pharaoh Eagle Owl, Egyptian Nightjar and Blue-cheeked Bee-eater to Thick-billed and Hoopoe Larks, Desert Sparrow and African Desert Warbler - the list of specialities seems endless.

While Morocco is a big country, our itinerary for 2022 not only cuts down dramatically on the amount of time spent driving but includes more time in the desert, which is always one of the highlights of this tour, to allow longer enjoying the unique and fascinating birdlife of this very special place.

 

Arriving in Marrakech, we start our birding in the mountains with the exciting prospects of Atlas Horned Lark, Seebohm’s Wheatear and African Crimson-winged Finch as we ascend to more than 2,500m (8,000ft) in the snow-capped High Atlas range. In forests on the approach road, we will look for Levaillant’s Woodpecker plus Barbary Partridge, Moussier’s Redstart and African Chaffinch amongst many specialities which are endemic to Northwest Africa.

 

Descending to the oasis town of Ouarzazate, we then swing East to Boumalne Dades for our first real taste of desert birding. Larks abound on the stony hamada at Tagdilt, where we look for Temminck’s and Thick-billed Larks, alongside Cream-coloured Courser, several species of sandgrouse and African Desert Wheatear.

 

Continuing East, we check out sites for Streaked Scrub Warbler, Maghreb Lark and Fulvous Babbler, before heading deeper into the desert to enjoy an extended stay at an excellent hotel in Merzouga, on the fringes of the great Sahara.

 

Over the next two days, we will make exciting excursions to the huge red dunes of Erg Chebbi. Aided by our local guides, we will visit the current hotspots amidst this spectacular but shifting landscape in our quest for African Desert Warbler, Brown-necked Raven and the rare and rapidly declining Desert Sparrow. Egyptian Nightjars also breed here and, although not present every year, our last ten tours have all been lucky! Nearby, we will visit some cliffs where the impressive Pharaoh Eagle Owl nests.

 

Retracing our steps to Ouarzazate, we have a chance to visit El Mansour Reservoir on the edge of town. Depending on the water levels, the area can be alive with migrants and wetland birds can include Marbled Teal, Spoonbill, storks and Collared Pratincole, whilst transiting flocks of Yellow Wagtails and Meadow Pipits sometimes contain small numbers of Red-throated Pipits and with luck, we may even find Bluethroat and Western Olivaceous Warbler.

 

Arnoud van den Berg has led the vast majority of Limosa’s tours to Morocco over the past 30 years as well as escorting many visiting Dutch birding groups and undertaking numerous ornithological studies and research visits there. His network of local contacts and extensive knowledge of Morocco’s special birds and where to find them is second to none.

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