, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday 11th March was mammals day. For that we visited the Souss Massa National Park, and learnt something of its conservation work. We went in four 4x4s, so that each of us had a window. They put me in the front seat of the vehicle driven by Mohammed in case I needed to communicate urgently with the driver. (I didn’t.)

The Park was set up in 1991 in recognition of the area’s importance as a breeding ground for certain birds, including the Northern Bald Ibis. To quote Wikipedia, “Souss-Massa also holds captive-breeding programmes for four threatened North African ungulates: scimitar oryx, addax, dama gazelle [not on our target list] and dorcas gazelle, … The reintroduction of the North African ostrich – which is extinct north of the Sahara – is also underway.” With the exception of the Dama Gazelle, we saw all of these. The Rokein Special Reserve, where goats are kept out and as a result the vegetation is more lush, is where the conservation work is done and where we saw the mammals (and the ostriches).

These Addax females were being kept apart, for breeding reasons I think.
The North African, also know as Red-necked, Ostriches gather together here as they are fed supplementary rations at this spot. This sub-species is the largest living bird.
Isn’t there something about ostriches burying their heads in the sand?
Black-winged Stilt
A load of linnets
Dorcas Gazelle
Woodchat Shrike
(Through the windscreen) Oh! Ahead of us on our road (we were the first of the four vehicles). How sweet is that?
They moved out of our way, in a very leisurely fashion.
Ostrich photo overload? I think not. How often do you see a mummy and a daddy ostrich, with 14 babies?! Wow!
There’s the head of a hoopoe in there – ginger splash, middle slightly left.
Scimitar-horned Oryx. Thanks to conservation work, it has been possible for this recently to be upgraded from Critically Endangered to ‘merely’ Endangered.
Dorcas Gazelle
Cream-coloured Coursers, about the size of a pigeon
(Through the Windscreen.) Bonelli’s Eagle, wingspan around 5 feet, 150 cm, which flew off…
… into a tree…
… to be mobbed by …
… a kestrel.
Golden Fringe-toed Lizard

We had our packed lunch standing in a shelter, and among other things, watched a sea mist…

… rolling in.

but, although we drove through a little mist as we left, it came to nothing. The drought continues.

A final sighting of Dorcas Gazelle as we drove towards the exit.
And a decent viewing of a Hoopoe

After a stop at a local pottery and café, where I had a much-craved ice-cream, we were driven to the mouth of the Oued (River) Souss, and stood on a bridge to see what we could see, hoping for flamingos.

Lots of gulls. We saw that day Black-headed, Mediterranean, Yellow-Legged and Lesser Black-backed. Two days earlier we had seen Slender-billed.
White Storks
Great Cormorants stay put.
And here are some Greater Flamingos
Ruddy Shelduck

For our final stop, we were driven over the bridge, and further downstream to a rather unprepossessing spot, where we could see a two-poled pylon in the far distance.

This had a smudge at the left hand end of the bar at the top.
Which we were reliably informed was an osprey.

Immediately to our left was a telegraph pole.

With two Moroccan magpies, their blue flashes visible.
When one flew off, the other obligingly turned profile for us.

A final look round revealed a Little Egret …

and some Sanderlings. Or so Mohammed said, and he was very good at his wildlife.

Before dinner, it was Hélène’s turn to invite us into the salon of the Atlas Kasbah. She opened her big wooden box, which like all Moroccan brides (she is French) she received on her wedding day. It was full of traditional health and beauty items, and she explained the purpose of every one. A question at the end (from me) about covering her hair at the school where she teaches (she doesn’t, though the fact that it is a French school may have something to do with it?) led to an immense amount of information about the role of women in Morocco – considerably more liberated than in many other Moslem countries.