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Lanzarote, 6th to 27th February 2011,
Houbara Bustard, Berthalot’s Pipit, Trumpeter Finch and Canary together with several subspecies confined to Macronesia and the Canary Islands were amongst the birding highlights of a visit to Lanzarote in February 2011.
Looking for a dose of winter sun, Anne and I travelled to the Canarian Island of Lanzarote for three weeks birding, sightseeing and sun. This report mainly chronicles the former, however local sights and the weather all went together to make our package.
It has to be said that birds are not in abundance on Lanzarote and we had to work quite hard to make our final list. The ratio of kilometres walked along the promenade searching the shoreline to the number of birds found was very low, lower than our experience on other Canarian islands. Also we got little reward for the time spent sea-watching. Having said that, the sun was shining and it was a nice place to be (especially as we kept hearing of the rain and cold at home) so there were some advantages!
For research material we used ‘A Birdwatchers’ Guide to The Canary Islands’ by Tony Clarke and David Collins (C&C), together with a number of trip reports published on the Web. For field clarification issues we used the new Collins Bird Guide (Mullarney, Svensson, Zetterstrom & Grant). Having used C&C for previous February trips to Tenerife, Gran Canaria and La Palma together with November visits to Fuerteventura and Lanzarote, we again found the site information invaluable and the species lists for birds, mammals, reptiles, dragonflies and butterflies extremely useful. We also carried ‘Historia Natural de las Islas Canarias’ by David and Zoe Bramwell, an excellent local reference book written in spanish.
We travelled to Lanzarote by air from Leeds/Bradford airport having booked two seats on a Jet2.com scheduled flight to Arrecife. We used a Renault Twingo hire car for the duration booked over the internet through Autoreisen with an all-in cost of 292.5 euros. Petrol cost .999 euros per litre. We stayed near the resort of Playa Blanca on the south coast of the island in an area known as Montana Roja at the H10 Rubicon Palace hotel, again booked directly over the internet.
Lanzarote is a volcanic island with relatively few trees and natural vegetation. Around Playa Blanca there was a large amount of partly completed housing and land clearance for more which, presumably due to the current global financial situation, appears to have come to a complete stop and most of the new buildings are half finished with no signs of ongoing construction. We also noted that many new roads had been laid linking the main centres of population. A method frequently used was to construct a new road alongside the existing one, both then being in use. The effect was that intersections/junctions were a double hazard trying to negotiate two roads instead of one! Having said that, the traffic was relatively light and it didn’t cause us a problem other than the fact that some new roads weren’t on our map and superseded some directions for site info in C&C.
The weather was very kind to us. The pattern for the first fortnight was that some mornings had a light cloud cover but by mid morning or lunchtime the skies had cleared and the afternoons were usually clear blue skies. The daytime temperatures were a pleasant 20 to 22 degrees, often much hotter in a sunny, sheltered spot. By the last week the weather was very settled and we recorded temperatures of 40 degrees in the direct midday sun. Wind strength and direction changed almost daily but overall the breezes were warm. We had one night of overnight rain during our stay. Jumpers were only used on cloudy mornings till the sun broke through and on evening outings. Overnight temperatures didn't drop below 13 degrees. Sunrise was about 7.30 a.m. and it was dark around 7 p.m.
In the north of the island we were delighted with the carpet of colour from the wild flowers. Some plains and hillsides were a picture of purples, yellows and whites from the low ground-covering plants in flower. This was a phenomena we hadn't experienced on other Canarian Islands.
We kept daily records and at the end of the holiday we totalled 40 species.
Playa Blanca (C&C site 1)
Hotel: The Rubicon Palace hotel covers a large seafront site with beautifully maintained and well stocked gardens. Many of the shrubs and cacti were in flower. Seen almost daily were Spanish Sparrow, White Wagtail, Berthelot's Pipit and Collared Dove whilst Yellow-legged Gulls patrolled overhead. On the first few days we regularly saw a Hoopoe and on the last few a Robin. Butterflies seen in the grounds were Painted Lady, Greenish Black-tip, African Grass Blue and numerous Geranium Bronze.
Promenade: A good promenade follows the coastline for about 6 kilometres past Playa Blanca to Faro (lighthouse) Pechiguera. The shore is mainly rocky with a couple of sandy stretches. Regularly seen feeding amongst the rocks were Turnstone, Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper and Whimbrel. Flying just off the shore were Yellow-legged Gull and Sandwich Tern. On 21st we watched 7 Barn Swallow closely followed by a Common Swift flying low from the sea coming from the direction of Fuerteventura and heading north; an early sign of migration perhaps. Butterflies seen regularly along the front were Painted Lady, Small White and Greenish Black-tip. On our last promenade we found 2 Striped Hawkmoth resting in full sun on the white wall of a building.
Faro Pechiguera: The lighthouse is set on a promitary and over recent years the resort of Playa Blanca has extended to almost surround it on the land side. There are stll rough patches of land between the new and the unfinished housing estates. Here we saw our first Trumpeter Finch of the trip. Berthelot's Pipit was regular. On one sea-watching visit we saw 2 Cory's Shearwater passing between us and Fuerteventura. Also seen were Painted Lady, Greenish Black-tip and Common Blue butterflies.
Montana Roja: This is a red coloured volcanic mountain and crater located behind our hotel. Walks around the base regularly turned up Berthelot's Pipit, Great Grey Shrike and Trumpeter Finch. Also seen but only once were Barbary Partridge, Hoopoe and Clouded Yellow butterfly. At the north-east corner of the road around the montana is a water treatment works surrounded by palms. This looks like a promising oasis but we only found White Wagtail, Great Grey Shrike and once a passing Barn Swallow on our visits. There are roads and tracks through the scrub between the motana and the lighthouse which make for pleasant walks and here we found lots of Berthelot's Pipits and a pair of Kestrel. On the western side of the montana there is a path up the volcano (194 metres high) and around the crater rim. The first two ascents were birdless but on the third there was a pair of Trumpeter Finch on the rim path and two Raven passed overhead. Although lacking in vegetation and birds, it is worth making the climb as the views of southern Lanzarote and over to northern Fuerteventura are excellent; it is best to avoid windy days.
El Rubicon: There is now a new road between Playa Blanca and Yaiza with only one junction which gives access to Janubio (C&C site 2) and El Golfo. To access El Rubicon it is best to take the old road as it carries much less traffic. It lies to the west of the new road from the roundabout leaving Playa Blanca and to the east of the new road heading south from the roundabout at the southern end of Yaiza bypass (the old road passes under a bridge to change sides). When travelling north from Playa Blanca, after a few kilometers you can see a garage on the new road and to your left there is a sandy coloured rectangular building near the coast. There is a tarmac road to this building with tracks leading from it. On our visits we found good numbers of Berthalot's Pipit together with Trumpeter Finch, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Spanish Sparrow and Great Grey Shrike. On one visit we also found two Houbara Bustard close to the track which showed very well, and a Marsh Harrier quartering the scrub. On another visit we added Mediterranean Gull to our list.
Road to Maciot: Since the C&C book was published this road has been tarmaced and is now a busy, fast road with no stopping places. We found it dangerous to try and bird along it.
Salinas de Janubio and Laguna de Janubio (C & C site 2)
Just north of El Rubicon (details above) the old road passes the salinas (saltpans) and laguna (lake) at Janubio. There is a parking area on the left just as the saltpans come into view below you. It is worth a stop and scan whenever passing. We regularly picked up Greater Flamingo and Black-winged Stilt from here and on 14th added Grey Heron and on 17th Black-headed Gull to our list.
Immediately after taking the road signed for El Golfo it is possible to drive into the salinas; park near the works and walk into the site. It is a working site (not ‘no longer used’ as stated in C&C) but the staff were friendly and didn't mind us walking into the saltpans. Access is restricted on a Sunday when the main gate is closed.
We found it more productive to drive round to the seaside parking area on the El Golfo road. From here you can either walk into the saltpans, along the side of the laguna or on the beach. Our most productive visit was on a Sunday when there was no disturbance and most of the waders were concentrated on the saltpans next to laguna, furthest from the sea. Our sightings on this visit included 9 Common Teal, 39 Black-winged Stilt, 35 Redshank, 21 Greenshank, 27 Ringed Plover, 40 Kentish Plover, 2 Whimbrel, 8 Common Sandpiper and 10 Turnstone. On two visits we saw Barn Swallow flying north over the laguna.
You pass Restaurante Mirador Los Salinas driving round to the seaside car park which makes a good coffee stop with excellent views over the saltpans and laguna. It is also worth checking the surrounding vegetation where we saw Trumpeter Finch and Linnet together with Small White, Greenish Black-tip and Painted Lady butterflies.
Riscos de Famara (C&C site 4)
We visited Mirador del Rio and drove the coast road south along the cliff-tops towards Ye whilst at the northern tip of the island. Near the Mirador we saw Barbary Falcon, Kestrel and Raven. From Ye we headed south towards Arrieta and near the junction to Orzola found our only Spectacled Warbler.
Teguise Plain (C&C site 5)
We visited this site on three occasions and drove the tracks nearest the Teguise/Yaiza road criss-crossing from the road to La Caleta towards the villages of Tao and Tiagua.
We saw good numbers of Berthelot's Pipits and Lesser Short-toed Larks.
Also we found Houbara Bustard on all visits, twice showing very well next to the track to Tao, about 500 metres from the road to La Caleta and on the other visit we had two in flight. In the same area we found 2 Stone-curlew on our last visit.
On the Plain we came across good numbers of Great Grey Shrike, mostly in pairs, some of which appeared to be nest building.
On our last visit we checked the vegetation around the Complejo Agro Industrial de Teguise. There were plenty of common birds but the best sighting was a party of 4 Hoopoe on the boundary wall which were very confiding, allowing us to approach quite close.
A large herd of goats are kept in a compound next to the Complejo and taken to feed on the Plain. On two visits we found Cattle Egrets following the goat herd.
Los Cocoteros Salt Pans (C&C site 7)
We visited this site late in the afternoon. A new road bypasses Guatiza so you need to turn off onto the old road about a kilometre beforehand coming from the south or at the signs for the Cactus Garden from the north. On entering Guatiza from the south the turn to Los Cocoteros is immediately on the right. The road name was missing but the house on the right hand corner is called Tajasnayo.
The salt pans were a bit of a let-down (as they were when we visited in 2004). The few waders present were concentrated on a couple of pans in the centre of the workings. 9 Ringed Plover were located under the lava wall of one pan, and 2 Redshank were feeding on another,
After walking into the Salt Pans from near the houses we decided to drive round to the seafront parking area. Scanning the sea we eventually saw 5 Cory's Shearwater.
Mirador de Haria (C&C site 8)
Our route through this section was from Teguise Plain (C&C site 5) to the south towards the Ricos de Famara (C&C site 4) in the north.
As we approached the area from the south we saw three Kestrel, a Great Grey Shrike and a Raven on roadside wires and posts. We stopped for coffee at the first restaurant, Bar Restaurante Los Helechos, which has spectacular views, especially towards the east coast. In the car park we were treated to close views of Berthelot's Pipit.
The twisty road down past Bar Mirador de Haria (which was closed with a chain across the entrance) was not particularly good to bird safely so we continued to the junction with the Tabayesco Road on our right and parked there for a look around. As on our previous visit to the island, around this junction we found Canary, one of which was displaying in song flight.
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Cory's Shearwater Calonectris diomedea borealis (Macronesian subspecies)
5 at sea off Los Cocoteras on 17th
2 at sea off Punta Pechiguera on 19th
1 at sea off El Rubicon on 27th
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
3 on Teguise Plain on 17th and 22nd
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
1 at Laguna de Janubio on 14th
Common Teal Anas crecca
Laguna de Janubio – 9 on 20th and 1 on 25th
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber
Laguna de Janubio – 1 seen on each visit
Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus
1 at Teguise Plain on 12th
1 at El Rubicon on 25th
Kestrel Falco tinnunculus dacotiae (Canary Islands Subspecies)
Seen regularly around the island.
Barbary Falcon Falco pelegrinoides
1 near Mirador del Rio on 17th
Barbary Partridge Alectoris Barbara
3 at base of Montana Roja, Playa Blanca on 11th
Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata fuertaventurae (Canary Islands Subspecies)
Teguise Plain – 1 on 12th , 2 on 17th and 1 on 22nd
El Rubicon – 2 on 25th
Stone-curlew Burhinus oedincnemus insularum (Canary Islands Subspecies)
Teguise Plain – 2 on 22nd
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Laguna and Salinas de Janubio – High count 39 on 20th
Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
1 or 2 seen regularly along Playa Blanca shoreline
Salinas de Janubio - High count 27 on 20th
Los Cocoteras Salt Pans - 9 on 17th
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus
Salinas de Janubio - High count 40 on 20th
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
1 or 2 seen regularly on Playa Blanca shoreline
2 at Salinas de Janubio on 20th
Redshank Tringa totanus
Salina de Janubio – High count 35 on 20th
2 at Los Cocoteras Salt Pans on 17th
Greenshank Tringa nebularia
Salina de Janubio – High count 21 on 20th
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Up to 3 seen regularly on Playa Blanca Shoreline
Salina de Janubio – High count 8 on 20th
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
Regularly seen on Playa Blanca shoreline – High count 10 on 18th
Laguna and Salina de Janubio – High count 11 on 9th
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus
5 at Salina de Janubio on 17th and 25th
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus
1 at El Rubicon on 9th
Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis atlantis (Macaronesian subspecies)
Good numbers around the island.
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis
Up to 3 regularly seen over the sea close to Playa Blanca shoreline
3 at Laguna de Janubio on 9th
2 at Salinas de Janubio on 25th
Rock Dave Columba livia
2 near Faro Pechiguera on 11th
Feral Pigeon Columba livia (domest.)
Seen regularly in small numbers at the south of the island but in flocks of up to 50 in the north.
Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto
Abundant and widespread. Seen daily throughout the Island
Common Swift Apus apus
1 heading north low off the sea at Playa Blanca on 21st
Hoopoe Upupa epops
1 heard from the hotel on 7th and 1 seen in the hotel grounds on 9th and 10th
4 at Complejo Agro Industrial de Teguise, Teguise Plain on 22nd
1 around the base of Montana Roja on 24th
1 at Uga on 27th
Lesser Short-toed Lark Calandrella rufescens polatzeki (Canary Islands subspecies)
Teguise Plain – High count 40 on 22nd
El Rubicon – 2 on 25th , 5 on 27th
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
1 at Laguna de Janubio on 9th
7 heading north low off the sea at Playa Blanca on 21st
8 (mainly singles) around southern tip (Janubio and El Rubicon) on 25th
Berthelot’s Pipit Anthus berthelotii berthelotti (Macaronesian endemic and Canary Islands subspecies)
Widespread in all habitats. Often very confiding.
Highest count 20 on Teguise Plain on 17th and 22nd
White Wagtail Motacilla alba
Seen almost daily around the hotel grounds – max 4 on 8th
1 at Salinas de Janubio on 20th
Robin Erithacus rubecula
1 regularly in Hotel grounds from 19th
Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata orbitalis (Canary Islands subspecies)
1 between Ye and Arrieta close to Orzola junction on 17th
Great Grey Shrike Lanius excubitor koenigi (Canary Islands subspecies)
Base of Montana Roja, Playa Blanca – 1 on 11th , 2 on 15th
Teguise Plain - High count 10 on 22nd
Near Femes – 2 on 20th
El Rubicon – 2 on 25th and 27th
Raven Corvus corax tingitanus
1 on El Rubicon and 1 near Teguise Plain on 12th
1 near Mirador de Haria on 17th
2 over Montana Roja on 24th
Starling Sturnus vulgaris
7 at Playa Blanca on 13th
Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis
Abundant and widespread. Seen daily in good numbers.
Canary Serinus canaria (Macaronesian endemic)
2 Seen just south of Haria near junction to Tabayesco on 17th
Linnet Carduelis cannabina harterti (Fuerteventura and Lanzarote subspecies)
Regular in Hotel grounds and along Playa Blanca seafront – Max. 5 on 10th
2 on Teguise Plain on 12th
2 near Haria on 17th
2 near Restaurante Mirador los Salinas, Janubio on 20th and 25th
6 at Complejo Agro Industrial de Teguise, Teguise Plain on 22nd
3 around the base of Montana Roja on 24th
Trumpeter Finch Budanetes githagineus amantum (Canary Islands subspecies)
5 near Faro Pechiguera on 8th
5 on El Rubicon on 9th
1 on Playa Blanca promenade on 16th
2 near Restaurante Mirador los Salinas, Janubio on 20th
5 at the base and 2 at the rim of Montana Roja on 24th
2 at Laguna de Janubio on 25th
BUTTERFLIES and MOTHS
Small White, Artogeia rapae
Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui
Greenish Black-tip, Elphinstonia charlonia
Common Blue, Polyommatus icarus
African Grass Blue, Zizeeria knysna
Geranium Bronze, Cacyreus marshalli
Clouded Yellow, Colias crocea
Striped Hawkmoth, Hyles livornica
Haria Lizard, Galiotia atlantica
Algerian Hedgehog (roadkill) Atelerix algirus
Crab, Clibanarius aequabilis
7-spot Ladybird, Coccinella septempunctata
Groundhopper , Calliptamus plebeius
Groundhopper , Sphingonotus caerulans
Cockroach, Periplaneta americana
Woodlice, Armadillidium vulgare
Egyptian Grasshopper, Anacridium aegyptium