Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Morroco in June Part 3 Souss Massa N.P.

Our car hire period couldn't have been more timely. The first two days had been poor weather in Agadir, there was even some rain along with the sea mist that hung over the hotel all day and yet a  mile or so from the sea and it was brilliant sunshine.
The third day was no exception with sea mist once again in evidence. Finding our way out of Agadir was easy as it was basically the same as the previous day for the first hour, you then follow the excellent road south which eventually finds it's way past Tiznit and the country border with Western Sahara. Souss Massa is not signed off the main road but having picked up details from Trip Advisor we successfully chose the right turn off, a minor road just before a roundabout.
We were greeted at the park entrance by someone offering their guiding services which we had decided not to take as apparently they are often not the registered guides. Whilst he was talking to me a stunning male  Moussier's Redstart offered fabulous close up views in a nearby bush but by the time I had the opportunity to grab my camera it was gone.
We drove on down a rough track until eventually meeting a car park from where you have to walk. Again, guides offered their services and one was particularly helpful in telling me there was little about ! I chose to wander the footpath overlooking the river estuary below.

Souss Massa nature reserve   Morocco
We weren't sure if you had to stick rigidly to the path but we did so.
Souss Massa nature reserve   Morocco
On the water were a small group of Spoonbill and a couple of Grey Heron, exactly as described by the guide.
A few small birds were in the bushes adjoining the track.
Linnet   Morocco
Linnet and Greenfinch were not exactly what I had hoped for!
Greenfinch   Morocco
Neither was a Stonechat.
Stonechat   Morocco
even if it offered by far the best views of anything I'd seen out and about on our travels.
Stonechat   Morocco
Not used to seeing one looking quite like this I even considered it as Whinchat... the spotted breast making me have doubts.
Then I struck lucky. A singing bird on a dead branch was instantly recognisable as a Black-crowned Tchagra
Black-crowned Tchagra   Morocco
Sadly with the bright light behind it !
We walked on to the end of the path, possibly 30 minutes at a very slow pace from the car park before turning back.
The park has a few viewing stations and information boards and I'm sure that in migration periods it must be an avian hot spot.
Souss Massa nature reserve   Morocco
Today it was deserted and a bit disappointing.
On the way back I couldn't believe my bad luck at flushing three Tchagras that had been feeding in the grass to the side of the path. Worse still I missed the fourth that remained behind for quite some time after the others had departed. Still, the same spot offered shots of a female Moussier's Redstart. Close encounter at last.
Moussier's Redstart   Morocco
A tatty specimen but beggars can't be.....
A bit further on, again in poor light a Sardinian Warbler and Black-eared Wheatear and not a photo worth sharing. All in, an anti climax.
When we got to the car park the guide who barely spoke English offered to show me the place where Bald Ibis could be found as well as Marbled Duck and Cream Coloured Courser. I asked how far and he said about 8 km's away. 2 on rough track the rest on good roads.
I had two problems. One was that I knew Claire wasn't that keen on sharing time with a barely presentable bloke with bad teeth, the other that if he went with us, I'd have to bring him back and I knew that my fuel tank was near empty. We declined the offer and instead went off alone taking the first rough track we saw which then became a tarmac one. Could this be the right way anyway?
In a word no. We ended up having travelled down to a village near the mouth of the estuary but the whole area was covered in a cold miserable sea mist. We returned the way we came passing numerous Crested Larks and Woodchat Shrikes on fence posts in what I imagined was perfect Courser country. We didn't spot any but we did come across another Black-eared Wheatear opportunity, this time with a juvenile and back in the sun too.
Black-eared Wheatear    Morocco
Not the best of shots but i wasn't too bothered as I had managed to capture some decent images in Lesvos last year.
What was more exciting  was a Rufus Bush Robin, and this was a first.
Rufus Bush Robin   Morocco
Back tracking towards the main highway again I discovered another tarmac'd road and seeing the fuel gauge still hadn't warned empty I decided to explore further.
Driving slowly at first I stupidly increased speed after a mile or so to about 20mph. Too fast to spot the Cream Coloured Coursers I had flushed from the road side ditch. Stupid of me.
Even more stupid I got out of the car to attempt a photo and that had them running deeper in to cover.
A record shot is all I have to remember this superb encounter with these elegant birds.
Cream Coloured Courser   Morocco
We continued along this road for a while but once again , as we dropped down towards what was the opposite side of the estuary to where we had previously found ourselves, the mist engulfed us. I decided it was pointless going on.
Bald Ibis ? Might be a rarity but not photogenic! Reluctantly I accepted that they were not to be.
Well, you have to have reason to return don't you.
Once again, the day had not lived up to expectations but had been interesting none the less. It's always good to see a bit of the country you are visiting and we had certainly managed that in the three days we had had a car.
Right now though it was time to take it back before I got another speeding ticket, puncture, or worse still a bump ! It's always a relief to hand back a hire car in the same state as you receive it and once more I had achieved this. 
Tomorrow we were off to Marrakesh at the crack of dawn and I didn't have to worry about what I drank the night before as I wasn't driving.

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