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

Brian Stone

A Stone chatting
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).
The Large White is interesting. I briefly saw what I thought was Large White (also in Corraleja town) but a check (admittedly cursory) on the butterfly list for the islands didn't include it so I assumed I must have mistaken a Small White.
 

Jos Stratford

Eastern Exile
Europe
The Large White is interesting. I briefly saw what I thought was Large White (also in Corraleja town) but a check (admittedly cursory) on the butterfly list for the islands didn't include it so I assumed I must have mistaken a Small White.
Large White was first recorded on Lanzarote in the 1990s and, though I found relatively few reports on butterflies in general on Fuerteventura, there are a couple of other recent reports of Large Whites on Fuerteventura. My guess is that Large White now has a population in the north of Fuerteventura at least. I saw a second in the nearby La Capellania
 

Owene

Well-known member
Wales
I saw a (relative) lot of whites in lanzarote a few years back, mainly from buses and assumed they were large whites. I guess small must have been more likely.
 

Jos Stratford

Eastern Exile
Europe
4-7 January. Fuerteventura (Tindaya Plain et al)

Was supposed to be working, though did pleasantly punctuate it with frequent ambles around northern Fuerteventura. Tried three times to connect with Cream-coloured Courser on Tindaya, saw Houbara Bustards each time, plus another Stone Curlew, but alas Cream-coloured Coursers seem difficult at this favoured locality this year, other observers also drawing a blank.

Elsewhere, three weeks of periodic staring out to sea finally yielded a Gannet near Corraleja, while a return to Barranco de Rio doubled the Spoonbill count there to two and a return to the Barranco de los Molinos allowed photography of the Sahara Bluetail Damselfies. Also had a Barbary Falcon neat La Oliva and tried for Barn Owl in same area one evening - no luck, the very dry fields producing nothing at all after dark.
 

Jos Stratford

Eastern Exile
Europe
I got very close views of cream coloured courser right by the tindaya “crossroads” at the end of November
James
I guessed they had to be there - saw 21 in two days on my last visit to Fuerteventura some years back, but total zilch this time. Saw a few other people looking while I was there this time, nobody saw any. You must have flushed it 😅😅😅
 

KenM

Well-known member
One by the FV20 on the West side of the road Jos, going South, close to the “camel hut”, just outside Caleta de Fuste on 21/12…it was the only one that I saw during my week’s stay.👍
 

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Jos Stratford

Eastern Exile
Europe
8 January. Fuerteventura (Costa Calma)

Final day on Fuerteventura, decided to head south to the Costa Calma area. And a very good decision it turned out to be - finishing the trip on a high, Auduoin's Gulls, a vagrant Red-breasted Flycatcher, both Plain and Pallid Swift and the established Red-vented Bulbuls.

Getting there before tourists hit the beach, the first stop was the pretty amazing Playa de Sotavento - a shallow lagoon bordered by extensive beaches and offshore sand bars. Just about the only such habitat on Fuerteventura, it was not a surprise to find Sanderlings, Ringed Plovers and Kentish Plovers in abundance, probably approaching a mixed 250 of them in total. In lesser numbers, also Grey Plovers and Whimbrels, plus five Spoonbills, quite a few Grey Herons and Little Egrets and a couple of dozen Ruddy Shelducks. What was less expected was what was on the beach - in a mixed roost of Yellow-legged Gulls and Sandwich Terns, three very welcome Auduoin's Gulls too, two adults and one immature. Not hugely rare in the Canaries, but not a species I had been expecting. One Lesser Black-backed Gull and four Black-headed Gulls too.

Next stop was the small and rather scruffy park in Costa Calma. A narrow strip of forest sandwiched between roads, this site is nevertheless one of the easiest places in the Canaries to find wintering Common Chiffchaffs and the established population of Red-vented Bulbuls. And indeed, after fifteen minutes photographing a couple of Cattle Egrets on the centre of the nearby roundabout and admiring several low-flying Plain Swifts, I duly found both Chiffchaffs and Red-vented Bulbuls with ease, at least 25 of the latter feeding in exotic bushes at the bottom end of this park. Also flocks of Spanish Sparrows, a few European Robins, several Linnets, a couple of singing Blackcaps and one major surprise - rather active and mobile, preferring an area where the more luxuriant vegetation transitioned to pine, one very nice Red-breasted Flycatcher doing little sallies from low and mid-level branches! Absolutely had not expected this and, checking later, it appears this is only for the tenth record for the Canary Islands, a red letter bird indeed. Regrettably, it soon seemed to have vanished, possibly crossing the road into further green areas, but in an hour of searching, I did not see it again. A mix of butterflies here too - Monarchs and Small Whites most common.

Next stop was just ten minutes up the coast, the resort of La Lajita. Even without visiting the Oasis Wildlife Park with its giraffes et al, more exotica here - alongside native Great Grey Shrikes, Spanish Sparrows and a pair of Fuerteventura Stonechats, further Red-vented Bulbuls, plus both Hadeda Ibis and Sacred Ibis. With established breeding populations, both are looking set to follow the assorted parakeets and the bulbul that now call the Canaries home.

And so to the final port of call of the day, and indeed of the trip, I ventured inland a few kilometres to a series of small pools near La Calabaza. Almost dried out, these did not hold many birds beyond a few Black-winged Stilts and Little Ringed Plovers, but the skies above did throw a last little bonus - not only an Egyptian Vulture, but also a swirl of swifts. Assumed they would be Plain Swifts again, but no these were not - making repeated passes at the pools, no less than 15 birds in all, Pallid Swifts.

With that, a grand 44 bird species seen this day, we motored north, paused for sunset at Las Salinas, Sandwich Terns and Common Sandpiper the last birds of the day, then headed for the airport. Late evening flight to Madrid, trip over. In total, not bad for a hastily arranged Plan B trip, I had managed 104 species of birds (including exotics) and 21 species of butterflies.
 

leonardo_simon

Well-known member
Hi @Jos Stratford — thanks for all the updates it’s been great reading.

I’ve found myself in the position of having a full day and a bit in Fuerteventura at the end of the month. (Flying in on the afternoon on the Saturday and leaving in the morning on Monday to Lanzarote by ferry).

Please could you advise what sites I should visit in that day? I’d prefer not to drive the whole island from North to South.. Also, where might be a good place to stay? Cheapish Pension type thing in a working town near birding would be ideal if such a thing exists.

thanks
 

Jos Stratford

Eastern Exile
Europe
IHi @Jos Stratford — thanks for all the updates it’s been great reading.

I’ve found myself in the position of having a full day and a bit in Fuerteventura at the end of the month. (Flying in on the afternoon on the Saturday and leaving in the morning on Monday to Lanzarote by ferry).

Please could you advise what sites I should visit in that day? I’d prefer not to drive the whole island from North to South.. Also, where might be a good place to stay? Cheapish Pension type thing in a working town near birding would be ideal if such a thing exists.

thanks
If one day, and if you're interested in butterflies too, I'd say start at Barranco de Rio Cabras and give it some lengthy exploration, including the stony plain above (Fuerteventura Stonechat easy, Med Short-tailed Lark on the plain, plenty more), then to Betancuria for butterflies, then perhaps Los Molinos reservoir (I saw little here, but did get my only Black-bellied Sandgrouse), then somewhere for the afternoon, then evening on Tindaya (Houbara etc).

This route doesn't involve that much driving and I'd say very doable in a day - you should see the bulk of the island's special birds. I would not bother with the south at all.
 
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Jos Stratford

Eastern Exile
Europe
Footnote: though much uncertainty still remained concerning flights and Covid restrictions, not to mention the departure of a certain vessel off South Africa, Plan A was still not dead - in my final days on Fuerteventura, things seemed to be aligning for adventures in South Africa. It was very much for this reason, I decided to buy a new ticket for South Africa and leave the Canaries. After five days with Hazel Grouse and assorted woodpeckers in Lithuania, departure to South Africa actually happened. Trials and tribulations of an unfolding event soon to follow.
 

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