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A Report from

Lanzarote, 9th - 23rd December 2004,

David Tattersley

During our two week stay my wife Anita, my son Benjamin, my daughter Alexandra and myself were based once more near the old town of Puerto del Carmen. For the duration of our stay on the island we hired a Seat Cordoba from Orlando Rent a Car, who were incredibly cheap, however any potential clients should be aware that our car had a few bumps on it on pickup, and as far as I am aware was the only car on Lanzarote with a yellow matt paint finish!

The weather for the two-week period was unsettled to say the least, the first week was exceptionally wet with strong winds from the south west of the Atlantic Ocean. The second week was certainly drier but with a cool wind veering round to the east and finally the north.

It wasn't ideal for a professional sun-goddess like Anita, but as things turned out, from a birding point of view, a total of 55 species was fairly respectable having birded on Lanzarote 3 times previously, most recently being in December 2002. The 17th of December, when the wind blew from the east, for the only day of the holiday, will live long in the memory as a couple of Barbary Falcon, a pair of Ruddy Shelduck and a Grey Phalarope were all observed at close quarters! Other highlights of the trip would have to include Gannet, Avocet, Spotted Sandpiper and the Canarian species of Blue Tit resident on Lanzarote.

I would recommend anyone birding the island for the first time to purchase a copy of "The Birdwatchers' Guide to The Canary Islands" by Tony Clarke & David Collins, which despite the fact that it was published in 1996 contains relevant and accurate site locations and gives the birder a pretty good idea of which species you are likely to encounter.

From my previous experience and sightings on this particular island I would say it is essential if you want to maximise your species tally to visit the Salinas de Janubio, El Jable/Teguise Plain, Arrecife Beach by the airport, Tachiche Golf Club, Mirador de Haria and the surrounding cultivated land and finally the Riscos de Famara, although the latter site was unproductive during my visit, primarily due to the time of year. The area around Playa Blanca, El Rubicon, in particular, has succumbed to the holiday property boom, therefore give that one a miss and finally Los Cocoteras was disappointing, certainly in comparison to my visit a couple of years ago. I would be very surprised if anything turned up there that you couldn't view in a much nicer setting at the Salinas de Janubio.

Whilst on the subject of wasted journeys, I personally would not make the effort to visit La Santa, on the northern coastline of Lanzarote, the wind is usually ferocious and the area only usually produces common waders and Sandwich Tern which are always present along the shoreline of Arrecife Beach in December as a rule.

All my birding was done early morning, other than my sightings around the pool area of our sojourn at Villa Mimosa in the Los Mojones area of Puerto del Carmen.

The sites and dates visited were as follows:

Salinas de Janubio 10,13,15,17,20 & 22 December

It is imperative to bird the saltpans and lagoon thoroughly with binoculars and telescope, preferably early morning. I prefer to park the car in the area south east of the lagoon, which is reached via the old Yaiza to Playa Blanca road down a rough track marked "Playa". By approaching the lagoon from this direction the early morning sun (when it shines that is!) is projecting its rays from over your right shoulder affording excellent views of any bird life around.

Kestrel, Berthelot's Pipit and Trumpeter Finch are common on the cliffs to your right on your approach to the sheltered southeast inlet of the lagoon. Wigeon, Teal, Avocet and Grey Phalarope were all encountered on this particular inlet during my visits. Black-Winged Stilt, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Whimbrel, Common Redshank, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper and Turnstone are invariably present.

The southern shoreline to your left is usually next on my itinerary and this can be particularly productive if the wind is blowing from the north or northeast. On my recent visits there were very healthy numbers of Common Redshank, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper and Turnstone present.

The southern inlet of the lagoon can be particularly rewarding, again when the wind blows from a northerly direction. Kentish Plover, Knot, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin and Spotted Sandpiper were all viewed on this area of shoreline, along with a pair of Ruddy Shelduck which flew in from the west at 09:40 on 17/12/04, circled the lagoon, calling incessantly to each other, and then proceeded south along the coastline towards Playa Blanca. I almost had to pinch myself to appreciate how fortunate I had been to observe that special moment which immediately lifts the spirit of any nature lover, any serious birder or wildlife enthusiast!

Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Common Redshank, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper and Turnstone are also usually present at the southern inlet of the lagoon.

It is worth back tracking slightly here as there is an area between the southern end of the lagoon and the beach which has been hollowed out to create a tidal lagoon, on my recent visits I encountered numerous Grey Plover, the odd Knot and a few Dunlin here.

The only area of the saltpans, (which incidentally are still in production) that I have found at all productive is the one to the west and north west of the lagoon. Large numbers of Ringed Plover and Kentish Plover along with a couple of Little Ringed Plover were present in this area. There is also a little shoreline, which can be worthwhile if the wind is blowing from the south.

Finally it is always worthwhile scanning the vast lagoon. In previous times I have found Black Necked Grebe here but on this occasion only Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Yellow-legged Gull were present.

El Jable/Teguise Plain 11 & 19 December

The main reason for visiting this location is essentially to view Houbara Bustard, Stone-Curlew, Cream-Coloured Courser, Lesser Short-toed Lark and take in some of the amazing topography created by sand and the prevailing winds.

The most efficient method of birding the myriad of tracks is to arrive just after sunrise, if at all possible, working east to west, after turning off the Teguise/La Caleta road. The most productive tracks to drive along tend to be the ones to Tiagua and Soo respectively, which happen to be the second and third tracks off to your left as you drive towards La Caleta.

On both visits I found 7 Houbara Bustard, up to 4 Hoopoe around Soo, many Lesser Short-toed Lark, numerous Southern Grey Shrike and the ubiquitous Berthelot's Pipit.

Incidentally Cattle Egret, good numbers of Yellow-legged and Black-backed Gull, along with Raven can be found on the well-cultivated areas of the southern plain.

Arrecife/Airport Beach 12 & 21 December

I park my car on an area of wasteland located at the western end of the airport perimeter fence and scan the rocky shoreline on both sides of the airport warning lights construction which projects into the sea. It is also worth scanning the sea as Sandwich Tern are usually present. I had the good fortune to view a first winter Gannet from here on my initial visit.

It is quite usual to see Little Egret, Grey Heron, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Whimbrel, Common Redshank, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Turnstone, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, and White Wagtail here, and with luck, the occasional Little Stint and Bar-tailed Godwit can be found.

This particular area can easily be covered fully in around one hour and the only problems as far as this site is concerned are the aircraft noise, fuel smells and dogs off their leads which are likely to put their wet, sandy paw-prints all over you!

Tachiche Golf Club  14 & 21 December

The golf club, which is close to the island's only aqua park, is easy to locate and is the most likely place on the island to encounter Barbary Partridge.

On arrival, park the car in the car park! The golf course itself is surrounded by green mesh fencing, so the most efficient way of covering the area is to wander around the stony scrubland immediately to the east and north of the car park.

In December, a few common migrants are likely to be seen, including Blackcap and Chiffchaff. Hoopoe, White Wagtail, Robin and Southern Grey Shrike are all likely to be around, as is the green-keepers nightmare, the rabbit!

Apparently Barbary Partridge occur in good numbers around the golf course, but on my visits the maximum count was four.

Another good location to scan the area is to pull off the road, which runs to the north of the golf course. From here Barbary Partridge and Southern Grey Shrike are likely and the panoramic view towards the sea is worth a visit alone!

Haria 16 & 18 December

The area around the Mirador de Haria is both spectacular and productive for the birder, as this is a very reliable site for Canary. The most convenient place to park the car, travelling from Teguise to Haria, is an area on your right, just before the last hairpin bend and just beyond the track, which leads to the conifer plantation on your left.

This particular track stretches for miles, skirting the southern and western boundaries of the Haria region and if you have the time and inclination it is a very pleasant walk amongst an area that has a somewhat "Mediterranean" feel to it.

Common Kestrel, Berthelot's Pipit, Robin, Spectacled Warbler, Sardinian Warbler and Canary are all likely to be encountered in this area and any scanning of the higher ground is likely to produce good numbers of  Raven, which are very often engaged in aerial combat with the resident Kestrel.

Incidentally the area in and around the conifer plantation is also reliable for the Canarian species of Blue Tit.

I hope any birder either visiting, or contemplating visiting Lanzarote will find the information supplied useful, and for the record, the following is an exhaustive list of:


Gannet   Morus  bassanus  
Juvenile along coastline near Arrecife Airport on 12/12

Cattle Egret   Bubulcus ibis
1 seen carrying nesting material near Arrecife on 14/12, then 11 feeding on the side of the Yaiza/Teguise road opposite the cement factory on 18/12

Little Egret   Egretta garzetta
Singles usually present around the old harbour at Puerto del Carmen, Arrecife Beach and La Santa.

Grey Heron   Ardea cinerea
Singles seen around the old harbour at Puerto del Carmen, Arrecife Beach and Salinas de Janubio.

Ruddy Shelduck   Tadorna ferruginea
A pair flew in from the west, circled the lagoon at the Salinas de Janubio and then flew south towards Playa Blanca on 17/12

Wigeon   Anas penelope
1 female present on the southeast inlet of the lagoon at the Salinas de Janubio on 10/12

Teal   Anas crecca  

3 present on the southeast inlet of the lagoon at the Salinas de Janubio on 10/12

Kestrel   Falco tinnunculus dacotiae
Very common over most of the island

Barbary Falcon   Falco  pelegrinoides
Magnificent view of a single adult bird, flying over Villa Mimosa, with prey in its talons, being harried by a Common Kestrel on 17/12, followed by another sighting some 30 minutes later at the same location, whilst relaxing by the side of a private swimming pool, heated to a temperature of 30 degrees Celsius, wow beat that!

Barbary Partridge   Alectoris barbara
A maximum of 4 birds seen around the scrubland surrounding the golf course on 21/12

Houbara    Chlamydotis undulata fuertaventurae
7 individuals seen on both 11/12 & 19/12 including quite a few in flight on 19/12 after being disturbed by the locals in their 4 Wheel Jalopies!

Black-Winged Stilt   Himantopus himantopus
Resident at the Salinas de Janubio with a maximum count of 32 on 20/12

Avocet   Recurvirostra avosetta       
1 present from 13/12 until 22/12, normally in the company of Black-Winged Stilt, feeding on the lagoon, whilst swimming, at the Salinas de Janubio.

Little Ringed Plover   Charadrius dubius
2 individuals at the Janubio saltpans on 22/12

Ringed Plover   Charadrius hiaticula
40+ around the saltpans of Janubio on 22/12, small numbers on Arrecife Beach and La Santa.

Kentish Plover   Charadrius alexandrinus
40+ around the saltpans of Janubio on 22/12 and small numbers on Arrecife Beach and Los Cocoteros saltpans.

Grey Plover   Pluvialis squatarola
12 around the tidal lagoon at the Salinas de Janubio on 15/12 and fairly common on Arrecife Beach and La Santa.

Knot   Calidris canutus
A single bird was usually present at the Salinas de Janubio, other than 2 on 15/12 

Sanderling   Calidris alba
46 around the Salinas de Janubio on 13/12 and 28 on Arrecife Beach on 21/12 were the highest counts.

Little Stint   Calidris minuta
1 at the Salinas de Janubio on 13/12 and 4 on 15/12

Curlew Sandpiper   Calidris ferruginea
3 at the Salinas de Janubio on 15/12 and 2 on 22/12

Dunlin   Calidris alpina
6 at the Salinas de Janubio on 13/12 was the maximum seen there, a few odd birds usually present on Arrecife Beach.

Bar-tailed Godwit   Limosa lapponica
1 individual on Arrecife Beach on 21/12

Whimbrel   Numenius phaeopus
A single bird was usually present at the Salinas de Janubio, other sightings recorded on Arrecife Beach and at La Santa on 19/12.

Redshank   Tringa totanus
18 was the maximum number seen at the Salinas de Janubio on 15/12, also present on Arrecife Beach, Los Cocoteros saltpans and at La Santa.

Greenshank   Tringa nebularia
15 was the highest number recorded at the Salinas de Janubio on 15/12, a single also present at Los Cocoteros saltpans on 14/12 and at La Santa on 19/12

Common Sandpiper   Actitis hypoleucos
14 around the Salinas de Janubio on 15/12 was the maximum count, but generally present around any suitable coastline.

Spotted Sandpiper   Actitis macularius
A single bird was present throughout the holiday, tending to favour the southern shoreline of the lagoon. Incidentally, a single bird was ever present in exactly the same location 2 years ago in December 2002.

Turnstone   Arenaria interpres
65 around the Salinas de Janubio on  20/12 was the highest count, but very common around most of the coastline.

Grey Phalarope   Phalaropus fulicarius
A single adult bird was present at the Salinas de Janubio, favouring the southeast inlet of the lagoon, on 17/12, 20/12 & 22/12

Black-headed Gull   Larus ridibundus
A few birds were ever present around the Salinas de Janubio, Arrecife Beach and La Santa.

Lesser Black-backed Gull   Larus fuscus
A few were usually seen at the Salinas de Janubio on most dates, other sightings were at Arrecife Beach and La Santa.

Yellow-legged Gull   Larus cachinnans atlantis
Very common over most of the island, even inland on the El Jable/Teguise Plain. It was fascinating to observe individual birds soaring over Villa Mimosa on the afternoons of 10/12 11/12 & 12/12 catching locusts as they were blown inland by the strong southwest winds!

Sandwich Tern   Sterna sandvicensis
6 resting on rocks at Arrecife Beach on 12/12, the only other sighting being a single bird at La Santa on 19/12

Rock Dove   Columba livia
8 at the Riscos de Famara just beyond Guinate on 16/12 and 2 at Los Cocoteros on 14/12

Collared Dove   Streptopelia decaocto
Very common, both in and around all towns and villages on the island.

Pallid Swift   Apus pallidus brehmorum
A single bird observed, zipping in and around palm trees beside Arrecife Airport Car Park on a cool, sunny early morning on our last day of the holiday (23/12). A perfect end to the trip!

Hoopoe   Upupa epops
Birds were seen on most days, either whilst driving around or even relaxing at our base camp.  4 perched on telegraph wires in Soo on 19/12 was noteworthy. The golf course at Tachiche was also productive for observing this species at close quarters.

Lesser Short-toed Lark   Calandrella rufescens polatzeki
Very common on the El/Jable/Teguise Plain, the maximum count being 44 on 11/12

Swallow   Hirundo rustica
Migrating birds were seen daily over Villa Mimosa, usually in the afternoon, from 16/12 onwards. This particular date coincided with the wind shifting around to the east and then northeast.

Berthelot's Pipit   Anthus berthelotii
Very common, frequenting most areas of the island other than urban areas.

White Wagtail   Motacilla alba
13 on Arrecife Beach on 21/12, other observations noted at the Salinas de Janubio on most visits and frequently seen flying over Villa Mimosa.

Robin   Erithacus rubecula
A couple of birds around the golf course at Tachiche, but by far the best area for this species has to be the Haria region. At least 4 seen on 18/12

Spectacled Warbler   Sylvia conspicillata orbitalis
5 noted on my 6 mile round trip on 18/12

Sardinian Warbler   Sylvia melanocephala
Seen or heard every day around Villa Mimosa and at least 4 around Haria on 18/12.

Blackcap   Sylvia atricapilla
1 female observed at Tachiche Golf Club on 14/12

Chiffchaff   Phylloscopus collybita
Individuals seen most days around Villa Mimosa and also observed at the golf course at Tachiche on both visits and Puerto Calero on 20/12.

Blue Tit   Parus caeruleus degener
2 pairs present in and around the conifer plantation near Haria on 18/12, just one pair around by the roadside on 16/12

Southern Grey Shrike   Lanius meridionalis
Fairly common in most parts of the island. The highest density is on the El/Jable/Teguise Plain where the maximum count was 8 on 11/12

Raven   Corvus corax tingitanus
Common over the high ground surrounding Haria, where 8 were observed on 18/12. Other sightings included 4 at the Riscos de Famara  just beyond Guinate on 16/12, another 4 between Soo and La Caleta on 19/12 and singles seen on most days whilst driving over the higher routes of Lanzarote, even terrain as hostile as the Timanfaya National Park!

Spanish Sparrow   Passer hispaniolensis
Not as common as on our previous visit to the island 2 years ago, particularly around our base, but still common around outdoor restaurants, particularly at Puerto Calero where a gathering of 30+ were observed.

Canary   Serinus canaria
60+ close to the conifer plantation near Haria on18/12. Smaller numbers were observed closer to the village of Haria on cultivated land on 16/12

Goldfinch   Carduelis carduelis
4 over Villa Mimosa flying inland on 12/12 was the only sighting of this species.

Linnet   Acanthis cannabina harterti
Observed daily around the Los Mojones area of Puerto del Carmen. Flocks of  50+ birds were seen around sunrise and sunset commuting from roosting areas in Puerto del Carmen to and from the surrounding countryside.

Trumpeter Finch   Bucanetes githagineus amantum
Common at the Salinas de Janubio, on the cliffs to the east of the southeast inlet of the lagoon. Highest count of 26 recorded on 10/12


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