Desert Sparrow, Morocco 2020

The bird species that I love are the Nordic species. For example the Arctic Redpoll, the King Eider and the Ross’s Gull. However, I also have some guilty pleasures, like some beautiful southern species. 2020 seems like a good year to tick off some of those guilty pleasures. The first southern species scheduled for January is Moroccan Desert Sparrow...

Friday January, 10th

After a flight from Schiphol to Marrakech, the guide Houcine Taouchikht is already waiting for me at the airport. He takes me to a place to sleep: a traditional riad in the center of Marrakech. He himself spends the night elsewhere. I have my dinner on a rooftop terrace, while enjoying a magnificent view of the famous Djemaa el Fna square!

Saturday January, 11th
In the riad, I hear some House Buntings in the morning during breakfast! This day is spent on traveling. We drive through the beautiful Atlas Mountains to Ouarzazate where we have lunch. We visit a reservoir and drive further east to spend the night in Ksar Sultan Dades, Boumalne Dades.

Sunday January, 12th
Today we drive to the Sahara desert. We travel through small villages where people dress traditionally with a djellaba. Everyone is friendly. The landscape changes from mountains to sand dunes: we have arrived the Sahara desert. The first bird of the desert is a Hoopoe Lark. Not a bad start! We see a Desert Warbler and soon we discover three Desert Sparrows. Later we even see a group of ten of these lovely birds! They are beautifully coloured and can be photographed well. We spend the night in hotel Nomad Palace, Merzouga, Taouz.


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Houcine and Lahcen Taouchikht.

Monday January, 13th
Hoopoe Lark.

Today we visit friends of Houcine. We are offered wifi, tea, water and fruit by them. What a hospitality and kindness! In the afternoon we are offered lunch: eating from a large pan together with the six of us. We eat by using our right hand. We see a couple of Desert Sparrows and about thirty Spotted Sandgrouses. I photograph some birds in an almost dry lake. Finally, I take some pictures of the sunset.


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Spotted Sandgrouses.

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Tuesday January, 14th

In the morning the temperature is around 0 degrees Celsius. In the afternoon the weather is lovely with sunshine and a temperature of around 17 degrees. Again I photograph Desert Sparrows and the sunset in the evening. A most friendly Nomad lady spontaneously serves us a delicious soup for lunch. Everything is going well today: it is even possible to take a ‘less is more’ photo of a Desert Sparrow! 

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Wednesday January, 15th

I spend the night in a luxury desert tent (Kemkemia, Erg Chebbi), with electricity, shower and toilet. No wifi, but a great place to sleep. The birds near the Nomad tents are very tame. It seems that the number of House Sparrows is increasing. They are slowly taking the place of the Desert Sparrows.

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Bar-tailed Lark.



Thursday January, 16th
We spend the morning photographing desert sparrows. In the afternoon we see Desert Warbler, a Pharaoh eagle-owl and even three Cream-coloured Coursers. A dream come true!

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Desert Grey Shrike.


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Friday January, 17th

We are leaving for Ouarzazate where we will spend the night. Before we drove to the west, we first went to a small hide to spend a few hours photographing the recently discovered Moroccan Turkey. Which resulted in some beautiful pictures. On our way to Ouarzazate I saw a Moussier's Redstart from the car. What a beautiful bird that is! We drove through the Anti-Atlas Mountains to Ouarzazate where we spent the night.


Saturday January, 18th
We take an alternative route through the Atlas Mountains, through small, traditional villages. In the afternoon we arrive safely in the city Marrakech, from where I will leave for the Netherlands the next day.

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Sunday January, 19th
I spend the day in Marrakech. In the evening I board the plane to the Netherlands, looking back on a great experience.

White Stork
Maghreb Magpie
Spotless Starling
House Bunting
House Sparrow
Collared Dove
Common Bulbul
White Wagtail
Wood Pigeon

Atlas Mountains
Cattle Egret
Atlas Chaffinch
Grey Wagtail
Rock Pigeon
Rock Bunting
Blue Rock Thrush
Black Redstart
Black Wheatear 
Common Linnet 
Atlas Crossbill

Ouarzazate and reservoir
Rock Martin
White-crowned Wheatear
Desert Grey Shrike
Meadow Pipit
Green Sandpiper
Great Crested Grebe
Crested Lark
Laughing Dove

Between Ouarzazate and Sahara desert
Long-legged Buzzard
Sardinian Warbler
Moussier's Redstart
Little Egret

Sahara desert
Barn Swallow
Hoopoe Lark
Fulvous babbler
Desert Warbler
Desert Sparrow
Bar-tailed Lark
Trumpeter Finch
Desert Wheatear
Spotted Sandgrouse
Ruddy Shelduck
Grey Heron
Marbled Teal
Northern Shoveler
Pharaoh eagle-owl
Cream-coloured Courser
Black-eared Wheatear
Brown-necked Raven