The Cricket Warbler or Cricket Longtail (Spiloptila clamans) is a small bird native to the Sahel region, where its breeding area is restricted to a narrow band stretching from southern Mauritania and northern Senegal eastwards to Sudan and Eritrea. Inside the Western Palearctic region, the species was only known to occur in exterm north of Mauritania.
Species discovery in Aousserd
The region of Aousserd was already known to host some interesting bird species hard to see elsewhere within the border of the Western Palearctic. For this reason, the region is becoming an essential birding destination for an increasingly number of birders.
It’s within this context that the Cricket Warbler has been independently discovered by two teams at Oued Jenna, approximately 40 kilometers before to the village of Aousserd. In September 2007, British birder Trevor Charlton discovered the breeding of the species at Oued Jenna. Here is a quote from Trevor’s report (see: Charlton 2011):
The primary aim of visiting West Sahara in southern Morocco was to search out a couple of Western Palaearctic species hard to see elsewhere in the region, these being Black-crowned Sparrow-lark Eremopterix nigriceps and Dunn’s Lark Eremalauda dunni. However, the whole trip was eclipsed by the finding of a pair of breeding Cricket Warblers Spiloptila clamans, not believed to have previously bred in the Western Palaearctic or been recorded in Western Sahara ever before.
Probably unaware of the first discovery, a Swedish birding team composed by Thomas Pettersson, Krister Mild and Peder Wærn also independently found the species in the same region in February 2008.
Subsequently, the species was reported by various birders who visited the region during the last 2 years, and more indications of breeding were also recorded. For example, Swiss birder Fabian Schneider obtained excellent photos of two adults nest building in February 2010 (see photos 3, 4 & 5).
In October 2010, I was among a group of Moroccan ornithologists and other naturalists who explored the region (most of our itinerary was away from the known roads). During that trip, we found the Cricket Warbler in full breeding period (adults feeding young). We also recorded the autumnal breeding of several desert birds (adults collecting nesting material, nests with eggs, broods, and recently fledged juveniles…). The full report is due to be published very soon in Dutch Birding.
With birds like Cricket Warbler, African Dunn’s Lark (Eremalauda dunni dunni), Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark (Eremopterix nigriceps), Desert Sparrow (Passer simplex), Sudan Golden Sparrow (Passer luteus) and many other desert birds, the Aousserd region becomes “a must visit” for every serious Western Palearctic birder.
The Dutch Birding article and the report about the autumnal breeding of Saharan bird species are now published:
Amezian, M., Radi, M., Ibn Tattou, M., Khayya, M.L., Samlali, M.L & Qninba, A. 2011. Cricket Longtail breeding in southern Morocco. Dutch Birding 33: 229-233.
Charlton, T.D. 2011. First record of Cricket Warblers in South Atlantic Morocco, September 2007. Go-South Bulletin 8 : 38-40.
Qninba, A., Radi, M., Amezian, M., Ibn Tattou, M., Khayya, M.L., Samlali, M.L., Khalil, M.L. & Hammia, A. 2011. Nidifications automnales d’oiseaux sahariens dans la région d’Oued Ad-Dahab – Lagouira (Maroc méridional). Go-South Bulletin 8: 21-34.