I recently returned from a holiday in Morocco. I know of many wildlife enthusiasts who are quite happy to maintain their activities in the UK, and I fully appreciate all that we have here at home. However, I do have a bit of a wanderlust and I have found that my travels have really enabled me to have a wider appreciation of the pressure on wildlife and the environment across the world. I also see another side to the whole dilemma with the need to support humanity as well. All very big issues that will never be solved without huge changes to human nature and some major compromises along the way.
So, with all of those pressing thoughts in mind, off I went to the warmer climes of north Africa. Morocco is a great place to see migrants coming through which use the West Coast of Africa as their staging posts on the way back to us. I used to think they were “our birds” and they were “coming home”. However, lots of our visiting species spend more time away from us than they do here. So where do they actually call home?
With many new species to see and enjoy, I soon realised that I actually had far more pleasure from seeing “our” Swallows, House and Sand Martins, Wheatear, Common and Black Redstart, Chiffchaff and Willow Warblers. Then there was the delight at proving Malcolm wrong in his assumption that “you’ll never see a Cetti’s Warbler”. I have never had as good views as I did in a cafe garden near the Todra Gorge. A bird sitting on the branch of a tree singing his heart out within feet of me and my cup of Moroccan tea!
Similarly Common Nightingale – again a species which we delight in hearing, but rarely get good views of. I had excellent views and was able to snap a few (rather dodgy) photographs of this summer visitor. Having followed the BTO Cuckoo tracking project last year, I was thrilled to see a Cuckoo in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, calling and perched high up giving a great view of its “broken back” profile – could it be Lolo, Reacher, Chris, Chance, BB, David or Indy?
The enjoyment did not stop at birds however, we had several species of butterfly which I recognised from home, including Painted Lady – one of their main breeding areas is in the High Atlas Mountains of this part of Africa, Wall Brown, Bath White, Large White, Small Copper. Crimson-speckled Footman moth was great to see, as it perched along a flower stem in full sunshine. Then there were beetles of varying colours and patterns and an amazing wasp which had made its nest in the ground and was flying back and forth despite our close proximity.
The plants and flowers (even at altitude) were far ahead of ours this year. It just shows what a bit of sunshine can do.
Just to add to the feel ‘good factor’ of the trip a donation is made by the company I used to a local conservation project in each of the countries they visit, and where possible you get to see the species being supported. On this occasion it was the Northern Bald Ibis project where only 100 breeding pairs are thought to exist in the wild. [There are several introduction projects in countries such as Turkey and Syria ]. We were lucky enough to see around 20 birds, so quite a large proportion of the population in this area. Not the prettiest birds in the world but one of the rarest I have had the chance of seeing.
All of this has just whetted my appetite for the migrants’ safe arrival with us in the next few weeks.