Photos with this report (click to enlarge)
Canary Island Stonechat
December 21st- 28th 2013
We stayed all inclusive at the Elba Castillo San Jorge and Antigua in Costa Caleta which is a decent central base for exploring the island. The weather was calm and sunny virtually throughout, and driving was a piece of cake, especially once you have left the resort area. There are ample car hire companies within walking distance of the hotel.
For our first full day we decided to walk south from the hotel along the coast to Barranco de la Torre. On route we saw a party of 50+ Trumpeter Finches, a Stone Curlew along with small numbers of waders on rocks in one of the sandy bays which included several Kentish Plovers and a Grey Plover. Barranco de la Torre held a couple of Canary Island Stonechats that were quite approachable, with Spectacled Warblers always in close attendance and a pair of Egyptian Vultures soaring above. Southern Grey Shrikes, Berthelots Pipits, Ravens and Hoopoes were also present and proved to be quite numerous throughout the island. The long walk back to the hotel held a surprise with a summer plumaged Red-throated Pipit present briefly before flying north. A Ring-necked Duck was also present at one of the golf course pools.
On our second day we picked up the hire car to discover more of the island. Houbara Bustards and Cream Coloured Coursers were top of the hit list but the first day of searching drew a blank. Antigua Plain held 100+ Lesser Short-toed Larks and a visit to plains near Triqulvjate produced ten Barbary Partridge and another two Canary Island Stonechats. Late afternoon we took a very scenic drive through the mountains to the little village of Betancuria where our target species, African Blue Tits, soon gave themselves up with four present towards the end of the village. One of our target species, Cream Coloured Coursers, eventually gave themselves up the following morning with a party of five seen at La Pared - but still no bustards, despite several hours searching ideal habitat at known sites. A drive to the southern end of the island later in the day produced at least 50 noisy Monk Parakeets at Morro Jabel, mostly busy building nests in the trees outside the old zoo. A couple of Plain Swifts and African Blue Tits were also present here.
Our third day with the hire car and an early start at Antigua Plain paid off with a distant Houbara Bustard seen at around 08.30. Typically after days of searching another two flew past a few minutes later, one of which gave top views. It would seem a dawn start provides the best opportunity of finding this species.
The well known Los Molinos is a great site and an enjoyable few hours was spent here. Ruddy Shelducks were numerous (70), as were Black-winged Stilts (15) and Black-bellied Sandgrouse (100+), with a Marbled Teal and Spotted Redshank also present and the chats were again present along the dam bridge.
The final highlight was from the hotel balcony with an early evening seawatch producing a Bulwers Petrel slowly making its way north. Apart from this highlight seawatching was quiet with a couple of Cory's Shearwaters, a handful of Gannets along with the ubiquitous Yellow-legged Gulls the only other species of note.
All in all a fairly relaxed weeks birding! We saw all the main targets in the first three days of car hire so a shorter stay of three or possibly even two days could bring you all the target birds, although you would have to be prepared for much more frantic, non-stop birding to do so.
Over 60 species seen including:
Lesser Short-toed Lark
Canary Island Stonechat
Southern Grey Shrike
Cream Coloured Courser
African Blue Tit
Little Ringed Plover