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A Report from

Birding Lanzarote, 18th -25th November 2004,

Alan Miller

Nine Houbara Bustards, a Great Spotted Cuckoo and 77 Berthalot's Pipits were some of the birding highlights of a week spent on Lanzarote in November 2004.

Anne and I together with Vivienne and Peter Coleman travelled to the Canarian Island of Lanzarote for a weeks birding, sightseeing and sun. This report chronicles the former, however it must be said that birding wasn't as extensive as we'd planned due to sickness amongst some of our team.

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 carried Collins Bird Guide (Mullarney, Svensson, Zetterstrom & Grant). Having used C&C for previous trips to Tenerife and Fuerteventura, 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.

We travelled to Lanzarote by air from Leeds/Bradford airport having booked two seats through Airtours on a charter holiday flight. Peter and Vivienne did the same from Bristol. We had chosen flights to dovetail with arrival and departure times, and within 10 days of departure we both had flight times significantly changed. For us it meant arriving after dark on day one and leaving for the airport in the dark on our last day. We used a Ford Focus hire car for the duration booked through Autoreisen over the internet with an all-in cost of 133 euros (about £95). We stayed in an apartment owned by a family friend at Los Pocillos, Puerto del Carmen.

Lanzarote is a volcanic island with relatively few trees and natural vegetation. Around the main tourist centres of Puerto del Carmen and Playa Blanca there was a large amount of housing under construction. We also noted that many new roads had been laid linking the main centres of population. The method was generally 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 the new roads weren't on our map, nor the one we got from the Tourist Office, and superseded some directions for site info in C&C.

The weather was perfect for us with clear blue skies and light warm breezes. At the end of our week we had a day with slightly stronger winds and one night of overnight cloud. Jumpers weren't needed with daytime temperatures in the mid 70's and overnight temperatures in the mid 60's. The sun started to rise just after 7a.m. and to set just after 6.30p.m.

We kept daily records and at the end of the holiday we totalled 46 species including 6 'lifers' for Peter.

Itinerary Highlights

The grounds of the apartment complex held a resident population of Spanish Sparrow and Collared Dove. Yellow-legged Gulls flew overhead and a regular fly-through visitor was a pair of Ring-necked Parakeets

Friday 19th November

In the morning we walked the two kilometers along the front from the apartment to the harbour at Puerto del Carmen. On rocks at the shore we found three Sanderling and six Ruddy Turnstone. Passing by close to the shore were three Sandwich Terns. In the harbour there were Yellow-legged Gulls and sitting on small fishing boats were a Grey Heron and a Little Egret. On the ramp under a boat were four ducks which showed some signs of once coming from Mallard stock!.

In the afternoon we visited Tahiche Golf Course (C&C site 6). As we drove into the car park we were greeted with a Southern Grey Shrike on the fence which was to be the first of many seen all over the island. Having read on other trip reports that the golf management may not be too birder-friendly we decided to see what we could view from the car park. A scan revealed good views of two pairs of Barbary Partridge, one pair about 75 yards distant.

From there we went to Los Cocoteros Salt Pans (C&C site 7). A new road bypasses Guatiza so you need to take the turning about a kilometre before onto the old road. On entering Guatiza the turn to Los Cocoteros is immediately on the right. We found the small overgrown cactus field to the far side of the junction alive with birds. Spanish Sparrows were in abundance and there was a Chiffchaff. We could hear an unfamiliar song not dissimilar to a Reed Warbler and on searching discovered it was the local race of Linnet perched proudly on a cactus flower stem.

On the road down to the salt pans we had our first Berthelot's Pipit and a Spectacled Warbler. In their native environment the pipits were in abundance and very confiding, coming close to cars and people at all of the tourist attractions.

The salt pans were a bit of a let-down from our expectations. The few waders present were concentrated on a couple of pans in the centre of the workings. We managed to get to a viewing point to see Greenshank, Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Common Snipe and Kentish Plover.

Saturday 20th November

On a morning visit to Salina de Janubio (C&C site 2) we discovered that the salt pans were in full production (not 'no longer used' as stated in C&C). From the viewpoint above the salt pans we added Black-winged Stilt to our trip list, however we found the best technique was to park on the parking area next to the shore and then walk into the workings along the main track. Workmen were friendly and didn't bother us. We turned right and walked to the edge of the lagoon and found that the birds tended to sit on the walls and lagoon shore. There were Little Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Whimbrel, Redshank, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper and Ruddy Turnstone. Also a single Black-headed Gull. Lunch at the restaurant overlooking the salt pans (Casa Domingo) was very agreeable with Chiffchaff in the bushes in front of the terrace.

Our next plan was to drive to Playa Blanca and take a track north across Los Rostros, however as we approached Playa Blanca we were greeted with major house building. We managed to find the road to Papagayo and adjacent to the signs denoting the end of Playa Blanca we came across a small new water treatment/sewage works. A stop and explore revealed two Swallows, together with White Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Hoopoe, Spanish Sparrow and Spectacled Warbler. Another 200 yards and we came to a roundabout with a new road north to Femes not shown on our maps.

Our last call was at the small coastal village of Playa Quemada where we added Trumpeter Finch to our list.

Sunday 21st November

The morning challenge was to find Canary. We drove towards Arrieta then turned left on the minor road through Tabayesco towards Haria. At the T junction with the Haria/Teguise road there were some small fields being cultivated and watered. We parked up and explored the area on foot. By the roadside was a row of small spruce-type trees where we had excellent views of a singing Canary. Close by was a row of Fig trees which were popular with the Canaries. We also saw three Spectacled Warblers.

We then turned towards Teguise and stopped at the  restaurant and viewing area (C&C site 8). The views were breathtaking and immediately over the railings the hillside was terraced and we had more close views of Canary and Spectacled Warbler before a noisy coach party arrived. The terrace was alive with Berthelot's Pipits which weren't in the least bothered by the people.

The early afternoon was spent on the tracks crossing the Teguise Plain (C&C site 5). The most productive area was near Tiagua where Berthelot's Pipits and Lesser Short-toed Larks were in abundance. In addition there were two Northern Wheatear. Whilst scanning a cultivated area I became aware of some pipits taking flight with alarm calls. I turned round to see a Great Spotted Cuckoo fly in low over the larva and land 40 yards behind where I was standing. I managed good scope views before it took to the air and moved away.

Monday 22nd November

An early morning visit back at the Teguise Plain saw us in position as the sun rose. Taking the first track on the left from the Caleta road we had excellent views of our first Houbara Bustard about 75 yards away close to the track. We then turned right after about 800 yards and found the most productive area was to our left scanning over some cultivations towards Tiagua with the sun behind us. We spotted another eight Bustards including a family party of three. The Plain was also alive with Southern Grey Shrike. Close to Tiagua we found three Hoopoe and came across a flock of 70 Lesser Short-toed Larks. Despite extensive searching we failed to find Cream-coloured Courser. 

On an afternoon walk along the promenade at Playa de los Pocillos we found an area of the beach which we learned was favoured by gulls and saw more Yellow-legged Gulls and our first Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

Tuesday 23rd November

In the morning we headed north and near Tahiche found ten Pallid Swifts hawking low near the roadside. We continued on and again visited the restaurant viewpoint south of Haria and added two Ravens to our list. We then moved on to the road junction just south of Haria to Tabayesco. It was as productive as our first visit with five Canaries, a Spectacled Warbler, nine Berthelot's Pipits and another new species, two 'degener' race AfricanBlue Tits

We continued north to the top of the island (C&C site 4) looking for raptors (especially Barbary Falcon) but only found Kestrel and saw another Raven.

We dropped down to Orzola and a walk around the harbour produced Grey Heron, Little Egret, Ruddy Turnstone and Common Sandpiper 

We finished the day at Los Cocoteros salt pans which were less productive than our first visit but we did find a small duck which flew off before we could identify it.

Wednesday 24th November

Janubio saltpans were our target for the morning. There were more Greenshank and Grey Plover than on our previous visit. In addition to Little Ringed Plover and Kentish Plover we found a pair of Ringed Plover. We also found a single Pintail.

Thursday 25th November

We left for the airport before dawn but whilst sat in the café waiting to board we saw Spanish Sparrow, Collared Dove, Hoopoe and a flock of five Little Egret which flew in and landed on the green watered area near the airport terminal building.


Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Seen daily both on the coast and inland.
Highest count was five birds at Arrecife Airport on 25th.

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
1 at Puerto del Carmen harbour on 19th
1 in flight at Tabayesco on 21st
1 at Orzola harbour on 23rd

Pintail Anas acuta
1 at Laguna de Janubio on 24th 

Kestrel Falco tinnunculus dacotiae (Canary Islands Subspecies)
Seen regularly around the island. Highest number was 3 on 21st, 23rd and 24th 

Barbary Partridge Alectoris Barbara
4 on Tahiche Golf Course on 19th

Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata fuertaventurae (Canary Islands Subspecies)
9 on Teguise Plain on 22nd 

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Salina de Janubio - 15 on 20th and 4 on 24th 

Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
Salina de Janubio - 2 on 20th and 1 on 24th

Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
Salina de Janubio - 2 on 24th

Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus
Los Cocoteros Salt Pans - 5 on 19th
Salina de Janubio - 8 on 20th and 2 on 24th

Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola
Salina de Janubio - 14 on 20th and 23 on 24th  

Sanderling Calidris alba
3 at Playa Blanca, Puerto del Carmen on 19th
2 at Salina de Janubio on 20th 

Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea
1 at Los Cocoteros Salt Pans on 19th

Snipe Gallinago gallinago
1 at Los Cocoteros Salt Pans on 19th 

Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
1 at Salina de Janubio on 20th and 24th
1 at Orzola harbour on 23rd

Redshank Tringa totanus
Los Cocoteros Salt Pans - 6 on 19th and 10 on 23rd
Salina de Janubio - 5 on 20th and 6 on 24th

Greenshank Tringa nebularia
Los Cocoteros Salt Pans - 1 on 19th and 1 on 23rd
Salina de Janubio - 8 on 20th and 26 on 24th

Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Los Cocoteros Salt Pans - 3 on 19th and 1 on 23rd
Salina de Janubio - 7 on 20th and 4 on 24th
Orzola - 2 on 23rd

Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
6 at Playa Blanca, Puerto del Carmen on 19th
18 on 20th and 2 on 24th at Salina de Janubio
1 at Orzola on 23rd

Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus
1 at Salina de Janubio on 20th 

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus
4 on 22nd and 12 on 23rd at Playa de los Pocillos

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

Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis
3 off Playa Blanca, Puerto del Carmen on 19th
1 off Los Cocoteros Salt Pans on 23rd 

Feral Pigeon Columba livia (domest.)
Abundant and widespread, especially around habitation.

Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto
Seen daily throughout the Island

Ring-necked Parakeet Psitacula krameri
2 regularly seen and heard over the apartment complex at Los Pocillos

Great Spotted Cuckoo Clamator glandarius
1 on Teguise Plain on 21st

Pallid Swift Apus pallidus
4 on 19th and 1 on 21st near Arrecife by-pass
10 on 23rd near Tahiche

Hoopoe Upupa epops
Seen almost daily around the island.
Highest count 3 on Teguise Plain on 22nd and 3 near Tahiche on 23rd  

Lesser Short-toed Lark Calandrella rufescens polatzeki (Canary Islands subspecies)
Teguise Plain - 50 on 21st and 70 on 22nd
Near Las Nieves - 8 on 21st and 1 on 23rd 

Berthelot's Pipit Anthus berthelotii (Macaronesian endemic and Canary Islands subspecies)
Widespread in all habitats. Often very confiding.
Highest count 20 on Teguise Plain on 22nd  

Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
1 at new water treatment works on northern outskirts of Playa Blanca on 20th

White Wagtail Motacilla alba
1 at Tahiche Golf Course on 19th
2 at new water treatment works on northern outskirts of Playa Blanca on 20th
1 at Playa Quemada on 20th 

Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
2 on Teguise Plain on 21st

Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata orbitalis (Canary Islands subspecies)
1 near Los Cocoteros on 19th
1 at new water treatment works on northern outskirts of Playa Blanca on 20th
4 on 21st and 1 on 23rd near Haria

Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
1 on 19th at Guatiza
2 on 20th at Salina de Janubio
1 on 20th and 1 on 24th at Playa Quemada

African Blue Tit Parus teneriffae degener (Fuerteventura and Lanzarote subspecies)
2 near Haria on 23rd 

Southern Grey Shrike Lanius excubitor koenigi (Canary Islands subspecies)
Seen daily around the Island. Highest count 12 on Teguise Plain on 22nd

Raven Corvus corax tingitanus
2 on 23rd near Haria
1 on 23rd at Mirador del Rio
1 on 24th at Timanfaya

Starling Sturnus vulgaris
3 between Puerto del Carmen and Macher on 24th

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

Canary Serinus canaria (Macaronesian endemic)
Seen just south of Haria, 13 on 21st and 7 on 23rd

Greenfinch Carduelis chloris
1 on 21st near Haria

Linnet Carduelis cannabina harterti (Fuerteventura and Lanzarote subspecies)
2 at Guatiza on 19th
1 at Playa Quemada on 20th
2 near Haria on 21st

Trumpeter Finch Budanetes githagineus amantum (Canary Islands subspecies)
1 at Playa Quemada on 20th

Red Admiral                             Vanessa Atlanta
Painted Lady                            Cynthia cardui
Greenish Black-tip                    Elphinstonia charlonia

Eastern Canary Skink               Chalcides polylepis

Rabbit                                      Oryctolagus cuniculus


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