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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Sudan Golden Sparrows still near Aousserd

The Sudan Golden Sparrows (Passer luteus) are still around Aousserd.

Three birds were observed by Benoît Maire and colleagues in Acacia trees at about 10 km south of Aousserd (the area is similar to Oued Jenna but much smaller) on 13 April 2014. See location in Google Maps and more photographs at Observado.org.

The observation by Thomas Pettersson and Krister Mild in 2013 (17 Km SW of Aousserd) and this observation remind us that these Sudan Golden Sparrows can be seen in a much larger area in Aousserd and not just at the famous Oued Jenna.

Sudan Golden Sparrows (Passer luteus), Aousserd, 13 April 2014.  (Benoît Maire)
Sudan Golden Sparrows (Passer luteus), south of Aousserd, 13 April 2014. (Photo: Benoît Maire)

Thanks to Benoît for using his picture.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Moroccan Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) breeding in Cádiz, Spain

A female Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) born in Morocco in 2012 has been established in a territory in Cádiz, Andalusia, Spain. This Osprey with a colour ring AAD was ringed as nestling at Al-Hoceima National Park in the Rif by Jean Marie Dominici (Parc Naturel Règional de Corse) and Flavio Monti in the framework of a research project on the Mediterranean ospreys. Further details of the whole project can be found at the personal page of Flavio Monti at CNRS-CEFE.

This is one of the great benefits of the colour ringing, it allows us to know how populations are interconnected in a regional metapopulation (e.g. this observation and the Greater Flamingo in the Mediterranean). It allows us also to know the origin of the founding birds when new colonies are founded (e.g. Glossy Ibis at Smir wetland and around the western Mediterranean).

Amigos del Águila Pescadora (Friends of the Osprey) wrote in their facebook page:
Uno de los objetivos del proyecto de reintroducción del águila pescadora en la península Ibérica es conectar las poblaciones del norte con las del sur. Este año se ha establecido una hembra nacida, el 2012, en Marruecos en un territorio de Cádiz”. Os adjunto un vídeo de José Luis Garzón/Amigos del Águila Pescadora.

"One of the objectives of the Osprey reintroduction project in the Iberian Peninsula is to connect the northern populations with the southern ones. This year a female born in 2012 in Morocco has been established in a territory in Cadiz. I attached a video of José Luis Garzón / Amigos del Águila Pescadora".

Thanks to:

- José Luis Garzón / Amigos del Águila Pescadora for using his photograph.



Moroccan Osprey breeding in Cádiz, Spain. (José Luis Garzón/Amigos del Águila Pescadora)
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) born in Morocco in 2012 breeding in Cádiz, Spain in 2014.
Photo:
José Luis Garzón/Amigos del Águila Pescadora


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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Algerian Greater Flamingo at Oued Martil, northern Morocco

A Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) with a yellow PVC ring coded B1/3D was observed at the wetland of Oued Martil, northern Morocco on 16 October 2011.

The colour-ring code in this picture shows that this Greater Flamingo was ringed in Algeria. It could have been born and ringed either at Garaet Ezzemoul in the Hauts Plateaux or El Goléa in the Algerian Sahara. It could have been ringed at other wetlands, we don't know yet. The first site holds one of the most important colonies in the Western Palearctic, a superb photograph of the colony can be seen here.

This bird is a special visitor here in northern Morocco, because we generally record many ringed birds from Europe like this 20-year old Eurasian Spoonbill, but we have never recorded a species ringed in Algeria. According to Boucheker et al. (2011), 12 Greater Flamingos ringed as chicks in Algeria were resighted in Morocco between August 2006 and September 2010.

It’s worth presenting here an overview of the status of the species in Algeria, with a few references at the end for further reading. Greater Flamingo has successfully bred for the first time in Algeria at Garaet Ezzemoul, Hauts Plateaux in 2005 (Samraoui et al. 2006), after two failed breeding attempts in the previous two seasons at the same site (Saheb et al. 2006). Since then, the species has expanded and attempted to breed at a number of Algerian wetlands, with varying degree of success. The breeding colony of El Goléa (northern part of the Algerian Sahara) was discovered in 2009 (Bouzid et al. 2009). Another breeding colony in northern Sahara at Sebkhet Safioune was discovered in 2010/2011 (Mesbah et al. 2011).

References:

Boucheker, A., Samraoui, B., Prodon, R., Amat, J. A., Rendón-Martos, M., Baccetti, N., Vidal i Esquerre, F., Nissardi, S., Balkız, Ö., Germain, C., Boulkhssaim, M. & Béchet, A. (2011). Connectivity between the Algerian population of Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus and those of the Mediterranean basin. Ostrich, 82: 167-174. doi:10.2989/00306525.2011.607856
Bouzid, A., Yousfi, J., Boulkhssaïm, M., & Samraoui, B. (2009). Première nidification réussie du Flamant rose Phoenicopterus roseus dans le Sahara algérien. Alauda, 77: 139–143.
Mesbah, A., Samraoui, F., Youcefi, A., Djelailia, A., Bouzid, A., Ouldjaoui, A., Baaziz, N., Samraoui, B. & Boucheker, A. (2011). Safioune: un nouveau site de reproduction du Flamant rose Phoenicopterus roseus au Sahara algérien. Alauda, 79: 321–324.
Saheb, M., Boulkhssaïm, M., Ouldjaoui, A., Houhamdi, M., & Samraoui, B. (2006). Sur la nidification du Flamant rose Phoenicopterus roseus en 2003 et 2004 en Algérie. Alauda, 74: 368–371.

Samraoui, B., Ouldjaoui, A., Boulkhssaïm, M., Houhamdi, M., Saheb, M., & Béchet, A. (2006). The first recorded reproduction of the Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus in Algeria: behavioural and ecological aspects. Ostrich, 77: 153–159.  doi:10.2989/00306520609485526


Algerian Greater Flamingo, Oued Martil, northern Morocco
Algerian Greater Flamingo, Oued Martil, northern Morocco on 16 October 2011.(Photo: Rachid El Khamlichi).
Postfledging dispersal of Greater Flamingos born and ringed at the Garaet Ezzemoul and El Goléa colonies, Algeria (2006–2010). The number of individuals resighted or recovered is indicated for each country. Figure from Boucheker et al. (2011).
Martil in northern Morocco is shown by a black dot.



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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Egyptian Vulture still survives in Morocco: new breeding record

A new breeding record of the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) in the northern limit of the Tazekka National Park, some 8 Km south-west from Taza (northern Morocco) (Google maps).

Mating and parents visiting the breeding cavity were observed in May 2013, and a juvenile seen near the breeding site in 9 September. There were two other recent breeding records of this endangered vulture in Morocco, one in 2007 and another in 2008. See the following for more details about these records:

El Khamlichi R. & Prat Duran J. 2014. Reproduction du Vautour percnoptère Neophron percnopterus près du Parc National du Tazekka en 2013. Go-South Bull. 11: 31–32.






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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse at Tissint (Tata, Middle Draa)

A fantastic Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse (Pterocles lichtensteinii) seen along road Tata - Foum Zguid! In wadi along the road (sign 56, about 6 Km south-east of Tisssint)” by Jorrit Vlot and his friends on 8 March. 

You can see the exact location in this map in Maroc.Observado.org

Thanks Jorrit

Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse (Pterocles lichtensteinii) near Tisssint, 8 March 2014
Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse (Pterocles lichtensteinii) near Tisssint, 8 March 2014.
(photo: Jorrit Vlot)

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Friday, March 7, 2014

Sudan Golden Sparrow still at Oued Jenna (4 March), is breeding next?

Two Sudan Golden Sparrows (male and female) found by Jorrit Vlot and colleagues at Oued Jenna, Aousserd on 4 March.

I have a feeling that these Sudan Golden Sparrows (at least 2 males and a female) may breed locally at Oued Jenna this spring or even next autumn if there is enough rain in late summer/early autumn. Watch and see! And Good luck for next visiting birders.

Thanks Jorrit.
Sudan Golden Sparrow (Passer luteus), Oued Jenna, Aousserd
Sudan Golden Sparrow (Passer luteus), Oued Jenna, Aousserd, 4 March (Photo: Jorrit Vlot)


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Friday, February 14, 2014

More Sudan Golden Sparrows at Oued Jenna, Aousserd (10 & 11 February)

The Sudan Golden Sparrows (Passer luteus) seen at Oued Jenna, Aousserd on 1st February are still present in the area. Simon West relocated 3 birds on 10th February, and alerted his birding companions John SadlerMark Hows and Mike Richardson of their presence. The group watched and photographed them. Later that evening, they informed another group of birders they knew were in the area of their presence and on the 11th February they found that there were in fact 4 birds present.

Simon commented: “They were amongst a large flock of Desert Sparrows (see last 2 pictures) and could be found in the grass and trees on each side of the Aousserd Road. Locate the sparrow flock and you will be rewarded with great views of the birds". 


The following set of photographs brilliantly taken by Mark Hows (first 5 pictures) and Simon West (last 3 pictures) show Sudan Golden Sparrows feeding in Panicum turgidum seeds and in Acacia trees with its congener, the Desert Sparrow (Passer simplex).


It seems that once they are in the area, they can be found with some efforts and chance. If you are near, hurry up to see this little bird while still present around at the "River of the Heaven" (what ‘Oued Jenna’ literally means). Or, think about a birding trip in the near future, the area is full of birding surprises.


Many thanks for the whole group for this record, and for Mark and Simon for sharing with us these excellent photographs (true, remember this is a mega-rarity).


Sudan Golden Sparrow (Passer luteus), Oued Jenna, Aousserd.
Male Sudan Golden Sparrow (Passer luteus), Oued Jenna, Aousserd. (Photo: Mark Hows)
Sudan Golden Sparrow (Passer luteus), Oued Jenna, Aousserd.
Male Sudan Golden Sparrow (Passer luteus), Oued Jenna, Aousserd. (Photo: Mark Hows)
Sudan Golden Sparrow (Passer luteus), Oued Jenna, Aousserd.
Male Sudan Golden Sparrow + Male Desert Sparrow, Oued Jenna, Aousserd. (Photo: Mark Hows)
Male Sudan Golden Sparrow + Male Desert Sparrow, Oued Jenna, Aousserd.
Male Sudan Golden Sparrow + Male Desert Sparrow, Oued Jenna, Aousserd. (Photo: Mark Hows)
Mixed flock. 3  Sudan Golden Sparrows + 3 Desert Sparrows, Oued Jenna, Aousserd
Mixed flock. 3 Sudan Golden Sparrows + 3 Desert Sparrows (Photo: Mark Hows)

Male Sudan Golden Sparrow (Passer luteus), Oued Jenna, Aousserd.
Male Sudan Golden Sparrow, Oued Jenna, Aousserd (Photo: Simon West).
Male Sudan Golden Sparrow with a large flock of Desert Sparrow, Oued Jenna, Aousserd.
Male Sudan Golden Sparrow with a large flock of Desert Sparrow, Oued Jenna, Aousserd. (Photo: Simon West)
Male Sudan Golden Sparrow with a large flock of Desert Sparrow, Oued Jenna, Aousserd.
Male Sudan Golden Sparrow with a large flock of Desert Sparrow, Oued Jenna, Aousserd. (Photo: Simon West)

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

2 Sudan Golden Sparrows at Oued Jenna, Aousserd (1 February 2014)

Two (male and female) Sudan Golden Sparrows (Passer luteus) seen at Oued Jenna, Aousserd (Oeud Dahab region) on 1 February 2014 by Finish birders Kalle Larsson, Jari Pitkäkoski, Seppo Järvinen and Kari Haataja. First posted in netfugl.dk. See photographs of the female (?) taken by Seppo JärvinenThis is the third Moroccan record of this species.

The first Moroccan record was seen also at Aousserd in April 2009 (a flock with 7 birds). The second record involved two individuals (female photographed)  seen a year ago (12 January 2013) also near Aousserd.  

What is needed to declare Aousserd as one of the birding jewels in the Western Palearctic?


Oued Jenna, Aousserd (October 2010)

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Monday, January 6, 2014

Scandal: Rüppell's Vulture at Jemaa el-Fna, Marrakech

Scandalous: a Rüppell's Vulture (Gyps rueppellii) used as a tourist attraction at Jemaa el-Fna square, Marrakech. This declining species which breeds in the Sahel region of Africa has been recently upgraded to the Endangered status in IUCN Red List (since 2012, previously Near Threatened).  Since more than a decade, Rüppell's Vultures started to accompany Griffon Vultures (Gyps fulvus) to the Iberian Peninsula via Morocco. This unlucky vulture was most likely one of these visiting birds. Photos and video obtained recently by Hassan Talibi.

This is as outrageous as the widespread illegal trade in wild birds in major Moroccan cities, or the shooting of vultures by some 'hunters'.

Un Vautour de Rüppell (Gyps de rueppellii) utilisé comme une attraction touristique dans la place Jemaa el-Fna, Marrakech. Cette espèce en déclin qui se reproduit dans la région du Sahel en Afrique a été récemment classée En danger dans la Liste Rouge de l'UICN (depuis 2012, auparavant Quasi menacée). Depuis plus d'une décennie, les Vautours de Rüppell ont commencés à accompagner les Vautours fauves (Gyps fulvus) à la Péninsule Ibérique via le Maroc. Cet individu malchanceux était probablement l’un de ces oiseaux de passage. Photos et vidéo obtenus récemment par Hassan Talibi.

C'est aussi scandaleux comme le commerce illégal des oiseaux sauvages très répandu dans les grandes villes marocaines.








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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Birding Morocco in April 1977

Classic birding! Birding trip to Morocco in April 1977. 

In these links, you will find many photographs (scanned slides) of birds as well as landscapes and some recollections of the writer from the field. In addition to many Moroccan / North African specialities seen during this trip, they also have had the privilege of seeing the Bald Ibis (Geronticus eremita) nesting at Aoulouz, Anti-Atlas (picture below).

These blog-postings were dedicated by the birder Richard Fairbank to the memory of his birding companion who died recently. Both of them (along with 8 other birders) participated in this Moroccan birding trip. (Actually this birding trip to Morocco was the first thing Richard wrote in his blog). .

This birding trip cost the writer just £130 in total (2 weeks) and he saw 215 species of which 46 were new. £3 per new bird. “Those were the days!” he wrote. Please have a look at these postings in Richard's blog “Birding Never Sleeps” at these links: :



Enjoy reading and a happy new year 2014!

Bald Ibis (Geronticus eremita) nesting at Aoulouz, Anti-Atlas, 24 April 1977
 (photo: 
Richard Fairbank)

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Monday, December 23, 2013

Commerce illégal des oiseaux sauvages au Maroc: photo reportage

Ces images montrent l'ampleur du commerce illégal des oiseaux sauvages au Maroc. C'est juste un rappel à toutes les parties concernées (Eaux et Forêts, la nouvelle police environnementale, les ONGs ....) sur ce commerce illégal et non durable. En vertu de la loi marocaine, toutes ces espèces sont protégées.

Toutes les photos ont été prises par Daniel Bergin en Mai-Juin 2013 dans différentes villes marocaines (Rabat, Marrakech, Casablanca et Fès). Bergin est un étudiant en master à l'université d'Oxford Brookes, et son travail de terrain au Maroc a été fait dans le cadre de son étude pour obtenir un diplôme de master en conservation des primates. Il nous a contacté à Moroccan Birds au début de l’année au sujet de quelques questions concernant son travail du terrain, et nous a envoyé ces images à la fin de ses voyages. Birgin a noté dans son email qu'il n'a pas fait une étude complète des oiseaux qu'il a rencontré, ces images ne montrent donc que la "pointe de l'iceberg" du commerce illegal des oiseaux sauvages au Maroc.

S'il vous plaît signez cette pétition pour la Halte au trafic illégal d’espèces protegées au Maroc:


Illegal wild bird trade in Morocco:


These images show the scale of the illegal wild bird trade in Morocco, one may say that we all know this, but it's nice to remind all involved parties (Eaux et Forêts / Forestry Administration, the new Environmental Police, NGOs....) about this illegal and unsustainable trade. Under Moroccan law, all these species are protected. 

All photographs were taken by Daniel Bergin in May-June 2013 in different Moroccan cities (Rabat, Marrakech, Casablanca and Fez. Bergin is a master's student at the Oxford Brookes University, and his Moroccan fieldwork was done in the framework of his study to earn a master's degree in Primate Conservation. He has contacted us at Moroccan Birds earlier this year about some questions regarding his fieldwork, and sent us these images at the end of his trips. Birgin noted in his email that he has not done a full survey of the birds he encountered, so these pictures show only the ‘tip of the Iceberg’ of the illegal wild bird trade in Morocco.

Please sign this petition to Stop the illegal trafficking of protected species in Morocco:


Pictures 1 & 2 are from Rabat. I encountered three of the species pictured, one Common Buzzard and two Black Kites. All three were seen on two separate surveys and only the Booted Eagle was seen on a third.



Black Kites (Milvus migrans)
1) Black Kites (Milvus migrans)
Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)
2) Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)

Pictures 3 - 10 are from Marrakech

Pictures 3, 4 & 5 are of photo props found in Jemaa el-Fnaa square:

Rüppell's Vulture (Gyps rueppellii) +  Common Kestrels (Falco tinnunculus)
3) Rüppell's Vulture (Gyps rueppellii) + Common Kestrels (Falco tinnunculus)

Barbary Falcon (Falco pelegrinoides) + Atlas Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus cirtensis)
4) Barbary Falcon (Falco pelegrinoides) + Atlas Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus cirtensis)
Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
5) Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

The birds in pictures 6 and 7 were being sold (1000dh for the smaller individual) and also used as photo props:

Lanner Falcon (Falco biarmicus)
6) Lanner Falcon (Falco biarmicus)
Common Kestrels (Falco tinnunculus)
7) Common Kestrels (Falco tinnunculus)

Picture 7 is of a large bird pelt that was drying in the sun. Because the pelt is of a large bird and has an obvious rufous under-wing coverts (left upper part of the picture), we think it’s probably an Atlas Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus cirtensis) or a Booted Eagle (Aquila pennata).



Bird pelt: Aquila pennata OR Buteo rufinus cirtensis
8) Bird pelt: Aquila pennata OR Buteo rufinus cirtensis ??

Pictures 9 and 10 found in the Mellah spice market, Marrakesh:

Caged Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
9) Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) and mammal fur
Feathers of the Common Hoopoe (Upupa epops)
10) Feathers of the Common Hoopoe (Upupa epops) ready to be sold for people to use them in “traditional medicine”, magic and charlatanism.

Pictures 11-13 are from a wildlife and 'medicine' market in Casablanca:

11) Common Hoopoes and Little Owls (Athene noctua) packed with Spur-thighed tortoise (Testudo graeca)
Common Hoopoe (Upupa epops)
12) Common Hoopoes and packed with Spur-thighed tortoises.
 same animals as in picture 11
Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)
13) Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo). 

Pictures 14 - 16 are from the bird market at Bab Guissa, Fez on a Friday and Sunday morning. There were no birds larger than pigeons at this market when visited:

Caged Fringillidae species
14) Three Fringillidae species: Common Linnets (Carduelis cannabina), Eurasian Siskins (C. spinus) and a Greenfinch (Chloris chloris). 
Caged Fringillidae species
15) Common Linnets (Carduelis cannabina), Eurasian Siskins (C. spinus) and a Greenfinch (Chloris chloris)
Bird market
16) Bird market at Bab Guissa, Fez 

Vos idées sur l'identification des oiseaux sont les bienvenus. Merci.

Your ideas on the bird identification are very welcome. Thanks.

Thanks to Alex Colorado Degado for correcting the identification of 4 species.


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Friday, December 20, 2013

Good breeding season (2013) at Smir heronry

This breeding season (2013) was good at Smir heronry, compared with the last year (2012) when at least the Glossy Ibis has most likely failed to nest because of disturbance. 

There was much less disturbance this year (probably because of the sensitisation of the gardeners done last year), and all species returned to breed in the colony in more or less their usual numbers.

On 18 April 2013, we visited the heronry and recorded everything we could see from 2 locations. We could not see the whole colony because the monitoring was done in a hurry this time (we only allowed in for a few minutes), unlike the relatively relaxed work done during the previous year. (occupied nest = birds incubating eggs).

- Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax): one bird (this species nest deep in the lower branches of the trees in the colony, so we most likely missed most of them due the problem explained above).

- Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis): hundreds of occupied nests.

- Little Egret (Egretta garzetta): 6 occupied nests.

- Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus): 20 occupied nests.

- Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia): 13 occupied nests.

Platalea leucorodia leucordia in Africa:


The mere 15 to 25 breeding pairs of Eurasian Spoonbill at Smir heronry may be insignificant in comparison with other populations, like the 1400 breeding pairs counted this year in Andalusia, southern Spain. But the spoonbills at Smir are special, because this population is the only one which dared to breed in Africa and succeeded (so far). They nested continuously at Smir colony since the first breeding pair was discovered there in 1994 (Peal & Peal 1995, El Agbani et al. 2002, our observations since many years). Other populations of the nominate subspecies have also bred or attempted to breed in a few places but they were not successful:

- Attempted nesting at Tahaddart estuary (northern Morocco) in 1967 (Thévenot et al. 2003).

- Nesting suspected at Khnifiss lagoon (southern Morocco) in 1985 (Thévenot et al. 2003).

- Has bred (one egg found in May) at Lake Fetzara (northern Algeria) at the beginning of the 20th century (Isenmann & Moali 2000).

References:

El Agbani, M. A., Bayed, A., Dakki, M., & Qninba, A. (2002). Découverte d’une colonie reproductrice de Spatule blanche Platalea leucorodia dans le Nord-Ouest du Maroc. In: J. Veen & O. Stepanova (Eds.), Wetland management for Spoonbills and associated waterbirds. Report of the 68th EUROSITE Workshop (pp. 19–22). Texel. 

Isenmann, P., & Moali, A. (2000). Oiseaux d’Algérie / Birds of Algeria. Paris: SEOF.

Peal, R.E.F. & Peal, E. (1995).Nidification de la Spatule blanche (Platalea leucorodia) dans le Nord du Maroc. Porphyrio 7 (1/2): 92.

Thévenot, M., Vernon, R., & Bergier, P. (2003). The Birds of Morocco. BOU Checklist, no. 20. Tring: British Ornithologists Union.

Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia) on nest, Smir heronry
Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia) on nest, Smir heronry (18 April 2013)

Eurasian Spoonbills (Platalea leucorodia) on nests, Smir colony
Eurasian Spoonbills (Platalea leucorodia) on nests, Smir colony (18 April 2013)

Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) on nest, Smir heronry
Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) on nest, Smir heronry (18 April 2013)

Rachid & Mohamed

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

White-throated Bee-eater: a new species for the Western Palearctic

A White-throated Bee-eater (Merops albicollis - Guêpier à gorge blanche) was seen at Gleb Jdiane, Oued Dahab on 5 and 6 December 2013 by Noëlle and Hervé Jacob (video below**) and reported in Go-South.org. This is not only the first record for Morocco, but it’s a first for the Western Palearctic as well. According to the last AERC Western Palearctic list published in December 2012*, there were only three species of bee-eaters in the Western Paleactic list and Merops albicollis was not one of them.

This region proves once again that it's one of the birding hot-spot for the Westen Palearctic region: Sudan Golden Sparrow, Cricket Warbler, African Dunn’s Lark and many other resident specialties.


* Crochet P.-A. & Joynt G. (2012). AERC list of Western Palearctic birds. December 2012 version. Available at http://www.aerc.eu/tac.htm  PDF

** Video footage by Noëlle and Hervé Jacob (via reservoirbirds.com)




White-throated Bee-eater (Merops albicollis) (Photo: Dick Daniels, Wikimedia Commons) 

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

White Stork satellite-tracked by German ornithologists found dead south of Tangier

A White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) tracked by satellite by German ornithologists found dead just south of Asilah, northern Morocco. The good news is that the satellite transmitter was found in good condition. Here is the story of the White Stork's death and how the transmitter was found.

On 26 November 2013, Brigitta Keeves from the office of Prof. Dr. Martin Wikelski (Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Germany) contacted the blog of Moroccan Birds in order to help finding a White Stork equipped with a satellite transmitter. The stork did not move from its location south of Asilah (Lat: 35.427, Long: -6.039) since 5 November 2013.

On 10 December, we went to find out what happened to the stork and try to retrieve the transmitter. When we reached the site (transmitter location), we met a local shepherd who showed us a carcass of a White Stork. However, we haven’t found neither the transmitter nor the rings on the bird’s carcass. So, we assumed that this must not be the stork we are searching. We continued our search in the fields around the site for about 40 min, where we found another much older white stork carcass. We also found many feathers below the cypress trees. 

At about 12:00, a man called Ahmed el Ketami approached and asked us what we are doing. We told him the whole story of searching a white stork with a satellite transmitter on its back. He immediately told us that the stork had “3 things not just one”, he means the satellite transmitter and 2 rings (plastic and metal). He told us that when he first found the transmitter, he didn’t know much about it. But when he showed the transmitter and the rings to some people in a local café, someone told him that this device is "used by ornithologists to follow the movements of the birds over long distances”. Ahmed then decided to keep the transmitter and the rings in a safe place in his house. He also told us what happened to this stork and other storks before.

“Hundreds of White Storks gather along with other birds at a nearby rubbish dump to feed. During the night many storks roost in the cypress trees not far from the dump. Some storks get entangled in strings of different kind in the rubbish dump. When they move to roost in the trees, they get stuck by these strings in branches and die” said Ahmed. Some lucky storks can be saved (even when they are entangled in strings and stuck in trees) if noticed by the local people early enough. Ahmed told us that he has saved a stork that got stuck in trees recently, but he has found others dead in/or below trees like this one (we also found another white stork carcass probably from last year).

For now, we know that the bird was tagged by the White Stork team of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology but we don’t know from where, because the metal ring contains the following information: F08049, Aranzadi, San Sebastian. So, maybe it was tracked from the Basque Country, north-west Spain rather than from Germany. 

We will update this when we receive more information about the stork.

Many thanks to Ahmed El Ketami for all what he did.

Update 16 December:

This White Stork (C666) was tagged as nestling in June 2013 in the Doñana National Park, Andalusia, southern Spain. It was tagged in collaboration with researchers from the University of Seville. In 2013, the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology tagged around 120 juvenile white storks in different countries in order to understand more about the migration and survival of juvenile storks from different populations.

The white stork flew from Spain to Morocco, it continued southward to its wintering ground in Niger and then back to northern Morocco where it died in November 2013.  

It survived the desert crossing twice to die in rubbish dump not far from home (less than 500 Km).

The satellite transmitter found in good condition
The satellite transmitter found in good condition
The carcass of the White Stork with the satellite transmitter
The carcass of the White Stork with the satellite transmitter
The Carcass of the White Stork with the tree where it died
The Carcass of the White Stork with the tree where it died
From left: Mohamed Amezian, Ahmed EL Ketami & Rachid El Khamlichi
From left: Mohamed Amezian, Ahmed EL Ketami (who saved the transmitter) & Rachid El Khamlichi
Cypress trees (White Stork roosting site), where the bird died
Cypress trees (White Stork roosting site), where the bird died
Partial view of about 300 White Storks at the rubbish dump (900 m from the roosting site)
Partial view of about 300 White Storks at the rubbish dump (900 m from the roosting site)
Another view of White Storks at the rubbish dump
Another view of White Storks at the rubbish dump
Rubbish dump of Asilah. Many Yellow-legged Gulls and Western Jackdaws in flights
Rubbish dump of Asilah. Many Yellow-legged Gulls and Western Jackdaws in flights
Locations of the dump, White Stork roosting site and the house where the transmitter was kept safe
Locations of the dump, White Stork roosting site and the house where the transmitter was kept safe




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