This is my third and final post in my account of our holiday in Morocco. Having had three nights based just outside Ouarzazate, which nestles between the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert, we were spending three nights at Dar Vedra, a superb riad inside the medina of Marrakech.
Friday 19th October
We'd sampled the hustle and bustle of this amazing city (albeit, in the rain) the night before, and now the rain had gone and the sun was trying to break through. It was, however, deemed to be too cold to have breakfast in the roof garden, so we ate downstairs.
A visit to the roof garden upstairs made us feel at home with House Sparrows in attendance - I never thought that I'd start a post with an image of a House Sparrow!
|House Sparrow (male) - Dar Vedra, Marrakech|
After breakfast we went to explore Marrakech's famous souks. We resisted all offers to guide us "but mister, it's a labyrinth!"), and it was great fun with a few purchases being made. Fortunately the sun was now shining and this helped save us from getting lost - we'd entered from the north-west and knew that we wanted to head roughly south.
My wife was suffering a little with a gippy tummy, probably from the meal the night before, but Imodium was keeping it under control, so after a light lunch on the Place Jemaa el-Fna we returned to Dar Vedra for a mint tea and relax on the roof garden. Here we made a reacquaintance with some old friends - the House Buntings and the Bulbuls. It was at about this time that I realised that I had a problem with my camera. It was emitting a low whistle, was very hesitant to function when I tried to take a photo, gave very variable results when I did manage to get the shutter to function, and didn't shut down for a long while after switching it off. Possibly most worrying was that if I switched it off and then took out the memory card the whole ensemble juddered for about five seconds! I'd not taken a spare camera and lens - I nearly did, but I'd used up my hand baggage allowance for the main camera, and came to the conclusion that if I packed a spare camera and lens in my hold baggage that might be the last I ever saw of it! So all the images that follow are with me limping along in difficult circumstances!
Near Ouarzazate the Bulbuls had favoured the trees, but here the television aerials were their favoured perches. The call of the Bulbul is loud, but not unpleasant. However the song is quite musical and often accompanied by a wing-raising display as shown in the second image below.
|House Bunting (female) - Dar Vedra, Marrakech|
|Common Bulbul - Dar Vedra, Marrakech|
|Common Bulbul - Jardins Majorelle, Marrakech|
Saturday 20th October
We'd originally planned to take a day trip to the coast at Essaouira this day, but my wife's upset stomach and a three hour coach ride in each direction were not compatible, so we stayed locally. I was glad of the decision as I too was suffering and on the Imodium by now!
This morning, breakfast was in the roof garden, and the House Buntings were taking full advantage of this - not the most hygienic of situations, but charming to watch!
|House Bunting (male) - Dar Vedra, Marrakech|
I soon had a glimpse of what looked like a Sardinian Warbler, but I failed to track it down for a better look. The first sensible sightings I had were of Bulbul. Again I found one doing its song and wing display routine.
|Common Bulbul - Jardin du Harti, Marrakech|
|do you know what it is yet?|
|Pied Flycatcher - Jardin du Harti, Marrakech|
|unidentified dragonfly - Jardin du Harti, Marrakech|
|Sardinian Warbler - Jardin du Harti, Marrakech|
After lunch we took a gentle stroll back to Dar Vedra to relax on the roof terrace, and watch the House Buntings, whilst enjoying a cold beer - the first we'd found since arriving in Morocco!
|House Bunting - Dar Vedra|
|view from Chez Chegrouni|
Sunday 21st October
With our flight not until 21:05 Dar Vedra kindly let us keep our room until it was time to leave for the airport. We needed to have a gentle day as we had worked out that we were unlikely to get away from London Gatwick before about 02:00 in the morning, which meant home at around 05:00!
During a relaxed breakfast the House Buntings and Bulbuls were putting on a show, and I couldn't resist another shot of a Bulbul wing display!
|Common Bulbul - Dar Vedra|
|unidentified warbler - Jardin du Harti, Marrakech|
|Cricket spp. - Jardin du Harti, Marrakech|
|Common Zebra Blue - Jardin du Harti, Marrakech|
|Pied Flycatcher - Jardin du Harti, Marrakech|
Arset Moulay Abdessalam proved to be totally different again to the previous gardens visited. Broadly speaking it consisted of large rectangles of grass, with a selection of trees planted in them (many of them fruit bearing), surrounded by low walls (at a convenient height to sit on). There were quite a few birds around, but mainly too far away to photograph, or even identify. However, I did spot a male Blackcap looking strange in a pomegranate tree (record shot only), and another unidentified warbler, also in a pomegranate tree.
|Blackcap (male) - Arset Moulay Abdessalam, Marrakech|
|unidentified warbler - Arset Moulay Abdessalam, Marrakech|
|Common Bulbul - Arset Moulay Abdessalam, Marrakech|
Both the places we stayed at were fantastic, both as destinations and as establishments to stay in. Our driver, Youssef, was extremely accommodating to our birding requests (I believe that all drivers in Morocco are named Youssef!!), and we were only let down by the car hire firm. Our thanks to all these for a great holiday.
Our holiday was tailor-made for us by Naturally Morocco, and their service was superb, including an absolutely no-quibble refund of our car hire on our return, because of the smaller car supplied and with no air-con. I thoroughly recommend them to anyone wanting to visit Morocco, not wanting a standard package tour, but also not wanting to have a full-on birding tour. Thank you Naturally Morocco. We hope to be booking again with you in the not-too-distant future.
It looks as if we are both now over the tummy problems, brought on by us stupidly buying a box of pastries on the street in Marrakech and bringing them home to eat here in UK!
Amazingly, although Sigma quoted two to three weeks for the repair of the lens, it was returned repaired in just three days! apparently the problems were all caused by a faulty image stabilising unit, which they replaced. Well done Sigma - to say I'm impressed is an understatement!