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Morocco Autumn in Agadir

An 8-day, small group birdwatching tour to southern Morocco

Travel from Atlantic shore to Sahara’s edge on this bird-filled autumn tour to southern Morocco. Five nights at Agadir on the sunny Atlantic coast, plus a two-night excursion to Goulimime in search of larks, wheatears and other desert birds. Bald Ibis, Barbary Partridge, Black-crowned Tchagra, Moussier’s Redstart, Streaked Scrub Warbler and Fulvous Babbler among many North African specialities to watch for. Additional highlights include an easy pelagic boat trip that’s been superb for seabirds on previous tours, and visits to Oued Sous and Oued Massa - Morocco’s premier wetland birding sites.

Tour Dates

2017

  • Spaces
    3

2018

  • Available

Leaders
Arnoud van den Berg

Max Group Size: 10
Duration: 8 Days

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Cost: £1595

inc return flights London Gatwick-Agadir, nonstop with Easyjet

Deposit: £300

Single Supp: £145
Land Only: £1445

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Moussier's Redstart m Morocco Brian Small P1060892

The superb Moussier’s Redstart is endemic to Northwest Africa and one of many highlights to look forward to on this excellent tour! © Brian Small, Limosa Holidays

If the dank days of autumn are getting you down at home, then this two-centre birdwatching tour to the sunny Atlantic coast of southern Morocco offers the perfect panacea. With its warm, Mediterranean-type climate and fine diversity of habitats - from arid coastal scrub to dramatic mountains - the Agadir region not only attracts good numbers of wintering European migrants but is also home to a fascinating resident bird population that has a distinctly African flavour.

Barbary Partridge, Plain Martin, Moussier’s Redstart, Black-crowned Tchagra and the sought-after Northern Bald Ibis are among many specialities we should see, while the cheery calls of Common Bulbuls enliven the hotel gardens and Spotless Starlings and House Buntings sing from the rooftops.

Two of Morocco’s very best birding spots - the estuaries of the Oueds Sous and Massa - lie within an easy drive of our comfortable Agadir hotel. Shorebirds abound, with herons, Eurasian Spoonbill, Greater Flamingo, waders, gulls and terns being numerous on the Sous, and the likes of Marbled Duck, Black-winged Kite, Laughing Dove and Maghreb Magpie among more exotic species to look for beside the Massa. Agadir lies far enough south that, even in early November, we might also encounter a wide range of European migrants, pausing to refuel before continuing their way south to spend the winter in sub-Saharan Africa. Our 2014 group even found a vagrant Great Knot here, only the second record for Morocco!

As special features of this late autumn tour, we include two very different excursions. The first is a pelagic boat trip out of Agadir, 'chumming' for shearwaters, petrels and other seabirds wintering off the little-known south Moroccan coast. The second - a trip that we’ve made many times over the years - will carry us south for an extended two-night stay at Goulimime, where the creeping fringes of the Sahara Desert provide a true flavour of this ancient kingdom.

Famed for its camel market and as a historic meeting place of the Sahara’s nomadic ‘blue men’ (or Tuareg), the arid Goulimime region is home to a splendid range of desert birds that are rarely found near Agadir. Atlas Long-legged Buzzard, Lanner, Cream-coloured Courser, Bar-tailed Desert, Thick-billed and Hoopoe Larks, Streaked Scrub Warbler, Red-rumped and White-crowned Black Wheatears, Fulvous Babbler and Trumpeter Finch are all possible.

Limosa first operated this tour in the 1980s - in fact, it was our first overseas trip in the days before we even had a brochure! Our guide Arnoud van den Berg has led more than thirty Limosa tours to Morocco over the past 25 years, as well as escorting many Dutch birding groups there and undertaking numerous research visits. His network of local contacts and extensive knowledge of Morocco’s birds and where to find them is second to none.

European Storm Petrel Agadir Morocco Arnoud van den Berg Jan 2012 5184

Close encounter with European Storm Petrel, photographed on our pelagic boat trip off Agadir © Arnoud van den Berg

Day 1                                                
FLY AGADIR

Our autumn birdwatching tour to Morocco begins with Easyjet's direct flight from London Gatwick to Agadir. Depending on flight schedules (which differ every year), we may arrive in time to settle in and enjoy some initial birding this afternoon.

Exiting into the sea at Agadir, the wide sandy estuary of the Oued (river) Sous is outstanding for birds. Up to twenty species of wader are regularly present in late autumn, along with small flocks of Greater Flamingos, an array of herons and usually a few White Storks and Spoonbills - the latter sometimes sporting Dutch rings on their legs. Gulls and terns are numerous and regularly include scarcities such as Royal and White-winged Black Terns, and Slender-billed and Mediterranean Gulls. Serins jangle from the tall eucalyptus groves beside the river and dusk sees clans of noisy Stone-curlews emerge from their daytime hideaways in the scrub. Night Agadir

[Note: If the outbound timings don't allow any time for birding today, then this will usually be compensated for by a correspondingly later return flight at the end of the tour, with time to go birding then.]

Days 2 - 3                                         
BALD IBIS, COAST & PELAGIC BOAT TRIP OFF AGADIR

Early risers will relish the chance to check out the environs of the hotel, where ‘strangers’ such as Spotless Starling, House Bunting and cheery Common Bulbuls mingle with the likes of Blackcap, Chiffchaff and more familiar ‘British’ birds.

The coastal cliffs that rise up to the north of Agadir are the haunt of Thekla Lark, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush and the dazzling Moussier’s Redstart, the latter the most striking of all the region’s endemic birds. We’ll watch for the wary Barbary Partridge in the cliff-top scrublands, while the narrow threads of sand along the Atlantic shore are well worth checking in winter for Yellow-legged and Audouin’s Gulls, and perhaps a Lesser Crested Tern or two.

Our main aim here will be to find one of the world’s rarest and weirdest-looking birds, the Northern Bald Ibis. Once a widespread and numerous species, with a range that extended north to the Alps and east into Turkey and the Arabian Peninsula, this enigmatic bird is now critically endangered - and all but confined to this tiny corner of Morocco. The stretch of arid coastline that lies immediately to the north and south of Agadir is its final stronghold, where less than 500 wild birds remain.

Hot on the heels of our search for Bald Ibis, a pelagic boat trip out of Agadir promises to be another exciting tour highlight! So far as seabirds go, the coast of southern Morocco is still largely an unknown quantity, so our trip offshore will be something of a “voyage of discovery” - but with all the excitement and anticipation that brings! Our last two trips have produced fantastic views of Cory’s, Manx and Balearic Shearwaters as well as dozens of European Storm Petrels - and in 2015, we added Great and Scopoli's Shearwaters, too. Gannets, gulls, terns and skuas may also be about, looking for an easy meal behind the boats of Agadir’s fishing fleet - and the region is well known for turning up more than its fair share of avian surprises! We will be out for the morning and enjoy lunch on board the boat before returning to Agadir again in the afternoon.

Anyone who prefers to skip the boat trip may spend the day relaxing at the hotel or on the beach, shopping in the souks or looking around town - just let our leader/s know on the day. Two nights Agadir

Days 4 - 5                                                   
OUED MASSA, GOULIMIME & THE SOUTHERN DESERT

Setting off early from Agadir on the morning of day four, we travel south for a two-night stay at a good hotel (with great food) in the desert town of Goulimime, ‘Gateway to the Sahara’.

We'll pause along the way to pay a first visit to the bird-rich estuary of the Oued Massa, which lies about an hour’s drive south of Agadir. This shallow reed-fringed river is arguably Morocco’s premier birding spot, combining a mosaic of freshwater habitats protected from the ingress of tidal saltwater by a sandbar thrown up by the Atlantic Ocean. Periodically (typically, once in around every seven years or so), the sea breaches the sandbar and inundates the river behind, dramatically changing the character of the Massa - and with it, the range of birds to be found there. But no matter what the current state of the wetland - be it fresh, brackish or intensely saline - the Massa River and its environs remain an outstanding spot for birds.

Delicate Plain Martins flitter bat-like over the baked-mud houses and date palms that are so characteristic of the villages here. Southern (Desert) Grey Shrike, Zitting Cisticola, Cetti’s and Sardinian Warblers, and Serin should all be about, with Purple and Squacco Herons, Osprey, Marbled Duck, Laughing Dove, Bluethroat and the secretive Black-crowned Tchagra also likely closer to the river itself. With luck, we may encounter the puzzling “Moroccan” or African Reed Warbler - presently an undescribed taxon, as Arnoud will explain.

Small numbers of Common Cranes winter in the dunes that line the far side of the estuary and we might also be lucky to spot a flight of thirsty Black-bellied Sandgrouse coming to the water’s edge to drink. Barbary Partridge, Little Owl and Desert Wheatear frequent the low arid hills that border the northern shore of the river, and there's often one or two White-breasted Cormorants about.

As the heat starts to build late morning, we will continue our journey south to Goulimime. We'll spend the remainder of this first afternoon and all of the following day searching the arid landscapes that surround this “frontier town”, as well as those to either side of the road that runs south towards the 'nowhere town' of Tan-tan, in what was formerly Spanish Sahara. Here we'll be seeking an exciting range of nomadic desert birds that generally don’t occur around Agadir.

Although we may not find them all in a single visit, careful searching at choice spots we’ve discovered over the years should reveal an excellent cross-section of desert species: Cream-coloured Courser, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Desert, Bar-tailed Desert and Temminck's Horned Larks, White-crowned Black and Desert Wheatears, Streaked Scrub Warbler, Fulvous Babbler and the comical Trumpeter Finch are among many enjoyed by our groups in the past.

As we check the roadside wires and power lines for perched raptors such as Bonelli’s Eagle, Barbary Falcon, Lanner and Atlas Long-legged Buzzard, we also might be lucky to come across a party of bruising Thick-billed Larks, witness the amazing ‘kamikaze’ display flights of the incredible Hoopoe Lark or to hear a Red-rumped Wheatear’s classic rendition of a whistling kettle coming to the boil! Two nights Goulimime

Days 6 - 7                                                          
GOULIMIME, OUED MASSA & RETURN TO AGADIR

After a last look at the desert habitats around Goulimime on the morning of day 6, we travel back north to Agadir. It’s a fascinating journey across a range of semi-desert habitats, where we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled for more dry country birds beside the road.

We will break our journey with a return visit to the superb Oued Massa complex, exploring a different part of the river this time - but with the same exciting prospects for birding! Bonelli’s Eagle, Maghreb Magpie, Moussier’s Redstart and even Bald Ibis are among a wealth of possible species to look for at this amazing spot before we arrive back at our hotel in Agadir, where we spend the last two nights of our tour.

Next day, we will enjoy a scenic drive inland, climbing high into the foothills of the Atlas Mountains as they tumble west towards the sea. Over a refreshing beer or glass of mint tea in the lush terraced water gardens at Imouzzer, we can scan for passing Golden Eagle and watch for residents such as African Blue Tit and the distinctive North African race of Chaffinch, with its moss green back. Crag Martin, Firecrest and Atlas Common Crossbill are also possible in the hills today, but we shall be hoping especially to find the scarce and elusive Tristram’s Warbler, yet another of this remarkable region’s endemic specialities!

Birding in Morocco is full of surprises! Our autumn 2015 tour encountered no fewer than five species of shearwater from the boat trip; in 2014, we found a Great Knot, only the second record for Morocco; while our 2012 group stumbled upon two vagrant Olive-backed Pipits here and was also lucky enough to find the endemic Levaillant’s Woodpecker, this being an area of Morocco where the species had never been recorded before. Two further nights Agadir

Day 8                                                            
OUED SOUS, FLY LONDON

If flight schedules allow, we will make a return visit to the estuary of the River Sous estuary. With autumn migration in full flow, there is a considerable turnover of birds at this season and one never quite knows what might turn up next - we could find anything from a wintering Green Sandpiper through to Southern (Desert) Grey Shrike and the endemic Moroccan White Wagtail.

Our birding over, we make the short return to Agadir Airport for our nonstop Easyjet flight back to London Gatwick, where our autumn tour to Morocco concludes.

Scrub Warbler 2 Guelmim Morocco Arnoud van den Berg Jan 2012 5306

The elusive Scrub Warbler makes its home on the desert flats near Goulimime © Arnoud van den Berg, Limosa

What To Expect

An 8-day, small group birdwatching tour to southern Morocco in autumn, featuring five nights at Agadir on the country's sunny Atlantic shore and a two-night excursion south to Goulimime in search of larks, wheatears and other desert birds. Northern Bald Ibis, Barbary Partridge, Black-crowned Tchagra, Moussier’s Redstart, Saharan Scrub Warbler and Fulvous Babbler among many North African specialities to watch for. Additional tour highlights include an easy pelagic boat trip that's been superb for seabirds on our previous trips, and visits to the Oued Sous and Oued Massa - Morocco's premier birdwatching sites.

Agadir enjoys a Mediterranean-type climate. In January/February, the weather is usually pleasantly warm and sunny, with average daily temperatures typically in the range of 8-20°C (46-68°F) and 9 hours of sunshine. It can be hotter in the south around Goulimime.

The weather in late October/November is similar but averaging slightly warmer at Agadir, 12-23C (54-73F). Rainfall is low (averaging less than two inches) at both seasons, but possible at anytime. It can sometimes rather feel cool along the coast, especially if a brisk onshore breeze is blowing.

To make the best of the birding on this tour, however, and to beat the heat of the day at times, please be prepared for some early starts.

Birds

110-150 species

Accommodation

7 nights at comfortable tourist hotels in Morocco (with 3 nights + 2 nights at the Golden Tulip Oasis, a good, modern 4-star tourist hotel in Agadir, and 2 nights at the Hotel Adir Moussafir in Goulimime). All rooms have private facilities.

Meals

All main meals are included in the price - based on current flight times, commencing with dinner in Agadir on the evening of Day 1 and concluding with lunch on Day 8.

Food in Morocco is tasty and good, with dinner and most breakfasts taken at the hotels. Most lunches (and the occasional breakfast on this trip) will be picnics. Some meals may occasionally be taken at convenient restaurants along the way. 

Walking

The walking effort is easy, with short walks over mostly flat terrain. To make the best of the birding on this tour, however, and to beat the heat of the day at times, you should be prepared for some early starts.

Comfy walking shoes or lightweight boots recommended to protect against sharp stones in the desert areas and mountains. Depending on access, walking beside the Sous can sometimes be wet and muddy in places - take a pair of old trainers or flip-flops (or welly boots) that you don’t mind messing up.

Travel

We use the only direct scheduled flights currently available on this route, these with Easyjet from London Gatwick to Agadir.

Ground Transport   Minibus with local driver. 

Boat Trips

Our tour price includes a pelagic boat trip off Agadir in search of seabirds. We usually sail from Agadir at about 07.00am and head up to 10kms out to sea to ‘chum’ for seabirds. Our boat is a small but modern sea-going cruiser equipped with radar, an open upper deck for viewing and an enclosed cabin area with toilet facilities. Lunch is included and served on board, often featuring fish freshly caught, and we return to port in the afternoon. Life jackets are provided for all passengers.

As with all boat trips, this is weather dependent and the ship won’t sail if the conditions are unsuitable. Anyone preferring to stay ashore on the day rather than take the boat trip is welcome to do so (although no refund can be given in lieu of the boat trip, which is integral to the tour).

Black crowned Tchagra f Oued Massa Morocco Arnoud van den Berg Apr 2010 3233e

The fluty whistles of Black-crowned Tchagra give a distinctly tropical feel to our birding in southern Morocco © Arnoud van den Berg

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1 A&DL, Morocco tour ... We would like to thank you both for our lovely holiday to Morocco. Arnoud, as you know, is a brilliant guide, quite the most knowledgeable we have ever travelled with in many wildlife trips. He is also such a nice person, as is his wife Cecilia - a welcome companion. We really enjoyed the pelagic boat trip and had excellent sightings of Storm Petrels. The overnight stay in Goulimime was also a great success... We had excellent sightings of sandgrouse near there and it was lovely to do the trip over the Anti-Atlas Mountains. Every day provided variety and plenty of different birds. As well as many lifers, we had excellent views of birds seen on a previous trip to Morocco and other African countries. Arnoud knew/knows all of the sites so well plus his use of photography to help with identification was excellent. This was our first trip with Limosa and we will certainly be looking at your brochure again. Thank you once again... [empty string]
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