Over recent weeks, I have been writing about our experiences while on a tour of Morocco. A few days ago I wrote about our camel ride into the Sahara and our overnight stay in a tent in the desert. On our return to a hotel on the edge of the desert, we had a late breakfast overlooking the desert. After the meal, we boarded our tour bus and moved on to the next destination.
While having breakfast I was able to get some good photos of some of the local birds, as shown in today’s post. The first one above is of the Eurasian Collared Dove, a relatively common bird in this part of the world. It is found throughout much of Europe, Asia and northern Africa, including Morocco. It has been introduced into North America. I actually photographed one in our garden in South Australia a few years ago – click here to see the photos of a sub-species, the Barbary Dove.
The next photo shows a lovely portrait of a Southern Grey Shrike. This species is found in many parts of northern Africa, the Pakistan-Indian region and in Spain. This was the first time I had seen this species so it is a “lifer” for my list.
The third species, as shown below, was a White-crowned Black Wheatear, another “lifer” bird species for me. It was a lovely way to end our visit to the Sahara, and one of the highlights of a wonderful tour of Morocco.
While on the camel ride into the desert I did see several other bird species but I was unable to identify them. It was very difficult to take photos of them from the constantly moving back of the camel I was riding. Near out camp in the desert, I also saw a small flock of House Sparrows.
During our brief visit to the Sahara Desert on a tour of Morocco I took a series of photos of the desert, the plants of the desert and some of the tracks seen in the sand. I guess I expected the sand dunes to be pristine, perhaps a little windswept and certainly not covered in all kinds of tracks. Sure – a few footprints like those in the photo of our tour group shown above.
In some parts of the desert through which we travelled on our camel rides into and out of the Sahara I saw many wheel tracks as well. Some of the tracks were obviously those of people walking, larger ones were certainly camel tracks and yet others were motor bike and four wheel drive vehicles.
But what about those shown immediately below? Are they bicycle tracks? I didn’t see anyone riding a bike, but I guess that with the right tyres and plenty of energy it might be possible.
I have no doubt about the tracks shown in the following photo. I am almost certain that this photo shows the track of a small reptile, though it was obviously out and about before I had climbed the sand dune near our camp site. I have no idea what kind of reptile made this track. It may have been a small lizard or a skink or gecko. If my readers can identify this, please let me know in the comments.
Just as puzzling are the tracks shown in the photo below. Are they from a bird? They appear to be of a hopping bird but I am not totally convinced. The only birds I saw on our brief visit to this part of the desert were some House Sparrows near our camp site, and some blue-grey finch-like birds on the camel ride into the desert. Sadly, the motion of the camel I was riding prevented me getting an identifiable photo.
On our tour of Morocco we spent a night in the Sahara Desert camping in a Berber tent. The next day our guide woke us early, before dawn. This was so we could slog our way to the top of a nearby sand dune to witness the sunrise over the desert. Looking to the east from our vantage point we could see the Algerian border some 30 km away, though the actual border was disputed territory at the time.
Perhaps something many of the others in the tour group didn’t notice were the beautiful patterns made by clumps of grass growing on the dunes. Set against the deep red sand and emphasised by the early morning sun’s rays, they made quite an impression on me. I just had to take a series of photos.
Over the years during our many travels I look out for birds to photograph so I can add them to my site called Trevor’s Birding. When the birds are not showing themselves I often turn my camera lens towards things more botanical, especially flowers. We have some spectacular flowers here in Australia so that makes it easier. Sadly, we didn’t see any flowers in the Sahara Desert. On the other hand, these photos of the grasses growing there sure made up for that lack.
I am not sure what the grasses were as my speciality is birds. I had enough trouble identifying them. Even my wife, who has a lot of expertise in Australian native plants (see her website here), had some trouble identifying plants in Morocco and Spain during our holiday.
You can access more articles about our tour by going to the side bar or the archives here.
On our tour of Morocco we spent the last hour or so of daylight on Christmas Eve riding camels into the Sahara Desert. I have already written about this adventure several times here on this site – just look back over recent posts – or check in my archives.
While I felt uncomfortable riding the camel – not my preferred mode of transport – I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being in the desert. This once-in-a-lifetime adventure was all I hoped it to be. The colours are astounding, especially just before and during sunset which was the time of day we entered the desert. Because it was mid winter the air was crisp and clean; very little pollution out there.
I have called this camel ride a once only experience. I would love to return to Morocco some day but at my age, time is probably against me. Besides, in the limited number of years I still have I would like to experience other countries and cultures. Sadly, ill health has restricted me a little over the last year, but I am still hopeful of travelling in the coming years.
In fact, one of the reasons we went on this particular tour was at the request of our daughter. (She features in earlier posts here.) She had just finished six months of volunteer teaching in Ethiopia. After visiting her there the three of us continued on into Morocco and then Spain (photos of Spain to follow in coming months). Later in 2016 she returns to teach in Ethiopia again, but this time for two years. During that time I hope we can visit again, and visit several more European and African countries. Time will tell.
On Christmas Day last year I wrote here about our Christmas in the the Sahara desert a few years ago. We were on a guided tour of Morocco – you can read about our adventures in recent posts (go to the Archives or use the cloud on the side bar). Our tour dates happened to bring us into the Sahara on Christmas Eve.
Once we had left our bus – including our luggage – we saw a group of camels waiting patiently to take us into the desert. I had seen the amazing colours of the Sahara in photos, but until you experience it with your own eyes at sunset, you don’t fully appreciate the depth of the colours. Some of the tour group dressed up for the occasion, including my wife and daughter (see photo below).
As we set off into the desert I realised how difficult it is to take photos while travelling on a camel. I think this was my first ever ride on a camel. The camel constantly lurches forward and then back. It is an animal which does not make a very good platform for photography. I am pleased I managed to get a few reasonable shots during the hour long journey.
In the coming days I will show more photos of this part of our journey, including our camp site in the desert.