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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Fuerteventura January 2007,
Having discovered the Canaries in December 2005 (a week in Tenerife) we were bitten by the mid-winter-birding-in-the-sunshine bug so decided to try Fuerteventura, where we expected to see more species than the 32 we saw in Tenerife but, maybe, less lifers (9 in Tenerife).
We flew from Bristol with First Choice (£98 each for the no-meal option), booked our car through www.holidayautos.co.uk (£98.50 for the week, fully inclusive), and our accommodation through www.ownersdirect.co.uk. (£165 for the week)
The flight was a typical knees-under-your-chin charter. But it was adequate for a short flight and you get what you pay for.
We always book the cheapest car available and this time we got an almost new Kia Piccanto It proved to be ideal – we drove some rough tracks and did 700 kms (438 miles) and spent 29 Euros (£21) on petrol which was 0.77Euros a litre (55p/l or £2.50 a gallon). We have used Holiday Autos before and have always been happy. Our complaint this time was the fact that, although we booked it as “airport collection” we had to take a mini-bus to pick it up from a depot some 2-3 km down the road. It wasn’t much of an inconvenience but we wouldn’t want the hassle if we arrived in the night - it was almost 2 hours after touchdown before we drove it. Other people were complaining loudly – I hope, like us, they’ve e-mailed Holiday Autos with their views.
Our accommodation was superb – a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house on the Fuerteventura Golf Resort (NOTE: £165 p/w was a concessionary price offered by the owners because our original booking of their smaller apartment had to be cancelled). It was very quiet despite being 15 minutes from the airport.
Caleta de Fusta was the resort we chose due to its central location, and the fact that it sounded less touristy. For us, it was definitely the right choice - the north was awful, with a phenomenal amount of building going on.
The weather was perfect for birding and walking – dry and mainly sunny every day, with a cold breeze near the coast and at each end of the day, when longs and a fleece jumper were needed. At other times we wore shorts and tee-shirts.
Siteguides: “Where to watch birds in Africa” by David Wheatley.
From past experience the notes of other birders on the Birdtours website are better than site-guidebooks because the latter are usually out of date. This is not a criticism of guidebooks but a sad reflection on the commercialisation of some of the world’s former birding habitat. The ‘development’ is taking place at a rate with which revised guides cannot compete.
This time we used the notes of Georges and Mirielle Olioso (firstname.lastname@example.org), Jan/Feb 2002; David and Annette Tomlinson (email@example.com), January 2005; Chris Knox, 2005; and Stephen Dunstan, Feb 2006.
Best of all, though, was a chance encounter (see Tuesday 9th) with Derek Bradbury (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Map: The excellent 1:50,000 AA Island Series (Fuerteventura - No.6). This map shows all the tracks referred to in the details below. NOTE: Some ‘tracks’ are now excellent roads. Eg: The East-West ‘forest/farm road’ from Nuevo Horizonte-Triquivijate. NOTE: On this map, Los Gerriones beach is Playa de Sotavento.
Birdguide: Collins bird guide (Killian Mullarney et al) but better still is:-
Field Guide to the Birds of the Atlantic
Islands: Canary Islands, Madeira, Azores, Cape Verde
Wed 3rd January – arrived, collected car, drove to, and walked
around, Caleta de Fusta
(12 species including 1 lifer – Fuerteventura Chat)
Thurs 4th January - Salinas del Carmen, Pajara, Las Penitas, Betancuria,
(22 new species for the trip including 3 lifers – Trumpeter Finch, Barbary Partridge, Cream-coloured Courser)
Fri 5th January - El Mattoral plains, Salinas del Carmen, coastal
path, Barranco de la Torre
(3 new species for the trip – no lifers)
Sat 6th January - the Jandia peninsula (plains SW of La Pared, the
tidal lagoon at Los Gerriones, Risco del Paso, Costa Calma, La Lajita) and
Barranco de la Torre
(6 new species for the trip including 2 lifers – Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Lesser Short-toed Lark)
Sun 7th January – upper and lower reaches of the Barranco de
Rio Cabras and Embalse del Rio Cabras, Caleta de Fusta
(7 new species for the trip including 1 lifer – Pallid Swift)
Mon 8th January - Cotilla Plain, El Cotillo and lighthouse, Malpais
de Huriamen, Corralejo, track parallel to the FV-10 between Lajares and La
(1 new species for the trip, a lifer – Barbary Falcon)
Tues 9th January – 3 glorious hours at Catalina del Garcia
(36 species) and some last-minute sunbathing and relaxation
(13 new species for the trip – no lifers)
Total: 65 species, including 8 lifers
Site details and some species seen there:
Day 1 - Wednesday 3rd January
Upon arrival at our accommodation, we decided to take advantage of the last hours of daylight by checking out the resort. Firstly we went for a stroll down the road and back, within the confines of the golf resort, and saw a few birds on a piece of wasteland – Kestrel, Southern Great Grey Shrike, Berthelot’s Pipit, a female Fuerteventura Chat (endemic). We then drove into Caleta, parked in the centre and strolled along the coastal path – Spanish Sparrow, Yellow-legged Gull, Turnstone, Sanderling, Grey Plover, Common Sandpiper, Sandwich Tern and Collared Dove – before stopping for a beer at a harbour-side bar.
First impression: Caleta is still a nice, quiet (ish) resort, but there is a lot of development going on – it’ll be ruined in a year or two. As for Tenerife 13 months ago, we're glad we went in the low season.
Day 2 - Thursday 4th January
First stop, the Salinas (saltpans) del Carmen - Linnet, Pintail, Dunlin, Redshank. The saltpans and museum are a tourist attraction for which an entry fee of 5 euros is payable. We hopped over the low wall thinking that we didn’t have to pay to walk around the grounds. But a member of staff arrived for work and politely told us that opening time was 10:00. So we walked back to the car and drove on towards Pajara, en route for Las Penitas reservoir. But, on approaching Pajara, we thought it looked like a nice little town (or village?) worth stopping at. Furthermore, it was possible to park beside the main road, just before the roundabout, and overlook some promising looking rough ground/cultivated areas to the right - Sardinian Warbler, Trumpeter Finch, Hoopoe, Spectacled Warbler, Raven. From there, we strolled around the municipal park and tree-lined car-park - Blackcap, tenerifae Blue Tit, and Chiffchaff. We drove through some dramatic scenery and stopped at a viewpoint - Common Buzzard – before arriving at what we assumed was a car-parking area, south of the reservoir. A few cars were parked there and the occupants could be seen walking to and from the reservoir. We decided to eat our picnic lunch in the company of a Robin before we, too, set off. As luck would have it, a local with a mean-looking dog, appeared from nowhere and made it clear that it was “Entrar Prohibido”! It seems that we were all trespassing and should’ve parked much further back the road, and walked along the north shore. Since the reservoir looked dry and birdless we decided not to bother and drove on towards Betancuria, where the car park was bordered with trees – Willow Warbler and Goldfinch. The town, which I believe was once the capital, was nice and unspoilt despite a few gift shops and a restaurant. We stopped for a beer in an extremely old and interesting bar with a lovely shady courtyard but, unfortunately, they kept caged birds, which spoiled it for us. On to Los Molinos reservoir………..eventually! We had a bit of trouble locating the correct track to the dam but are glad we persevered – the correct track revealed 5 Barbary Partridge and 2 Cream-coloured Coursers. (The reservoir can only be reached from the north, despite what the map suggests, by taking the FV-221 and turning due south on a sharp right-hand bend about 5km after you’ve left the FV-207). From the dam we saw Ruddy Shelduck, Coot, Black-winged Stilt and Little Ringed Plover, not to mention great views of 2 pairs of Fuerteventura Chat.
Day 3 – Friday 5th January
After a leisurely breakfast on the patio we drove towards the airport to bird the El Mattoral plains. Georges and Mirielle Olioso say that all the steppe species may be seen here – we saw only 2 incongruous Grey Herons! We drove back to Caleta with the intention of walking the coast path north towards Nuevo Horizonte but we soon abandoned the walk because it was monotonous, birdless and cold, with too many people around. Later in the afternoon we drove down to the saltpans and parked the car before striking out along the coastal path towards the mouth of the Barranco (dry river bed) de la Torre. Along the coast we saw our first Little Egret and probable true Rock Doves of the trip, and flushed 4 Cream-coloured Coursers just south of the saltpans. When we got to the mouth, bushes were full of Spectacled Warblers, some showing extremely well – in Tenerife they were much less confiding. We walked up the Barranco for about half a mile, and return, but didn’t see much except Berthelot’s Pipits, Spectacled Warblers and Spanish Sparrows. On returning to the car we drove westwards on the FV2 to where the road crosses the Barranco de la Torre – Georges and Mirielle Olioso saw a few things here, but we saw nothing at all – we assume that conditions were dryer than normal for January because there was no water lying anywhere – even Los Molinos was almost dry.
Day 4 – Saturday 6th January
We left the house early (7 am) bound for the south of the island – the Jandia peninsula. Our first stop, just before 08:00, was the plains SW of La Pared to look for Houbara Bustard and other steppe species. We spent over a hour in the area but only saw 4 Black-bellied Sandgrouse and 3 Hoopoes (the most we’ve ever seen together) plus, of course, the ubiquitous Bert’s Pipit. We proceeded on to the tidal lagoon at Los Gerriones where we saw Spoonbill (1), Lesser Black-backed Gull and Ringed Plover. This was most disappointing as we’d expected a lot after reading David & Annette Tomlinson’s report. We then drove to the beach car-park at Risco del Paso at the far end of the lagoon, from where we walked eastwards across the beach. After 10 minutes we turned back as it was clear that there were too many homo sapiens and not enough aves around. We headed back towards Costa Calma with the intention of having our picnic lunch on the beach – no chance! From what we could see, it’s a large, noisy tourist trap where the hotels have a monopoly on the beach. They all seem to stand between the road and the sea with no way through. Next stop, La Lajita – what a glorious contrast! We enjoyed our picnic on a secluded, albeit rocky, beach with only one local for company (he sat quietly gutting his fish whilst we munched our veggie sandwiches) before driving back towards the zoo. Apparently, the entrance is good for birds but all we saw were Collared Doves, Spanish Sparrows and a pair of Blackcap. So, we decided to head back to Caleta with a detour to Catalina Garcia, south of Tuineje on the FV-20. Although we were in the area on Thursday, we weren’t aware of how good it was for birds until we re-read the trip reports on Thursday evening. Not having read ‘Clarke & Collins’ we had no idea where it was but, judging by the species mentioned in the reports, we knew water must be present, so I scoured the map until I found it. About 4km south of Tuineje, we headed west on a rough track. The map showed pools on both sides of the FV-20 but there was no sign of water on either side. In the absence of a signpost we opted for the west (left) side since ‘Rosa de Catalina Garcia’ was shown on the map as being west of the FV-20. The track was impassable (as stated in David & Annette Tomlinson) so we were convinced this was it. Since there wasn’t a drop of water or a bird in site, and only a few palm-trees we abandoned the idea and returned to the Barranco de la Torre again, this time further inland by turning North off the FV2, just before a restaurant and about 7km from the Salinas del Carmen. Malc braked suddenly because he spotted a flock of birds on a small mound to his left – our first Lesser Short-toed Larks. Whilst he was ‘scoping them I spotted 2 unmistakeable black & white dots in the near distance – Egytptian Vultures. Malc managed to ‘scope them briefly before, typical of vultures, they gracefully flowed over the mountains in the far distance.
Day 5 – Sunday 7th January
After a pre-breakfast run and a lazy morning, we decided to check out another area recommended by our French friends, near Tesjuates and just off the FV20. Heading west from the capital, I suggested we check out a reservoir that was marked on the map – Embalse del Rio Cabras, NW of the airport. We turned off the FV20 and drove along the track, which appeared to end at a rubbish tip. It was extremely attractive to flies, but also Buzzards, gulls, 3 Little Egrets, Ravens, 2 White Wagtail and swifts (probably a mixed flock of Pallid and Plain but too distant for positive ID). We continued along on the track to the right of the rubbish tip until it became too rough to drive. We walked over to the edge of the Barranco de Rio Cabras to our right and looked down into a deep, almost dry river bed. – Plain and Pallid Swifts flew around at, and below, eye-level over the gorge. Guano on the rocks caused us to wonder what roosted there. As we proceeded to walk NW (inland) along the lip of the gorge we found our answer – 12 Grey Herons took flight from the rock face as we approached. We continued on to check out the upper reaches of the Barranco, just off the roundabout where the FV20 meets the FV225, as recommended by Georges and Mirielle. On our arrival, water was running – always a good sign! We ambled along the track for about 500m and returned after an enjoyable 45 minutes – Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, Snipe as well as Robin, Hoopoe, White Wagtail, Little Ringed Plover, Spectacled Warbler, Fuerteventura Chat and Berthelot’s Pipit. In the evening we walked along the rocky coast and then the beach – Whimbrel. We felt quite cold despite wearing fleece jumpers, so headed back sooner than we’d intended.
Day 6 – Monday 8th January
Another early start (06:30) as we headed for the NW of the island in our continuing search for the Houbara Bustard. We got to a reliable site on the Cotilla Plain at 07:20, just after daybreak, as planned. Despite spending 21/2 hours in the area we had no luck – in fact it was quite birdless apart from Hoopoes, Southern Grey Shrikes, and a Barbary Falcon for Malc - I missed it! Our one stroke of luck was meeting Derek Bradbury who hadn’t seen the bustards that day either, but he did give us clear directions to Catalina Garcia. He was so enthusiastic that he convinced us we must find it. The question was “shall we abandon this area and go there now?” or “shall we work the rest of this area today?” After all, it had to get better. Didn’t it? No, it didn’t! We drove through El Cotillo and ate our picnic lunch by the shore where the only things of note were naturists. On to the lighthouse – great scenery, cold wind, no birds. We’d really hoped to have seen a Stone Curlew in this area, but development was in evidence in a big way. We drove out of the unimpressive resort via the football stadium – according to Derek, the falcons perch on the lights there. No luck today, though (perhaps he said ‘roost’!)! We continued on towards Corralejo, via Malpais de Huriamen where Georges and Mirielle saw…………Yep! You’ve guessed! But the little bustards weren’t there today – just 2 Cream-colured Coursers. The lure of a cold beer was getting too much after a fruitless morning behind the bins so we headed for Corralejo. What an awful place! Full of tacky gift shops, noisy bars, union jacks and about 200 cranes (No! Not the feathered variety! Development is everywhere in an already big, brash resort. We didn’t even stop the car – I studied the map and directed Malc back out as soon as possible. Having seen this place, El Cotillo, Costa Calma and Caleta, we are absolutely convinced that we chose the right resort. Our original plan had been to do the North-West today, and the North-East tomorrow but, since we covered all the North of the island today with no intention of returning, we decided to find Catalina Garcia the next morning and headed back ‘home’. On our return journey we birded the track west of, and parallel to, the FV-10 between Lajares and La Oliva. It is reputed to be good for passerines and Houbaras but we saw virtually nothing. We found La Oliva a navigational nightmare despite its’ small size, but got back to Caleta with enough daylight for a cold beer in the garden, before enjoying a delicious Chinese meal at The Slow Boat.
Day 7 – Tuesday 9th January
We woke up to a much warmer day, with less wind. We left for Catalina Garcia at 9 am and, thanks to Derek, we found our destination easily. But, it must be said, that it was obvious when driving from the North as the body of water is clearly visible from the road, but it’s not when coming from the South as we had on the 2 previous occasions, due to a mound obscuring ones view. Directions when driving south from Tuinije: about 4 km south of Tuinije there is a white dwelling on the east side of the road (left side) and a little bus-stop/shack. Turn off left here, immediately after the dwelling. Initially, one feels that one is trespassing as the track passes close to the dwelling, but it soon bends to the right and stretches off south towards the lake. When we were there it was very driveable all the way to the embankment where we parked the car and set up the scope. (in poor weather, assuming it’s not so poor as make the track impassable, one could park up here and use the car as a hide). We spent 3 glorious hours here but really wished we’d found this site earlier in the holiday. We saw 36 species here, including 13 new ones for the trip – Moorhen, Shoveler, Teal, Wigeon, Black-headed Gull, Booted Eagle (2 x light morph, one of which landed less than 100 metres from us), Peregrine, Ring-necked Duck, Tufted Duck, Scaup, Gadwall, Kentish Plover, Bluethroat and Greenshank.
Day 8 – Wednesday 10th January
Packing in the morning before travelling home - arrived back in Cornwall at 21:00 after a great trip.
(including some, but not all, sightings)
1. Little Egret
Widespread . Seen most days – even present at the rubbish tip.
2. Grey Heron
2 at El Mattorel Plains, 3 at Catalina Garcia, 3 at Gerriones Beach, 12 at Barranco de Rio Cabras (lower)
6 at Catalina Garcia, 1 at Gerriones Beach
4. Ruddy Shelduck
14 at Catalina Garcia, >80 at Los Molinos
1 female at Catalina Garcia
6 Northern Pintail
2 females at Salinas del Carmen, 1 female at Catalina Garcia
7 Northern Shoveler
A pair at Catalina Garcia
8 Wigeon (American ?)
1 female at Catalina Garcia
9 Common Teal
15 at Catalina Garcia
10 Greater Scaup
2 females at Catalina Garcia
11 Tufted Duck
8 at Catalina Garcia
12 Ring-necked Duck
A pair at Catalina Garcia
13 Egyptian Vulture
2 seen from KM18 on FV-2
14 Booted Eagle – 2 x pale morph
2 at Catalina Garcia
15 Common Buzzard
Widespread. 2-3 seen most days
16 Common Kestrel
Widespread. 2-3 seen most days
17 Peregrine Falcon
1 adult at Catalina Garcia
18 Barbary Falcon
1 adult at El Cotillo plains
19 Barbary Partridge
4 beside track to Los Molinos dam
20 Common Moorhen
8 at Catalina Garcia
21 Eurasian Coot
7 at Los Molinos, >40 at Catalina Garcia
22 Black-winged Stilt
2 at Los Molinos, 6 at Catalina Garcia
23 Cream-coloured Courser
2 beside track to Los Molinos dam, 4 along coast from Salinas del Carmen, 4 in flight on La Pared plains (near windfarm), 8 in flight at Catalina Garcia, 1 on building site in Caleta de Fusta
24 Little Ringed Plover
2 at Los Molinos, 4 at Barranco de Rio Cabras (upper)
25 Common Ringed Plover
Numerous at Los Gerriones
26 Kentish Plover
7 at Catalina Garcia
27 Grey Plover
Singles seen at coast on every visit
Seen at coast on every visit. 10 at Caleta de Fusta 3/1/07
29 Ruddy Turnstone
Numerous at coast on every visit
5 at Salinas del Carmen, several at Los Gerriones – too distant to count
31 Common Sandpiper
Singles seen most days where habitat suitable
32 Common Redshank
1 at Salinas del Carmen, 2 at Catalina Garcia
33 Common Greenshank
5 at Catalina Garcia
Singles seen at coast on most visits
35 Common Snipe
1 at Barranco de Rio Cabras (upper), 2 at Catalina Garcia
36 Black-headed Gull
1 first winter at Catalina Garcia
37 Yellow-legged Gull
Numerous along the coast and at the rubbish tip.
38 Lesser Black-backed Gull
Seen in small numbers among the ‘yellow legs’
39 Sandwich Tern
Always present on the beach barrier at Caleta de Fusta. Max of 8 seen here.
40 Black-bellied Sandgrouse
A total of 5 on La Pared plains, 1 in flight at El Cotillo plains, 7 at Catalina Garcia
41 Rock Dove
Numerous, especially along the coast. Several appeared to have the markings of true Rock Doves as opposed to feral pigeons
42 Eurasian Collared Dove
A few seen most days, around human habitation
43 Plain Swift
Mixed flock (with Pallids) in Barranco de Rio Cabras (lower)
44 Pallid Swift
Mixed flock (with Plains) in Barranco de Rio Cabras (lower)
45 Eurasian Hoopoe
Singles seen most days throughout the island, 2 together at El Cotillo plains, 3 together at La Pared plains
46 Lesser Short-toed Lark
20 – 30 near KM18 on FV-2, 12 at Catalina Garcia
47 Berthelot's Pipit
Numerous and widespread
48 Meadow Pipit
1 at Barranco de Rio Cabras (upper), also 1 regular visitor at our accommodation, looking for crumbs
49 White Wagtail
2 at the rubbish tip, several at Catalina Garcia
50 Grey Wagtail
1 at Barranco de Rio Cabras (upper)
51 European Robin
1 near Penitas reservoir, 1 at Betancuria, 1 at Barranco de Rio Cabras (upper)
1 male at Catalina Garcia
53 Fuerteventura Chat
Seen in small numbers daily, in all habitats – much more numerous than our old edition of ‘WTWB in Africa’ suggests
Heard most days. 1 pair seen in Pajara municipal park, 1 pair seen at the zoo entrance (La Lajita)
55 Sardinian Warbler
Heard more often than seen. 1 seen at Pajara.
56 Spectacled Warbler
Numerous, widespread and surprisingly confiding
57 Willow Warbler
1 at Pajara car park, 3 at Betancuria car park
Small numbers seen, or heard, most days
59 teneriffae Blue Tit
1 at Pajara car park
60 Southern Great Grey Shrike
Singles seen several times daily, all habitats
61 Common Raven
Fairly common, especially in the mountains
62 Spanish Sparrow
A few seen most days, around human habitation
63 Common Linnet
Small flocks at Salinas del Carmen and Catalina Garcia
64 European Goldfinch
1 at Betancuria car park – very elusive
65 Trumpeter Finch
Fairly numerous and widespread in small flocks