Cruise to The Canaries, Madeira and Lisbon - 9th - 21st March 2018

Published by Mark Graham (helen.graham7 AT

Participants: Mark Graham


We sailed on the good old Oriana, a P and O ship, from Southampton to Madeira, Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Lisbon, then back to Southampton again. We left on 9/03/18 and returned 21/03/18. We covered 3402 nautical miles in 12 days.

The Oriana is adult only with a calm atmosphere. It has a low promenade deck, ideal for birdwatching. A scope comes in very handy to pick up those distant birds amongst the waves.

We’ve done this sort of route before, but later in the year, when there are far more birds at sea. Even so there was still plenty to see even in March. It was an enjoyable cruise which came to an end far too soon.

Southampton to Madeira

We were still in the English Channel the first morning when the most numerous species seen was Northern Gannet with a few Fulmar,Guillemot, Kittiwake and one Manx Shearwater.

The captain was forced to take a more westerly course on the second day to avoid a storm heading towards Portugal. This took us into Fulmar territory and several were seen during the day. Four Kittiwake were spotted, a couple of unidentified terns and the first Cory's Shearwater of the voyage.

Day 3 at sea was never going to be worth spending much time birdwatching as we were too far from land. Only one Fulmar was seen.

Our detour meant we would arrive late in Madeira, at 10 a.m. so this would result in an ideal sail-in for birdwatching. As the sun rose we passed Porto Santo and the North East coast of Madeira lay ahead. There were three Great Skua causing havoc and lots of Yellow-legged Gull and Cory’s Shearwater.

Walking around Funchal I was impressed by the number of Canary which were in full throttle. There were a few Blackbird,Blackcap, Collared Dove and two Common Kestrel.

In the harbour there were several Yellow-legged Gull, two Med Gull, a Ruddy Turnstone, 2 Grey Wagtail and a Little Egret.

Looking out to sea from the Promenade deck, whilst in harbour, I noticed gangs of Yellow-legged Gull flying out and seeing them joining in a feeding frenzy. Quite often dolphins appeared wherever they were gathered. Up to thirty dolphins were seen. A fellow passenger has been on an expensive Dolphin watching trip and had seen only four! I was also picking up Cory Shearwater and one Great Skua with my scope.

We sailed out at 4.30 pm and there was an impressive number of Cory’s Shearwater and a few Yellow-legged Gull. After around 20 minutes, twelve Manx Shearwater came close to port side then disappeared across the bow of the ship. Two more were seen a few minutes later.


During the morning sail-in a good number of Cory’s Shearwater were seen, several Yellow-legged Gull and one Northern Gannet.

A Little Egret was in the Santa Cruz harbour and a few Common Tern.

Walking along the promenade I heard some Chiffchaff and saw a few Canary. There were also Blackbird, a Collared Dove and a Common Kestrel.

We took the bus to La Teresitas a man-made beach in the National Park just north of the city. There I saw or heard Blackcap, Canary, Chiffchaff and Collared Dove.

Gran Canaria

As we sailed into Las Palmas a few Yellow-legged Gull were seen and there were some Common Tern in the harbour. Chiffchaff, Blackbird, Collared Dove and Spanish Sparrow were recorded in the city. A Plain Swift was seen flying overhead.

We took a walk to Paya Confital to the north west of the city. It is in a protected area and the authorities are doing their best to preserve the natural habitat. They have roped off or fenced parts of it. Five Berthelot's Pipit were seen, two Common Kestrel, four Whimbrel, and several Yellow-legged Gull. I also saw some Spanish Sparrow and a few Rock Sparrow.


We arrived at Arrecife early and the tide was low. The exposed banks of the Charco de San Gines Lagoon were attracting 14 Ruddy Turnstone, a Common Sandpiper and one Curlew. We walked out to Castillo de San Gabriel where there were more Ruddy Turnstone, six Sanderling, six Kentish Plover, four Ringed Plover, two Dunlin, two Whimbrel and one Little Egret.

As you return to the cruise dock there is an abandoned saltpans area which is accessed by a gap along the path back to the ship [the Salinas de Punta Chica]. There was one Berthelot's Pipit and one Great Grey Shrike in that area.

Back in the harbour I saw several Yellow-legged Gull, one Little Egret and two Common Tern.

As we sailed out I counted eight Northern Gannet, four Common Tern, and a few Yellow-legged Gull. There were more Cory’s Shearwater than I’d seen elsewhere and several were very close to the ship. Two Dolphin were briefly seen.

Lanzarote to Lisbon

We had a day at sea when little was seen. As the captain announced our lunchtime position, 160 miles off Casablanca, a Yellow-legged Gull appeared. A long way out at sea for a gull! The only other birds seen were four Northern Gannet.


The authorities have planted scores of trees by the cruise terminal just below the old part of Lisbon. A Chiffchaff was there, singing briefly. The tide was low early morning and as we headed to the Cais de Sodo ferry terminal there were some Sanderling, a Grey Heron and six Ruddy Turnstone on the edge of the Tagus. There were a further twenty Sanderling by the ferry terminal. Some Lesser Black-backed, Gull, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull and Mediterranean Gull were seen too. We passed a small pond and thirty Barn Swallow were hovering above it. I guess they were a party of migrating birds.

We took the ferry to Cachilas and on the other side there was a flock of Sandwich Tern, three Cormorant, and a Mallard. We walked west from the Calchilas terminal along the dilapidated sea front. Two Black Redstart were seen. When we reached the small park area we then headed up the steep road to the top of the lift, there were several Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Blackbird, Collared Dove and a Barn Swallow. After that we went to the imposing statue of Christ the King where they had established a large area of lawns, trees and shrubs. Two more Black Redstart were seen as well as a lot of Goldfinch, a few Serin,Blackcap, House Sparrow, Greenfinch, Chaffinch,and Blackbird. A Chiffchaff was seen feeding.

We sailed out of Lisbon at 4.30 pm. It is worth taking up a position on the port side as you soon reach the open sea and obtain great views down the west coast of Portugal. Just before we sailed four Sandwich Tern arrived and started diving near the ship. As we sailed out I counted 46 Northern Gannet, two Great Skua close in, some Cormorant and a few Lesser Black Backed Gull.

Lisbon to Southampton

We had two days at sea. On the first day there wasn't much around. Just two Northern Gannet, one Cory’s Shearwater, one Fulmar and one Manx Shearwater. The second morning we were rounding the north west of France and entering the English Channel. The most numerous species was Northern Gannet[48]. There were six Little Gull which came close up to the ship. Four Sandwich Tern were spotted as well as four Guillemot, one Manx Shearwater, a few Lesser Black backed Gull and five Kittiwake. The last bird I saw was a Great Skua and two more had been seen during the day.