Tuesday 1 February 2011

Four days in Morocco (Jan 2011)

This short trip was designed as an escape from a dull Aberdeen winter. We (Paul Baxter, Hywel Maggs, Phil Crockett and myself) wanted to see a small number of target birds and so took advantage of cheap Ryanair flights for a 4 day trip to key high Atlas and desert sites. These are a few pictures from the trip. Thick-billed Lark (above) was the main target and we managed to see this beauty at Tagdilt.

The high Atlas - Oukaimedene. This site is a good spot for some nice high elevation birds....
A key target - Crimson-winged Finch

Crimson-winged Finch. This proved easy at Oukaimedene

Crimson-winged Finch.

Crimson-winged Finch

Alpine Accentor. A small group at the radar station of Oukaimedene

Rock Sparrow.

Atlas Shore Lark. Very abundant and easy to see at Oukaimedene.

Dades Valley - magical.

Another shot of Dades - the lower part of the valley

Again, the lower part of the Dades valley - Bonellis Eagles above and North African Great Spotted Woodpeckers below

Southern Grey Shrike (algeriensis)

The same bird

And again.

We visited the Tagdilt track for some nice desert birding. This pic is of one of many Hoopoe Larks seen here.

Lesser Short-toed lark.

The Tagdilt
Paul photographing Temminks Horned larks at Tagdilt.

Boulmane de Dades - our base for 2 nights.

House Buntings were around town.

A couple of them outside of our hotel.
Lots of 'stocking fillers' - in this pic, the local form of Magpie

Bad (very heavily cropped) picture, but a nice bird - Levaillant's Green Woodpecker


Barry Stewart said...

Some great birds, especially like the Thick-billed Lark. I'm a bit confused by the taxonomy of shrikes at the moment as the new Collins guides puts algeriensis as a ssp. of excubitor, yet it so clearly looks closer to meridionalis! Is there a definitive work on this group?

Chris Gibbins said...

Hi Baz. Yes, I agree that algeriensis seems very like meridionalis. The form elegans also occurs in Morocco. This should be clearly different to algeriensis (e.g. very pale grey, much more white in the wing), but we saw birds that were unclear - integrades perhaps. So whats going on just here in a small area is a little unclear.

As you say it seems odd to not have have the dark algeriensis as a sister of meridionalis. Grouping algeriensis and meridionalis seems logical, but where then would the typically very different elegans sit? Probably to make sense of this all the taxa need to be looked at together, rather than just in subgroups. I dont know of a definitive work - i simply have the two standard shrike books. However, I seem to remember that the Russian shrike guru (Panov) has a major work in prep. Hopefully this will clarify. But even without being sure of the taxonomy, they are just magic.


Harry said...

Hi Chris,
A reminder of unfinished business: we missed Thick-billed Lark, Crimson-winged Finch and Levaillant's Green Woodpecker in 2006 (we didn't expect the finch, mind, as we didn't get to Oukaimedene).
The shrikes were interesting alright, seem to recall seeing a handful of elegans types, including a family group in the SE in desert habitat, with many more algeriensis once we reached the Atlantic coast.
By the way, due to a typo, you refer to House Finches...

Chris Gibbins said...

Hi Harry.

Morocco was unfinished business for me too....in 1992 we missed the finches at Oukaimeden, as of course you know. So it was nice to go back after 20 yrs and see the little buggers. Thanks for spotting the typo - ive corrected it now...


Anonymous said...

Hi, ,,Gib"!
I'm Sara. Your pics with landscapes are great.

Unknown said...

Though meridionalis looks similar to algeriensis they are genetically rather different. Meridionalis is closely related to North American borealis (as well as sibiricus) and is thus distinct from any other form of Western Palearctic 'Great/Southern' Grey hence the split in Collin's. See Olsson, Alstom, Svensson, Aliabadian, and Sundberg (2009)

Unknown said...

one other issue is dark and light colour morphs (with intergrades) of the same form i.e homeyeri and leucopterus, aucheri and 'theresae', algerensis and elegans.