Report to Fuerteventura
An extremely rare vagrant had landed on Fuerteventura and many British birders were excited at the prospect of seeing the fifth record of Dwarf Bittern to the Western Palearctic and adding it to their lists. Over the years I have joined several short trips to see birds in the Western Palearctic and as one of the world’s smallest uncommon herons that is difficult to see in their sub-Saharan range, when I was invited to join Nick to follow all the other birders that had already been to see it, I jumped at the opportunity.
Nick had already gleaned information on flights, accommodation, car hire and site location and I contacted other birders and looked at other trip reports to supplement our knowledge of where to go and what to see.
2nd March Stansted – Fuerteventura – Barranco de Rio Cabras – Tindaya Plains – La Oliva
3rd March La Oliva - Tindaya Plains – Costa Calma – Embalse de los Molinos – La Oliva
4th March La Oliva – Barranco de la Torre – Stansted
We flew out with Ryanair at a cost of £51.91 each
Return with Jet2Com at a cost of £105.69 each
Nick arranged these at £117.45 each
It was hot and sunny most of the time with the temperature around 24 degrees. We had a short rain shower on one of the days whilst we were in the gorge.
We used our credit cards for payment of food and a small amount of Euros in village shops.
After a tortuous journey to Barton Mills through snow the night before, I met up with Nick and we flew from Stansted on an early morning flight arriving in Fuerteventura by midday. We were lucky with our vehicle hire and gained a big vehicle and motored to Barranco de Rio Cabras (GPS N28.4758′ W13.9030’). Once we had arrived we were less than sure where to go as the gorge was hidden from view and after a quick phone call to Dot, who had been the week before, we soon found the site.
As we stepped out of the car Raven, Common Buzzard and Egyptian Vultures were added to the trip list. A lark had landed nearby and we soon added Lesser Short-toed Lark to the trip list too.
We found the rough track that led down to the gorge and saw a Hoopoe sitting at the bottom as well as one of the dams that was on our set of instructions. I could hear a pair of Trumpeter Finches calling as we walked down. We needed to find the second dam as we had instructions to walk towards it. A small pool that the Dwarf Bittern was known to favour held a Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, White Wagtail and sitting on a bush was another world tick for me in the shape of a Fuerteventura Chat. Spanish Sparrows were noisily announcing their presence as a Spectacled Warbler flitted around. African Blue Tit and Collared Doves were also present. We watched a Chiffchaff for a while before deciding that it was an Iberian Chiffchaff.
We waited for a while at the pool where we had been advised that the bittern favoured but also decided to check further up the gorge in case the bittern was lurking in other pools. Above the second dam several Black-winged Stilts were busy preening. A few Chiffchaff were present in the Tamarisk. We made our way back down to the small pool and waited.
We could hear voices approaching when all of a sudden the Dwarf Bittern flew up the gorge and promptly disappeared out of sight around the corner.
We drove to the Tindaya Plains where we started the search for Houbara Bustard. I was keen to see these as they have been split form the McQueen’s Bustard that I had seen in Israel. We drove the track where I soon located a displaying bird albeit a distant one. However we were treated to a wonderful displaying bird. A Berthelot’s Pipit was at the side of the car as several Black-bellied Sandgrouse ran across the track in front of us. A Cream-coloured Courser walked beside us as the light was fading and a Barbary Partridge ran far too quickly for my camera to capture a sharp image in the now very poor light.
We drove to our apartment in la Oliva where we spent
We returned early in the morning to Tindaya Plains as we both wanted to get better views of Houbara Bustard so that we could take some more photographs. We soon located 4 birds that were close to the track. They definitely have ‘attitude’ as they strode around. We also added Great Grey Shrike and Rock Dove to our lists.
After we had taken more photos than we should we returned to Barranco de Rio Cabras because we both wanted better views of the Dwarf Bittern. We had a lengthy stake out along with several other birders who had also arrived. With more eyes looking we felt optimistic than it would be relocated. We positioned ourselves up on the cliff to get a better vantage point so that we could see more of the gorge.
The birding continued to enthral us with Spectacled Warblers, Fuerteventura Chats, Hoopoes, Ruddy Shelducks and several waders to keep us entertained. After a few hours the bittern crept out of the vegetation just as a rain shower started. The timing of it could not have been worse as neither Nick nor I had any rain gear with us. The Dwarf Bittern stood motionless on the bank. We took a few photos from our cliff perch and left it in peace whilst we quickened our pace and retreated back to the car to dry out!
With the heaters on full blast to dry our wet clothing we drove to the south of the island to Costa Calma where the sun reappeared. Here was a small stretch of woodland that ran parallel to the coastline that harboured many migrant and resident birds to our trip list. We added Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Siskin, Brambling, Song Thrush, Redwing, Blackcap, Linnet, and a singing Serin.
We also watched several Chiffchaff and Spanish Sparrows.
However this was not the reason for our visit as the woods were known to hold wintering populations of Little Buntings and Olive-backed Pipits. We walked the length of the woods and found a sprinkler system that had left some pools of water that acted as a magnet for the birds. Here we found the Little Buntings not far away.
We motored on and drove to Embalse de los Molinos after locating the small track off the highway by a goat farm. We walked the length of the reservoir as we had been told by another birder that there was a Marbled Teal present. We soon added Coot, Spoonbill, Common Teal, Tufted Duck, Mallard and Little Egret before both of us attempted to get photographs of the Pallid Swifts flying above our heads. Not an easy task!
The wind was making life difficult as we searched for the Marbled Teal. A Common Sandpiper flew the length of the water as we walked. A group of duck had flown right down the far end of the reservoir and so we had to walk down to the end as neither of us possessed scopes. We found the Marbled Teal sitting on the mud.
Sue at Embalse de los Molinos
Shadows at Embalse de los Molinos
We enjoyed a meal of Goat stew at a restaurant en route back to La Oliva and our apartment.
We were up early after listening to Stone Curlews calling from behind our apartment during the night and made our way once again to Barranco de Rio Cabras.
Great Grey shrike sat on the sails of a windmill
We looked for the obvious pile of stones marking the start of the track down into the gorge.
Barranco de Rio Cabras gorge
Nick waiting patiently for the Dwarf Bittern to appear
We wanted to make the most of our time before our flight home and Nick drove to Barranco de la Torre where we watched Sardinian Warblers and by walking to some Palm trees found a few Laughing Doves.
All too soon it was time to get to the airport for our flight home. It had been quite a twitch and an excellent way of spending a few days in the sun gaining a few world ticks. Thanks must go to Nick for organising the trip.
Stone Curlew was heard at Oliva