Sunday, 3 August 2008

Erg Chebbi - Er-achidia April 20th 2008

Another early start and Ahmed is waiting quietly and patiently as we bundle all our gear into the car. We head further south and are soon on the banks of the Dyat Srji, a desert lake close to Merzouga. During the dry season there's no water here but today there is plenty, with lots of birds too! The majority are Greater Flamingo (700), Ruddy Shelduck (300) Marbled Duck (50)and Eurasian Coot (250). Scanning the muddy edges we see Kentish Plover (10), Little Ringed Plover (5) Black-winged Stilt (40) Little Stint (27) Greenshank (2) and a Ruff. To the far east a flock of 30 Black Tern hawk over the marshes with wild Camels in the distance.

Greater Flamingo

Ruddy Shelduck

Beyond the opposite shore twice we catch a glimpse of sandgrouse flocks and order Ahmed to guide us through the tamerisk and dunes to the other side (OK, we ask him!) On the way through we flush two Purple Heron and a Marsh Harrier. We reach the raised embankment which reveals a shallow pool which the grouse were obviously coming down too. As we get out of the car and walk towards it, a Sandgrouse gets up close and flies right infront of us, followed by Rob's shout "Crowned!" Pleased with this, a few moments later he shouts "Spotted, calling", with this a flock of seven Spotted Sandgrouse wheel away, fast and high, followed by four more. Both are welcome additions, and uncanny as about this time last year Rob, Nigel and myself were watching Pin-tailed and Black-bellied in Spain! On this side of the lake we see further Hoopoe and Bar-tailed Larks, Short-toed and Booted Eagle and another Lanner, shortly followed by good views of a Barbary Falcon. Two Black Storks are seen circling over pasture land before dropping in, no doubt having just completed a desert crossing. Further exploring here results in no new birds, but the lake edges are crammed with Vagrant Emperor dragonflies and a very large Desert Monitor scrambles along the embankment and into a drainage hole.
Hoopoe Lark
With the morning fast getting away we decide to head off to Rissani for our next speciality. We reach our destination and are immediately greeted by more uninvited guides in the form of a handful of school kids keen to show us the Pharaoh's Eagle Owl they have kept staked out all morning. A long, hot walk provided us with great views of the cliff, cave and shite of the owl, but no owl. The kids looked as perplexed and as jarred off as we were! With hindsight, this was where our birding luck all but run out. After eating late, we headed back out across the desert for an evening vidual around the Auberg Kasbah Dakouah trying, in vain, for a live Egyptian Nightjar. We drop off our excellent guide, Ahemed where we first met him at his fossil shop at the start of the desert and head off into the night. We head for Er-Achidia, a large town, and find our worst lodgings of the trip, but we are so knackered we hit the sack, unfed and unwatered!
....these aren't any old fossils...these are Ahmed's fossils!

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