Cruise to Canary Islands and Cadiz - March 2019

Published by Mark Graham (helen.graham7 AT

Participants: Mark Graham


We went on the P&O ship, the Oriana, on a cruise to La Coruna [Spain], Madeira, La Palma, La Gomera, Tenerife, Lanzarote, Cadiz and then up the Spanish and Portuguese coast back to Southampton.

It was a 16 night trip from 22/3/19 to 7/4/19.

The weather was calm, hot and sunny for the bulk of the cruise. It only deteriorated as we neared the UK on our return, but even then it was relatively decent.

There was plenty of time in each port to explore further afield. We made use of the reliable buses at some destinations. Bus fares are far more reasonable than the UK. A journey of up to 20 km costing around 2.5 to 3 euro.

Altogether it was a great cruise. The food and entertainment was brilliant. It's adult only so the atmosphere was calm on board. There were lots of birds, whales and dolphins and we enjoyed some wondeful walks with great scenery.

Sadly though, P&O are selling the Oriana, so it was our 5th and final cruise on this great ship.

23rd March - English Channel, crossing the Bay of Biscay, heading toward La Coruna.

It was calm when we woke up, still in the channel.

A European Robin was on board. Not sure if it hopped on at Southampton or if it was crossing the channel and stopped for a rest.

Two Meadow Pipits also came alongside as well as an unknown warbler. Another passenger saw a few warblers, flying below the prom deck, later on.

Three LBJ’s arrived on the pool deck, but I didn’t have my bins at the time, so couldn’t identify them. They'd gone by the time I got down there for a closer look.

There were plenty of Northern Gannet around - 106 seen during the day.

One Manx Shearwater flew by, as well as 2 Northern Fulmar, 2 Kittiwake and a few Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Ten Guillemot passed the ship fairly close and some more distant unidentified auks were around during the day.

Two distant Sandwich Terns were seen later on in the afternoon.

As we sailed into Biscay, 4 Dolphins were spotted near the ship.

A passenger noticed a Black Redstart stowaway, on board, before we arrived in La Coruna. It disembarked when we arrived in La Coruna, most likely.

We headed for the Hercules Monument, a prominent headland in La Coruna where birds and people mix remarkably well, at this busy location.

Resident Stonechat, Linnet, Spanish Sparrow, and Black Redstart can be found quite easily amongst the dense scrub.

Northern Gannet, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull were out to sea or following the fishing boats coming back to land.

Whimbrel, Shag and Cormorant were on the rocks below the headland.

As we sailed out, the first Cory's Shearwater, of the voyage was seen, flying at high speed, driven by a strong wind. There would be many more to be seen on the trip.

Northern Gannet, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull were numerous, well out to sea.

25th March - crossing the Atlantic to Madeira

We had 800 miles of ocean to cross to reach Madeira so if we saw anything it would be a bonus.

Predictably nothing was recorded, except a lost pigeon.

26th March - crossing the Atlantic to Madeira

Despite being around 200-300 miles from the nearest land, Madeira, there were a few birds to be seen.

The most notable was a White Wagtail. I was walking along the prom deck and heard it first. Thinking there’d be no chance of a wagtail this far out I guessed I was hearing things.


The next minute it was there, flying away from the ship.

Later on another passenger heard and saw the same bird.

Another stray was a House Martin which spent the day flying around the vessel, catching insects.

Less remarkable, but still welcome, were 16 Northern Gannet and 6 Cory's Shearwater.

27th March - Madeira

There were hundreds of Yellow-legged Gull, a few Cory’s Shearwater and 2 Northern Gannet as we sailed in.

We took the number 131 bus to Baia ‘D’Abra, the westernmost tip of the island.

Saw my first Barn Swallow of the year, followed by another, later.

There were good numbers of Canary and Berthelot's Pipit in the scrubby areas.

Common Kestrel were numerous and a few Yellow-legged Gull were around.

Walking around Funchal, there were a couple of Mute Swan in a park,and 6 Common Tern in the harbour with a Grey Wagtail and a Ruddy Turnstone.

Many Canary were seen or heard were around the city as well as a few Blackbird and a White Wagtail [perhaps the bird see on the ship the day before?].

As we sailed out I counted 332 Cory’s Shearwater.

The ship disturbed a resting flock of around 30 Manx Shearwater which took to the air, wheeling about above the surface of the sea.

Several Yellow-legged Gull were seen until well out to sea, and 3 whales surfaced close to the boat, later on.

29th March - La Palma

As we sailed in, 20 Cory’s Shearwater were spotted, as well as several Yellow- legged Gull and 4 dolphins.

We got on the bus to Fuencaliente [200 or 201].The terminal is just outside the port. Fuencaliente lies at the southern end of the island and it’s the starting point for the GR130 footpath.

We followed route 2, to El Charco, carrying on past the ‘Los Areboles’ sign.

It’s a wonderfully unspoilt area, with pine woods, scrubby areas and old vineyards.

I saw a flock of 30 Red-billed Chough- a La Palma speciality, then a couple more later on.

There’s plenty of Canary around here and many Chiffchaff calling[18].

Three Raven were seen as well as a Common Buzzard.

Two Barbary Partridge were seen, in the same place I saw them a few years ago.

30th March - La Gomera

As we sailed in two rafts of 100 Cory’s Shearwater were loafing around. The numbers would be dwarfed as we sailed out, later that evening.

There were lots of Yellow-legged Gull , out at sea, or on the cliffs.

A Little Egret flew towards the harbour as we neared the jetty.

The authorities have gone to a lot of effort to maintain and signpost footpaths on the island. We found the sign for the GR132 footpath, opposite the bus station, with a helpful map.

The path skirts the cliffs and a barranco south west of the capital, San Sebastian and it turned out to be a spectacular walk with some interesting birds too.

Trumpeter Finch could be heard or seen along most of the walk and there were at least 14, but probably more.

Fourteen Berthelot’s Pipit were seen or heard.

A few Plain Swift were flying around.

Several Common Kestrel and a Raven were spotted.

Two Spectacled Warbler were in the scrub in the deep barranco.

We sat down on a bench overlooking the cliffs towards El Cabrito when a Barbary Falcon appeared soaring over the cliffs.

On the way back through town there were lots of Plain Swift, Spanish Sparrow, and Collared Dove.

The sail-out was a proper Cory's Shearwater-fest.

Since there was so many, it was impossible to count them, although I did note 50 passing one point in 60 seconds. Numbers were well into four figures, the most we encountered, by far, on any point of the voyage.

31st March - Tenerife

We took the bus to La Teresitas, the man-made beach in the national park, about 20 minutes from the capital.

Three Berthelot’s Pipit were seen as well as a few Common Kestrel and Yellow- legged Gull.

The return bus journey took an unexpected turn when a police car cut us off and stopped us in our tracks. Two police officers jumped onboard and arrested a dodgy looking passenger. They hauled him off and whisked him away in their police car.

Didn’t see that coming!

Back in the city many Plain Swift as well as Canary, Collared Dove and a few Chiffchaff were seen or heard in the tree-lined streets.

Four Common Tern were seen as we sailed out.

It was a remarkably calm evening and the sea was like a mill pond and I noticed a Short- finned Pilot Whale ahead, then another, then another! In the end, an impressive 23 were counted, many resting on the surface of the water- a memorable evening, for sure.

Over 100 Cory’s Shearwater were spotted, together with a few Yellow -legged Gull.

1st April - Lanzarote

Only 20 Cory’s Shearwater and a handful of Yellow-legged Gulls passed by as we sailed into Arrecife.

We walked to the bus terminal at western edge of the town, to catch the number 60 bus, which runs hourly to Playa Blanca, in order to take a walk from Yaiza.

As we approached the bus terminal, I could hear an almighty cacophony of birds. They turned out to be a roost of 100 Cattle Egret and Little Egret, in a fenced-off area of trees next to the terminal.

We got off bus in the middle of Yaiza, a small village just off the bypass to Playa Blanca.

The GR path starts up the steep steps and turning left, we took the path to the outskirts of the village and walked up the quiet road to La Degollada.

It’s another interesting birdwatching walk with the guarantee of Spectacled Warbler, either in likely scrub by the side of the road, or the short track, on your right, opposite the fenced-off arable field nearing La Degollada[ the track is barred to vehicles].

Eight Spectacled Warbler were seen or heard.

At least 8 Trumpeter Finch were seen or heard along the way.

There were several Great Grey Shrike[7], Berthelot’s Pipit[11], Linnet[10], and many Spanish Sparrow and Collared Dove.

Four Cattle Egret and 4 Little Egret were around and about.

It’s a regular area for Barbary Partridge and I spotted a flock of 6, as we returned back to Yaiza.

One of the many Common Kestrel was involved in an aerial dispute with a Raven near the graveyard on the edge of the village.

Back in Arrecife, a Common Sandpiper, 1 Grey Heron, 18 Sandwich Tern, and 15 Ruddy Turnstone were noted [as well as the thronging masses of Cattle and little Egret, next to the bus terminal].

2nd April - Lanzarote to Cadiz

A day at sea, far from land, produced a lonely Common Tern heading north and 10 Northern Gannet.

3rd April - Cadiz

Never having been to Cadiz before, we spent the day wandering around the fascinating streets and the coastal walk around the perimeter of the old city.

A pleasant surprise was the park across the road from the port,Plaza de Espana. A Woodchat Shrike,Common Whitethroat and 4 Subalpine Warbler were surely newly arrived migrants on their way to more suitable habitats, further afield.

The European Robins, Blackbirds and House Sparrows were more likely residents [as well as the green parakeets].

Walking around the city and coastal perimeter I saw a Sandwich Tern,Yellow-legged Gull, some Barn Swallow, a Hoopoe, Cormorant and several Common Swift.

When we sailed out the captain took a course, due west, into the Gulf of Cadiz.

A Sandwich Tern was seen just as we left port.

Northern Gannet numbered 54, and there were 7 Great Skua plus a distant unidentified Skua chasing another bird in the distance.

Two Balearic Shearwater appeared, port side.

A migrating Barn Swallow flew overhead, heading towards the coast, when we were well out to sea.

Hundreds of Yellow -legged Gull followed the fishing boats returning to Cadiz.

4th April - Cadiz to Southampton

The cruise was to end with three days at sea, initially travelling off the Spanish and Portuguese coast, then crossing the Bay of Biscay,into the English Channel and finally back to Southampton.

Today 146 Northern Gannet passed by.

Five groups of Lesser Black-backed Gulls were heading north[ 102,120,80, 9, 7], most likely on migration.

Three Cory’s Shearwater were seen, the last of the voyage.

Twenty Yellow-legged Gull appeared as well as 7 distant unidentified terns.

Another passenger reported seeing a Northern Fulmar.

Around midday I spotted a whale spout.

5th April - day at sea

We headed towards the Bay of Biscay and entered it at 11a.m.

There wasn’t a lot about except,9 Northern Gannet,1 Lesser Black-backed Gull,1 Manx Shearwater, 1 Great Skua and two whales spouting.

6th April - day at sea

This was the final full day of the cruise.

We were leaving Biscay and then entering the English Channel, close to the French coastline.

Northern Gannet totalled 103.

Eight Manx Shearwater passed by and 11 Northern Fulmar were seen.

Also spotted were 6 Great Skua,1 Kittiwake, 8 Guillemot and 60 Lesser Black-backed Gull.

After evening dinner it was still light.

I went out on deck and a Great Skua and one Northern Gannet flew past the ship- the last two birds seen before we arrived in Southampton the following morning.