Cape Rhir, just south of Tamri on the N1 coast road, is described as the best sea watching site in Atlantic Morocco. Cory’s Shearwater is said to be abundant past there on good days in November, so never having seen one I added the species to my trip wish list. But I have not sea watched previously at all so this was a kind of bonus bird if time allowed.
With only three raptors and Cory’s still to see I decided to give the last named a go today. The coast north of Agadir is characterised by small towns and unspoilt beaches and so is a popular day out from the city. It was only on the way back that I noticed all the hoardings announcing land earmarked for hotel and golf course development. Temperatures today reached 33 deg C and so the birdier places that I had noted last Monday had filled up with people instead.
I couldn’t be sure whether I picked out Cory’s or not, having no experience of Shearwaters to refer back to, but there were a lot of Northern Gannet out to sea and a flock of Common Scoter. I moved on to a lay by overlooking the Oued Tinkert estuary at Tamri and was immediately accosted by hustlers offering to locate Bald Ibis for money. One who was too pushy for my liking insisted on pointing out an Ibis perched on a roof on the far side of the estuary. I thanked him and said I had not asked him to do so, adding that I had already seen Ibis at 50 metres. No was taken for an answer.
I was actually more interested in trying to locate Slender-billed amongst the Gulls, without success though there were a lot of Audouin’s my favourite gull. It looked as if the playing public had seen off everything else and so I returned to the spot where I had been sea watching. It was now approaching 3pm and there seemed to be much less going on out at sea. Then in flew a flock of large black birds, landing just behind the beach where local fishermen were working. “Surely not,” I thought but a look through my scope confirmed that Tamri’s famous Bald Ibis colony had just found me.
Well what does one do if 36 or so of Morocco’s most sought bird drop in unexpectedly like that? It would be rude not to say hello. A rough track ran down from where I was parked to the area the Ibis were grazing. “Well why not?” I thought, “There’s no-one to tell me off here.” I drove slowly towards the birds and stopped a safe distance short of them, hoping they would walk towards me as at the Souss-Massa park.
And did they? Oh boy they did! Before too long I was sitting in my mobile hide surrounded on three sides by iridescent, pink-faced and primitive looking Bald Ibis. These birds really are like grazing animals, moving around quite quickly while probing the whole time for whatever they eat. If it had been highly satisfying to observe them so closely at Souss-Massa, this was off the top of the scale and the self-found sightings are always the best. I couldn’t resist a text to both Ewan and Andy, and old ear basher replied that now I can call myself a birder.
The following are amongst my better photographs
Or whatever it is that Bald Ibis talk about
Though they seemed unconcerned by my vehicle for some time, eventually the Ibis began to become more skittish so I decided to leave them in peace. As I departed the site they were grazing close by the opposite side of the N1 where they had relocated. Here was one of the world’s rarest birds on public view, a bird tour leader’s dream scenario, but how many people in the cars speeding by even noticed the Ibis were there I wouldn’t like to say.