A few details about the isle
For those who would like to go directly to the list of birds I saw, please click here.
Time difference : one hour behind France.
Characteristics of the isle: Fuerteventura is a very dry mountainous island, whose population lives mainly in the south and the east. The most beautiful landscapes are found in the west, not always easily accessible, and in the centre. We stayed in the island from 27 February to 6 March 2010 and found that the temperatures ranging from 13 to 23°C were very pleasant at that time of the year. The wind was never very strong, except in the mountains.
This is a rocky island but there are also beautiful yellow sand beaches, especially in the south. As this island was formed by volcanoes, you will find numerous places called Malpaís covered with a'a type lava where walking is pretty rough. Still, if you want to see certain animal species, you will have to go there. There are few trees and the vegetation is of the type you will find in dried-out steppes. There are palm trees, especially along the wadis (Barrancos), prickly pear cactuses, mimosa and the eucalyptus has been introduced. You'll find nice sand dunes near Corralejo in the north and Morro Jable in the south. These dunes are still moving in Corralejo and bulldozer drivers find it hard to hold them back.
The Betancuria Barranco (Photo Danielle Joannès)
The island is very dry and water is precious. It comes from a desalination plant and local people say it is not always fit for drinking. Not wishing to take any risks we only drank bottled water, just like all tourists.
There are many Germans and Britons in Fuerteventura and they stand out in the local population. When they meet you, the British will say "Hello", the Germans "Hallo" and the local people "Hola". The few French we met just said "Bonjour". I made efforts to improve my Spanish and it enabled me to learn quite a few things that you will never find in a travel catalogue.
Bayuyo, a former volcano (Photo Danielle Joannès)
Driving: The roads are just magic and well tended but you will find few places where to park, except if you have a SUV which will enable you to drive off the thick layer of macadam down to the road side. There are also gravel roads which you can use with an ordinary car if you are cautious. On the whole, people drive normally and there is little traffic, except in Puerto Rosario, the capital city. Fuerteventura is the second largest Canary isle and we logged about 1000 km in a week.
Keep an eye on your petrol tank because you will not find service stations just anywhere, even if you are never far from a small town. Fuel was about 30 to 35% less expensive than in France. The car we had rented with Hertz had a tank filled to a quarter and we had to give it back with the same amount of fuel. Try to calculate the fuel you will use if you don't want to be cheated. The car was in good repair except that you couldn't open the tank door if you were alone. My wife had to pull the lever up while I pulled the door open. Otherwise, it would just not open. Fortunately, the people at the agency were not fussy at all about the scratches or little dents that come with rental cars.
Magic carpet (Photo Danielle Joannès)
On the East coast, from the North to the South:
Corralejo Sand dunes (Photo Danielle Joannès)
Centre of the isle, from the north to the south:
Stony plain near Villa Verde (Photo Danielle Joannès)
We booked our trip through a Neckermann travel agency at the airport in Saarbrücken, Germany. Paying was a bit complicated because this agency does not accept Visa cards! We flew with Hamburg International but will not do it again. Although we had arrived early we were given seats right at the very back of the plane, without a window.
27 February 2010. The plane arrived one hour late in Puerto Rosario because it had to fly head against the contrary winds of storm Xynthia which made itself infamous causing the death of 53 people in France. Sitting in the bus to our hotel in Corralejo, we watched the gloomy landscape of the island, which even looked more gloomy because of the numerous unfinished hotels. Lack of funds probably explains this. We settled in the Lobos Bahía Club hotel. True enough, this hotel needs a few paint coats here and there but it was quite good for the price we paid. The swimming-pool, located in the middle of the complex, must be pretty noisy in the high season but we had carefully avoided to come during the holidays.
Sand dunes near Corralejo (Photo Danielle Joannès)
As we had little time, we decided to visit the sand dunes near Corralejo. This is where I saw my first Spanish Sparrows.
Male Spanish Sparrow (Photo Gérard Joannès)
After a few hundred metres, I saw a Eurasian Thick-Knee and a Southern Grey Shrike, which I found pretty dark. There were also several Wild Rabbits and, in the middle of the gorse and the sand, a Whimbrel. The sand dunes were nice but we knew we would come there again so we went to the north of the island to have a look at the Malpaís de Bayuyo. Bringing my heavy walking boots was a brilliant idea because in spite of the thick Vibram soles I could still feel the cutting stones roll under my feet. The landscape was like that of the moon except that there were birds in the vicinity: Eurasian Hoopoe, Berthelot's Pipit and Barbary Partridge.
Southern Grey Shrike (Photo Gérard Joannès)
28 February 2010. We wanted to have a better impression of the isle so we decided to go west where I knew the countryside was much more beautiful, and so it was. We went up to the Mirador de Morro Veloso which unfortunately was closed, that day being a Sunday. We did not mind because the view was gorgeous and we even saw an Egyptian Vulture flying above us.
The view from the Mirador de Morro Veloso (Photo Danielle Joannès)
We then drove to the picturesque village of Betancuria where African Blue Tits, sporting a very dark blue cap, were perched in the palm trees. Surprisingly, the lovely little church was closed too. Just before leaving the village, I went for a walk in the barranco where I spotted numerous Spanish Sparrows and a pair of Barbary Partridges.
Close by, Barbary Ground Squirrels were eying me, ready to jump at any food I might have for them.
Barbary Ground Squirrel (Photo Gérard Joannès)
It was nice to feel the sun warming my skin and I almost forgot it was still winter. We drove on as far as Ajuy where we walked on the black sand beach before returning to our hotel. In the area of Tefia we saw two Ruddy Shelducks flying towards the barrage of Los Molinos, close by.
The beach in Ajuy (Photo Danielle Joannès)
01 March 2010. We proceeded with our discovery of the island, heading for the south, then coming back to our hotel inland. We made a short visit of Puerto Rosario and liked only the town centre. Unlike in other places, there was a lot of traffic there. We then made a short stop in the pleasant resort of Calheta de Fuste and some sea-watching produced 2 Cory's Shearwaters, a Sandwich and a Common Tern and a Whimbrel. Far off, over the sea, I saw about 10 big white birds migrating but I had no telescope so I can only suppose they were Eurasian Spoonbills.
Centre of the island (Photo de Danielle Joannès)
We stopped over at Las Salinas but the salt museum was closed, as is always the case on Sundays and Mondays. Fortunately enough, the salt works were open and I saw a few waders: Ruddy Turnstones, a Common Redshank and a Black-winged Stilt. I then went on my own to the Barranco de la Torre in order to see less common birds. I went as far as the palm grove, which was closed by the way, because birds were nesting. Apart from a few Berthelot's Pipits and Spectacled Warblers I did not see any worthwhile bird. The site is picturesque although a bit spoiled by old derelict campers which are apparently allowed there.
Female Canary Chat (Photo Gérard Joannès)
02 March 2001. It had rained in the night and, in spite of the wind, the sky had not cleared up when we awoke. We therefore decided to stay along the coast and visit the southern part of the island. This meant a 300 km return trip but it would be an opportunity to see those beautiful sand beaches and good-looking tourists. The road leading south was terrific and there was even a small highway to Morro Jable. You will certainly have seen in various travel catalogues this famous roundabout with all those kids look up to the sky. Well, you can't miss it when you reach this town.
A truly original roundabout (Photo Danielle Joannès)
Morro Jable is a summer resort like many others and it looks like any town of the French Riviera or the Costa Brava. Buildings, hotels, shops, everything a tourist might need. Still, the beach is some way off and I was delighted to see they have kept a natural stretch of land where, on my way back north, I saw 3 Sacred Ibises, 6 Cattle Egrets and 2 Crowned Cranes. Those exotic birds probably came as tourists too.
Crowned Crane (Photo Gérard Joannès)
We wanted to go the southernmost point of the island but what was mentioned as a pretty good road on my map was actually a bad stony road full of potholes so we gave up for lack of time. We followed the western coast via the small village of La Pared, which we left with some difficulties because there was no sign indicating the way out. Road F-605 is really nice and you have to make a stop at the Los Mojones viewpoint. Don't miss it because you won't be able to stop for some time.
Los Mojones (Photo Danielle Joannès)
We then took a few roads we already knew and stopped over at the Antigua Windmill. I took advantage of this pause to take a walk in the stony plain around and, among other birds, I spotted 6 Black-bellied Sandgrouse and 17 Lesser Short-toed Larks. Before going back to our hotel, we wanted to see the wall paintings in the little church of La Ampuyenta but it was closed. I suppose they open churches only during the high season.
La Ampuyenta: Ermita de San Pedro de Alcántara (Photo Danielle Joannès)
03 March 2010. We visited the Cueva del Llano, that is to say a lava tunnel on the road from Corralejo to La Oliva, just before Villa Verde. We learnt a good many things about the volcanic past of the Canary Isles and the visit was well organised. As we had arrived before the opening time, I had the opportunity to walk about in the stony plain, not knowing that my wife, who had remained on the car park was lucky enough to see 4 Cream-coloured Coursers. As for me, I saw a few Lesser Short-toed Larks and 2 Black-bellied Sandgrouse.
After this visit, we drove on towards Tindaya, following the dust road as far as the sea. I was overjoyed when I saw a Houbara Bustard in excellent conditions together with Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Lesser Short-toed Larks, and 4 Cream-coloured Coursers. Well, this place was really worth stopping at.
We then went to the Embalse de Los Molinos, another great birding spot. Do not miss it. Driving there was quite easy and although the barrage did not hold much water, there were still birds to watch. There were about 30 Ruddy Shelducks and their chicks, a Black-winged Stilt, a Common Greenshank, a Common Redshank and a few Common Coots. On the rocky banks of the barrage, 2 Trumpeter Finches disclosed their presence singing and in the stony plain I saw 5 Cream-coloured Coursers. There were also many goats. Be careful not to frighten the kids because they tend to run away through the holes in the wire netting and will have a hard time finding their parents again.
Southern Grey Shrike (Photo Gérard Joannès)
|01||Cory's Shearwater||Calonectris borealis||A few individuals off the coasts at Calheta de Fuste and Corralejo.|
|02||Cattle Egret||Bubulcus ibis||Only a few birds in Morro Jable.|
|03||Little Egret||Egretta garzetta||A common bird along the coasts and in barrancos.|
|04||Grey Heron||Ardea cinerea||Some at the sea-side.|
|05||Sacred Ibis||Threskiornis aethiopicus||3 birds in Morro Jable.|
|06||Eurasian Spoonbill||Platalea leucorodia||Uncertain observation. I didn't see these birds very well but I don't know what else they might have been.|
|07||Ruddy Shelduck||Tadorna ferruginea||This species was seen mainly at the Embalse de Los Molinos.|
|08||Egyptian Vulture||Neophron percnopterus||Seen three times in the middle of the isle.|
|09||Common Buzzard||Buteo buteo||Seen regularly in the middle of the isle. Contrary to what I expected after reading some trip reports, only one individual had a russet tail.|
|10||Common Kestrel||Falco tinnunculus||Pretty common indeed.|
|11||Barbary Partridge||Alectoris barbara||Seen several times in rocky areas.|
|12||Common Coot||Fulica atra||Only at the Embalse de Los Molinos.|
|13||Crowned Crane||Balearica pavonina||2 escapes in Morro Jable.|
|14||Houbara Bustard||Chlamydotis undulata||One bird showed well at Tindaya and another, more elusive, at Las Parceles.|
|15||Black-winged Stilt||Himantopus himantopus||Very few individuals at Las Salinas and at the Embalse de Los Molinos.|
|16||Eurasian Stone-Curlew||Burhinus oedicnemus||One individual flushed out in the Corralejo dunes.|
|17||Cream-coloured Courser||Cursorius cursor||A few individuals in the stony plains.|
|18||Little Ringed Plover||Charadrius dubius||A few birds seen at the Embalse de Los Molinos.|
|19||Great Ringed Plover||Charadrius hiaticula||A few birds.|
|20||Grey Plover||Pluvialis squatarola||A few birds at the sea-side in Corralejo.|
|21||Ruddy Turnstone||Arenaria interpres||Observed several times.|
|22||Green Sandpiper||Tringa ochropus||One bird at the Embalse de Los Molinos.|
|23||Common Sandpiper||Actitis hypoleucos||In small numbers only.|
|24||Common Redshank||Tringa totanus||Seen twice.|
|25||Common Greenshank||Tringa nebularia||Seen once only.|
|26||Whimbrel||Numenius phaeopus||A few birds at the sea-side but also one bird in sand dunes.|
|27||Yellow-legged Gull||Larus michahellis||Very common everywhere.|
|28||Lesser Black-backed Gull||Larus fuscus||Seen twice only.|
|29||Sandwich Tern||Sterna sandvicensis||One bird only.|
|30||Common Tern||Sterna hirundo||One bird only.|
|31||Black-bellied Sandgrouse||Pterocles orientalis||A few birds observed in stony plains.|
|32||Rock Dove||Columba livia||Present in towns and cliffs.|
|33||Eurasian Collared Dove||Streptopelia decaocto||Very common, especiall in palm groves.|
|34||European Turtle-Dove||Streptopelia turtur||Rather common.|
|35||Common Swift||Apus apus||A few birds.|
|36||Pallid Swift||Apus pallidus||A few birds.|
|37||Plain Swift||Apus unicolor||3 birds in Betancuria.|
|38||Eurasian Hoopoe||Upupa epops||Rather common.|
|39||Lesser Short-toed Lark||Calandrella rufescens||A few flocks in stony areas.|
|40||Barn Swallow||Hirundo rustica||A few birds.|
|41||Berthelot's Pipit||Anthus berthelotii||Very common everywhere.|
|42||Canary Chat||Saxicola dacotiae||Seen a few times. A rather elusive bird.|
|43||Blackcap||Sylvia atricapilla||A few birds.|
|44||Sardinian Warbler||Sylvia melanocephala||In small numbers.|
|45||Spectacled Warbler||Sylvia conspicillata||A few birds.|
|46||African blue Tit||Cyanistes teneriffae||A few birds in the palm groves, especially in Betancuria. The dark blue cap of this taxon is striking.|
|47||Southern Grey Shrike||Lanius meridionalis koenigi||A common bird. Those I saw were rather dark underside.|
|48||Common Raven||Corvus corax||Common indeed.|
|49||Spanish Sparrow||Passer hispaniolensis||Abundant where there are trees or houses.|
|50||Eurasian Linnet||Carduelis cannabina||A small flock in the mountains at Morro de Veloso.|
|51||Island Canary||Serinus canaria||It has been introduced in the Betancuria area where I found one individual.|
|52||Trumpeter Finch||Bucanetes githagineus||A few birds, especially at the Embalse de Los Molinos.|
|53||Corn Bunting||Miliaria calandra||One bird only seen in a barranco.|
Other animal species:
Wild Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Common in the sand dunes of Corralejo.
Barbary Ground Squirrel (Atlantoxerus getulus). An introduced species. Common everywhere.
North-African Hedgehog (Atelerix algirus). Common, at least as roadkill.
Haria Lizard (Galiotia atlantica atlantica). It is hard to get a good view of this common lizard.