FUERTEVENTURA - ISLAND OF THE SUNWednesday 24th February 2016
Wednesday 24th - Saturday 27th February 2016
We all met late morning for our flight down to Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands. There was a delay in taking off as ground staff had to unload bags belonging to two passengers that missed the deadline for boarding, but eventually we were off.
We enjoyed a good flight which took in Alderney in the Channel Islands before going south over the Bay of Biscay and continuing down through Portugal before descending to Fuerteventura.
We landed on time and after getting our luggage and sorting the vehicle, we loaded up and drove north to our hotel.
The light was going as we headed off but the journey produced COMMON KESTREL and COMMON BUZZARD, both of the Canary Islands subspecies dacotiae and insularum respectively.
SPANISH SPARROWS could be heard chattering away from several palm plantations that we passed but remained hidden.
After checking in and having a short time to unpack we met for a pre-dinner drink before enjoying a great three-course meal and then retiring for the night after a long day travelling.
Thursday 25th February 2016
We all met bright and early after a good night’s sleep and drove the short distance from the hotel to an open area of rocky plains. Several BERTHELOT'S PIPITS were seen close to the road whilst a showy male SPECTACLED WARBLER gave good views as it sang from several prominent perches. Some YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS grouped together out on the stony plains and this in turn attracted quite a few RAVENS of the smaller race tingitanus.
With us all searching it didn't take long before we spotted some birds that are specialists of the barren terrain. A pair of STONE CURLEW gave amazing views close by and soon after we had excellent sightings of two CREAM-COLOURED COURSERS which delighted Brian no end!
A couple of BLACK-BELLIED SANDGROUSE flew by distantly and dropped down behind a ridge and out of view. Annette then spotted our first HOUBARA BUSTARD close to the congregation of YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS and because it was quite distant we carefully got out of the van to scope up without fear of disturbing this rare species.
With the scopes we found four adults with a couple of chicks in tow which was fantastic to see and just when things couldn't get any better, Steve spotted a male HOUBARA BUSTARD displaying on the opposite side of the road.
Over the next fifteen minutes we had distant but great views of this bird as it ran around like a demented headless chicken! Several GREAT GREY SHRIKES perched on top of walls and fences whilst the song of LESSER SHORT-TOED LARKS emanated from the plains around us.
With time getting on, we turned round and headed back to base for a late breakfast, which went down a treat as by now we were rather peckish.
After tucking in we had some time before heading off again and around the hotel gardens were lots of SPANISH SPARROWS and a single LAUGHING DOVE amongst the many COLLARED DOVES.
We took a drive south to a reservoir and along the way we had brief views of two BARBARY PARTRIDGE in flight but unfortunately not everyone got to see them.
A RUDDY SHELDUCK was in a fenced off goat pen but very little else so we continued along the track noting several TRUMPETER FINCHES plus lots of SPANISH SPARROWS.
Coming to the end of the track we had brief views of a small passerine flicking around at the base of the fence which turned out to be a female FUERTEVENTURA STONECHAT! With patience we had really good views of up to four birds including a stunning male. This endemic species is every birders target when visiting the island and it was good to get it under our belt early in the tour.
As we got out of the van, a small party of PALLID SWIFTS flew through towards the sea. Over the next hour and a half we took a leisurely walk along the edge of reservoir, noting a large flock of around 200 RUDDY SHELDUCKS plus a few COOTS on the open water. A YELLOW WAGTAIL flew past us and a thorough scan of the edges produced several GREENSHANK, COMMON SANDPIPER, LITTLE RINGED PLOVER and both GREY and WHITE WAGTAILS.
Around the rocky plains we located around 60 BLACK-BELLIED SANDGROUSE flying around as they were disturbed by a roving goat herd.
It wasn't just birds though, as there were several ATLANTIC LIZARDS basking on the walls plus several LESSER EMPEROR dragonflies along with BLUE EMPEROR. Best of all we saw around 60+ SAHARA BLUETAIL damselflies which gave good views.
Eventually we reached the shallow end of the reservoir and here we came across around 10 BLACK-WINGED STILTS, a single AVOCET plus GREENSHANK, LITTLE EGRETS and five GREY HERONS.
With temperatures rising we retraced our steps back to the van for a welcome drink of water and a brief break before heading down to the coast for lunch. A quick check of the fenced off goat pen produced several HOOPOES plus a male TRUMPETER FINCH feeding on a silage bale.
The coast was rather busy on arrival with many people having lunch in the cafes, so we took our picnic lunch up onto the cliffs where we overlooked the sea. It didn't take long before Steve shouted CORY'S SHEARWATER and over the next thirty minutes or so we had lunch whilst watching a steady passage of at least 60-70 birds moving steadily north. There was also an occasional GANNET moving plus Steve spotted a GREAT SKUA but unfortunately no one else got onto it so it didn't make it onto our bird lists.
A quick look at the Barranco produced VAGRANT & LESSER EMPEROR dragonflies plus several teneral Darter species which were unidentifiable. A migrant moth Spoladea recurvalis was seen resting in the grass and around the ford was a motley assortment of MUSCOVY DUCKS plus a COMMON SANDPIPER.
We then took a drive south towards the mountains and here we took a wander around in the afternoon sunshine. After parking, we immediately had good views of a pair of SARDINIAN WARBLERS flitting around a base of a tree which was soon joined by a CHIFFCHAFF.
With diligent searching of the tamarisks we located a wintering YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER which gave brief views. A MONARCH BUTTERFLY glided slowly over promptly disappearing over the top of the trees.
Spending time checking the bushes proved fruitful with David locating a family party of AFRICAN BLUE TITS feeding in the trees. This species may be taxonomically split in the future from the North African race so we were quite keen to catch up with it!
The MONARCH was seen again before we succumbed to an Ice Cream which was very enjoyable. A slow stroll back to the carpark produced superb views of the YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER as it flitted around in the open, plus in the carpark we watched the MONARCH land on a palm tree which was great to see.
With time getting on we stopped off in a small village where unfortunately the sun went in and the wind got up, preventing us from seeing any dragonflies along the Barranco but we did see several SPECTACLED WARBLERS, LINNETS and a singing TURTLE DOVE. David spotted a GREY WAGTAIL feeding on the stream but it slipped away unseen.
Our last port of call was a viewpoint overlooking the west coast and although rather breezy and cold we had excellent views of RAVEN plus several BARBARY GROUND SQUIRRELS. Then Mark did an amazing job of picking out a distant falcon which turned out to be an adult BARBARY FALCON.
It was then time to head back and we hadn't gone far when we turned a corner and there in the road was a stunning BARBARY PARTRIDGE that posed for a photograph and wandered up the slope and away before we had to move off due to traffic!
We arrived back at just before seven which gave enough time to have a hot shower and relax before meeting for a cold beer. Dinner was a selection of mixed starters except for Howard who partook of his daily fix of Garlic Prawns! Most of us tucked into a lovely Paella before a choice of delicious desserts.
After completing the bird list we retired for the night after what had been a simply amazing day with so many good birds seen.
Friday 26th February 2016
We met at a slightly earlier time to once again head down to the plains for another chance of seeing the bustards and coursers and in the hope that we may find some closer birds than the previous morning.
It was rather cloudy as we made our way along the track which made viewing tricky as it was still quite dark. To our surprise we came across the same male HOUBARA BUSTARD displaying, although he was pretty distant. Moving further on we stumbled across another male displaying and this time it was closer giving reasonable views. A scan produced several females/young males but these were quite far away.
Taking a different route proved productive when we came across a flock of eight CREAM-COLOURED COURSERS moving through the plains feeding constantly. They came pretty close to the van before moving off. Lorna then spotted a HOUBARA BUSTARD cross the road right in front of us so we headed down to get closer and enjoyed stunning views of this bird as it stayed close by.
Delighted by this, we headed back for breakfast where we caught up with Brian who opted to have a lie in! After breakfast we drove towards the south end of the island making a stop off to photograph a traditional windmill before visiting a site in the south that is good for Egyptian Vultures. A LESSER SHORT-TOED LARK showed well close to the van and lots of TRUMPETER FINCHES zipped by us.
It was then that we saw an adult EGYPTIAN VULTURE flying low over the plains but unfortunately it carried on going. We then stopped at a vantage point and where we found a large flock of TRUMPETER FINCHES feeding on the ground, SPANISH SPARROWS and a pair of GREAT GREY SHRIKES.
We retraced our journey back to some higher ground where we got an all-round vista and here we spotted at least four EGYPTIAN VULTURES plus a couple of COMMON BUZZARDS.
A SWALLOW zipped through low and then we spotted a group of PALLID SWIFTS moving through and in the flock was a WHITE-RUMPED SWIFT! Several got onto this bird as it powered its way north and disappeared from view.
We then headed southwards towards the coast and arrived in good time. The sun was out and the beaches were very busy with Kite-surfers and walkers, which meant there were very few birds on the beach except for YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS with a couple of GANNETS offshore.
We turned our attentions to the large number of BARBARY GROUND SQUIRRELS zipping around and some came within a few inches of us! A dark dove landed on the bank and then flew towards us and it became obvious that this was an AFRICAN COLLARED DOVE from the plumage.
By now our stomachs were rumbling so we tucked into lunch in the sunshine before heading off to a wildlife park that has great wildlife around the carpark. We parked up in the shade and took a wander round the carpark, where in the sheltered conditions it was rather hot indeed.
A SPECTACLED WARBLER foraged in the scrub and several butterflies included an AFRICAN MIGRANT and many PAINTED LADIES. This site is renowned for a few Red-vented Bulbuls but despite searching we couldn't locate any.
We did however see a huge ICHNEUMON FLY plus a EUROPEAN POND TERRAPIN in an ornamental pond. Several birds we did see flying wild were a HADADA IBIS and at least two LAVENDER WAXBILLS that were feeding in the tall trees adjacent to the carpark.
With it being quiet we headed up to an area of saltpans on the coast in the hope of seeing some waders and gulls. A walk along the coast produced several WHIMBREL, COMMON SANDPIPER, RINGED PLOVERS, TURNSTONE, DUNLIN and a good flock of SANDWICH TERNS. LITTLE EGRETS fed along the shoreline and offshore we spotted several CORY'S SHEARWATERS.
Our last sites for the day were a couple of large golf courses adjacent to the coast that can be good for birds, but the only bird of note was a lone REDSHANK feeding on a pool and apart from that we found several RUDDY SHELDUCK and a GREAT GREY SHRIKE.
With some time remaining we made a quick visit to an outflow that ran towards the sea. More CORY'S SHEARWATERS headed northwards and on the beach was a close roosting WHIMBREL. The outflow stream held a little water and here we found another or the same REDSHANK plus LITTLE RINGED PLOVER and COMMON SANDPIPER. A GREY WAGTAIL frequented the area under the bridge and Lorna spotted a female BLACK REDSTART in the compound whilst a male was heard singing briefly.
We arrived back at the hotel in time to have a hot shower and relax before meeting for our pre-dinner drink. Our evening meal was once again delicious with the Entrecôte Steak being a popular choice!
After completing the bird list we began to head off to our rooms but as we passed through the breakfast room we spotted an EASTERN CANARIAN GECKO on the wall, which rounded off the day nicely.
Saturday 27th February 2016
We met at 8.30am for breakfast as we were heading off home later that day and took the opportunity to bird locally during the morning, although just before heading to the breakfast room David discovered three STONE CURLEWS in a field close to the hotel and a LAUGHING DOVE was spotted and gave superb views in the garden.
After breakfast we headed to a nearby site where Egyptian Vultures were occasionally seen and it didn't take too long to find a fine adult EGYPTIAN VULTURE soaring over the hillside. After parking up we found a further three birds including an immature sitting on the rocks.
With a bit of detective work we managed to take a track to a compound where a few Goat carcasses were put out for the vultures and lo and behold there were at least four more EGYPTIAN VULTURES on the ground along with lots of RAVENS.
Other species here included BERTHELOT'S PIPITS, GREAT GREY SHRIKE, HOOPOE and several WHITE WAGTAILS.
With some time spare we checked out the coast in the northwest corner of the island but apart from a few YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS and both CORY'S SHEARWATERS and GANNETS offshore it was rather quiet.
Several other sites were visited with seven BLACK-BELLIED SANDGROUSE and WHIMBREL the pick of the bunch. With a strong wind blowing and an occasional shower blowing through we returned to the hotel to pick up our luggage and picnic lunches before revisiting the reservoir.
The wind made viewing difficult but finding some shelter behind a wall helped us locate RUDDY SHELDUCKS, BLACK-WINGED STILTS, GREENSHANK, YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS, COMMON SANDPIPER and a number of PALLID SWIFTS feeding low over the hillsides.
It was then time to head to the airport where along the way we found another EGYPTIAN VULTURE plus KESTREL and to our delight, two groups of two PLAIN SWIFTS flew low past the van heading north!
After getting fuel, we arrived back at the airport to find the car rental return rather busy and the terminal even more so, but the check in desks opened and we made our way through security to the gates with time to get food and drink for our journey home.
The fight took off some twenty minutes late and with a strong headwind all the way home, we arrived at Gatwick a little later than scheduled. After walking what seemed like miles to passport control, we collected our luggage and said our goodbyes after what had been an absolutely brilliant tour with lovely accommodation, food and delightful company!