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A Report from

Fuerteventura, February 2006 ,

Stephen Dunstan

This trip was a mixture of birding and family sightseeing.  Given restrictions on time in the field the target was to see the Chat, the Bustard and a minimum of 50 species whilst accepting a few island specialties might be missed.  This was achieved, and the finding of a Spanish national rarity added greatly to the bonhomie of an already good week.

Roads were generally quiet and well maintained.  The road south of Betancuria is best avoided by those of a nervous disposition.  Some of the tracks are very driveable, particularly the one to the dam at Embalse de los Molinos.

Day 1

Arriving early afternoon we transferred from the airport to our apartment in Corralejo.  The journey was interrupted by a return to the airport so there was a lot of opportunity to look for some initial entries on the list.  Other than Atlantic Yellow-legged Gulls and some potential Lesser Black-backed Gulls among them only a Kestrel was positively identified.

After unpacking a wander into Corralejo produced several Spanish Sparrows at the apartment and many more en route to the harbour.  Tunrstones were conspicuous in the harbour itself, later in the trip we would see a local feeding them with fish he was stripping at a table on the rocks.

Observations from the balcony of the apartment in the evening produced a Chiffchaff or two, a female Blackcap and a presumed Berthelot’s Pipit on rough ground across the road.  Collared Doves, feral pigeons and Linnets were also added to the list before close of play.

Day 2

A short boat trip to the former volcanic island of Los Lobos, just of Corralejo.  This was primarily for the scenery, and very spectacular it is in an eerie kind of way.  The bird interest was generally rather limited save for Berthelot’s Pipits at regular intervals.  By half way round the six mile circuit of the island these had only been augmented by a couple of Ravens, another Turnstone, a Whimbrel, a Redshank and a mixed group of Atlantic Yellow-legged Gulls and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. 

The second half of the walk from the lighthouse at the north end back to the harbour did improve the trip list somewhat with a couple of Southern Grey Shrikes (one memorably carrying a lizard victim) and a Buzzard of the Canaries race which drifted over south west.

Back in Corralejo Little Egret and Common Sandpiper were added to the list, both were to be seen at most coastal sites visited during the week.

Day 3

With a newly received hire car the first stop of the day was the Embalse de las Molinos.  Or it would have been if we hadn’t set off on the wrong track on arrival.  However this did no harm as splendid views of about 10 Trumpeter Finches proved to be the best of the whole trip.

On arriving at the Embalse itself (having successfully evaded a couple of camels on the road) things finally began to pick up pace with a couple of Fuerteventura Stonechats seen at very close range.  Also seen at this great site were 9 Ruddy Shelducks, 6 Greenshank, Dunlin, Green Sandpiper as well as egrets and over 60 Coot.  New birds for the trip also included Hoopoes, and a White Wagtails which was a species not seen anywhere else during the week.

Moving onto Betancuria a local race (degener) Blue Tit was seen well in the grounds of the craft museum.  Buzzards circled and the first Plain Tiger butterfly of the trip was seen.  Moving on to Las Penitas the instructions in Clarke and Collins were not understood so the reservoir edge was not reached, but the walk added Song Thrush (only one of the trip) and then Spectacled Warbler to the birds seen.  The first Barbary Ground Squirrels were seen, these proved to be regular even in some of the tourist resorts.

Day 4

A long drive down to the La Pared area to work the dunes before taking the kids to the zoo in the afternoon.  On the way in to Costa Calma half a dozen Pallid Swifts were welcome.  Walking out on to the dunes was testing the patience of the travel party, with only the ubiquitous Lesser Short-toed Larks to show for it.  Proceedings were about to be called to a close when a magnificent Houbara Bustard flew past at point blank range.  On the way back to the car another was seen at reasonable range feeding for several minutes before melting into the vegetation.  Cracking.

Lunch on the outskirts of the town produced the only Goldfinch of the trip and more great views of Plain Tiger butterflies.

Heading on to the Oasis Park zoo at La Lajita the bins were kept round my neck just in case.  Half way between the meerkats and the otter tank a strangely familiar yet utterly out of place ‘swee’ call was heard.  Not knowing quite what to expect I was relieved to see the bird in question pop up obligingly in full view barely twenty feet away.  Raising my bins I was confronted with a Yellow-browed Warbler!  Fumbling around for my video camera I tried to get some footage, eventually ending up with record shots of the eye stripe and wingbars between vegetation and great recording of the call.

Shortly after this undoubted highlight another new bird for the trip was seen in the form of a Grey Wagtail frequenting the otter pool in the zoo.  This was the only one seen on the whole trip.  Less satisfying but going on the list were Monk Parakeets.

Returning home we went via Catalina Garcia lake.  The Ring-necked Duck and Lesser Scaup seen here recently were unfortunately not on view.  However some compensation was provided by 3 Spoonbills, 2 Black-tailed Godwits, a Ruddy Shelduck and a few other waders.

Day 5

Tried unsuccessfully to increase the desert specialities seen by driving some tracks off El Cotillo, which eventually triumphed over the hire car.  Walking from the resort to El Cotillo did produce several wader species including Ringed and Grey Plovers.  Best of all though were the 10 Kentish Plovers, including a group of eight near the lighthouse.

The afternoon was spent largely in Catalina de Fuste, largely doing tourist things.  A check of the saltpans to the south of the resort produced a few waders but nothing new.  A small diversion to the Barranco de Torre did however produce a welcome Plain Swift.

Stopping to swim in the sea at the Corralejo dunes produced a couple of Sanderling, again the only ones of the trip.

Day 6

Last day with a car.  Given the chance to do some birding in the morning I elected to go to the Embalse rather than scour for desert species with no guarantee of success.  This produced a couple of Grey Herons and god views of a Buzzard as well as no fewer than 15 Ruddy Shelducks.  Returning from the far end I spotted a female duck not seen on the way down, expecting perhaps a Teal I was surprised to see it was a Shoveler.

Returning to Las Penitas to crack the access to the reservoir edge was successful, and produced the only Sardinian Warblers seen during the week.   Blue Tits and Spectacled Warblers were also plentiful in this area.

Day 7

A whistle stop tour of Lanzarote.  Following the purest group of Rock Doves I have ever seen at the camel area on the ‘fire mountain’ the 50th species of the trip was notched up with a Swallow flying over the caves in the north of the island where the unique blind albino crabs live.  That looked like it for a great holiday until a couple of Cory’s Shearwaters were seen in the gloom from the ferry back to Fuerteventura.

Day 8

Packing and home.  No new species.

My target was to get 50 species given family commitments.  To do this and pick off Canary Islands Chat and Houbara Bustard and find a Spanish national rarity was most satisfying.


Cory’s Shearwater
Two seen from the Lanzarote-Fuerteventura ferry crossing.

Little Egret
Widespread.  Up to four birds seen together at locations including Corralejo (especially north of the harbour), Embalse de los Molinos, Catalina Garcia, the shoreline pool at Los Molinos, El Cotillo shore etc.

Grey Heron
At least two at Embalse de los Molinos on second visit, one (of these?) over Las Penitas reservoir the same day.

Three together at Catalina Garcia, including a Darvic ringed bird.

Ruddy Shelduck
Up to 15 at Embalse do los Molinos, one at Catalina Garcia.

Female at Embalse de los Molinos on one visit.

Local race birds seen over Los Lobos, Betancuria, Las Penitas and at the Embalse de los Molinos.

Local race birds widespread on Fuerteventura, and also seen at several sites on Lanzarote.

Barbary Partridge
One at Embalse do los Molinos.

Over 60 at Embalse de los Molinos, c16 at Catalina Garcia and two at Las Penitas.

Houbara Bustard
Two seen at La Pared dunes on the outskirts of Costa Calma.

Little Ringed Plover
Three at Catalina Garcia and one at Embalse do los Molinos.

Ringed Plover
Four on El Cotillo shore.

Kentish Plover
Ten in the El Cotillo area, including eight together near the lighthouse by the road.

Grey Plover
Two on El Cotillo shore.

Two on the beach at Corralejo dunes.

Up to 25 at El Corralejo.  Also seen at El Cotillo and the saltpans south of Catalina de Fuste.

Seen at Corralejo harbour, the saltpans south of Catalina de Fuste and Embalse de los Molinos.

Green Sandpiper
One at Embalse de los Molinos.

Common Sandpiper
Up to two birds seen at Corralejo harbour, El Cotillo shore, Los Molinos shore and the saltpans south of Catalina de Fuste.

Three at the saltpans south of Catalina de Fuste, one on Los Lobos.

Up to six at Embalse de los Molinos and three at Catalina Garcia.

Black-tailed Godwit
Two at Catalina Garcia.

Up to six north of Corralejo harbour, three at El Cotillo and one on Los Lobos.

(Atlantic) Yellow-legged Gull

Lesser Black-backed Gull
Several seen for certain in gull flocks on Los Lobos.

Rock Dove
Particularly pure looking flocks at Las Penitas, and particularly on the fire mountains on Lanzarote.

Feral Pigeon

Collared Dove
Common and widespread.

Turtle Dove
One heard near Tefia.

Pallid Swift
Six birds over Costa Calma.

Plain Swift
One in the Barranco de la Torre.

Generally widespread other than in the Corralejo area, not seen on Los Lobos.

Monk Parakeet
Seen at La Lajita.

Lesser Short-toed Lark
Seen in large numbers at La Pared, smaller numbers off tracks at El Cotillo.

One seen at Jameos del Agua, Lanzarote.

Berthelot’s Pipit

White Wagtail
Seen on both visits to Embalse de los Molinos (up to two birds).

Grey Wagtail
One feeding round the otter tank at Oasis Park zoo, Las Lajitas.

Fuerteventura Stonechat
Three seen at Embalse de los Molinos.

Song Thrush
One in cultivations at Vega de Rio Palmas.

Seen from apartment in Corralejo, a number singing at Costa Calma.

Spectacled Warbler
Most seen at Las Penitas.  Small numbers elsewhere.

Up to two seen around the apartment in Corralejo.

Yellow-browed Warbler
One in the grounds of Oasis Park zoo, La Lajita.

Blue Tit
Local race birds seen at Betancuria and heard at Las Penitas.

Southern Grey Shrike
Widespread.  Also seen on Los Lobos and Lanzarote.

Widespread.  Also seen on Los Lobos and Lanzarote.

Spanish Sparrow
Common at virtually all settlements on Fuerteventura and Lanzarote.

Regular over apartment in Corralejo, several seen at El Cotillo and smaller numbers elsewhere.

One over Costa Calma.

Trumpeter Finch
Seen at several sites, easiest at Embalse de los Molinos and between here and Los Molinos.


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