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Fuerteventura, Canary Islands Birding Trip
By Henk Hendriks
When I had the opportunity to escape the cold winter weather in the Netherlands, I took that opportunity with both hands. I decided to visit together with my wife one of the eastern Canary Islands, Fuerteventura. The main reason was that on this island, one or possibly two endemic species occur, the Fuerteventura or Canary Island Chat and the Fuerteventura Blue Tit.
Another life bird for me and a speciality on the island is the Houbara Bustard.
We paid € 599 for a package holiday which included a return ticket with Martinair from Amsterdam to Fuerteventura and accommodation for one week.
We stayed in Hesperia Bristol Playa, a nice 2-3 story apartment building which was closely situated to the port and centre of Corralego in the north of the island.
Correlega is actually a nice, small village with many small shops and restaurants and is also convenient for reaching locations like the Cotillo Plains and the Olivia area.
We hired an A-category car with Hertz through our local travel agency and in retrospect it would have been better to hire a B-category car with one of the other companies. The car was cheap, only € 147 for one week, but we used 3 different cars. The first one, a Fiat Punto broke down the first day and it took several hours before I got a replacement car, a small Renault Twingo which was too small for me. The next day I got a Citroen Saxo. All cars were rather old and battered.
Petrol is cheap, about € 0.560 for a liter. [i.e., $2.62 per gallon.]
Breakfast and lunch were mostly taken at our apartment or out in the field. In the evening we had dinner at one of the many restaurants at Corralego.
The weather during our stay was generally fine -- nice spring weather with temperatures between 22-25° C. The first 5 days were sunny, and the last 2 days more overcast with more wind and some rain.
As a site guide we used the excellent A Birdwatcher's Guide to the Canary Islands by Tony Clark and David Collins.
As for field guides, I used Collins Bird Guide of Britain & Europe.
We had no trouble finding all the target species during our trip and I spent quite some time photographing birds. All in all, it was a nice small birding break which can be recommended.
We left Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam at 12.15 am. Because of troubles with the original aircraft of Martinair we flew instead with a chartered aircraft of an unknown Portuguese Charter company. After a delay of 45 minutes we took off. Unfortunately we were surrounded by families with plenty of screaming and crying young children/babies which made this flight a really unpleasant one for us. After a short stop at Arrecife, Lanzarote we touched down at Fuerteventura Airport at 17.30 pm. (local time).
We picked up our rental car at the Hertz office, a battered Fiat Punto and drove the 38 km from the airport to our apartment in Corralego, which turned out to be a really nice one.
In the evening we had dinner in the centre of Corralego.
We got up not too early and after breakfast we decided to drive to the Cotillo Plains to check the place out. Unfortunately the car refused to start. Phoned Hertz, but they told me that they could not provide me with a replacement car at the moment. This really annoyed me, and I decided to walk the short distance to their office in Corralego to sort things out.
After much debating I finally got a small Renault Twingo at 13.00 am and the assurance that I could pick up another, better car at the airport the next day.
After lunch we drove to Cotillo and drove around the plains which was of course not very productive at that time of the day. Then we decided to drive to the mountains near Betancuria. Late afternoon was spent at Los Molinos. There I scoped at least 11 Marbled Ducks, several Ruddy Shelducks, observed 2 Plain Swifts. Unexpectedly, when we were about to leave the area, a male Fuerteventura Chat popped up and showed well on top of a bush.
At dawn I was back at the Cotillo Plains. After about 3 km from Cotillo near a white farm house, I started to scan the plains with my scope from the car. Within minutes I got 2 Houbara Bustards. They came closer and closer, and the male started to display. Fantastic sight.
Also spotted 2 Barbary Partridges but no Thick-knees.
After this success I decided to leave for the Fimapaire Valley near Olivia.
I spent several hours in this area and saw at least 7 Fuerteventura Chats.
This was actually a very productive area with species like Hoopoe, Southern Grey Shrike, Spectacled Warbler, Trumpeter Finch, Lesser Short-toed Larks and Raven.
Drove back to Corralego and spent some time at the pool.
In the afternoon we drove to the airport where I changed my car for a Citroen Saxo.
We proceeded to Betancuria and further to Vega de Rio Palmas (Peñitas). We walked the barranco to the dam and observed at least 4 Fuerteventura Blue Tits. Sardinian Warblers were very common. Unfortunately, Daniëlle got something in her eyes from a cactus. This looked pretty serious as she had a lot of pain so I quickly drove back to Corralego to the hospital. She was treated by a doctor and he told us that the eye was fortunately only superficially damaged.
He cleaned the eye and gave something for the pain.
Daniëlles eye was still painful and red/swollen but not as badly as the day before.
She decided to spend the day at the pool and so I drove back to the Fimapaire Valley near La Oliva to photograph birds. Spent several productive hours in the area.
In the late afternoon I picked up Daniëlle and we drove to the north side of La Oliva to look for Bustards. (Rosa de Los Negrines). We scoped 1 single and a pair of Houbara Bustards.
Nice dinner at the harbour of Corralego.
Today we wanted to visit the south side of the island, around Morro Jable and Costa Calme.
We drove around the area between Costa Calme and La Pared.
No Bustards but 3 Cream-coloured Coursers. Had lunch at Morro Jable and drove back to Corralego.
All morning again at the Fimapaire valley near La Oliva.
At the afternoon some reading at the pool and late afternoon seawatching from a headland near our hotel. Cory's Shearwaters were very common and we also observed some Sandwich Terns.
Drove to Ajuy and made a walk in a nearby Barranco. Sardinian Warblers were very common. After lunch we visited the east coast near Playitas and Las Salinas. Only a few waders were present.
My final morning was spent on the Cotillo Plains again. Very good views of a displaying male Houbara Bustard. Also 2 single Barbary Partridges and 2 Cream-coloured Coursers were observed. At noon I was back at the hotel and we started packing. Drove to the airport and exactly on time our plane left at 17.05 for the flight for Amsterdam. At 21.20 we arrived at a cold Amsterdam and at 1.00 am we were back home.
SYSTEMATIC LIST OF OBSERVED SPECIES
Cory's Shearwater (Calonectris borealis) Common off the Corralego coast, late afternoon.
Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) 1 ex.Los Molinos and 1 ex.near Playitas.
Litte Egret (Egretta garzetta) A few present along the coast at Corralego.
Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) On 26-02 4 exx.Morro Jable coast.
Ruddy Shellduck (Tadorna ferruginea) On 23-02 6 exx.Los Molinos.
Marbled Duck (Marmamonetta angustirostris) On 23-02 11 exx.Los Molinos.
Buzzard (Buteo buteo insularum) Regularly observed throughout the island.
Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus dacotiae) Rather scarce.
Coot (Fulica atra) Common at Los Molinos.
Barbary Partridge (Alectoris Barbara) On 2 and 29-02 2 exx El Cotillo Plains.
Houbara Bustard (Chlamydotis undulate fuertaventurae) On 24-02 3 exx.El Cotillo Plains. 1 displaying male. On 29-02 1 displaying male. On 25-02 3 exx.near La Oliva.
Cream-coloured Courser (Cursorius cursor bannermani) On 26-02 3 exx.La Pared. On 29-02 2 exx.El Cotillo.
Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus insularum) On 27-02 2 exx.Fimapaire Valley. More heard.
Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius) On 23-02 4 exx.Los Molinos.
Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula) On 28-02 3 exx. Salinas.
Dunlin (Calidris alpine) On 28-03 8 exx.Salinas.
Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) On 24-02 1 ex. At Vega de Rio Palmas.
Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) Single birds at coastal areas.
Common Redshank (Tringa tetanus) On 28-03 3 exx.Salinas.
Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) On 23-02 3 exx.Los Molinos.
Common Sandpiper (Actites hypoleucos) Single birds at Los Molinos, Salinas and coast.
Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) Common rocky, coastal areas.
Yellow-legged Gull (Larus cachinnans atlanticus) Observed.
Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis) On 26-02 5 exx.along the coast near Corralego.
Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles oriëntalis) Small flocks at the El Cotillo Plains.
Rock Dove (Columba livia) Observed.
Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocta) Common.
Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur) A few seen in the barrancos of Vega de Rio Palmas, near Ajuy and the Fimapaire Valley.
Plain Swift (Apus unicolor) Scarce. On 23-02 2 exx.Los Molinos. On 26-02 1 ex. Near La Pared.
Pallid Swift (Apus pallidus brehmorum) Twice a single bird seen at Corralego.
Hoopoe (Upupa epops) Common. Sometimes groups of 6 – 10 exx.observed
Lesser Short-toed Lark (Calandrella rufescens polatzeki) Common on the plains.
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) On 23-02 1 ex.Los Molinos.
Berthelot's Pipit (Anthus berthelotti) Common.
* FUERTEVENTURA CHAT (Saxicola dacotiae) On 23-02 1 male at Los Molinos. Common at the Fimapaire Valley. Up to 10 exx.seen.
Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) On 28-03 1 ex.near Ajuy.
Spectacled Warbler (Sylvia conspicillata orbitalis) A total of 12 exx.observed. Photographed 1 pair at the Fimapaire Valley.
Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala) Common at Vega de Rio Palmas and the barranco near Ajuy.
Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) On 28-02 1 singing ex.Pajara.
Blue Tit (Parus caeruleus degener) On 24-02 4 exx.at Vega de Rio Palmas. This might become a future split: Fuerteventura Blue Tit (Parus degener)
Southern Grey Shrike (Lanius meriodonalis koenigi) Observed.
Raven (Corvus corax tingitanus) Observed. Birds looked rather small to me and also uttered a different call than the nominate form.
Spanish Sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis) Common.
Greenfinch ((Carduelis chloris) A few at the Fimapaire Valley.
Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) A few at Vega de Rio Palmas and Pajara.
Linnet (Acanthis canabina harterti) Observed Fimapaire Valley and Vega de Rio Palmas and Betancuria.
Trumpeter Finch (Budanetes githagineus amantum) Locally common.
Corn Bunting ((Emberiza calandra) At least 3 pairs at the Fimapaire Valley.
48 species observed