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A Report from

Lanzarote, 5th to 23rd February 2012,

Alan Miller

Houbara Bustard seen well at four sites, and Cream-coloured Courser, Barbary Partridge, Berthelot's Pipit, African Blue Tit, 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 2012.

Having enjoyed our dose of winter sun on Lanzarote in 2011, Anne and I again travelled there in February 2012 for almost 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. Again 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, it was a nice place to be (especially as we kept hearing of the snow and ice 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 information on the Surfbirds Lanzarote Blog webpage. Having used C&C for previous trips to the Canary Islands we again found the site information valuable and the species lists for birds, mammals, reptiles, dragonflies and butterflies extremely useful. It must be said, however, that the guide was printed in 1996 so care must be taken with directions as new roads and road (re)numbering has changed some of the instructions, and there are now some new sites worth visiting. For field identification we used the new Collins Bird Guide (Mullarney, Svensson, Zetterstrom & Grant). 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 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 264.64 euros. Petrol was slightly more expensive than last year at 1.049 euros per litre. We stayed in the resort of Playa Blanca on the south coast of the island at the H10 Timanfaya 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 still a large amount of partly completed housing and land clearance which didn’t appear to have developed since our last visit. Also we must again mention the many new roads on the island. A method frequently used was to construct a new road alongside the existing one, both then being in use. The effect is that intersections/junctions can be a double hazard trying to negotiate two roads instead of one! This is worth bearing in mind as a high proportion of the traffic was tourists in hire vehicles. 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 others superseded some directions for site information in C&C.

Initially the weather wasn't as kind to us as it had been previously. The pattern for the first half our stay was a mixture of sun, lots of cloud and a stiff breeze, often from the north. We wondered if we were being affected by the extremity of the very bad weather passing over the UK and much of mainland Europe. Daytime temperatures were in the high teens. By the last week the weather had settled down and temperatures rose to the high 20's in the midday sun. Wind was always a factor. When from the north it could be chilly but otherwise it tended to be a warm breeze. We wore jumpers more than usual during the first half of our trip, especially morning and evening but on a couple of occasions for the whole day. On the brighter side I wore shorts and sandals throughout except for evenings. Sunrise was about 7.30 a.m. and it was dark around 7 p.m.

On our last February visit there had been lots of wild flowers on verges and waste ground and we had been delighted with the carpet of colour from wild flowers in the north of the island. The current winter had been very dry and this phenomenon was missing. Consequently it was often hard to find plants in flower to check for insects.

We kept daily records and at the end of the holiday we totalled 49 species, nine more than on our last visit.

Itinerary Highlights

Playa Blanca (C&C site 1)

Hotel: The Timanfaya Palace hotel covers a large seafront site with beautifully maintained gardens. Most of the flower beds were dressed with volcanic ash with only small grassy areas. Shrubs in flower were few. Consequently our hotel list was small but it did include Spanish Sparrow, White Wagtail, Common Chiffchaff and Collared Dove whilst Yellow-legged Gulls patrolled overhead and Sandwich Terns dived offshore. Late on the 17th we saw 2 Swallows come off the sea. This was interesting as on the same date last year we had seen hirundines coming off the sea heading north and we again wondered if this was an early sign of migration. Then late on the 18th a House Martin came off the sea past our hotel, on 21st 9 Swallows and another House Martin and on 22nd a single Swallow.

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, Whimbrel and Common Sandpiper. We had single sightings of Little Egret, Grey Heron, a pair of Trumpeter Finch and a pair of Linnet. Flying just off the shore were Yellow-legged Gull and Sandwich Tern.

In a small sheltered sunny area next to the prom we found a patch of Birdsfoot Trefoil Lotus corniculatus in flower. On one occasion there were 4 Long-tailed Blue butterflies nectaring on the flowers, and on another they were joined by a Common Blue. Other butterflies seen along the front were Painted Lady and Small White. We also saw Lesser Emperor Dragonfly.

Faro Pechiguera: The lighthouse is set on a promontory and over recent years the resort of Playa Blanca has extended to almost surround it on the land side. There are still rough patches of land between the new and the unfinished housing estates. Here we saw Berthelot's Pipit and Trumpeter Finch together with African Grass Blue and Clouded Yellow butterflies.

Montana Roja: This is a red coloured volcanic mountain and crater located behind our hotel. Walks around the base turned up Berthelot's Pipit and Black Redstart. At the north-east corner of the road around the montana is a water treatment works surrounded by palms. Whilst this looks like a promising oasis we only saw Great Grey Shrike here. There are roads and tracks through the volcanic scrub between the montana and the coast. We had just passed the works on one of our circuits when a Houbara Bustard walked over the road in front of our car giving stunningly unexpected views. On another circuit Houbara Bustard was again seen at the same point.

On the western side of the montana there is a path up the volcano (194 metres high) and around the crater rim. There is also access into the caldera. Unfortunately the little vegetation in the crater was flowerless. On my first visit into the crater there was some cloud cover and I only saw a Great Grey Shrike, however the second visit was on a sunny day and there were many Haria Lizard. I came across one concentrating on an insect it had caught and it allowed me to approach fairly closely. When kneeling down to take a photograph it was attracted to the noise the camera shutter made (although set on silent it does make a low click when pressed) and became inquisitive, coming right up to touch the camera. Also in the crater was a flock of 14 Trumpeter Finch constantly contact calling to each other and occasionally making their loud nasal buzzing song. 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 Berthelot's Pipit together with Spanish Sparrow and Great Grey Shrike. On one visit we were treated to a Houbara Bustard flying over the car and landing close to us, showing very well.

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. It is, however, worth climbing past Maciot to Femes which has a terrace with panoramic views. Just over the summit there is a very fertile, agricultural area which always looks promising but only revealed Kestrel, Great Grey Shrike and Spanish Sparrow.

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.

From the roundabout take the road signed for El Golfo. After 400 metres the wooden gates to the Salinas are on your left. It is a working site (not ‘no longer used’ as stated in C&C) but we have found the staff to be friendly and not minding us walking into the saltpans. On a Sunday the main gate is closed as no work is taking place. In our view it is better and 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 visits have been on a Sunday when there is no disturbance by workmen and most of the waders concentrate on the saltpans next to Laguna, furthest from the sea. On one visit I made a complete tour of the Laguna which took about 1.5 hours. Care must be taken as it is necessary to climb over volcanic rocks in a few areas but the effort is worthwhile. Also care had to be taken not to double-count as the waders were mobile but maximum numbers for some of our sightings included 35 Berthelot's Pipit, 11 Black-necked Grebe, 89 Black-winged Stilt, 12 Redshank, 11 Greenshank, 68 Kentish Plover, 12 Common Sandpiper, 21 Turnstone and a Black-headed Gull.

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. Around the Restaurante were Berthelot's Pipit, Spanish Sparrow and Collared Dove.

Teguise Plain/El Jable (C&C site 5)

We visited this site three times. On the first visit we 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 Pipit, Great Grey Shrike and Lesser Short-toed Lark. Also we found Houbara Bustard in three locations, each one initially showing well close to the track before walking away out of sight. A goat herd was being tended near the Toa track. Following and feeding around it were 20 Cattle Egret and 15 White Wagtail.

The Teguise/Yaiza road opposite this area passes the Complejo Agro Industrial de Teguise. When passing, it is worth pulling off the road on the southern side of the site and checking the surrounding vegetation which was good for Berthelot's Pipit and Hoopoe, both of which were very confiding, allowing us to approach quite close.

On our second visit we went to the El Jable side which was the first time we had tried this area. As we drove out of Monique towards Soo, after about 500 metres we took the first main track on our right which proved to be a good choice. The track rises slightly to a ridge about 300 metres from the turning. Here we saw a Houbara Bustard. A further 200 metres on the right the sand is more open with less boulders and shrubs. Here we saw three Cream-coloured Coursers. Another 100 metres on the right was another Houbara Bustard and then after a further 300 metres we came across a sheltered area of small bushes amongst which was a large mixed feeding flock of about 150 birds. They were mainly Short-toed Lark but there was also Lesser Short-toed Lark, Linnet and Trumpeter Finch. Shortly after this area the track deteriorated where sand had blown over it so we turned round and retraced our steps.

On our last visit we again drove the same El Jable track. It was later in the day and bird numbers were less, however on the first crest close to the left side of the track were a party of 5 Cream-coloured Courser which, whilst being aware of the car, didn't walk away which is so often the case and they gave stunning views for 5 minutes before moving on.

Tahiche Golf Course (C&C site 6)

Our target here was Barbary Partridge. Traffic on the road past the Golf Course tended to be in a hurry and parking places were limited so we went straight into the Golf Club car park. Since C&C was written it would appear that the lava banks surrounding the car park have been raised and the vegetation has grown. It is not now possible to see much of the course from here. Within the Golf Clubhouse building is a cafe/restaurant open to the public with a terrace overlooking part of the course. From here the driving range is in front of you. Behind the range is an area of small scrub and here, near the 250m yellow board, we found a party of 5 Barbary Partridge quite at home with people passing nearby. We had a coffee and watched the partridges for 15 minutes. Other sightings included Common Chiffchaff, Great Grey Shrike, Cattle Egret and Spanish Sparrow together with Clouded Yellow and Painted Lady butterflies.

Mirador de Haria (C&C site 8)

We approached this area from the Teguise Plain (C&C site 5) to the south. After passing through Teguise we saw Kestrel and Raven. We stopped for coffee at Bar Restaurante Los Helechos, which has spectacular views, especially towards the east coast.

The road then twists down past Bar Mirador de Haria (which was closed with a chain across the entrance) and is not particularly good to bird safely so we continued to the junction with the Tabayesco Road on our right. We took the track to the left opposite the junction which drops down through some cultivations towards the outskirts of Haria. On the right side of the track in the tops of Fig trees we saw three Canaries. This has proved to be a reliable site for Canary as we also saw them here on all visits in 2011. We also saw Grey Heron and Hoopoe. We turned round at the junction to the Sports Centre and retraced our steps back to the main road and continued straight over towards Tabayesco.

The Tabayesco road is very twisty for the first kilometre till you reach a sharp left-handed hairpin bend with a small vineyard next to the bend. Here we saw White Wagtail and Spanish Sparrow before continuing another 400 metres or so to an obvious passing/parking place on the right next to a small copse of mixed trees and bushes. In one of the trees we saw three 'ultramarinus' African Blue Tits showing their white wing bar, together with Blackcap, Spectacled Warbler and Hoopoe.

La Isleta

On the coast north of El Jable near the village of La Santa is La Isleta, almost a small island with a long, narrow natural inlet. Approaching from La Santa there is a causeway onto La Isleta. Whilst the right side of the causeway is landscaped as a leisure area for the nearby Sport Hotel, the left is a local nature reserve. It is best to view from the raised causeway however if the sun is at the wrong angle it is possible to drive through the surfers car park between La Santa and the causeway and the track leads to the reserve. You must stop before the reserve but passage on foot along the track overlooking the reserve is allowed. On our first visit we saw Spoonbill, Little Egret, Greenshank, Ruff, Whimbrel, Common Sandpiper and Sandwich Tern. On our second visit the waders took flight and on looking up an Osprey flew over the reserve then spent some time fishing in the recreation lake. We also added Grey Plover to the trip list on this visit.

Tias Golf Course

This fairly new course is like a green oasis located between Tias and Puerto del Carmen. We approached from the Puerto del Carmen bypass turning off at the sign for the hospital and Tias. There is a cafe in the Golf Clubhouse which is open to the public. After a coffee watching a Berthelot’s Pipit imitating a sparrow looking for crumbs under the tables, permission was obtained from the receptionist to walk across the course. Taking the track towards the obvious water feature, on the 18th green there was a Black-tailed Godwit. In and around the water feature were Common Sandpiper and Coot, a Great Grey Shrike sat on top of a bush, and on the surrounding grass was a large flock of Linnet, a small group of Trumpeter Finch, and a lone pipit, obviously not a Berthelot's and identified as a first winter Red-throated Pipit.

A second visit to Tias Golf Course was late in the afternoon whereas our first visit had been in the morning. We found the course to be much busier and with the consequent disturbance there were fewer birds about.

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Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis
Laguna de Janubio - 11 on 11th and 1 on 19th  

Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Teguise Plain - 20 on 7th  
Near Tias - 1 on 9th and 11th
Near Complejo Agro Industrial de Teguise - 1 on 14th  
Near San Bartolome - 4 on 14th
Tahiche Golf Course - 2 on 17th
La Islta reserve – 3 on 21st
Playa Quemada - 2 on 23rd

Little Egret Egretta garzeta
Near Macher - 1 on 5th
La Isleta reserve - 3 on 11th
From Playa Blanca promenade - 1 on 13th

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Just south of Haria near Tabayesco junction - 1 on 14th
From Playa Blanca promenade - 1 on 16th
La Isleta reserve – 1 on 21st

Spoonbill Platalea Leucorodia
La Isleta reserve - 3 on 11th and 21st  

Osprey Pandion haliaetus
La Isleta reserve – 1 on 21st

Kestrel Falco tinnunculus dacotiae (Canary Islands Subspecies)
Seen regularly around the island.

Barbary Falcon Falco pelegrinoides
Teguise Plain - 1 on 7th

Coot Fulica atra
Tias Golf Course - 1 on 9th

Barbary Partridge Alectoris Barbara
Tahiche Golf Course - 5 on 17th

Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata fuertaventurae (Canary Islands Subspecies)
Teguise Plain - 3 on 7th
El Rubicon - 1 on 9th
El Jable - 2 on 11th
Near Montana Roja - 1 on 15th and 23rd  

Cream-coloured Courser Cursorius curson bannermani
El Jable - 3 on 11th, 5 on 21st

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Laguna and Salinas de Janubio - 40 on 11th, 89 on 19th

Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
Up to 3 seen regularly along Playa Blanca shoreline
Salinas de Janubio - 7 on 19th

Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus
Salinas de Janubio - 68 on 11th, 9 on 19th

Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola
La Isleta reserve – 1 on 21st

Little Stint Calidris minuta
Salinas de Janubio - 1 on 11th

Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
Tias Golf Course - 1 on 9th

Ruff Philomachus pugnax
La Isleta reserve - 1 on 11th
Salinas de Janubio - 4 on 19th

Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
Playa Blanca shoreline - 1 on 10th, 2 on 16th and 1 on 18th
La Isleta reserve – 1 on 11th, 2 on 21st
Salinas de Janubio – 1 on 19th

Redshank Tringa totanus
Salina de Janubio – 12 on 11th and 19th

Greenshank Tringa nebularia
Salina de Janubio – 4 on 11th , 11 on 19th
La Isleta reserve - 1 on 11th

Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
1 or 2 seen regularly on Playa Blanca shoreline
Salina de Janubio – 4 on 11th, 12 on 19th
La Isleta reserve - 1 on 11th, 3 on 21st

Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
Regularly seen on Playa Blanca shoreline – High count 6 on 20th
Salinas de Janubio - 21 on 19th
La Isleta reserve – 1 on 21st

Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus
Salina de Janubio - 1 on 11th and 19th

Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis atlantis (Macaronesian subspecies)
Good numbers around the island.

Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis
Up to 11 regularly seen over the sea close to Playa Blanca shoreline
La Isleta reserve - 7 on 11th , 13 on 21st
Tias Golf Course - 1 on 23rd

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

Hoopoe Upupa epops
Complejo Agro Industrial de Teguise – 1 on 7th and 14th
Uga – 1 on 11th
Just south of Haria near Tabayesco junction - 1 on 14th
Between Haria junction and Tabayesco - 1 on 14th

(Greater) Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla
El Jable - 100 on 11th

Lesser Short-toed Lark Calandrella rufescens polatzeki (Canary Islands subspecies)
Teguise Plain – 50 on 7th
El Jable - 25 on 11th, 12 on 21st

Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Puerto del Carmen - 1 on 9th
From the sea past our hotel - 2 on 17th, 9 on 21st and 1 on 22nd

House Martin Delichon urbica
From the sea past our hotel - 1 on 18th and 21st

Berthelot’s Pipit Anthus berthelotii berthelotti (Macaronesian endemic and Canary Islands subspecies)
Widespread in all habitats. Often very confiding.
Highest count 35 at Salinas de Janubio on 19th

Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus
Tias Golf Course - 1 on 9th

Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea cinerea
From Playa Blanca promenade - 1 on 14th

White Wagtail Motacilla alba
1 or 2 seen regularly along Playa Blanca promenade
Teguise Plain - 15 on 7th
Tias Golf Course - 8 on 9th and 1 on 23rd
Between Haria junction and Tabayesco - 1 on 14th

Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros
Montana Roja habitations - 1 female on 15th

Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata orbitalis (Canary Islands subspecies)
Between Haria junction and Tabayesco - 1 on 14th

Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla atricapilla
1 female between Haria junction and Tabayesco on 14th
1 male at Punta Pechiguera habitations on 15th
1 female at La Geria on 17th

Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
1 or 2 seen or heard regularly along Playa Blanca promenade
Tahiche Golf Course - 1 on 17th

African Blue Tit Cyanistes Teneriffae ultramarinus
Between Haria junction and Tabayesco - 3 on 14th

Great Grey Shrike Lanius excubitor koenigi (Canary Islands subspecies)
Teguise Plain - 5 on 7th
Tias Golf Course - 1 on 9th, 2 on 23rd
Salinas de Janubio - 1 on 11th, 2 on 19th
El Jable - 10 on 11th
Los Valles - 1 on 14th
Just south of Haria at Tabayesco junction - 1 on 14th
Near San Bartolome - 1 on 14th
Around Montana Roja - 3 on 15th, 1 on 23rd
Tahiche Golf Course - 1 on 17th
Femes - 1 on 17th
Puerto  Quemada - 1 on 23rd

Raven Corvus corax tingitanus
El Rubicon - 1 on 14th
Near Mirador de Haria - 5 on 14th

Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis
Abundant and widespread. Seen daily in good numbers.

Canary Serinus canaria (Macaronesian endemic)
Just south of Haria near junction to Tabayesco - 3 on 17th

Linnet Carduelis cannabina harterti (Fuerteventura and Lanzarote subspecies)
Tias Golf Course - 67 on 9th, 3 on 23rd
El Jable - 20 on 11th
Playa Blanca promenade – 2 on 20th
Playa Quemada - 1 on 23rd

Trumpeter Finch Budanetes githagineus amantum (Canary Islands subspecies)
Playa Blanca promenade - 2 on 6th
Tias Golf Course - 6 on 9th, 2 on 23rd
El Jable - 5 on 11th
Montana Roja crater - 14 on 20th


Small White Artogeia rapae
Painted Lady Vanessa cardui
Common Blue Polyommatus icarus
African Grass Blue Zizeeria knysna
Clouded Yellow Colias crocea
(micro moth) Hymenia recurvalis


Haria Lizard Galiotia atlantica


Algerian Hedgehog (roadkill) Atelerix algirus
Rabbit (roadkill) Oryctolagus cuniculus


Crab Grapsus grapsus
7-spot Ladybird Coccinella septempunctata
Cockroach Periplaneta Americana
Lesser Emperor Dragonfly Anax parthenope


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