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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Trip Report: Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, 31st Jan - 7th Feb 2002,Terry and Brian Warhurst, Breaston, Derby, U.K.
The trip was arranged at short notice as a winter warmer and an opportunity for us to join other (non-birding) members of the family for a week on Lanzarote. Birding expectations were not high since we knew that the Canary Islands Chat was only found on Fuerteventura and other Canarian specialities such as the laurel pigeons, Blue Chaffinch, Canary etc were only on the western islands. However a look at internet trip reports at a fairly late stage changed our thinking. We got maps and the Clarke & Collins book, high-lighted several sites, arranged for a hire-car, fixed a day-trip to Fuerteventura and set off hopefully.
Lanzarote does not have large numbers of birds, nor does it have a great diversity of species. It does have populations of a number of species of great interest to a birder from northern Europe and it was these which we set out to find. Houbara Bustard, Cream-coloured Courser and Stone Curlew were high on our list and using the book we began our searches on the rolling plans of El Jable and El Rubicon.
There is extensive building spreading out from Playa Blanca into the Bustard area of El Rubicon and we were successful in finding only Stone Curlew (though another birder said he saw a displaying Bustard in the confines of the Papagaya park in the middle of the day). We did see a Barbary Falcon rise up with prey a bird looking very like a Cream-coloured Courser! Later we saw the falcon plucking and eating its catch. Berthelots Pipits were everywhere, as they are all over the island. There was a Great Grey Shrike there. This is another common bird on Lanzarote. This particular bird was harassing a chat, which we only saw briefly, on the move. Later we found that Stonechat is a rare winter visitor. In view of the close proximity of Fuerteventura it is interesting to speculate as to the exact chat species this was. The bird we saw had no visible white eye-stripe, but later on, having seen several male Canary Islands Chats on Fuerteventura we realised that this is not as prominent a feature as the field guides show. Peregrine was another raptor species seen at El Rubicon.
In the same general area as El Rubicon are the Salinas de Janubio. We saw a relatively small number of waders there, including Black-winged Stilt, Grey Plover, Redshank, Greenshank, Turnstone and Sanderling, with Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull. Observations at the Salinas and elsewhere were made relatively difficult by the high winds. These seem to be a regular feature of Lanzarote, and seem to come from unpredictable directions (we became very wind-direction conscious since we were in the company of paragliding enthusiasts, keen to jump off mountain sides at every available opportunity!).
The plains of El Jable proved more productive than El Rubicon. Our first visit produced only Stone Curlew, but the second yielded a beautiful pair of Cream-coloured Coursers and two individual sitings of Houbara Bustard. Early in the day seems the best time to look for these two species.
We had one try for Barbary Partridge at the golf course. It was totally the wrong time late morning on a Sunday. The course and surrounding area was heaving with people, either playing or turning up for lunch. No sign of birds. No doubt early on a weekday is better, but with non-birding drivers and a limited time on the island perfection is not always possible.
Thanks to it being a paragliding launch site we found a good birding spot at a small reservoir at Valle del Paloma, above Mala. There we saw Green Sandpiper, Raven, Goldfinch and Spectacled Warbler. There was almost certainly more to be found there, given more time to search.
The track coming off the Mirador de Haria, referred to in the book, is an excellent site. There we had Canary, Spectacled Warbler, Linnet, a pair of Barbary Falcon and possible Subalpine Warbler, despite the usual high winds.
The best day of the holiday was spent on Fuerteventura. The Chat was our target so we went first to the Barranco de Rio Cabras, near the airport. The old road referred to in the book is now part of a motorway so parking was totally different to what we expected. However we did walk up the barranco and found an obliging pair of Canary Island Chats after c800 metres. Buzzard was the only other notable bird seen. Our drivers meanwhile had found a track to the side of the Barranco, c500 metres from the main road, where the car awaited us. There is new building in the area so little was seen above the barranco.
The Barranco de la Torre became simply a lunch stop, but there was Raven and Trumpeter Finch, with a Sardinian Warbler calling loudly from the tamarisks but not showing.
The best site was definitely the last that we had time for the Embalse de Los Molinas. Driving down the track to the dam we had a female and two male Chats perched on wires very close to the car. Below the dam there were Little Egrets and Common Sandpiper. Walking along the track above the reservoir Trumpeter Finches were abundant. On the water were c15 coot and a pair of Ruddy Shelduck no Marbled Duck. However we had Hoopoe, always a good bird for a northern European birder, and round the cliffs at the upper end of the reservoir there was a swarm of House Martins and Pallid Swifts. It was then time to head for Corralejo, food and the last ferry to Playa Blanca. We had no time to look for Black-bellied Sandgrouse but this was not a new bird for us and something had to give!
A Fuerteventura day trip is definitely to be recommended when staying on Lanzarote. The cost for two ferry crossings is less than 100 euros for the car and passengers just turn up and buy your ticket. It is worth checking that your car hire company will let you take the car (some wont) and that it will be insured there.
Our winter warmer to Lanzarote turned out to have a high birding content (about 50 species). We learned a lot about paragliding, enjoyed siestas here and there and sampled the culinary delights of Puerto del Carmen both varied and plentiful enjoyed immensely the company of the family and had an excellent stay.