Christmas Eve traveling
We spent our Christmas Eve less traditionally by travelling very early in the morning to Helsinki-Vantaa airport. On the last days it had been quite a storm but luckily roads were in surprisingly good shape even though it had been snowing a lot.
Our flight was a little bit late but left at 11:50 a.m. towards Fuerteventura. We managed to sleep a little bit in the beginning but the rest of the flight we were watching landscapes as we flew over Alps, Pyrenees and Atlas Mountains. Finally we had managed to catch the schedule and landed in time to Puerto del Rosario airport.
Passport weren’t checked at all during the whole trip so soon Hanna was collecting our bag while I went to get our car that we had pre-booked from PayLess. We got a Jeep Renegate 4 wheel-drive which had been much cheaper on this company than on others. And we were happy to find out that it was even almost a new car.
Birding right away
After I had managed to put the right place to my navigator, we started driving. The traffic was easy so we could make the first bird-observations soon. Rock and Collared Doves, Yellow-legged Gulls (atlantis), Berthelot’s Pipits and Southern Grey Shrikes (koenigi) were seen before we parked along a road to rubbish tip. We unpacked a little bit and soon we had everything ready for serious birding.
We walked through a semi-desert area to Barranco de Rio Cabras and while walking saw our first Ravens (canariensis) (the birds seen until this were the most common ones on this island), Trumpeter Finches (amantum) and a couple of Egyptian Vultures that were soaring high on the sky. When we reached the cliff we could find Spanish Sparrows and then saw that there was a pool on the bottom of Barranco. Black-winged Stilts, a couple of Ruddy Shelducks, 2 Grey Herons, 2 Moorhens, 2 Little Ringed Plovers, 2 Common Snipes and a Green Sandpiper were all shy and flushed when they saw us walking down. When we reached the bottom, we saw an Osprey flying over us.
We were searching for a huge rarity – a Dwarf Bittern that had been found 3 weeks earlier and like ordered 2 days after we had booked our trip. Luckily there had been lots of reports from twitchers since that and the bird had been seen still at least a couple of days earlier. I had also got an exact GPS-point to the place, but not much other information about how the bird had been acting or how it was supposed to find. And now when we saw how big the area was it started to feel that finding a tiny bittern could be more difficult than we had been told.
I did one mistake and hadn’t got my GPS yet with me do I couldn’t check the exact spot for the bird, but we thought that this pool and its surroundings should be the place. It just looked perfect especially above the dam where was a stream with several small pools under the bushes. So we decided to stay on the dam and watch to both sides of it, to the pool and to the stream.
We waited for almost an hour but didn’t see the bittern. Other new birds weren’t seen many either, but a couple of endemic Fuerteventura Chats that were moving quickly on the rocks higher in the cliff were good to see this early on the trip. Also a couple of Chiffchaffs and Hoopoes, a Greenshank and of course some more of the species that we had already seen earlier were seen.
Soon the sun started to set behind the cliffs, so we decided to walk around the bushes if the bittern was hiding somewhere under them. The bottom of the valley was muddy and soon we had muddied our shoes and I had managed to get my trousers muddy too. But the bittern wasn’t found! I still decided to walk to upper side of the pool to check if there were more pools and found out that there was quite a good-looking stream and a couple of small pools right under the next dam. But Dwarf Bittern wasn’t there either. So it seemed that we had missed the bird, but of course we were coming back!
While we were climbing up, I already sent a couple of SMS to a couple of Finnish birders that I had recently found out that they had been twitching the bittern. Even though it was Christmas Eve both Hannu Palojärvi and Seppo Järvinen answered soon and they told that Dwarf Bittern had mostly been right under the upper dam that I had visited only briefly in the end.
It was already getting dark when we drove towards Lajares. We hoped to find an open shop or service to buy something to drink and also to eat on the field. We had prepared that there might not be anything open during Christmas holidays and had food for several days with us. Luckily there was a service open in La Oliva and we managed to buy some drinks and snacks.
At 7 p.m. we were in Lajares where Hanna had booked an apartment for us. It was a little bit like former garage, but very comfortable. The owners were living just behind the wall. Soon we had carried our luggage in and after we had unpacked and put everything necessary ready, we started to prepare delicious can-food Christmas-dinner.
At 9 p.m. we were ready to sleep, but as expected our neighbors hadn’t got the same plan for their Christmas Eve evening. So we were listening to their celebration for some time before we luckily managed to fell asleep.
On Christmas Day we woke up at 6 a.m. and soon we were in dark parking place packing our car. A Stone Curlew (insularum) was calling somewhere nearby.
We headed first to La Oliva plains where still was quite dark and all we saw were a couple of Rabbits crossing the road. Soon the sun started to rise but only a couple of Berthelot’s Pipits and a small flock of Linnets (harterti) were seen. So soon we decided to continue to Tindaya which was our main target-place in the morning.
In Tindaya we drove through the village and continued to the desert towards the sea. We were driving slowly and scanning the desert and stopped pretty often to check it more carefully. We soon saw a couple of flocks of Lesser Short-toed Larks which landed pretty close to the road but they were camouflaged so well that we couldn’t find them before they were flying again, so only poor pictures were got.
After about 15 minutes searching Hanna noticed the first Houbara Bustard! And behind it there were 2 more! Two of them walked soon further and disappeared but one was walking slowly from bush to another and feeding something from the bushes.
We managed to get slowly closer to the bird by car and then stopped the engine and started to take pictures. Soon the bird turned straight towards us and kept on walking towards a bush that was just next to our car! It was on halfway, less than 10 meters from us, when it decided otherwise and continued towards another bush on the same distance from us. We got really good pictures and soon when the bird kept on walking; we drove in front of it to another road that crossed nearby. It walked just in front of our car and stopped to another bush on the other side of the road. So we managed to get pictures n different light and angle.
Finally we left the bird to feed and continued the “main-road” towards the sea. But quite soon the road got worse and we decided to turn back, as we didn’t want to get flat tire, at least not yet.
When we had driven back to the same crossroads again, we found one more Houbara which was walking quite far on the desert. Then we decided to turn to this smaller road that seemed to go through the desert to Faro de El Toston lighthouse on the North-Eastern corner of the island.
The track was in good condition so 4 wheel-drive wasn’t needed. But there weren’t many birds – just some Ravens, Yellow-legged Gulls and Berthelot’s Pipits.
In Faro de El Toston there were quite a lot of tourists watching the sea and lighthouse and visiting fishing museum. We were walking a bit on the black rocky shore and found a few trip-ticks: a Whimbrel, a couple of Ringed Plovers and a Little Egret.
Then it was time to head towards Barranco de Rio Cabras again. On the way we saw the first Kestrel (dacotiae) of the trip in Tetir and after some more driving we parked to the same spot as on the previous afternoon.
Now there were much more birds on the rubbish tip; mostly Yellow-legged Gulls, but also some 20 Common Buzzards (insularum) and 8 Egyptian Vultures. Once we reached the cliff, we decided to stay up and scan down where we could now see quite big area, but not until the upper-dam. We had got information that the Dwarf Bittern had usually been above the upper-dam in the afternoon, so we didn’t need to hurry to get there. Instead we decided to wait if we could spot it on its other favorite spots and someone had even seen it flying from distance to the dam, so not all its visiting places were known at all.
Fuerteventura Chats were now performing well and we managed to get some pretty good pictures of one couple. Down by the pool we saw a couple of Moorhens, Black-winged Stilts, a Black-headed Gull, a White Wagtail and the same waders again. Trumpeter Finches and Spanish Sparrows were flying in small flocks and a Spectacled Warbler was calling on the bushes.
About after an hour waiting we started to plan what to do next. Of course we needed to go to check the surroundings of the upper dam, but should we go there by walking on the cliff and then climb down or follow the Barranco along the stream? Then suddenly Hanna said: “There!” And less than 10 meters from us there was a tiny bluish bittern flying high but still against the cliffs towards the upper dam! Dwarf Bittern was still around and it was a huge relief to finally see it!
It seemed that Dwarf Bittern had landed somewhere near the upper dam so we decided to walk along the cliff to the other side of the dam and then climb down. There we walked slowly closer to the dam and then crawled the last meters and there it was right under us feeding on the pool!
Unfortunately the bittern saw movement and flew inside a bush next to the pool and disappeared inside the bush, but Hanna had already managed to get a couple of pictures.
We decided to lie down on the dam and wait if the bittern comes back to the pool. But the bird was extremely shy and it took more than 30 minutes before it started to move under the bush and after 15 more minutes it finally climbed to a rock and was showing extremely well! Then it started to move again and came to the stream and started fishing and our cameras were clicking! We were following and photographing the bird for almost 30 minutes and then my muscles started to hurt too much as we were laying on very hard dam. So I had to move back and again the bittern got scared and moved to the bush.
Hanna decided to stay with the bittern and climbed down under the dam and hid behind the rocks but I decided to go to see what I could find up from the upper-dam?
I hardly took 20 steps when I heard tit-like calls from the nearest bigger bush and after some whistling an African Bluet Tit (degener) came visible. But it was moving too fast and always inside the bush, so I couldn’t get any pictures. There was also its couple but it didn’t bother to come visible almost at all.
I did walk a couple of more dams higher along the now completely dry stream and found a couple of pairs of Fuerteventura Chats and some Spectacled Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Common Buzzards but nothing else.
When I had walked back to so called upper-dam the bittern was still hidden inside the bush, so Hanna also gave up. We still walked along the stream to the pool, where a couple of Fuerteventura Chats were showing extremely well! Then we were happy enough and decided to climb up and walk back to our car.
When we were at our car I noticed a couple of swifts that were flying above the gate of the rubbish tip. We drove a little bit closer and managed to see and photograph these birds and even though they were both molting their tail-feathers, we could identify them as Plain Swifts.
It was still just early afternoon so we decided to drive back to Tindaya as we had heard that Houbara Bustards often gathered to bigger flocks in the afternoons. We drove again the same road but managed to find only one Houbara Bustard that quickly walked further to the desert. We still made a couple of stops and on one stop we found 2 Cream-colored Coursers (bannermani). They were also quite mobile but Hanna managed to get a couple of pictures before they had moved too far from the road. Not many other birds were seen, so we decided to continue towards La Oliva.
In La Oliva we checked another site than in the morning and found a flock of about 50 Lesser Short-toed Larks but nothing else. Then we still stopped at Malpais de La Arena lava-rock area. We had planned to search for some endemic plants but after all most of the area was fenced and private. But behind some rocky fences we could hear a couple of Barbary Partridges calling. I took my speaker and played Barbary Partridge from my phone and soon one of the birds came visible, but it disappeared behind the rocks too quickly so no good photographs were got. While we were walking back to our car we still flushed one Stone Curlew. And soon we were back in Lajares.
In the evening I went jogging while Hanna prepared some can-food again. It was nice to run in warm temperature with normal shoes (not ones with spikes like I use in Finland in winter). I also saw some birds: a Sardinian Warbler, a Chiffchaff, a Hoopoe and a Kestrel and heard some Stone Curlews.
A tour to western side of the island
On Boxing Day we woke up very early. While Stone Curlews were calling we drove through Lajares and then stopped to an open area without any lights nearby. Hanna had once again checked the schedules of ISS and after some waiting the space-shuttle came visible over us. Hanna took some pictures while a couple of Barbary Partridges started to call on the background.
The sun was rising when we passed La Oliva and Tindaya and continued south-east. After some more driving we turned toward Los Molinos dam. We stopped at a goat-farm where some Trumpeter Finches and Spanish Sparrows were perched on the fences but soon continued to the dam where we parked the car. Los Molinos reservoir was told to be the best birding place in Fuerteventura and already before we had got out from the car, we saw a Fuerteventura Chat perched on the fence on the dam.
Soon we were walking along the reservoir and I was of course carrying a telescope. From the banks of the reservoir we soon found about 20 Little Egrets, some Grey Herons, Black-winged Stilts, Common Sandpipers, Common Snipes, Greenshanks and White Wagtails. On the water there were lots of Ruddy Shelducks and Coots, about 20 Teals, 3 male Mallards and a female Tufted Duck. A Black-headed Gull was flying around and soon we heard the first Black-bellied Sandgrouse calls from the sky and saw a flock of 4 birds flying over us. Later we heard lots of call of sandgrouses but didn’t find them from the sky or flying against the surrounding mountains.
Soon we saw a Cormorant flying over us and it landed to a rock on the reservoir. While I was scoping the lake again I found 4 Spoonbills and a female Garganey. A lonely Black-tailed Godwit was also found and while I was scoping the bushes there was a Common Stonechat and some Linnets.
We walked until the end of reservoir where we still found a couple of Little Ringed Plovers and then something flushed all Ruddy Shelducks from the bigger goat-farm that was further on the desert. Soon all Ruddy Shelducks landed to the reservoir and there were at least 200 of them! Some flocks of Yellow-legged Gulls also arrived to the pool to bath and there was one Lesser Black-backed Gull with them. After some more checking we decided we had seen all the birds on the reservoir and decided to keep on driving south.
Our next stop was in Betancuria where the road dropped steeply to a valley from the mountains. Old town was quite scenery and there were lots of green trees and bushes. So it wasn’t a surprise that after some walking we found some African Blue Tits, Sardinian Warblers, Blackcaps and a Robin. Pretty soon we again continued as we wanted to go birding somewhere with less people and noise.
So soon we were in Vega de Rio Palas where we started to walk along a dry stream. Luckily the place started to look better after some walking and even though it was already early afternoon, we soon found several African Blue Tits, Sardinian Warblers and a Robin again. Then suddenly we flushed a couple of black thrushes from one bush and we of course thought that they were Blackbirds first, but when we soon flushed a couple of birds more, we realized that they were all Ring Ouzels! We hadn’t expected to find these birds here, but soon we had seen at least 6 Ring Ouzels in different plumages. Also a Song Thrush was found as a trip-tick and after some more walking we also found a Grey Wagtail. Other birds seen were only some Spectacled Warblers, Kestrels and a Common Buzzard, but it had been a nice walk.
Soon we were driving again along a narrow mountain-road south towards Pajara. There we parked next to the church and we had got information that there was one more surprise-species wintering on the trees around the church. After some searching we heard a familiar call and saw briefly a Yellow-browed Warbler moving on the top of the trees. It was really crazy to see this Siberian species here!
Unfortunately neither the Yellow-browed Warbler nor African Blue Tits were co-operative and we didn’t get any pictures in this very busy area. So we soon continued to Ajuy caves, where were lots of tourists. We walked until the end of the view-track where the steps led into a cave on the shore. It was possible to go inside so we of course went to take some pictures of the cave.
After some landscape-photographing we still watched to the sea for a couple of minutes and saw some hunting Gannets, but then it was time to get away from other tourists which most of them seemed to be British and German. So soon we were driving along the narrow and curvy road back.
We decided to eat in Pajara where we went to a restaurant next to the church. And while we were eating the Yellow-browed Warbler came to the closest tree where we could see it very well. So after we had eaten Hanna again tried to get pictures of it and after quite a long trying she finally managed to get some.
As we had no hurry we stopped on the view-watching places where were very tame Barbary Ground-squirrels on the first one and then on the next one extremely tame Ravens and Berthelot’s Pipits. The Ravens were funny. Tourists were giving them many kind of food and they opened nuts so easily that it was clear that they had got a lot of experience.
Finally we turned again towards Vega de Rio Palma where we continued almost until the end of the road and parked to the valley. I had now my GPS on and we were exactly on the right place this time. The sun wasn’t set yet so I was photographing a Southern Grey Shrike and a couple of distant Barbary Partridges and Hanna was collecting handful of cochineal bugs that can be used as source of bright red dye.
Finally the sun set and I took my speaker and soon there was a horrible screaming playing on the valley. There had been an endemic subspecies (Slender-billed) Barn Owl (gracilirostris) a week earlier.
I was playing the call for a while and then we were listening and scanning the area but all we saw in the beginning were a bat and a mouse. This mouse wasn’t the brightest animal as it really wanted to climb to my shoe – while I was playing Barn Owl! It was already dark when we saw an owl silhouette flying across the valley. It was quite distant but we thought it had been too big for a Barn Owl. And soon we heard clearly an Eagle Owl calling from the cliffs! It sounded like a normal Eagle Owl not a Pharaoh Eagle Owl which is breeding in Morocco, not so far. I managed to get some poor sound-recording with my phone, but it was too distant to get anything good as I didn’t have my recording-equipment with me.
After some listening I played the Barn Owl call again and then we first heard a strange call on our right side and in same time we saw a ghostly pale owl coming straight over us! It was a (Slender-billed) Barn Owl. It was flying a couple of rounds above us but then glided towards the dry stream where we had been walking earlier. But the strange caller was still on the trees right from us and then I realized it was a Long-eared Owls call. So there were 3 species of owls together!
Soon the Eagle Owl had come closer again but still it was too far to get any better recordings. So we decided to drive up to the cliffs and try to get better recording from one of the view-points. We had no idea if there had ever been an Eagle Owl in Fuerteventura, so we had to try!
So we drove along the narrow roads up to the second view-point and there we walked with headlamps on towards the edge. It was extremely windy up on the top of the mountain, but soon we heard the owl again. I managed to get much better recordings while staying between some rocks. But then we decided to walk until the last cliff as the bird wasn’t very far. We thought that we might even see it. When we reached the edge we could hear the owl calling from the next mountain, so with our headlamps we tried to scan the rocks but it was just a little bit too far.
So after all we gave up as it really didn’t matter if we see a silhouette or not. So we walked back to our car and started a long way back to Lajares. When we were back in our cottage, I first played some eagle owl calls with poor WiFi-connection and it was clear that the bird had been an Eagle Owl. Then I did contact Eduardo Garcia del Rey, a birder who has sites for birding in different Macaronesia islands on Facebook. He answered soon that we should have contacted him immediately to save lots of efforts – our Eagle Owl was an escape from zoo…
On the 27th of December we planned to take a little bit easier after 2 hard days. We woke up early again but the sun was already rising when we got out.
We drove just out from Lajares to a couple of volcanoes and started walking towards them. Hanna had been choosing which one to climb from the satellite-pictures, but after some walking we could clearly see that the first one didn’t have a crater at all. So we continued towards the next one and after some 30 minutes climbing we were finally on the top. And the views were really good! Not only there was a stunning crater in front of us, but behind the whole volcano there was a view to neighbor-island Lanzarote!
After we had walked back to our car we decided to drive to see the northernmost part of the island. In Corralejo there was again a view to Lanzarote. We walked there for some time on the rocky shore and found Whimbrels, Ringed Plovers, a Greenshank, a Turnstone, a Kentish Plover, 3 Grey Plovers, 7 Common Sandpipers, 4 Sandwich Terns and a couple of Little Egrets.
Next we continued to Parque Natural Corralejo, which is a beautiful dune-area. But we were there too late in the morning, there were already too many tourists walking on the dunes and writing and drawing to the sand. Luckily after some driving we found a spot where the dunes were not only bigger but also cleaner with fewer footsteps. We were walking on the dunes and taking some pictures for some time before we continued along the road that went through the whole dune-area towards south. On the way we saw hundreds of tourists on the sand-beaches where red flags were indicating that it was not allowed to swim – people were just burning their skins.
We did a short stop on El Jablito harbor where we saw only a couple of Little Egrets and a Sandwich Tern and then decided to drive once again to Barranco de Rio Cabras.
Our parking place had already 2 cars, so we had to park a bit further along the road. While walking towards the Barranco we met a couple of Dutch birders which had already contacted me in Facebook as they hadn’t seen the Dwarf Bittern on Christmas Day. Now they had done exactly how we did and after some waiting the bittern had flight to the upper-dam where they had seen it very well. They also told that there were 3 Belgian birders now photographing the bittern and actually these Belgians were the main reason why we were there.
When we reached the Barranco we decided to let Belgians keep on photographing and climbed down to photograph Fuerteventura Chats. But chats weren’t performing well and there weren’t many other birds showing well either. Maybe it was siesta-time?
After 30 more minutes we decided to walk slowly towards upper-dam and surprisingly we found no-one. But then we saw Belgians hiding under one bush. They showed us to get there slowly and we did our best, but right when we were taking our last step, the bittern flushed and flew under the upper-dam again. But now we could start talking with these Belgians which 2 of them were my old friends from Corvo – Davis Monticelli and Vincent Legrand.
After some talking we went slowly to upper-dam and there the bittern was again right under the dam. But once again it flushed a bit lower when it saw some movement. David still followed the bird but the rest of us stayed under the dam where a Fuerteventura Chat was now performing well.
The bittern had soon hidden again so we gave up photographing and walked back to our cars. Over the rubbish tip there were again lots of gulls, Common Buzzards and some Egyptian Vultures. Belgians were in a hurry to get their accommodation, so we said goodbyes and then decided to drive to north-east and to Faro de El Toston.
We were at the lighthouse too early as there were still lots of tourists and usually the best time for seawatching starts from the last hour before the sunset. Anyway we walked to the shore and started scanning the sea with scope. I had expected that there isn’t much movement on the sea in mid-winter but I had never expected it to be so empty! But when I found the first 2 birds they were Great Skuas! They had even bigger white patched on their wings than usually but unfortunately they were too far on the sea so I couldn’t see much else. Hopefully they weren’t Southern Skuas?
After an hour more seawatching we had seen only a handful of gulls and 2 Gannets. On the rocky shore and islets we saw 3 Spoonbills and of course some common waders which a Dunlin and a Redshank were trip-ticks.
We stopped seawatching a bit early as it was too boring and started driving back to Lajares. Just when we were coming to the town, a huge bird flew in front of our car! First second we had no idea what the bird was, but after all it was easy to identify – it was a Houbara Bustard. It was even stranger-looking bird in flight!
In the evening I went jogging again and after that we went to eat to a restaurant in the town. We had really good food and huge portions!
On the 28th of December we were full of power after an easier day and we woke up already at 5 a.m. Soon after a quick breakfast we were driving towards south. We were early as we wanted to be in our target before the tourists. My navigator told that it was more than 2 hours driving to western tip of Jandia and it wasn’t lying.
When the sun was rising we were in Punta de Jable and our first bird-observation of the day was strange as we saw a flying flock of 16 African Sacred Ibises. I knew that somewhere on the island there was a population of this species, but as we aren’t very interested of category-species, I hadn’t checked where to see them. Anyway we were quite happy to see these birds flying over us. But then this was only the beginning…
We drove only a little bit further and noticed several Hadada Ibises perched on the top of the posts. When we got out of the car we heard and soon also saw lots of Monk Parakeets. It wasn’t a surprise that there was a closed zoo nearby. Before we continued we also saw several small flocks of Cattle Egrets.
Soon after Morro Jable the road continued as a sandy track. Even here the road was in very good condition, even all the books and trip-reports have told otherwise. So the view was changing quickly while we were driving in Jandia peninsula. Finally we could see the westernmost point with Faro de Punta Jandia lighthouse, but we turned before it towards Faro Punta Pesebre where we parked next to small beacon.
We had once again information about some rare birds for Canary Islands and Macaronesia. There had been 3 Hoopoe Larks and a female Desert Wheatear for some. We knew they had been extremely difficult to find but these Dutch birder we had met had sent me coordinates where someone else had just seen these birds on the previous day.
We saw that the GPS-point was quite far from the beacon but anyway we decided to start walking towards the lighthouse. We walked quite a lot before we saw the first bird which wasn’t a surprise –a Berthelot’s Pipit. Soon after that Hanna found a very recently dead Short-eared Owl!
We kept on walking and walking and finally I saw something flying quite distant behind some rocks. I raised my binoculars but didn’t find that bird but saw another one flying towards the road and this one was easy to identify as a Hoopoe Lark. We hurried after the bird and soon were on the place I thought it might have landed, but we couldn’t find anything!
So we kept on walking around the area and then I found the bird I had first seen flying – it was the Desert Wheatear. We photographed this very flighty bird for some time and then continued walking around the other side of the road but found nothing else.
Finally I decided that I will walk back to get the car so Hanna can still stay searching for the Hoopoe Larks. It was a long way back to the car but once I was driving back to Hanna, she had already walked a long way towards me and she had 2 Hoopoe Larks running and feeding in front of her!
So we managed to get some nice pictures of these beautiful larks too before we drove to the lighthouse. There were already some tourists now and from the rocky shore we found some common waders and on the islets there were 5 Cormorants. Soon there were more and more tourists coming with different kind of noisy vehicles, so we decided to start driving back.
The next stop was made after some driving where in a valley there were lots of endemic Jandia Thittles growing. It was a beautiful cactus-like plant and there were lots of them. While we were photographing the scenery our Dutch friends stopped by and they were going to try to find Hoopoe Larks and Desert Warbler already for the second time. I gave them very fresh GPS-coordinates but later I heard that they had found only the wheatear even though they had been searching for several hours!
When we were back in Punta del Jable we were walking a little bit outside the closed zoo and found lots of Monk Parakeets, some Rose-ringed Parakeets and again some Hadada Ibises. Near the lighthouse we saw a couple of swifts in flight by they disappeared too soon.
In Morro Jable we saw a couple of Black-headed Gulls in the harbor and in Playa de La Barca we went to see a lagoon that was in the middle of huge sand-beaches. There were far too many people but we managed to see 15 Dunlins, 4 Sanderlings, 20 Ringed Plovers, 5 Kentish Plovers and an Egyptian Vulture.
Some Siberian birds again
Soon we continued to our next target which was a Park in Costa Calma. I had once again a GPS-coordinate to the Park but as I didn’t have any maps on my GPS, we happened to park our car a bit far. Anyway soon we were walking towards the park and already found a Song Thrush on the way.
It was already afternoon and there were lots of people in the park, but anyway we managed to find soon a good place where birds came to drink to a hose. There were lots of Spanish Sparrows and a couple of flocks of Linnets and Goldfinches (parva) and some Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps. Also at least 4 Red-vented Bulbuls were seen, which was one more category-bird that we knew were somewhere on the island – and only now we knew where.
After some waiting Hanna noticed 3 Olive-backed Pipits walking on the shadows under one of the bushes. They were hiding very well so we couldn’t get any better pictures until something flushed them to the trees. I managed to find one bird from the tree and got some better pictures but soon they landed to the ground again and even though we saw them several times, we couldn’t get any better pictures.
So after all we gave up and started walking towards north and after a couple of hundred meters we found a female Chaffinch feeding on the ground. It was nominate subspecies from Europe. Next to the Chaffinch there was a flock of Linnets that flushed soon as they always did, but one bird was left behind – and it was a Little Bunting!
The Bunting also got scared when someone was walking past us, but it landed to a bush in front of us. Then we realized that there were several of these buntings calling around us. We found at least 3 of them but probably heard a couple of more – there had been 5 earlier but only one birder had seen these birds before us. After some waiting a couple of these Little Buntings were feeding shortly on the ground but they were also all the time in shadows so we didn’t get very good pictures, but at least we had found both species we had been searching for.
Finally we started a long drive back to north. We stopped on the way still in Salinas del Carmen where we didn’t see a single bird and then nearby in Barranco del Torre. It was possible to drive in barranco but the place didn’t look too promising. We stopped a couple of times in the places with more palm-trees and found 2 Egyptian Vultures, 2 Common Buzzards, a flock of 20 Starlings, lots of Collared Doves, 4 Laughing Doves and a flock of 6 Barbary Partridges. The Barranco was big but it was already getting late, so we didn’t continue further.
We still had a long drive to Lajares and it was already completely dark when we finally were back there. We ate once again can-food and went to sleep very early!
Checking some places again
On the 29th of December we woke up early but still while having breakfast we didn’t know what to do during the day. We knew that we had been birding in the most important areas of the island and then we had also heard that some of the places that we had planned to visit didn’t exist anymore. Some pools were now completely dry.
I already joked (half-seriously) that we could visit neighbor-island or even Gran Canary where the most serious twitchers had been ticking a new split Gran Canary Blue Chaffinch. Some birders had recently been on Canary Islands only for a couple of days and ticked Dwarf Bittern and this chaffinch. Anyway we had a very comfortable apartment and perfect car booked here so of course we decided to make another trip to Gran Canary somewhere in the future. But as Hanna wanted do to some more photographing; we decided now to go to a place where are lots of birds. So we were soon driving towards Los Molinos.
When we were passing the goat-farm there were again some Trumpeter Finches and Spanish Sparrows on the fences. But soon we were walking along the reservoir where were mostly the same birds as on our previous visit. Hanna climbed down to the shore to do some photographing but I continued to the end of the reservoir and still walked a bit along the Barranco, where I found some more waders and Teals.
I counted the birds now more carefully and altogether we saw 300 Ruddy Shelducks, 3 Mallards, 32 Teals, a Garganey, a Tufted Duck, 35 Little Egrets, 3 Grey Herons, 4 Spoonbills, 63 Coots, 40 Black-winged Stilts, a Little Ringed Plover, 2 Kentish Plovers, 2 Greenshanks, 4 Common Sandpipers, 3 Common Snipes, 2 Black-headed Gulls, 40 Lesser Short-toed Larks, 20 White Wagtails, 100 Trumpeter Finches, 2 Spectacled Warblers, 2 Chiffchaffs, a Fuerteventura Chat and a Common Stonechat. Flocks of Black-bellied Sandgrouses were flying around most of the time and we managed to see about 50 birds and of course heard even more. Some sandgrouses were seen feeding with goats, buzzards and some Egyptian Vultures in a bigger goat-farm.
Hanna wasn’t very successful with photographing so pretty soon we continued to Los Molinos village. There on the mouth of Barranco were some Muscovy Ducks but not a single real bird with them. But the landscape was very nice.
After some planning, we decided to drive north along north-eastern tracks towards Faro de El Toston. There were lots of surfers but also some waders on the rocky shores. We counted 20 Kentish Plovers, 25 Ringed Plovers, 10 Sanderlings, 3 Dunlins, 8 Whimbrels, 3 Grey Plovers, 5 Turnstones, a Common Sandpiper, 2 Greenshanks, a Redshank and the only new trip-tick for the day – a Curlew. Also 8 Little Egrets, 4 Sandwich Terns and a Lesser Black-backed Gull with of course many Yellow-legged Gulls were seen.
We were again at the lighthouse too early and again there was nothing moving on the sea even though the wind was now stronger. But we met Daniel and his friend again, Vincent had already left home. After talking with our Belgian friends we still stayed seawatching for some time until we got bored and decided to drive back to Lajares. I went running again while Hanna prepared some food.
On the 30th of December we decided to go to walk more to Barranco de Rio Cabras. We knew it is possible to walk until the airport, so maybe there was still something new to be found?
On the way we saw a couple of Fuerteventura Chats in Tetir and when we had parked to the same place again, I noticed 2 White Storks on the rubbish tip with flocks of gulls.
Two couples of Ruddy Shelducks were chasing each others over the Barranco and now there were 3 Black-headed Gulls flying over the pool and stream. When we had climbed down, we started to walk down along the stream. The same waders were found again but soon we started to find new couples of Fuerteventura Chats too.
We walked about 30 minutes or so until there started to be more rubbish than birds on the Barranco. We still found a Meadow Pipit and a Grey Wagtail, but then we decided to start walking back as the view wasn’t so pleasant anymore.
When we were back by the pool, we decided to walk until the upper-dam where the Dwarf Bittern was found again. It was now feeding quite openly along the stream and climbing on the rocks, so maybe last days photographing had made it a little bit more used to twitchers? We were photographing it for almost an hour and then we were sure that we wouldn’t get any better pictures of this bird with our equipment. While we were climbing up, a Laughing Dove flew over us.
We didn’t have idea what to do next, so we decided to go to check one pool that was mentioned in one of our books and that we thought nobody else had visited recently. Surprisingly this Rosa de Taro pool still existed and it was easy to observe along the road. We found 2 Ruddy Shelducks, 2 Teals, a female Tufted Duck, 6 Moorhens, 2 Common Snipes, a Common Sandpiper and on the reeds we saw a couple of Chiffchaffs and some Linnets. Some flocks of Yellow-legged Gulls came to bath to the pool and there were 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls with them.
We drove back to Lajares along a new road for us and saw a Catlle Egret in Casillas del Angel. We were back in Lajares already in early afternoon and decided to spend the rest of the day there. So I went running again and Hanna was searching for lizards (which we had hardly seen at all during the whole trip) and plants and so on from the back-yard of our apartment which was already half-desert. In the evening we went to eat to the restaurant which we really enjoyed.
The last day
The last day of the year was also our last day on Fuerteventura. We had already packed most of our things in the evening so after early breakfast we were ready for some birding. We decided to head once more to Tindaya where we drove 3 different roads towards the sea and back and found 5 Houbara Bustards but they weren’t very photographable this time. One of the birds was already very active and running across the desert but unfortunately not displaying yet. Some flocks of Lesser Short-toed Larks and Trumpeter Finches were also seen but nothing else. We also visited the shore which was the first time that our car was a little bit tested but still 4 wheel-drive wasn’t needed.
Next we headed to La Oliva fields which we thought to be very dry. But surprisingly behind the school there was a sewage-water pool with very good surroundings too. We found 4 Ruddy Shelducks, 36 Moorhens, a Grey Heron, 5 White Wagtails, 10 Spectacled Warblers and on the small fields nearby we saw 5 Meadow Pipits and a Red-throated Pipit. A Corn Bunting was also seen flying past us and a flock of 5 Black-bellied Sandgrouses was flying in distance. So after all this had been a worthy place to visit.
Once we were back in our apartment we packed the rest of our things and ate the last food. Then we just relaxed and a Redwing that flew over our house was the last trip-tick number 82.
Finally it was time to drive to the airport where we had a couple of hours wait before our flight back to Finland. Our flight left a little bit late but because of the back-wind we landed in time. It was 00:40 a.m. but unfortunately it was so cloudy that we saw only a couple of fireworks.
When we got our luggage we got a ride to Lentopysäköinti where we had only a short drive to a hotel which we had booked. On the next morning we had an early wake up to twitch some First of January -ticks!