Moroccan Birds

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

American Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio martinicus) at Kenitra: 1st for Morocco

Exceptional observation of a Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio martinicus) in Kenitra. “The bird found very weak in the city of Kenitra three days ago by my uncle, and was collected to his garden” reports Thomas S. Lahlafi in the facebook group of GOMAC. The bird would have gained its strength until last night, and was not there this morning. “The rarity is twofold” added Thomas S. Lahlafi in reference to the fact that the 'Moroccan' Purple Gallinule has survived its trans-Atlantic trip unlike many Palearctic records which are found dead after the trip!

This is the first record for Morocco and North-west Africa.

Observation exceptionnelle d'une Talève violacée !!!!!!!!! En pleine ville de Kénitra, mon oncle l'a trouvée très affaiblie il y a 3 jours, l'a recueillie dans son jardin. Elle aurait repris des forces jusqu'à hier soir, et n'était plus là ce matin. La rareté est double, puisque les quelques mentions au Paléarctic ferai état d'individus trouvée mort après le voyage !

 Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio martinicus) in Kenitra (photo: Thomas S. Lahlafi)
Many thanks!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The perilous journey of Griffon Vultures in pictures

Each year, with the fall of the first autumn rains some 3000 immature Griffon Vultures (Gyps fulvus) mainly from various parts of the Iberian Peninsula concentrate around the Strait of Gibraltar. They are ready to embark on a migratory journey that will take them to sub-Saharan Africa in search of better weather and abundance of food. But this trip is not without dangers. These dangers start with the blades of wind turbines in southern Spain and also in northern Morocco. Crossing the Strait is also a challenge. Electrocution and risks of accidental poisoning are real threats.  The capture and trade in exhausted vultures in Morocco is also a problem. And finally there are the (natural) hazards of the migration itself like encountering sandstorms, luck of food en route, encountering predators while exhausted.... 

Rachid, in the Otra orilla blog, has illustrated every danger highlighted above by pictures taken mainly in Morocco but also in southern Spain. The pictures were taken by himself, except otherwise stated. The text is Spanish but the blog offer translation to the language of your browser.

Flock of Griffon vultures flying near fully operational wind turbines
Flock of Griffon Vultures flying close to fully operational wind turbines, Moroccan side of the Strait of Gibraltar. (Rachid El Khamlichi). 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Yellow-browed Warblers at Imlil and Oued Noun

A few days ago, I wrote a blog-post about the influx of Yellow-browed Warblers (Phylloscopus inornatus) to southern Iberian Peninsula and Canary Islands in late October. Many birds have literally “invaded” the Canary Islands in October and November, and they must have crossed from Morocco (if only there are enough eyes to see them here). Fortunately there are some lucky ones which got the following observations:

- On 28 October, Tony Knight had good views of a Yellow-browed Warbler at Imlil, High Atlas, and got some stunning photographs which are listed below. Thanks Tony!

- In the same period, 27 October, members of GOMAC saw and photographed 2 Yellow-browed Warblers in Oued Noun at Fort Bou-Jerif (Guelmim province). They also saw an Olive-backed Pipit (Anthus hodgsoni), which is also a mega-rarity (there was only 1 previous record of this species in Morocco). Bravo colleagues, always discovering new rarities!

* Tony's record is forwarded to Prof Jacques Franchimont, the secretary of the Moroccan Rare Birds Committee.

Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus), Imlil, 28 October (photo: Tony Knight).
Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus), Imlil, 28 October (photo: Tony Knight).
Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus), Imlil, 28 October (photo: Tony Knight).
Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus), Imlil, 28 October (photo: Tony Knight).
Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus), Imlil, 28 October (photo: Tony Knight).

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Great Knot (Calidris tenuirostris) at Oued Souss (8 November)

Great Knot (Calidris tenuirostris - Bécasseau de l’Anadyr) photographed with four Red Knots (Calidris canutus) at Oued Souss by Robin Chittenden and Arnoud van den Berg during a birding tour with Limosa Holidays today (8 November). 

Great Knot is extremely rare in Morocco where there was only one previous record, an adult in summer plumage at the Souss estuary on 27 August 1980 (The Birds of Morocco). So, today’s bird is the second record for Morocco.

This wader, which breed in northeast Siberia, is equally rare elsewhere in the Western Palearctic. Britain for instance (which has thousands of birdwatchers), got its fourth Great Knot only in July 2014 according to the UK Rare Birds Alert. In Spain, the species was not recorded in the last 14 years (reports of the 'Comité de Rarezas de la Sociedad Española de Ornitología' from 2000 onwards).

Great Knot (Calidris tenuirostris), Oued Souss (Arnoud  van den Berg)
Great Knot (Calidris tenuirostris), second from left with 4 Red Knots, Oued Souss, 8 November 2014. (photo: Arnoud van den Berg)
Great Knot (Calidris tenuirostris), Oued Souss (Arnoud  van den Berg)
Great Knot (Calidris tenuirostris), second from left with 4 Red Knots, Oued Souss, 8 November 2014. (photo: Arnoud van den Berg).

Great Knot (Calidris tenuirostris) breeding and wintering areas (source of map: Planet of Birds). 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

1335 Griffon Vultures crossed the Strait of Gibraltar in one day

Yesterday, 5 November, we had a fantastic day watching bird migration (or precisely vulture migration) around Jbel Moussa, on the southern side of the Strait of Gibraltar.

We have counted 1335 Griffon Vultures (Gyps fulvus) in 6 hours (between 10:00 and 16.00). The vultures crossed the Strait of Gibraltar mainly at Jbel Moussa, with some reached Africa at the eastern side of Jbel Moussa (Belyounech and Ceuta) and others at the Tanger-Med Port. This is a great number, and we don’t know anyone who has recorded such a number in a single day from this side of the Strait. Comments welcome!
Edit: Javier Elorriaga commented: "Great numbers really! We once counted nearly 1000 from Punta Cires, and 1800 have been recorded departing from Europe to Morocco in a single day by Fundación Migres in October 2008".

The majority of the vultures were high and quite a distance away from our vantage point which rendered the detection of Rüppell’s Vultures (Gyps rueppellii) almost impossible, but certainly some have crossed as well (because many were with the Griffons during the last days in the northern shore of the Strait, see this video by Birding the Strait). However, not all the vultures were far and some flocks passed overhead or in front of us and allowed great views.

Another interesting record is the observation of a juvenile Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus), this is the latest date for this species in Morocco according the 'Birds of Morocco'. Comments welcome!

In total, we saw the following:
  • Black Stork (Ciconia nigra): 3
  • Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus): 1
  • Griffon Vultures (Gyps fulvus): 1335
  • Short-toed Snake Eagle (Circaetus gallicus): 7
  • Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus): 1
  • Booted Eagle (Hieraetus pennatus): 1

Rachid El Khamlichi (all photographs), Khalid Chikri & Mohamed Amezian.

Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) and a ferry crossing the Strait of Gibraltar.

Griffon Vultures (Gyps fulvus)
One of the many flocks of Griffon Vultures (Gyps fulvus)
Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus): a juvenile migrating late.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Citril Finch (Carduelis citrinella): a species to watch

The Citril Finch (Carduelis citrinella - Venturon montagnard) is extremely rare in Morocco and elsewhere in North-west Africa:
  • The Birds of Morocco (Thévenot et al. 2003): “Accidental visitor, 2 records:  one trapped in Ceuta, 31 March 1991, and another on 20 April 1991 (La Garcilla 82, Gantlett 1992)”.
  • Birds of Algeria (Isenmann & Moali 2000): “Two individuals captured near El Kala in the 19th century may have involved Corsican Citril Finch (Serinus citrinella corsicana) breeding in Sardinia and Corsica”. 
  • There are no records of this species in Tunisia (Isenmann et al. 2005).
A new record at Ceuta: Gaviotas y Pardelas Blog reported that on 31 October 2014, José Navarrete captured for scientific ringing an individual of Citril Finch (Carduelis citrinella) in the Punta Blanca ringing station, Ceuta. This is the third record for Ceuta, the first two corresponding to a pair (male and female) captured in March 1991. The images below taken by the ringer (José Navarrete) and were published in the Gaviotas y Pardelas Blog.

  • Isenmann, P., & Moali, A. (2000). Oiseaux d’Algérie / Birds of Algeria. SEOF, Paris.
  • Isenmann, P., Gaultier, T., El Hili, A., Azafzaf, H., Dlensi, H., & Smart, M. (2005). Oiseaux de Tunisie / Birds of Tunisia. SEOF, Paris.
  • Thévenot, M., Vernon, R., & Bergier, P. (2003). The Birds of Morocco.  BOU Checklist No. 20. BOU, Tring.
Citril Finch (Carduelis citronella), Ceuta, 31 October 2014 (José Navarrete)

Citril Finch (Carduelis citronella), Ceuta, 31 October 2014 (José Navarrete).

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Influx of Yellow-browed Warblers to south Iberia, Ceuta and Canary Islands

Since last month, there has been a big influx of Yellow-browed Warblers (Phylloscopus inornatus) to the south of the Iberian Peninsula. Some have already crossed the Mediterranean Sea and have been observed in Ceuta and even reached the Canary Islands.

- Reservoir Birds lists several birds: more than 8 birds seen (and some ringed) in Andalusia (between 27 and 30 October), and 7 birds in the Canary Islands (between 30 and 31 October).

- Rare Birds in Spain lists 28 Yellow-browed Warblers from different parts of Iberia and the Balearic Islands.

- Rare Birds in Portugal lists 7 birds (including 3 ringed) from different parts of Portugal but most from the south, between 24 and 27 October.

- Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society (GONHS): six Yellow-browed Warblers have been ringed at the Gibraltar Bird Observatory between 22 and 28 October.

- Ceuta: one bird captured and ringed in Monte Hacho on 26 October by José Peña.

Last year, at least Yellow-browed Warblers were seen and photographed by GOMAC members (Benoît Maire, Karim Laidi, Alain Mathurin & Sabine Zegres) between 2 and 6 November in the Oriental Region. That was a big year for the species in the Moroccan standards (Few Birders, Fewer Bird Sightings!). See full report and stunning images in this report in Go-South Bulletin (PDF).

So keep your eyes peeled for these little Siberian birds during this autumn!

Mosquitero bilistado (Phylloscopus inornatus), Río Pícaro, Algeciras (Cádiz), Andalucía. 27/10/2014. (© Fernando Enrique Navarrete & Pablo Ortega).

Mosquitero bilistado (Phylloscopus inornatus), Guadacorte, Los Barrios (Cádiz), Andalucía
30/10/2014 (© David Cuenca & José Luis Garzón).
Yellow-browed Warbler, Gibraltar Bird Observatory (© R. Marsh).
Mosquitero bilistado (Phylloscopus inornatus), Ceuta, 26/10/2014 (© José Peña)
The photographs are not hosted here but we only linked to them in their original sites. The exception is the first photograph, thanks!