The last post ended with 7H possibly flying away from her stopover near Azemmour and heading for her final wintering destination. When yesterday’s data arrived it showed that in fact she returned to Azemmour. But there’s lots more to tell. This post owes much to Paul Wildlifewriter for details about the weather conditions and also advice and research. Any errors will be the result of my efforts.
So to start where we left off at 15.01 GMT on 6 November. Almost immediately after that 7H landed in the industrial complex at Jorf Lasfar. This is a deepwater commercial port and rapidly expanding industrial area with a strong phosphate/petrochemical component. It is also home to the largest water desalination plant in Morocco which is run by OCP, the world’s leading exporter of phosphate rock and derivative products. Phew! 7H roosted for an hour by channels that are part of the seawater pre-treatment cycle.
If she thought she was onto a fishing winner at a shallow river she was wrong! She left the plant at soon after 16.10 but stopped on a nearby pylon for a few minutes. She is normally at her roost area around this time and she flew back along the coast to roost for the night on one of her scrub trees north of Azemmour. The image below shows her travel to Jorf Lasfar (centre path) and return to Azemmour (top route).
On her flight to Jorf Lasfar 7H had reached over 600m altitude a couple of times. Perhaps she was establishing landmarks to help her locate her staging post on future migrations. Or prospecting a southwesterly route for onward migration. The weather in Morocco is favourable for migrating to W Africa at the moment with a northeasterly airstream, although on 6 November there was a temporary wind shift in the afternoon. Was this a reason 7H turned back? We’ll never know.
On 7 November she was on the wing early because the first fix away from her roost was at 07.44 on the river bank. Sunrise had been at 06.58. Hopefully she had caught a good sized fish because she didn’t fish again before 16.21, the last fix. She flew from the river back to Pylon City where she spent half an hour before heading off in a southerly direction initially. By 11.00 she was at 300m altitude and flying in a more westerly direction; there are several little diversions on her general course where she gained height and then changed course slightly. She reached 900m altitude although was mostly lower and was speeding along at 55 to 60 kph at times before arriving about 5 km inland of Jorf Lasfar. She turned towards the coast and spent an hour flying along it and exploring the harbour.
She didn’t land as far as can be determined from the fixes, one a minute mostly, and for the last few minutes of her exploration she was at altitudes of between 677 and 778m. It is tempting to think she was making sure that in the future she would recognise the quite distinctive complex even from some distance and establishing other landmarks inland from it.
She then flew high and just inland at speeds of up to 68 kph (that backwind helping, no doubt) before slowing and dropping height as she reached an area of salt marshland south of Sidi Abed. In the image below and this photo you can see what is probably evaporative salt production. 7H flew past there, more interested in a shallow lagoon which looks quite like an estuary. A bird watcher’s delight according to the guidebooks.
You can see from this photo that there are pylons inland so a double attraction! 7H spent an hour flying quite slowly (around 15 kph) and low (around 20m altitude) over the area but cannot have caught a fish.
She kept to the coast as she flew on SW but as it started getting more barren she turned inland, heading SE for a time before stopping near what seem to be water storage areas for an hour. At 16.21 she flew off in a northeasterly direction but paused for a few minutes on a pylon at 16.28! The last fix was at 16.42, she had travelled around 120 km but not in a straight line, where would she spend the night? And is she resuming her migration or just extending her horizons? Here is an image of her day, ignore the top two paths from Thursday afternoon.