Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Houbara Bustards - Fuerte #14
One of the star attractions of the island, Fuerte's Houbara Bustards were close to (if not at) the top of our hit-list in the run-up to our visit, and we were hopeful of connecting at their favoured locations. From research and valuable feedback, we knew where to look and where we were most likely to get the kind of views (and photos) we were hoping for; we also knew, however, that they were by no means as plentiful, or as easy to pin down, as might be expected.
It took some effort (and they were all the better for it), but we found them in two areas - on the semi-desert plains near Costa Calma (in the far south) and in the same habitat just west of Cotillo, in the north. At the former location we had great views of what was presumably the same bird on several occasions, and while we happy with our lot, we were all still hoping for the kind of grand-standing display we'd cooed over on a minority of trip reports before arriving.
So we set off well before dawn to make it up to the Cotillo Plain hopefully before disturbance, and the heat and over-saturated light of the day, perhaps became issues. After wonderful experiences with several small groups of Cream-coloured Coursers and various other decent birds, it wasn't too long before I picked up a bustard, motionless, within metres of the car.... a gentle halt, a flurry of camera shutters and hushed expletives later, and we'd had the kind of views we'd been praying for. But it soon got even better.
Throwing his head back and turning his front-end into something like a black and white pom-pom, this amazingly accommodating male then proceeded to run alongside the track in random directions, apparently displaying at and/or threatening our (white) car in undeniably comedy fashion. After he'd stopped - complete with head and plumes erect - we inched closer along the track, and it wasn't long before the ritual began again, much to amusement of all of us. It was hard to leave him, but we eventually did, after thanking him for what was unarguably the birding experience of the trip.