Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds


Tuesday, 12 December 2017

8th-11th December - Fuerteventura

With a few days of holiday to use up, and the arrival of a Dwarf Bittern in Fuerteventura, I decided to take a long weekend on the island in order to connect with this Western Palearctic mega. Ultimately crippling views were obtained, and I also managed two further WP lifers in the shape of Fuerteventura Chat and Houbara Bustard. Despite Jet2 postponing our flight for nearly 24 hours, the break was a success and well worth going ahead with.
Dwarf Bittern, Barranco del Rio Cabras, 9/12/2017

Friday 8th

I met Josh J at Stansted at 09:00, and several hours later we’d arrived at a pleasantly warm and sunny Fuerteventura. The Bittern site wasn’t far from the airport, and Plain Swift and Egyptian Vulture were seen on the way there. The site in question was a larger than expected barranco, and it turned out to hold a nice variety of species. One of the first ones we saw was the Dwarf Bittern, as it stalked the waterside from a rocky shoreline.

We scrambled down, and eventually took in wonderful views when it crept out of a tamarisk and began to hunt. The bird, which was the fifth Western Palearctic record, allowed close proximity and thus a careful examination of it’s rather bold plumage. A slightly washed out royal blue ran into streaks on a creamy breast and underparts, and the bird’s bright yellow legs and bill, and dull red eye stood out. It was very much in the zone as it took insect and fry prey from the shallow stream, occasionally scuttling on to another position. It was seemingly more bothered by noise than movement, and was seen to fly to a different part of the barranco a couple times if spooked.

Whilst taking this in, a handful of Fuerteventura Chats, ultramarinus African Blue Tits, Chiffchaffs and Berthelot’s Pipits provided a decent supporting cast of birds. Other species noted on this particular visit included Ravens, Ruddy Shelducks, Black-winged Stilts, a Green Sandpiper and a Southern Grey Shrike. With 2 of the targets secured in the first few hours of the trip, we headed to our apartment and enjoyed some tapas and cervesas before getting an early night.
Fuerteventura Chat, Brranco del Rio Cabras, 9/12/2017

Saturday 9th 

With one target remaining, we hit up Tindaya Plain pre-dawn in order to stake out some Houbara Bustards. This we managed relatively easily, and in total 5 different birds were seen, though whilst some of the birds weren’t too distant the views weren’t fantastic, and the closer ones seemed wary and privy to our presence. Once the sun was firmly up they became more active, picking at the rather tasteless looking scrubs dotted throughout the vast, arid plain.

Birds, naturally, were thin on the ground here, though we managed 5+ Black-bellied Sandgrouse, singles of Trumpeter Finch, Spectacled Warbler and Cream-coloured Courser and a flock of 15+ Lesser Short-toed Larks. With the Bustards not looking like they’d show any better, we decided to head to Puerto del Rosario in an attempt to locate some gulls. Surprisingly there wasn’t one to be found in the harbour (just a couple of Sandwich Terns), and so we collected Rich B from the airport and took him to the Dwarf Bittern site.

Again, it took little time to find the bird, and once more a little patience was rewarded with excellent views as the bird worked its way down the barranco. We also enjoyed much better views of the Chats, and a couple of White Storks joined the Egyptian Vultures, Buzzards and Ravens soaring overhead. We also made a third and final visit not long before dusk, and despite having only brief flight views of the Dwarf Bittern we did see our only Laughing Dove of the trip.

Between the two Bittern sessions we visited Los Molinos reservoir, where a staggering number (150+) of Ruddy Shelducks were present. Also about were 5 Spoonbills, a handful of Little Egrets, a Greenshank and Common Sandpiper, 12+ Black-bellied Sandgrouse, some Spanish Sparrows and a Tufted Duck.

Sunday 10th and Monday 11th 

Houbara Bustard, Tindaya Plain, 10/12/2017
We could have gone home on Saturday afternoon, quite happily, but had booked to depart on Sunday afternoon. In the morning before our flight we went back for the Houbara Bustards, and this time managed simply fantastic views of one bird, as well as more distant ones of at least 2 others. After that we tried to find some gulls at various sites, with no joy, and so set off to the airport.

With a little snowfall in the UK Stansted was unsurprisingly in meltdown, and our flight went from seriously delayed to postponed. I won’t bore you with the details, but we all had to miss a day of work, and were shuttled off to a hotel for the night which Jet2 paid for. Eventually, nearly 24 hours later than planned, we made it back home. Pretty frustrating, and as mentioned the trip could have been happily concluded by Saturday afternoon, but 3 ticks (with great views of each one) and good company made it worthwhile.