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A Report from

Fuerteventura, Canary Islands 12th to 26th April 2005-05-03,

Jeff Butcher

Egyptian vulture at Barranco de la Torre

Having read Clarke and Collins (A Birdwatcher's Guide to the Canary Islands) we chose to stay at Caleta de Fustes (El Castillo). We had an apartment at Castillo Suites with a good sea view, although it was noisy at night which didn't help early morning rising for birding. We hired a car locally for 5 days.

Problems for the Birder:

1.       It was very windy all the time we were there, making binocular holding and telescope use more difficult than usual, and long walks did become wearing with such an unrelenting buffeting.

2.       Things have changed a lot since C&C's book was published in 1996. Areas around Caleta and other resorts have gone under development - whole hillsides have disappeared and land is being eaten by hotels and (mostly) apartments. This seems likely to change the island dramatically over the coming years - so advice to anyone thinking of going there for birding is to go soon.

3.       The network of roads is good and growing as tracks are being tarmac-ed. Watch out if you pull off a tarmac road as often there is a 6 inch drop which can damage your car. This discourages you from stopping when you see something flying over or if you just want to scan. Watch out for high kerbs in towns, too.

4.       Many ordinary hire cars are not insured if you take them off a tarmac road. Any damage sustained would be at your personal cost. Four-wheel drives are much more expensive to hire, but might be cheaper in the long-run but do check that they are covered for the rough tracks. We chose to park just off the metalled road and walk the tracks to get to Los Molinos and Catalina Garcia and other places. The tracks we saw were in a poor state. We reckon you see more birds by getting out and walking and do less environmental damage than driving a 4x4.

5.       Even in April, many of the pools referred to in C&C were dried up. There was still water, but the levels were low, at Los Molinos and Catalina Carcia but none in any barranco we visited.


We saw 59 species in the two weeks. Missed Barbary falcon and the local blue tit. Not many migrants coming through  - I think this may depend a lot of wind direction. The wind was NE when we first arrived and we saw flocks of migrant swifts, swallows, house martins. Then it went to N or even slightly East of North, and we then saw only sandwich terns and 3 male garganey. Waders are just there all the time, whimbrels especially, grey plover, ringed plover, turnstone, Kentish plover, sanderling (coming into summer plumage), one redshank, common sandpiper.

In many places from the beach to the wilds there were trumpeter finches and Berthelot's pipits. In the more remote places lesser short-toed larks were common. Spanish sparrows and collared doves very common in all resorts and urban places. Yellow-legged gulls are everywhere and the local raven is fairly common. Rock doves are around, but so are ferals. The desert-like nature of the countryside means you can walk or drive long distances and hardly see a bird. The coast at least has a constant stream of waders and gulls/terns, albeit of the same species most of the time.

Sites: (ref C&C)

1. Los Molinos: Best track (only one?) in now seems to be the one from the FV221 at Garcia Escamez. This track only runs to the top of the dam wall. After that you have to cross a fence and walk the rest. We parked at the road and walked in, sighting a Fuerteventura Chat on the wall to the left of the track on the way to the dam.

Waders below the dam included greenshank and black-winged stilt. On the main Embalse near the dame and the side arm to the west, we saw 5 marbled duck and 3 ducklings. There was also a reasonable flock of ruddy shelducks and a few little ringed plover. Local kestrel, southern grey shrike and turtle dove all seen near the goat farm by the road.

2. El Cotillo: the tarmac road now runs right to the lighthouse. We parked there and walked the track east and north. At first it looks barren, but we soon had trumpeter finches, B's pipit, s-grey shrike, hoopoe, sanderlings, turnstone, whimbrels, little egret, grey plover, Kentish plover and common sandpiper. Walking back we saw 2 black-bellied sandgrouse and a stone curlew.

We didn't go south from El Cotillo as we had already seen those species.

3. La Oliva: We watched the area behind Casa de los Coroneles. Besides the usuals we had spectacled warbler, hoopoes, s g shrikes, and two stone curlew. On the Corralejo road just north of the church we heard and saw corn buntings. Outside the village off the Cotillo road (Rosa de los Negrines), early afternoon, not a lot about although we did see cream coloured coursers and more stone curlews on the hill north of the farms. We planned a late evening visit if we needed the bustards, but got them elsewhere.

4. Las Penitas - didn't visit. Driving from Los Molinos to Betancuria scared me to death (I have no head for heights and the mountain roads were beyond my pain threshold, so we didn't get to Las Penitas in the end.

5. Catalina Garcia: Again walked from the road. Nice mixture of birds including LRP and Kentish, BW Stilt and greenshank, also a turtle dove singing from the tamarisk.

6. Jandia. Only went to Costa Calma. Now very developed and growing. To get to the sandy plain, we decided to approach from the La Pared Road FV605. We turned off this at Pueblo Del Mar (sign board on left). We parked by the roadside there but people were driving in including dog walkers in 4x4s. Walking we saw a fair number of cream coloured coursers which seem to be out all times of the day. On our second visit we got there at 8 am and stayed until noon, walking from Pueblo del Mar to Canada del Rio valley and back in a circuit. We got all the usual things and 3 black-bellied sandgrouse on the side of Granillo (hill). We had almost given up at midday, on our way back to the car, when we stumbled upon 2 Houbara bustards. One stood for ages in the shade of a small bush, giving splendid views.

Playa de Sotavento is an incredible beach - windy and the sand stings. First visit Hotal los Gorriones was closed for refurbishment and the tide was out, so there was no lagoon and so few birds. Second time we went to Casas de Risco del Paso. (Watch out for left turns off main roads where you actually go off to the right and then swing left to a halt sign before you cross the road.) Here the tide had been in and some lagoon was still left. Here we saw our only black-headed gull!

7. Caleta de Fustes: Almost non-stop Cory's shearwaters off shore, with evening peaks of 18 in sight at any one time, hugging the wave tops (the Atlantic was never really calm while we were there). Occasional gannets and other migrants. Only real find in the hotel gardens along the front was a woodchat shrike. The area around the south-west corner of the harbour/beach seems to attract waders and visitors like the garganey and sandwich terns (50+ at one count).

Barranco de la Torre is a must. It was the only place we saw Egyptian vulture (on both visits) and Barbary partridge (on one). There are still several pairs of F chats present and breeding. Also there we had the local buzzard and two kestrels, raven, spectacled, melodius, willow and Sardinian warblers, and the usual finches, larks, pipits, hoopoe. The first visit we walked from Caleta checking out the coast. The second we got a taxi to Las Salinas and walked from there. The best track in is from Las Salinas as the one after the bend seems to lead to a quarrying operation which is ripping the middle of the barranco out. Might be best to avoid a weekend visit as there are signs of camping and caravanning then.

Look on the pools at the Atlantico shopping centre south of the town.

9. Barranco de Rio Cabras - we didn't go there, but it should be noted that the new road past the airport is big and fast. You can pull off opposite the petrol station and it looks as if the only access to the barranco is by walking along the beach from there, but its not as easy as it used to be.


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