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Fuerteventura 10th-17th March 2010 (1 Viewer)


Well-known member
Wednesday 10th March

I'm not sure why we chose Jandia as the resort to stay in (to be honest, I'm not sure why we chose Fuerteventura!) but for a non-birding trip it worked out rather well. The resort is in the far south of the island, about an hour and a half by coach from the airport, and is favoured by German tourists to such an extent that a knowledge of German is probably more useful there than a knowledge of Spanish. The hotel was massive and rather impersonal but the rooms were clean and we had a large, south-facing balcony giving views of the sea to the east, the mountains to the west and of the zoo belonging to another hotel to the south. More of that later...

The first birds seen on the island were inevitably Collared Doves seen from the transfer coach; two very large raptors soaring high above the desert might well have been Egyptian Vultures but were too far away to make out any features.

Monk's Parakeets and Spanish Sparrows were in the hotel grounds in some numbers; the parakeets nesting in palm trees a couple of hundred yards away and the sparrows seemingly nesting in the hotel buildings somewhere. In amongst the Monk's were a few Ring-necked Parakeets, easily told in flight by the long tail feathers.

The zoo also made its presence felt in the form of Sacred Ibis, Crowned Crane, Cattle Egrets and another Ibis species I couldn't identify regularly flying around the hotel and town. Wonderful birds, just not in the right place!

A late afternoon walk around the resort added Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed gulls, Raven, Kestrel and Blackcap to the slowly growing trip list.

Thursday 11th March

An early start with a walk up the 'barranco' or dry valley behind the hotel. My route took me past another hotel where an unfamiliar dove flew up into a palm tree - I took a few pictures and identified it later as Laughing Dove. I've seen this species reported by others here - does anyone know if it is a native, or is it another zoo escapee?

My first target bird appeared shortly afterwards - unexpectedly it was a Ruddy Shelduck flying over, calling. This was to be the only wetland species seen all trip. Several Ravens flew about above the mountains and after an hour of unproductive walking I gave up and started back down the barranco. An unfamiliar call drew my attention to a small bird sitting on a fence a few yards away - my first Canary Islands Chat, a female. As I watched it another bird ran across the ground in front of me, my first Berthelot's Pipit! I got my camera ready and, sure enough, both birds immediately flew off. I sat down near the fence to wait and within a few minutes a male chat appeared and showed off beautifully, allowing me to get some reasonable photos. At one stage three birds were showing, the male and two females.

Happy to have started the holiday with three early ticks I set off back to the hotel adding two Southern Grey Shrikes to my list as I went.

Breakfast proved to be more exciting than breakfasts normally are when looking across the sea from our balcony I saw what appeared to be a plume of spray several hundred yards out from shore, then another, and another. At least 20 whales were swimming past and through binoculars I could see that after each blow a dark back and small fin rolled through the sea. I estimated them to be perhaps 20 feet long, can anyone suggest a likely species? The whales stayed for 2 days and I guess were attracted by shoals of fish as there was lots of seabird activity on these two days as well.

We decided to walk to the beach for a closer look but were disappointed as of course the view from the vantage point of the hotel was far better than that at sea level. There is a boardwalk stretching from the main street to the beach which cuts through about a hundred yards of scrubby vegetation. We stopped to watch some Monk's Parakeets tearing off bits of dead plant for nesting materials and I managed a few good photographs. Whilst watching them two warblers appeared amongst the scrub and I realised I was looking at another of my target species, Spectacled Warbler. Unfortunately they flew off again before I could get the camera on them.


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Friday 12th March

My early morning walk was along the beach, firstly to try and get some photos of the Spectacled Warblers and secondly to get a look at the dozens of seabirds that were feeding with the still present whales. The warblers were also about and singing but all too distant to photograph so I turned my attention out to sea and probably the most unexpected birds of the week. Two dark phase Arctic Skuas were harrying some Sandwich Terns quite close in to shore, forcing them to drop their catch in the sea and making me feel more like I was on the beach at Titchwell!Lots of Yellow-legged and LB-b Gulls were further out and amongst them some 30 Cory's Shearwaters were flying. I looked long and hard but sadly no small shearwaters turned up.

The rest of the day was spent wandering around the resort and in Morro Jable, the original town. In the harbour a Gull-billed Tern flew around with the gulls, showing very nicely but sadly I'd not bought my camera with me.

Saturday 13th March

Given the poor state of minor roads and tracks on the island we decided to rent a 4x4 rather than our usual holiday Fiat Punto and this proved to be perhaps the best decision of the holiday - I would certainly have missed several of my target species if not for our big red Jeep. My long-suffering wife had agreed to a morning trip through the desert between La Pared and Costa Calma (the Jandia National Park) so that I could search for Houbara Bustard, Cream-coloured Courser and Black-bellied Sandgrouse. The entry track was easy enough to find: along the main Costa Calma to La Pared road (FV605) take a left hand turn where you see a large white sign, take another left after a hundred yards or so and drive on for about a kilometre. Our instruction said to park by the fence and view towards the sea. Unfortunately there is no longer any fence (We did eventually find it, flattened and largely ground into the dirt!) so we decided to continue driving around in the hope of coming across something. Lesser Short-toed Larks were everywhere, although quite flighty - despite numerous attempts I couldn't manage any good photos - and Berthelot's Pipits were common but after more than an hour we had seen nothing more. Stopping near a gully to check our surroundings we noticed a small head pop up above a pile of rocks and peer at us. Several more appeared and started running quickly towards us - they were amazingly tame Barbary Ground-squirrels. They came right to the car and I suspect they were actually begging for food but we had nothing to give them. We saw ground-squirrels in several other places on the island but all the others seemed very wary so quite why these ones should be so tame I can't explain.

On the verge of turning around I noticed some movement about fifty yards along a track to our right, I got my binoculars on the area to find two Cream-coloured Coursers rapidly moving away down the track. I turned down to follow them but they quickly veered off into the deset and were lost to sight. We turned back the way we had come and had good views of another two coursers and 3 Black-bellied Sandgrouse flew over, but no bustards. As we left the reserve we disturbed the first Hoopoe of the trip along the entrance track.

After lunch we decided to visit the lighthouse at Punta Jandia. Again the 4x4 proved its worth - the road is absolutely horrendous, very bumpy and very windy - we could still feel the vibration hours after getting home. The landscape if possible is even more barren than the La Pared plains and the only birds seen were a few flitting across the road in front of us - maybe chats but I wasn't taking my eyes off the road to check! At the point itself the wind was very strong and the sea much rougher than elsewhere around the island. In rockpools near the lighthouse I found my only waders of the trip - a Turnstone and two Ringed Plovers, together with a Little Egret. A few Cory's Shearwaters were out at sea.


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Sunday 14th March

This was our road trip day. We decided to drive north along the west of the island and see how far we could get in the morning, have lunch and drive back along the main road to the east. We drove up past La Pared towards Pajara, stopping off to see the caves at Ajuy on the way. Very few birds to speak of but the rock formations at Ajuy are worth a look. From Pajara we took the steep and winding road towards Betancuria but stopped first for a look at the reservoir near Vega de Rio Palma. It was bone dry but we did disturb two Barbary Partridge on the track down to the reservoir. We decided to head towards the reservoir at Los Molinos which I knew had some water in it and found the track fairly easily. Unfortunately there was a lot of work in progress at one of the farms en route and we turned back.

Heading back south we turned off the main road at Triquivijate heading towards Casas de El Cortijo. I'd read that it was good for the desert species but apart from 3 Common Buzzards we saw nothing. Towards the end of the very long track we found the only standing water that we saw during our entire trip - and it was completely and disappointingly empty of life. We finally got our reward though as we headed towards the main road. My wife saw a small bird perched on wires by the side of the track and I reversed to have a look. A gorgeous Trumpeter Finch was sat a few yards away, I reached for my camera and...it flew.

It was an enjoyable day but hard work for very few birds, and even fewer photographs!

Monday 15th March

Our last day of car hire and I awarded myself an early morning trip back to the La Pared plains and my wife with a lie in. It's only about a 20 minute drive and by 7.15 I was parked by where the fence used to be looking down the slope towards the sea. I was still there at 07.45 and nothing had moved. I saw a bird flying towards me, in off the sea, got my binoculars as it passed low and just to my left - a Barbary Falcon, so the early start was already worthwhile but it wasn't what I really wanted.

I'm sure everybody who has attended a twitch where the bird isn't showing gets the feeling that whilst everyone is looking in one direction the bird is actually performing right behind them. So I get this feeling and turn around. There, in the distance, on the top of a ridge and silhouetted against the sky is a bird, quite a big bird. I get my binoculars on it but it's too far away to be sure. I get my scope on it and I'm finally convinced. I have a Houbara Bustard in courtship display about half a mile behind me. I start the car up and head towards the bustard more out of hope than expectation - this jeep makes alot of noise! My luck holds briefly, though, and the bustard is still on the ridge, only a few yards from the track when I arrive. It has stopped its display however and is clearly nervous. It stays long enough for me to take a few photos before slinking off back over the ridge.

I decided to repeat the journey of two days earlier and see if I can get better views of the sandgrouse and perhaps some photos. I drove down the main track and almost immediately saw a pair of Cream-coloured Coursers which allow me to get a few decent pictures. Several Stone Curlews were close enough to the track to get photos and as I was looking at them several Black-bellied Sandgouse flew over and landed a couple of hundred yards away. As I drove up two of the sandgrouse were a few feet from the side of the track and I got some excellent views but they started moving away quickly so my only photos are of their disappearing rears!


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Tuesday 16th March

A final trip into the barranco at the back of the hotel was my early morning trip. Three chats were in the same place as previously and several Southern Grey Shrikes and Hoopoes were around the unused golf course that has been built there. New for the trip were a single Song Thrush and a Turtle Dove heard purring distantly.

Wednesday 17th March

Our final day and my last chance to get some photos of the Spectacled Warblers. I spent nearly an hour trying to get some photos before giving up. As I walked back to the hotel along the boardwalk two warblers landed in a bush a few yards from me and sat up well letting me get a few good pics. The final new bird for the trip list was a solitary Swallow flying around the beach.

Counting a possibly dodgy Laughing Dove but excluding the definitely dodgy Cattle Egrets I managed a total of 39 species for the week. Also included is a single House Sparrow which I recorded in the barranco on the first day - I'm now getting cold feet (about a House Sparrow?) as I can't find this species as recorded on Fuerteventura.

I was surprised not to see any swift species at all during the week, let alone my target species Plain Swift. I also recorded just one Swallow and no martins. The lack of Egyptian Vultures and raptors as a whole was also disappointing.

Anyone thinking of going to Fuerteventura I'd recommend they hire a 4x4 in the south at least, we never got to the north so perhaps roads are better there. The AA island map is also excellent including many if not all of the minor tracks we took through the desert.

Species List:

Cory's Shearwater - several off Jandia beach and Punta de Jandia. Remarkably several seen at night flying close in shore from Morro Jable (whilst having dinner!)

Little Egret - one at Punta de Jandia

Ruddy Shelduck - one over Barranco de Vinamar north-west of Jandia

Common Buzzard - several seen in central areas of island

Kestrel - seen in Jandia and La Pared plains

Barbary Falcon - one over La Pared plains

Barbary Partridge - two on approach to Embalse de las Penitas near Vega de Rio Palmas

Houbara Bustard - one on La Pared plains

Stone Curlew - 2 pairs on La Pared plains

Cream-coloured Courser - at least 3 pairs on La Pared plains

Ringed Plover - two at Punta de Jandia

Turnstone - one at Punta de Jandia

Arctic Skua - two off Jandia beach

Yellow-legged Gull - common on coasts

Lesser Black-backed Gull - common on coasts

Sandwich Tern - 30-40 off Jandia beach

Gull-billed Tern - one in Morro Jable harbour

Black-bellied Sandgrouse - c15 on La Pared plains

Rock Dove - several on cliffs at Ajuy (presumed feral pigeon also in many areas)

Collared Dove - common throughout

Turtle Dove - one heard calling in Barranco de Vinamar, Jandia

Laughing Dove - one in Jandia; the same or another in Barranco de Vinamar

Hoopoe - one or two in Barranco de Vinamar and approach to La Pared plains

Ring-necked Parakeet - several in Jandia

Monk's Parakeet - common in Jandia

Lesser Short-toed Lark - common in La Pared plains

Swallow - one over Jandia beach

Berthelot's Pipit - fairly common in Jandia and La Pared plains

White Wagtail - seen only in Jandia

Canary Islands Chat - three in Barranco de Vinamar

Song Thrush - one in Barranco de Vinamar

Blackcap - one in Jandia

Spectacled Warbler - 6+ in scrub behind Jandia beach

Southern Grey Shrike - quite common in Jandia

Raven - quite common throughout

Spanish Sparrow - common

House Sparrow - male recorded in Barranco de Vinamar

Linnet - several seen in mountains

Trumpeter Finch - one near Casas de El Cortijo


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Excellent thread.
I've been to Fuerte 3 times , 1997, 1999 & 2000 so was nice to read your report as it brought back some good memories.
Hi David,

Nice report and some good photos. Nearly went with my family this year but was too busy at work. For the whale species, could be short-finned pilot whale, I've seen these off Tenerife. I also saw several laughing dove on Tenerife, not sure if colonised or naturalised though.

Fuerteventura resident Derek Bradbury tells me that House Sparrow is 'a long shot but not impossible' on the island. Unfortunately it is too late to edit my posting below but I think it safest if I withdraw my claim. Luckily I do already have it on my WP list!

Nice trip report and brought back my memories of a visit there a lot of years ago, I did'nt do anywhere near as well as you, but we where up north at corrijeco (I know its spelt wrong but can't remember how to spell it), we did spend a day down in the south, and as you say more Germans then Spanish. We also took a trip out on a boat looking for Whales and Dolphins unfortunatly we did'nt see any Whales but had great views of Dolphins along the side of the boat.


Nice report, again brought back memories as my wife and I were there in December 2008. It sounds as though we were in the same area as an unused golf coarse was at the back of our hotel the other side of a main road. I managed to photograph a Sacred Ibis, Berthelots Pipit, Canary island Chat. and a very accomadating Kestral. No Houbara Bustard though! (not jealous)as being a cheap skate I opted to hire a scooter for my trip to the light house (two up),needless to say we never made it!


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