Lanzarote, Canary islands, between 20 October and 2 November 2005

Published by John Armstrong (j.armstrong AT

Participants: myself, my wife and 2 children



I have just returned from a 2 week family holiday to Lanzarote with my wife and 2 young daughters. We were based at the Hyde Park apartments (not to be confused with the nearby Hyde Park Lane Hotel) on the north west edge of Puerto del Carmen. This is the largest and most 'happening' resort, situated on the south-east coast. Come the evening, this was a great place to be with unlimited choice of restaurants, but without being at all rowdy. It also kept the wife happy with all its shops ! We stayed from 19th October to 2nd November 2005. Birding started on 20 Oct, as it was dark when we arrived.

I say it was a family holiday, rather than a dedicated birding holiday - chance would be a fine thing ! Therefore, we had to cater for the needs and wishes of the whole family, and I just squeezed in as much birding whenever I could without trying to upset anyone. This involved taking the binoculars everywhere during daylight hours, even into the town, and the telescope on certain outings. Early mornings were useful for doing a bit more dedicated local birding, while everyone else was still in bed.

Our holiday was with Thompsons all the way, ie travel agent, tour operator and owner of the aeroplane ! We had a hire car (Citroen C3) for a week in the middle of the holiday, also pre-booked with Thompson. We were able to easily cover the whole island in this time.

The roads are generally in good condition, but busier than I was expecting, and certainly compared to Fuerteventura. Vey few large lorries though. There were also a lot more roads than our maps showed, and every junction seemed to have a massive roundabout with a Cesar Manrique sculpture in the middle, and exits that didn't go anywhere. Signposting is not always good, particularly around the capital Arrecife. It was all too easy to inadvertently get sucked into the city, as happened to us once.

The weather was generally good, warm (24 - 28 deg C) and breezy. It was often partly overcast and it tried to rain about 4 times. It usually gave up though after a few drops. Although this is a dry, pretty barren island, it seems that the far north (around Haria) is perhaps relatively greener and cloudier than the rest of the island.

Birdwise, I would not really recommend Lanzarote for a first trip to the Canary Islands. Fuerteventura, Tenerife or Gomera would be a better bet, but having already been to these islands (Gomera only on a day trip from Tenerife), Lanzarote was fine to fill in on a few more species.

In my experience, and probably that of most birders, in a given time period, you can expect more species on Lanzarote than Tenerife, but fewer than on Furteventura. However, Tenerife has more of the specialities and endemics. A third of the species I saw on Lanzarote were waders, and I actually saw more of these than passerines !

Birding Sites

Some of the sites I did some birding are as follows:-

Balcony of apartment

Species most commonly seen from here were overflying Yellow-legged Gulls, Collared Doves and Spanish Sparrows. Being autumn, the latter were obviously not in pristine plumage. However, the males were still obviously different from House Sparrow. The females were also usually slightly different, with faint breast streaking and larger, paler bills than House Sparrows. Also, their calls are more varied, sometimes sounding like Tree Sparrow and even Linnet.

Other species seen from the balcony included regular Hoopoe, Southern Grey Shrike and Linnet.

Star bird was Laughing Dove, with up to 3 sometimes seen in the palms opposite or zooming passed. These birds always appeared early in the morning. I don't know where they disappeared to later in the day, and I never saw them on the ground. When I saw them in the Gambia last year, they were much tamer and usually on the deck.

Purto del Carmen seafront

Commonest bird here no surprise was Yellow-legged Gull. The odd fishing Sandwich Tern was also seen on a couple of occasions. The most unexpected seabird was a Pomarine Skua flying passed close inshore on one occasion. Commonest waders seemed to be Sanderling and Turnstone, with the odd Common Sandpiper and Whimbrel also seen on the rocks. Little Egret also seen here in very small numbers.

Open ground behind hotel (inland of Puerto del Carmen and site of proposed golf course)

This was a large, barren and pretty unattractive area straddling either side of the Puerto del Carmen ring road. There was always the traffic roar to contend with, even early morning. This, together with wind noise, often made it hard to hear or locate bird call. Commonest bird here by far was Linnet, followed by Lesser Short-toed Lark, once you located the very mobile and flighty mixed feeding flocks. They were usually difficult to pick up on the ground between the rocks and dry grasses before they flew up, but much easier when they perched on the numerous excavation mounds. Linnet probably numbered up to c600 birds, and Lesser Short-toed Lark c200 birds. There were always also small numbers of Berthelot's Pipits, which didn't seem to join the feeding parties, and occasionally a few Trumpeter Finches, which did. These were however usually a bit more approachable than the commoner species.

Other species present here in small numbers included Kestrel, Hoopoe and Southern Grey Shrike. I once heard Stone-Curlew, but unfortunately couldn't locate it.

Star bird of the holiday, and my only lifer was also seen here, ie Barbary Falcon. One evening, a falcon gave a fantastic display attacking the flocks of Collared Doves flying between the 'Texas Rancho Park' and Puerto del Carmen, actually striking 2 birds mid air. When the flocks had passed, it returned to a pylon by the side of the ring road, and waited for the next flock.

On one occasion, a female Sparrowhawk was flushed here. This was a bit of a surprise, as I didn't think they were found on the eastern Canary Islands.

Any birds still here in a few years time, will have to dodge the flying golf balls.

Salinas de Janubio

I had a couple of brief trips to this site, armed with the scope. On one occasion, I went to the Playa de Janubio end, accessed from the more westerly of the 2 parallel roads to Playa Blanca, and on the other occasion, I birded from the site access road, itself accessed from the El Golfo road.

On the main lagoon, there only appeared to be Yellow-legged Gulls on my visits. However, the salt pans themselves (those not yet dried out) and the pools between the main lagoon and the black-coloured beach were more productive for waders. No large numbers, but a few Black-winged Stilts, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Redshank, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper and Turnstone were present, together with a couple each of Grey Plover and Bar-tailed Godwit. Also, Berthelots Pipit and Trumpeter Finch appear to be common in this area.

Salinas de Los Cocoteros

These salt pans, much smaller than those at Janubio, are located at the village of Cocoteros on the north-east coast, and are not very easy to find. When I did find them, they proved far more rewarding to me than Salinas de Janubio.

When I first got to these pans, it seemed that only Redshanks and Yellow-legged Gulls were present. However, it soon became apparent that only a small section of the pans could be seen from the track to the side, and there was no elevated viewing area such as de Janubio. I was left with the choice of either not bothering or walking along the ridges between the pans, and risking disturbing any birds present. Rightly or wrongly, I chose the latter.

The chattering calls of Kentish Plovers, led me to a wader flock, congregated mainly on one pan. Largest numbers were of Ringed and Kentish Plovers and Redshank. There were also Greenshank, Common Sandpiper and Turnstone, and singles each of Little Ringed Plover and Dunlin. Turning around to look at the adjacent pan, I was astounded to see a Grey Phalarope sat on it's own on a pool about 6-7m from me.

However, my attention was shortly diverted by 2 unfamiliar waders within the main wader flock. Basically, they were small, slim, short-legged grey-coloured, black-legged, thin, straight black-billed calidrids. They were smaller and slimmer than the only Dunlin present, in fact almost identically sized to the Kentish Plovers. They were too large for Little Stint or any other stint, and too short-legged, slim and inactive as well. They were not buff coloured like Baird's Sandpiper. By elimination mainly I'm afraid, I concluded that they could only have been White-rumped Sandpipers. I suspected this at the time, and photos and illustrations I have looked at since seem to back this up. Unfortunately, the flock took flight when I had my back turned looking again at the Phalarope, so I never saw the white rumps.

I do not know whether or not or how many times other people have seen this species on Lanzarote. However, there does seem to be an emphasis on looking out for American waders and ducks on the Canaries in autumn, and one of the other trip reports for the island I looked at recorded Spotted Sandpiper.

El Jable plain

I had 1 trip here, which took up about 3 hours. Personally, I could have done with spending a whole day, ideally walking about rather than driving. However, with attendant wife and young children to entertain as well, it was all I could manage. Visually, it is a brilliant steppe-like area. There are far more tracks to choose from than either the maps or other trip reports would suggest. Some or these are a little bit marginal for a conventional car like we had. I wouldn't like to get stuck or break down in this huge area without a phone.

From my point of view though, it was a bit of a birding disappointment. I did see a flock of Cattle Egrets feeding amongst the cows. Lesser Short-toed Larks were abundant, Southern Grey Shrike and Berthelot's Pipit common, and Kestrel and Raven were also present. Stone-Curlew was heard, but not seen (again). However, this was not enough. I wanted and was expecting Houbara Bustard, and didn't get ! I don't know whether I am the first birder to visit El Jable and not see them, but it feels like it. As for Cream -coloured Courser, don't even go there !

I dare say, with more time or another trip perhaps at day break, I may have been lucky. This was not to be though, and I had to cheer myself up with the memory of both these species seen on a previous holiday on Fuerteventura.

Golf course between Tahiche and Costa Teguise

This was the last place I took the car before it was due back at the hire company. I was actually there before daylight, partly because the car was due to be returned at 10am, and partly because I didn't want to come into conflict with golfers or be told to clear off. Warning though, although it was a Saturday morning, the first golfers did start arriving shortly after first light.

Main reason for going here was Barbary Partridge, which this site is famous for. Although I'd already seen some in flight near the Timanfaya National Park, I wanted some good views. They didn't let me down. I must have seen 30 odd in total, with some fabulous views. Birds were seen on the access road, on the scrub around the golf course, and on the fairways.

I also saw my only Robin here, and a few others were heard singing around the course. Other birds around included White Wagtail overhead and Blackcap and Chiffchaff (heard only) in the bushes near the main entrance. There were also a few Berthelot's Pipits, Southern Grey Shrikes and Spectacled Warblers in the scrub to the side of the access road.

Mirador de Haria

We stopped briefly at this area on the way back from Mirador del Rio, because other reports suggest that it is pretty good and with the landscape looking a bit different from most of the island ( a bit greener), I thought there may be some additional species. Parking here is extremely difficult though, with the only option being a small pull-in just above the first hair pin travelling south from Haria. You then have to walk about 50m up the very busy road to get onto a track.

I'm glad we did stop here, because I had great views of Canary with no difficulty whatsoever. Listen out for the twittering call which sounds pretty identical to Goldfinch but isn't. Although we didn't have time to look for the local race of Blue Tit, other birds seen around here included Kestrel, Berthelot's Pipit, Blackcap, Spectacled Warbler and Raven.

Species Accounts

I ended up seeing a fairly humble 44 definate species in 2 weeks. This was split midway between my previous totals on Tenerife and Fuerteventura (32 and 56 respectively). Additionally, I had another possible and 2 heard onlys, giving an overall maximum of 47.

Considering all the other trip reports I have looked at, it would appear that Houbara was the most seen species that I didn't record. It was probably going to be my nr 45 !

The following is a summary of all the species that I recorded:-

Cory's Shearwater - 3 dates. At Jameos del Agua on the north-east coast, 4-5 on the 25 Oct and about 10 on the sea on 26 Oct. Also, 5 seen well passed Punta del Papagayo on 27 Oct.

Cattle Egret - 2 dates. 1 at the roadside near Macher on 23 Oct, and on 28 Oct, c10 with cattle on the El Jable plain and 3 near Teguise.

Little Egret - 4 dates. 2 at Puerto del Carmen seafront and 1 over our hotel on 21 Oct, and singles at P del C harbour on 22nd Oct, Jameos del Agua on 26th Oct and Punta Gaviota on 27th oct.

Grey Heron - 3 dates. Singles at Puerto del Carmen harbour (on a boat) on 22 Oct, Guatiza on 26 Oct and Punta del Papagayo on 27 Oct.

Sparrowhawk - 1 date. A female on the open ground behind the hotel on 2 Nov, was my last new bird for the holiday just before we left.

Kestrel - 10 dates. A common open country species, even more noticable than in the UK. Raptor-wise, has a virtual monopoly. Are there any Buzzards on Lanzarote ? I'd be surprised if there weren't.

Barbary Falcon - 1 date. My only lifer of the holiday. The bird described previously was seen on 30th Oct. As the car had been returned, I'd given up hope of seeing one. For any 'lumpers' out there - it didn't look much like a Peregrine, and was both smaller and paler.

Barbary Partridge - 2 dates. 4 flushed south of Tinajo on 27 Oct and c30 birds around Tahiche golf club on 29 Oct.

Stone-Curlew - 2 dates (heard only). Behind our hotel on 22 Oct and on the El Jable plain on 28 Oct.

Black-winged Stilt - 2 dates. At Salinas de Janubio, 1 on 23 Oct and 6 on 27 Oct.

Ringed Plover - 3 dates. 1 at Playa de Janubio on 22 Oct, 3-4 at Salinas de Janubio on 23 Oct and on 26 Oct, 2 at Jameos del Agua and several at Salinas de Los Cocoteros.

Little Ringed Plover
- 1 date. 1 at Salinas de Los Cocoteros on 26 Oct.

Kentish Plover - 2 dates. 6 at Salinas de Janubio on 23 Oct and c15 at Salinas de Los Cocoteros on 26 Oct.

Grey Plover - 1 date. 2 at Playa de Janubio on 22 Oct.

Dunlin - 1 date. Only bird was 1 at Salinas de Los Cocoteros on 26 Oct.

Sanderling - 2 dates. 4-5 at Puerto del Carmen seafront on 21 Oct and 16-20 there on 30 Oct.

White-rumped Sandpiper - 1 date. 2 at Salinas de Los Cocoteros on 26 Oct as described previously.

Bar-tailed Godwit - 1 date. 2 at Playa de Janubio on 22 Oct.

Whimbrel - 5 dates. Singles at Puerto del Carmen on 21 Oct, Caleton del Rio on 22 Oct, Jameos del Agua on 25 and 26 Oct, 2 again at P del C on 31 Oct

Redshank - 4 dates. 1 at Playa de Janubio on 22 Oct, small numbers at Salinas de Janubio on 23 and 27 Oct and good numbers at Salinas de Los Cocoteros on 26 Oct.

Greenshank - 3 dates. At Salinas de Janubio, 2 on 23 Oct and 1-2 on 27 Oct; also 1-2 at Salinas de Los Cocoteros on 26 Oct.

Common Sandpiper - 4 dates. All records of single birds, at Puerto del Carmen harbour on 22 Oct, Salinas de Janubio on 23 Oct, Jameos del Agua and Salinas de Los Cocoteros on 26 Oct and P del C seafront on 27 Oct.

Turnstone - 6 dates. Most frequently seen wader. Seen on 4 dates at Puerto del Carmen seafront, with 5 on 31 Oct being the largest count. Additionally, several at Puerto del Carmen harbour on 22 Oct and Salinas de Los Cocoteros on 26 Oct.

Grey Phalarope - 1 date. 1 at Salinas de Los Cocoteros on 26 Oct as described previously.

Pomarine Skua - 1 date. A pale adult briefly passed Puerto del Carmen seafront on 20 Oct. By the time I had composed myself, it had disappeared !

Yellow-legged Gull - 14 dates. Abundant species seen everywhere. Anyone that doesn't see any is on the wrong island.

Sandwich Tern - 3 dates. At Puerto del Carmen seafront, singles on 20 and 31 Oct. Also, 2 passed Jameos del Agua on 26 Oct.

Rock Dove - 4 dates min. Authentic looking birds seen in the Timanfaya National Park on 22 and 24 Oct (common around the camel ride station), the crags above Haria on 25 Oct and Famara sea cliffs near Guinate on 28 Oct. By contrast, the homing / feral pigeons around Puerto del Carmen were anything but pure bred.

Collared Dove - 14 dates. Abundant species. Before they invaded, Lanzarote must have seemed quite birdless.

Laughing (Palm) Dove - 4 dates min. Apart from 2 at Los Valles on 25 Oct, all birds seen were from the balcony of our apartment. Definate sightings from here were 3 each on 21 Oct and 1 Nov, and single on 26 Oct. Probably also seen on 3 other dates:- these sightings were usually of apparently small, dark doves whizzing through the palms when I didn't have the binoculars to hand.

Ring-necked Parakeet - 1 date. Two birds mobbing a Kestrel at Los Pocillos on 29 Oct.

Pallid Swift - 1 or 2 dates. Around 8 Pallid Swifts were flying around the road between Tahiche and Arrecife on 26 Oct. Four swifts were also seen alongside the Puerto del Carmen ring road on 29 Oct, but from the moving car, they appeared small and dark, and may have been Plain Swift. Unfortunately it was not possible to stop to confirm the ID.

Hoopoe - 8 dates. Widespread records from Puerto del Carmen, Los Valles, Guatiza, Los Cocoteros, Tao, Tahiche and the golf course. All birds either single or pairs, and about 15 birds seen in total. Even seen perched on phone wires.

Lesser Short-toed Lark - 7 dates. Only seen at 2 locations, ie the open ground behind our hotel and the El Jable plain, with 6 and 1 dates respectively. Numbers behind the hotel varied from 3 to c200, depending on whether or not I located the feeding flocks. Large numbers also at El Jable. Usually difficult to obtain good views due to flightiness of flocks and camouflage when on the ground.
Birds were also heard but not seen at Mirador del Rio.

Berthelot's Pipit - 12 dates. Common and widespread in open areas throughout the island, but not seen in the towns. The passerine most often encountered in such areas, but not seen in the very large numbers that Lesser Short-toed Lark, Spanish Sparrow and Linnet were, and didn't flock with other species. I would dispute the statement made by other observers that it is the commonest bird on Lanzarote. However, usually very tame and approachable, and seems partial to carparks, such as at Mirador del Rio, the Tropical Park near Guinate and within the Timanfaya National Park.

White Wagtail - 2 dates. 3-4 at Puerto del Carmen on 21 Oct and 1 over the golf course on 29 Oct.

Robin - 1 date. One seen and a couple of others heard at the golf course on 29 Oct.

Blackcap - 2 dates. Three seen at Mirador de Haria on 25 Oct and a male at the golf course on 29 Oct.

Spectacled Warbler - 2 dates seen. 3-4 seen in the Los Valles - Mirador de Haria area on 25 Oct and another 3-4 seen at the golf course on 29 Oct. Other birds heard only at other locations on other dates. Despite it's skulking reputation, some excellent views obtained.

Chiffchaff - 1 date (heard only). One at the golf course on 29 Oct.

Southern Grey Shrike - 11 dates. Most birds seen at Puerto del Carmen, El Jable plain, the golf course and other sites in the north of the island. Around 10 birds at El Jable on 28 Oct, and probably c35 birds seen in total in 2 weeks. Seems to have a large range of calls which took some getting used to.

Raven - 3 dates. A pair at Timanfaya on 24 Oct, pairs each at Mirador del Rio and Mirador de Haria on 25 Oct and a pair over El Jable plain on 28 Oct. Seems to be the only corvid on the island.

Spanish Sparrow - 14 dates. An abundant species, particularly around towns and villages. In fact around Puerto del Carmen, the small passerines were relentlessly mono-specific.

Canary - 1 date. 4-5 of these were seen with ease and great views at Mirador de Haria on 25 Oct. Had I put in more time or walked further, I would no doubt have seen more. Last seen on Tenerife 12 years ago.

Linnet - 13 or 14 dates. Probably the 2nd commonest passerine after Spanish Sparrow. A large chunk of the birds seen were on the open area behind the hotel, where seen in flock sizes that would be exceptional in Britain.

Trumpeter Finch - 5 or 6 dates. Between 6-9 seen well at Caleton del Rio by the water treatment works on the south-west coast on 22 Oct, heard and probably seen at distance at Janubio on 23 Oct, 4 at Piedra Mansa on the west coast near Tinajo on 27 Oct, and on the open ground behind our hotel, 5-6 on 24 Oct, 1 on 30 Oct and 2-3 on 2 Nov.

I hope that this account is of some interest to you and other readers of your website should you post it up. If you have any comments or questions, I would be glad to hear from you.

Kind regards,

John Armstrong

Tel 01943 465028 (H) 01274 693622 (W)