This is the second edition of the Crossbill Guide to Lanzarote and Fuerteventura and includes many updates since the first edition was published, in 2014. The book focuses on the two easternmost islands in the Canary Islands archipelago, both of which are starkly different from the other islands in the group. While all islands there are volcanic in origin, these two are the oldest and have Saharan-like landscapes that feature some birds not found further west. The two present-day islands are separated by an 11-km gulf but were once connected as one land mass.
Rather than focus solely on the bird interest, the Crossbill Guides are always quick to point out all the wildlife in the area. The first section of the book gives plenty of background on the landscape history of the islands as well as an outline of the ecosystems, geology, flora and fauna. Particular attention is given to where to watch birds and find flowers. The second section focuses on where to go, and there are 13 detailed routes to follow and a further 22 site descriptions, evenly split between both islands. Some photos have been improved since the first edition and there have been updates on breeding bird numbers, though the main changes relate to the routes, which all now have GPS-coordinates to starting points and key locations along their length. Among the new sites featured is Teguise, on the east coast of Lanzarote, which can be spectacular for watching cetaceans. One location has become too difficult to access due to motorway construction and has been dropped, and a few tracks that were hard to find have also been deleted. A great addition is the walk to the Pico de La Zarza (Fuerteventura’s highest point), which offers spectacular views and opportunities to see localised plants, in particular.
For birders, the major draw of these two islands will be birds associated with the desert habitat. The best of these is surely the Canary Island race of Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata fuertaventurae, which differs from the nominate North African race in having more heavily vermiculated upperparts. Next up are Cream-coloured Courser Cursorius cursor and Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githagineus; these can be seen on either island. In contrast, Fuerteventura offers the best chances to see Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis, and also holds the endemic Fuerteventura Stonechat Saxicola dacotiae dacotiae. Those who want to bank a few potential future splits will want to make sure they see the local races of Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus majorensis, Common Buzzard Buteo buteo insularum, Great Grey Shrike Lanius excubitor koenigi and Common Raven Corvus corax tingitanus.
Visiting the islands has never been easier, with direct flights from over 20 UK airports at attractive prices if you can be flexible with dates. There are slightly more birds to see on Fuerteventura, but both islands are special in their own ways. The car ferry between them is frequent and takes only 30 minutes. This guide is comprehensive and if you want to make the most of your time visiting, you will find it indispensable.