Royal and Lesser Crested Terns and more at Souss estuary, Agadir – 3rd Nov

This has been another successful day with four more lifers gained, taking the trip total to nine out of a potential 18 or so in the Atlantic coast region. I was a little concerned for my state of health yesterday evening but a huge night’s sleep has seen off my sense of exhaustion, and anti-inflammatory cream bought from a local pharmacy has kept my jarred shoulder in order.

The mouth of the Oued Souss lies just to the south of Agadir and my dated trip reference suggested it is hard by the royal summer palace here. So I took the first right turn past the palace that led to what looked like the king’s tradesman’s entrance. Thinking better of parking there I took another option and ended up in a run down housing district. Quite a juxtaposition that! There was no sign of an access track to the estuary so I went back to the palace car park where something serious was clearly going on .

Despite a significant security presence nobody challenged me when I parked, so conscious of carrying a lot of optics close to a heavily guarded secure compound I walked off into a dune area between there and a golf course. While searching for a way down to the estuary a first Moussier’s Redstart for the trip popped out of a hedge in front of me. This iconic Moroccan passerine was encountered in several more locations over the ensuing days.

Moussier's Redstart

Moussier’s Redstart

Eventually I reached the estuary and an empty parking area at the end of what was clearly the access road I should have come in by. Scanning around there were numbers of large water birds – Greater Flamingo, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Cormorant and Spoonbill – and an array of common waders that I didn’t study too closely. Then an English speaking camel walker appeared. On discovering I was English he said “lovely jubbly” as other Moroccans have this week, then he asked me to show his customers the birds. I pointed out the Flamingos assuming they would be a popular choice, then wandered off along a way marked trail.

The trouble was all the bird life was into the sun, but the highlight came with a fly past by a Royal Tern, first one way then the other. This large, orange-billed Tern is primarily a north American species but also breeds in Africa from Mauritania down to Guinea (per Collins). Wanderers further north are said to be a scarcity in Morocco so this felt like a good sighting.

Laughing Dove

Laughing Dove

On the return walk through the dunes I disturbed both Barbary Patridge and Laughing Dove, the latter being a lifer missed in Fuerteventura and the former one from that trip about which all doubt needed to be removed. This is the only Partridge in Morocco so I ticked it on that basis. I also PI’d some highly attractive African Blue Tit here, a species experienced only as a fly past in Fuerteventura. So that was a few loose ends tied up from this year’s other trip.

Back at the car park security finally caught up with me. The police inspected every image on my camera that fortunately they didn’t confiscate. Shouldn’t happen to a birder after all, and I have to say they were very decent about things. I left with a warning and went to find the right access road further south along the N1 that was signposted Embouchure du Souss. Then I returned to my hotel for lunch.

Blue-cheeked Moroccan Magpie

Blue-cheeked Moroccan Magpie

Driving the main N1 thoroughfare in Agadir is a fun experience in a dodgem circuit sort of way. Cars all jostle for position with each other and every kind of dated motor bike imaginable. Hesitation merely creates space for others to zip through on either side but no-one seems to hit one another. And as soon as traffic lights change, that can be difficult to spot if other vehicles haven’t stopped already, those a few cars back all start hooting. I was a little disappointed that donkey carts and camels weren’t also in the mix.

I returned to the Souss estuary just before dusk hoping to scope the far shore in a better light. But the sun was now very low in the sky making scanning quite difficult. The parking area had also filled up with Moroccan general public doing all sorts of unbirdy things. But I walked a short distance and sifted through what gulls and other birds I could. And there amongst the loafing Sandwich Terns was a similar sized and orange-billed Lesser Crested Tern. This is a Libyan breeder that winters on the north-west African coast (also per Collins). I suddenly felt an immense sense of satisfaction at having gained both the Tern trip targets at this location today. I was also relieved as it didn’t strike me as an especially good site to revisit.

Distant Lesser Crested Tern

Distant Lesser Crested Tern

While de-tooling back at my car a greeting rang out: “Hey England, how are you?” The camel train was returning as flocks of Cattle Egret flew in to roost overhead. “Lovely jubbly!” I replied.

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