Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Morocco 10th - 16th February - Oukaimeden

Today was the day that I had been planning for sometime, it wasn't really that big-a-deal but it was my chance at a grip back having dipped African Crimson-winged Finch at Oukaimeden in 2006. I had spent ages looking at eBird for precise sites for this bird. Basically, Oukaimeden is just about the only place in the world that the species can be reliably seen and I had been told that there were around 50 present two weeks before our trip. I had originally planned to go two days ago but due to heavy snow the access road was closed but yesterday the road had been cleared and so after being collected at 06:30 from the Kasbah Tamadot, I wound my way through the Atlas Mountains amid fantastic scenery towards Oukaimeden as the snow depth increased. As we approached the village the snow depth was around a metre in places and Yellow-billed Chough and Red-billed Chough began to appear in numbers. A single Alpine Accentor appeared on a fence and then in the distance I saw a flock of small birds on a telegraph wire, and there they were African Crimson-winged Finch, seen even before the car stopped. I spent the next couple of hours around the litter strewn market area of the town enjoying views down to two metres of the finches, I estimated that there were around 150 birds here. Also here were around 75 Horned Lark of the subspecies atlas and around 25 Rock Sparrow. There were large numbers of birds and while the town is a bit of a dump the birding was great.

At around 11:00 we headed from the town and drove back through the mountain scenery towards the hotel. Just below Oukaimeden three Black Wheatear showed well on the roadside. occasional stops produced Coal Tit, Great Tit, African Blue Tit and Crossbill. More than the birds, the scenery was fantastic and we made occasional stops to take in the view. Back to the Kasbah Tamadot by 12:30, I had lunch with Sarah and Tobias and spent much of the afternoon in the pool.

Below are a series of images of the African Crimson-winged Finch at Oukaimeden. The birds were frequenting the area around the second car park (31.204209, -7.8609155) but by around 10:30 the birds had begun to disperse as human disturbance increased.

And here are a few images of 'Atlas' Horned Lark, the fifth bird down is a female but 95% of the birds I saw were male. To me, this subspecies is fairly similar to flava, the subspecies seen in the UK, but it has a distinctive warm buff nape readily visible in many of the images below and more extensive black in the face and on the chest.

Below are a couple of images of Rock Sparrow of the subspecies barbara which is paler and greyer than the nominate found in Europe.

Red-billed Chough was far less numerous than Yellow-billed Chough. Red-billed Chough, in the Atlas Mountains, is of the subspecies barbarus which is the largest, most heavily billed and glossiest of the western subspecies.

Yellow-billed Chough is abundant at Oukaimeden and mixes with Red-billed Chough, here the subspecies is the nominate one.

I won't dwell on this one, I think most of the Rock Dove that I saw at Oukaimeden were 'pure'. I love pigeon's but this one is quite uninspiring.

African Blue Tit was moderately common around the village but were quite difficult to photograph, this is the best image that I managed to obtain. The subspecies here is ultramarinus which is a possible future split from African Blue Tit as Ultramarine Tit

Chaffinch of subspecies africana, sometimes split as African Chaffinch, not only does the plumage appear remarkably different from 'our Chaffinch but the vocalisations seem to be quite distinctive.

Three Black Wheatear showed well just below Oukaimeden, here the subspecies is riggenbachi which is less black than the nominate found in Europe.

Here are some images of the scenery taken during the drive from Oukaimeden back to the Kasbah Tamadot. The first four images are of the village of Oukaimeden, the middle images are taken along the route (via Sidi Faress) while the final image is the valley in which the Kasbah Tamadot is located.

Links to Other Days of the Trip (Click to View)
Kasbah Tamadot - 10th - 14th February
Oualida - 14th and 16th February