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A Report from

Canary Birding -Fuereventura 1999,

Peter Sadler

Don't go to Fuerteventura; not if you're looking for a long trip list. On the other hand if you're looking for quality birds, warm winter sunshine and good food get yourself down to Thomas Cook or wherever and book a late deal.

Wearied by the winter following on from last year's non-summer my wife, Linda, and I had a decision to make; repair the garage roof or spend a week at the end of January in the sun. The garage roof is still leaking.

We settled on Fuerteventura as the quietest of the Canaries and Caleta de Fuste for it's location half way down the East coast. It also lies in the flight path for planes making their final approach into the airport 4 or 5 miles up the road but we didn't find it too noisy. Our self catering accommodation was literally 5 minutes walk from beach, shops and restaurants and since rest and relaxation was our prime objective we didn't even bother hiring a car. This did mean that we missed out on some of the desert species to be found on the island notably Houbara Bustard and Cream Coloured Courser but we were quite happy with what remained 

Our first, Berthelot's Pipit had us excited for a while but it soon became apparent that they were one of the commonest and and least timid birds around; wherever we went they would be just a few feet away. Nevertheless they were always entertained by their clockwork action as they ran around in search of food.

The coast at Caleta de Fuste is a mixture of golden sandy beaches and rocky shoreline and we found plenty of birds feeding among the rocks before the holidaymakers arrived for the day. Little Egret were common as were Sandwich Terns, Kentish Plover and Turnstone; also along the beach we found Whimbrel, Grey Plover, Redshank, Dunlin, a single Marsh Sandpiper, Common Raven and the ubiquitous Yellow-legged Gulls. Small birds were a bit thin on the ground but there were always plenty of Spanish Sparrows as well as Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Black Redstart, Sardinian Warbler, Robin and Blackcap. "One-offs" included a superb Egyptian Vulture following the main road south (flying, not walking) and a couple of probable Brown-necked Ravens (they were certainly too small for Common Raven and Carrion Crow doesn't occur here); unfortunately I didn't get a good look at the tail feathers.

On our final day we took a walk up the hill which rises to the west of the resort. It's not a demanding climb as witness the numbers of holidaymakers who totter up and down it in all manner of unsuitable footwear (one couple even took a pushchair up - don't ask me how) and it doesn't look especially promising for birds but appearances can be deceptive. Even up here Berthelot's Pipit was common but in addition we had large numbers of Trumpeter Finches the males well into their bright pink breeding plumage. The climb was pretty uneventful (apart from encountering the aforementioned pushchair) but once at the top we sheltered from the strong wind to admire the view and immediately had yet more Trumpeter Finches and Berthelot's Pipits at our feet, obviously well used to being fed scraps. It was up here that we had, for me, the best bird of the trip; a male Fuerteventura Chat (sometimes called Canary Islands Chat but I believe it's now restricted to Fuerteventura). Heading back down the hill we had fleeting views of a flock of Lesser Short-toed Lark and then at the bottom of the hill a flock of Spanish Sparrows was drinking at a broken water pipe. In their midst was another much smaller bird resembling a very pale, almost yellowish female House Sparrow with a very small bill. I wasn't at all sure what it was beyond some sort of sparrow but back at base the field guide could only offer Dead Sea Sparrow which has never been recorded further west than Cyprus! So your guess is as good as mine.

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