The wetlands on the Moroccan shore of the Strait of Gibraltar

The Atlantic coastline in northern Morocco, on the African side of the Strait, holds a complex of closely linked estuaries and lagoons, included in the Ramsar list of Wetlands of International Importance, due to their rich avifauna.

The Merja Zerga Lagoon, internationally renowned as the last wintering ground for the nowadays probably extinct Slender-billed Curlew, is a major staging and overwintering area for an astonishing number of waders. Moreover, this is the most reliable spot to observe the last individuals of the relict population of the Marsh Owl in the Western Palearctic. A birding trip in a local fishing boat is the most appropriate and exciting way to explore the otherwise inaccessible corners of the lagoon.

Further south, on the doorstep of Kenitra, Sidi Bourghaba reservoir offers unparalleled opportunities to observe an amazingly tame array of breeding wildfowl including Red-knobbed Coots, Marbled Teal, White-headed Ducks, Ferruginous Ducks and Red-crested Pochards. Additionally, this is a perfect spot to observe the North African race of the Magpie, which lacks the green gloss of its European counterpart but shows a striking blue area of bare skin behind the eye! In addition, African Blue Tits and Chaffinches are easy to find along the forested banks of the reservoir. The large concentration of dragonflies in this wetland frequently attracts Hobbies, especially at dusk, when Marsh Owls can also be observed foraging over the reed beds!

The Lower Loukos estuary is a calm spot, full of interesting birds. This is the northernmost breeding area for the Brown-throated Martin and Little Swifts, which breed within the nearby medina of Larache, also forage here. Interestingly, this is the home of a non-migratory population of Reed Warblers whose taxonomic rank is still to be determined. Moustached Warblers, Savi´s Warblers and Common Bulbuls can be found here too. Squacco, Purple, Grey and Night Herons are numerous and we have even recorded hybrids between Western Reef and Little Egrets!

This region also contains some of the most charming, chilled-out and pretty-as-a-postcard villages in northern Morocco, such as Chefchaouen and Asilah. Tangier, which is connected with Tarifa by a fast ferry, is a more boisterous city with a vibrant traditional zoco, enlivened by the songs of a recently established breeding population of House Buntings!