Morocco trip October '16

Morocco, Algeria, Tunesia, Libya, Egypt, Sinai

Morocco trip October '16

Postby Kristian Bell » Tue Aug 22, 2017 12:29 pm

Well better late than never, but thought I would share a few images with you all from a trip to Morocco with 2 mates (David Nixon and Ben Dalgleish) in October. Morocco had long been a dream destination of mine having seen so many of the European herping community come back with great finds and stories. On top of this, I had herped southern Spain many times and the UAE twice and missed a few species in both those regions that could also be found in Morocco.

Having landed at Agadir, we sorted our rental and drove straight to Sidi Ifni, a small coastal town popular with surfers. This was to be our base for the entirety of the trip.
ImageOld Timer for an Old Town by Kris Bell, on Flickr

The first afternoon was spent roadcruising and walking a few dry river beds. We immediately spotted what was probably a horseshoe whipsnake but it disappeared sharpish. The horseshoe whipsnake is one species I had missed or found DOR many times in south Spain so this was a painful further lost opportunity with this species.

With no joy on the first afternoon, we started road cruising as it got dark and very quickly found a live, juvenile horseshoe whipsnake...result!
ImageHorseshoe Whipsnake (Hemorrhois hippocrepis) by Kris Bell, on Flickr

ImageSnake in thorns by Kris Bell, on Flickr

After finding several more of this species we decided to walk one of the dry river beds we had walked during the day and within a few minutes I heard an excited call from Ben, who had spotted a massive puff adder. This was my personal #1 target of the trip and it was a superb individual so needless to say, I was a happy camper. It wouldnt stop hissing and lunging at us, getting its whole body airborne, no small feat for such a chunky animal. We kept it to take pictures of the following day in the hope it would calm down...it didnt.
ImageBig Bitis by Kris Bell, on Flickr

Having found my #1 target my thoughts began to turn to other species such as Helmeted and Elegent geckos, and black cobras.

The following day we roadcruised a bit, walked a bit, and visited a fascinating place to the south and slightly inland called Fort Bou Jerif. After a delicious tagine (pretty much the only meal the seemed to serve in Morocco) we continued doing the same into the afternoon. During this time, while reptiles were thin on the ground, we amused ourselves by taking photos of numerous bird and mammal species.

A wheatear
ImageMaghreb Wheatear (Oenanthe lugens) by Kris Bell, on Flickr

The endearingly named Fat Sand Rat
ImageFat Sand Rat (Psammomys obesus) by Kris Bell, on Flickr

My main birding target...Little Owl
ImageLittle Owl (Athene noctua) Stare by Kris Bell, on Flickr

Ground squirrel
ImageBarbary Ground Squirrel (Atlantoxerus getulus) by Kris Bell, on Flickr

Roadcruising throughout the second night produced more whipsnakes, more puff adders and another of my top targets for the trip, the Helmeted gecko. These guys did not disappoint in the flesh and reminded me quite a lot of my favourite family of geckos, Carphodactylidae - that contain the knobtail gecko species.
ImageHelmeted Gecko (Tarentola chazaliae) by Kris Bell, on Flickr

A few other shots from the Sidi Ifni region:
ImageFisherman by Kris Bell, on Flickr

ImageHorseshoe whipsnake by Kris Bell, on Flickr

ImageSahara Frog (Pelophylax saharicus) by Kris Bell, on Flickr

ImageField of Dreams by Kris Bell, on Flickr

ImagePuff adder (Bitis arietans) - Morocco by Kris Bell, on Flickr

On the third day we decided to try for some different species, and struck out inland in the direction of Guelmim, Tan Tan and beyond. On the way out we passed by a car that had pulled to the side of the road and where a bunch of grown men were huddled in a circle, crouching over and taking pictures of a piece of dirt. Of course we had to stop, and it turned out to be a group of herpers from Europe, one of whom (Matt Berroneau) I knew well from the online community. After introductions, note swapping, bragging etc (they had found a black cobra earlier that day!) we continued on our way.

We passed some pretty incredible landscapes on the way.
ImageParched Landscape by Kris Bell, on Flickr

ImageIsolated Dune by Kris Bell, on Flickr

A couple of top targets in these regions were the rare white bellied carpet viper, desert monitor, horned viper, and Uromastyx. We spotted a beautifully colored Uromastyx which got away but did manage to find almost a dozen saharan horned vipers, about 60% of which did not have horns. This individual had some nice blue-ish markings to it.
ImageSaharan Horned Viper (Cerastes cerastes) by Kris Bell, on Flickr

We revisited these inland areas the following day and found numerous camel spiders, as well as this snake, which we originally mistakenly took to be another of the numerous horseshoe whipsnakes.
ImageMograbin Diadem Snake (Spalerosophis dolichospilus) by Kris Bell, on Flickr

Another very welcome find from our trip inland was the elegant gecko. This one was about as drab an individual as I have seen but it had amazing eyes and was a wonderful animal nonetheless.
ImageNothern elegant gecko (Stenodactylus mauritanicus) by Kris Bell, on Flickr

We had found several moorish vipers dead on the road in the inland regions and after coming across another DOR, we decided one of us would jump out to walk the adjacent drainage ditch that followed the road. Within 20 seconds we had found a live individual, cruising along the ditch.
ImageMoorish viper (Daboia mauritanica) by Kris Bell, on Flickr

Into our final day and despite seeing about 40 snakes over the short holiday, time was running out to find a black cobra, the species that Ben most wanted to see. So you can imagine our joy when on our final run of what had been a particularly fruitful stretch of road, we came across a beautiful young black cobra. A very fitting end to a very successful trip.
ImageBlack Cobra (Naja haje) by Kris Bell, on Flickr
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Re: Morocco trip October '16

Postby Niklas Ban » Tue Aug 22, 2017 1:31 pm

Crazy photography, thanks for sharing! :)
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Re: Morocco trip October '16

Postby Mario Schweiger » Tue Aug 22, 2017 1:46 pm

very good pictures!
the Cerastes looks crazy. First I though, you muixed up a few SA herps (Bitis caudalis) into this report :)
Mario (Admin)

Please visit also my personal Herp-site vipersgarden.at
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Re: Morocco trip October '16

Postby Jürgen Gebhart » Tue Aug 22, 2017 7:23 pm

AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Re: Morocco trip October '16

Postby Michal Szkudlarek » Tue Aug 22, 2017 8:28 pm

Very artistic photography. Cool.
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Re: Morocco trip October '16

Postby Kai Kolodziej » Wed Aug 23, 2017 12:04 am

Wonderful pictures and seems that it was an outstanding trip!
What lens did you use for the Sandrat-Portrait?

cheers Kai
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Re: Morocco trip October '16

Postby Kristian Bell » Wed Aug 23, 2017 8:13 am

Many thanks for the comments all.

Kai - I used a Canon 300 f2.8L II with a 2x extender.
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Re: Morocco trip October '16

Postby Pablo Deschepper » Wed Aug 23, 2017 8:57 am

Amazing photography :o ! Congratulations on the cobra!
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Re: Morocco trip October '16

Postby Frédéric Seyffarth » Wed Aug 23, 2017 9:44 am

Just "WOW!" for the high quality pictures...the dolichospilus is a wonderful species! This Cerastes is incredibly colorful,had the same though as Mario wrote...
Thanks a lot for your nice report!
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Re: Morocco trip October '16

Postby Thomas Bader » Wed Aug 23, 2017 3:59 pm

FANTASTIC, even for October!!
Photography is awesome
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