March 2016. Late evening, the light is changing into a deep orange-red. I am driving up the mountains in the High Atlas, Middle Morocco. By Andrea Corso.
I’m thinking about the many exlorers who came in the 18th and 19th century to North Africa to study the fauna and discover new species, like von Erlanger, von Heuglin, Bottego, Antinori, Lynes, Bannerman, Lavauden, Babault, Reichenow, Cabanis and so on.
Their names went down in history and they are preserved in wonderfully printed books, made with love and often as final testament of their life. Many indeed perished while trying to disclosure the secrets of African wildlife and geography. At the time, other than risk their life, they had to collect (therefore shoot!) the birds to study the fine plumage and morphological differences between the various taxa, in order to describe new species and subspecies.
Today, I have my LEICA 10×42 HD and LEICA APO-TELEVID 82, so I could see the fine details from a distance, not even disrupting the birds and their secret and fragile life. So I could tell how more uniform, with paler belly and throat the African Crimson-winged Finch (Rhodopechys alienus) is, compared to the Asian one (sanguineus). Similarly, the subtle differences of the subsp. atlas of Eremophila alpestris (for ex. more uniform and rusty plumage in general) have no secret any longer, like the bill shape of the North African Crossbill (polyogina) is perfectly appreciable, the reddish spotted breast of mauritanicus Greater Spotted Woodpecker with also its extensive bright red undertail coverts patch entering the lower vent and belly and so on.
To gather the knowledge for a paper for Dutch Birding on Seebohm’s Wheatear, I need to check even the primary spacing and the primary projection, the wing-tip to tail-tip ration, the shape of the pale supercilium in both male and female, the shape of the fine and slightly recurved bill, so I use my Leica APO telescope with its extender 1.8x. All in all, from the snowy cold high mountains to the dry, hot, but lively desert, all along the Atlantic windy coast and following the Argan Valley of Souss… Morocco is always a wonderful, welcoming, friendly country where I love to go birding with all my Leica instruments.