Thursday, 2 July 2015

Morocco in June Part 1

My life seems to have been all go with not too much breathing space for several months now but I have learnt from experience not to put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
Whilst I was enjoying some sun and warmth in Bulgaria, wife Claire was feeling a bit left out back in a cold miserable U.K. month of May. I told her to book us a break somewhere warm, somewhere specifically for her and somewhere where wildlife photography would take a break.
She came up with Morocco.
My previous thoughts had been not to touch North Africa and in hindsight maybe I was right in view of what has happened in Tunisia. Our chosen hotel was the ClubHotel Riu Tikida Dunas, a sister hotel to the one attacked in Sousse. That said, the odds of being involved are very small and you are probably in just as much danger most places you visit. 
A case of the wrong place at the wrong time.
We didn't know what to expect of Morocco as we hadn't been anywhere similar previously. Our base was to be Agadir. The holiday, all inclusive, a bit of a snip at around £640 per person for two weeks. We couldn't find anything to match it even on a B&B basis elsewhere. Having recently had a £10m pound refit last winter the hotel was certainly worthy of it's 4* rating. The only problem being that on AI it's just all too tempting to overindulge. Still, worry about that later when we get home!
With only 6 days between arriving home and off on holiday again I didn't have too much time for research but I had met a trio of birdwatchers in Bulgaria that recommended a fishing trip as a friend of theirs had seen some fabulous birds on the one he took.
I packed all my camera gear as per usual, with the exception of a tripod to save weight, "just in case' a birding opportunity arose.
Two weeks lying on a sunbed would drive me a little crazy so on the first day we set off along the huge promenade and headed to the marina. Bit of sight seeing but I was interested in that pelagic trip.
Enquiries drew a blank. The only trips on offer were your typical resort fishing/swimming type cruises. That was no good, I wanted to go far out to sea on a proper fishing trip where I would be happy to sit and watch and not fish at all. I returned the next day to look again, this time a much smaller boat, maybe suitable for 6 people at most, that looked the part was docked in the harbour. I explained my position, told the man giving the information what I wanted to do.Basically find a party that were happy to let me join them for a full day out and I would contribute to the cost. A price of 450 dirham( about £30) was agreed and I was told he would ring me the next evening at 8.00pm to confirm when I could go. Disappointed at the lack of a call I went to bed the following evening only to get a call waking me up at 11.30pm to tell me I would be picked up 7.00am! No problem. I was up at 6.00am to get my gear ready and outside the hotel at 6.45am. My pickup arrived 35 minutes later. 
It turned out he was the owner of the boat that drove myself and one other person to the harbour. We were the only two people on the trip. I was asked first for my money. 1000 dirham.
There followed an embarrassing exchange as I didn't have that much and it wasn't that agreed price. It seems the other guy had negotiated with the owner and agreed 1000, I had agreed the fee with the crew member who had to confirm that was the case. The owner made me feel awful but what could I do ? Walk off the boat ? 450 was all I had plus 40 as a tip. He accepted that and said he'd make up the difference but I was after all on a VIP trip for just two people. His twin 750hp engines took a lot of fuel etc etc.
Anyway, off we went. On the way out of the marina there were lots of Swifts flying around the buildings. I'm not sure if they are Common or Pallid.
Common Swift    Morocco
Not much further out beyond the entrance to the fishing harbour I spotted a Cory's Shearwater flying past.
Cory's Shearwater   Morocco
A good start but that was as good as it got. We dropped anchor about half a mile out and guest, owner and the two crew members started to fish. They didn't catch much so they weren't attracting any birds.
We moved but not far. Still no fish. Certainly no close encounters of the avian kind.
A few distant Yellow-legged Gulls, a small flock of passing Sanderling and an immature Gannet. Nothing worth a photograph!
The next thing along came the pleasure cruise. It actually went a bit further out than we did but they didn't attract anything either.
We upped anchor and returned to the harbour at 1.00pm for a B-B-Q of the fish they had caught. I kept on being told what a bargain I was getting. Picked up, dropped off, lunch included all for the price. My only thought was the other guy must have felt totally ripped off. we were back at our hotels before 3.00pm!
So if you are in Agadir and fancy something similar.

I would avoid them for sure !

So that was it then. What else could I do ? 
Agadir has little going for it really. Nothing like I had expected it was very European, more like Southern Spain or the Canaries only the spoken language was French.
I would make the best of what the hotel grounds had to offer which wasn't a great deal but I might get some unusual shots like this Common Bulbul with a wasp.
Common Bulbul   Morocco
or a Yellow-legged Gull taking a bath in the ornamental pool.
Yellow-legged Gull   Morocco
No, it's not frozen in a block of ice!
Yellow-legged Gull   Morocco
I even found a "lifer" for me. Spotless Starling.
Spotless Starling   Morocco
and there were lots of them right in front of our room.
Spotless Starling   Morocco
There were a couple of Collared Doves
Collared Dove   Morocco
and a pair of Blackbirds and many House Sparrows but I guess my favourite birds were the very striking Magpies. A sub species Pica Mauritanica is found in North Africa and they are immediately recognisable as different to the ones in the UK.
Magpie   Morocco
If truth be known though, my favourite garden find was one of the resident Tortoise. I hadn't seen one like it for years!
Tortoise   Morocco
A lovely childhood memory of having one for a pet. Not sure the Tortoise would have agreed though, it didn't survive hibernation and their import has long been banned of course.
The truth it seemed was that I wasn't going to see much in the hotel. My only chance was to go further afield.

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