Sunday 1 January 2012

Fuerteventura: Common birds… and a mega!

I mentioned before that we targeted a few sites with fresh water on the island, since these tend to pull in a variety of species, regularly including rarities. One of sites was the pool at Rosa de Catalina Garcia, which had just produced the goods in a big way just a few days before our arrival: a vagrant Allen’s Gallinule from sub-Saharan Africa, and something of a Western Palearctic mega.

On arrival at the site, we found a predictably large number of Canarian twitchers – none, and just one guy who’d travelled from Germany! He’d seen the bird the day before, and after about an hour’s wait, it reappeared and showed well for a few minutes, often climbing around a few feet up in the reeds. Never particularly close, this is the best shot I managed. It really was that bright blue!


Catalina Garcia held a number of other decent birds, including a 1w/fem Blue-winged Teal, a Spotted Crake, and a remarkable range of waders over a couple of visits : Little Stint, Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, 4 Black-tailed Godwit, Black-winged Stilt, 2 Ruff, up to 18 Little Ringed, a few Ringed and a Kentish Plover, a couple of Dunlin, and a few Common Sandpiper. And I missed a Yellow-browed Warbler, and a Eurasian Bittern which had been seen a few days earlier! All this around a pool no more than 100m across…


Another (rather less spectacular) lifer was bagged easily on a brief wander outside our hotel on the very first morning: Berthelot’s Pipits turned out to be pretty abundant in any suitable habitat, including rough ground earmarked for further development, and even around mirador (viewpoint) laybys – so no habitat shortage there! At times, these were coming closer than my 1.8m minimum focus distance.


A few other pics of relatively common species now – first, an almost hand-tame Raven at another mirador. Not a bird you often see particularly close (leaving the Tower of London aside).


Ruddy Shelducks were all over the place on Fuerteventura. The first breeding record on the island was not long ago, in 1994, but a small population has clearly built up – our peak count was around 120 at Embalse de Los Molinos. There was also an apparent roost gathering of 25+ at Catalina Garcia late afternoon.


The common sparrow on the islands is Spanish – smart birds!


Next, perhaps a bird you wouldn’t have down as common – but Spectacled Warblers were also all over the place, usually picked up initially by their rattlesnake like call.


And finally, one of my favourite birds of the trip: Blue Tits! When you go out of your way to see these in a different context, and they’re strikingly different to the regular British race, you realise just how good value the whole species is – if Blue Tit was rare in the UK, it would pull an enormous crowd!

These are all the degener race found on Fuerteventura. In addition to the very dark blue cap and darker mantle shown by all birds on the Canaries, this race also shows a wing bar, similar to the African ultramarinus race that occurs in Morocco.


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