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Fuerteventura trip report 2nd to 9th March 2008 (2 Viewers)

Genghis Attenborough

Active member
Apart form one trip to Jandia and one trip to Correlejo this holiday was spent within a few kilometers of Caleta de Fustes on the west coast with several trips to the nearby Barranco de la Torre and one to Barranco de Rio Cabras just north of the airport runway. My wife and I stayed at a Puerto Caleta chalet and I spent every morning and two evenings birding in the local area on foot. The north of the resort is still partly under construction especially where it scours into the hillside and at the south there are two large golf complexes which turned out to be quite interesting.

Caleta de Fustes and beach
The most common species seen here all week were Spanish Sparrows and Collared Doves, both of which are extremely tame. Barbary Ground Squirrels were seen along the rocky beach at the north of the resort. To the south of the main sandy bay there is a rocky area which was particularly good a low tide for waders. Seen regularly here in small numbers were Whimbrel, Greenshank, Turnstone, Sanderling, Grey Plover, up to 9 Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Common Sandpiper, Yellow legged Gull (atlantis), Lesser Black backed Gulls passing through, Little Egret, Grey Heron and Sandwich Terns (with a max of 75 roosting on the night of the 7th ). The whole area is constantly floodlit making it reasonably easy to see. To the west between the beach and the main road there is a small scrubby area which hosted a pair of Berthelot’s Pipit. Further south in the gardens of the Sheraton golf and Atlantico hotels a pair of Fuerteventura Stonechats were regularly seen, even at 6.30 in the morning on one occasion and my wife even got to see them when she walked to the nearby spa baths. Robin was also seen or heard here occasionally. Further south again where the hotels end there is a man made channel worth checking for waders, seen here was a Redshank, pair of Little Ringed Plovers and Common Sandpiper. The area between here and Las Salinas des Carmen was good for Stone Curlew in the morning (mainly heard), Whimbrel and on one occasion a pair of Kentish Plovers. Lesser Short toed Larks and Berthelot’s Pipit become particularly common from here onwards. Cory’s Shearwaters were regularly seen offshore, especially from mid afternoon to evening and a good place to watch them was on the point just to the north of the resort. The resort area was the best place to watch butterflies with African Migrant (Catopsilia florella) seen regularly around the front of Puerto Caleta. They look rather like Brimstones and are very active, rarely settling for long. Also seen frequently here were African Grass Blue (Zizeeria knysna) and Lang’s Short tailed Blue (Leptotes pirithous). Along the beach near the large hotels on the 3rd March I saw up to 6 Green striped Whites (Euchloe belemia) and a Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui). Less commonly seen were Common Blue and Greenish Black tip (Elphinstonia charlonia), the latter being far commoner along the roadside near the airport.

Caleta de Fustes Fuerteventura Golf resorts
The newer golf resort to the south (still under construction) was easier to view and I began to visit it more during the latter part of the week. The ponds on the golf course were good for passing hirundines with Sand Martins and a max of 4 Red rumped Swallows on the morning of the 9th March as well as a Pallid Swift passing through. Also seen on this date was a White Wagtail, 1 Meadow Pipit and a Laughing dove on the buildings nearby. The western end near the hills also hosted a few Trumpeter Finch on the 8th March. Raven and Berthelot’s Pipit were also regularly seen.

Las Salinas des Carmen
Despite several visits to this area early in the morning, very little was seen here apart from the occasional Little Egret and Yellow legged Gull. Work seems to start early so this may account for it. It is probably worth checking during the main migration times on a Sunday morning though.

Barranco de la Torre and surrounding plains
The Barranco actually starts south of Las Salinas but I found the most interesting parts to be to the west of the quarry turning of the main FV2 road. I walked there several ways, firstly by following the beach to Las Salinas, then following a track along the road going inland, and then turning left along the road that leads to the quarry (lined with palms). There is an ruined stone building near the edge of the Barranco and it is fairly easy to walk down the slope in the valley from here. Another way is to cut across the plain from the end of the new Golf complex, past a building with 2 camels and traverse diagonally until you reach the quarry road or thirdly walk to Las Salinas and look on your right for a plastic water pipe with a track along side it, follow the track up the stony hill west and you will come down the other side to a flat plain with less boulders. On your left you should be able to see the quarry turning with the palms and on your right scan for Cream coloured Coursers as up to 5 were seen here on 3 or 4 occasions. However it may be better to go the top of the hill and look for a stony cairn or wind break and scan the plain from here. Ruddy Shelduck and Buzzard were also seen from here by scanning the area. Back at the Barranco, cut across the scrub towards the line of Tamarisks with hidden pools, although waders were not common here, regularly seen were Common Sandpiper, Snipe, Greenshank and Green Sandpiper. Spectacled and Sardinian Warblers were commonly seen along here, as were Hoopoe, Southern Grey Shrike (with a pair presumed to be feeding young), Fuerteventura Stonechat (including a pair with 3 juveniles which could be very approachable) and Linnet. In the large pool with bulrushes there was a singing male Sedge Warbler present all week (presumably a wintering bird), 2 Coot and a Moorhen. Trumpeter Finch were frequently seen near the pools, especially on the stony banks, the occasional Common Chiffchaff and a pair of Blackcaps were also seen. A Turtle Dove flew over on the 6th and up to 3 Ruddy Shelducks regularly used the Barranco. On the 3rd and 8th I saw up to 5 Plain Swifts and one Pallid Swift on the 7th March. Following the Barranco west it eventually comes to the road (which cuts through it). On the other side it becomes more cultivated and there are a few more houses. From the road here it is worth scanning the high hills to the west for Egyptian Vulture, I saw a subadult at close range on the 7th March and 2 soaring high over the hills on another occasion. On the coach to Jandia on the 4th 4 were seen slightly further west near some larva fields. Also on the 7th March I saw Stone Curlew along the roadside and flushed 2 Black bellied Sandgrouse just off the road between 2 houses with fenced gardens. There is supposed to be a small reservoir in the Barranco in this area, but I failed to find it. There are a few dogs around here but most seem to be behind the fences and the one that wasn’t had its tail wagging, so no problems for anyone worried about that. Other very common species seen in the area were Spanish Sparrow, Berthelot’s Pipit and Lesser Short toed Lark (just so you know they are abundant). Tawny Pipit was also seen on two occasions nearby, firstly a pair on the plain near the quarry and secondly one flying over the Barranco. It should also be mentioned that two male common Stonechats were also seen on one occasion.

Barranco de Rio Cabras
On the 6th March I walked following the main road, the road cuts through the Barranco just after passing the airport. My first impression was that it was rather bleak and there were signs of scramble bike activity and a couple of rusty car wrecks. But after walking a couple of kilometers in it began to get very beautiful. This is a much steeper Barranco but it is still possible to climb up the rocks on to the nearby plain. Further on there is an old stone dam and beyond this there is a dried up reservoir covered in vegetation and full of Spanish Sparrows. Further up still there was quite a lot of water with a pair of Ruddy Shelduck teamed up with an escaped Muscovy Duck which all flew off together, 2 Greenshank, 1 Green Sandpiper and 2 LRP’s. A male Turtle Dove was singing from the Tamarisks and also seen were Trumpeter Finch, Spectacled Warblers, a pair of Ravens and Feral Pigeons. As I walked up the steep side of the Barranco I had a Buzzard at close range. I was recording bird sounds on my mini disk and it was at the top of the slope that I realized I’d lost my microphone and I nearly fell in the process of looking for it, but amazingly regained my balance and then found the microphone. So do be careful on these rocks. On the other side of the valley there was a rubbish tip with Yellow legged and Lesser Black backed gulls, Grey Heron and Ravens present. I cut back across a large plain in line with the control tower of the airport. If walking across here be careful you don’t cross into the nearby military zone as they were shooting across part of the plain, it should be obvious if you near it, as there should be a fence and sign posts. Near the road in old cultivated fields I saw a large group of Lesser Short toed Larks and 6 Kentish Plovers.

On 5th March we spent an afternoon in Jandia. Cory’s Shearwaters were present offshore, along with 3 adult Gannets. At the old part of town in planted laurels a Common Chiffchaff and around 4 Blackcaps were heard deep in planted laurel trees. The salt marsh area had Berthelot’s Pipit (including a very tame bird feeding amongst a beach restaurant near the lighthouse), a pair of Kentish Plovers, 6 to 8 Cattle Egret, 3 Lesser Black backed Gulls and 2 Swallows. On the way back to catch our coach we passed the zoo were there was a small colony of Monk Parakeets and 2 Laughing Doves.

Although I saw no Houbara Bustards, in spite of a lot of searching, whilst listening back to my recordings from the wind break near Barranco de la Torre, I believe I have a recording of a pair calling to each other fairly close by. I was actually recording a singing male Lesser Short toed Lark and the wind sounds through the stones when I remember I was aware of a short nasal grunt rather like someone blowing a raspberry. Listening back the sounds and comparing them with recordings made by Claude Chappuis and Jean C Roche they are rather like some sounds made by a Great Bustard and Little Bustard so presume then that Houbaras use a similar call in contact, meaning that they were hiding very close by.
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