Western Sahara

19th Nov 2021

Rueppell’s Fox © Ian Green

Nine days in the lovely Saharan sun was much enjoyed. Except of course we slept through parts of the sunny day as we were out at night until the early hours looking for mammals! We managed to see all the target species and had some amazing moments during those days (nights!).

Nico’s knowledge of the desert in the Western Sahara is intimate, a great advantage in that it allowed us to be a very long way from the main roads even in the middle of the night – the GPS being a major factor in this too. Importantly he also knows which areas are safe and which areas may not be! To the mammals. We saw the Sand Cat. Just one and briefly (only minutes after seeing the only African Wild Cat of the trip) but at close range with good views. So quick though, it was gone as we raised our lenses. A total of six African Golden Wolves were seen, one couple allowing us to follow them for a while, and one seen at close range in daylight. Perhaps the stars of the show though were the lovely little Fennec Foxes. One night in the Erg Rhabbi From the desert camp at Sbeta we encountered no less than seven of them, almost all with wonderful views. We saw several Rueppell’s Foxes too, one that Nico got us close to for photography. There were plenty of those cute little gerbils and lots of hoppity-hop Lesser Egyptian Jerboas. A Desert Hedgehog and two Pharaoh Eagle Owls allowed photography. A highlight was our encounter with the Libyan Striped Weasel. This was a real little comedian. It ran crazily hither and thither, towards on of us then another, at one point running between on the group’s legs and even disappearing under the (parked) vehicle briefly. It was so fast though that photography was a problem, as you’ll see from the picture here. Though we weren’t really looking for birds during the time in the desert as we were asleep at prime birding times of day we did nevertheless see a good variety of desert species and a day dedicated to birding at Dakhla on the coast at the end yielded an impressive variety of species. No less than six hundred globally endangered Audouin’s Gulls were a highlight, and two male Ring Ouzels, a species hardly recorded before in Western Sahara.