Lesser Florican - August 2023

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Sunday 10 December 2017

Fuerteventura - 8th & 9th December 2017

With constant positive news and some lovely photos coming out of the Dwarf Bittern on Fuerteventura, my interest in seeing this bird was becoming more and more intense. I am in no means a Western Palearctic lister, nor do I keep a list of this region, however having been to Africa five times and still yet to get even a sniff of a Dwarf Bittern, I felt it was a good decision in trying to see this bird. With staff travel flights at £37 return I needed no more pushing, and Friday morning I set off to LGW for an early on time departure bound for the Canaries.

I felt I only needed one night having been here back in 2014 and finding everything I needed to, but it turns out I only needed the one night regardless if I had visited before or not.

Dwarf Bittern on Fuerteventura - 5th record for the Western Palearctic region
Upon landing I quickly got my hire car and it was only a 15 minute drive to the Barranco de Rio Cabras, and after a bit of confusion I found some parked cars seemingly abandoned in the middle of the desert like landscape. Once on site, I was pleased to see Gordon Beck further up the Barranco, and also to then realise I was standing next to the WP's highest lister, Ernie Davies. Initially there was no sign of the Bittern, but with such pristine looking habitat I was sure a dip wasn't imminent. Some good birds including Egyptian Vultures, Trumpeter Finches, Hoopoes, White Storks, Fuerteventura Stonechats & Fuerteventura Blue Tits kept the spirits high.

Egyptian Vulture

White Stork
the 'car park' in the distance

After a short time I located the Dwarf Bittern by accidentally flushing it from a small pool, and the five of us after initially only getting flight views, found the bird by a dam where it remained for a good few hours, at times showing very nicely as it hunted along the Barranco. Not only this, a Barbary Falcon flying over was an added bonus, as was the fantastic supporting cast of islands goodies.

initial tantalising views of the Dwarf Bittern

Dwarf Bittern

Berthelot's Pipit - a common sight around The Canaries

Barranco de Rio Cabras
With fantastic views and with the bird moving down the channel I decided to leave, and now it being late afternoon I thought this would be the best time to see a Houbara Bustard, and so I set off to a site I saw some a few years just north of Antigua at km 18. Despite the windy conditions, driving around this small site eventually yielded a single Bustard. Again really nice views.

Houbara Bustard
With time now getting on I set off for the hotel just south of the airport where I may have drank a bit too much, and this resulted in a slightly later start then originally planned the next day, however this still meant I was the only birder on site back at the Dwarf Bittern. With no disturbance in the Barranco today, some good birds were seen with two each of Spoonbill and White Stork, Spectacled Warblers, Ruddy Shelducks, more Fuerteventura Stonechats and Blue Tits, Trumpeter Finches and plenty of Berthelot's Pipits. It took me about an hour to locate the Bittern, this time it flew in from further down channel and landed nearby to me where it showed very well for a few minutes before flying further up the Barranco. I wasn't too fussed about going in search again so I left the site, but soon came to an abrupt halt as in front of me a Cream Coloured Courser ran across the road, and instead of running off to the distance, it just stayed put allowing such a close approach. 

Trumpeter Finches

male Fuerteventura Stonechat

Dwarf Bittern - just beats the Courser below

Cream Coloured Courser - couldn't have asked for better views
I was very satisfied with the mornings birding here and therefore I wanted to try and complete the 'Fuerteventura collection', and so headed to Los Molinos for Black-bellied Sandgrouse where eventually two were spotted flying around, only being picked up by their calls as I was trying to dose off in the car. Also in the goat pens here was a small flock of Lesser Short-toed Larks and more Trumpeter Finches.

Lesser Short-toed Lark
With the Sandgrouse in the bag I wanted to visit the valley a few km south of Betancuria at Vega de Rio Palmas which can be a good site for wintering migrants. What I wasn't expecting were two new Dragonfly species, these being Scarlet Darter and The Epaulet Skimmer. Birds were plentiful here with Ring Ouzels being very conspicuous, my only Sardinian Warblers of the trip and a complete surprise in the form of a Laughing Dove. I could have stayed in this dry riverbed all afternoon but sadly I had to get to the airport for my flight home. A staggeringly good trip cleaning up on all targets.

The Epaulet Skimmer

Scarlet Darter

My personal highlights from the two days:

Dwarf Bittern - 1 adult
Fuerteventura Blue Tit - common at Barranco de Rio Cabras & Vega de Rio Palmas
Fuerteventura Stonechat - common at Barranco de Rio Cabras
Trumpeter Finch - common 
Egyptian Vulture - at least 6 birds around Barranco de Rio Cabras
Berthelot's Pipit - common
Cream Coloured Courser - 2 seen on flat land above Barranco de Rio Cabras
Houbara Bustard - single bird west of FV-20 at km 18 north of Antigua
Ruddy Shelduck - most inland water sources held this species
Barbary Falcon - single bird at Barranco de Rio Cabras
Spoonbill - 2 flying east at Barranco de Rio Cabras
Lesser Short-toed Lark - flock of 9 at Los Molinos
White Stork - pair at Barranco de Rio Cabras
Black-bellied Sandgrouse - pair at Los Molinos
Sardinian Warbler - common at Vega de Rio Palmas
Ring Ouzel - common at Vega de Rio Palmas
Laughing Dove - single bird at Vega de Rio Palmas
Spectacled Warbler - common
Southern Grey Shrike - common

Barbary Ground Squirrel 
Scarlet Darter
The Epaulet Skimmer