The endangered Northern Bald Ibis is one of this tours special birds Photo: Bryan Bland
Agadir lies on the Atlantic coast far enough south to enjoy a warm winter climate and consequently the surrounding areas are rich in bird life, holding large numbers of wintering European birds as well as an interesting resident population that includes several African species. Within easy reach of Agadir there are many different habitats – sandy and rocky seashores, reed-fringed estuaries, cultivated valleys, dramatic mountains, and open desert. During the tour we’ll visit many areas looking at a wide cross-section of the bird life. The estuaries to the south of the town are undoubtedly two of the best birdwatching sites in the country, and the spectacular mountains inland host some fascinating species. During the week we will spend one night at Goulimime, the gateway to the Sahara, so that we can explore this remote area in search of the more southerly desert species. For the rest of the tour we will be based in one hotel in Agadir, allowing for ‘time out’ and optional sightseeing trips as well as exciting birdwatching.
Day 1: The tour begins with a flight from London to Agadir. Flight times permitting we will visit the wide sandy estuary of the River Sous frequented by large flocks of waders, gulls and terns. There are usually small flocks of Greater Flamingos and a few White Storks present here and while the waders will probably be familiar European species, the gulls can include Mediterranean, Slender-billed, and Audouin’s and the terns Royal and Lesser Crested. Around the edge of the estuary we’ll see Fan-tailed Warbler, Common Bulbul, Moussier’s Redstart, and perhaps Bluethroat and Black-headed Bush-shrike.
Day 2: To the north of Agadir the spectacular Atlantic beaches hold hundreds of gulls and terns and there is a cliff-nesting colony of Bald Ibis, individuals from which can sometimes be seen feeding by the roadside. Also to the north, the rocky foothills of the High Atlas provide slopes of cistus, evergreen oak, and juniper, where we’ll search for that delightful North African endemic, Tristram’s Warbler. Black Wheatear, Cirl and Rock Buntings, and Blue Rock Thrush should also perform for us. The roads here wind up through typical crag-clasping Berber villages to the well-vegetated amphitheatre of Imouzzer where the pools beneath the three waterfalls attract Crag Martins, wintering warblers, and higher-elevation species such as Atlas Crossbill and Jay. Bonelli’s Eagle usually puts in an appearance too. The road now continues through to the coast at Tamri and we could finish our day with Bald Ibis.
Day 3: One hour’s drive to the south of Agadir is a desert area where Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse can be found. Nearby is the estuary of the River Massa, traditionally the place where Jonah was cast up by the whale. This was once the richest ornithological site in Morocco, used by large numbers of birds both during migration and in the winter. There is deeper water here that attracts many waterbirds, and herons, egrets and ducks are well represented, maybe including Marbled and Ferruginous Ducks, Red-crested Pochard, and Ruddy Shelduck. Many unusual birds have been found here over the years and the list of vagrants is long. In 2004 we found an Isabelline Shrike – the first recorded for Morocco. The last two years have proved to be less productive but we still could see almost anything. Some of the more regular species we’ll look for are Black-headed Bush Shrike, Squacco Heron, Brown-throated Sand Martin, Spotless Starling, and House Bunting. Laughing Dove has also colonised this area in recent years and the agricultural areas could hold Black-shouldered Kite, Short-toed and Booted Eagles, Hoopoe, and Glossy Ibis Most importantly we have another chance for Bald ibis.
Day 4: A recent feature is a pelagic trip out from Agadir, weather permitting of course. Since we first introduced this, we have encountered Manx, Balearic, Great and Sooty Shearwaters, British, Leach’s, Madeiran, and Wilson’s Storm-petrels, Sabine’s Gull, Grey Phalarope, and all four skuas mingling with the large flocks of ever-present Cory’s and Scopoli’s Shearwaters. Seawatching is notoriously unpredictable and and it is always hard to predict exactly what we will see, but our day out in the Atlantic usually produces something of interest. Or, if taking to the open water does not appeal you can spend the day relaxing on the beach, swimming in the hotel pool, shopping in the souks, or exploring the tourist delights of Agadir.
Days 5-6: During the week we’ll spend one night in Goulimime, a town south of Agadir on the edge of the vast Sahara Desert. We may pause en route for a roadside Desert Lark or Black Wheatear but we’ll search for other representatives of those two families (Temminck’s Horned, Thick-billed, Lesser Short-toed, Bar-tailed Desert and Hoopoe Larks and Desert, Red-rumped, and White-crowned Black Wheatears) in the deserts south of the town. Lanner, Barbary Falcon, Trumpeter Finch, Cream-coloured Courser, Fulvous Babbler and the delightful Streaked Scrub Warbler are also possibilities.
Day 7: Where we spend the day will depend on our remaining targets. The valley of the Sous runs inland past the old walled city of Taroudannt. Black-shouldered Kites, Long-legged Buzzards, and Peregrine and Barbary Falcons are possible here and there is a good chance of Fulvous Babbler. We may stop at Taroudannt and walk around the Old Souk which, though not as extensive as the one in Marrakech, still gives a good impression of a typical Arab market with narrow alleys, stalls piled high with goods and exotically-smelling spice shops.
Alternatively, even more impressive is the Anti-Atlas mountain circuit to ochre-tinted Tafrout, where the farming population is sufficiently remote to preserve its old traditions and brightly-coloured dress. Red-billed Chough, Golden and Bonelli’s Eagle, Blue Rock Thrush, and Rock Sparrow are typical target birds. En route are desert areas which could give us another chance for Thick-billed and Desert Larks, Trumpeter Finch, White-crowned Black Wheatear, and Black-bellied Sandgrouse. But the abiding images are of the breathtaking views and spectacular scenery.
Day 8: Depending on flight departure times we might have a final morning’s birdwatching around the ever-productive Tamri Sous or Massa estuaries before we return to Agadir airport in time to catch our flight back to London where our tour concludes.
Updated: 18 December 2014