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ALGERIA

27–30 March extension to 2 April 2020
30 March–5 April 2020 (second tour with extension first)
2–5 April 2020 basic tour only with no extension

This exciting new tour will focus on the endangered and highly-localised Algerian Nuthatch in the beautiful remnant cedar forests of the northeast of the country. Other possible North African species include Barbary Partridge, Levaillant’s Woodpecker, African Blue Tit and Tristram’s Warbler. We are also offering an extension to southern Algeria where both Red-billed Firefinch and African Silverbill occur in their only Western Palearctic outpost.

Day 1 Early morning flight from London Gatwick to Algiers where we will transfer to a flight to Constantine, arriving late in the afternoon. On arrival we will meet our local guide and transfer to our hotel in Constantine for dinner and a three-night stay.

Day 2 After an early breakfast we will make a two-hour drive to spend our first day in the BouAfroun Forest, taking picnic lunches with us. Our main target bird is, of course, the highly-localised and endangered endemic Algerian Nuthatch and we will have all day to explore the forest to ensure that we get good views. We will have a good variety of other species to enjoy during our walk, many of them local subspecies or North African specialities and these could include Levaillant’s Woodpecker, the local race numidus of Great Spotted Woodpecker with its very distinctive red breast band, Eurasian Wryneck, Wood Lark, African Blue Tit, Great Tit, ledouci Coal Tit, mauritanica Short-toed Treecreeper, Eurasian Jay of the distinctive cervivalis race, Mistle Thrush, Eurasian Wren and africana Chaffinch. Raptors around the forest edges may include Common Kestrel, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Western Marsh-harrier, Black and Red Kites and Booted Eagle together with Common Raven. After a full day we will return to Constantine for dinner and the bird log.

Day 3 Although Algerian Nuthatch is more vocal at this time of year and therefore easier to locate, the spring weather can be highly variable with fog, rain or even snow possible, so we have allowed two days to ensure we have the best chance of getting good views of the species. We will also have the opportunity to visit other nearby sites to add the likes of Barbary Partridge, Long-legged Buzzard (now considered a race of Common Buzzard), Eurasian Hoopoe, Song Thrush, European Robin, Great Grey Shrike of the algeriensis sub-species, Sardinian and Tristram’s Warblers, European Serin, Spanish Sparrow and Cirl and Corn Buntings.

Day 4 After an early breakfast we will head back to Constantine airport for the return flight to Algiers to connect with our onward flight to London Gatwick, arriving mid-afternoon. Those continuing on the extension to the south for Red-billed Firefinch and African Silverbill will have much of the day at leisure around Algiers before catching a late evening flight to Tamanrasset in the far south of the country.

Extension

Day 5 We will arrive in Tamanrasset in the early hours of this morning and transfer to our hotel for a few hours’ sleep. After a late breakfast we will first explore the hotel grounds where both Red-billed Firefinch and African Silverbill have been found in the past. Red-billed Firefinch is by far the commonest of the two, however, and we will probably have to explore elsewhere for African Silverbill. Other birds regularly found in the garden include Laughing Dove, Rock Martin, White-tailed Wheatear, (Saharan) Eastern Olivaceous Warbler and House Bunting. We will then head to Oued Tamanrasset where African Silverbill is far commoner together with other species including Desert Lark and Brown-necked Raven whilst we should also keep our eyes open for Black Kite and Egyptian Vulture soaring overhead. The oued can be alive with both resident and migrant birds as it usually contains water, albeit not just fresh water but also waste water from the town! Other resident species we may encounter include Fulvous Babbler whilst virtually any migrant is possible including Bluethroat, Common Redstart, Yellow Wagtail, Woodchat Shrike and Western Orphean Warbler. There is also a small reed bed where Reed Warbler can be found, although whether these birds are Eurasian Reed Warblers or African Reed Warblers is speculative. HBW shows neither breeding in southern Algeria but there is a population of African Reed Warblers in Niger, closer to the Tamanrasset birds than Eurasian Reed Warblers breeding on the Algerian Mediterranean coast!

Day 6 Today will give us another opportunity to look for both Red-billed Firefinch and African Silverbill if we still need them. Otherwise, we will take a police escort to explore other sites further from the town. At Oued Tit, similar species to yesterday can be found but additionally both Crowned and Spotted Sandgrouse occur and, of course, migrant birds. After lunch we may visit various cultivated areas around the town where there will be further opportunities to find migrants before we return for an early dinner, the bird log and a good night’s sleep in preparation for our journey home, which begins with a drive to the airport in the early hours of the morning.

Day 7 We will transfer to the airport in time to catch a very early flight to Algiers. The flight back to London Gatwick is at lunchtime, so we will have plenty of time to make our connection. We will arrive back in London at the end of the tour mid-afternoon.

General Information Algeria can be cold at this time of the year, with both rain and snow possible at any time in the mountains. The tour pace is moderate, with generally easy to moderate walking, although at altitude some extra effort is needed. There are some health requirements which should be referred to your GP. Visas are required at a cost of around £85 and require a letter of invitation which will be provided by our ground agent. If you have an Israeli stamp in your passport you will need to get a new passport. Binoculars and telescopes are not permitted to be brought into the country but cameras and large lenses are!

Group Size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 6; maximum group size: 9.

Algerian Nuthatch

Algerian Nuthatch

Recommended books available from NHBS