Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Desert Sparrow

Desert Sparrow was probably THE most wanted bird to see on our recent Morocco trip. It had an air of mystique about it to the point where we questioned whether we would actually see this species or not.

Desert Sparrows are a bird that appears to be on the decline as competition for nesting with House Sparrows and loss of suitable habitat are having a effect on their numbers. However, according to the IUCN they are of "least concern", this is down to the fact that their range is so wide and their habitat (i.e desert) makes it tricky to gauge numbers. One thing is certain, in the Merzouga area of Morocco it was a mere 10 years ago that numbers of these birds were around the 80-100 and they could be easily found, but in 2011 we were hearing about odd pairs or numbers under 10 so clearly in this particular area they were just holding on to territory.
We approached the Erg Chebbi dunes with some rather sketchy info about a pair nesting in the walls of Auberge Cafe Jasmina which has been a favoured place over the past few years but we also had read about another Auberge that takes people into the dunes themselves to see the birds. Arriving at the dunes we were approached by a guy called Brahim who ran Auberge Caravane, he GUARANTEED Desert Sparrows for a small fee....it seemed genuine and so within an hour we were crammed onto the back of a quad bike being taken into the dunes.....



Upon arrival in a small camp out in the dunes our guide instantly pointed to 2 small birds flying over our heads and instantly we knew we were in the right place, we'd seen our first Desert Sparrows! We then spent the next hour having the most wonderful views of such a rare bird, the camp housed camels and their dung provided feeding opportunities for the sparrows, the sparrows relaxed in our presence and photos opportunities became available...










Our time was up and the light would soon be fading so we had to leave the dunes and leave the sparrows, overall we probably saw somewhere between 10 and 15 individuals, most of them males. It was a truly great experience, it wasn't just seeing the birds but going into the desert itself, riding a quad bike and spending some time alone with the birds all made for a real memorable moment of the trip and one i'll never forget...

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