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Scaling the heights looking for birds of prey in Morocco’s High Atlas | The National

Birds of prey in Morocco’s High Atlas range:

the national logoAt first light, I scale the arid hillside, my feet skidding on crumbling rock. Breathless and exhausted, I finally stop on a flat roof. I gaze skywards, scrutinizing the mountain ridge like a famished falcon, the valleys and plains around me hushed and deserted. There, I wait for savage inhabitants of some of the world’s most revered summits – the birds of prey of the High Atlas.

These North African peaks are home to formidable aerial predators – falcons, eagles, hawks and vultures. Abrupt, crimson ­cliffs provide perfect lodgings for birds that nest only in the most unreachable clefts of the sheerest precipices. Add vast kilometers of plains between the Atlas range and fruitful hunting ground, and they’re in perfect territory.

Our trek begins at Oukaimeden village and the mountain upon which it stands, 2,400 meters tall. It’s one of the lesser peaks that accompany North Africa’s highest, the kingly 4,000-metre Mount Toubkal. Snow crowns the surrounding summits from November until at least March. Come the winter months, Moroccans flock here to ski, but we were interested in other species; ones that steer away from crowds and are a good sight more graceful. The Atlas raptors…[FULL STORY]

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