Category Archives: FAUNA AND FLORA

We keep gathering as much information as possible about the Grey Pilot Whale that was found at Lobos coast last Monday.

With this purpose we talked to Marisa Tejedor, from SECAC (society for the study of cetaceans in the Canarian archipelago), who offered us a beautiful and reassuring speech about this topic.

Marisa says that although they are all wild guesses, as it’s very difficult to foretell why the whale is alone, we mustn’t panic as the whale is in a deep enough area to move (5mts) and even can leave whenever it chooses to; it is also in an octopus area, its favourite food, so it can feed and the conditions seem to be al-right.

DCIM107GOPRO

The whale has chosen to be there, maybe because it feels ill and it wants to reach the coast to spend its last days; maybe because it went astray and is trying to communicate, as the only anomalous datum is that it repeats very often the facing down movement, surfacing the tail, a characteristic movement of this species when trying to communicate. As she says, it is anomalous to an extent, but it’s difficult to foretell, and the rest of information they get daily about the evolution of the whale is reassuring up to now, they have even seen videos where the whale is playing with a bag.
It is clear that it is an adult specimen, and the target is to determine if this grey pilot whale belongs to this area; this can be found out thanks to some pictures they have taken of its dorsal fins, which in this species and in not young specimens dorsal fins are like finger prints, there aren’t two of them which look the same. With this they’ll be able to determine if this whale is living in the Canarian archipelago or in this area.

It’s difficult to foretell what will become of it; besides, these days the sea is not in good conditions to make further studies. Even so, the grey pilot whale is visited daily by the captains of the trip boats and by Environment, which get enough information to be reassured that the whale is al-right up to now.
Marisa Tejedor thanks the captains sailing in this area for safeguarding the distances stipulated by the law and for trying to protect the whale by warning all those who don’t keep them, which is very positive and a reason to be thankful for, as the most important of all is not to disturb the whale.
In conclusion, don’t panic, it could leave any time,  the daily news are reassuring, the grey pilot whale is in its habitat and home. They’ll keep researching and looking up information that will allow them to get to know better this specimen and its species.
There is a certain social concern lately, due to several news informing about dead cetaceans found  at different spots in the Canary Islands, many of them attributed to prospecting and military practices. Marisa tells us that these deaths are nothing to worry about, they are within the average rate, it happens every year, mainly at this time,  when the fish that emigrate are the food of these huge cetaceans: “Up to now everything is going its normal course, and these deaths are due to natural causes”; on the contrary, this means environmental diversity, as there are 30 different species out of the 86 cetacean species that exist, that is, a 40% ( a high presence of big predators, not usual in many areas), a very important datum and representative of the quality of our waters, which provide nutrients, meaning of life.
Another heartening datum regarding petroleum is that they are trying to have this area between Lanzarote and Fuerteventura recognised by Europe, once and for all,  as Community Interest Area, a hallmark which would grant us full protection.
Thanks, Marisa Tejedor, for making time for us in your busy schedule and for giving us this interesting speech. We’ll follow up the evolution of this representative of our sea, wishing it to find its pod soon because dreaming is a right that we all have…

From Fuertecharter we also thank and ask the captains of trip boats and the public in general to respect this whale, which is at home. We can enjoy its presence and beauty without disturbing it: we are living in its paradise.

 

 FuerteCharter team.

The Canary Islands, Marlin’s paradise

Marlins, also known in The Canary Islands as billfish, are the indisputable kings of big game fishing we were taking about in our previous article. These species reach our coasts while migrating, foraging, searching for breeding areas (they spawn in Summer and Autumn) and warm waters.
But they aren’t just fishers’ dreams, but many tourists, in their boat tours, have had the chance to enjoy the majesty of watching them jump on our waters surface.
As we promised, here is some information about the two Marlin species that, with the elegance that characterises them, visit our island.

The White Marlin
Tetrapturus Albidus, or Spikefish as many call them,  belong to the Istiophoridae family (tetrapturus genus).

boat tours
They are greenish-blue or greyish on their back, and their belly is white. Their body is striped.
Their average weight is 30kgs, and you can find up to 100kgs specimens although nowadays it’s becoming harder and harder to find huge specimens due to illegal and devastating fishing habits (catching young fish, not letting them grow up). Their average length is 200 cms, although you can find up to 300cms long specimens, and they reach maturity when they are around 130cms long.
They live in warm seas, deep waters, although they also approach the coast up to 20 mts deep. They don’t usually travel in school, but just in couple or alone. They are characterised by their nose bones on their upper jaw, which stretch in the shape of a long round sword, which favours their hydrodynamics.
They have a rigid tail in the shape of C, and a high rear fin, characteristic of this species.
They feed on squids and small fish, and they spawn in the high seas.
The White Marlin is one of the most popular fishes in big game fishing in the Atlantic Ocean. In the Canary Islands we usually have them in Summer.

The Blue Marlin
Makaira nigricans or Atlantic Blue Marlin, also belongs to the Istiophoridae family (makaira genus).
boat tours
It’s known as one of the most elegant and beautiful in the Ocean, and also one of the biggest fishes.
In this species, the females are the biggest, reaching 4,5mts long and more than 800kg, although the average is about 3,5m and among 90 and 180kg the males. There are different opinions regarding the years they may come to live, but they are believed to live around 20 years. Their characteristics are similar to the white Marlin’s, with a high rear fin and a long and lethal upper jaw they attack their prey with, leaving them injured and shocked, moving backwards and then eating them.
Their back is cobalt blue,  and their belly is silvery white. They spend most of their time off-shore (pelagic species) and this is why they are known as blue water fish, following the ocean currents while migrating for hundreds and even thousands of miles, after tuna fish schools (tuna, dorado, mackerel…), on what they feed in warm and shallow waters, although they also plunge into the depths foraging cephalopods.
They are quick swimmers (up to 110km/h), swimming 50m in two seconds, a distance that men couldn’t swim in less than 29 seconds and one of the noblest species in the fisheries world as they are remarkably resilient to be caught and you can see them jump and swim swiftly trying to get ride of hooks, and they are often successful. Their meat is delicious and it is marketed in a professional way, mainly in Japan, where they live in the shape of sashimi, although in big game fishing it is usual to catch them and then let them go. However their preservation is in danger due to non sustainable fishing practices mainly in the Atlantic.

From Fuertecharter we recommend making boat tours around our coasts, mainly in the South, to everyone who may have the chance to do it and see if they are lucky to catch sight of one of this marvellous specimens living in our waters.

 FuerteCharter’s Team

Trips from Corralejo to find out the marine ecosystems in Fuerteventura

The sea area of the Biosphere Reserve in Fuerteventura has a great biological wealth, regarding species and marine ecosystems: intertidal puddles, submarine cliffs, brown seaweed beds, chalk pits, sand areas or sea grass meadows— those sandy seabed oasis of life—, all of them take part of the natural heritage of our dear Majorera island. In Fuertecharter we offer you trips from Corralejo, where we will go across some of these marine ecosystems.

Intertidal puddles
Some meters away from us, in the rocky tidal plains of Fuerteventura, we find these little samples of marine biodiversity. The tide is continuously making them emerge and submerge; this is why many of the species living there are especially adapted to the changes produced in their surrounding area.
In the emergent part of these rocky tidal plains we find the other side of a fascinating ecosystem where curlews and other coastal birds like turnstones, “chorlitejos” (charadrius) or “correlimos” (calidris) fly across the coast in order to forage. Limpets, “burgados” (osilinus spp), crabs and other invertebrates are the visible part of this ecosystem, together with the seaweeds that are exposed in the low tide and that cover the rocks in the intertidal puddles.

Brown seaweed beds
Along Fuerteventura coastline and mainly on the rocky bottoms we can find brown seaweed beds playing a crucial role as a main source of food production for the sea fauna.

Blanquizales”
“Los blanquizales” are the whitish rocky bottoms,  as a result of the presence of the long-spined urchin “Diadema africanum” (before “Diadema antillarum”). These herbivores feed on the seaweed on the rocks, leaving them devoid of vegetation and thus fostering the emergence of these particular ecosystems. In our trips from Corralejo to Lobos we go across what is known as “El bajón del Río”, an important area of “blanquizales” with geological formations in the shape of mushrooms, fully devoid of seaweed, which rise on a sandy bottom over 14 metres.

trips from corralejo

Sand Areas
Although apparently our sandy bottoms in the coastline may seem desert, a more careful look makes us find out that many organisms live either under or over the sand. Spiders, cone fish, starfish, cuttlefish, lizard fish, crabs… Then, in areas subjected to currents and where the sediment is more stable we find sand eels. The variety of species we can find in this ecosystem is really amazing. This is another marine ecosystem we find in our trips from Corralejo.

Sea grass meadows
These ocean meadows make up one of the most important marine ecosystems due to their great capacity to produce food, as well as to be used as breeding area for  many species of invertebrate fishes. These oasis of life on the sandy bottoms are environmental quality indicators in the coastline ecosystem and have a high ecological value we must preserve. Moreover they have other important roles, like the improvement of the water quality or the protection from coastal erosion. In our trips from Corralejo to Lobos we go across what is known as “los Sebadales de Corralejo”, declared a Special Conservation Area (ZEC) because of its ecological significance and for being a habitat of interest for the bottlenose dolphin “Tursiops truncatus” and the loggerhead turtle “Caretta caretta”.

Cliffs
Submarine cliffs are a meeting point among some species in the open sea and other species living near the coastline. The bicuda, amberjack and trumpet fish have their hunting reserves here. The moray eels, glass fish and other species living in dark environments find shelter in the crevices and caves at the rocks.

FuerteCharter Team

Discover the Cory’s Shearwater in our boat trips

In this adventure we have embarked, wanting to show the world the wonder of living in a paradise such as Fuerteventura, we feel compelled to talk about all those animal species that accompany us day after day in our boat trips around this area of the Atlantic.

In this occasion, to open this section about birds in Fuerteventura, we want to talk about the Cory’s Shearwater, which flies around our ships and makes its nest —to  breed— in one of our favourite tourist destinations, the island of Lobos.
Shearwaters are pelagic sea birds, which only leave the open sea in order to nest and breed. Their habitat, so, is the sea and they fly long distances to forage, picking up food from the sea surface while flying.

boat trips corys shearwater
© Xavier Martínez

The Cory’s Shearwater, typical of our islands, owes its name to its grey ash feathers. It flies and fishes in flocks, and it flies very well in strong winds. It’s able to cross the Atlantic and go back every year to the same breeding sites.
They are average size birds (40-45 cms), with long wings, and they can naturally live up to 30 years.

The Canry Islands, a breeding site.
Most part of the population of the Cory’s Shearwater is found in the Canary Islands, more than 30.000 couples, followed by the Balearic Islands, Chafarinas Islands and other Mediterranean islets.
They only come to land, the coast, in order to breed, and when they get to their nests, near their breeding area, they make very characteristic guttural and nasal sounds. In Fuerteventura it’s typical, in light-poor coastal areas, to hear the cawing of the Cory’s Shearwater coming near the coast, and they receive the answer from the ones that are already there. That way they announce their arrival in a very noisy way. Furthermore, when they come to land in order to breed, they wait for the night so as to easily go unnoticed.

Breeding
They approach our coasts in March, in flocks from 300 to 400 specimens, a moment of really intense social activity in sea-bird breeding colonies. For this purpose they approach mainly islands and islets, although they also approach coastal cliffs.  They use natural hollows (caves, nest-holes, cracks…), or they just dig them, using lush bushes and rocks as shelter. It’s copulation time and it will be in May that their eggs will be laid.

Offspring
They lay just one egg a year, which is never re-laid in case they lose it. Just half of the Cory’s Shearwaters starting to breed manage to fledge their offspring. The responsibility of egg incubation falls as much to the male as to the female bird, just one of them leaves the nest in order to bring food to their partner, which can stay from 3 to 9 days in the nest protecting the egg. The synchrony in the couple must be perfect, and so it must remain until the end of the breeding season.

boat trips corys shearwater
© Víctor Cubas

At the end of July the hatching takes place. The grey ash breeding chicken will never be alone in its nest-hole, one of its parents will always be beside it while the other goes foraging for the family. The adults feed their chicken with Iberian nases, squids and mackerels caught in the open sea and which they carry in their crop to the nest, already partially digested.
After being fed by their parents for 50 days, the chickens start to fly and try to get their own food on the surface of the huge ocean. They instinctively leave the coast in the middle of the night to make for the sea, though not all of them achieve their goal, as many of them are disorientated by light pollution.
For many years now, the coastal villages in Fuerteventura have been switching off their lights to help these young Cory’s Shearwaters so protected by their parents to reach the open sea.
In December, the breading season finishes, they start to migrate and it won’t be until February the following year that they will return to their nests to start breeding again. The young birds won’t go back to their birth places until reaching their sexual maturity, from two to nine years later. The birds that have been bred in the Atlantic Coast spread all over the coasts of Western Africa until South Africa.

If you are coming to Fuerteventura or you are one resident of this part of Macaronesia, don’t forget to listen to the Cory’s Shearwater’s cawing, look for them when travelling to Lobos with our boat trips, it’s one of those shows that nature gives us.

FuerteCharter Team 

Prickle pears: Fuerteventura landscape

Fuerteventura’s landscape is distinguished by its desert expanse. Kilometres of land that are presented to the eye and as endless plains where the sight gets lost, interrupted by some hills, volcanoes, mountains and “malpaises”.

However, so much flat arid terrain is often dotted with cactus, painting of green the most curious corners on this island of the wind.

The prickle pear cactus, as Opuntia cactus are called in the Canaries, are shrubby plants belonging to the genus of cacti.

ORIGIN AND DISTRIBUTION
There are around 250 subspecies of Opuntias and they all come from America, although in Europe many of them have been naturalized and are considered invasive.

They can be distributed from sea level to 3000 meters high.

In the Canaries, the first non-American territory where they were grown, there are two of these subspecies considered invasive and they have been naturalized on islands

  • Opuntia ficus
  • Opuntia dillenii

The other subspecies can be sometimes found scattered on the edges of roads or around detached houses.

 

MORPHOLOGY
The main feature of prickle pear cacti is growing in segments, called cladodes or “blades”, from which other cladodes sprout, as well as flowers, and also producing the delicious fruit: figs.

Cladodes have areolas, which are small lumps from which glochids arise, clusters of small thorns.

They can have very different sizes, from small bushes, shrubs or even treelike structure.

We will speak specifically about the invasive species in the Canary Islands (Opuntia ficus and Opuntia dillenii), which are those that give us such delicious fruit: the so called “higo pico”, “higo picón” or “tuno”, and which are also responsible for the large number of cochineal which introduced The Canary Islands into the dye industry, as these insects, dried and used to produce carmine dye, abundantly proliferate in the prickle pear cactus.

OPUNTIA FICUS
This subspecies is known as “tunera común” and it features “blades” between 30 and 50cm, with not many little thorns. Adult “blades” may even not have thorns at all. Typically they reach 3-4 meters high.

Some people make a subtle difference between “Opuntia ficus-indica” or “Opuntia maxima”, which is the most abundant, and “Opuntia ficus-barbarica”, which have fewer thorns, but the difference is not that noticeable, not even professionals agree.

Excursiones Fuertecharter | Tuneras en Fuerteventura
©huismanfoto.eu
Excursiones Fuertecharter | Tuneras en Fuerteventura
©www.datuopinion.com

OPUNTIA DILLENII
Also known as Indian “tunera/penca” or “ink”. It features “blades” which are smaller than that of the “tunera común”, between 20 and 30 cm. The areolas have between 6 and 8 strong yellow thorns. They usually reach 2 meters high and the fruit pulp is typically red. It isn’t usual to find it above 300m of altitude, so it predominates in the coastal area.

Excursiones Fuertecharter | Tuneras en Fuerteventura

Excursiones Fuertecharter | Tuneras en Fuerteventura
©faluke.blogspot.com

TIPS TO CATCH PRICKLE PEARS WITHOUT PRICKLING ONE’S FINGERS
It is recommended catch “tunos” upwind, to prevent it from thrusting the thorns towards us. Also, using tongs and, once caught, throwing them to the ground and sweep them, or rubbing them against other resinous plant, so that thorns stick together. Hence it is advisable to put them under running water to remove any remaining thorns.

Excursiones Fuertecharter | Tuneras en Fuerteventura
©libredelacteos.com

Fuertecharter Team