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Canary Islands, Plan B in the Era of Omicron (1 Viewer)

Jos Stratford

Eastern Exile
Europe
31 December. Fuerteventura (Barranco de Rio Cabras & Betancuria)

Superb day with good birding and a surprising abundance of butterflies. In tee-shirt and shorts, a chilly pre-dawn ride on the motorbike, but the result was worth it - as the sun began to rise, I was on the rocky lip of Barranco de Rio Cabras, the famed site of a long-standing Dwarf Bittern a couple of years earlier. Now long gone, the site is nevertheless impressive - to the west, still at roost, no less than 18 Egyptian Vultures adorned pylons, one out-of-place White Stork trying to merge in with them. A half dozen Common Buzzards completed the picture, along with a couple of Common Kestrels. On the gravel plains, Mediterranean Short-toed Larks and Trumpeter Finches, one Great Grey Shrike sentinel on an old post, plus a continual swirl of gulls (mostly Yellow-legged, some Lesser Black-backed) overhead on their way to a nearby rubbish tip. In the actual barranco, a trickle of water feeding a series of small pools made for very pleasant birding - heading the cast, several pairs of very confiding Fuerteventura Stonechats, very nice birds. Also Ruddy Shelducks, a scatter of waders (Little Ringed Plovers, Green Sandpipers, Common Redshank and Black-winged Stilts) and a few other bits and bobs, including my first Cattle Egrets of the trip.

As the day warmed up however, I was eager to move on. With the main focus of this day planned for butterflies, I headed to the Betancuria area with two main targets in mind - the endemic Fuerteventura Green-striped White and African Monarch (Plain Tiger). Being mid-winter and seemingly an exceptionally arid season, I had no real idea how easy these would be, but the day turned out far more productive than I expected, a grand total of ten butterfly species seen. First port of call was a hilltop mirador at Morro de la Cruz to try my luck for Fuerteventura Green-striped White - all a bit windswept on arrival, the sparce stunted native vegetation not immediately looking full of life. Barbary Ground Squirrels scurrying around, a couple of Berthelot's Pipits too, but no initial sign of any butterflies. However, on the sheltered lea of the slope, there I found butterflies - prize number one, Fuerteventura Green-striped White! At least 15 hurtling around the slopes, all were highly mobile and rarely settled for more than a few seconds, photography was a challenge indeed. Among them, prize number two - an unexpected bonus, two Greenish Black-tips, a butterfly predominantly restricted to North Africa and the Middle East. Kind enough to land on occasion, these gave me just enough time to scramble across the rocks and loose gravel to get a photo or two. One other species of butterfly also present, my first Painted Ladies of the trip.

With success on my first target, I then headed to historic village of Betancuria itself. This was to be one of the true highlights of Fuerteventura - not only a very beautiful village in its own right, but also boasting an amazing array of butterflies, absolutely not what I was expecting. The entire village is full of flowers and these themselves attracted a few butterflies, especially Red Admirals and Painted Ladies, but of more note was a dry stream bed that passed through the village - this was splendid, an absolute minimum of 35 African Monarchs sailing up and down the gully, settling in the warm sun and generally resulting in a very nice spectacle. With them, more Painted Ladies and Red Admirals, many Small Whites, three Clouded Yellows, at least five Geranium Bronzes and a couple of African Grass Blues. Adding to the variety, also one Hummingbird Hawk Moth and one Barbary Spurge Hawk Moth.

After quite a while here, I eventually decided to return to the coast, briefly calling in Fuerteventura Golf - greens coated in about 140 Ruddy Shelducks, a variety of birds on a couple of ornamental pools, including my only Wigeon of the trip, and, rounding off the day very nicely, three Monarchs drifting around clubhouse flowers. Never a bad day to see both Monarchs and African Monarchs!

After dark, decided to add a chill factor by riding the motorbike out to the Toto area for a first failed attempt to find the island's Barn Owl. Walked an hour or so with a spotlight, no luck. Thought I heard a distant one calling, it turned out to be an old windmill cranking in the wind!
 
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KenM

Well-known member
31 December. Fuerteventura (Barranco de Rio Cabras & Betancuria)

Superb day with good birding and a surprising abundance of butterflies. In tee-shirt and shorts, a chilly pre-dawn ride on the motorbike, but the result was worth it - as the sun began to rise, I was on the rocky lip of Barranco de Rio Cabras, the famed site of a long-standing Dwarf Bittern a couple of years earlier. Now long gone, the site is nevertheless impressive - to the west, still at roost, no less than 18 Egyptian Vultures adorned pylons, one out-of-place White Stork trying to merge in with them. A half dozen Common Buzzards completed the picture, along with a couple of Common Kestrels. On the gravel plains, Mediterranean Short-toed Larks and Trumpeter Finches, one Great Grey Shrike sentinel on an old post, plus a continual swirl of gulls overhead on their way to a nearby rubbish tip. In the actual barranco, a trickle of water feeding a series of small pools made for very pleasant birding - heading the cast, several pairs of very confiding Fuerteventura Stonechats, very nice birds. Also Ruddy Shelducks, a scatter of waders (Little Ringed Plovers, Green Sandpipers, Common Redshank and Black-winged Stilts) and a few other bits and bobs, including my first Cattle Egrets of the trip.

As the day warmed up however, I was eager to move on. With the main focus of this day planned for butterflies, I headed to the Betancuria area with two main targets in mind - the endemic Fuerteventura Green-striped White and African Monarch (Plain Tiger). Being mid-winter and seemingly an exceptionally arid season, I had no real idea how easy these would be, but the day turned out far more productive than I expected, a grand total of ten butterfly species seen. First port of call was a hilltop mirador at Morro de la Cruz to try my luck for Fuerteventura Green-striped White - all a bit windswept on arrival, the sparce stunted native vegetation not immediately looking full of life. Barbary Ground Squirrels scurrying around, a couple of Berthelot's Pipits too, but no initial sign of any butterflies. However, on the sheltered lea of the slope, there I found butterflies - prize number one, Fuerteventura Green-striped White! At least 15 hurtling around the slopes, all were highly mobile and rarely settled for more than a few seconds, photography was a challenge indeed. Among them, prize number two - an unexpected bonus, two Greenish Black-tips, a butterfly predominantly restricted to North Africa and the Middle East. Kind enough to land on occasion, these gave me just enough time to scramble across the rocks and loose gravel to get a photo or two. One other species of butterfly also present, my first Painted Ladies of the trip.

With success on my first target, I then headed to historic village of Betancuria itself. This was to be one of the true highlights of Fuerteventura - not only a very beautiful village in its own right, but also boasting an amazing array of butterflies, absolutely not what I was expecting. The entire village is full of flowers and these themselves attracted a few butterflies, especially Red Admirals and Painted Ladies, but of more note was a dry stream bed that passed through the village - this was splendid, an absolute minimum of 35 African Monarchs sailing up and down the gully, settling in the warm sun and generally resulting in a very nice spectacle. With them, more Painted Ladies and Red Admirals, many Small Whites, three Clouded Yellows, at least five Geranium Bronzes and a couple of African Grass Blues. Adding to the variety, also one Hummingbird Hawk Moth and one Barbary Spurge Hawk Moth.

After quite a while here, I eventually decided to return to the coast, briefly calling in Fuerteventura Golf - greens coated in about 140 Ruddy Shelducks, a variety of birds on a couple of ornamental pools, including my only Wigeon of the trip, and, rounding off the day very nicely, three Monarchs drifting around clubhouse flowers. Never a bad day to see both Monarchs and African Monarchs!

After dark, decided to add a chill factor by riding the motorbike out to the Toto area for a first failed attempt to find the island's Barn Owl. Walked an hour or so with a spotlight, no luck. Thought I heard a distant one calling, it turned out to be an old windmill cranking in the wind!
I know the Barranco de Rio Cabras…oh so well! It’s a great oasis of life and can echo your returns there.
As I can also remember Betancuria, an attractively perched mountain village, certainly one I won’t be going back to!
Not on 4 wheels that’s for certain, driving up with the wife and the sheer drop on the same side….thought we were having another child!😩
 

Jos Stratford

Eastern Exile
Europe
Not on 4 wheels that’s for certain, driving up with the wife and the sheer drop on the same side….thought we were having another child!😩
I did it on the motorbike one day and with a car a couple of days later ...I thought it was quite moderate slopes and drops :)

Don't take your wife to the Andes
 

Jos Stratford

Eastern Exile
Europe
1 January. Fuerteventura (Barranco de Rio Cabras & La Oliva)

Big day, Canaries style. First bird of the year Rock Dove, followed by Ravens and Egyptian Vultures with White Stork and Common Buzzard next. Kicked off the New Year with a return to the Barranco de Rio Cabras, this time exploring the stream running south. Aquatic habitat of any description rare in Fuerteventura, this little trickle of water was creating an oasis of small pools and grassy margins, these a magnet for birds - a regular dotting of Black-winged Stilts, Little Ringed Plovers, Green Sandpipers and Common Sandpipers, a scattering of Grey Herons and Little Egrets and, all new birds for the trip, two Common Snipe, three Teal and a very fine European Spoonbill. Also plenty of Ruddy Shelducks and both White and Grey Wagtails. Fuerteventura Stonechats inhabited the rocky margins, along with Berthelot's Pipits and Trumpeter Finches, one African Blue Tit in a more vegetated area.

I had the idea mid-morning of venturing over to the Tindaya Plain a half hour to the west - a goat farm on the fringes of the plain was attracting dozens of Trumpeter Finches and, irregular in the Canaries, two European Starlings, but as for Tindaya it was already late in the morning and hot, chances of any of the desert species (Houbara, Cream-coloured Courser and Stone Curlew) cooperating were low. I gave it a cursory check, adding a couple of Great Grey Shrikes and Spectacled Warblers, then decided to go to the La Oliva area. Hot and dry, this was also pretty fruitless, one pair of Fuerteventura Stonechats and several Spanish Sparrows the highlight, along with a few butterflies (Clouded Yellows, Small Whites, Long-tailed Blues, Painted Lady), so soon decided to return to the Barranco de Rio Cabras for the afternoon.

Good choice, no new birds of note, but thoroughly enjoyable with no less than eight Fuerteventura Stonechats along the barranco, plus flocks of Trumpeter Finches dropping in to drink and the Spoonbill putting on a fine showing. In the blue skies, Egyptian Vultures near constant, the very pale insularum Common Buzzards too.

Rounded off the day with a short trip to the coast in the Caleta de Fuste area - Monarch butterflies at the golf course, Whimbrel and other waders on the shoreline. And so ended the first day of the year, 36 species of birds, five species of butterflies.
 

Owene

Well-known member
Wales
I’m in southern Tenerife in a few weeks for a largely family tourist holiday, any idea Jos (or anyone else) if it’s worth taking a bat detector along. Can’t see me being outside built up tourist areas after dark.
 

Jos Stratford

Eastern Exile
Europe
I’m in southern Tenerife in a few weeks for a largely family tourist holiday, any idea Jos (or anyone else) if it’s worth taking a bat detector along. Can’t see me being outside built up tourist areas after dark.
I saw small pipistrelle type bats on a couple of evenings. But didn't go outside after dusk often, so may have been more :)
 

Jos Stratford

Eastern Exile
Europe
2 January. Fuerteventura (Caleta de Fuste, Betancuria & Barranco de los Molinos)

Swapped the motorbike to a car, then an early start on the coast at Caleta de Fuste with a number of waders (Grey Plover, Sanderlings, Dunlin, etc) and added extras such as Hoopoe and Spanish Sparrow. For the remainder of the day, I then headed inland for a return to butterfly efforts in the Betancuria area - again excellent, Fuerteventura Green-striped Whites and Long-tailed Blue at Morro de la Cruz, then a feast of species in Betancuria itself, not least about plenty of African Monarchs and Geranium Bronzes. Also here, Small Whites, Bath White, Clouded Yellow, African Grass Blue, Painted Ladies and Red Admirals. By contrast, the nearby Barranco de las Peñitas added no butterflies, but I did see Great Grey Shrikes, Spectacled Warblers and other dry country birds.

For a bit of a change, I decided to try the lower reaches of the Barranco de los Molinos. Parking at the small rocky cove, I was pleased to find a relatively verdant stretch of the barranco fed by a stream punctuated by several pools. Muscovy Ducks very much in evidence, but also one male Pintail (only one of the trip), a very approachable Spoonbill and Green Sandpiper and Common Sandpiper. Pretty good for odondra too - plenty of Sahara Bluetails, several Scarlet Darters and a couple of Emperor Hawkers. About a kilometre up, just before the stream petered out, some passerines of note - as well as Grey Wagtails and White Wagtails, first a pair of Fuerteventura Stonechats, then the crowning glory of the barranco, a mini flock of pipits. Had been seeing Berthelot's Pipits all the way along the barranco, but here feeding in damp succulent vegetation, four Meadow Pipits and a fine Red-throated Pipit too. Very nice indeed, the only ones of both species that I would see on this trip.

And with that, called it a day and headed north - would be based just outside Corraleja for the next week.
 
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dantheman

Bah humbug
Thanks. There seem to be a few pipistrelle species on the islands including an endemic so I'll give it a go
Given the vagrant birds that do/can turn up and perhaps under recording, there must be potential* for something interesting?!

*(Low, but you never know ... )
 
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Jos Stratford

Eastern Exile
Europe
3 January. Fuerteventura (Tindaya Plain, North Coast).

Arriving on the flat stony plains south of El Cotillo, the plan this day was a concerted effort on the desert species. Got off to a flying start with three mega close Houbara Bustards in the pre-dawn twilight a mere couple of kilometres from the village. Waited for sun up, the bustards feeding on Launaea arborescens bushes the whole time, delicately plucking buds from the relatively more luxuriant bushes. In the wait for the sun to finally clear the hills and cast its rays across the coastal plain, also one wary-eyed Stone Curlew spotted as it sheltered in the lea of a stone wall and a Barbary Falcon powering its way across the desert. By the time the sun came up, two of the Houbaras had wandered off, but fortunately one still lingered roadside. Got the photographs, then decided it was time to search for Cream-coloured Courser ...they however had other ideas! Didn't find any from the car, didn't find any on long hikes across the plain. Still, did have a couple of Mediterranean Short-toed Larks, a Great Grey Shrike and a number of Berthelot's Pipits and Spectacled Warblers, plus a nice pair of Fuerteventura Stonechats in a barranco.

As the day became increasingly hot, I gave up on the coursers and, via Trumpeter Finches and a Common Starling at a goat farm, headed for the north coast again - touched a pleasant 30 C in the afternoon, plus wasn't so bad for birds. Highlights included a roost of seven European Spoonbills, a flock of 24 Little Egrets and a variety of waders including plenty of Ringed Plovers and Kentish Plovers. In this arid land, still a few butterflies too - a couple of Painted Ladies, two Small Whites, one assumed Fuerteventura Green-striped White and, new for the trip, a Large White (this later butterfly in Corraleja suburbia).
 

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