Sunday, 11 December 2011

Winter Fun on Fuerteventura

The fun started yesterday morning - with an early morning charter flight with the lovely Thomson airline, a company that I'd been delayed by 56 hours with in Israel a few years ago. This time though, things were smooth - apart from some twat that the stupid air hostesses had allowed to buy 12 cans of Stella on the flight. Lee and I therefore arrived on the island just after midday and away we went, and off on the trail of rectifying a bird that had been taken from me by a white van man and a cunning Englishman who didn't know a word of Spanish.

Heading south after picking up the extremely cheap rent-a-car, first notable bird was an adult Egyptian Vulture over Barranco de la Torre - but this was just the sideshow. In no time at all, we'd pulled into Rosa de Catalina Garcia, a tidy little reservoir/pool that was full of birds in the otherwise waterless landscape.
Rosa de Catalina Garcia, Fuerteventura
Ruddy Shelduck
Berthelot's Pipit
Ruddy Shelducks were pretty obvious - at least seven (most seen at once), but probably more came and went during the afternoon - and so too were those pesky Stilts, LRPs and lots of Berthelot's Pipits mincing around and about. A small group of Teal held something more interesting - a nice Blue-winged Teal, that spent most of the afternoon alert and on the move with its slightly smaller congeners. I always enjoy vagrants from across the pond, no matter where I am, so this was a bonus. However, after an hour of no show - and Hans and Bosse arriving - I was starting to get worried about the main prize.
BWT - upperwing

BWT - underwing, belly and legs
It was all well and good that I'd seen some nice bits and bobs, but with the books not marking themselves back home, there was only one reason why I was on this pretty rancid island - and after patiently waiting, the Allen's Gallinule flew out of the reeds and then proceeded to feed on the more distant muddy edge. It looked something like this... presumably an adult bird, with a rather dull bill. If you want to see it up close and personal then have a look at this shot from my mate David Monticelli.
The gallinule for most of the afternoon remained fairly elusive, though did spend periods of time probing on the reed fringes for food. Other birds included Ruff, Spotted Redshank, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper... a nice assortment of waders. Also good to remember where I was by the fact that Lesser Short-toed Larks and Trumpeter Finches came down to drink at the pool, and Spectacled Warblers were pretty common too. Oh yeah, this bad boy showed late on too.
Not too well-versed with what's what in terms of historic Canaries records, I can't imagine there have been too many Great Bitterns? There was also a 1st-winter Spotted Crake in the reedbed last thing in the evening, before the sun set and I got whisked off to some shit hole of a resort called Caleta de Fuste (where I'd stayed in 2003) and to The Trafalgar Pub for dinner. It was the first time I'd ever been to an English bar abroad - I thought bloody Johnny Vegas and his Benidorm crew were about to walk out any second. At least the beers were cheap.

I only had a hour or so of birding light this morning before the flight, and being on the island perhaps for the last time, it was rude to leave without its endemic chat. So I old-schooled it and went down to Barranco de la Torre, the place I'd seen them most consistently 8 years ago. And though the tamarisk clumps had grown considerably two Canary Islands' Chats were found in the time available - a male and a female. 30 Trumpeter Finches and a few scratchy Sardinian Warblers were in the mix too.
The Ryanair flight left on time, and I was back home in my London flat for just after 5pm. It's remarkable what you can do in a weekend.

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