The South Coast
This section covers sites from Oued Massa (south of Agadir) in the south to Loualidia (north of Safi) in the north and the descriptions of the sites are this time from south to north (the most important sites are near Agadir, where many birders start their Morocco trip).
The sites around Guelmim, Tan Tan and Khenifiss lagoon are mostly visited by birders going down to Western Sahara, and these sites are therefore covered in that section. It should be noted, however, that these sites can easily be reached from Agadir and at least a trip to Guelmim should be considered (Guelmim should not be confused with Goulmima described in 'Morocco SouthEast'.
We begin with the national park of Souss-Massa which is described in detail; first the mouth of the Oued Souss is detailed and then the Oued Massa. Both these sites are famous for birders, and for good reason; both are excellent sites, both for migrant birds as well as interesting breeders, and they should definitely not be missed. The Oued Souss is best for shorebirds and, above all, gulls and terns. This is also a very reliable site for Red-necked Nightjar, which is often heard and seen here at dusk. The Oued Massa has more variation to its avifauna and many good breeding birds can be found relatively easy here, including Marbled Duck, Barbary Partridge, Brown-throated Martin, Moussier's Redstart and Black-crowned Tchagra. The mouth of the river is also a reliable place to find Northern Bald Ibis and the place to search for it if you can't get to Tamri.
Tamri, some 50 kms north of Agadir, holds about half the Moroccan breeding population of Northern Bald Ibis and probably the best place to find this globally threatened species is the mouth of the Oued Tamri (also known as Oued Tinkert). Details of the river mouth are given here, as well as your options if the Oued Tamri fails to produce any ibises and also notes about Cape Rhir, which can be good for seabirds.
Furthern north there is the town of Essaouira, and the main reason for the ornithologist to visit this town is a large colony of Eleonora's Falcon breeding on an offshore island here (with >650 breeding pairs one of the largest colonies in the world, about 10% of the global population!). A visit to the mouth of the Oued Ksob river can also be quite rewarding.
Finally birding around Loualidia is detailed and this section actually covers several sites in this region, namely a number of lagoons between the towns of Loualidia and Sidi Moussa and the Khémis des Zémamra lagoon some 40 km inland from Loualidia. Some notes are also given for finding the Common Buttonquail, which just recently has been rediscovered in this area!
The Oued Souss estuary just to the south of Agadir is a very popular birdwatching site. The river is easy to access from Agadir and you can easily spend a few hours with wonderful birding here. The mudflats and marshes are good for waders and the river mouth can be excellent for gulls and terns. The area between the river and the royal palace is probably also one of the best places in Morocco to see Red-necked Nightjar.
From the main carpark you can follow a trail to the north of the river leading all the way down to the beach and the river mouth. From this trail you can check a salty marsh to the left, this is the best place for waders. The marsh normally holds a great variety of waders and the most common are Black-winged Stilt, Common Ringed Plover, Common Greenshank, Common Redshank, Bar-tailed Godwit and Dunlin. This estuary is also one of the best places in Morocco for rare waders, and the impressive list of rarities found here include several nearctic species. Other common birds here include Greater Flamingo, White Stork, Great Cormorant (ssp. maroccanus), Grey Heron, Little Egret and Eurasian Spoonbill. The Oued Souss is not very good for ducks, but there are regular sitings of both Ruddy Shelduck and Marbled Duck and this marsh seems to be the best place for ducks at Oued Souss. The birds of the marsh should be checked with a telescope from the trail (you are kindly adviced to not walk into the marsh disturbing the birds).
Down at the beach you can walk to the river mouth which can be terrific for gulls and terns. Black-headed Gull, Audouin's Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Sandwich Tern are all common, and this is also a reliable site for Slender-billed Gull and Mediterranean Gull. The Sandwich Terns should be carefully checked as Lesser Crested Terns are frequently seen here, as are Caspian and Royal Terns. Little Tern, Gull-billed Tern and Black Tern can also be numerous, particularily during the migration seasons.
The track leading down to the beach can be productive in its own right and in spring and fall numerous migrants can be seen here including European Turtle Dove, European Bee-eater, Eurasian Hoopoe, Woodchat Shrike, Subalpine Warbler and Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin. Water Pipit is frequently seen here in winter. Breeding species here are White Wagtail (ssp. subpersonata), Common Bulbul, Zitting Cisticola, Western Olivaceous Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Southern Grey Shrike, Eurasian Magpie (ssp. mauretanica), Spotless Starling and House Bunting. A very conspicious breeder here is the Eurasian Stone-curlew which is very common and can be quite vocal here (i.e. noisy!) at dusk. Another notable breeder here is the Barbary Partridge, which is quite common.
One of the star attractions at Oued Souss is the Red-necked Nightjar which is often seen in the area immediately to the south of the royal palace. One of the best places is near a guard post where they can often be seen hunting in the floodlights of the palace. Sometimes they are even seen perched on the dirt road. The road behind the guard post might be even better, but you are often not allowed there after dark. At least from end February the birds are vocal and can easily be heard in this general area. Long-eared Owls also breed here and can be heard in spring.
From the main car park you can follow the main road straight east (parallell to river) for about 1000 m. Here is an observation platform overlooking a marshy area which can be great for waders and Black Terns. Brown-throated Martins have also been reported from here (they are supposed to breed in this area).
Birds at Oued Souss
Marsh and River:
Little Grebe, Common Shelduck, Ruddy Shelduck, Eurasian Teal, Marbled Duck, Greater Flamingo, White Stork, Great Cormorant (ssp. maroccanus), Grey Heron, Purple Heron (uncommon), Little Egret, Eurasian Spoonbill, Western Osprey, Black Kite, Eurasian Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Pied Avocet, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Kentish Plover, Common Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Common Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper, Common Redshank, Eurasian Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Red Knot, Little Stint, Ruff, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Black-headed Gull, Gull-billed Tern and Black Tern.
Great Cormorant (ssp. maroccanus), Eurasian Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone, Slender-billed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Audouin's Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Black Tern, Common Tern, Arctic Tern, Sandwich Tern and Lesser Crested Tern.
Barbary Partridge, Eurasian Stone-curlew, Long-eared Owl, Red-necked Nightjar, Eurasian Magpie (ssp. mauretanica), African Blue Tit, Common Bulbul, Western Olivaceous Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Subalpine Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin, Spotless Starling, White Wagtail (ssp. subpersonata) and Water Pipit.
No permits are needed for Oued Souss, but keep in mind that the royal palace is rather sensitive; it has occured in the past that you are not allowed to walk in this area if the king is present! The area behind the guard post is frequently also off-limits after dark.
Food and accommodation:
Both abundant as Agadir is a major tourist destination.
Follow the main N10 road southeast out of Agadir and turn right where signposted to 'Golf du Soleil' and 'Golf de l'Ocean'. Follow this road for 4,5 kms where you see a dirt road to the left. You can park here.
About 1 km before the carpark (where you first get close to the river) is where you find the observation platform.
The Souss-Massa National Park covers almost 34,000 hectare and is bordered by the Oued Souss estuary to the north and by the Oued Massa estuary to the south. The habitat is grazed steppe with dunes, beaches and wetlands and the variety of birds here, particularily in winter, can be impressive; the Oued Massa is then also one of the most popular and famous birdwatching sites in Morocco.
One species to look for here is the Northern Bald Ibis. In Morocco there are four remaining breeding colonies of this globally threatened species; three in Souss-Massa NP and one near (Tamri). The species is more difficult to find here than at Tamri, but if you don't have time to visit Tamri the Oued Massa is the best place for this exceedingly rare species. The ibises can often be seen feeding near the villages of Sidi Rabat and Sidi Ouassay to the north and south of the river mouth respectively, early in the morning is the best time.
From the village of Massa (sometimes called Zaouit Massa or Agbalou) you can follow a road east of the river to the entrance of the national park, where the road ends. You can park here and follow a track all the way to the river mouth. From this road you have good views over the river and you can check the open waters, mudflats and reedbeds for birds as Ruddy Shelduck, Marbled Duck (a few breeding pairs), Glossy Ibis (only breeding population in Morocco), Great Cormorant (ssp. maroccanus), Black-crowned Night Heron and Eurasian Spoonbill. Most common European species of duck are normally present in good numbers in winter and also in winter hundreds of Common Cranes can be seen here. If you follow the track all the way to the mouth of the river you can see gulls and terns here, sometimes in good numbers. Audouin's Gull is regular here in winter. If you want to see Black-bellied Sandgrouse the area around the river mouth is a pretty safe place; they turn up here a few hours after sunrise to drink.
Common breeders around the villages and fields near the entrance of the National Park are Barbary Partridge, Black-crowned Tchagra, Laughing Dove, Moussier's Redstart, Cetti's Warbler and Cirl and House Buntings. Little Owls are frequently seen near the carpark.
In the southern part of the river, immediately to the west of Massa village, there are some minor sites that should not be missed. The best known of these is probably the Agbalou bridge (of several bridges crossing the river this bridge is the furthest downstream, a few kms before the mouth of the river); Brown-throated Martins breed around the bridge and can easily be found here. Another very interesting bird that you can find near this bridge is the local Reed Warbler; the taxonomic status of the Reed Warblers of NW Africa and the Iberian peninsula are poorly understood. They are thought to be either an as yet undescribed form of the Eurasian Reed Warbler or the sole Western Palaearctic population of African Reed Warbler! This last view has tentatively been adopted by the IOC (they are thus considered to be African Reed Warblers), but this might change again after further investigations. These reed warblers are quite common in Morocco, but at least the Agbalou bridge is a site where I know they breed. Some tall reeds about 200 m north of the bridge is a place where they can be seen.
Another good acrocephalus you might see near this bridge is the Moustached Warbler as there have been a few reports in the past. Black-crowned Tchagra's are also quite common here.
During migration periods the vegetation near the river can be very good for migrant birds as Spotted and Baillon's Crakes, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Eurasian Hoopoe, European Bee-eater, Pallid Swift, Woodchat Shrike, Western Yellow Wagtail, Bluethroat, Black-eared Wheatear, Western Olivaceous Warbler, Sardinian Warbler and Subalpine Warbler.
The dirt track leading up to the village of Sidi Rabat can be good for desert species and birds recorded here include Eurasian Stone-curlew, Cream-colored Courser, Black-bellied Sandgrouse and Desert Wheatear.
Birds at Oued Massa
Great Cormorant (ssp. maroccanus), Little Bittern, Black-crowned Night Heron, Squacco Heron, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Greater Flamingo, Glossy Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill, Ruddy Shelduck, Marbled Duck, Red-crested Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, Black Kite, Western Marsh Harrier, Western Osprey, Spotted and Baillon's Crakes, Kentish Plover, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Common Snipe, Common Kestrel and Peregrine Falcon.
Carpark to River Mouth:
Barbary Partridge, Eurasian Stone-curlew, Little Owl, Southern Grey Shrike, Common Bulbul, Moussier's Redstart, Zitting Cisticola, Black-crowned Tchagra, Spotless Starling, House Bunting, Cirl Bunting and Corn Bunting
Little Bittern (Mar-May), Brown-throated Martin, African Reed Warbler (?), Moustached Warbler, Western Olivaceous Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Black-crowned Tchagra
Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Audouin's Gull, Little Gull, Caspian Tern, Sandwich Tern and Black-bellied Sandgrouse.
Northern Bald Ibis, Eurasian Stone-curlew, Cream-colored Courser, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Thekla Lark, Desert Wheatear and Spectacled Warbler.
Bergier & Bergier lists a number of mammals that can be seen at Oued Massa. The following are said to be common: Algerian Hedgehog (Atelerix algirus), Cape Hare (Lepus capensis), Barbary Ground Squirrel (Atlantoxerus getulus, سنجاب بربري), Golden Jackal (Canis aureus, شغال زرد), Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes, ثعلب أحمر), Least Weasel (Mustela nivalis), Egyptian Mongoose (Herpestes ichneumon, نمس مصري) and African Wild Cat (Felis silvestris, قط ليبي). Killer Whale (Orcinus orca, حوت قاتل) has been seen offshore.
Appart from the Ground Squirrel and Mongoose I have, however, not seen any reports of recent sightings of any of these. It is thus somewhat hard to judge how 'common' these are.
In addition to the mammals listed above there are currently also reintroduction schemes for four threatened North African ungulates: scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah, مها أبو حراب), addax (Addax nasomaculatus, مها أبو عدس), dama gazelle (Gazella dama, غزال المهر) and dorcas gazelle (Gazella dorcas, غزال دوركاس). These are kept in separate enclosures within the park.
No permits are needed for Souss-Massa National Park. At the entrance to the park there will be a number of birdwatching/nature guides offering their services.
Food and accommodation:
There is accommodation in the village of Sidi Rabat (Sidi R'bat); the reasonable La Dune's Guesthouse and the up-market Hotel Ksar Massa.
Oued Massa can be reached on the main N1: head south out of Agadir on the N1 and turn right onto minor road after 40 kms (signposted MASSA - SIDI RBAT). From the main N1 it is about 5 kms to the village/town of Massa (sometimes called Agbalou). In Massa, turn right onto the main street and follow this north out of the village for about 1 km and turn left where the road branches and follow this to the end of the road, about 2,5 kms (road continuing to the north leads to the village of Sidi Rabat, another 7 kms).
Agbalou bridge: From where the road branches, follow the left road for 800 m and turn left again. Turn right after another 900 m and you should see the bridge.
Tamri & Cape Rhir
The areas around the village of Tamri is the best place anywhere for the Northern Bald Ibis. There is a small colony in this area (with up to 60 pairs in recent years) and the birds are often seen feeding in the vicinity of Tamri. It is possible to visit the breeding colony and see the birds nesting; at the entry point near the N1 there are at every time some park rangers that will take you there. If you want to walk into this area you will have to be accompanied by one of the park rangers and there is a standard (hefty!) fee for this. This guided tour can be combined with a visit to a small breeding colony of 'Moroccan Shag' (see below). If you don't wish to pay and see them here the best area is possibly the mouth of the Oued Tamri (Oued Tinkert) where large flocks can be seen (up to 130 birds seen here in recent years). If the mouth of the Tamri river fails you should check out the steppes to the north and to the south of the village as they are also often seen here. A last option for the ibis is some fields to the north of Cape Rhir.
As mentioned there is another very interesting bird you can see in this area, namely the Moroccan form of the European Shag (ssp. riggenbachi). This crestless shag is endemic to Morocco and has been suggested as a distinctive species ('Moroccan Shag'). The Shag has become extremely rare anywhere and outside of Tamri it is very difficult to find anywhere. The only reliable way of seeing them is by a visit to a small breeding colony (in 2016 3 breeding pairs) close to the colony of the ibises. The park rangers will take you to the seacliffs where they breed and show you the birds. If you want to opt out of these guided tours there are some sightings of the Shag from the seacliffs between Taghazoute and Cape Rhir (Gosney).
As said the mouth of the Tamri river is one of the best places to see the ibis outside of the colony (almost guaranteed!), but the river mouth can also be excellent for gulls and terns and many rare birds have been found here in the past. If you want to bird this area you can park to the south of the river, near the river mouth; look for a dirt track leading down to the river from the main road. Alternatively you can take some rough tracks to the north of the river. The river mouth is then at a distance, but this is a higher vantage point and you should be able to check the birds roosting near the river. I have had White Wagtail here (ssp. subpersonata), but it might be rare. Barbary Falcon is said to breed near the ibis colony and is frequently seen hunting in this area.
Vegetated areas near Tamri should be checked for some interesting landbirds, including Barbary Partridge, Little Owl, Thekla Lark, Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin, Moussier's Redstart, Black-eared Wheatear, Black-crowned Tchagra and Southern Grey Shrike.
For the seabird fanatic Cape Rhir, just to the south of Tamri, should not be missed as this is one of the best-known sites in Morocco for watching pelagic birds. Late summer/early fall might be the best time for pelagic birds. At this time, on the best days, tens of thousands of Cory's Shearwaters (ssp. borealis) can be seen migrating past Cape Rhir. Late summer is also the time of year when interesting or rare tubenoses have been seen from the cape; including White-faced Storm Petrel, Band-rumped Storm Petrel and Great, Sooty, Manx and Little Shearwaters. The Balearic Shearwater is fairly common here later in the autumn and there are regular sightings of European Storm Petrel (Leach's Storm Petrel less so). Of the jaegers the Pomarine Jaeger and Parasitic Jaeger are the most common (mainly Sep-Oct). Also Scopoli's Shearwater can be seen in the thousands past Cape Rhir, but only in late fall (Oct/Nov) and in spring. Northern Gannet is another characteristic species that migrates past Cape Rhir in impressive numbers, both spring and fall. The usual gulls and terns can naturally also be seen from the seawatching points at Cape Rhir, including sporadic sightings of Royal and Lesser Crested Terns.
For good vantage points at Cape Rhir you can head towards the lighthouse here; about a km to the south of the lighthouse there is a track leading to the top of some cliffs where you get a good view of the action. Keep in mind that the Northern Bald Ibis is sometimes seen in the area around the lighthouse.
Birds around Tamri
European Shag (ssp. riggenbachi), Northern Bald Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill, Audouin's Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Pallid Swift, Peregrine Falcon, Lanner Falcon, Barbary Falcon, White Wagtail (ssp. subpersonata)(rare?), Black-crowned Tchagra, Southern Grey Shrike, Eurasian Crag Martin and Spectacled Warbler.
European Storm Petrel, Cory's Shearwater, Scopoli's Shearwater, Balearic Shearwater, Northern Gannet,Northern Bald Ibis, Pomarine Jaeger, Parasitic Jaeger, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Audouin's Gull, Sandwich Tern, Caspian Tern and Black Tern.
The seawatch point at Cape Rhir is also good for marine mammals and Short-beaked Common Dolphin (Delphinus delphis, دلفين شائع) and Common Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus, دلفين شائع قاروري الأنف) are said to be common. There are also sightings of Killer Whale (Orcinus orca, حوت قاتل) and Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus, حوت زعنفي) (Bergier & Bergier).
In principle you need no permits to bird around Tamri or Cape Rhir; the only exception is the cliffs with the Northern Bald Ibis and Shag colonies which are guarded by park rangers. If you want to see the colonies it is mandatory that you are accompanied by a ranger, but this is at a standard, hefty fee of 600 Dh! (At least this is what I was told here in March 2016 and the price was not negotiable, but I cannot exclude that I was shamelessly ripped off). For the ibis it isn't necessary really, as they are easily found near Tamri, but for the shag it might be your only option.
Food and accommodation:
There are several small restaurants in Tamri, but no accommodation. The nearest accommodation is to be found in Taghazoute and in Agadir you have a wide selection of hotels and hostels of all price categories.
Tamri and Cap Rhir can most easily be reached by the coastal N1 road from Agadir. It is about 41 kms to the lighthouse at Cap Rhir, 50 kms to the river mouth and an additional 4 kms to Tamri village. If you continue on this road you will eventually end up in Essaouira (the end of the road, 115 kms to the north).
For the breeding colonies continue 8 kms north of Tamri (as measured from the bridge over the river), here there is a dirt track to the left. When you turn left onto this track you are most likely to immediately be approached by the park rangers. There are no other tracks in this area, so it should be easy to find, but if you find yourself on a steep ascent up the hillside on a winding road you have missed it and should turn back.
Essaouira, a small, coastal town some 170 kms north of Agadir, has one avian speciality that makes a visit here worthwhile; a group of small islands offshore from Essaouira has one of the largest breeding colonies of Eleonora's Falcon in the world. The current population is estimated at about 650 pairs, consisting of no less than about 10% of the total global population! The birds are present at Essaouira from early May to October and can relatively easily be seen from the mainland, particularily early in the season when they are often seen hunting over land. The area around the mouth of the Oued Ksob tend to be the best place to see hunting falcons. Later in the breeding season the birds tend to stick more to the breeding islands, but can none the less be seen from the mainland, provided you have a telescope. The mouth of the Oued Ksob is again possibly the best place to watch the falcons. Alternatively you can try from the western side of the fishing harbour in the town itself.
The mouth of the river can be worth to check for roosting gulls and terns as well; Yellow-legged Gull is again the most numerous, but also flocks of Audouin's Gulls and Sandwich Terns can be present and there are several reports of Lesser Crested Terns. Genuinely rare birds have also been recorded here so you should spend some time here checking the gulls and terns. Waders can also be seen at the river mouth, albeit in fairly low numbers. In the surroundings the White Wagtail (ssp. subpersonata) is quite common and Brown-throated Martin is said to breed in this area (Bergier & Bergier).
If birding the area around the river early in the morning you might also see, or hear, some of the typical birds of this area, including Barbary Partridge, Eurasian Stone-curlew, Great Spotted Cuckoo (early spring), European Turtle Dove, Common Kingfisher, Pallid Swift, Common Bulbul, Moussier's Redstart, Sardinian Warbler, Eurasian Magpie (ssp. mauritanica), Spotless Starling and House Bunting.
Birds around Essaouira
Great Cormorant (ssp. maroccanus), Barbary Partridge, Eurasian Stone-curlew, Pied Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Yellow-legged Gull, Audouin's Gull, Sandwich Tern, Lesser Crested Tern, Little Tern, Black Tern, Great Spotted Cuckoo, European Turtle Dove, Common Kingfisher, Pallid Swift, Eleonora's Falcon, Common Kestrel, Southern Grey Shrike, Common Bulbul, Moussier's Redstart, Sardinian Warbler, Eurasian Magpie (ssp. mauritanica), Spotless Starling, European Goldfinch, European Serin and House Bunting.
North African Hedgehog (Atelerix algirus), Cape Hare (Lepus capensis) and Wild Boar (Sus scrofa, خنزير بري) are said to be common here, and there are even sightings of Common Genet (Genetta genetta) (Bergier & Bergier).
You do not need any permits for birding the mainland around Essaouira, but the breeding islands are protected and you are not allowed to enter them (even if you find out some way to get there!).
Food and accommodation:
Essaouira has become a very popular tourist attraction and food and accommodation should not be a problem.
Coming from Agadir the easiest way to Essaouira is by the N1 (about 170 kms); Tamri and Cape Rhir is also on this route and can thus be birded driving to or from Essaouira. Some 8 kms before Essaouira you leave the N1 and you continue on the P2201; after 4 kms you reach the main bridge over Oued Ksob. Just before the bridge a track signposted to 'Auberge Tangaro' leads down to the western shore of the river. The N1 is also the main road to Essaouira if coming from Safi or Loualidia to the north.
Marrakesh is 200 kms to the east of Essaouira and coming from Marrakesh you follow the N8 and R207 to the city center and then turn left onto the P2201. From here it is about 1.5 kms to the northern bridge over Oued Ksob or 3.5 kms to the main bridge.
This section describes several lagoons and saltpans between the towns of Loualidia and Oulad Aissa (Sidi Moussa) as well as the Oulad Sbaita lagoon (Khémis des Zémamra) further inland. Below I also give details about the Common Buttonquail, which has been seen (or actually mostly heard) in this area several times in recent years.
The lagoons and saltpans along this coastline are a major wintering area for waterbirds, mainly shorebirds, and thousands of waders winter here every year. Common wader species in winter are Eurasian Oystercatcher, Common Ringed Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Dunlin, Sanderling, Common Redshank, Common Greenshank, Eurasian Curlew and Black-tailed Godwit. During the migration seasons you can also expect Red Knot, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Spotted Redshank, Ruff, Common Snipe and Bar-tailed Godwit. Waders that breed in this area include Collared Pratincole (Mar-Sep), Pied Avocet, Black-winged Stilt and Kentish Plover. Another important breeding bird here is the Red-knobbed Coot.
These wetlands are also important wintering grounds for wildfowl. Particularily impressive are the numbers of Marbled Ducks here in winter, in good years more than a thousand birds have been seen here. Other common ducks are Common Shelduck, Eurasian Wigeon, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler and Eurasian Teal. Other waterbirds than shorebirds and ducks can also be plentiful here; Little Grebe, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Western Cattle Egret, Greater Flamingo, Eurasian Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis, Audouin's Gull and Sandwich Tern. Two species that are probably easier here than anywhere else in Morocco are Slender-billed Gull and Mediterranean Gull; hundreds of the latter winter in this general area and can relatively easily be found here.
Because of the size of this area I give here the information about various access points to the lagoons and saltpans. See Getting There below for detailed driving information to these sites.
If you are situated in Loualidia, but don't have your own wheels there are some birdwatching options around the town. One of the best places near Loualidia is the lagoon just outside the town; if you follow the main road down to the beach there are several points where you get a good view of the lagoon. You might need a telescope though to get good views of the wetland birds. The lagoon can be particularily good for roosting waders, gulls and terns. An even better option is the pools just south of the camp site (Camping de Oualidia). These can be very good for waders and ducks during winter and migration seasons. Red-crested Pochard is a regular appearance there in winter and Red-knobbed Coot sometimes breed here.
About 9 km north of Loualidia are some saltpans and this area is generally speaking terrific for birds. The saltpans are good for flamingos and waders and the vegetation on either side of the saltpans can be good for migrating passerines. A couple of hundred meters to the southeast of the saltpans is a small artificial lake with some pools (which Gosney calls the 'school pools'). These pools can be excellent for ducks (including Marbled Duck) and waders and Brown-throated Martins can sometimes be seen hunting over the pools. To the west of the main pools are also some tidal pools that can hold good numbers of Kentish Plovers. All of the saltpans and the lake can be reached on dirt tracks on either side; the track is a little bit rough occasionally, but is drivable.
Just to the north of this village is a network of saltpans, marshes and pools that can be excellent (in my opinion one of the most productive of the saltpans of this region). The birds are roughly the same as in the Loualidia lagoon, but this area is probably better for gulls; particularily the Slender-billed Gull can be quite numerous here (flocks with dozens of birds regularily reported), but Audouin's Gull also fairly common. The saltworks should also be checked for ducks; dabbling ducks are the most numerous, but good numbers of Marbled Duck can also be expected. Shorebirds are particluarily numerous here and big flocks of Calidris waders can be seen here during the migration seasons.
The lagoon just to the south of Oulad Aissa is also one of the better birdwatching sites in this area. Much the same species as in the sites mentioned above can be expected, but sometimes in greater numbers. The lagoon is particularily good for three species of gull, namely Slender-billed, Audouin's and Mediterranean Gull. The Mediterranean Gull is possibly seen here in greater numbers in winter than anywhere else in Morocco. This lagoon can also be good for rare waders and ducks, sometimes even Nearctic vagrants, but this possibility should not be dismissed anywhere along this coast!
Just to the north of the lagoon is yet another system of saltpans and they can be accessed from both the south and north side.
Zemamra lakes (Khémis des Zémamra):
The Zemamra lakes (which Bergier & Bergier call Khémis des Zémamra lagoon) are two lakes near the town of Zemamra that attracts good numbers of waders and ducks in spring and autumn (and presumably in winter as well). Of ducks all the common northern dabbling ducks can be seen here and most are numerous here during migration times. There are also records of Ruddy Shelduck and Marbled Duck from Zemamra. It should be noted that there was a third lake here, near the village of Oulad Sbaita, but this appears to have been drained in recent years for agricultural development.
The most interesting birds at the Zemamra lakes might be the waders, that can be present here in very high numbers. The most numerous and frequently encountered waders here are Black-winged Stilt, Pied Avocet, Common Ringed Plover, Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits, Little Stint, Dunlin, Ruff, Common Sandpiper, Common Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Common Greenshank and Ruddy Turnstone. During migration seasons you might also expect to see Gull-billed, Whiskered and Black Terns hunting over the lake.
Characteristic breeding birds in the agricultural land surrounding the lake are Common Quail, Little Owl, Crested Lark, Calandra Lark, Western Yellow Wagtail (ssp. iberiae), Sardinian Warbler and Corn Bunting.
Bergier & Bergier mentions that the cliffs to the north of the Jorf-Lasfar harbour can be worth a visit for Lesser Kestrel, Lanner Falcon, Peregrine Falcon and Blue Rock Thrush.
As mentioned above one species that has received a lot of attention around Loualidia in past years is the Common Buttonquail. This enigmatic species has been known to breed in this area for decades, but not much was known about it (except possibly in academic circles). Since 2006, however, extensive research has been done on this species here and many birds have been ringed and several nests found. As it turns out the bird is not quite so rare as one thought and many birders succeed in finding them here. Although it should be noted that it is definitely not easy.
Most records are from May and June when the birds are more vocal than in the rest of the year, although I have seen one report of a sighting of a calling female in January. Clear nights in spring is the best time to listen for them, but late in spring/early summer they can apparently also be heard during daytime.
The Buttonquail might probably be found anywhere along this coastline in suitable habitat (grain fields early in spring, pumpkin fields later in the season), but two areas that have proven good lately are fields between Oulad Aissa and Sidi Abed, as well as agricultural fields around Oulad Ghanem.
Birds around Loualidia
Loualidia to Sidi Moussa, breeding:
Red-knobbed Coot, Collared Pratincole (Mar-Sep), Black-winged Stilt, Kentish Plover, Little Tern, Southern Grey Shrike, Crested Lark, Common Bulbul, Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, European Goldfinch, Common Linnet and Corn Bunting.
Loualidia to Sidi Moussa, passage:
Little Grebe, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Western Cattle Egret, Greater Flamingo, Eurasian Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Pied Avocet, Common Ringed Plover, Red Knot, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Dunlin, Common Redshank, Common Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Ruff, Common Snipe, Eurasian Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit and Bar-tailed Godwit.
(Many of the above birds can also be seen in winter)
Loualidia to Sidi Moussa, winter:
Marbled Duck, Common Shelduck, Eurasian Wigeon, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Eurasian Teal, Eurasian Coot, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Slender-billed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Audouin's Gull and Sandwich Tern.
Little Grebe, Black-crowned Night Heron, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Little Egret, Western Cattle Egret, Eurasian Spoonbill, Greater Flamingo, Eurasian Wigeon, Gadwall, Northern Pintail, Eurasian Teal, Garganey, Mallard, Northern Shoveler, Ruddy Shelduck, Marbled Duck, Common Quail, Black-winged Stilt, Pied Avocet, Collared Pratincole, Little Ringed Plover, Common Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Red Knot, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Ruff, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Common Greenshank, Ruddy Turnstone, Gull-billed Tern, Whiskered Tern, Black Tern, Little Owl, Crested Lark, Calandra Lark, Western Yellow Wagtail (ssp. iberiae), Sardinian Warbler and Corn Bunting.
Food and accommodation:
There are plenty of accommodation options in Loualidia.
No permits are needed in this area, but beware of trespassing on private property without permit from the landowner.
These sites can all be reached on the coastal road R301 between El Jadida and Safi. El Jadida is about 90 kms southwest of Casablanca and from El Jadida it is less than 80 kms to Loualidia; the coastal road passes through Sidi Abed, Oulad Aissa and Oulad Ghanem. All the coastal lagoons and saltpans described above can thus be reached on this road.
For Oulad Sbaita follow the 3430 road southeast out of Oualidia for 25 kms and turn left onto roadnumber 202 just before the village of Lgharbia. After a further 5 kms you see the lake to the left.