Promoting observation, free range exploration, sense of place and citizen science, through the field notes of a naturalist.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Birding on a family holiday: Fuerteventura

I don't really do birding holidays, but where the opportunity arises I will squeeze in some birding when on a family break. Fuerteventura, has become a regular bolt hole for us, plenty of sun bathing for the wife combined with long coastal walks for me. This was the first time we had visited during December so was a bit of an unknown quantity weather wise. We had expected more rain and lower temperatures but it turned out to be wall to wall sunshine with daytime temperatures at around 24 degrees. As usual we based ourselves in the north of the island in the tourist hot spot of Corralejo. Away from the coastline with its combination of sandy beaches and extensive low tide rocky areas, the landscape is dry and volcanic with sparse vegetation, a desert like natural park on the southern outskirts of the town was within walking distance.

Day One - Sunday 2nd December

After what seemed like an age travelling, day one included a late start, but not before I was awoken by the resident collared doves with a few chirping Spanish sparrow thrown in for good measure. Just before lunch I took a short walk past the now semi-derelict water park to a patch of land on the edge of town. This area was covered with small razor sharp volcanic stones that made walking in lightweight canvas shoes something of a challenge. Some vegetation was good perching for a Southern great grey shrike and great cover for a singing spectacled warbler. A couple of Berthelot's pipit picked their way through the arid terrain as a kestrel alighted on a large roadside advertising hoarding. Just 50 metres away small groups of holidaymakers were walking to town, as, to my surprise I flushed two stone curlew. A barbary ground squirrel put in a brief appearance.

There were a lot more butterflies around than I can remember on my previous trips to this Canary island. One of the most attractive was the greenish black tip (Euchloe charlonia). A large grasshopper with powerful flight capabilities was encountered frequent and was identified as the endemic Canarian band-winged grasshopper (Oedipoda canariensis).

On the way back to our hotel as small group of unkempt roadside confer trees were dropping cones onto the pavement. Here around a dozen Spanish sparrow were accompanied by two or tree common linnet (Carduelis cannabina harterti). Later that afternoon two swifts were noted high above our hotel. These were considered to be pallid swifts.

Day Two - Monday 3rd December

Most of the rest of this holiday involved coastal birds. The good thing about Fuerteventura is that its wetland birds are so accessible, they don't seem to have the same fear of people that we are accustomed to with birds in Britain. The first opportunity to walk the coastline is always a holiday high spot. From urban Corralejo we wandered south to the sand dune area, just as the tide was falling. 

A couple of little egret fished at the water's edge as a party of sanderling ran around a sandy cove. Where the beach was punctuated by rocks up to to hundred wading birds were scattered. Common sandpiper and turnstone were actively feeding whilst whimbrel and grey plover were just loafing and very approachable. A decent party of ringed and little ringed plover moved grudgingly revealing a single dunlin as they did.

Day Three - Tuesday 4th December

Day three included another few hours exploring the coast, but it will be remembered largely for a mass migration of painted lady butterflies. Hundreds of thousands of these insects were everywhere moving southwards through urban areas and some directly out to sea. I watched a monarch butterfly arrive from its cross sea journey and disappear out of sight inland. Bird wise, yellow-legged gull were numerous and a small party of bar-tailed godwit were noted.

Day Four - Wednesday 5th December

The fourth day of the holiday didn't add too much the species list. A couple of common raven were active over our hotel and a brief stroll along the town beach produced a distant ringed sandwich tern. A spectated warbler in scrub on the edge of town was a bit more visible for a photograph, but only a bit.

Day Five - Thursday 6th December

With continuing cloudless skies today's walk took in the urban-rural interface close to the sand dunes nature park. At this urban margin is a significant amount of dereliction, unfinished holiday resorts that seem to blight this part of Correlejo. Nonetheless, this edge of town landscape was very interesting.

Here southern great grey shrike were frequent often perching on lamp posts and fencing. Up to three hoopoe were vocal and a single kestrel was montionless on a large rock. The barbary ground squirrel in this area were very numerous. Botanically it was good to see the endemic Canarian sand loving plant Androcymbium psammophilum this species is listed on Annex 2 of the European Habitats Directive. Also found was the Canarian crested grasshopper (Dericorys lobata). The only moth encountered was a crimson speckled (Utetheisa pulchella), this moth is a rare migrant to Britain.

Day Six - Friday 7th December

This was our final full day on the island, so I took the opportunity to re-visit the site that I had noted the stone curlew earlier in the week. On this occasion it was very quite, the spectacled warbler was still present but continued to be elusive. The surprise however was a grey heron a rather unusually species for the island. A short whistle stop visit to the beach added a single greenshank.

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