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A Report from

Birding trip to Fuerteventura, May 27-June 5, 2001,

Ignacio Yúfera

I traveled alone, using Clarke and Collins' A Birdwatcher's Guide to the Canary Islands as main reference. I found it quite useful, although slightly outdated in a couple of places (inevitable since it was published in '96), especially regarding most of the wet areas which were dry. Access to the locations mentioned below is described in the book. Since most of the island's terrain is dry plains, I expected to use the telescope a lot. In fact I rarely ever needed it: the birds, once spotted, allowed me to get quite close as long as I stayed in the car. 10x40 binoculars were more than enough, and the strong wind made the telescope difficult to use anyway.

I lodged in Corralejo, in the North end of the island, and everyday drove a rented car to the various locations. I found the North half of the island to be more productive in terms of birds, although I didn't get to properly explore the Jandía peninsula.

In five full days of birding I saw all the specialties except for Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis (which is present in the mainland) and Barbary Falcon Falco (pelegrinus) pelegrinoides, not a main target since Fuerteventura is not the best place to see it in the Canary islands.

I live in Madrid, so my main interest was in those species not found in the Spanish mainland. Following is a list of some of the most interesting species and the locations where I found them.

Houbara Bustard Chlamilotys undulata: 2 birds flying in the Costa Calma sandy plains, then a group of 3 walked very close to my car just before I left the plains. 1 more flying very close in the plains north of the village of Los Jarales.

Another 1 walking  around the cultivations in Rosa de Los Negrines, between La Oliva and Cotillo (according to Clarke & Collins they visit this place regularly in the evenings, despite a kennel full of very noisy Canary hounds)

Not easy to find. Unlike Great Bustards they tend to hide during most of the day, so one must try very early in the morning or late in the afternoon. I always saw them late in the afternoon, almost at dusk. Once found they aren't too shy, and as long as one stays in the car very good views are possible. They don't seem to mind human presence too much: I got the best views near buildings and farms.

Cream-coloured Courser Cursorius cursor: they are easier to spot than the bustards, being more active during the day. Always found in pairs. In the hottest part of the day they like to stay in the shade of a shrub, and when scanning their color contrasts nicely against it. 4 in the plains south of Cotillo. 4 in the sandy plains in Costa Calma. Several birds flying over other arid areas.

Canary Islands Chat Saxicola dacotiae: 3 in and around the fenced cultivations near La Oliva, in the road to La Carraleta. One particular male seems to have its territory around the planted flowers at the entrance of the enclosure and was seen in 2 occasions. This area is good for warblers and Trumpeter Finch. 3 more in the Barranco de Río Cabras, very close to the airport (a recommended "last minute" spot)

Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githagineus : A common bird around cultivations and farms, especially if there is a well or pond in the vicinity. Usually in small to medium sized groups.

Stone-curlew Burrhinus oedicnemus: A group of 3 flew in near La Oliva and stuck around for a while, wary but not too worried of my presence.

Marbled Duck Marmoretta angustirostris: One in the Los Molinos reservoir, despite the place being almost dry, and the tamarisks where they reportedly hide mostly gone. Seen in the company of 2 Black-Winged Stilts, several plovers and many Coot.

Ruddy Shelduck Todorna ferruginea : One pair in the small pond that is all that remains of the Catalina García lake. In a very small body of water there were several plovers, Greenshanks, 1 Little Egret and many House Martins.

Egyptian Vulture Neophron pernocterus : One seen being chased by a Raven near Los Molinos, and several more around Las Peñitas (Vega de Río Palma) area.

Blue Tit Parus caeruleus degener: several in the barranco at Vega de Río Palma. Active in the early hours in the barranco near the village and among the tamarisks in the (dry) reservoir, they all but vanish from mid morning on. A distinctive subspecies, they look much darker and "greyer" than their mainland counterparts

Barbary Partridge Alectoris barbara: Two groups of 3 in the rocky slopes between Pájara and Betancuria. This was a good area for warblers. The species was also heard in the Barranco de Río Grande near the airport.

I might add that in previous trip reports as well as Collins & Clarke it is mentioned that cars are not allowed in the Costa Calma sandy plains, but currently the area is subject to a lot of traffic, both cars and motorbikes, some at high speed. This may account for the fact that I didn't find any Black-bellied Sandgrouse or Stone-curlew, which seem to have been common before. On the other hand, I found a large group of 15 Whimbrel, Cream-colored Courser and Kentish Plovers were common and it was the place where I best saw Houbara Bustard.

Although in terms of landscape and sightseeing it can't compete with Lanzarote, I would strongly recommend Fuerteventura to anyone seeking the "African" specialties in a reasonably short time.

Ignacio Yúfera

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