Reports, with Bird Lists, of our Meetings, Walks and Outings

An Adventure in Morocco
by Colin Wilson

Date: Thursday 19 May 2016 at 19:30

Details:

Forty-eight people attended the meeting.

Before Colin Wilson’s presentation we had the very pleasant task of presenting an RSPB “pin” to Brian Clews, commemorating 35 years as a registered RSPB volunteer.  Well done Brian – yet another one of our original 1974-75 members still supporting the group and the RSPB.

Colin then gave a presentation on a bird watching trip to Morocco. He was accompanied by two friends from the Berkshire Ornithological Club based in Reading.

The trip took place in April to catch the migrant birds heading north for Europe, as well as resident birds of North Africa.  Circa 150 species were recorded in a ten day trip so the strategy clearly worked!  The birding began immediately on disembarking at Marrakesh airport with pallid swifts, bee-eaters, red-rumped swallows and a short-toed eagle all seen at the airport.

The non-avian interesting aspect of the “adventure” centred upon the hire car and its rental agent as well as a Berber gentleman who they rescued after his car broke down.  The two stories became combined when the loss of the hire car keys (in the desert) and subsequent rescue involved the rescued Berber gentleman and some local hospitality!

The species count continued to rise – black redstart, Moussier’s redstart and redstart were seen on the climb into the high Atlas Mountains. Alpine chough and red-billed chough were plentiful at altitude.  Crimson-winged finches, Eurasian and African sub-species were both present (? spot the difference).  Serin was very common and shore larks were also seen in number.  Both species are rare in the UK but world distribution shows that the shore lark is one of the world’s most common bird species.

Morocco has an abundance of wheatear species and several were shown, including black wheatear, white-crowned black wheatear, desert wheatear and red-rumped wheatear.

Colin finished his presentation with the advice that if you want an ice cream then don’t go to Morocco, although they did actually find some on the final day of their trip.  Equally he recommended staying away if you don’t like very sweet mint tea!

Conversely if you want a low-cost trip with glorious mountain and desert scenery, combined with a very healthy bird species count and friendly local people, then Morocco’s the place for you!

Colin then went on to tell us about the Blackwater Valley Conservation Trust project that is attempting to protect and create nature-friendly habitat along a 25 mile stretch of the River Blackwater between Aldershot and Swallowfield.  A group of ten trustees, along with a membership of 350 members of the public, are creating a series of areas along this route for wildlife and nature conservation and pleasure activities based on land and water.

In addition to the Moor Green Lakes reserve, the Tice’s Fields reserve also offers great bird watching opportunities in wetland and reed bed environments.

Peter Gaines reported these birds in our area:
  • Dorney Wetlands - 6 Hobbies, 2 Cetti’s Warblers
  • Little Marlow – Honey Buzzard, 10 Black Terns
  • Woolhampton – 20 Hobbies
  • Reading Gravel Pits – 15 Nightingales
  • Slough Power Station – Peregrine
  • Bracknell – Peregrine
  • Not so local: Dartmoor – Lammergeier
 
--- Original Programme Information ---

Desert at Boulmaine, MoroccoDesert at Boulmaine, Morocco by Brian Winter

The talk describes a visit to Morocco in the spring of 2013, by three birding friends, to see the wonderful varied, special birdlife there in mountain, desert, oasis and coastal habitats. It contains a little about the 'obstacles and dramas' arising during the self-organised trip.

Rock Bunting in the grassMoussiers Redstart on a branch
Rock Bunting
by Brian Winter      
Moussiers Redstart
by Brian Winter

 

After this Morocco talk, there will be a short talk about the Blackwater Valley Countryside Trust.

Biography

I am a former Chairman of Berkshire Ornithological Club, manage their annual photographic competition and was Art Editor of the recently published Birds of Berkshire avifauna.

Colin WilsonMy time is now spent largely in the Blackwater Valley where, as a Trustee of the Blackwater Valley Countryside Trust, I focus on wildlife and habitat friendly projects such as restoration of a neglected reed bed. I undertake regular surveys of part of the Thames Basin Heaths for Natural England to monitor the Woodlarks, Dartford Warblers and Nightjar populations and have two BBS survey sites for the BTO. I am a bird ringer operating in my local area at Frimley in Surrey.

 

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