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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Fuerteventura 20th-27th February 2013,
A short window in work and a similarly short-notice trip, booking a cheapish flight before the prices hiked out of range (per Shaun Coyle who was going to join me for three or so days). Very little time to research (e.g. knew about 3 Olive-backed Pipits on the Canaries but didn’t realise until afterwards they were on this island!) other than Gosney and Clarke plus a decent AA map (thanks very much to Janet Fairclough for lending me them and Gavin Thomas for passing them on). Several people were struggling with ‘dumbed down’ tourist maps with no/few courser/bustard from the car tracks shown. It seems like the only available quality map at the moment is Kompass from e.g. Stanfords (AA discontinued?).
From Manchester with Thomas Cook for £276 including £19 each way hold luggage. Usual mixture of package deal punters heading for the beaches. Thanks to Jean Roberts for agreeing a very reasonable fee to drop me off and pick me up from the airport in my car!
Used Budget which was via Avis kiosk. Avis didn’t seem very interested and failed to check the car properly and I had to report 4 other scratches prior to departure which they reluctantly added to the sheet. Cicar looks a better deal – apparently you also don’t get ‘stung’ for the overpriced 75 euro refill costs
Booked accommodation via Ownership Direct with Brian Donnelly, a member of the small ex-pat Irish community at Costa de Antigua. Ended up with a spacious apartment (sleeping 6!!) for 200 euros for the week – it was excellent. Quiet with none of the commercialism of nearby Calete de Fuste (where all the cheap apartments seemed to be fully booked). The apartment was right at the inland end of the complex and, although Brian was detailing trouble they had with some tenants in the past, it was quiet, secluded and perfect. The same could not be said for some of the bits nearer the coast. These looked rather run-down with the unfortunately ubiquitous mothballed section of development and a row of boarded up failed retail outlets. An internet café was useful. I was very tempted to spend a bit of time in the Irish pub, especially if there were any musicians (as opposed to singers) around (and a spare accordion!). However, turned down Brian’s invite in favour of some early nights/early starts and a bit of channel hopping on the TV, rapidly in the case of ‘Arabs Got Talent’ & ‘Babe IQ’ (like a chav version of Monty Pythons upper class twit of the year show) and settling for various arabically-dubbed films
If I was doing this trip again, I would have set the alarm for 0500hrs and gone early to Costa Calma and worked the woodland areas here (and gardens of La Lajita if still time)
Food & drink
Didnt eat out at all but spent c50 euros on supermarket food, mostly fresh vegetables/uncooked chicken/fresh prawns/tins of mussels and other shellfish/tins of tuna/pasta/bread/salad bags/masses of bananas/orangy-type things and water bottles!
Did not touch alcohol all week and the one attempt at eating out at a seafood restaurant in Antigua was met with 'just closing'. Only other purchase (other than fuel/postcards/internet cafe charge/the odd ice-cream) was the Canarian-printed Daily Mirror from a very "Brit"-orientated shop at Caleta de Fuste!
DAY ONE late afternoon/evening (20th Feb 2013)
Visited La Oliva along the track as per Page 8-9 in Gosney just in case the evening routine of the Bustards was still extant. No sign, although one person had apparently seen 6 or so one evening. One of the first birds was a singing Corn Bunting and this was of great interest to an arriving birder who had been on the island for a week. It was the only one I (or any other people I spoke to) encountered. Trumpeter Finch was a long overdue ‘world tick’ along with Berthelot’s Pipits. Lesser Short-toed Lark, Spanish Sparrow, Spectacled Warbler and Southern Grey Shrike kick-started what were to be ubiquitous birds during the week
DAY TWO (21st Feb)
Two White Wagtails flew over as I was getting into the car at the accommodation
Barranco de la Torre
I went to the east side of the road and immediately connected with a male Fuerteventura Chat along with a male Spectacled Warbler. Thanks Gavin. At this stage I was unaware of the riches in the section of barranco on the western side of the main road and was in typical second-day headless chicken mode to see as much as possible, so headed off to the hills
Parked in the far (large) car park and immediately encountered Ultramarine/African Blue Tit. Worked the dry riverbed and associated tamarisks and cultivars, also checking the thorn scrub on the hillside. The church café included a rather dense ‘garden’ which you had to pay to walk round and a female-type “canary-like finch” was seen rather briefly, seemingly attracted by a cage full of canary-sounding but not visible birds – I didn’t pay to go and see what they were! This was my contribution to whether Canary actually exists in the wild on Fuerteventura, although one report suggest there is a pine forest with a healthy population near Betacularia – I couldn’t find this. . The other mystery was a fast-flying yellowish-white butterfly which seemed to equate with African Migrant but my views were not good enough. A few Monarch were seen, mainly associating with a flowering cherry tree and one unsatisfactory view of what may have been Plain Tiger. Insects also included Clouded Yellow, Small White and Emperor dragonfly. A Song Thrush was a little unexpected. Winter resident/migrant warblers included several Sardinian in the thicker vegetation, Spectacled on the hillside, two singing male Blackcap and at least 3 silent Chiffchaff. An Egyptian Vulture soared overhead. I went about 1km along the road to the south to a lay-by where there was what sounded like a Turtle Dove rather distantly in the valley below and a Southern Grey Shrike imitating Trumpeter Finch flight call (the first of three separate birds doing this). Perusal of the map led to a decision to go to the reservoir at Molinos and then on to the plain at El Cotillo for the evening
Reservoir at Los Molinos
Parked by the goat farm at the south end having taken the track from the two palm trees. Had the first of many encounters with Ruddy Shelduck as soon as I left the car. The next feature was a loose flock of Lesser Short-toed Lark and this site saw the greatest abundance of this species on the whole trip with another two flocks encountered. The muddy south end of the reservoir yielded c120 Ruddy Shelduck, 4 Black-winged Stilt, Common Sandpiper, White Wagtail, three flighty female dabbling duck proved to be single Gadwall, Shoveler and Wigeon – the first two flew off to the south – sorry! A Coot flock was accompanied by two Tufted Duck and the long-staying female Ring-necked Duck. A Grey Heron flew out of the side creek and the first Hoopoe of the trip flew across the reservoir. A noise like an low amplified Skylark flight call announced the first Black-bellied Sandgrouse of the trip (4), followed by a flock of 5 which gave reasonable views near the waters edge accompanied by a red darter spp which looked like male Red-veined even at this distance. The first Barbary Ground Squirrel of the trip was seen! A triple-wired electric fence seemed to be insurmountable to someone like myself with previous bad experiences of these things. However, there was an insulated section where all three wires could be unhooked and closed behind you.
Couldn’t resist the lure of potential Houbara Bustard and that long-overdue world tick, Cream-coloured Courser and headed for El Cotillo. I went along the coastal track heading south and just before a small blind summit in the road, three Houbara Bustard walked across the road in front of me. Brilliant. Great scope view from the car. Then they went on the alert, stretching their necks and turning their heads like a submarine periscope. The reason was a para-glider who approached overhead and the birds then assumed the crouching position until the perceived menace had moved on. Three Kestrel were also seen along this stretch. A moth similar to Pyrausta despicata was flushed. Progressing further, I met a German birder and he indicated that there were four coursers on a raised sandy part of the roadside further on. Negotiating slightly tricky road conditions in a barranco, the road swung to the right, gained height and the terrain changed from rocky to more sandy. There they were – four Cream-coloured Courser together showing really well! A distant and high raptor to the west was very Peregrine-like and definitely not a Kestrel, but plumage was impossible to decipher so it remained unidentified.
DAY THREE (22nd Feb)
Caleta de Fustes golf course
Went in from the top and had two Chiffchaff in the bushes and a couple of Ruddy Shelduck. A steward on a quadbike pointed out an English/Spanish notice implying that only golfers were allowed in. Pretended to be German and he drove off. Nothing else of interest seen and still no swift spp overhead
A return trip to Betacularia
Thrashed the place trying to find Canary but not a peep other than from the obviously caged birds out of sight in the costly garden. The notable feature was an obvious influx of Turtle Dove with at least three singing birds where there were definitely none yesterday (see later entries) – didn’t appreciate these were such as early migrant as well as wintering in small numbers? The other new things were excellent views of a Long-tailed Blue and a singing but rather furtive ‘orange/grey’ Robin.
Vantage points on the road to Tajara
Plenty of Common Buzzard and what was to prove my only sighting of the week of Barbary Partridge – these are not easy in my experience at this time of year – on a rocky slope at a squirrel-hugging site overlooking the dry reservoir at Penitas. Squirrel feeding also produced fantastic views of Berthelot’s Pipit and Spanish Sparrow as they were virtually hand-fed.
Embalse de la Penitas (Vega de Rio Palmas)
Backtracked from the vantage point to walk the barranco. This was a good walk down to an unfortunately dry reservoir. Turtle Doves were again obvious with at least four birds along with a ‘gang’ of 5-6 Chiffchaff all sounding/looking like collybita. Two Southern Grey Shrike were squabbling and a Hoopoe was present. 9 Common Buzzard were seen. Further up the slope towards the reservoir there was an unusual combination of Ultramarine (Blue) Tit and Fuerteventura Chat in the same thorn bush (a thorn bush combination which was definitely trumped on Day 7)
FV627 western cul-de-sac
This leads to a native palm tree nursery (+/- some long range views of cannabis growing?) and was notable for a falcon soaring around above a cliff that again looked the part for Barbary but couldn’t completely rule out a wintering Peregrine or indeed the usual problem of escaped falconers hybrids. I’ve worked with falconers on gull scaring and if their accounts are as widespread as they claim, the various hybrid permutations of Peregrine-type birds are a reason for great caution with a distant falcon, unless you are at a known breeding site for Barbary giving decent views.
DAY FOUR (23rd Feb)
Casas de la Salinas
Decided to catch up on some trip-list dross today. Turnstone (3), Ringed Plover (21), Kentish Plover (2), Whimbrel (2), Sandwich Tern (4+), Lesser Black-backed Gull (I ad or near ad) and two Ruddy Shelduck were around the coastal area here, mainly around the tidal lagoon just off the saltpans. Dipped badly on Redshank, judging by other trip reports
Molinos Reservoir from the dam end
New for the trip were Little Ringed Plover, Greenshank. Also present were the Ring Necked Duck, Fuerteventura Chat, Hoopoe, 3-4 Grey Heron, Black-bellied Sandgrouse (3) and a Common Buzzard. Still no swift spp for this trip
Tried some ploughed fields just south of Antigua for Barbary Partridge – unfortunately had to leave the car and search & it was a case of ‘heard only’ x 2. On the road north from Triquivijate (FV430) was the best place to see Egyptian Vulture in my experience with 3 in the air together
La Oliva trail as per Day one
The one and only Corn Bunting again! Hoopoe and Trumpeter Finch
DAY FIVE (24th Feb)
Costa Calma area
In retrospect got it all wrong today and should have spent less time getting totally frazzled in the sandy desert north of the wind-farm (running out of enthusiasm) and more time around the wooded areas of Costa Calma. The previous day had seen quite a few migrants in this desert including a trip of Dotterel. Today saw a lot of dog walkers, a distant Stone Curlew being flushed by a mutt and three pairs of Black-bellied Sandgrouse. Had enough after 3 hours.
Walked some of the woodland in Costa Calma itself but could never get away from people. Had the first swifts of the trip overhead – 5 Pallid Swift. The trees held a Chiffchaff, several Goldfinch, a Siskin (surprise?) and two Blackcap. A Greenfinch was heard and presumably it was outside a cage! A call was also heard twice in quick succession which sounded very like Yellow-browed but it was high in rather dense canopy and 30 mins and a lot of funny looks later (pishing), no joy. Interesting to read in Birding World today that there was a YBW there and this is where the OBP flock was. The “highlight” was two Laughing Dove. Small White again present in numbers and what I thought might have been a Speckled Wood (but views very poor) must, on perusal of the literature, have been a brown day-flying/easily-dusturbed moth of some sort. I didn’t get to/find a/the florally-rich area which was (according to birders met on the return flight), the place for Plain Tiger.
Piedras Negras area off Costa Calma-El Jared road
Track off the western end of the Costa Calma-el Jared road. Turn left just before you head downhill – obvious track – then left again but don’t go far as cars discouraged. Brilliant views of 7-8 Cream-coloured Courser, showing the badger-like rear crown pattern at close range
Monarch seen from the car
Squirrel vantage point overlooking dried reservoir
No sign of any Barbary Partridge today
Penitas (as day three)
Half the walk, less than half the birds with no Turtle Dove today or Chiffchaff
Bath White butterfly a nice bonus – looked pristine
Los Molinos reservoir
Dam end. A good evening’s birding with 3 Greenshank, 2 Common Sandpiper, pair of Little Ringed Plover, male Fuerteventura Chat, Little Egret, female Ring-necked Duck and a lengthy process with a gang of swifts. These were down the bottom end of the reservoir but very mobile and consisted of 5 and later 9 individuals. Distantly, there appeared to be two sorts – slimmer smaller more acrobatic and what were fairly obviously Pallid Swift. There were definitely two of the apparently slimmer and more agile individuals. Waited and waited in case this was just a wishful long-range optical illusion and eventually three birds came very close over the dam end and, unlike the other tricky species lending itself to presumption – Barbary Falcon, I was really happy that one of these was a Plain Swift and the other two were Pallid Swift
Seawatching Costa de Antigua 1800-1820
18 Cory’s Shearwater in the strong north-easterly with some very close to shore – all but one flew north
A moth which I have subsequently identified as Scar Bank Gem was on the tobacco plants by the accommodation car park
DAY SIX (25th Feb)
A morning visit to El Cotillo
5 Houbara Bustard (2,2,1) were seen with the hotspot again the first little blind summit along the coastal track running south from El Cotillo (about 1.5 or so km along the track, making sure en route you swing right where the tracks intersect after about 1/2km). Further along after the barranco, excellent views of Stone Curlew and also more distantly Cream-coloured Courser. Five Pallid Swift headed purposefully north along with at least four Painted Lady
Molinos reservoir dam end
No Swifts and the only new thing here was Clouded Yellow – fewer waders of the same species as previously
Aim was to photograph Monarch but the flowering cherry was in the shade in the late afternoon and even though 5 were seen, they wouldn’t settle. Not a hint of any Canary at large. Failure! Four Ultramarine Tit seen. In the meantime, glowing reports of the eastern side of Barranco de Torre from a couple of birders
Barranco de la Torres
Parked along the Barranco de la Torres side road and accessed down a rather tricky slope in to the ravine. Worked upstream from the north side, encountering several small pools and trickles of water. Green Sandpiper and Snipe were added to the trip list and two Turtle Dove and two Fuerventura Chat seen. However, it was the dragonflies which excelled on a hot still day with Scarlet Darter very common, a few Emperor, one probable Vagrant Emperor seen briefly, a few Sahara damselfly, what appeared to be Long Skimmer and the local form of Common Darter. Ran out of (drinking) water and curtailed the visit with the intention of covering the remainder of this superb habitat tomorrow.
Casas de la Salinas
Sanderling (2) for the trip list (& Turnstone, Ringed Plover) but still no Redshank in brief scan for waders! Also Gannet added (6 feeding offshore), 17 Sandwich Tern and 3 very distant Cory’s Shearwater
Costa de Antigua seawatch 1800-1830
Cory’s Shearwater (23 – some very close), Gannet (2), 3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls amongst a procession of Yellow-legged Gulls, many of them 2CY.
DAY SEVEN (26th Feb)
Barranco de la Torres
Went here early and parked about 2/3 way between the barranco road turning and the bridge over the main road, on a side track with a locked chain-link. Headed slightly SW to avoid the steep drop and accessed down to the small building used by feral pigeons. Here there is an obvious vehicle track across the barranco, but continued further upstream and accessed via another less-obvious vehicle track across the riverbed which was bordered by two ‘open’ areas of pools/slow running water. The slope on the other side held some thorn scrub and two juvenile Fuerteventura Chat were occupying one of the bushes. After a few seconds, a bird flew out of the tamarisks behind me and joined the chats in the thorn scrub which had just started to receive the morning sunlight. Supercilium, then wing-bars quickly announced the presence of a Yellow-browed Warbler! This was on view in the thorn scrub for at least 15 minutes, typically active and moving from patch to patch. It then returned to the tamarisks and called three times in the next 30 minutes but only fleeting views. Amazing second bite of the cherry after the failure to clinch anything at Costa Calma. I contacted Stuart Piner to feed it through the Spanish equivalent of RBA and left a note in the sandy soil indicating to any visiting birders where it was seen in an otherwise rather lengthy valley of similar suitable habitat. Sardinian Warblers were very common in the tamarisks along with at least 10 Turtle Dove, at least 3 Chiffchaff and two singing male Blackcap
There were at least five Spectacled Warbler on the slope and Trumpeter Finches were regularly visiting the pool. A Common Buzzard soared overhead
Unexpected (c/f other trip reports) was the obvious presence of territorial Moorhen with a boundary dispute taking place near the river crossing and this prompted at least two other birds to call within earshot. So Molinas is not the only site for this species. A Teal was flushed.
Dragonflies were slightly different from the previous evening. Much fewer Scarlet Darter at this end, but more of the presumed Long Skimmer (more by default/structure than 100% matching pics, unless another species has colonised this island since the latest on-line literature) and a single bright blue male Epaulet Skimmer (again assuming no look-alikes have colonised!). Pics of these should be available soon. What looked like a Vagrant Emperor was quickly chased off by an Emperor and views were again unsatisfactory and 5-6 Saharan Damselfly were seen. No butterflies were seen to venture anywhere near this dragonfly-fest but flowering plants were at a premium with just occasional yellow daisy-type things, apparently false sowthistle (Reichardia tingitana)
A short search amongst a lot of grockles for any butterflies in the planted gardens. One Laughing Dove seen along with a presumed Geranium Bronze. Should have persevered but……
Costa Calma woodland
Even more grockles than last visit so didn’t stay after purchasing an ice-cream at a garage – should have stuck with it and explored further. Did see a Geranium Bronze and more evidence that this was the stake-out for Goldfinch. This area definitely needs to be visited early am for birds
Goat farm west of motorway
A goat farm just to the west of where the superfluous motorway starts had been mentioned as a migrant trap during conversation two days ago – today it was a goat farm with a few empty bushes
Playa Esmeralda & hotel grounds
A visit to check the beach by the Playa Esmeralda for waders saw too many people scattered around and no birds
Nr El Jared
The lengthy visit south was rescued by superb views of two Cream-coloured Courser along the track off to the south about 2/3 of the way along the El Jared road – as per Day 5.
Los Molinos final visit
Green Sandpiper (1), Snipe (1), female Ring-necked Duck, Common Sandpiper (2), Greenshank (at least one), Black-winged Stilt (6), Little Ringed Plover (at least 2)……but no Swifts
Very late seawatch at Costa de Antigua
Calm and yachted sea and only one Cory’s Shearwater in the last 15 mins of usable daylight
DAY EIGHT (27th Feb)
Barranco de la Torres
Decided to give Barranco de la Torres another going over this morning instead of a thrash round trying for e.g. better views of Barbary Partridge by scanning fields.
Worked it as yesterday morning but covered more ground and added a species to the trip list in the form of Grey Wagtail. The Yellow-browed Warbler was still there in the tamarisks early morning and called five times and was seen twice over a period of 45 mins whilst I was watching the pool for drinking birds/hoping that something other than Moorhen might emerge from the shadows. Masses of Sardinian Warblers – either these included migrants or puzzled why some trip reports found them a bit awkward? Fuerteventura Chat (3) on the rocky slope for the last time. Same dragonfly species as previously, including the same male Epaulet Skimmer
Costa de Antigua
Thought about visiting the capital, but in the end didn’t bother as rather short of fuel. Two Geranium Bronze near the accommodation
Need to bear in mind that
a) I didn’t want to spend time amongst the touristy stuff, therefore visited “touristy planted vegetation” and beaches (therefore wader/gull habitat) very sparingly
b) As a lone driver, obviously missed aerial stuff that a passenger would have noticed e.g. more Egyptian Vultures – I cannot do a Dick Forsman and drive & not miss a thing!
c) Soon tired of scanning fields after I had seen the main candidates, always assuming there was somewhere suitable to pull off the road. This was invariably not the case with rather a steep drop off the tarmac being the norm. I was also overtaken more times in a week sticking with the 90km limit than the whole of the last year in England. Implicitly, vehicles were often close behind, preventing stopping quickly (usually white vans)
d) The downside of the trip was not having Rosa de Catalina García available as reports from other birders said it had dried up
e) I ‘needed’/still need Canary so spent a lot of time searching round Betacularia!
Seen on every evening seawatch, best in NE winds
Seen offshore on one evening
Up to 4 at los Molinas, one barranco de la Torres
Ones and twos Los Molinos, similarly Casas de la Salinas
Abundant Los Molinos (120+), single figures around Calete de Fuste, Barranco de la Torres
Single female flushed and seemed to fly off south with the Shoveler (sorry for the clumsy fieldcraft – first visit to the site!) – not seen on subsequent visits
Female with the above – not seen on subsequent visits
Female Los Molinos on the first and second visits
20+ Los Molinos on first visit, fewer thereafter, one Barranco de la Torres
Two Los Molinos (may have been 3 on day two)
Long-staying female Los Molinos throughout (to at least 26th). Definitely unringed (sat on platform)
Only 6 seen, best area to north of Triquivijate
50+ sightings, more in relation to Egyptian Vulture than expected
About 15 scattered sightings
Poor views at two sites (south of El Cotillo and by the palm nursery) – no plumage detail, just perceived size/structure e.g. ruling out Kestrel
What a struggle for this world tick! Two distant ones from a vantage point overlooking the dried reservoir at Penitas and two heard calling over a slight rise near Antigua
Low single figures at Molinos and Barranco de la Torre
A non-breeding assemblage at Molinos
The near-coastal track south of El Cotillo was the only place I saw this species and the views were brilliant! Best place was either side of the first small blind summit about 1.5km south along the track from El Cotillo. First (evening) visit saw male and two females together, second visit saw two pairs and a single male
Up to 6 at Molinos
One seen very well on the El Cotillo track – one flushed distantly by a mutt west of Costa Calma
Four on the ‘high’ part of the El Cotillo track just after climbing out of the barranco. Up to 9 individuals on two visits in the sandy area off the track just before you drop down into El Jared (on the Costa Calma road)
Little Ringed Plover
Up to 4 Molinos
Small flock at Casas de la Salinas
Two near to but staying separate from the above Ringed Plover flock on 23rd Feb only
Two Casas de la Salinas on 25th Feb
Low single figures Casas de la Salinas on 23rd & 25th Feb
Singles in Barranco de la Torre and at Molinos on just one of the visits
Present on all visits to Molinos in low single figures
Up to 3 at Molinos
At least two at Casas de la Salinas on 23rd Feb
One at Molinos on one visit and similarly at Barranco de la Torre
Daily in reasonable numbers bearing in mind I was very sparing with coastal visits
Lesser Black-backed Gull
A handful on seawatches – certainly nowhere near as common as Yellow-legged Gull but didn’t spend much time around the coast
Same comment as above – saw several on both visits to Casas de la Salinas
Encountered at two sites: Molinos reservoir where all sightings were at the south end whilst walking from the goat farm – no sign at the dam end (just heard distantly from here). Heard calling before seen! The other 6 were part of a massive yomp around the sandy plain just west of Costa Calma
In the barrancos at Betacularia, Penitas and Barranco de la Torre. 20ish individuals
One at La Lajita whilst searching unsuccessfully for peace and quiet and butterflies. Two at Costa Calma
Just three lots. 5 over Costa Calma (24th), 5 purposefully north over the plains at El Cotillo (25th) and at least 6, probably 7/9 swift spp at Molinos (24th only) were of this species
One definite at Molinos on 24th at close range and another bird at longer range which was almost certainly this species but Common Swift could not be completely ruled out
Eleven seen during the week at various locations with Molinos the most reliable
Lesser Short-toed Lark
Abundant, especially at Molinos
Abundant with one of the calls very similar to flava wagtail flight call!
C15 sightings, mainly around/over the accommodation area, Barranco de la Torre or Molinos
Single Barranco de la Torre on the final day
A singing very grey/orange-breasted bird at Betacularia on 22nd Feb was the only sighting
Up to 15 individuals seen, mainly at Barranco de la Torre, by the dried up reservoir at Penitas and the dam end of Molinos
One Betacularia on 22nd was the only sighting
Singing males sparsely distributed in the same habitat as the next species, tamarisks or even denser and higher well-vegetated site such as Costa Calma woodland – 5 at Betacularia, one at Penitas, 2 at Costa Calma, 2 at Barranco de la Torre. Didn’t see a female!
Common at Betacularia, Penitas track and Barranco de la Torre and a few others encountered, mainly in tamarisks. There seemed to be more than the area should support breeding-bird-wise at Barranco de la Torre on last two days – including migrants?
Plenty, especially in thorn scrub on the sides of the barrancos
Perhaps surprisingly large numbers were seen given the perceived status as per other trip reports. None of them seen or heard appeared to be anything other than collybita-types and presumably the sightings were the back end of the wintering birds, rather than any actual passage (other than perhaps the golf course birds?). Site maxima comprised 5-6 Betacularia, 4-5 Barranco de la Torre, 2-3 Costa Calma, 4-5 Penitas barranco (bridge end), 2 Caleste de Fuste golf course, one La lajita
What may have been this species was heard calling twice at Costa Calma, high in dense canopy on 24th Feb but wouldn’t be pished out. Therefore this record is not being claimed, despite later finding out that one was in the same area a few days earlier (per Birding World). One showing exceptionally well (with two Fuerteventura Chat!) in thorn scrub in Barranco de la Torre on 26th Feb before being less easy to follow in nearby tamarisk. The following day (27th Feb) it was rather elusive but vocal in the tamarisks
Several at Betacularia, with the best views around the large car park at the south end of the town, at least 3 at Penitas and also at one other site but cannot remember as forgot to note down (Barranco de la Torre?)
Southern Grey Shrike
The commonest I have ever known a shrike species with at least 40 sightings all over, except the residential touristy areas of the east. Very tame with birds remaining within a metre or two of cyclists as they whizzed past on the Betacularia/Pajara road – obviously used to them. Mimicry included Trumpeter Finch by three different birds
Very common and very tame at the squirrel-hugging lay-bys between Betacularia and Pajara
Had a singleton sitting on a roadside roof near La Oliva the first evening – didn’t think much of it, then didn’t see another bird
Superabundant in all habitats, including squirrel hugging lay-bys on the mountain roads
Fairly widespread around cultivation – most seen in the La Oliva fields
Seemed to be fairly common at Costa Calma but didn’t see/hear any anywhere else that were definitely not in cage/aviary
One heard at Costa Calma whilst trying to see the source of the warbler call mentioned above – didn’t check it out and assume it was not inside an aviary
Male with Goldfinches at Costa Calma was not expected – possibly two birds on call but couldn’t see the other
A female type, at large but associated with birds in cages/an aviary (out of sight) at Betacularia. An attempt to ask whether the caged birds were all Canaries and ‘could I have a look’ was answered at the sign language level by pointing to some 5-euro notes (to purchase the bird(s)??), so politely gave up The female made the right noises, but couldn’t possibly exclude ex-captive hybrid on views obtained before it dropped down into the rather dense vegetation. Perhaps I should have simply paid to go in.
Patchy, but usually common where found = the more lowland farmland (e.g. La Oliva) and especially around Barranco de la Torre pools. Not easy to find around Betacularia or Molinos
Presumably just the one singing male at any one time at La Oliva
At least two around the accommodation of unknown status – also presumably this heard at Costa Calma, although a “green parakeet spp” was also seen at Costa de Antigua. Brian reported ‘one with a crest’ regular on his aerial but this proved elusive during the week I was there!
These were a bit of a problem in the absence of extensive flowering herbs in the dry conditions as there was no reason for most of them to land. The vast majority of sightings were “presumed Small White in flight” or Monarchs around Betacularia, especially on the single flowering cherry tree by the main car park
At least five – all at roadside stops in the slightly more hilly areas
I couldn’t turn any of the whites in the barrancos, Betacularia or around planted areas in the east into anything other than this – much more widespread and common than I was led to believe
Excellent views at the start of the Penitas track on 24th. Definitely not Green-striped White which I didn’t see
One Betacularia – really good views on 22nd
Canary Island Red Admiral
This was a bit of a bonus – the indented upperwing pattern of red was clearly seen as it basked in the sun - Betacularia on 22nd. Didn’t expect this as is the status ‘uncertain’ on this island – but ‘present’ according to some more recent literature
Poor views and identified by deduction – not good enough! Betacularia on 21st
Sporadically seen, usually in rapid transit heading north
About 5 seen – well scattered
A few seen around the resorts, including by the accommodation
Up to 8 different ones at Betacularia and one at Pajara
In addition a possible Plain Tiger seen briefly in flight at Betacularia before disappearing into a private inaccessible area
Apart from a “Common Darter” at Betacularia, a male Red-veined darter at Molinos (unfortunately not Red-veined Dropwing), all the dragonfly sightings apart from Emperor were from Barranco de la Torre (referred to as ‘the barranco’ below or if no site mentioned) on the last three days 25th-27th. No sign of Ringed Cascader anywhere.
Saharan Blue-tailed Damselfly
In the absence of DNA revealing otherwise, the current thinking seems to be that all should be this species, not Ubiquitous Blue-tailed Damsel. Is this correct?
At least 15 males and 6 females on 25th, 3 males on 26th
Male consorting with Black-bellied Sandgrouse at the southern end of Molinos on 21st
Subject to extracting the photos from my mobile and enlarging – proving difficult – this is the nearest (but not perfect) match to several pics of a common dragonfly in the barranco. Certainly the structure is spot-on. At least 20 seen on all three visits 25th-27th
A bright blue male skimmer of the requisite size and shape seen on 26th and 27th cannot be anything else, can it?! Photographed.
Common Darter endemic form
One Betacularia on 21st, at least one at Barranco de la Torre on 25th
Seen at Betacularia, Penitas and the barranco – 3+2+c10 respectively
Two sightings in the barranco fitted this species and definitely not Lesser Emperor, but could have done with better views and less intolerant territorial Emperors
A few in-flight plusia, but the only one identified was a Scar Bank Gem on tobacco plant near the accommodation. Nothing else seen which was identified i.e. a few in the headlights and implicitly no Humming-bird Hawk-moth.
One flat one and one very flat one (or the same one a couple of days later?) on Antigua road
Rather innumerate c/f large warrens in this country, but seen fairly regularly
Barbary Ground Squirrel
Colloquially known as ‘chipmunk’ (overheard conversations on the plane home), this provided the wildlife experience for most of the resort-based holidaymakers. Very common.
One skink spp and about 50 lizard spp of similar/the same ilk – must do better
A presumed Desert Locust near Molinos. Native palm trees observed at a nursery. One wildflower identified – false sowthistle (Reichardia tingitana)
Pete Marsh, Leck View Cottage, High Tatham, Lancs LA2 8PH 9/3/13
PMrsh123@aol.com if any howling errors. Thanks.