Photos with this report (click to enlarge)
African Blue Tit
Southern Grey Shrike
This was a two-week family holiday with my wife Gerda and brother Tony, 18th December – 1st January to escape the dreadful Cornish weather. Having already visited the islands of Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura on more than one occasion, the Canaries hold no new bird endemics for me but none of us had visited Lanzarote before and we just love this volcanic archipelago at this time of year when daytime temperatures are 24 degrees C and wall to wall sunshine is the order of the day. Lanzarote did not disappoint.
We flew out from Bristol with Ryan Air (for £310 each, quite expensive but it is Christmas!), having left our car with Purple Parking (£47 for 14 days) at the airport. We collected a hire car at Arrecife airport upon arrival (from Hertz £229 for 14 days) and drove off to our luxurious house (£655 for 14 nights) in the small coastal village of Charco del Palo in the NE part of the island. This is well away from the busy tourist spots at Playa Blanca and Puerto del Carmen in the south but we were seeking a bit of solitude (in any case the road network is so good it only takes an hour to cover the island north-south), albeit not quite what we were used to: Gerda had booked the place via the internet on the grounds that it was “ideal for naturalists and birdwatchers”. When I came home from work and read the small print it actually said “ideal for naturists and birdwatchers”. What an odd combination – we had booked into a nudist complex! It turned out our naked neighbor was a bit of a birder and must have told the landlord of the birds he’d seen from the garden and this was subsequently taken up as a selling point – well it worked on us!
Lanzarote is one of the older islands in the Canaries @ 19 million years (El Hierro by contrast is a mere 1 million) and following unusually heavy rains in Oct/Nov we were unexpectedly greeted with a carpet of green over the black basalt lava that otherwise dominates the landscape. Although volcanic activity is no longer, one of the craters is 250 degrees C at the surface and 600 degrees not far below; we didn’t go there. Worryingly the last eruption was only 1730-1736, a geological blink of the eye and I’m glad I didn’t know this on the second night we were there when thunder and lightning shook the place!
Sunny with 23-24 degrees every day and only one night of rain. Fabulous.
In the species list below, I’ve attempted to sum the total number of individuals seen on the island during our 14 days as I hope it gives a flavour of how abundant/scarce they are and will provide future visitors a measure of how likely it is to see a particular species. In common with islands everywhere, the number of bird species is not high (I saw 50) but many of the residents are endemic to the Canaries/Macaronesia. Those that are present certainly seem to be in healthy numbers; where on the mainland can you find >60 Kestrels and 500 sparrows in a similar area?
Coming from Cornwall where seawatching is compulsory, I was disappointed not to find any seabirds, Cory’s Shearwater in particular. I looked with my scope every day but all I ever saw were a couple of Gannets and even one of those I suspected was the same individual even though an 11-day gap separated the observations! However, what came as a complete surprise and delight was the number of Cetaceans, large whales in particular. On calm days as many as nine huge whales could be seen from Charco del Palo. The 500m depth contour comes closer here than almost anywhere else around Lanzarote and it may be no coincidence that this results in almost daily sightings (often with the naked eye, or should that be body?) of their ‘blows’ from the cliffs. Unfortunately specific identification of these was beyond me although a white-headed Cuvier’s Beaked Whale one day and a couple of likely Sei Whales and a breaching distant [Humpback] on other days were tentatively identified.
Black-necked Grebe: 31. Salinas de Jambio on both visits, 26th & 28th.
Gannet: 2. 1 off Charco del Palo 19th & 30th and 1 El Golfo 26th.
Little Egret: 18. 16 at Arrecife 24th was the max.
Cattle Egret: 37. Mainly in the south of the island.
Grey Heron: 12. No more than 5/day.
Ruddy Shelduck: 22. Counts of 20 at Salinas de Jambio 26th and 15 there 28th and a pair on the reservoir above Mala 23rd.
Osprey: 1. A single bird over Charco del Palo 22nd.
Kestrel: 66. Of the endemic island race, F.t.dacotiae. Widespread with 30 seen on one day on a tour of the island. Presumably the high population of Atlantic Lizards may be their main diet but we also saw one take a feral pigeon in the streets of Guatiza, but the pigeon managed to get free and flew off!
Barbary Falcon: 3. A single at the Mirador del Rio 19th and a pair above the crater of Montana Cuervo, Timanfaya National Park 26th.
Peregrine: 1. Single bird hunting feral pigeons in town of Guatiza 21st & 27th.
Barbary Partridge: 7. Pairs or single birds seen on six dates.
Houbara: 5. There were at least three in the stony desert north of Charco del Palo which I saw most days so I didn’t bother too much searching for this species elsewhere. A pair at the El Jable de Tao desert showed well on 21st. Of the endemic island race, C.u.fuertaventurae.
Avocet: 1. Single bird at Salinas de Jambio 26th.
Black-winged Stilt: 50. 50 at Salinas de Jambio 26th and 37 there 28th.
Stone-curlew: 5. At least three in the desert north of Charco del Palo and a pair at the El Jable de Tao desert on 21st. Of the endemic island race, B.o.insularum.
Ringed Plover: 17. Single at La Isleta 21st and 16 at high tide roost at Arrecife 24th.
Kentish Plover: 39. 28 at the Salinas de Jambio on 26th was the highest number.
Grey Plover: 30. 27 at high tide roost at Arrecife on 24th was the highest number.
Sanderling: 15. 14 at high tide roost at Arrecife on 24th and 1 at Salinas de Jambio 26th.
Dunlin: 11. 1 at La Isleta 21st, 5 Arrecife 24th and 5 at Salinas de Jambio 26th.
Whimbrel: 13. Widespread but no more than 7/day.
Redshank: 19. 19 at Salinas de Jambio 26th with 13 there 28th.
Greenshank: 16. 15 at Salinas de Jambio 26th was max.
Common Sandpiper: 9. 4 at Salinas de Jambio 26th was maximum anywhere.
Turnstone: 40. 25 at Arrecife 24th was maximum anywhere.
Lesser Black-backed Gull: 62. 62 at Arrecife 24th with only 1 elsewhere but distant gull flocks offshore may have held more.
Yellow-legged Gull: c700. These are of the Macaronesian race L.m.atlantis.
Audouin’s Gull: 2. Two adults together in the harbour at Arrecife 24th. Photographed. Apparently, this local rarity is becoming commoner in the archipelago these days.
Black-headed Gull: 9. 5 at Arrecife 24th and 4 at Salinas de Jambio 26th & 28th.
Sandwich Tern: 60. Widespread. A flock of 35 at high tide roost at Arrecife 24th was the max recorded.
Rock Dove/Feral Pigeon: c650.
Collared Dove: c450.
Pallid Swift: 110. Only seen at Tahiche golf course 24th.
Hoopoe: 12. Seen daily; a pair were feeding young in their nest hole at Charco del Palo.
Lesser Short-toed Lark: 150. Only seen at the El Jable de Tao desert on 21st. Of the endemic island race C.r.polatzeki.
Swallow: 2. Two over Charco del Palo on 27th was a surprise.
Berthelot’s Pipit: c210. Widespread. Macaronesian endemic and Canary Island subspecies.
Grey Wagtail: 3. One at Haria and 2 at the reservoir above Mala. Of the endemic island race, M.c.canariensis.
Spectacled Warbler: 14. Widespread but no more than 6/day. Of the endemic island race, S.c.orbitalis.
Blackcap: 5. Seen only at Haria.
Common Chiffchaff: 11. 7 at Haria was the max anywhere.
Yellow-browed Warbler: 2. The bird of the trip! A national rarity, I discovered one at Haria on 19th and went back and saw it again 23rd and 29th. On the latter date there were at least two (seen in three different locations in the town) and photos obtained sent to the Spanish rarities committee.
Spotted Flycatcher: 1. Single bird photographed in Haria 29th. What is that doing here?
African Blue Tit: 1. Single bird singing near Haria 23rd & 29th. This island endemic C.t. ultramarinus of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote is closely related, maybe indistinguishable from the North African population of degener but has been split by some and is also known as Ultramarine Tit.
Southern Grey Shrike: 61. Widespread – not surprising with so many Atlantic Lizards around? We also saw one emerge from a low bush having just caught an endemic Canary Shrew, Crocidura canariensis (the only shrew we saw). Of the endemic island race, L.m.koenigi.
Raven: 14. 10 at El Jable de Tao desert on 21st. Of the endemic island race C.c.tingitanus.
Spanish Sparrow: c500.
Linnet: 58. Widespread. Of endemic island race, C.c.harterti (Fuerteventura and Lanzarote only).
Canary: 10. All near Haria. Macaronesian endemic.
Trumpeter Finch: 28. Widespread. Breeding. Of endemic island race, B.g.amantum.
Cuvier’s Beaked Whale: Single off Charco del Palo on 20th was watched for c15 minutes within 500m of the cliffs with scope. Its large white head was seen on many occasions as it surfaced to breathe.
Sei/Bryde’s Whale: One 19th and 28th off cliffs at Charco del Palo seen well with scope but could not be specifically identified.
Large whale sp? The following whales were seen off Charco del Palo during brief but daily seawatches when their blows were sometimes picked out with the naked eye: 2 19th, 3 21st, 5 22nd, 5 24th, 3 25th, 9 29th and 6 31st December. I’ve no idea what they were unfortunately as most were >1km but Sei was suspected on some occasions.
Bottle-nosed Dolphin: c8 19th but probably others.
Spinner Dolphin: c20 19th were clearly this species, spinning in the air during breaches.
Dolphin sp? c150 19th, c30 29th and 50 31st. Just too distant.
Rabbit: Only two!
Canary Shrew: One taken by Southern Grey Shrike at Charco del Palo!
Atlantic (Haria) Lizard, Gallotia a. atlantica. Common and widespread.
Lesser Emperor dragonfly, Anax parthenope: Up to 10/day but c150 at Orzola 19th.
Red Admiral butterfly: No more than 3/day.
Painted Lady butterfly: Widespread. Up to 15/day.
Monarch butterfly: Only seen at Haria where up to 4/day.
Small White butterfly: <10/day.
Large White butterfly: Only 1 on two dates.
Greenish Black-tip: Locally common. c30 at Mirador del Rio and c40 around Montana Tinasoria, La Geria area.
Small Copper butterfly: 1 only – at Montana Tinasoria, La Geria.
Common Blue butterfly: Up to 8/day Charco del Palo area.
Long-tailed Blue butterfly: 2 Charco del Palo.
Crescent Dart moth: 1 Charco del Palo.
Rush Veneer micro moth: 1 on two dates.
Spoladea recurvalis micro moth: Widespread with 15 on 21st and 26th.
Ladybird, Coccinella algerica. Locally common.
Squat Lobster, Munidopsis polymorpha. Endemic “Blind Albino Cave Crab” at Jameos del Agua.
Mediterranean Snail, Theba pisana. Widespread especially on Prickly Pear cactus where aestivating.