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....A return to that bloody Barranca! (1 Viewer)

KenM

Well-known member
Due to an unassigned suitcase in the hold on Monday 23rd December, there was a 30 minute delay to our Jet2 into ''the blue'' from Stansted. However a relatively small price to pay when after a 4 hour flight (to touch down), then a mere 45 minutes transfer to checking into our accommodation at Caleta de Fuste, Fuerteventura, suitcases parked and let the Rock'n'Rolling begin.

I thought I'd be nonchalant with the Dwarf Bittern, as this would represent my 3rd ''actual site'' attempt, with another two previous attempts (2017 correct Barranca but wrong site) plus two later (correct site) attempts in 2018. My thinking was it's been present for two years where it has seen fit to bestow 4 dips on moi...thus it can bloody well wait for my fifth visit (3rd site actual)....as everybody knows 3rd time lucky is the norm. :eek!:

With the car hire starting Tuesday through to Sunday, I'd earmarked Thursday and Saturday as the ''Barranca rock'n'roll Prezzy days''....with just ''casual'' birding in between. ;)

After picking up the car (Tuesday) we stopped off at the bay Caleta de Fuste (en route to Pajara a small attractive village in the hills to the South West) Having visited CDF at Xmas for the last eight years, I've kinda developed an expectation for Sandwich Tern numbers, normally fluctuating between 18-25 birds. This year was somewhat different, now fluctuating between 70-90+ individuals, an almost five fold increase over the previous eight years!!
Returning to the car we drove (c45mins.) on to Pajara where the obligatory coffee stop took place also picking up male Blackcap several Chiffies and a Yellow Browed Warbler in the trees surrounding Pajara's famous church, with the latter (YBW) being less than obliging for the camera, however the 3rd that I've had on site over the last 3 years '16 and '18 (wonder if it's the same bird?), also African Blue Tit and flyover Swallow....and the coffee went down well! ;)

To be continued.....
 

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KenM

Well-known member
Xmas Day started with a quick pre breakfast scan of the rocks exposed on the outgoing tide...c12 Spoonbills, Little Egret with the Sandwich Terns, 30 Ringed Plover and 2 Black-headed Gulls the latter only the second record of the species that I'd ever seen at site.
A quick breakfast of fruit and toast saw us on our way to Costa Calma the famous Palm/Pine wood a c45 minute drive to the South. En-route we visited Gran Tarajal a coastal town with a shallow semi saline estuary, looked very good for passage migrants/waders particularly on migration. Whilst there we ran into Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Stonechat, Common Sandpiper and a Sardinian Warbler. Clearly a longer stay may well have produced more, however time was of the essence thus we pressed on to Costa Calma, when coming out of a U bend we noted the only Cattle Egret of the trip...perched up and beautifully lit on an overhead wire!! Arriving at our destination we parked up outside a hotel where we walked through the superb sub-tropical gardens which yielded the only Monarch Butterfly seen on the trip. Which was then eclipsed by a caffeine infusion before the hunt for reported Brambling and Olive-backed Pipit..although I knew not where for to look. :eek!:

Having parked close to the Roundabout at the top of the hill, we then meandered down the track through the narrow woodland strip, eventually running into a Hoopoe associating with Linnets and Collared Doves all under canopy in deep shade, when I heard a series of familiar ''trilling'' notes...I looked up to see a jaw-dropping number of SISKINS, this certainly took the day trip to a new level, at best, Siskin must be of irregular occurrence on the Canaries I thought? Unfortunately time was running out, thus we vowed to come back within a few days and beat a hasty retreat back to CDF, where just before dusk we encountered a mostly elusive Stone Curlew in the desert strip adjacent to the Southern end of the Hotel strip, in all a very satisfactory day trip....tomorrow the Barranca!.......to be continued.
 

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Steve Lister

Senior Birder, ex County Recorder, Garden Moths.
United Kingdom
The Dwarf Bittern was reported on the 30th - hopefully that was by you Ken, although that was not one of your prescribed days.

Steve
 

KenM

Well-known member
Thursday 26th December, after breakfast a c15 minute drive from the hotel to the municipal dump...It was ''High Noon'' for me as I strode meaningfully across the stone strewn ''billiard table'' desert to the strains of ''Do not forsake me...oh Dwarf Bittern'', with hand resting on my camera hip bag...ready for the quick draw!
Having crossed the desert c10mins., I then took the 45 degree track down aided by a pre-prepared wooden staff where I began my literal ''Rock'n'Roll'' descent. Carefully tip-toe-ing past the rocks and making sure I didn't lean too far to the edge lest I stepped onto some loose scree thus arriving at the bottom quicker than planned. :eek!: As I picked my way through I espied a couple replete with Bins and Camera making the ascent. I asked the inevitable (having ascertained that they were Brits), to which the reply was ''not today'' in a comforting Welsh accent, but seen briefly yesterday!

I took a few crumbs of comfort from this short exchange, bade farewell and proceeded down to the Barranca floor. Whereupon eyeing the first dam I caught something (nanosecond) black and horizontal (right for size) lurching into the vegetation ne'r to be seen again despite a twenty minute wait.
I then decided to head North c200m to the next dam where it purports to hang out as I understand it. This last leg is the most demanding underfoot, particularly where one has to clutch staff pushed into stream with left hand, whilst negotiating a ''less than'' body width path with barranca rock face arching toward and against you. At the same time as pulling out the staff and pushing it down again quickly into the stream before losing one's balance. :eek!: After passing this initiative test the next obstacle is crossing the oozing channel, where there were just three ''stepping rocks'' two of which were conveniently submerged and covered in slime, with the pivotal centre rock jutting proud like the ''Paramount'' logo. Mmmm I thought? I then prodded ''Paramount'' to find that it didn't have a flat base, it was reassuringly a ''rock'n'roll'' affair and not one that I was going to chance if I could help it. I needed at least another ''foot step'', problem was, there were plenty on the other side but nowt on this side, except a ''possible'' just above head height but would it budge I thought? Staff gripped firmly in left hand with right hand attempting to wrench said rock, eventually loosening and in doing so caught my finger as I dropped it into the channel with a resounding crash and Christ my finger throbbed!

Having achieved the objective I hesitantly took the step of faith tottering precariously on ''Paramount'' before the final leap, only to find that I hadn't realised my life's blood was ''trickling'' out. Christ I thought, I need to stem the flow, no band aid, no cell signal (no air ambulance ;)) my handkerchief was for the ''other emergency''....but I was carrying a banana of last resort, this was consumed rapidly before using the skin as a congealant...and it worked! Between the remaining two dams there is a dense stand of almost impenetrable Tamarisk that would be perfect cover for any Large Bittern let alone a Dwarf. With this in mind I made my way towards the next dam unwittingly flushing Green Sandpiper (2), LRPlover (2), FTV Chats (2), Spectacled Warbler (2) Berthelot's Pipit (1), Hoopoe (1), Black-winged Stilts (4) plus numerous overhead Raven, Egyptian Vulture, Common Buzzard, Legrets, Laughing Dove (1), several Trumpeter Finch, Spoonbill (2) and Ruddy Shelduck (4). Eventually getting to the last dam but one, I looked up at the vertical challenge, whereupon mopping my brow and using said ''staff'' I got to the top (I won't say with ease) and surveyed the available cover. I stayed for another three hours but to no avail, realistically unless it moves...you ain't got a chance!, and to pile the odds on more, it has the Barranca as a playground and it was then that I comforted myself with game over but! one more ''last visit'' on Saturday. :-C to be continued
 

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KenM

Well-known member
Friday 27th December, as it was going to be a long day in the shade under canopy (23 degrees outside), hunting passerines at Costa Calma wood, I left the hotel early and headed South once more on the FV2. arriving c50 mins. later. Parked up near the top of the hill and once more meandered down the track without seeing much apart from a few Collared Doves. Circa 20 minutes into the walk just as my enthusiasm was beginning to wane, I heard some distorted Thrush like calls...I looked up into the canopy and espied (badly) a Red-vented Bulbul certainly feral at this resort and a handsome species to boot. My attention was then arrested by a smaller darker dove on the ground eventually moving out into the sunlight where it morphed into a ''superb'' Laughing Dove, certainly the finest example of the species that I've ever seen!

Eventually two Hoopoes joined the fray soon followed by half a dozen Linnets then two GREENFINCH followed by two GOLDFINCH I'd seen the latter only once before but never the former!! Once again Siskin appeared feeding in the Pines and very occasionally on the ground, unfortunately the flock was disturbed by tourists using the tracks every 10 minutes or so...very frustrating, eventually leading to them disappearing from the immediate vicinity...drats I thought! who do these holidaymakers think they are. ;) Another 20 minutes or so were to elapse, before I made contact again much further down the hill, all the usual suspects were there but now joined by Spanish Sparrows.

Trying to get decent images at c.25-30metres under canopy proved nigh on impossible. However as I was musing the presumed scarcity of Siskin and Greenfinch whilst subconsciously looking at several more ''Siskin'' feeding on the ground albeit looking distinctly odd...as they looked very much at ease shuffling almost Linnet like along the ground. I thought ''hang on what am I looking at?''...then the penny dropped as did my jaw!!...they were SERINS!!! it was a complete shock to the system another species not on the radar of possibility. These were then followed by (hoped for but not really expected) two handsome male BRAMBLING that suddenly joined the party....seven species of Seedeater ground feeding under canopy adjacent to the desert! For me it was a real adrenalin rush with four Island ''lifers'' in the space of 30 minutes, ''my cup overfloweth'' I thought quit while ahead, with tomorrow being my last stab at Dwarf Bittern I headed back to the car. To be continued.....
 

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Scridifer

Registered User
Supporter
Bulgaria
A brilliant read as always Ken, I look forward to the next instalment, especially as we will be out there the end of this month!
Re Siskin Eduardo Garcia-del-Rey has it as an irregular winter migrant in his 'Birds of the Canary Islands'

All the best,

Chris
 
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KenM

Well-known member
December 28th...my last chance for the elusive Bittern! however before that, an early rise, breakfast, then into the car South on the FV2, within 40 minutes we'd parked up at Pajara for one more chance to get better images of the YBW if possible? Unfortunately this was not to be, after a couple of hours this proved to be a wild YBW chase, thus we headed back ''OOP North'' for the ''Bloody Bittern''.

Upon arrival (minus missus) at the roundabout exit to the ''Dump'' I turned off the main road onto the gravel track easing off the gas, whilst noting a carpet of Y.Legged and odd LBBGulls to my right on the stoney plain and somewhat incongruously for me at any rate, an adult Egyptian Vulture walking through the assembled Larus :eek!:
No doubt of regular occurrence to the locals, then a quick glance to the left revealed an immature EV sitting atop a pylon! Apparently the ''Dump'' being the best place to see these birds on the island, just like the Barranca de la Torre is the best place to see Dwarf Bittern! :smoke:

Once more into the breech with staff in hand, I ''Rock'n'Rolled'' my way down, this time I had the Barranca to myself and perhaps more importantly I was moving marginally quicker. Reaching the second dam without any blood letting seemed quite an achievement, albeit the odd curse was uttered when I wrenched my ankles not infrequently on those sodding rocks! After I'd scaled the second from last dam (not without expletives!) I per chanced to scan the ceiling of blue above, watching the spiralling scavengers and whilst doing so I heard some slightly guttural tones wafting my way. Scanning upwards toward the Barranca ridge I noted two figures both equipped with bins, a male with a ''Rommel'' style hat and a female, they couldn't see me as I was hidden by the cliff face. When I moved out of the shadows I gave them the ''thumbs down'', this seemed to prompt the man a tall, rangey, type to immediately clamber down the rock face diagonally this I thought absolute madness!!, whilst the woman unbelievably was attempting to clamber straight down independently! I couldn't really believe what was unfolding in front of me, thus I called out to the woman ''sprechen de englisch?''(hoping to tell her that there was an easier way down, just a short distance further along). Having committed herself, she was looking quite concerned, until her partner miraculously arrived ''intact'' at the base and helped her with foot and hand hold suggestions. Eventually he came over and I asked him if they were German? to which he replied...No Dutch! It appeared that he had taken my ''thumbs down'' as ''here it is'' :eek!::eek!:

Thankfully everything turned out OK and not as ''Bittern & Twisted'' as I first feared it might have. I decided to go to the next dam and they opted to stay put, with an agreed loud whistle elicited by either party if the bird was seen.
After circa two hours I began to lose the will...thus picked my way back to the Dutch, we exchanged some polite conversation (accusing them of suppression ;)) then bading farewell and wishing them all the best, as I wended my way through the ascendant rocks, whilst quietly acknowledging my 4th dip to site and 6th overall....A-a-a-a-g-h!!!! To be continued...
 

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KenM

Well-known member
A brilliant read as always Ken, I look forward to the next instalment, especially as we will be out there the end of this month!
Re Siskin Eduardo Garcia-del-Rey has it as an irregular winter migrant in his 'Birds of the Canary Islands'

All the best,

Chris

Thanks Chris! any help you might need don't hesitate...translated that means any help you might need...to not find it. :-O
 

MJN

Well-known member
Great stuff Ken, you did well there. I would expect no less!
I'm still not sure whether or not you received my message re Cyprus.
 

wolfbirder

Well-known member
Ken, it brings all those memories back.............I gave it 10 hours and once glimpsed the sodding thing 100 metres away for 2 seconds :)-
 

Scridifer

Registered User
Supporter
Bulgaria
Thanks Chris! any help you might need don't hesitate...translated that means any help you might need...to not find it. :-O

Thanks Ken, appreciated! Actually as it will be our first visit to Fuerteventura (and indeed Macaronesia as a whole) I will be concentrating on the endemics and desert species more and will probably only go for the DB once or if I have seen them (although I have made a note of your excellent directions from a previous thread)!

Chris
 

KenM

Well-known member
Thanks Ken, appreciated! Actually as it will be our first visit to Fuerteventura (and indeed Macaronesia as a whole) I will be concentrating on the endemics and desert species more and will probably only go for the DB once or if I have seen them (although I have made a note of your excellent directions from a previous thread)!

Chris

Cheers Chris, If you need any (barring the Barranca Beast) help I'm available. :t:

Ken, it brings all those memories back.............I gave it 10 hours and once glimpsed the sodding thing 100 metres away for 2 seconds :)-

Cheers Nick, a question?...whilst ''twiddling my Bins' during my temporary incarceration in ''said Barranca'', I heard...just metres away from the Tamarisk what sounded like a single explosive call of Moorhen! also heard in 2018, of course never seen.

Did you ever hear anything similar? I believe they can be found at Los Molinos, don't know if they're supposed to occur on site, if confirmed would be an island tick for moi. :t:

Cheers
 

wolfbirder

Well-known member
Cheers Chris, If you need any (barring the Barranca Beast) help I'm available. :t:



Cheers Nick, a question?...whilst ''twiddling my Bins' during my temporary incarceration in ''said Barranca'', I heard...just metres away from the Tamarisk what sounded like a single explosive call of Moorhen! also heard in 2018, of course never seen.

Did you ever hear anything similar? I believe they can be found at Los Molinos, don't know if they're supposed to occur on site, if confirmed would be an island tick for moi. :t:

Cheers

Ken, I definitely had 2 Moorhens minimum at the bloody barranco!!:t:
 

KenM

Well-known member
Sunday 29th December, returned the car early (our last full day) and hit the ground stumbling into what would turn out to be my longest walk for a very, very long time. First point of call were the low tide rocks at the Southern end of the bay at Caleta de Fuste, carefully going through the assembled Terns and Waders....and Bingo! an immature Audouin's Gull (only my 2nd) sighting of this species at site ever! This certainly was the spur for the rest of day, which then saw me hunting the desert South of the commercial strip and beyond.

Heading across the road (FV2) in a Westerly direction, second time that I'd visited the area (on this trip) and still worryingly, hadn't seen Lesser Short-Toed lark, normally present in small numbers at site, however the first 600m had yielded nowt! Then a small white blob appeared during a scan, closing the gap, it morphed into Southern Grey Shrike Life at last I thought! I then circled away to the North towards the end of the residential strip aiming for the ''Camel Hotel'', when hurtling at incredible speed coming toward (no time for bins or camera), perhaps a metre off the ground causing me to jaw-drop, I was left with an impression of a ''white-throated ginger blur with scalloping!!'' best albeit (lighteningly brief) views of Pallid Swift! that I'll probably ever have. It was hurtling South gaining height, with another Swift, that was perhaps 800m away both flying in unison although somewhat apart. I quickly drew the camera in the hope that they would do a loop return....no such luck!

A hard act to follow I thought, as I meandered through a shallow Barranca. Eventually after several minutes of scanning I picked up some small passerine flight movements perhaps 50m ahead, slowly (in stealth mode) I inched forwards to find a circa dozen+mixed flock of Trumpeter Finches and Lesser Short-Toed Larks.Now with ''All being well with the world'' I Passed the ''Camel Hotel'' noting that both occupants were in residence, after all Sunday is the day of rest....even for camels!

Crossing the road towards the Elba Sara hotel I surprised (both of us) a Stone Curlew as it winged, then ran behind some stones and vegetation where it remained totally concealed. As I angled off away to the West lest I disturb the Curlew, I was then rewarded with twenty Kentish Plover taking off from the strip towards the rocky foreshore joining Turnstone, Sanderling, Ringed and Little Ringed Plover feeding on the incoming tide. I then dragged my weary body back to the hotel, feeling somewhat worse for wear I promised myself a cool beer with dinner on the night, a casual look at my phone's health readout revealed a ''twelve miler''.....thinking I'd earned it...and as it slid down...here's to the next time. B :)
 

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wolfbirder

Well-known member
Twelve miles Ken, need more than one cool beer!

Fair play mate.

Like the Trumpeter Finch photo especially.
 

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