A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

Monday, 16 October 2017

Fuerteventura Birding Trip Report - Day 3 (Wednesday 26th October 2016)

Day 3:

Moved in to a new (hopefully flood proof) apartment at the other side of the complex, having already seen most of our expected main Fuerteventura targets for the trip we decided to spend another day seawatching on the outside chance of connecting with a Red-billed Tropicbird off the coast. Setting up base on the eastern side of the island at Caleta de Fuste, we positioned ourselves near Caleta Corcha Bay and around the Hotel Elba area where a number of Red-billed Tropicbird sightings had occurred in recent years.
Caleta de Fuste - Fuerteventura
Sadly on this occasion our efforts didn’t bear fruit on the Tropicbird front, but we were treated to a steady and continuous stream of Cory’s Shearwaters passing off the coast along with around 30 Bulwer’s Petrels, their thin black wings powering across the waves and all heading south. A new species for me, the distance of the birds had me unsure as to whether they could be Sooty Shearwaters, but a helpful email from the Fuerteventura e-bird co-ordinator once home confirmed Alex’s initial suspicions that they were in fact the smaller Bulwer’s Petrels – Sooty Shearwaters being extremely uncommon in Fuerteventura waters in October. An excellent bird, and one I hadn’t fully expected to see on our trip. Scanning the rough seas for any white and red shapes, we spotted a large number of Gannets offshore, both adults and juveniles, while two adult Pomarine Skuas complete with spoons were a nice and unexpected find.
Caleta de Fuste - Fuerteventura
With our seawatching not yielding anything more of note bar a handful of close in Sandwich Terns, we instead ventured over to the Barranco de la Torre, another good site for Fuerteventura Chat and Trumpeter Finch. 
Barranco de la Torre - Fuerteventura
With the dark thunderous rainclouds threatening ominously over the mountains as we approached the site, we had barely taken a few steps out of the car when the heavens opened and large splashes of water showered our optics. 
Barranco de la Torre - Fuerteventura
Barranco de la Torre - Fuerteventura
With cracks of thunder and lightning putting on a dramatic show directly overhead, we legged it back to the car, a lone but close Berthelot’s Pipit the only reward for our efforts.
Berthelot's Pipit - Barranco de la Torre, Fuerteventura
Berthelot's Pipit
After the weather had calmed slightly, we gingerly ventured outside once more, exploring the reedy fringes of a small pool at the end of the track. Here several more Spectacled Warblers moved stealthily around the scrubby edges, while a small flock of Spanish Sparrows chirruped noisily from the twiggy branches. 
Spanish Sparrow - Barranco de la Torre, Fuerteventura
Spanish Sparrow
Scanning the water, four Black-winged Stilts - our first birds of the trip - took flight, circling in the sky before alighting back down to feed in the reedy edges. Several Moorhens, again our first for the trip, bobbed up and down on the pool’s surface while another pair of Ruddy Shelducks sat peacefully on the bank. 
Barranco de la Torre - Fuerteventura
With the rain threatening to come in once again, we decided to call it a day at the Barranco, four Egyptian Vultures circling high up between the two mountain valleys our most notable birds at the site, making an appearance as we left.
Egyptian Vulture - Barranco de la Torre, Fuerteventura
Barranco de la Torre - Fuerteventura
Egyptian Vulture - Barranco de la Torre, Fuerteventura
Egyptian Vulture
Barranco de la Torre - Fuerteventura
The goats at Barranco de la Torre!
Barranco de la Torre - Fuerteventura
Barranco de la Torre - Fuerteventura
With the afternoon to spare and with Reserva de El Jarde having delivered so spectacularly on our first day, we decided to end the day there in an attempt to try and get some better photographs of either the bustards or the Trumpeter Finches. 
Reserva de El Jarde - Fuerteventura
Sadly, neither species put in an appearance on our second visit, although we did encounter presumably the same pair of Ruddy Shelducks from two days ago, this time sitting slightly closer to the track and allowing us much better views as they navigated the rubble strewn terrain. 
Ruddy Shelduck - Reserva de El Jarde, Fuerteventura
Ruddy Shelduck
The usual Berthelot’s Pipits once again perched in the cacti decorating the sparse gardens, while the Canary Island races of Buzzard and Raven soared overhead.
Reserva de El Jarde - Fuerteventura
Reserva de El Jarde - Fuerteventura
The Traditional Cheese Trail!
Deciding to explore a bit more of the twisted tangle of tracks incorporating the “Traditional Cheese Trail” on the site, we encountered four more Egyptian Vultures, this time perched on the telegraph poles and quite possibly being the same four birds from an hour earlier at Barranco de la Torre.
Egyptian Vulture - Reserva de El Jarde, Fuerteventura
Egyptian Vulture
Egyptian Vulture - Reserva de El Jarde, Fuerteventura
A Southern Grey Shrike of the Canary Islands subspecies koenigi put on a great show at the side of the road, providing our closest views to date, while once more the flock of Spanish Sparrows fed greedily on the spilt seed at the goat farm. 
Southern Grey Shrike - Reserva de El Jarde, Fuerteventura
Southern Grey Shrike
Southern Grey Shrike - Reserva de El Jarde, Fuerteventura
Reserva de El Jarde - Fuerteventura
Reserva de El Jarde - Fuerteventura
Taking a closer look amongst the goats revealed no fewer than 10 Hoopoes foraging in the mud and we spent an enjoyable ten minutes or so watching this classic and iconic species as they fluttered around the farm.
Hoopoe - Reserva de El Jarde, Fuerteventura
Hoopoe!
Lesser Short-toed Larks - Reserva de El Jarde, Fuerteventura
Lesser Short-toed Larks
Lesser Short-toed Larks - Reserva de El Jarde, Fuerteventura
The larks were very well hidden!
Once more the air was filled with the sound of hundreds of Lesser Short-toed Larks as they fed in one huge superflock amongst the tiny plants and stones on the plains, interspersed by the distinctive pig-like calls as a flock of Black-bellied Sandgrouse wheeled overhead. Remaining distant during our trip to Fuerteventura, luckily we had enjoyed excellent views of this species on mainland Spain several years earlier, only managing to get distant record shots in flight on this occasion.
Black-bellied Sandgrouse - Reserva de El Jarde, Fuerteventura
Black-bellied Sandgrouse - honest!
Reserva de El Jarde - Fuerteventura
With time pressing on and with no sign of the Trumpeter Finches around the goat farm, we headed back to our (thankfully dry) hotel room for the night to relax, enjoying a tasty Italian meal from a nearby restaurant and stocking up on the mandatory fridge magnets and keyring souvenirs to bring home as mementos of our trip.
Reserva de El Jarde - Fuerteventura

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Fuerteventura Birding Trip Report - Day 2 (Tuesday 25th October 2016)

Day 2:

Awaking bright and early the next morning for our second day exploring Fuerteventura, our first point of call was a visit to Mareta de Fimapaire – a dried up pool which was apparently a good location for our main target of the day – Laughing Dove. 
Cactus - Fuerteventura
Arriving on the muddy clay tracks, several Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed Gulls milled around the last remains of the water source, joined by a further 5 Ruddy Shelducks
Yellow-legged Gull - Mareta de Fimapaire, Fuerteventura
Yellow-legged Gull
Once again it was a surprise to see them away from any large water bodies, looking out of place on the sun-baked dry earth. As with El Jarde, the ground was covered with a carpet of Lesser Short-toed Larks, their upbeat chattering filling the air, but too distant to really scrutinise whether anything rarer from Africa had become mixed in.
Mareta de Fimapaire - Fuerteventura
Mareta de Fimapaire
Travelling slowly along the track, movement in one of the thorny shrubs revealed our first Spectacled Warbler of the trip, a colourful male that was later joined by the much drabber female, keeping low to the ground and scurrying like mice between the clumps of vegetation. 
Spectacled Warbler - Mareta de Fimapaire, Fuerteventura
Spectacled Warbler
Mareta de Fimapaire turned out to be our best site for this species on Fuerteventura and we found several males perching out in the open during our visit. Not a lifer for us after seeing the recent Burnham Overy bird in Norfolk, it was nevertheless enjoyable to see them in their natural range.
Spectacled Warbler - Mareta de Fimapaire, Fuerteventura
Stopping off in a driveway and scanning the much lusher vegetation for a sign of our target Laughing Doves, a male Fuerteventura Chat popped in to view, using the thick fleshy cactus plants as lookout points for any invertebrate prey below. Several Southern Grey Shrikes also gave their harsh calls from the shrubs while Berthelot’s Pipits fed along the stone walls.
Berthelot's Pipit - Mareta de Fimapaire, Fuerteventura
Berthelot's Pipit
Suddenly Alex alerted me to two dark coloured doves flying past the car, just getting enough on them to safely identify them as our target Laughing Doves, but unfortunately me just catching the tail end of them as they flew behind a nearby house and out of sight. 
Mareta de Fimapaire - Fuerteventura
The house in question!
Staking it out and wondering whether the arrival of the house’s owner by car may flush them back in to view, our efforts were rewarded as the pair hurtled back in front of us and in to a neighbouring garden, settling down in the middle of a large fig tree and unfortunately once again remaining out of view. Perseverance paid off however and keeping watch on the driveway eventually resulted in these shy and elusive doves making their way on to an exposed branch in full view, their dusky tones standing out from the nearby paler Collared Doves and the thin crescent moon of grey on the wing clear to see.
Laughing Dove - Mareta de Fimapaire, Fuerteventura
Laughing Dove
Extremely skittish and much more nervous than the Collared Doves, the pair regularly made flights across the valley and back, clearly favouring the lusher vegetation and assorted fig trees in the second garden along.

With the track becoming increasingly narrower and with more rubble and potholes hindering our progress, we decided to go no further, instead stopping to admire our first female Fuerteventura Chat of the trip perched on the roof of the house before turning back, once more catching sight of several more Barbary Ground Squirrels as they skipped along the stone walls.
Fuerteventura Chat - Mareta de Fimapaire, Fuerteventura
Female Fuerteventura Chat
With a brief stop at Rosa de los Negrines (a well-known site as a Houbara Bustard roost) delivering a distant flock of around 10 Black-bellied Sandgrouse on the deck, the extremely poor quality of the roads resulted in our decision to not persevere with this site, especially having already seen Houbara Bustard a day earlier and not wanting to destroy our hire car. 
Rosa de los Negrines - Fuerteventura
The arid plains of Rosa de los Negrines
Rosa de los Negrines - Fuerteventura
Heading instead straight for the seaside town of El Cotillo, an afternoon seawatching session from an elevated cliff top vantage point resulted in the remarkable sight of a 100+ strong flock of Cory’s Shearwaters resting on the sea, a scene I’ve never witnessed before, being more used to seeing these impressive seabirds shearing past at speed off a pelagic. 
Cory's Shearwater - El Cotillo, Fuerteventura
Extremely distant phonescoped shot of the Cory's flock!
A good number of Cory’s heading north were also logged during the hour we were there, along with a solitary Sandwich Tern flying close in to the cliffs and a small group of Rock Doves making the craggy cliff top rocks their home. 
Castillo del Tostón, El Cotillo - Fuerteventura
Castillo del Tostón
Esqueleto Ballena - Fuerteventura
Esqueleto Ballena
Sadly we couldn’t pull a Red-billed Tropicbird out of the bag on this occasion, but with pairs now nesting on Fuerteventura and neighbouring Lanzarote, the prospect of a fly by is slowly becoming an increasing possibility for Canary Island seawatchers.
El Cotillo - Fuerteventura
Our seawatching vantage point at El Cotillo
Heading slightly further north to El Cotillo lighthouse itself also resulted in our first waders of the trip, with a single Kentish Plover joining the Ringed Plovers foraging on the rocky tideline, while a pair each of Common Sandpipers and Turnstones bobbed over the boulders. A pair of Spoonbills wading in the shallows were an unexpected sighting further up the sandy track, while another two Sandwich Terns patrolled the crystal clear blue waters of the bay for any small fish as lunch.
Little Egret - El Cotillo Lighthouse, Fuerteventura
A pair of Little Egrets also fished off the rocky shore
El Cotillo Lighthouse - Fuerteventura
El Cotillo Lighthouse
El Cotillo Lighthouse - Fuerteventura
El Cotillo Lighthouse - Fuerteventura
El Cotillo Lighthouse - Fuerteventura
El Cotillo Lighthouse - Fuerteventura
Exploring the beach rock pools for any interesting sea creatures revealed several fish and colourful shrimp making the natural aquariums their home, while numerous large green crabs patrolled the barnacle encrusted rocks, snapping their fierce claws angrily at any intruders that dared come too close.
Rockpool creatures at El Cotillo Lighthouse - Fuerteventura
Rockpool creatures at El Cotillo Lighthouse - Fuerteventura
Rockpool creatures at El Cotillo Lighthouse - Fuerteventura
El Cotillo Lighthouse - Fuerteventura
El Cotillo Lighthouse - Fuerteventura
Fantastic stone pillar sculptures lined the beaches at El Cotillo lighthouse
El Cotillo Lighthouse - Fuerteventura
El Cotillo Lighthouse - Fuerteventura
El Cotillo Lighthouse - Fuerteventura
El Cotillo Lighthouse - Fuerteventura
With the afternoon still left ahead of us, we made a final stop off at the famous Corralejo Dunes and beaches just a 5 minute drive from our hotel, admiring the vast rolling expanses of perfect white sand that seemed to stretch ahead for an eternity. Incredibly picturesque, the beaches here were also stunning, the vibrant ultramarine blue waves lapping against the bright white shore in a scene worthy of the very best postcards.
Corralejo Dunes - Fuerteventura
Corralejo Dunes - Fuerteventura
Corralejo Dunes - Fuerteventura
Corralejo Dunes - Fuerteventura
Corralejo Dunes - Fuerteventura
Corralejo Dunes - Fuerteventura
Corralejo Dunes - Fuerteventura
Corralejo Dunes - Fuerteventura
Corralejo Dunes - Fuerteventura
Corralejo Dunes - Fuerteventura
Several more waders explored the rocks below here, with Grey and Ringed Plovers, Turnstones and our first Sanderlings pottering along the tideline. A single Cory’s Shearwater also powered past, doing a close fly-by loop before carrying on with its journey.
Cory's Shearwater - Corralejo Dunes, Fuerteventura
Blurred record shot of the close-in Cory's!
Corralejo Dunes - Fuerteventura
Corralejo Dunes - Fuerteventura
With the day coming to a close and all of our expected trip targets mopped up, satisfied we headed back to our hotel for the night, once again enjoying a delicious Spanish meat feast from the previous night’s restaurant before bed. What we hadn’t counted on was the torrential downpour that was to besiege Corralejo during the evening, awaking during the night to find the bathroom roof of our apartment streaming with water and having to use every pot, pan and towel we could find to prevent a total flood! An inconvenience to say the least, and we were both exceptionally glad to wake up to find that the mass of towels we used to block the bathroom door had done their job and prevented us from waking up in a pool of water! A far from ideal end to the day that’s for sure!
Corralejo Dunes - Fuerteventura
Corralejo Dunes - Fuerteventura
Corralejo Dunes - Fuerteventura
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