Norfolk Birders

Norfolk Birdwatching and beyond!

Trip Report to Fuerteventura

March 2018

Nick Watmough

Sue Bryan


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

Accommodation/Car hire/fuel

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.

Daily Log

2nd March

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.

                                            Barranco de Rio Cabras                                             

                                                             Sue at the top of the gorge

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.

                                                  Lesser Short-toed Lark                                              

                                                                Egyptian Vulture
As we walked to the top of the gorge a pair of Ruddy Shelducks flew over us as we watched Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Yellow-legged Gulls and a Grey Heron standing on the plain as well as a Kestrel.

                                           Ruddy Shelducks                                                            

                                                                    Trumpeter Finch

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.

                                          Nick in the gorge                                                           


                                                 Fuerteventura Chat                                                      

                                                                            Black-winged Stilt

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.

                                               Displaying Houbara Bustard

                                                 Cream-coloured Courser

                                             Black-bellied Sandgrouse                                                

                                              Barbary Partridge

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.

Berthelot’s Pipit

We drove to our apartment in la Oliva where we spent the night

3rd March

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.

Houbara Bustard

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.

                       Barranco de los Cabras pools                                                    

                                         Nick keeping watch

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!

Dwarf Bittern

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.

                                                     Spanish Sparrow                                                                        


                                               Little Bunting                                                                                           

                                                                 Olive-backed Pipit

Costa Calma Woods

After we had reached the top of wood we had still not found any Olive-backed Pipits and were fortunate to bump into another birder who told us where we could locate them. We drove to the tall antennae that towered over the town and found the small area with a bench by the white building. Here there were several Olive-backed Pipits scouring the ground for food.

                             The view from Embalse de los Molinos

Embalse de los Molinos

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!

                                                      Pallid Swift

                                                    Pallid Swift

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.

4th March

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.

                                   The view from our apartment             

                         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.

                Sue at the start of the track down into the gorge              

                                                            The gorge

                              Barranco de Rio Cabras gorge

                                   Nick waiting patiently for the Dwarf Bittern to appear


                                                     Ruddy Shelduck

                                                    Fuerteventura Chat

                                                            Fuerteventura Chat

                                                 Spectacled Warbler

                                                                Spectacled Warbler

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.

Laughing Dove

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.

Species List


  1. Ruddy Shelduck               Tadorna ferruginea         02/03/2018         Barranco de Rio Cabreas
  2. Mallard                                Anas platyrhynchos         03/03/2018         Embalse de los Molinos
  3. Eurasian Teal                     Anas crecca         03/03/2018         Embalse de los Molinos
  4. Marbled Duck                   Marmaronetta angustirostris     03/03/2018         Embalse de los Molinos
  5. Tufted Duck                      Aythya fuligula  03/03/2018         Embalse de los Molinos
  6. Barbary Partridge            Alectoris barbara              02/03/2018         Tindaya Plain
  7. Eurasian Spoonbill          Platalea leucorodia          03/03/2018         Embalse de los Molinos
  8. Dwarf Bittern                    Ixobrychus sturmii            02/03/2018        Barranco de Rio Cabreas
  9. Grey Heron                       Ardea cinerea     02/03/2018         Barranco de Rio Cabreas
  10. Little Egret                         Egretta garzetta 03/03/2018         Embalse de los Molinos
  11. Egyptian Vulture             Neophron percnopterus                02/03/2018         Barranco de Rio Cabreas
  12. Common Buzzard           Buteo buteo        02/03/2018         Barranco de Rio Cabreas
  13. Houbara Bustard             Chlamydotis undulata    02/03/2018         Tindaya Plain
  14. Eurasian Coot                   Fulica atra            03/03/2018         Embalse de los Molinos
  15. Black-winged Stilt           Himantopus himantopus 02/03/2018       Barranco de Rio Cabreas
  16. Little Ringed Plover        Charadrius dubius            02/03/2018         Barranco de Rio Cabreas
  17. Common Greenshank  Tringa nebularia                02/03/2018         Barranco de Rio Cabreas
  18. Green Sandpiper            Tringa ochropus                02/03/2018         Barranco de Rio Cabreas
  19. Common Sandpiper       Actitis hypoleucos             03/03/2018         Embalse de los Molinos
  20. Cream-colored Courser   Cursorius cursor             02/03/2018         Tindaya Plain
  21. Yellow-legged Gull         Larus michahellis               02/03/2018         Barranco de Rio Cabreas
  22. Lesser Black-backed Gull              Larus fuscus       02/03/2018         Barranco de Rio Cabreas
  23. Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis      02/03/2018        Tindaya Plain
  24. Rock Dove                          Columba livia      03/03/2018         Tindaya Plain
  25. Eurasian Collared Dove    Streptopelia decaocto  02/03/2018         Barranco de Rio Cabreas
  26. Laughing Dove                 Spilopelia senegalensis   04/03/2018        Barranco de la Torre
  27. Plain Swift                          Apus unicolor     02/03/2018         Barranco de Rio Cabreas
  28. Pallid Swift                         Apus pallidus      03/03/2018         Embalse de los Molinos
  29. Eurasian Hoopoe             Upupa epops      02/03/2018         Barranco de Rio Cabreas
  30. Common Kestrel             Falco tinnunculus              02/03/2018         Barranco de Rio Cabreas
  31. Great Grey Shrike           Lanius excubitor (koenigi) 03/03/2018     Tindaya Plain
  32. Northern Raven              Corvus corax       02/03/2018         Barranco de Rio Cabreas
  33. African Blue Tit                 Cyanistes teneriffae         02/03/2018        Barranco de Rio Cabreas
  34. Lesser Short-toed Lark    Alaudala rufescens       02/03/2018         Barranco de Rio Cabreas
  35. Common Chiffchaff       Phylloscopus collybita     02/03/2018         Barranco de Rio Cabreas
  36. Iberian Chiffchaff            Phylloscopus ibericus      02/03/2018         Barranco de Rio Cabreas
  37. Eurasian Blackcap            Sylvia atricapilla  03/03/2018         Costa Calma
  38. Spectacled Warbler        Sylvia conspicillata           02/03/2018         Barranco de Rio Cabreas
  39. Sardinian Warbler           Sylvia melanocephala     04/03/2018         Barranco de la Torre
  40. Redwing                             Turdus iliacus      03/03/2018         Costa Calma
  41. Song Thrush                      Turdus philomelos            03/03/2018         Costa Calma
  42. Canary Islands Stonechat Saxicola dacotiae         02/03/2018         Barranco de Rio Cabreas
  43. Spanish Sparrow             Passer hispaniolensis      02/03/2018         Barranco de Rio Cabreas
  44. White Wagtail                   Motacilla alba    02/03/2018         Barranco de Rio Cabreas
  45. Olive-backed Pipit          Anthus hodgsoni              03/03/2018         Costa Calma
  46. Berthelot's Pipit               Anthus berthelotii             02/03/2018         Tindaya Plain
  47. Common Chaffinch        Fringilla coelebs 03/03/2018         Costa Calma
  48. Brambling                           Fringilla montifringilla     03/03/2018         Costa Calma
  49. Trumpeter Finch             Bucanetes githagineus   02/03/2018         Barranco de Rio Cabreas
  50. Common Linnet               Linaria cannabina             03/03/2018         Costa Calma
  51. European Goldfinch       Carduelis carduelis           03/03/2018         Costa Calma
  52. European Serin                Serinus serinus   03/03/2018         Costa Calma
  53. Eurasian Siskin                  Spinus spinus      03/03/2018         Costa Calma
  54. Little Bunting                    Emberiza pusilla                03/03/2018         Costa Calma


        Stone Curlew was heard at Oliva