Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Morocco in June Part 3 The Anti Atlas Mountains

For our second expedition in the car we decided a bit of mountain scenery was the order of the day and headed due south -east in to the Anti-Atlas mountains. It took longer to clear Agadir heading southwards, at least an hour of heavy traffic until suddenly you are in open country and there is little on the roads.
Road to the Anti-Atlas   Morocco
Once again there was no temptation to speed but I was extra careful about driving through apparently deserted villages just in case I strayed over the limit.
Gradually rising in height above sea level we arrived at a sleepy town called Ait Baha where we thought it wise to fill up with fuel and set off once again but within a few miles we were diverted off the main road and forced on to a minor road because of roadworks ahead. This diversion went on and on but the scenery was increasingly magnificent
Anti-Atlas mountains     Morocco
however we became increasingly worried we had missed a turning. With no other traffic, every hamlet deserted and no road signs whatsoever we contemplated turning back. We resolved to give it another 20 minutes...we had been on the diversion well over an hour... when suddenly the lack of avian life changed. There on the road was this little beauty.
House Bunting  Morocco
Armed with my camera I jumped out of the car to take a few shots. Certainly a "lifer" I hadn't a clue what it was... could it be a rarity even. Well, sadly no, I later discovered they, the House Bunting, are common. Ah well, I was still happy. Better still there was a Crested Lark nearby too so my best shots of the trip beckoned!
Crested Lark   Morocco

A little further on I came across a family of Black Wheatear, they moved on too far away to be photographed but they were another "lifer" for the day to add to my list.
With minutes to go before our 20 minute deadline and the decision to go back the way we came we suddenly came to a T junction and a road sign. We were back on the main road thank goodness but still not sure exactly where!We had only gone a short distance when there , around a corner, the whole valley before us opened up with this fabulous scene.
Walled village   Morocco
The walled village on top of the hill stood out magnificently and there was even a sign to tell us where we were.
We decided to abandon our original circuit plan as it was already 2.00pm and we hadn't even got half way. Instead we headed back on the main road which was open to traffic going in our direction. The roadworks were a major road widening scheme that went on for mile after mile and judging by the number of people working on it will keep them employed for many years to come. Once again I stopped when I saw a raptor being mobbed by a couple of Ravens... it was the same unidentified species from the previous day. An Eagle or Buzzard, I'm not sure which but I am pretty certain it too was a lifer for the trip. Not only that but singing in a nearby bush was my first Moussier's Redstart!
Along with sightings of a Southern Grey Shrike I had had 4 lifers in a day but frustratingly not a decent image of three of them.
Incident for the day wasn't quite over though, travelling through the roadworks I picked up a puncture but was unaware of it until we pulled back in to Ait Baha looking for a place to buy a drink. A return to the service station we had visited earlier and a slow puncture was detected. It took me half an hour to change wheels...not exactly F1 standards and they don't appear to get covered in black brake dust either !
On our return to the hotel there was a mini bus parked outside selling day tours to Marrakesh for 300 dirham per person. Thompson's trips were three times the price and to go by car would not only cost as much, it would also mean finding parking, negotiating traffic etc so we decided to sign up with this offer.
It meant in all probability I wouldn't hire a car again so I had just one day left and I asked Claire if she would mind us using it to go to Souss Massa, possibly the most well known bird watching site in Morocco and one of the few places breeding Bald Ibis can be found.
She of course agreed so full of anticipation I was off to bed that night thinking of what might be seen the following day.

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