More Canaries

I'm out of action. For today’s post I put together more archived material. This selection is from January 2013, a winter escape to Fuerteventura, just 60 miles from the coast of Morocco, North Africa.

Fuerteventura is the oldest Canary Island, formed about 70 million years ago as a result of volcanic activity. The geographical position of Fuerteventura means that for many tens of thousands of years sand from the Sahara has been deposited on Fuerteventura's shores, resulting in 125 miles of the world's finest beaches. 

Beach Fuerteventura

Fuerteventura Beach

Little Egret

I volunteered to check out a few beaches for waders and clocked up Kentish Plover, Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Sanderling, Whimbrel, Grey Plover, Redshank, Greenshank, Bar-tailed Godwit and Curlew.  Lots of Sandwich Terns buzzed along the shoreline too, West Africa being a hot-spot for seeing the species.


Kentish Plover


Sandwich Tern

Anyone planning a trip to Fuerteventura should be forewarned that the island is something of an exhibitionist paradise.  Couples of all persuasions think nothing of walking hand in hand along  the fine sand beaches.

Beach Bums, Fuerteventura  

Although holding a certain attraction, the beaches of Fuerteventura weren’t the sole interest of the holiday. A hire car for a few days gave a chance to explore the island although at approximately 650 square miles there’s a lot of ground to cover. A pure white car may not have been ideal for approaching cautious birds like Cream-coloured Courser, Stone Curlew or Houbara Bustard, the birds of the sandy plains.


Over the Plains Fuerteventura

Cream-coloured Courser

Stone Curlew

There were lots of Lesser Short-toed Larks on the dry, open plains with small gangs of Linnets and occasional Desert Grey Shrikes. The Linnets were very unapproachable, likewise the Goldfinches that can be glimpsed in greener parts of the island. The Linnets in the Canary Islands belong to the race/subspecies Linaria cannabina mediterranea, and in these desert islands have a sandy appearance. 


Desert Grey Shrike

Lesser Short-toed Lark

We journeyed through the centre of the island through the village of Betancuria and on to the highest parts of the island at 600 metres, giving a spectacular outlook on the landscape below and distant views of an Egyptian Vulture. This species is apparently now rare on the island as they are elsewhere in its range and we had just two sightings of the vulture in two weeks.

Egyptian Vulture

Fuerteventura January 2013


Fuerteventura, January 2013.

Inland birds and around the village of Betancuria proved to be Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Kestrel, African Blue Tit, Spectacled Warbler and Trumpeter Finch. The latter three were all new birds for me with the wary Trumpeter Finch a particular favourite, due to its slightly comical appearance.

Betancuria - Fuerteventura

Betancuria - Fuerteventura

Trumpeter Finch

A few Spectacled Warblers were in song, and we guessed the breeding season to be early in these parts.

Spectacled Warbler

The so named Canary Islands Stonechat Saxicola dacotiae is found only on Fuerteventura where it is said to frequent dried up river beds, the "barrancos", dotted around the island. I found them in a couple of locations where houses ran down to the beach, one time finding one feeding on the tide wrack with Berthelot’s Pipits. This endemic species is very like a very dark-headed Whinchat rather than a Stonechat but it has the chat like habits of both.

Berthelot's Pipit

Canary Islands Stonechat - CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons


We enjoyed our single visit to Fuerteventura and Costa Calma, a large bay approximately 1.5 km long.  Southwards it is possible to walk along the beach to Morro Jable for approximately 21 km.  

Costa Calma Hotel

In the quiet parts of the hotel grounds were Spanish Sparrows, a pair of Hoopoes, the resident Kestrel and at least one White Wagtail, following  the gardener’s watering hosepipe so as to locate insects. There were Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs about the grounds but they kept out of sight in the strong sunshine of most days.


 Spanish Sparrow


African Market, Costa Calma

As very birder knows, there’s a price to pay for a spot of birding, brownie points to be earned and then banked for another day with bins and camera. Here in Costa Calma it’s the “African” market where bartering is the order of the day followed by a glass or two of wine reflecting on the fading light and planning the day to come.


More soon. Stay tuned.

Linking this post to Anni's Birding Blog and Eileen's Saturday.