Monday, 8 February 2016

Fuerteventura Birding (2)

After a leisurely breakfast we made our way to the Tindaya Plain, an easy journey from La Oliva. Now I know the purist would say that we should have left at first light to see the desert birds at their finest, well I am mighty glad we didn't try to negotiate the road from Tindaya to Taca without full light. The winter rain takes a massive toll on the roads, huge cracks and potholes that could destroy the suspension of a small car like our Polo. It was bad enough as I, of course, scanned the expanse of  near desert for birds, whilst Liz kept shouting "Watch out"  - for a pothole - not a bird.

After yesterday's cornucopia of birds we had definitely got a famine on our hands, after several kilometres all we had seen was a Southern Grey Shrike, a pair of argumentative Ravens and a Kestrel that inhabited the ruins on the right of the road. Two Barbary Ground Squirrels entertained us by carrying away lumps of white paper from the road to a secret lair somewhere amongst the vast expanse of broken rock.

We parked up and despair set in until we were overflown by two birds of distinctive shape, but without doubt the bubbling call gave the ID - two Black-bellied Sandgrouse. Then things picked up as the Berthelot's Pipits appeared, followed by several flocks, never more than twenty birds, of Lesser Short-toed Larks. A pattern that held for the week, rarely did we find a single lark and never close. A single Swallow flew arrow like across the road, heading purposefully north.

We did a 180 turn as we approached a tremendous hole in the road that no one in anything less than a 4x4 would attempt. Crawling back towards Tindaya we saw more BbS flying in, it is amazing that as they land amongst the pale coloured rocks they disappear immediately, so good is their camouflage that only movement gives them away. We met other hopeful birders coming down the road, none with exciting news, but we did receive information on where to find Cream-coloured Coursers. We motored back to the fig trees and sure enough several birds were about, at a distance where they could be recorded.

Soon we were joined by other birders and the extra pairs of eyes soon found more BbS. I was distracted by a blue butterfly which turned out to be nothing more than a Common Blue.

A grumpy Raven came in to find some of the figs that were well past their sell by date. Other than that it was very quiet so we left for El Cotillo. I found out later that evening that we had missed a Houbara Bustard that turned up just as we left. Violent waving was wasted as I never looked in the mirror just at the vast expanse of countryside.

El Cotillo was a big disappointment, just two Cream-coloured Coursers in the distance and despite scanning for two hours, nothing else turned up. I did manage a life tick butterfly in the guise of a Greenish Black Tip, in fact several were flitting about but trying to get a photograph was near impossible  as in the heat of the day they are manic.

We returned to the hotel via the Casa de los Coloneles, seeing more of the birds that we had seen on the previous day but nothing more exciting than three Buzzards. A birding tour had mentioned hearing a Barbary Partridge but despite searching and listening for an hour we turned up nothing. Back in the hotel garden the butterflies were active and I found Green Striped White, Geranium Bronze and a very tatty Lang's Short-tailed Blue - all life ticks.

That night. by chance, we decided to dine at the Mahoh restaurant, just up the hill from the hotel.  The food was fantastic but it was even better to meet the same birder who had waved to us at Tindaya. He gave me precise location details for a displaying Houbara Bustard at Rosa de los Negrines - something for which I am eternally grateful.

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