The Canary Islands – Fuerteventura

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Fuerteventura 3rd-8th February 2013 – Day 1 – Sunday 3rd Feb – An early drive to Seville started extremely well with a fabulous view of an adult male Pallid Harrier crossing the road close to Vejer de La Frontera. White Storks have already taken up their nest sites on electric posts and were warmly lit by the early sunshine. We passed a small group of Glossy Ibis and a few Common Buzzards were seen en route.Flights to Gran Canaria and a local transfer to Fuerteventura went smoothly, then collected the rental car we arrived at our hotel mid-afternoon after stopping to watch a of the race insularum. Some Ravens, Spanish Sparrows and good numbers of Yellow-legged Gulls were also seen.

Houbara Bustard flying in the Calima (sandstorm)

Common Buzzard

We took a walk around the village and saw Great Grey Shrikes, some Berthelot’s Pipits. The island plants and sparse vegetation is always interesting to study in such a harsh and parched environment. The island doesn’t get much rainfall, having no large mountain range to collect and water-filled clouds that predominantly come from the north. The weather was quite cold and a stiff breeze was blowing from the north and there wasn’t much happening bird wise as the sun began to set.After a hearty meal we retired for the night, hoping for warmer weather.

Day 2 – Monday 4th Feb – It doesn’t get light until around 07:30hrs on Fuerteventura in early February and after breakfast we headed south to try and limit the effect of the strong northerly wind.The birding grapevine was still telling us that three Olive-backed Pipits from Asia were still to be found down in the south around Costa Calma. En routs we saw a dashing .

On our arrival we parked and searched the narrow strip of woodland looking for any birds. Failing to see the Pipits we did however find a small group of six Siskins and a pair of Bramblings, both species being rare on the Canary islands. Goldfinches and Common Linnet were also seen.After a coffee we took the road to Betancuria, spotting a single Barbary Partridge flying in across the road. The wind was still very strong as we stopped to watch Barbary Ground Squirrels, Berthelot’s Pipits, Spanish Sparrows and Ravens at the top of one of the mountain peaks.

Houbara Bustard

We took a lunch of mixed tapas lunch at Betancuria the took a walk looking along the barranco and agricultural areas finding Sardinia Warbler, Common Kestrel, Blue Tit (African race) and Hoopoe.Driving up to Tendaya we took our time outside the village searching and scanning across the rocky landscape for more birds. Soon we spotted small groups of Houbara Bustards at first in the near distance and then others very close to the road. We saw fourteen birds in total and all had excellent views of this wonderful bird.

Spectacled Warbler

Cream-coloured Coursers were next to be seen and although the birds were running through the rocks then stopping (as they do!), their soft peach color blending in with the shadows, hues and subtle color tones of the volcanic landscape. We did manage to get good scoped views of these special birds.

Cream-coloured Coursers

Later in the late afternoon we walked across to a small reservoir finding Lesser-short toed Larks, Spectacled Warblers and a pair of Fuerteventuran Chats. A single Little-ringed Plover, a female and one Grey Heron flew off from the site and a lovely male Yellow Wagtail fed with a White Wagtail along the water’s edge. A Common Buzzard was also seen perched nearby. As the dust filled air shrouded the setting sun, we headed back to our hotel near La Oliva and took dinner in the restaurant.

Day 3Tuesday 5th Feb.Despite a windy start to the morning after a calm at first light we drove off south again after breakfast.Before exploring the shore line at Las Salinas we found some Black-tailed Godwits and a single Whimbrel on the nearby golf course. The shore around Las Salinas threw up a few more waders including Ruddy Turnstone and more Whimbrels. Yellow-legged Gulls were common a we watched a single Ruddy Shelduck flying over from the direction of the nearby barranco.

Ruddy Shelduck

Totoiseshell Butterflies were seen as were some fascinating striped Hover Flies feeding on cactus flowers.A few Common Kestrels and a pair of nesting Common Buzzards flew along the gorge one carrying nesting material. Spectacled Warblers and Fuerteventura Chats showed themselves and a few Trumpeter Finches flew past. Rock Doves were plentiful and a distant adult Egyptian Vulture surveyed us from on high. Barbary Ground Squirrels ran throughout he rocks and there was a good number of Painted Lady Butterflies and a good number of Vagrant Emperor Dragonflies were around.

Egyptian Vulture

Some Lesser Short-toed Larks and also flew over or were heard calling from the nearby fields. House Martins came along the ridge and they were accompanied by two Red-rumped Swallows.We travelled a bit inland finding a small reservoir that held some water. Along the fringes we saw Black-winged Stilts, Greenshank and Little-Ringed Plover. Five to so Moorhen walked off as we approached closer to the site and a single Common Snipe flew off. On the water a pair of Ruddy Shelducks were watched and another Greenshank was seen with White Wagtails and more Black-winged Stilts. Some Hoopoes were calling from distant palm trees and Berthelot’s Pipits were singing from electric wires.

Lesser Short-toed Lark

We took lunch at a great restaurant and later watched some Egyptian Vultures wheel across the sky while Cream-coloured Coursers ran in the distance blurred by the increasing heat-haze.We travelled a short distance to another open landscape with a goat farm and adjoining earth workings where to our delight we watched a group of eight adult and juvenile Egyptian Vultures rise out a Barranco and fly towards our group.$

Some of the vultures alighted atop of some bare palms trees.As we travelled down a track to the disused earth workings we spotted a pair of very close to the track and a little further saw a group of seven birds feeding.Heading back to our hotel we spotted five Barbary Partridge and quite a few Great Grey Shrikes to add to the days tally. A Barn Owl Was heard calling from close by as we lay in bed.

Day 4.Wednesday 6th Feb.It was overcast in the morning and the temperature hadn’t really increased at all. The dust that had been coming in from the Sahara had thankfully died down and the skies were clear once more.After breakfast we took a look at the La Oliva agricultural areas finding few birds apart from Berthelot’s Pipit and Rock Dove.Driving north to the dunes park we found Lesser Short-toed Larks, more Berthelot’s Pipits and some Common Buzzards. A few Egyptian Vultures were seen flying or perched and at the rocky shoreline two Common Terns passed with some Sandwich Terns.We took lunch of Paella at El Cotillo then scoured the tracks and coastline south of the town for Houbara Bustards and Cream-coloured Coursers to no avail. The largest birds we saw were two F18 fighter jets that came in quite low close to the coast!Changing tactics we drove to the Los Molinos area and had views of Black-bellied Sandgrouse and Trumpeter Finch. Ruddy Shelduck were seen in various locations and at the Barranca we found quite a good number of new species that included Grey Wagtail, Common Snipe, Redshank, Greenshank, Green and Common Sandpipers, Ring-necked Duck, Tufted Duck, Widgeon, Northern Shoveler and Sand Martin.A pair of Common Buzzards came in a wheeled above the rocky gorge and then landed to mate on the ridge. Ruddy Shelduck and Coot were the commonest birds on the water at the reservoir and the mixed waders flew around feeding on the soft muddy banks.It was getting dark when we arrived back at our hotel and we took a light meal feeling still quite full after our Paella at El Cotillo!Stone Curelews could be heard calling during the night.

Day 5.Thursday 7th FebOnce again the strong cold air from the north made it unseasonable weather With our fleeces on we left after breakfast to check one or two areas for Sandgrouse and Bustards.

Houbara Bustards

Descending towards the coastal stretches f the west we came across several Houbara Bustards feeding and preening very close to the road. Using the car as a hide we quietly watched them for some time. Black-Bellied Sandgrouse were seen in moderate flocks, often silhouetted against the ocean. Better looks at Lesser Short-toed Larks and Trumpeter Finch was next up and Common Linnets also flew around in the company of the charming Berthelot’s Pipits.

Black-bellied Sandgrouse

We took a walk along the headland after catching up with Spectacled Warblers that called from some scrubby desert thorns. House Martins and Barn Swallows flew overhead and a few Pallid Swifts crossed the open sky above our heads. Ravens chased a pair of Egyptian Vultures bringing nesting material to their cliff nest site as Lesser-Black-backed Gull and Yellow-legged Gulls passed by.

One of a pair of Barbary Falcon

Our next treat was a pair of Barbary Falcons that were seen on the black volcanic cliff face. Moving slowly a little closer we managed to get excellent views of these dashing falcons that look at first glance very similar to Peregrines.Walking back to the car we travelled on to Pajara for lunch.We took a trip down past Costa Calma to Morro Jable to drop off Yeray who was catching the ferry to Gran Canaria. After saying our farewells we stopped to watch the numerous Monk and Rose-ringed Parakeets that have taken up residence in this busier tourist resort on the south-west sandy coast. After a coffee we set off to Costa Calma to look one more time for the Olive-backed Pipits and managed to find one! A Common Chiffchaff was another bonus and as the sun started getting low in the sky we headed back to our hotel at La Oliva.
Thank you to all who took part in this tour. We managed to see everything we came to the island for and despite the unseasonably cool temperatures and Saharan dust or Calima, we had a great time on Fuerteventura and I’m sure we’ll see some of you again the future.

List of Species seen:

Barbary Partridge Alectoris barbara koenigi
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea
Common Teal Anas crecca
Widgeon Anas penelope
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
Tufted Duck Anthya fuligula
Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris
Cattle Egret Bulbulcus ibis
Little Egret Egretta garzeta
Grey Heron Ardea cunerea
Ruddy Shelduck Tordorna ferruginea
Egyptian Vulture Neophron percuopterus majorensis
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo insularum
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus dacotiae canariensis
Barbary Falcon Falco peregrinoides
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra
Houbara Bustard Chlamyditis undulate fuerteventurae
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Stone-curlew Burhinus oedicnemus insularum
Little-Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
Black-talied Godwit Limosa limosa
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
Common Sandpiper Acticus hypoleucos
Common Redshank Tringa totanus
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
Yellow-legged Gull Larus michaellis
Lesser Black-Backed Gull Larus fuscus
Common Tern Sterna hirundo
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis
Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis
Stone Curlew Burhinus oediicnemus (H)
Cursorius curso bannermani
Sand Martin Riparia riparia
House Martin Delichon urbicum
Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica
Rock Dove/Feral Pigeon Columba livia
Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto
Barn Owl Tyto alba (H)
Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri
Monk Parakeet Myiopsitta monachus
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops
Pallid Swift Apus pallidus
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
White Wagtail Motacilla alba
Lesser Short-toed Lark Calandrella rufescens
Fuerteventura Chat Saxicola dacotiae
Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephla
Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata
Great Lanius excubitor koenigi
Common Raven Corvus Corax
Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis
Berthelot’s Pipit Anthus berthelotii
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni
African Blue Tit Parus teneriffae degener
European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
Siskin Carduelus spinus
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla
Common Linnet Carduelis cannabina harterti
Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githagineus amantum

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