BIRDING TRIP REPORT:
January - 5 February 2012
This is an
illustrated trip report for a weeks holiday on Lanzarote,
which is one of the north eastern, desert like Canary
Islands. The main birding specialities are similar to
those of Fuerteventura which we visited last year - Houbara Bustard, Cream
Coloured Courser, Trumpeter Finch and Barbary Falcon. We
mainly chose Lanzarote for its winter sun, not as a
birding destination. In fact my birding ambitions were
limited to Barbary Falcon (which would be a lifer) and
hopefully some closer views of Cream-coloured Courser
than we had last year. To see how I got on with these
objectives, see below!
this island is quite compact, we decided to divide our
time between Costa Teguise on the east coast, and Playa
Blanca to the south. For this trip I was accompanied by
my semi-birder wife, which meant substantially less than
100% dedication to birding and increased emphasis on
has some very interesting volcanic scenery, with a huge
lava field dating from only a few hundred years ago. A
coach tour which can be accessed by turning west off the
LZ 67 south of the Timanfaya NP visitor centre is
strongly recommended - you pay 8 euros each at the small
building by the barriers at the start of the side-road
and drive a few km to connect with the coaches which
depart at regular intervals.
craters from the coach trip in the Timanfaya NP (taken
through the coach window!)
We flew with
EasyJet on the early flight from Gatwick. The outward
flight was fine and bang on time, but we had a 6 hour
delay on the return due to the cold weather in Gatwick -
apparently the ouward plane had waited almost 5 hours to
be de-iced! So another unimpresssive response to bad
weather by the Gatwick airport authorities. Spending
upwards of 8 hours at Arrecife airport was not much fun!
As last year, Holiday
Autos provided an OK and quite cheap hire car via Hertz.
The 1:40,000 Lanzarote Tour & Trial map was
incredibly detailed for a holiday destination and useful
for walking. The associated book "Walk! Lanzarote"
was also very good for walking; the Sunflower guide much
The key book is "A Birdwatchers' Guide to The Canary
Islands" by Tony Clark and David Collins. Although
this dates from 1996, it was still useful and describes
well the main sites. In addition, there were a number of
trip reports to be found on the Internet, but this
appears to be a less popular birding destination than
Fuerteventura - and having visited both I can understand
why! We never came across any other birders, unlike last
The weather was
mostly reasonably warm with a mixture of cloud and sun.
The highest temperature was around 21°C, but it became
increasingly windy towards the end of the week. This was
a significant issue for some of the walks we did in the
steep and vertigo-inducing volcanic hills, one of which
had to be aborted and another became challenging because
of the gale force winds.
Having no mountains high
enough to disturb the prevailing NE trade winds,
Lanzarote is an incredibly dry place, and there was no
sign of any recent rain. All the island's drinking water
comes from desalination plants. It was much drier than
the pictures in the walking book, with only sparse
greenish vegetation. The only standing fresh water we saw
was an artificial pool on the Tias golf course! Large
areas were almost completely birdless and many of our
walks produced only the inevitable Berthelot's
Pipits and perhaps a few wary Trumpeter
All the pics
shown below were taken with my DSLR equipment - Canon EOS
7D with EF400mm/f4 DO lens and x1.4TC. All pics were
taken in RAW format, and I use NeatImage for noise
suppression, with PhotoShop Elements 9 for subsequent
processing. For further details see the equipment and image processing pages elsewhere on this website.
I now describe the main
sites we visited, in approximate chronological order.
Tias Golf Course
A vagrant Allen's
Gallinule had been present in December and earlier in
January at this site, and so a visit seemed worthwhile on
the off chance it was still around, especially as this
site was very close to the airport. So shortly after
arriving on the island, we spent some time viewing the
golf course from the surrounding roads, but saw only Southern
Grey Shrike and Trumpeter Finch.
We then spotted a distant pool in the middle of the
course, which seemed worthy of closer investigation. We
asked for permission to enter the course at the club
house (no problem). Dodging golfers and golf balls, we
came to the pool quite quickly but there was no sign of
the Gallinule - the closest match being one miserable Coot!
Also present on or around the pool and associated "stream"
were a few waders (the only ones I think we saw) - Black-winged
Stilt (1), Black-tailed Godwit
(2) and a Common Sandpiper.
There was some
compensation on our return, with this remarkably
approachable Southern Grey Shrike by the
path - it must have been very used to golfers!
Shrike at Tias GC (click right to enlarge)
According to the
Clark book, these cliffs are the best in the Canaries for
Barbary Falcon - my only possible lifer
on this trip, given that the Allen's Gallinule seemed to
After having a pleasant
circular walk from Haria, which included a short section
along the cliffs, without any Barbary Falcons, we tried
the viewpoint (mirador) past the Tropical Park at Guinate.
This had good views of the cliffs, some tame Berthelot's
Pipits but no signs of any Falcons.
The Mirador del Rio
further to the north has been turned into a tourist trap,
and we reluctantly paid an entry fee of about 5 euros
each. However, the views were splendid, but initially
there was no sign of any falcons. I then did a careful
scan of the cliffs, and picked up a very distant but
promising looking falcon. Without the 'scope, I resorted
to the next best thing - long range photography with the
DO, which beats 10 x 40's by some margin!
||Ultra distant Barbary
inspection back at the hotel of the resulting "ultra
record" shots confirmed it was indeed a Barbary
Falcon, and not a wintering Peregrine which can
also occur according to the book. See the pic above -
others though similarly poor show more clearly the rufous
areas on the nape. So a successful first full day of our
|The view of the island of
Graciosa from the Mirador del Rio
This is a well
known site for desert species, and was within easy reach
of our hotel in Costa Teguise. A late afternoon visit
proved to be very successful for Houbara Bustard.
I saw the first from the LZ 408 through Nazaret, before
even reaching the area described in the book. The tracks
to Tao and Tiague were easier to find from the LZ 402 on
the eastern side of the plain than from the LZ 20 to the
west. Both these tracks produced more views of Houbara
Bustards. With 2 in flight over the main LZ 30
just as the sun was setting, my total number of sightings
was about 7. Not a bad score!
However on the downside,
none were at all approachable unlike last year's splendid
displaying male at dawn on Fuerteventura. Most also appeared to be either
juveniles or females. In this area there were also some
most annoying microlights and even a gyrocopter type
thing buzzing around - clearly disturbing and flushing
the bustards from time to time. This has been mentioned
in other trip reports, but at least there still seem to
good numbers of bustards present at this site. Perhaps
surprisingly, I saw no other notable desert species here
- only several more Southern Grey Shrikes.
Maybe I wasn't looking hard enough.
We spent the
last four nights of our stay at this resort at the
extreme southern end of the island. I went on a number of
late afternoon and early morning searches for desert
species in the immediate vicinity of the town, with
varying amounts of success. The map below shows the
locations of most of my sightings.
|Google map of Playa Blanca
showing locations for Cream Coloured Courser (CCC)
and Houbara Bustard (HB)
left off the Femes road at the large roundabout near the
cement works was quite good for both Cream
Coloured Coursers and Houbara Bustards,
but both were wary. Our best views of Cream
Coloured Coursers were in some surprising
habitat in undeveloped areas in the town itself (the two
areas marked on the map close to the roundabout at the
southern end of the LZ-2). These four birds were
remarkably tame, and came right up to the car in the
splendid late afternoon light - the undoubted highlight
of this trip. This was probably a very lucky sighting
though, as there was no sign of these birds on a later
visit to these areas, and other suitable looking areas in
the general vicinity.
general area, I also had a single Houbara Bustard
sighting at dawn on the metalled road that runs down to
the desalination plant by the sea, west off the old road
to Yaiza. Heading out of Playa Blanca, you can see a
petrol station on the new LZ-2 where this side road goes
off, and at the same time the rectangular desalination
plant. Unlike another trip report, I didn't see any
Coursers on this road, though.
Melia Salinas Hotel, Costa Teguise
||A good but
pricey hotel. We had a nice room with a sea view.
The half board food and general ambience was good.
The bill was eased by a generous 20 euros per
head per night discount on additional expenses.
Gran Castillo Hotel Resort, Playa Blanca
warren of a place well to the east of the town
centre. We never had the time to explore the
whole place! Somewhat less expensive than the
Salinas hotel, with a more spacious room and
balcony which had a stunning sea view including
Fuerteventura in the distance. However the food
wasn't nearly as good, and was generally more
downmarket (all inclusive options were apparently
available - not a good sign in our limited
experience of Canary Island hotels!). Again we
received a useful discount.
© All pictures
copyright Stephen Burch