Wednesday 4 April 2018

Western Sahara: Migration through the Desert!

I have just returned from my second trip to the Western Sahara region leading a Wise Birding Tour. This region of North Africa has become popular with birders in recent years for the recent exciting discovery of Golden Nightjars that appear to be breeding in the area as well as other species that are difficult to find within the Western Palearctic region such as Cricket Warbler, African Dunn’s Lark and Sudan Golden Sparrow. 

This part of North Africa also has to be the best place in the world to see the Sand Cat. A species that until fairy recently was a notoriously difficult mammal to see in the wild.

However, regardless of the above specialities, for me the region is just as exciting for its incredible migration spectacle. There is something about seeing migrants in the desert that just re-affirms how amazing  migration is and what an incredible journey it is for many birds. There is also the excitement of simply not knowing what is going to appear from the next patch of habitat. Whether that be in the desert or a tiny park in the centre of Dakhla!

Just some of the highlights of the migration can be seen below:
Many more photos can be found on Peter Alfrey's Blog HERE

The desert landscape near the small settlement of Aousserd.

White-spotted Bluethroat - We saw at least a dozen different birds during our week, seemingly co-inciding with a number of UK records.

White-spotted Bluethroat - According to HBW Alive,  In North Africa, cyanecula (White-spotted form) is commoner
 on passage, and almost all birds wintering there are cyanecula too.

European Bee-Eater - Small flocks of between 20-50 birds were recorded daily in the desert.

Black Kite - Up to 250+ birds were seen on one day migrating through the desert. Interestingly, they seemed to be avoiding the coast.

Marsh Harrier - A common sight with small numbers seen moving through on a daily basis.

Montagu's Harrier - Three birds were recorded and just one beautiful male above.

Western Orphean Warbler - 3 birds seen feeding in the many Acacia trees near Laglatt.

Common Nightingale - 1-3 birds recorded in the various bits of habitat in the desert and on the coast.

Tree Pipit - A commonly seen species in any bit of suitable cover.

Woodchat Shrike - A common migrant in any suitable bit of cover.

Wryneck - Small numbers encountered in the desert and on the coast.

Bluethroat - One of the many seen

Eurasian Bittern - Biggest surprise of the trip was this bird I flushed from a pool in the desert. Apparently only the second record  for the Western Sahara region. The first record wasn't actually seen and comes from a satellite tagged bird!
A female equipped with a satellite transmitter on 17 June 2010 in the Netherlands was located on 26 October along the coast of the Moroccan
Atlantic Sahara then at the Mauritania-Senegal border on 28 June 2010 and finally in Gambia on 5 November.
The spring return of 2011 took place through the interior of Oued Ad Deheb and Saquiat Al Hamra, then through the Lower Draa.
Observations of Eurasian Bittern are rare in Mauritania, but not exceptional (Isenmann et al. 2010).
Eurasian Bittern - A crazy sight in the desert!


  1. Cracking pictures mate. That region is now on my bucket list. Well done on the Bittern too. What a record that is!!

  2. Thanks Spencer - Glad you enjoyed it. An amazing place for sure.

  3. Fantastic! What a trip that must have been.