Small Buttonquail and Atlas Flycatcher
2–6 June 2017
Although the tour starts and finishes in Marrakech, the birding will begin in earnest in the Middle Atlas as we look for Atlas Flycatcher in the forests and Northern (Seebohm’s) Wheatear on the stony plateaux. Our search for the elusive Small Buttonquail will take place on the Atlantic coast. Further North African species we should see include Little Swift, African Blue Tit, Common Bulbul and House Bunting, while Moussier's Redstart is possible.
Day 1 An early-morning flight from London to Marrakech will enable us to undertake the long drive north-east to Ifrane, where we will spend two nights. En route we will check some riverine habitat for reed-warblers and keep a lookout for White Stork, Cattle Egret, Long-legged Buzzard, Alpine and Pallid Swifts, European Roller, Crested Lark, Common Bulbul and Spotless Starling.
Day 2 Atlas Flycatcher will be our objective in the local mature cedar, pine and oak forests, which also hold African Blue Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper and Western Bonelli’s Warbler, while the likely soon-to-be split black-throated seebohmi race of Northern Wheatear will be our target on the nearby stony plateau, which is additionally home to Thekla Lark and Rock Petronia. Hopefully, we will have time to visit one or two of the dayets (lakes) to look for reed-warblers and where we may also encounter Ruddy Shelduck, Cattle Egret, Black-crowned Night-heron, Red-knobbed Coot and Black-winged Stilt. Extra species we could see during the day include Levaillant’s Woodpecker, Lesser Kestrel, Red-rumped Swallow, Moussier’s Redstart and Blue Rock-thrush.
Day 3 We will begin early on the long journey to Essouira, via Rabat and Casablanca. En route, in addition to some of those species already mentioned, we will keep an eye open for Little Swift, European Bee-eater, Southern Grey and Woodchat Shrikes and Calandra Lark. There should be time for a visit to a site for Small Buttonquail. We will stay for two nights in Essouira.
Day 4 Following a very early start, the whole day will be devoted to our search for the elusive Small Buttonquail along the Atlantic coast. There is, of course, no guarantee of this bird but we will be visiting sites where the species has recently been reported and at the best time of year. Further new species for the tour should include Zitting Cisticola and Sardinian Warbler.
Day 5 Although we will need to return to Marrakech to catch our flight back to London, depending on flight times and our fortunes the previous day we may be able to either revisit a Small Buttonquail site or look for Eleonora’s Falcon and/or House Bunting.
General Information Although bad weather is unlikely, it can be quite cool in the early mornings both in the Middle Atlas and on the Atlantic coast. The pace of the tour is moderate with a basic degree of fitness required for walking, though there will be long distances to travel in the minibus. There are no special medical requirements and insects are only a minor problem. Visas are not required. Moroccan currency cannot be taken in or out of the country. The standard of accommodation will be good with private facilities.
Group Size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 6; maximum group size: 11 with one leader.