Fuerteventura is the second largest of the Canary Islands and has an arid desert-like landscape with an impressive volcanic, mountainous interior. Known locally as Viejo Pais Canario or 'the old country', Fuerteventura could be seen as a cheap and convenient alternative to North Africa, and though the birdlist is shorter, bustards, sandgrouse and coursers offer spectacular birding with a distinct feel of Morocco.
During this holiday we spend an exciting week discovering the avian life of the barrancos, key coastal locations, and the arid desert interior. In mid-March we will enjoy searching for the desert specialities of the island, plus other breeding birds and a variety of migrants. High on our list is Houbara Bustard, and we may be fortunate to see an individual conducting the impressive breeding display. Fuerteventura is a good destination for those wishing to see endangered Houbara, they are easier here than in many other places, and by using our vehicle as a hide, we hope for close-up views of this impressive display - the pics on this page were taken during our January 2015 visit.
Beautiful Cream-coloured Courser is also present in this semi-arid landscape, and we might see several birds running around in pairs, often standing upright to peer across the plains, and sometimes the birds scuttle close to our vehicles, allowing good photographic opportunities. The island's only endemic bird, Fuerteventura Chat, with only around 1,000 pairs in existence is another important species, and we hope to find these attractive 'stonechats' perching and perhaps singing at the top of thorny scrub vegetation in a few select ravines and slopes. Other key breeding birds include Barbary Partridge, Barbary Falcon, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Egyptian Vulture, Trumpeter Finch, Lesser Short-toed Lark, African Blue Tit (degener), and Canaries-endemic Berthelot's Pipit. Spanish Sparrow, Hoopoe, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Stone Curlew and Laughing Dove are among other resident birds of interest. Introduced species include Monk Parakeet and Red-vented Bulbul.
Migration promises to be exciting, and although sheer numbers may be lower than in a Mediterranean hotspot such as Mallorca or Lesvos, the location of Fuerteventura off the north-west coast of Africa makes migration a mouth-watering prospect.
We can expect Hirundines to include Red-rumped Swallow and possibly be joined by Pallid and Plain Swift. Raptors can of course be exected anywhere on the island, and migrants might include Egyptian Vulture, Montague's Harrier and Hen Harrier.
Other migrants may include White Stork, Bee-eater, Golden Oriole, Wryneck, Red-backed and Woodchat Shrike, Bluethroat and more, and we will target the Barrancos in search of migrant passerines including Subalpine, Western Bonelli's and Yellow-Browed Warblers. Turtle Dove and possibly alpestris Ring Ouzel may be passing through, and surprises can be expected too. The wet areas of the island can and do turn up some very good birds with Marbled and Ring-necked Duck being recorded regularly. Waders should be found in good numbers, and we should find Black-Winged Stilt, Kentish Plover, Little Stint, Spoonbill, Curlew Sandpiper and gatherings of Whimbrel. Squacco and Purple Herons may be present, and rarities have included Collared Pratincole, Spotted Sandpiper and White-rumped Sandpiper. Cultivated areas can hold small groups of Red-Throated Pipit and several races of Yellow Wagtail, while offshore numbers of Cory's Shearwater will be building and we should also pick up one or two Little Shearwater (baroli). Gulls might include Slender-Billed which should be attaining full breeding plumage. Our trip in January 2015 turned up Yellow-Billed Stork, a vagrant from tropical Africa, though this species has also occurred in March. A real trip of discovery at this time of year when anything can turn up!
This is a relaxed holiday, which may feature a couple of optional early morning starts to the hot plains to see birds before the heat haze makes viewing more difficult. Mealtimes are a pleasure in our comfortable hotel, so we will usually take a leisurely breakfast followed by a full day in the field. Birding is easy, and mostly close to our transport, though some optional short walks will be available. If you want relaxed birding, warm days and the chance to see some exceptional European birds at close range, this holiday, timed to coincide with early migration, is probably right for you!
Enjoy your complimentary pre-flight overnight hotel before your holiday. Full details from our office!
Day 1: Friday 9 March
After relaxing in our airport lounge, we fly Gatwick to Fuerteventura and transfer by minibus to our excellent hotel, just 40 minutes away. Located in a peaceful small town in the interior, our hotel has spacious and comfortable rooms, with large private bathrooms and a swimming pool. Food is excellent, with a wide choice of local cuisine at both breakfast and dinner; we know from experience that Heatherlea clients will love it here! After settling in we head out to a local plain to look for Houbara Bustard in an area designated as a reserve for these splendid birds. Overnights near Puerto del Rosario in a family run hotel with a real flavour of the island.
Day 2: Saturday 10 March
Today we will be investigating fresh water pools and scrapes around Los Molinos Dam, which can turn up some good vagrants. White-rumped Sandpiper and Ring-necked Duck have over wintered here in the past, but our main focus will be on the more likely species including Ruddy Shelduck and Black-winged Stilt. This is a good area for stunning Cream-coloured Courser and possibly Black-bellied Sandgrouse, coming to drink at the reservoir. We will also keep an eye open for elusive Barbary Partridge and endangered and declining Egyptian Vulture. Depending on progress with these birds we may spend the remainder of the day here, or further north looking for migrants. This is also a good area for Stone Curlew.
Day 3: Sunday 11 March
We head south to the Peninsula Del Jandia today, with seabirds and waders on our mind. The coast here can see good numbers of Cory's Shearwater and Yellow-legged Gull (possibly of the form atlantis) and the coastal areas can hold good numbers of passage waders notably Kentish Plover. These are good areas for Lesser Short-toed Lark and endemic Fuerteventura Chat, and Barbary Falcon can occur anywhere along the peninsular.
Day 4: Monday 12 March
Today we head into the spectacular mountain interior of the island with many of the species already mentioned to be found, but our primary targets will include the local race of Blue Tit (degener), the 'North African' subspecies with a white wingbar, a stunning, distinctive looking bird which can be found in the trees and bushes at Betancuria. Later we descend the spectacular mountain roads to spend the afternoon at Barranco del la Torre where we seek Trumpeter Finch, Spectacled and Sardinian Warbler, Berthelot's Pipit and another chance for Fuereteventura Chat. We also visit Salinas del Carmen for waders and egrets, a pleasant change of habitat.
Day 5: Tuesday 13 March
We can't leave without a short walk through the impressive desert habitat at El Jable Dunas National Park with its Sahara-sized sand dunes! Although birds here are limited we should get close views of Berthelot's Pipit in any areas of scrub. We will then head to the north of the island looking for Southern Grey Shrike, Hoopoe, Lesser Short-toed Lark and flocks of Trumpeter Finch while keeping a look out for Pallid Swift to test our identification skills as we try to pick out a Plain Swift.
Days 6 and 7: Wednesday 14 and Thursday 15 March
During these later days we revisit some of the sites we have been to earlier, trying to "clean up" any gaps in our list and to find newly arrived rarities. We will probably spend most of one day in the far south at the Peninsular Del Jandia, where migrants including raptors may gather in favourable wind conditions before attepting their northerly flight to the Iberian peninsula. We will probably also return to the sheltered trees of the barrancos, and the fresh waters of Los Molinos, which can both provide a regular turnover of migrant birds.
Day 8: Friday 16 March
Some early birding if time allows before we return to the airport and our flights to the UK.
More Holiday Information:
Accommodation: is in a very comfortable hotel with all rooms en suite. Our groups love this hotel!
Food: Typical Spanish food to a very good standard, and with a wide choice. Vegetarian and other diets are welcome.
Walking: The holiday is not strenuous. Walking can be described as generally very easy, on roads, paths and tracks. Most birding is done close to our vehicle, and even on the longest walks we are never far from the minibuses, should anyone wish to go back.
Weather: Typically, temperatures will range from 18 - 25ºC in the “heat” of the day. Sunshine should be plentiful, but wind, clouds, and rain are possible. Cold weather is unlikely but possible. Fuerteventura can frequently be windy.
Insects: biting insects are not expected, though there are a few mosquitos at this season.
Group size: is restricted to 12 clients maximum.
Flights: are by scheduled airline, from London Gatwick. We may be able to offer flight arrangements from another airport and/or or quote without flights so you can make your own arrangements. If you wish to add an extension either before or after your holiday, please contact us and we will be happy to arrange this for you.
What's included in your holiday price:
* return scheduled flight from London Gatwick – El Matorral Airport, Fuerteventura, airport taxes, baggage and hand luggage up to airline included limit.
* airport transfers, ground transportation, accommodation and meals as specified.
* the services of Heatherlea leaders.
* The Heatherlea Pre-Flight Service offers everything you need at the airport, including hotels, car parking, airport lounges, regional flights, and upgrades. Let Heatherlea take the strain! Pre-flight airport hotel and lounge included free of charge subject to terms and conditions. Read more....
What's not included in your holiday price:
* travel to and from departure airport before and after holiday, in-flight meal, baggage above airline included limit.
* incidental tips, expenses of a personal nature including drinks and personal insurance.
WHY CHOOSE HEATHERLEA?
Our overseas holidays are planned with care to offer great birding and wildlife, led by capable Leaders who really look after you. Every holiday is run the 'Heatherlea Way', and we hope our Overseas Adventures remind you of the quality and care so many of you enjoy in Scotland. That means rewarding and exciting days in the field, and good quality accommodation and meals, with a real flavour of the country we are visiting. Heatherlea always seek to include the personal touches that make all the difference.
Heatherlea holidays are not ‘dawn to dusk’ expeditions. Our less-intensive approach is ideal for those who want to relax whilst experiencing the best wildlife watching, and wherever possible we organise early or late activity on an optional basis. We also take sensible breaks when in very hot places and regular comfort breaks on every holiday whenever possible. All itineraries are planned carefully around the best wildlife opportunities, and you won’t miss out on memorable wildlife, whilst enjoying relaxed, informal days that are great fun.
The really important part of any wildlife holiday is the experience for you, our valued customer. Heatherlea invest in many things to offer you the best possible service;
* We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for 27 seasons, and have a highly experienced and capable office team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
* Heatherlea overseas holidays have a maximum of 12 clients per trip, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
* Our holidays often include things which others might invite you to pay yourself, for instance Departure Taxes and tips to hotels.
* All elements of our holidays are sold under our own licence, ATOL 6113. Under ‘Flight-Plus’ legislation it is a legal requirement of any tour operator to hold an ATOL licence for the supply of any overseas holiday where a flight is involved, if that holiday includes either overseas accommodation and/or car hire. It can be a criminal offence for an operator to book flights as part of a package without an ATOL licence. Heatherlea also hold full Tour Operator Insurance for your added protection.
* Heatherlea is your complete wildlife holiday provider. Our ‘Back Office’ team can organise all your pre-flight and other travel needs. Our specialists will help you book the right services, at the best price. Book holiday extensions through us, and your ATOL protection is extended further. We don’t charge extra for this service.
* Heatherlea is a limited company, registered in Scotland, and registered to pay VAT (applies to all holidays within the European Union).