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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Fuerteventura, 6th-13th March 2006,
This report covers a visit to Fuerteventura from 6th March till 13th March 2006. I was accompanied by Vital & Riet van Gorp and my girlfriend Willemien van Ginneken. Having neglected my Western Palaearctic list for the last years despite the availability of such inexpensive holidays, I decided to make a visit to Fuerteventura, a destination I should have visited in 1998 when I was in Tenerife.
Our aim was to see Canary Islands Stonechat and Houbara Bustard. In 1982 I had seen the bustard in the Negev Desert in Israel, but the race macqueenii of Houbara Bustard is recently raised to species level: Macqueen’s Bustard, Chlamydotis macqueenii.
There are plenty of charters to the Canary Islands and we travelled to Fuerteventura via Amsterdam. Our return-ticket (Arke Flight) including the week in an apartment at Caleta de Fuste cost us € 510,--. The flights were punctual and troublefree.
Politically, the Canary Islands are part of Spain, and entry requirements are the same as for that country. A passport is essential for non-EU citizens. No visa is required for European or North American visitors.
The currency is the €. All major credit cards and traveller cheques are accepted at banks and in the larger hotels.
There is a very wide choice of accommodation on Fuerteventura. Most birdwatchers
who visit the islands have accommodation as part of a package holiday. All
sites have convenient hotel facilities fairly close by.
Having read Clarke and Collins (A Birdwatcher's Guide to the Canary Islands) we chose to stay at Caleta de Fuste.
We had an apartment at Aparthotel Broncemar with no sea view at all, but it was quiet at night.
FOOD AND DRINK
On Fuerteventura there is every kind of restaurant and reasonable meals were available almost everywhere.
Drinks can also be found anywhere. Breakfast and lunch was mostly taken at our apartment or out in the field. In the evening we had dinner at one of the many restaurants in Caleta de Fuste.
Lock your car at all times, never leave valuables in open sight.
Beware of the sun. Wide-brimmed hats and long-sleeved shirts are essential kit. Throughout our stay the weather was fine with brilliant sunshine almost every day, although Fuerteventura lived up to its name, with strong winds for much of the time, making binocular holding and telescope use more difficult than usual.
ROADS AND TRANSPORT
Fuerteventura is very easy to travel round. The primary routes are well maintained and growing as tracks are being tarmaced. We hired a Citroen Xsiaris in Caleta de Fuste at a local rent-a-car. We paid € 214,-- for the car for 7 days.
The car handled the various tracks across the plains with relative ease and we didn’t really see the need for a four-wheel drive.
A telescope is useful at coastal sites and very useful for viewing canopy species especially from roadsides.
BIRDBASE & BIRDAREA
This is the software I use since 1996 to keep track of the birds I have seen and to make lists of any country, labelling endemics and birds previously seen in that country, outside it, or both.
BirdArea can produce checklists of the birds of any country of Clements' world birds.
March 5 Chaam * Amsterdam (Arke Flight) * Lanzarote * Fuerteventura * Caleta de Fuste
March 6 La Oliva * El Cotillo
March 7 Salinas del Carmen * Jandia (Costa Calma)
March 8 El Cotillo * La Oliva * Los Molinos
March 9 El Cotillo * La Peñitas
March 10 Barranco de la Torre * Oasis Park * Salinas del Carmen
March 11 Salinas del Carmen * Barranco de la Torre * Catelina Garcia * Caleta de Fuste (stony plains)
March 12 Barranco de la Torre * Tindaya * El Cotillo * Fuerteventura * Amsterdam * Chaam
Sunday 5th March
At 14.00 hours we left Amsterdam for our 4 hours flight with Arke Flight via Lanzarote to the airport of Fuerteventura. A bus brought us to nearby Caleta de Fuste (El Castillo) and at 19.30 we checked into our comfortable rooms in Aparthotel Broncemar.
Monday 6th March
Serious birding started next morning and after a comfortable night at the hotel we had a pre-breakfast stroll along the beach of Caleta de Fuste. It was very quiet along the beach, although very windy. Amongst the birds we did see in the bushes and trees along the beach were Blackcap, Eurasian Hoopoe and Common Chiffchaff.
After breakfast we hired a car and leaving the main tourist circuit the four of us headed to La Oliva in the northern part of the island. Fifteen minutes later we were in another world of cactus and desert.
We spent some time in the cultivations north of the village hoping to find Canary Islands Stonechat, one of our two target birds. We hit the jackpot immediately – almost the first bird was a magnificent male of this endemic species. Amongst the other birds seen here were Eurasian Hoopoe, Berthelot’s Pipit, Spectacled Warbler and a group of Trumpeter Finches. Here we also saw a few Barbarian Ground Squirrels along the fence.
At midday we headed to the west coast to the small village of El Cotillo. We had lunch at a restaurant in the small old harbour. While eating our excellent salad we counted more than 20 Cory Shearwaters going past.
After lunch we ventured out again and spent some time along the shore near the lighthouse a few kilometres north of El Cotillo. Amongst the birds found here were Little Egret, Eurasian Thicknee, Black-bellied Plover, Common Redshank, Black-bellied Sandgrouse (fly over), Spanish Sparrow and Trumpeter Finch.
We then returned to Caleta de Fuste.
Tuesday 7th March
We had an early breakfast and headed out to the nearby Salinas del Carmen. Amongst the birds spotted here were
Common Ringed Plover, Spotted Redshank, Ruddy Turnstone, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern and along the coast a single Northern Gannet.
We then drove to Jandia, the peninsula at the southern end of Fuerteventura. En route we noted our first Egyptian Vulture and a few Hoopoes. Near Lajita Vital and me suddenly saw a very strange raptor and we jumped out of the car. It was a Harris’ Hawk, a bird we had seen many times before on our trips to the New World. It took some time before we realized that it was a bird of the birds of prey show from Oasis Park.
Near the resort of Costa Palma we drove straight onto the plains. After a few kilometres we stopped.
Lesser Short-toed Larks were singing and showing only occasionally on the ground. From this same point we saw a few Common Buzzards of the local insularum race and had Black-bellied Sandgrouses flying over.
We drove further onto the plain, again stopping after another km. Small flocks of Black-bellied Sandgrouses were flying around, plus a Barbary Partridge showed well on the ground and we also saw a few Common Ravens.
However we searched in vain for Houbara Bustard and Cream-coloured Courser.
In the late afternoon we spent some time in Costa Calma, a resort, where mainly German tourists spent their holidays.
Wednesday 8th March
At the brink of dawn Vital and I headed to El Cotillo. This morning Fuerteventura really lived up to its name, with strong winds, making binocular holding and telescope use more difficult than usual.
We spent all morning on the plains hoping to find the bustard and the courser, but again we dipped.
Amongst the birds we did see were Common Buzzard, Eurasian Kestrel, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Meadow Pipit, Sardinian Warbler, Southern Grey Shrike and a few Trumpeter Finches.
On our way back to Caleta de Fuste we made a short stop at La Oliva adding House Martin to our list.
In the late afternoon the four of us headed to Los Molinos. There was a lot of water in the lake and when we arrived at the dam we photographed a very obliging male Canary Islands Stonechat on the fence.
Other noteworthy sightings on or near the lake included were Ruddy Shelduck, Egyptian Vulture, Eurasian Coot, Little Ringed Plover, Common Greenshank, Green Sandpiper and Wood Sandpiper.
Thursday 9th March
A pre-breakfast dash into the desert was called for as we had not yet seen the Houbara Bustard and we were again out on the road to the plains south of El Cotillo. There was hardly any wind and within 10 minutes we had full-scope views of two displaying male Houbara Bustards.
Along the coast we saw a few Pallid Swifts. We drove further south on the road, where the track turns left away from the coast. We used the car as a hide and next to the track we came across another 2 Houbara Bustards and we had excellent close views.
We also saw a male Western Marsh-Harrier and of course a few Black-bellied Sandgrouses and the more common birds like Eurasian Hoopoe, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Berthelot’s Pipit, Southern Grey Shrike, Trumpeter Finch and Spanish Sparrow. After a few kilometres we came across a small pool with some trees along the water. Here we made a stop and a Long-eared Owl played hide-and-seek with us amongst the trees for the next 10 minutes.
We had lunch at Caleta de Fuste and we then drove to Las Peñitas near Vega de Río Palmas.
It was a drive through a very attractive landscape. We made a long stroll in the barranco below the dam. Amongst the most noteworthy birds we did see were European Turtle-Dove, Sardinian Warbler, Spectacled Warbler and African Blue Tit. The rest of the afternoon was largely devoted to sightseeing and we visited an old church and an attractive old café in a small village on our way back to Caleta de Fuste.
Friday 10th March
We woke at 6.30 and immediately headed to the nearby Barranco de la Torre. We parked the car along the barranco (small canyon) and descended into the valley. Along the barranco were a few pools and in the neighbourhood of these pools we found the most birds. A singing male Canary Islands Stonechat was the first bird we encountered and its mate soon appeared. We walked upstream and the pools held a good selection of waders including Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Spotted Redshank, Common Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper and Common Snipe.
Other birds we encountered here were Wood Warbler, Sardinian Warbler and a singing Spectacled Warbler.
The lure of bacon and eggs was getting stronger and we climbed up out of the barranco after a while and cut across birdless habitat back to our car and then returned to our hotel for a well-earned breakfast.
The birds of Fuerteventura were performing well and we could afford time for a “non-birding” interlude with a visit to Oasis Park in Lajita. We made a walk in the botanical gardens, which hold a wonderful display of cacti plants from all over the world and we also visited the parrot show and the reptile show. The mammals park certainly also was worthwhile the visit. The birds of prey show however was cancelled, because one of the raptors was escaped this morning!
In the evening we made a visit to Salinas del Carmen, where we saw many Cory’s Shearwaters fly past.
Saturday 11th March
In the morning we again visited the Salinas del Carmen and Barranco de la Torre. At the barranco we did see a pair of Barbary Partridges and we added Common Cuckoo and Song Thrush to our trip list.
At mid-morning we headed to Catalina Garcia. Here we met the first birdwatchers on our trip and these English birders gave us some new info, because they already were a fortnight on this island. Following the wet winter the lagoon held a lot of water and we found Catalina Garcia the best inland water site.
At the lagoon we had Little Egret, Eurasian Spoonbill, Ruddy Shelduck, Northern Shoveler, Black-winged Stilt, Pied Avocet and lot’s of Gulls. Amongst the hundreds of Yellow-legged Gulls I discovered a Ring-billed Gull, a real surprise this North American vagrant.
On our way back to our hotel we made a stop near Poza Negra, where we searched in vain for the Ring Ouzel, the English birders had seen only a few days ago.
The last few hours of the day we spent on the stony plains south of Caleta de Fuste. Our main objective here was to find the Cream-coloured Courser, the English birdwatchers had seen here. We were fortunate enough to find a pair of Cream-coloured Coursers as they walked from bush to bush. We were able to obtain close views of this bird we had seen so many years ago in Tunisia. When we followed the driveable track we also spotted 2 Houbara Bustards and when we left the plains we had seen at least 10 Cream-coloured Coursers.
Sunday 12th March
On the morning of our final day we again visited Barranco de la Torre, where we saw 2 Plain Swifts, we drove to the Tindaya area. Here we spent all morning on the plains. The last bird that we added to our birding list was a hunting Barbary Falcon and finally got good looks of this raptor flying low above the plains. After a delicious meal at a restaurant in El Cotillo we returned to our hotel and then our vacation/birding trip was over and we flew back to Amsterdam.
In total we saw 72 species (2 lifers) during the trip and we managed to see all the island specialities, even if the Barbary Falcon did make us wait until the last day. I was slightly disappointed in the island, which despite some gorgeous countryside has decided to go down the 'develop at all costs' route and new groups of apartments, hotels and industrial parks are popping up all over the island.