Monday, 25 December 2017

Dwarf Bittern twitch to Fuerteventura

I came out of Western Palearctic retirement a couple of weekends ago. There are a few birds that, despite never likely to occur in Britain/Ireland, still hold that bit of mystique due to their WP status. And a Dwarf Bittern that had recently been found on Fuerteventura was a classic example of that type of bird. Not exactly easy to see in their native sub-Saharan range, and an extreme vagrant to the WP with no twitchable birds over the past decade either. With it lingering too, and showing nicely, that was all the more reason to have a weekend on a sun-soaked island.

Arriving late morning on the Saturday, I was kindly picked up by Josh J and Ed S who'd arrived on the island the day before. A quick drive took us to Barranco de Rio Cabras where, parking in the middle of the desert, we quickly walked a couple of hundred yards to the barranco (canyon/wadi) where there the bird had been. It was a bit of a surprise to find so much water and vegetation down in the bottom, but as the other guys had seen the bittern the day before, it didn't take long to locate: -

Dwarf Bittern Barranco de Rio Cabras, Fuerteventura 9th December 2017
It was a really showy bird, so long as you waited for it to feed along the small stream - any sudden movement, and it was gone. A proper delight to see, more reminiscent of a Striated/Green Heron rather than a bittern in terms of how it was feeding. The place was also full of other decent species with a couple of pairs of Fuerteventura Chats, two White Storks, Egyptian Vultures, Berthelot's Pipits and African Blue Tits all seen in the barranco on the couple of visits we made there.
Fuerteventura Chat Barranco de Rio Cabras, Fuerteventura 9th December 2017
It's rude on any trip to Fuerteventura to not go and see its resident specialities, so on the Sunday morning the Tindaya Plains delivered with five Houbara Bustards, including a showy bird just as we were heading off: -

Houbara Bustard Tindaya Plains, Fuerteventura 10th December 2017
This was my third visit to the island (following an Allen's Gallinule twitch in December 2011 and a week there back in 2003), and one thing that was really obvious was the spread of Ruddy Shelducks like wildfire. There were nearly a couple of hundred of them at the traditional site of Embalse de los Molinos, while even in Caleta de Fuste - on the golf course there - there must have been in excess of fifty of the beasts.
Ruddy Shelduck Caleta de Fuste, Fuerteventura 11th December 2017
Unfortunately, on the way home our flight back to Stansted was cancelled due to snow there. This meant we had a bonus morning at the expense of Jet2, and while Josh and Ed scoffed their faces on rancid food, Alan L and I had a quick look around the golf course. The highlight being this Golden Plover: -
Golden Plover Caleta de Fuste, Fuerteventura 11th December 2017
And so that was that, another decent weekend break filled with nice memories, good tapas and pleasant company. Just what you want from WP twitches these days.

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