It rained overnight. Not that we would have noticed, being dead to the world during the night due to our dawn to dusk birding exertions. The tiles outside, between our room and the pool, were slippery with rain as we left at 7am, in the dark, for another trip back to Tindaya Plain. There was still a few spots of rain falling but the skies were clearing and soon it would be dry and sunny.
I am getting used to the Fuerteventura weather now, where it clouds over in the evening, gets colder and the wind increases and then in the morning the clouds mainly disperse, the wind drops and the land warms again. Probably it is not always like this but it has been a consistent pattern during our stay.
We followed the now familiar route back to El Cotillo and the Tindaya Plain, the mountain tops on the way shrouded in the dispersing clouds that had brought the rain in the night. By the time we were venturing out onto the main track through the plain it was sunny, the land being suffused with a soft golden light that is only ever evident in the early morning as the rising sun just clears the mountains and before it gets too high in the sky.
Badger stopped the car shortly after we had headed out on the track, as four small waders were running ahead of us. Pale fawn above and white below, they ran like miniature clockwork toys, their black legs a blur of motion, as they sped along the sandy track. They were Kentish Plovers, four of them, impossibly cute and a little uncertain about the car, running off the road a little way to stop, look at us and bob in anxiety. We stopped too and slowly they regained confidence and returned to the track. Beautiful little things, the male especially attractive with his pale ginger crown, a black smudge across his forehead and black stripe from bill to eye.
|Female Kentish Plover|
|Male Kentish Plover|
We followed a track running off into the plain in the bustard's vague direction but it got us only marginally closer so we gave up and returned to the main track. A Lesser Short toed Lark was singing loudly from a stone by the track but moved off a little way when we stopped to look at it.
|Lesser Short toed Lark|
We returned to the main track once more and commenced another scan for bustards but there was no sign.
I cannot recall how many times I scanned, but always in vain, then just on the point of giving up two sickle winged birds flew fast and furiously across the skyline. At first I though they might be swifts due to the erratic course and speed of their flight and the difficulty of relating size of bird to the vast contours of the landscape but it almost immediately became apparent these were not swifts at all but distant raptors, one being pursued by the other, with the one doing the chasing larger than the one being pursued.The chasing bird broke off the pursuit and proceeded to fly in our direction and still relatively distant came past us in a long, fast and continuous glide, coming lower and lower to the ground before finally pitching up to perch on a cairn of stones someway off across a shallow and dried out barranco. Although distant we could discern from its paler plumage and small size that it was very likely to be a Barbary Falcon.
|The main track across the Tindaya Plain|
It certainly looked very much like a Barbary Falcon to me and we were ninety nine percent convinced it was. I thought the other bird might have been a Kestrel, but frankly all our attention was now fully focused on the perched falcon on the other side of the barranco as this would be a real find but we had to be absolutely sure. There was no other choice but to head over the barranco and try and get as close as possible to confirm the identity.
|Adult Barbary Falcon|
|Badger walking the edge of the barranco|
Back at the car, we looked at the images on the back screen of my camera.The first were inconclusive as the range they had been taken at made them slightly blurry. My heart sank and then immediately leapt, as up came an image sharp enough to show that, clearly visible was some rusty brown colouring on its head, and also there was finer and less extensive barring on its flanks. All concerns about Peregrine Falcons were banished. Here was incontravertable evidence that we had seen a Barbary Falcon.
|The distant mountain beyond our hire car is where the Barbary Falcon emerged |
chasing a Kestrel
|Male Trumpeter Finch|
|Male Spanish Sparrow|
|Southern Great Grey Shrike Lanius e.koenigi|
So then it was off to the nearby Barranco de la Torre, where, from the reports we had read there would be good birding. We drove through a pleasant and small seaside village called Las Salinas and accessed the barranco from the beach end where there was ample space to park by a rocky bay with a couple of Yellow legged Gulls and a Little Egret standing on the black rocks. On the way in a confiding Hoopoe allowed us to get very close to it by using the car as a hide, as it fed by the side of the narrow road. Sadly a truck coming the other way spooked it just as Badger was about to take some video of the bird. It does get frustrating sometimes when just as you are enjoying looking at a bird something or someone comes along to disrupt matters. It's no one's fault in this crowded world of ours but it is a pain nevertheless.
|Barranco de la Torre|
Two Southern Great Grey Shrikes were using the sun dried, dead fronds of a palm tree as a vantage point to survey the ground below and I found three Linnets, which are of a different race here, and which promptly fled as a Common Buzzard flew over.
One last stop was on our agenda and entailed a reasonably long drive to a place called Vego de Rio Palmas. A trip report said this was a good location to find African Blue Tits which, in the Canary Islands, have their own sub specific status and differ to those in northern Africa in that they lack a white wing bar.
The drive required another spectacular and winding ascent through a mountain range of yet more extinct volcanos before we descended down into the small and pleasant village of Vego del Rio Palmas and, following the directions in the trip report, we found ourselves parking just by a bridge over a small stream that ran though some comparatively luxurious green habitat.
Getting out of the car Badger immediately heard and saw a pair of African Blue Tits feeding on some seeding plants about fifty metres away from us. We approached them slowly and managed to get more than reasonable views of them before they flew further off into the greenery and were lost to sight.They are smaller in size than our Blue Tit and to my mind brighter coloured, looking almost exotic.Their crown is darker, almost blackish blue and their back is greyish blue without any of the green tinge that is seen on British Blue Tits
|African Blue Tit Cyanistes.t.teneriffae|
|A rare sight of greenery by a stream at Vego de Rio Palmas|
We spent an hour here and then it was time to go as the sun begun to slowly settle.There was just time to see a couple of Hoopoes perched on a telephone wire by the bridge and catch up with another or maybe the same pair of African Blue Tits, calling to each other and not sounding like a British Blue Tit at all but to my mind their call was similar to the tinkling notes of a Goldfinch.
We returned to Puerto Rosario and our apartment by the same way that we came, stopping at a, by now, very windy and cold mirador (viewpoint) high up in the mountains and overlooking a great sweep of land that panned away to a range of extinct volcanos, the craters clearly visible.
Unfortunately it is our last day tomorrow and it has all seemed to have passed so quickly
To be continued.....................