Monday 8 April 2024

From 30deg plus...to....Whetsted....

 Back to reality.....Whetsted GP 0845 - 1100 cool but warming, little wind, occasional sun

After hearing Nightingale in Morocco over the past 9 days.....I was surely hoping to find one at Whetsted....


But I didnt find one....I found seven....which was a real surprise.  But a great surprise indeed.  And all 7 wanting to sing....the best bird song I have ever heard.....


It remains rather wet and muddy under foot at Whetsted and the pits remain rather full.

Other birds of note.....2 Willow Warblers, 2 Cettis Warblers, 1 Cuckoo....plenty of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs.

Gypsywort


Ringing in Morocco

Morocco - Ringing trip 26 March to 6 April 2024 

I had been considering some ringing in Morocco for a couple of years.  I have visited the country, family holidays, for a few years now and enjoyed some time bird watching...usual stuff, a few hours here and there....but...Morocco has so much to offer in the bird world....and its cheap to get to and cheao to stay there.....

I flew out to Ouarzazate, which is the eastern side of the Atlas mountains.....



....yes, you have to fly Ryanair...there arent many companies that fly to this small airport.  And it is small.  Sometimes your plane may be the only one there and a busy time might be three or four flights a day!!

But.....the advantage is time saving and money saving....from Gatwick its more expensive to fly to Marrakesh and then hire a car for the four or five hour trip to Ouarzazate, which you have to drive past anyway....so this saves time and money.

I stayed in the town for a night before heading out toward Merzouga on the edge of the Sahara desert.

Moroccons are a lovely people.  Very friendly.  Drive like loonies a lot of the time, but its all done in the best possible taste, as someone once said.

There is a list of birds I ringed at the end....and a list of birds I saw....some previously seen....some new to me....

We found this Gecko one evening on the last net round as it was getting dark....

Didnt have time for much bird watching, but on one of the last days we headed out on a short trip to find a few species that we were unlikely to ring....including this fine Hoopoe Lark....


The Moroccons love overloading their lorries......

This is the last bird I ringed over the 9 days at the ringing site.....Orphean Warbler....


Well....you have to have the inevitable desert photos....heres the first...more to follow.....

Below....the sun rising just after we had opened the nets in the morning....that distant ridge is Algeria.

Mammals....came across some interesting wildlife...totally unexpected....you just never know what you will bump in to right at the edge of the sand dunes of the Sahara.....this is a Jeboa....

The ringing station is based at the Hotel Yasmina, and out the back of the hotel is some scrub and a few trees....and some ponds....in fact, the whole area is, or can occasionally be a lake, depending on how much rain they have.  Its amazing to see the photos of the lake just a few years ago....but there has been no lake for some time...however...the hotel pumps out some...er....water....and...er...mixed in sewage of some sort....rather smelly.....anyway.....heres a toad....I will leave the rest to your imagination as to where they hang out...

Back to birds.....this guy, a Whinchat, was just about exhausted, had used up all its fat reserves and a lot of muscle getting across the desert....when they are in this condition survival is really on the edge, fingers crossed to this little one....


Its hard to imagine so much life hanging out in the desert....but it does.....I dont know what this plant is...but clearly its used to doing its bit in extremely harsh conditions....

Saharan dunes....no...they arent really different colours....its just the way the sun is shining and some dusty sand is blowing in the distance and the heat haze....however...there is a beauty in the Saharan sand that is unimaginable and hard to describe....the sun passes over during the day and the colours of the sand change as it does.....

Heres one of 'our' Wheatears...Northern Wheatear.....I had seen one at Rye Harbour just a few days before heading to Morocco....they are one of the real long distance travellers in the migration world...


Another bird we can find here in the UK....Common Redstart....

A much clearer view of the ridge that is Algeria....

One of the speciality Wheatears that I went for....not the most colourful one we ringed, scroll down for that.....but this is a Seebohms....

I think this sheep was attempting its own version of the Great Escape....


The inevitable camel train passing by where we had parked whilst searching for some Wheatears to retrap or ring...

And below...off they go in to the sandstorm that was blowing in....

We had some luck using some spring traps to retrap birds that had been ringed previously, last year, to monitor them.  These are colour ringed for a project on White-crowned Wheatears...

This is a juvenile from this year...already!!....way ahead of us here in the UK....you can see the white feathers coming through on the cap....


Get your sunglasses.....!!

Wow time......there were both Europeand and Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters flying around every day.  It really is great to ee the Blue-cheeked variety as they live so far south.....and this...is the one and only bird we trapped whilst I was there and I even got to ring it....best bird, for me...






This is a 'spot the car' moment.....

...its about a third of the way down the left side of the slope from the pointy top....yes, they drive four wheel drive vehicles all over the dunes at the edge of the desert....its a tourist thing....or go out on a dune buggy....or a camel ride....or a motorbike....

Remember that not particularly well-coloured Seebohms earlier....try this one....a cracking full on male in breeding plummage to wow the birds....literally....



....and back to a Common Redstart.....rather stunning....

Ravens....there was a couple hanging around every day, nice to see such a bird so much....on one particular day a flock of 15-20 flew over....probably juvenile or non-breeding birds....but these are Brown-necked Ravens....

...yep...another sun rise...and you can see the Algerian ridge even better....

.......and....heres a slightly different toad....

Back to mammals....one morning this guy was running around....a North African Hedgehog....now that I really didnt expect at all....

Well...the sun rises....and so it must set.....

Dove day......this one is a Laughing Dove...a local breeding bird.....

...and a Turtle Dove.....on its way north.....


Melodious Warbler....Icterines will be heading further east to migrate and also heading much further north than this guy that will hang out in southern Europe....


The name tells you where its going.....Subalpine Warbler.....so you know where to look if you go on holiday....

Colours of the desert....




Iberian Chiffchaff.....

Black-eared Wheatear...


And a Bonellis Warbler....


Ringing Ticks

Bonellis Warbler, Seebohms Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, White-crowned Wheatear, Woodchat Shrike, Iberian Chiffchaff, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Turtle Dove, Subalpine Warbler, Saharan Olivaceous Warbler, Laughing Dove, Western Olivaceous Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Orphean Warbler

Birds I have previously ringed

Northern Wheatear, Nightingale, Common Redstart, Barn Swallow, House Sparrow, Collared Dove, Willow Warbler

The 'others' on the list for the trip

Great-grey Shrike, Brown-necked Raven, Feral Pigeon, Blackbird, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, European Bee-eater, Woodpigeon, House Bunting, Kestrel, Desert Sparrow, Yellow Wagtail, Bluethroat, Spotted Sandgrouse, Mahgreb Lark, Trumpeter Finch, Crag Martin, Wryneck, Booted Eagle, Hoopoe Lark, Greenfinch, Fulous Babbler, Bulbul, Thick-billed Lark.....and on the way back to Ouarzazate I stopped for a brief look at the Tagdilt Track....Red-rumped Wheatear....fabulous last bird of the trip.