FUERTEVENTURA 19th – 23rd Jan 2013
Syndy and I took a last-minute short break on a relatively cheap Thomas Cook package from Birmingham airport to Fuerteventura. I intended to go to the airport by public transport but because the flight returned at 7.35pm, there seemed to be no way of getting back to Sheffield so I had to drive. There was a lot of snow on 18th and the airport was closed till 6pm, so we left early on Sat 19th to catch our 1.30pm flight. The only difficulty on the road was in Sheffield where most roads had not been gritted, but we easily reached our pre-booked APH car-park (15 mins from the airport, £13.70 for 5 days including transfer by coach). Surprisingly, the flight was on time and the only complaint was the length of time it took before the transfer bus left Pto del Rosario airport for Corralejo, at the NE of Fuerteventura. The town and our resort (Oasis Duna) were both pleasant enough.
The weather was a little disappointing, being mainly cloudy and windy with a few short showers, until the last morning when it was sunny, but still windy. Apparently it had been sunny and calm for several weeks beforehand until a few days before we arrived, but at least it was much warmer than back home. Wild flowers were very evident in some places, presumably a bonus of the recent rain.
On Sunday, our first day, we took a local bus to La Oliva and walked all morning in the hills, then returned to Corralejo by bus and walked to the extensive sandy beach outside town. On Monday we hired a car for the next two days. My main aim was to explore the northern half of the island leisurely and see the endemic Chat and scarce Houbara Bustard (that I had missed in Morocco). This was achieved except that we couldn’t find the Bustard, even though Ian Merrill had kindly given me precise directions on where he had seen several with ease NW of La Oliva. I think there has been considerable development around there as a lot of drivable tracks were apparent; may be it was too early in the year for the birds to be very active. Apart from hiking over the plains near La Oliva and nearby El Cotillo, we also visited a few barranco; Embalse de los Molinos (the only reservoir of any size and that’s not much); Betancuria, the old capital with a few historic buildings; Casa de los Coroneles, a fine restored building at La Oliva, and several attractive windmills.
We eventually found a pair of Chats at Barranco de la Torre and then at the barranco by the airport, but nowhere else. We also saw Egyptian Vulture, Barbary Falcon briefly, Stone-Curlew, burbling flights of Black-bellied Sandgrouse, a vagrant female Ring-necked Duck and good numbers of the eminently split-able Corvid. We did not see Barbary Partridge or Cream-coloured Courser, which everyone else finds, but didn’t try very hard. On the last morning we drove part way up the hillside at dawn above Cotillo where we had found a good viewpoint over the bustard plains the previous day. Shortly afterwards Bryan came out of the nearby estancia and told us bustards were present, he had seen one two weeks ago. I was amazed to find he came from Sheffield and had worked at the Tesco store we frequent, before becoming a stone-wall builder in the Peak Park, then moving to Fuerteventura where he has continued to wall-build for 20 years! He offers eco-activities at his place including hill-walking and camping, tel. 670 834612. I imagine it would be fairly cheap to stay there. No bustard for us of course but we couldn’t stay long as we had to return the car. My final birding activity was a swift 20 min walk to the barranco near the airport after we checked in for our flight, with an hour to kill. I relocated the pair of Canary Islands’ Chat and returned on foot to the departure lounge with a few minutes to spare. So ended an enjoyable trip.
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
3 singles on the coast.
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea
Common at Embalse de los Molinos and a few elsewhere.
Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula
A pair at Embalse de los Molinos
Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris
A vagrant female at Embalse de los Molinos
Teal Anas crecca
Several at Embalse de los Molinos
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Several at Embalse de los Molinos
Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus
1 perched on telephone wires near at Embalse de los Molinos. An active nest was obvious in Barranco de la Torre
Buzzard Buteo buteo insularum
Only a few of the Canary endemic form insularum, in the hills.
Kestrel Falco tinnunculus dacotiae
Barbary Falcon Falco peregrinoides
Only 1, in flight in the hills.
Coot Fulica atra
Numerous at Embalse de los Molinos
[Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata fuerteventurae
Singles were reported on the plains south of El Cotillo]
Stone-Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus insularum
4+ on wasteland opposite a windmill near Antigua
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
A few at Embalse de los Molinos.
Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
A few at Corralejo.
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrius
2 at Corralejo
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola
2 at Corralejo
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
10 Embalse de los Molinos
Sanderling Calidris alba
20 at Corralejo
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
1 at Embalse de los Molinos.
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa
1 at Corralejo
Whimbrel Numenius phaepos
2 at Corralejo
Redshank Tringa tetanus
1 Embalse de los Molinos 4th Feb.
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
A few at Corralejo
Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis
Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis
c.50 in a few parties in morning flight over Embalse de los Molinos
Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto
Hoopoe Upupa epops
1 at the airport.
Lesser Short-toed Lark Calandrella rufescens polatzeki
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
1 in flight, surprisingly
Berthelot’s Pipit Anthus berthelotii berthelotii
White Wagtail Motacilla alba
1 Embalse de los Molinos
Canary Islands’ Chat Saxicola dacotiae
A pair at Barranco de la Torre were flighty but a pair north of the airport gave good views and appeared to be nesting in a low bush.
Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata orbitalis
Only a few seen of what is said to be a common bird, possibly keeping low because of the wind
Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala leucogastra
A few heard but no effort made to see them.
Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis koenigi
Only 4 singles of another “common” bird
Raven Corvus corax canariensis
Fairly common and widespread in small numbers. I first thought they were Carrion Crows as they sounded rather like them, certainly not like Ravens, and the tail was rounded not elongated. The only literature I can find that casts doubts on the identity as Northern Raven is HBW 14 which says “Recent molecular-genetic investigations suggest that…the birds in the Canary Is (samples from Fuerteventura only) are morphologically and genetically distinct from other Old World ravens…and appear to be sufficiently isolated today to evolve independently”. In other words, a good split.
Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis
Common to very common, especially around human settlements.
Linnet Carduelis cannabina harteri
A few scattered ones and twos
Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githagineus amantum
Small numbers at several sites.