Looking for larks in Morocco, PART II

…. A pre-adult Thick-billed Lark (Ramphocoris clotbey) was the next mornings highlight. After spending the night not too far away from the town of Boumalne, I started the day already at dawn. Behind the village, the road winds back to a plateau. Because I missed the turnoff, I drove on and finally stopped in an area that looked very promising due to its rocky, stony surface. First I saw the otherwise ubiquitous Thekla Lark (Galerida theklae). When I was taking photos, I realized a movement underneath my car. This discovery came out as a real winner: a juvenile Thick-billed Lark (Ramphocoris clotbey), which I had never seen photographed so far. Great! Some shots, then the bird disappeared.

Despite this success soon I had to realize that this was not the described direction to move further south to the sandy desert to see more larks and other desert specialists.

So I had to go back and focus myself strictly to the mileage-data in the reports and the road signs – or what I regarded as road signs. Than I started to ask the people on the road for a place called Ikniouin, a destination said to be in the wider environment. But the Bedouin, I ask, were not very helpful. They merely wanted to smoke something. Finally I decided to simply take the next driveway and follow the direction of my GPS. Driving in this stony flat desert interspersed with sandy areas I expected to find always a diversion from one to the other runway.

 To track birds like larks in the endless deserts of Morocco is looking like the proverbial needle in a haystack. I had heard it before I left my hometown, and the initial experience confirmed this statement just too much. But the results so far of a photo-safari through Spain and Morocco with my SUV in 2002 were very rewarding. With the help of fellow ornithologists, good maps and trip reports from the Internet, I had been in the High Atlas and photographed mega birds as Bonelli’s eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus), Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris atlas, the southern form of a species also found in Scandinavian), Tristram’s Warbler (Sylvia deserticola) , Levaillant’s Woodpecker (Picus vaillantii), African Crimson-winged Finch (Rhodopechys sanguineas) and the North African subspecies – or perhaps even species – of the Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe seebohmi) and Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus deichleri). In various reports, the region around the town Boumalne du Dades and the southeast area of desert called Tagdilt had been called famous for the observation of larks. Boumalne lies in the rain shadow of the High Atlas and it is a distance of aprox. 250 km as the crow flies from Marrakech – or about half a day’s journey away. Here below the Ibel Sarhro Mountains, a desert mountain chain with summits up to 2400 m asl with plateaus and steep gorges you are in larks (or lark-photographer) haven.

 A longer version of this blog has been published in german in the journal of the “Brehm-fonds” with the name “Zum Fliegen geboren” resp. “Flying free”, Vol. 21, New Series, No. 1 2003

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