Sunday 31 May 2015

Family holiday with absolutely no ulterior motive whatsoever

So, I've just returned from an extremely successful family holiday to Fuerteventura. Sun, swimming pools, happy children, calm wife. Sorry, I mean Houbara Bustard and Canary Island Chat scored for my Western Pal list. And with some ease I might add, and with fabulous views I jest of course, this was a holiday basically about flopping about in the sun and doing very little, although I have to confess to choosing the island for said flopping very carefully indeed..... 

I won't be doing a trip report as such, this truly was a holiday. We were down at Jandia, staying at the northern end of Morro Jable in a typical Costa del family hotel - Iberostar, and if you are like me a birding dad, these hotels are brilliant. It had the advantage of being a mere ten minutes drive from the sandy plain that bisects the Jandia peninsula between Costa Calma and La Pared, and so on the second morning there I got up before breakfast and went for a little look, this was after all the entire point of the holiday ;-). I ditched the car at the end of the town and proceeded on foot in the pre-dawn. Lesser Short-toed Lark were abundant, whilst three Black-bellied Sandgrouse flushed from somewhere ahead. The real target eluded me for two hours however, before I crested a ridge and spied two distant Houbara. They also spied me, and immediately ran full pelt the other way, despite there already being 300m between us. I gave chase, but the birds melted into the landscape never to be seen again. Still, tick and run as they say, with me doing the ticking and the birds doing all the running. I trekked back to the car, via an interesting Stone Curlew and a koenigii Grey Shrike that was very posy. So, breakfast or a quick search for the Chat? Easy decision, and I headed back east along the FV2 to the hotel....turning right at the first barranco I came to!! This was called Pecenescal, and is just after the turning to Risco del Paso. I'd read that these dry valleys were the favoured habitat, and so it was no surprise after only a couple of km to hear the typical Stonechat calls. Four birds were present, and one responded magnificently to my pathetic attempts at "tukking" (I don't have any mp3s of the Macaronesian species for some reason despite having a Western Pal set of discs) coming in very close. So, in one morning both of the specialty species bagged, this is what family holidays are all about.

I made a couple more early morning forays to both this barranco and the plains, but the Chats never played ball again. I found a different pair up at Los Molinos reservoir that also quite like my noises, but for some reason the males were a lot harder to convince and remained too distant for the camera. However by far the majority of the week was spent doing diddly squat on a sun-lounger. Birds recorded in this manner included Barbary Falcon, Sacred and Hadada Ibis (both presumably escapees), House Martin, Swallow, Swift, Monk Parakeet, Spanish Sparrow, Berthelot's Pipit, Chiffchaff and Spotted Flycatcher. I think I notched up something like 40 species all in all, so a meagre total but with decent views of quite a lot. The plains were actually very difficult. In the course of three two hour visits I found three Houbara (the final one from the car and a lot closer), four Sandgrouse, one Stone Curlew, and zero Coursers. I can say with some confidence that by far the best tactic to employ is blind luck. Just wander around and hope basically, I got just lucky enough for what I wanted. Some decent photo ops as well, as I hope you can see - I don't always lug a large white lens on family holidays, but I am glad I did this time!

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