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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Lanzarote, January 20 - February 3rd 2005,
My wife Jean and I visited Lanzarote intending to spend as much time walking and sightseeing on this spectacular volcanic island as we did birding. As things turned out we spent far longer finding and enjoying Lanzarote's birds than we expected: it isn't often you get the chance to watch six male Houbara Bustards displaying in one day, or see large flocks of Lesser Short-toed Larks and Trumpeter Finches at the same site.
Other ornithological highlights included the sight of around 20 Pallid Swifts hawking around a golf course, numerous singing Spectacled Warblers, a Spoonbill, 26 Black-winged Stilts, and lots of Hoopoes and Southern Grey Shrikes.
The practical aspects of holidaying on Lanzarote have been comprehensively dealt with in other Birdtours.co.uk trip reports: we chose the option of a package with Eclipse, flying from Manchester, staying at the Barcelo Suites hotel at Costa Teguise and hiring a car through Eclipse for 12 days.
We used the Birdwatchers' Guide to Lanzarote by Tony Clarke and David Collins (Prion), which is still fairly accurate despite numerous new roads, several Birdtours trip reports, and the Collins Bird Guide (Mullarney , Svensson, Zetterstrom and Grant) for help with identification.
The weather was generally sunny (60-70C) but occasionally showery with strong, cool winds and one distinctly cold spell in mid-holiday.
Our base was ideal, geographically: we could reach anywhere on the island within an hour and we were within half an hour of El Jable, the plains south of the town of Teguise, and the best site on the island for 'desert' species.
Having had good views of the bustards, as well as Cream-Coloured Coursers, on two previous holidays on Fuerteventura, we didn't actually intend to spend a lot of time on the plains.
On our first visit, at mid-day on January 21, we had reasonable views of one male Houbara and then decided to go back, on January 22, a Saturday, to search for Coursers. We arrived at about 10-30am to find the plains, which are partly farmed at their southern end, alive with people tending crops or working the land with tractors, etc.
(On both days we used the approach recommended by other birders in trip reports: take the LZ402 road, south west of Teguise, to La Caleta, turn down the first track on the left and drive for another half mile, scanning all the time, to another track on the right, which gives good, all-round views).
Despite all the agricultural activity, we quickly saw birds on either side of the track, two fairly distant on the right but six on the left much closer. Three of the birds were males which began to display by raising the white feathers around their necks to form a ruff into which their heads disappeared. They then strutted around like headless Elizabethan ghosts.
We went back to the road and drove to within a couple of miles of La Caleta before turning left on a track to Soo which rose to a good vantage point in prime Courser country. Again we failed to find Coursers but were compensated by the sight of five more bustards, the three males this time indulging in a crane-like dancing display..
Our third and final visit to El Jable, around lunchtime on Feburary 1, saw us driving around various tracks and again produced no Coursers but another 13 Bustards, no doubt some of which we had seen on previousl visits.
One point to make is that while, as Clarke and Collins say, the Bustards may be more active around dawn, late risers need not despair - in January/February especially, when the males are displaying, they can be easily found at any time of the day.
Other birds seen on our tours of El Jable included a Stone Curlew, flocks of Lesser Short-toed Larks (50-60) and Trumpeter Finches (30-40 and often very tame), Southern Grey Shrike, Berthelot's Pipit (very common, as everywhere on the island), and Kestrel, which adapted its hunting method here to a Sparrowhawk-like dash across the plains, probably because of the wind.
Apart from El Jable, we visited every other site mentioned in C and C, though giving Playa Blanca and El Rubicon a miss because of the reported spread of development.
Salinas and Laguna de Janubio: As other trip reports mention, this area is again being worked and we were pleasantly surprised at the number of birds present. Our two visits were both on Sundays, when no work was taking place and disturbance was minimal, and our sightings included two Black-necked Grebe on both visits, 26 Black-winged Stilt, a single, out-of-season Ruff, numerous other common waders and three Black-headed Gulls, the only small gulls of the trip. Birds seemed to be feeding around the Lagoon, especially on the seaward side, but often flew on to the salt pan walls to roost.
Arrecife Harbour and Charco: We went into Arrecife by bus (the traffic is horrendous) but apart from our only Bar-tailed Godwit, we saw nothing of interest until I found a group of at least 150 Sandwich Terns roosting on rocks on the headland between the Castillo and the Harbour.
Riscos de Famara: The Famara cliffs seemed devoid of anything but gulls and Rock Doves on our three visits to the area, which included walks along the cliff-top, but, as we drank coffee in the Mirador del Rio Cafe my wife saw a falcon flash by which she was unable to identify.
Tahiche Golf Course: This site confirmed its status as the best place to see Barbary Partridge (there is no need to go beyond the first car park). We saw two close by and on subsequent car journeys past the entrance saw several other birds. A flock of about 20 Pallid Swifts were hawking there on January 30.
Los Cocoteros Salt Pans: As others have mentioned in trip reports, a new road now by-passes Guatiza on the approach to the pans but the village is signed off the by-pass and the site is still easily found. We paid four visits to Los Cocoteros and saw very variable numbers of birds. Small waders such as Dunlin, Ringed and Kentish Plovers were ever-present but we also had good views of 2 Black-tailed Godwits and a pair of Teal, the only ducks of the trip. A Spoonbill, flying north up the coast here, was a nice surprise.
Mirador de Haria: We found the suggested site for Canary on the C and C map now potentially dangerous because of the amount of passing tourist traffic and used Alan Miller's site (Birding Lanzarote, November 2004 trip report) at the junction of the Haria-Teguise road with the minor road coming up from Tabayesco. We quickly found at least half a dozen Canaries here, with two sightings of the 'degener' race of Blue Tit.
* On several trips we passed a large landfill site on the road between Tahiche and San Bartolome which was attracting hundreds, if not thousands, of gulls. We saw only Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed but more careful scrutiny might produce something rarer.
Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis
2 seen at the Laguna de Janubio on Jan 23 and Jan 30
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Seen in small numbers throughout the island with 7, following a goat flock on El Jable, being the largest gathering
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Singles seen at salt pans and in a few agricultural habitats
Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
1 flying north up the coast at Los Cocoteros on Jan 31. Only seen through binoculars so no rings or bill colour could be made out
Teal Anas crecca crecca
A pair were on Los Cocoteros on January 26
Kestrel Falco tinnunculus dacotiae
Common away from urbanisation. 7 were hunting around the Mirador be Haria on Jan 24, with 5 others seen later on a walk to the Famara Cliffs and small numbers were ever-present on El Jable
Barbary Partridge Alectoris barbara
2 from the car park at Tahiche Golf Club on Jan 29 with others seen from the car on the road which passed the entrance on subsequent journeys
Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata fuerteventurae
1 El Jable Jan 21
l3 El Jable Jan 22
13 El Jable Feb 1
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
7 Salinas de Janubio Jan 23
26 Salinas de Janubio Jan 30
Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus insularum
1 El Jable Jan 22
Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
c20 on first visit to Salinas de Janubio Jan 23 with 15 there on Jan 30
17 at Los Cocoteros on Jan 25 with smaller numbers on subsequent visits
Always seen at coastal sites
Kentish Plover Charadrius Alexandrinus
8 at Salinas de Janubio on Jan 23 12 there on Jan 30
Similar numbers at Los Cocoteros on all visits there
Ones and twos at all coastal sites
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola
Common on all rocky beaches, with 10 at the Salinas de Janubio on Jan 23 and 12 there on Jan 30. At Los Cocoteros numbers were in single figures on all visits
Sanderling Calidris alba
As with the last species, present at all coastal sites but in small numbers, with a similar distribution at the salt pans.
Little Stint Calidris minuta
1 at Los Cocoteros on Jan 24, 2 there on 26; 3 at Salinas de Janubio on Jan 30
Dunlin Calidris alpina
Fairly common, with up to 3 present at Los Cocoteros on all visits and 6 and 7 at Salinas de Janubio on Jan 23 and Jan 30 respectively. Small flocks also present at coastal sites.
Ruff Philomachus pugnax
1 at the Salinas de Janubio on Jan 23
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
2 at Salinas de Janubio on January 23, with 4 there on Jan 30; 2 at Los Cocoteros on Jan 24 and Jan 26
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
Small numbers seen on most rocky shorelines
Redshank Tringa totus
Up to 6 ever-present at Los Cocoteros and in double figures on both visits to Salinas de Janubio. Common all round the coastline
Greenshank Tringa nebularia
2 Los Cocoteros on Jan 24 with singles there on three subsequent visits; 8 and 9 at Salinas de Janubio on Jan 23 and Jan 30 respectively
Common Sandpiper Actites hypoleucos
Common in all suitable habitats
Turnstone Arenaria interpres
Very common on shorelines and saltpans
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus
3 at Salinas de Janubio on Jan 30
Lesser black-backed Gull Larus fuscus
Picked out in gull roosts on various coasts and at the landfill site near Tahiche but vastly outnumbered by the next species
Yellow-legged Gull Larus cachinnans atlantis
Present all round the coast and gathering in large numbers at the landfill site
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis
A roost of c150 on rocks near Arrecife Harbour on Feb 2
Rock Dove Columbia livia
Some authentic-looking individuals around the Famara cliffs
Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocta
Very common around habitation
Pallid Swift Apus pallidus brehmorum
A flock of c20 was hawking around the Tahiche golf course on Jan 30
Hoopoe Upopa epops
Seen daily in almost all habitats, sometimes in pairs
Lesser Short-toed Lark Calandrella rufescens polatzeki
Very common on the El Jable plain with flocks of 50-60 seen on all visits
Swallow Hirundo rustica
Flying in twos and threes around the Costa Teguise area from Jan 20-27 but then disappeared when the weather turned colder - where to? - reappearing on February 2
Berthelot's Pipit Anthus bertholotii bertholotii
Common everywhere, often in pairs
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis
Small numbers noted, usually in agricultural areas
White Wagtail Motacilla alba
Only 1 seen, on the shore at Arrieta
Robin Erithacus rubecula rubecula
1 in an isolated fig tree among the volcanic wastes of Timanfaya, Jan 28
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros
1 on old buildings, Salinas de Janubio, Jan 23
Song Thrush Turdus philomelos
1 skulking in thick vegetation, Mancha Blanca, Jan 28
Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata orbitalis
Surprisingly common, from waste ground near the hotel to El Jable. Most were singing males and some nest-building activity was observed
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
2 males in subsong in hotel grounds, Feb 2
Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
1 in trees in Teguise, Jan 21, and 1 in a garden, Haria, Jan 24 (races unknown)
Blue Tit Parus caeruleus degener
2 at the junction of the minor road from Tabayesco with the Haria-Teguise road, Jan 24
Southern Grey Shrike Lanius excubitor koenigi
Common and seen daily either on wasteland sites near habitation or in areas like El Jable where numbers reached double figures in a 2 hour visit
Raven Corvus corax tingitanus
Seen every day in ones and twos, usually in hilly or desert habitats, with the coastal plain towards Orzola being well favoured - a party of 9 on Jan 31
Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis
Common and widespread, particularly near habitation
Canary Serinus canaria
A vocal group of at least 6 at the junction of the minor road from Tabayesco with the Haria-Teguise road, Jan 25
Greenfinch Carduelis chloris
Small numbers on horticultural land near Maguez, Jan 27
Linnet Acanthis cannabina harterti
Small groups occasionally seen and heard in suitable habitats
Trumpeter Finch Budanetes githagineus amanatum
Flocks of up to 30-40 seen on every visit to El Jable, often very tame, with smaller numbers scattered throughout the island, e.g. 6 near our hotel, Jan 23