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A Report from

Fuerteventura 15th - 22nd April 2003 ,

G.A.Smith and N.J.Smith

Large Versions of all of Nicks Photos can be seen at

This was mainly a family holiday over the Easter period, staying at the excellent Fuerteventura Princess, just north of Jandia, in Esquinzo Bay. There was, however plenty of time for birding, as we called in at sites on the way to other areas of the island. Several pieces of advice: -

1) Do your homework before you go. Tony Clarke's book (A Birdwatchers' Guide to The Canary Islands), although written in 1996 still gives excellent site information and site maps. The birds seen are obviously going to slightly alter in the nine years since (especially status of Marbled Duck), but to supplement this, I found 16 trip reports to Fuerteventura on the internet (mainly and from more recent visits, and from these I obtained many bird sightings plus the best areas to visit. Richard Bonser's report is the most recent (Feb 2003) and contains directions to sites as well.

2) In April, the clocks had gone forward recently (I presume as the clock was wrong in one of the hire cars). To my shock on the first morning, I set my alarm at 06-00hrs for a good session before breakfast only to find it did not get light until well after 07-00hrs. This reduced the hours of birding before breakfast, but if you are self-catering, it is no problem. It gets dark at about 08-30hrs in April.

I have not given directions to most of the sites, as, for reasons mentioned above, I will avoid repeating information already available. New sites, however, I will give directions to.

15th April 2003

We arrived at midday, and on the hours drive south through the island, we saw 'atlantis' Yellow-legged Gulls and a Southern Grey Shrike on the wires by the side of the FV2, just past Costa Calma.  In the hotel grounds, we had a male Spanish Sparrow permanently chirping outside the balcony, but the bird was the commonest bird seen on the island. The juvenile birds were out of the nests, and supplemented by the adult birds were seen in almost all locations in large numbers (except in the middle of the plains and in the mountains). From the balcony, we had House Martin and Common Swift over, with the local pair of Ravens loafing about. Later in the evening, we wandered down to the beach and counted 30 Cory's Shearwaters flying north in 15 minutes.

16th April 2003

Eventually once it was light, it was back down onto the beach to watch the Cory's Shearwaters go past. The lowest count was 9 in a minute, the highest 16 per minute. This means some 540-960 per hour were flying south. Our first trip by taxi (no hire car yet) was to the zoo at La Lajita. We arrived there in the middle of the day, and we struggled with the Laughing Doves. Eventually, we saw them flying across the area where the camel rides start from. They kept flying in the same direction, so maybe they were flying to their nesting area. Others birds seen were a Common Sandpiper in one of the pens in the zoo, loads of Collared Doves plus a few Turtle Doves and our only Pallid Swift of the trip.

17th April 2003

Sea watching again at 07-30hrs saw 43 Cory's Shearwaters past in 5 minutes. At 08-20hrs, I counted 85 birds in view at the same time. Two Gannets flew south, along with a Whimbrel flying south but closer in shore.

We then picked our hire car up (arranged before we flew out via travel agents) and headed towards the mountains and Betancuria. We got lost on the way to Catalina Garcia, and ended up on a back road to the village of Cusa. While map reading, we saw our first dacotiae Kestrel, Berthelot's Pipit and Hoopoe. We eventually found the lagoon at Catalina Garcia, arriving again in the heat of the day. A pair of Ruddy Shelduck with three young was present here, along with Berthelot's Pipit, four Trumpeter Finch, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, a single Coot but most surprising of all was another duck that swam out of the vegetation at the top of the pool. I casually lifted my bins up to see which duck species I was going to add to my Fuerteventura list, and was most surprised to see an adult male Ring-necked Duck. It showed very well, allowing us to get fairly close to it.

We travelled north, stopping for refreshment from a petrol station in Tuineje. From here on the road to Pajara, we saw two Southern Grey Shrike sitting on the wires.  In Pajara itself, in the main car park near to the playground and church, a Hoopoe showed very well, plus a degener Blue Tit showed well in the trees, and kept flying into a hole in the large white building behind the playground. The hole is at the end of a horizontal drainpipe. A Garden Warbler showed very well in one of the playground bushes.

We left Pajara via the FV30 towards Betancuria and slowly climbed into the mountains. The views are breathtaking but there are lay-bys and viewpoints. We stopped at three lay-bys. The first was at the 27km mark. You could feed the Chipmunks (Barbary Ground Squirrels), which kept the family amused while we got on with the birding. We saw a Spectacled Warbler, Trumpeter Finch, Berthelot's Pipit and heard Barbary Partridge but could not see them.  A little further up at the 26km viewpoint, as we pulled up a Southern Grey Shrike was perched by the side of the road. It even allowed me to get out of the car, set the scope up and just as I was about to point the digicam down, in the same view a Fuerteventura Chat popped up. All thoughts of the Shrike picture were gone and everyone in the car had a look as it perched in the bushes. Further up the road is the larger parking area and viewpoint at 25km. Here we had a flock of 15 Rock (?) Dove plus an Egyptian Vulture flew over. 

From this viewpoint, we could see that the Embalse de las Penitas was virtually bone dry except for a small patch of water near the dam. Unfortunately, we could see that there were children playing on the dam, and even from this distance there was not a bird in sight on the water. We drove into Betancuria in the early evening, seeing Sardinian Warbler in the village.

18th April 2003

We had an early breakfast and headed out onto the Costa Calma Plains. We tried to follow the various directions but at the 2nd roundabout by Canada del Rio (from direction of Jandia) we lost track of where we were going. We eventually found La Palmeral supermarket, driving straight onto the plains in the car. After about 1km, we stopped. Lesser Short-toed Larks were singing and showing only occasionally on the ground. Almost immediately, we saw a Cream-coloured Courser fairly close to the side of the track. We got out of the car, and eventually had up to 6 adults plus a young bird. They moved a bit further away when we got out of the car, but still showed very well. From this same point, we saw 4 Hoopoes feeding on the ground, had a Houbara Bustard and Black-bellied Sandgrouse fly over. We drove further onto the plain, again stopping after another 1km. From here, another Black-bellied Sandgrouse flew over, plus 4 Houbara Bustards showing well on the ground. Unfortunately, this morning we woke to drizzle, and as we were watching the Houbara Bustards, another sharp shower came and we retreated back to the hotel.

Later in the morning, we headed south to Jandia and the Stella Canaris gardens and zoo. We could hear the Monk Parakeets straight away, as they were flying back and forth with nesting material. Also on the grass in front of the gardens, two Swallows with 3 Swift sp. were flying around. I suddenly noticed one of the Swifts was different to the others in shape, colour tone and had a forked tail (almost like a cross between a Swallow and a Common Swift). We had stumbled across a Plain Swift, and after watching for a while, we could track the bird with our naked eye.

19th April 2003

Sea watching between 07-30hrs and 08-30hrs saw Cory's Shearwaters going past at between 13-18 per minute. A Spoonbill flew south along the shore, plus up to 27 Sandwich Terns were flying backwards and forwards along the coastline. We then headed up to Caleta de Fuste, calling in briefly at Las Salinas on the way. Again we called in at midday, and there were no birds at all on the saltpans. In the rocky bay, 8 Turnstones fed.

20th April 2003

Another early start, as we wanted to check the Sotavento beach before any disturbance started. We decided to go to Casas Risco del Paso to check the tidal pools. Here we had upwards of 20 'atlantis' Yellow-legged Gulls, 2 singing Lesser Short-toed Lark, and the Yellow-billed Stork gave excellent views on the beach. Sandwich and Common Terns were roosting on the beach, and further up towards the Los Gorriones end of the beach, we saw 40 Sanderling and 4 Kentish Plover.

21st April 2003

We hired another car just for the day as it was our last day before flying back and we had several sites still to visit. First, we headed to Catalina Garcia again to see if the Ring-necked Duck was still present. There was no sign of it, or of the Black-winged Stilt or Coot. Instead, a totally new set of birds, just to prove that migration and movement does take place. First, a Cattle Egret was feeding around the edge, along with the Ruddy Shelduck with three young, four Trumpeter Finches and Berthelot's Pipit. We then flushed some waders and eventually caught up with a Dunlin, Wood Sandpiper and moulting summer plumaged Curlew Sandpiper.

We then headed north towards Los Molinos reservoir. At the 8km point on the FV207, just before the turning to Los Molinos on the FV221, a bird caught my attention and we pulled over. As I was walking down the road, 6 Black-bellied Sandgrouse flew over and dropped down in a field on the other side of the road. There is a small pool slightly obscured by a bank here, and as I walked past it, I briefly caught sight of two drinking Black-bellied Sandgrouse before they too flew off. On the hillside, we did find the original bird I saw, a Barbary Partridge with young. It was then onto the reservoir itself. At the start of the track leading to the reservoir travelling towards the dam end, a Barbary Falcon was gliding down the valley and appeared to land on the cliff of the barranco, but we never found it again. On the reservoir, there were more waders, with a summer plumaged Spotted Redshank, Black-winged Stilt, two Greenshank, a Common Sandpiper as well as Ruddy Shelduck with young, 3+ Hoopoe, Southern Grey Shrike, 19 Coot, 4 Little Egret, 2 Grey Heron, Trumpeter Finch, excellent views of dacotiae Kestrel, and Plain Swift overhead. On the way back down the drive, we stopped to photo the camel sitting by the goat farm. In the farmyard, were Berthelot's Pipit, 2 Lesser Short-toed Lark and a Trumpeter Finch, all giving excellent views from the car.

Our last stop was the pools by Rosa del Taro. It was the best looking pool we had seen on the island, with vegetation, muddy edges and reeds. Unfortunately, there were only 2 Coots present. Around the edges, a Spectacled Warbler, Lesser Short-toed Lark and Corn Bunting livened the pool up a bit.

In the evening, it was back to Casas Risco del Paso. The Yellow-billed Stork was still present, with a Little Egret and adult Spoonbill for company. Waders included nearly 50 Sanderling.

We saw 58 species and saw all the island specialities, even if the two Barbary's (Falcon and Partridge) did make us wait until the last day. It was a large twitch actually, and so once we had had good views and digiscoped the birds, we didn't really go looking for them again. The one English birder we met had not seen any Fuerteventura Chats yet, and we only saw the one on our travels. 

Large Versions of all of Nicks Photos can be seen at

Species List

1.     Cory's Shearwater (borealis) Seen mainly off Esquinzo Bay in the mornings (flying south) and in the evenings (flying north). Peak counts were between 9 and 18 per minutes, or between 540 and 1080 an hour. Largest count was 85 birds at once when scanned left to right in the scope on 17/4. It seemed these birds had passed and were just milling about feeding. The above hourly rates maybe be higher than they actually are, but between 07-00hrs and 08-30hrs, there was a constant stream past, some giving excellent close views. 15 flew south at Casas Risco del Paso on 20/4, and on the west coast, 2 flew north off La Pared in the evening 18/4.
2.     Northern Gannet 2 single birds flew south off Esquinzo Bay on 17/4.
3.     Cattle Egret 1 at Catalina Garcia on 21/4.
4.     Little Egret 4 were at Los Molinos Reservoir on 21/4, and 1 was at Casas Risco del Paso on 21/4.
5.     Grey Heron 2 juveniles were at Casas Risco del Paso on 20/4, and 2 were at Los Molinos Reservoir on 21/4.
6.     [Yellow-billed Stork] 1 showed well at Casas Risco del Paso on 20/4 and more distantly on 21/4.
7.     Spoonbill 1 flew south past Esquinzo Bay on 19/4 and an adult was on the beach at Casas Risco del Paso on 21/4.
8.     Ruddy Shelduck At Catalina Garcia, 2 adults were with 3 young on 17/4 and 21/4. At Los Molinos Reservoir, 3 adults and 6 young were present on 21/4. 
9.     Ring-necked Duck A X at Catalina Garcia on 17/4 but it was not there on 21/4.
10.  Egyptian Vulture 1 flew over the viewpoint at 25km on the FV30 to Betancuria on 17/4.
11.  Common Kestrel (dacotiae) 1 on wires near Cusa, 1 at La Vega de Rio de las Palmas and 1 between Antigua-Tuineje on the FV20 on 17/4. 1 showed well at Los Molinos Reservoir on 21/4.
12.  Barbary Falcon 1 was hunting the barranco below Los Molinos dam on 21/4.
13.  Barbary Partridge 1 adult with 5 young was seen near Degolla de la Vista de Casillas on the FV207 on 21/4.
14.  Common Coot 1 at Catalina Garcia on 17/4, 19 were at Los Molinos Reservoir and 2 at Rosa del Taro on 21/4.
15.  Houbara Bustard (fuerteventurae) 5 birds were c1km out from the track behind La Palmeral supermarket on the Costa Calma Plains on 18/4.
16.  Black-winged Stilt 1 at Catalina Garcia on 17/4 and 1 at Los Molinos Reservoir on 21/4.
17.  Cream-coloured Courser 6 adults and 1 juvenile were c1km out from the track behind La Palmeral supermarket on the Costa Calma Plains on 18/4.
18.  Little Ringed Plover Seen at Catalina Garcia on 17/4 and 21/4, and at Los Molinos Reservoir on 21/4.
19.  Kentish Plover 4 at Casas Risco del Paso on 20/4.
20.  Sanderling 40+ at Casas Risco del Paso on 20/4 and 49 there on 21/4.
21.  Curlew Sandpiper 1 moulting into summer plumage was at Catalina Garcia on 21/4.
22.  Dunlin 1 at Catalina Garcia on 21/4.
23.  Whimbrel Single bird flew south over Esquinzo Bay on 17/4.
24.  Spotted Redshank 1 in summer plumage at Los Molinos Reservoir on 21/4.
25.  Common Greenshank 2 at Los Molinos Reservoir on 21/4.
26.  Wood Sandpiper 1 at Catalina Garcia on 21/4.
27.  Common Sandpiper 1 in the pens in La Lajita Zoo and 1 near the road works opposite the zoo on 16/4, and 1 at Los Molinos Reservoir on 21/4.
28.  Turnstone 8 on the rocks near Las Salinas del Carmen on 19/4.
29.  Yellow-legged Gull (atlantis) Fairly common. Seen at most coastal sites, plus regularly inland. Max number was at 19 at Casas Risco del Paso on 20/4 in the tidal lagoon. According to 'Gulls: A guide to identification (Grant 1986) ', atlantis are as michahellis, except averages smaller, and adult upperparts darker (only slightly paler than L.f.graellsii) with more black on wing tips.
30.  Sandwich Tern 27 off Esquinzo Bay on 19/4 and 7+ off Casas Risco del Paso on 20/4.
31.  Common Tern 9 roosting off Casas Risco del Paso on 20/4.
32.  Black-bellied Sandgrouse 2 flew over c1km out from the track behind La Palmeral supermarket on the Costa Calma Plains on 18/4. 6 flew over the road and landed in a field, and 2 were drinking from a small pool near Degolla de la Vista de Casillas on the FV207on 21/4.
33.  Rock Pigeon A flock of 14 were seen on the cliffs by the viewpoint at 26km on the FV30 to Betancuria on 17/4.
34.  Collared Dove Second commonest bird on the island. Seen anywhere near habitations and the coast.
35.  European Turtle Dove 5 seen by La Lajita Zoo on 16/4, 1 by La Vega de Rio de las Palmas and 1 by Betancuria on 17/4.
36.  Laughing Dove 1 or 2 birds flying backwards and forwards over the Camel rides area opposite La Lajita Zoo on 16/4.
37.  Monk Parakeet 20++ nesting in the trees in front of Stella Canaris Park, Jandia on 18/4.
38.  Plain Swift 1 feeding over the grass in front of Stella Canaris Park, Jandia on 18/4 with Common Swift and at least 2 over Los Molinos Reservoir on 21/4.
39.  Common Swift Birds that looked very much like Common Swift included two over the hotel on the 15/4, two over Pajara and two over the 25km viewpoint on the FV30 to Betancuria on the 17/4, two over Stella Canaris (with a Plain Swift for excellent comparison) on 18/4, and at least one over Los Molinos Reservoir, (although there were some Plain here as well).
40.  Pallid Swift Just 1 seen by La Lajita Zoo on 16/4.
41.  Hoopoe On 17/4, 1flew over the road near Cusa, 1 in Pajara town centre and 1 flew over the FV20 between Antigua-Tuineje. On 18/4, 4 were feeding close together on Costa Calma Plains. On 21/4, 3+ were at Los Molinos Reservoir and 1 flew over the road down to Casas Risco del Paso.
42.  Lesser Short-toed Lark (polatzeki) Several were singing on Costa Calma Plains on 18/4 and near the cliffs at Casas Risco del Paso on 20/4. 2+ were feeding by the farm at the start of the track towards Los Molinos dam and 2 were at Rosa del Taro on 21/4.
43.  Swallow 2 in front of the Stella Canaris Park, Jandia on 18/4.
44.  House Martin Two flew over Hotel Princess Fuerteventura, Esquinzo Bay on 15/4.
45.  Berthelot's Pipit (berthelotii) Fairly common, with birds seen at Catalina Garcia, the viewpoints on the road to Betancuria and off the track to the dam at Los Molinos Reservoir.
46.  Canary Islands Chat A Canary Islands Chat was at the viewpoint at 26km on the FV30 to Betancuria on 17/4
47.  Spectacled Warbler (orbitalis) A Spectacled Warbler was at the viewpoint at 27km on the FV30 to Betancuria on 17/4, and 1 was at Rosa del Taro on 21/4.
48.  Sardinian Warbler A Sardinian Warbler was in Betancuria on 17/4.
49.  Garden Warbler 1 near the playground in Pajara on 17/4.
50.  Blue Tit (degener) 1 was visiting a nest hole in a building by the playground in Pajara town centre on 17/4.
51.  Southern Grey Shrike (koenigi) One was seen travelling south to the hotel on the FV2 on 15/4. Two were seen on the road to Pajara, and one in the mountains on the FV30 to Betancuria at the 26km viewpoint on the 17/4. One was at Los Molinos Reservoir on 21/4.
52.  Raven 2 seen regularly by the hotel in Esquinzo Bay. 3 were by Cusa and 2 by the viewpoints on the FV30 to Betancuria on 17/4. 2 were on the cliffs at Casas Risco del Paso on 20/4.
53.  Spanish Sparrow The commonest bird on the island. Seen in large numbers at most inhabited locations. Luckily, we saw none in the mountains, so you can escape from them.
54.  Greenfinch 1 near Gran Tarajal on 19/4.
55.  Goldfinch On 17/4, 1 flew over Pajara and 1 flew over Betancuria. On 21/4, a juvenile was in the wood at Canada del Rio.
56.  Linnet 2 near La Lajita Zoo on 16/4, and 2 at the 27km viewpoint on the FV30 to Betancuria.
57.  Trumpeter Finch (B.g.amantum) 3 were seen at Catalina Garcia on 17/4, and 4 including a juvenile were there on 21/4. 1 was heard at the viewpoint at 27km on the FV30 to Betancuria on 17/4. At Los Molinos Reservoir, 1 flew over and 1 was feeding on seed by the farm at the end of the track on 21/4. 
58.  Corn Bunting 1 was singing near Degolla de la Vista de Casillas on 21/4, and 1 was singing at Rosa del Taro

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