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Lanzarote 23/11/2010 to 7/12/2010 (1 Viewer)

Robert L Jarvis

Robert L Jarvis
My wife and I had been wishing to visit the Canaries for sometime. The chance came with the offer of a good package to stay at the Iberostar Papagayo, Playa Blanca, Lanzarote. The trip was to pick up on the mega birds, see the sights and chill out. We hired a car for one week which was when basically all our birding was done. We were successful in seeing our target birds, we had been particularly wishful of seeing Houbara Bustard as we had seen it's Israeli counterpart before the split. In addition we wished to see Cream-coloured Courser as our only pevious sighting had been a distant bird in Israel.

We visited all the usual sites and did some additional exploring. It is not my intention to go into a detailed daily travelogue of the places visited and the birds seen. The excellent details and directions contained in the trip report by Wolfbirder for May 2010 were followed and were found to be spot on. Well done Wolfie for that excellent report and I would reccomend it to any wishing to visit the island. Thus there is little point in my repeating said information.

A total of 41 species was observed which was felt to be quite good for this time of the year. We managed to get some decent still images and some good video.

If anyone would like some detail of the places visited please pm me.

The birds seen were:-
Berthelot's Pipit
Collared Dove
Yellow-legged Gull
Spanish Sparrow
Trumpeter Finch
Houbara Bustard
Cream-coloured Courser
Common Coot
Southern Grey Shrike
Pied Wagtail
Lesser Short-toed Lark
Black-winged Stilt
Greater Flamingo
Kentish Plover
Grey Heron
Rock Dove
Cattle Egret
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Barbary Falcon
Grey Plover
Common Sandpiper
Black-necked Grebe
Ringed Plover
Sandwich Tern
Bulwers Petrel
Little Ringed Plover
Curlew Sandpiper
Plain Swift
Barbary Partridge
Little Egret

Laughing Dove Heard.

In addition we believe we managed to see Cory's Shearwater but it was really quite dark and could only be sure the bird seen was a Shearwater species. Another possibility was a Purple Heron at the saltpans, but we had no scope with us but feel pretty much that the ID was correct just looking through our bins. Unfortunately we hurried round to the other side of the pans to get a closer look but the bird had disappearred in the 10 minutes taken to get round so cannot be absolutely sure.

In summary a very enjoyable break and grateful that the birds played their part and did not hide.
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Nice list.
We did Tenerife in November and did not get half as many.
We managed to see all five Endemics with very brief views of Bolle`s and Laurel Pigeon.
We started to see more at the end of the week as we located some of the sites mentioned in A Bird Watchers Guide to The Canary Islands by Tony Clarke and David Collins.
We also caught two pickpockets at Las Gigantes as they were trying to steal from a German tourist,so anyone visiting beware.
If I ever go again I think it will be in the spring as I found it very hard work finding many birds and there was a distinct lack of butterflies and reptiles.
Its really good (from an individual point of view) to read that one's report has benefitted other birders. So thank you Robert.

Of course reliable info can quickly become dated.

I gather the Great Grey Shrikes on Lanzarote are not infact Southern Grey but Desert Grey Shrikes.

Glad you had such a profitable trip, well jealous of the Bulwer's Petrels and Plain Swift.
I read with interest your comment on Great Grey Shrike on Lanzarote.
Does the same apply to Shrikes on Tenerife?
As I'm off to Lanzarote in Sept next year it would be good to read your report Wolfbirder but I can't seem to locate it. Do you have a link?
I read with interest your comment on Great Grey Shrike on Lanzarote.
Does the same apply to Shrikes on Tenerife?

I believe so.

Have a read of this......hoping the link works....


I think it is accepted that the species is now split along 4 lines:-

"NORTHERN GREY SHRIKE (Lanius excubitor) comprises nominate excubitor, hometeri, leucopterus, sibiricus, and a number of marginal isolated recognised forms occurring in central and eastern Asia.

SOUTHERN/IBERIAN GREY SHRIKE (Lanius meridionalis) restricted to southern France and Iberia.

SAXAUL GREY SHRIKE (Lanius pallidirostris) comprising nominate pallidirostris and lahtora, although latter requires more study and may merit individual status or link with Chinese Great Grey Shrike..

DESERT GREY SHRIKE (Lanius elegans) - now includes North African forms algierensis, aucheri and elegans as well as koenigi found on the Canary Islands. It also includes theresae, which breeds in northern Israel."

This is taken from UK400 page, quoting the findings of the DNA research.
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As I'm off to Lanzarote in Sept next year it would be good to read your report Wolfbirder but I can't seem to locate it. Do you have a link?

Sorry to bore the rest of you - here it is in its entirity Keith............probably too much detail provided to be fair! You would certainly need to take it with you to be of any value. Might be more fun to explore your self. Here goes.............


Ok the title may be unoriginal and unimaginative ! I have just returned from a fortnight's holiday 10th June 2010 - 24th June 2010 to celebrate my mother-in-laws 60th birthday (I couldn't persuade her to choose Lesvos unfortunately!).

Nevertheless, it provided me with opportunity to see some endemic species, though a miserable total of just 40 species during the fortnight highlights just how difficult birding was. I especially suffered durng this mid-summer bash with waders, though migration was clearly past and I was not particularly expecting great numbers.

I relied heavily on snippets of information from sites such as Birdforum, and also on the easy-to-follow paperback "Birdwatching guide to the Canary Islands" (Prion Birdwatching Guide series) by T Clarke & D Collins available at Amazon for about a tenner ! I am sure you can acquire this book at most birding book stores. And although the road system is not that complex, a good detailed road map purchased in advance preferably, is of course very important.

I was based at Playa Blanca on the southern tip of the island, based at the excellent Hotel Rubicon Palace H10, which was an excellent quality hotel but certainly not cheap (thanks mum-in-law!). The weather was generally sunny, but often cloudy in the mornings, and there was a constant strong breeze.

For the first week I had no hire car, so had to base my self around the hotel. After a while anyone would soon tire of watching cheeky Spanish Sparrows stealing food from the plates of sun-bathing tourists, of the 'hotel' Hoopoes flopping around on butterfly wings, omni-present Yellow-Legged Gulls gulping down chips left over on plates of retreating sun-worshippers, Pallid and Common Swifts, House Martins, Swallows hawking at height, and of studying the amount of black and white in wingtips and tail coverts of Collared Doves, to try to add Barbary Dove to your list.

In fact a walk into Playa Blanca centre (main shopping street 'above' port) on two occasions (a walk of a mile for us along the coastal path from our hotel), did unearth a few 'suspicious' looking Doves that I feel were indeed Barbary Doves, devoid of black in the wingtips or rump. However, these birds struck me as being surprisingly brown in upperpart colour. The only other birds of note were a few Linnets flying to and fro, and a solitary Whimbrel feeding down on the rocks.

The coastal path from my hotel 'westward' (the opposite direction to Playa Blanca centre) led to Punta Pechiguera lighthouse, away from the many half-constructed new-build villas and apartments at last, though just a few Desert Grey Shrikes and Bertholot's Pipits were seen around any remaining scrub and rocks. Cory's Shearwater's can be seen at some distance from here routinely, especially mornings and evenings, though they are often some way out. I spent some time sea-watching but the 'hoped-for' Bulwer's Petrel never materialised (incidentally I have subsequently seen a single report that they can be seen from a sea watchpoint a few kms north along the coast from Jameos de Agua at the other end of the island, returning to offshire islands in the evening - find an obvious peninsula - its worth a try!). Back in Playa Blanca I found a good sea-watching spot in the second week at Coral Bay apartments at Punta Pechiguera near Playa Blanca, a few hundred metres north of the lighthouse. Here, you could sit in your car in comfort overlooking the sea. In Playa Blanca, take directions to 'Punta Pechiguera' and after passing my hotel (H10 Rubicon Palace) take the first left turn after approximately half a mile. Head down this road towards the lighthouse but swing right about 200 metres before it and continue a few hundred metres until you see 'Coral Bay' complex. The parking area overlooking the sea here is situated just before the complex.

On 17th June 2010 I picked up my seven-seat Citreon Picasso which I had for seven days (not exclusively for birding!) courtesy of Autoreisen which at 218 euros was substantially cheaper than others I could find on the net for such a large vehicle. Orca Car Hire shop handled the on-site paperwork in Playa Blanca. There was just a small Autoreisen sticker in the window of the shop.

Driving in Lanzarote was quite easy, though driving on dusty, bumpy rough tracks often required care, especially regards underbody damage. The road signage is not that good, with just solitary road signs telling you of turn offs. So stay alert! Even if you miss a turn don't fret - it is easy to find alternative ways to your location as the island is quite small. One word of caution........I twice noticed that two sets of identical main roads ran directly adjacent or parallel to each other just a few metres apart for long distances, which could lull you into thinking they were dual-carriageways. Such road systems run parallel for a few miles from Yaiza to Playa Blanca (LZ2 & LZ701), and also northwards from Teguise. Strange really, its hard to see how one road was an improvement on the other.

Onto the birding sites...............

Situated just north of Playa Blanca. This famous site is situated either side of the parallel LZ2 & LZ701 roads that run in a straight path for several miles across the barren desert to & from Playa Blanca. Access to the western half (from these main roads) seems virtually impossible except on foot (which I would not advise due to heat). Any access tracks seem to be blocked off. The eastern half appears to still hold the quality birds anyway, even though the proximity of new-builds seems to encroach on what we consider to be prime habitat. I also noted dog-walkers from these properties on several occasions, but overall it does not seem to affect the birds much, other than temporarily displacing them, which of course can be frustrating for a visiting birder.

Access to the eastern 'Rubicon' track is easy - when you approach Playa Blanca from the north on either the LZ2 or parallel LZ701 taking you across the huge plain, you come to a traffic island marking the start of Playa Blanca. Go straight over to a second traffic island (passing a petrol station sandwiched inbetween), and simply follow the signs left to "Femmes" at this 2nd traffic island. Then, go straight on for about a mile (probably less), passing H10 Princess Hotel away on your right, until you pass a large white-walled factory compound on your left currently titled "Plabacon S.L.". Immediately after this take the left turn at the large traffic island, and you are out onto the rough track that goes on for about a mile - this is El Rubicon. It is easy and no problem if driven with care, in other words just checking for small boulders on the track. Having accessed it at the traffic island, you immediately pass a small quarry on your right, and industrial compounds with semi-broken down fencing on your left. Continue on the track slowly, passing two 'barriered' tracks in quick succession on your right, and a final compound on your left that contains a boat and blue pod container (at present). It is not complicated but these are just given as markers. The latter half of the mile-long track is open plain on either side.

I visited between 6pm-7pm on three occasions, at 7am one morning, and mid-day twice, all on different dates during my week with the hire car. I enjoyed four superb Houbara Bustard sightings involving single, three, and two birds (twice) respectively. A possible total of 8 birds but more than likely to involve 3 maybe 4 individuals. The best area for this species appeared to be the early or mid areas along the track, I saw three birds together on the morning visit on the right of the track just a few hundred metres on from entering at the traffic island, but the favoured area in the evening appeared to be on the left, 'immediately' after the last industrial compound to the left of the track. There is a small flat sandy patch with taller bushes in this spot & they seemed to favour this little spot, sometimes hiding behind the bushes. They also favoured the rockier, slightly undulating areas directly on the other side of the track.

During my visits I also enjoyed about an 80% success rate with Cream-coloured Coursers, seeing a maximum of 7 birds together. They appeared to favour the barren stoney flat patches at the far end of the track adjacent to the last-but-one telegraph pole before the track meets but terminates just before the main road (LZ2). They were seen on either side of the track and sometimes a few hundred metres away but also sometimes crossing the track and offering 'crippling' views down to three metres! Wonderful birds !! Just keep scanning and driving slowly and they quite easily catch your eye when they move. Don't just concentrate on this end section for this species, I also had them in the mid-sections but only once you were clear of the industrial compounds. If you do fail at the far end, there are a couple of straight footpaths on either side of the track that are worth walking a few hundred metres, to check if they are just a little too distant to see from the car.

On one occasion I had brief views of around 15 Black-bellied Sandgrouse in flight, but I was driving around the traffic island and they flew off out of sight.

Kestrel, Berthlot's Pipits and Desert Grey Shrikes may well be seen at Rubicon Plain but I found it harder to locate other species 'until' I took a rougher but still driveable track north (to the right) off the main track (about halfway along it). You can find this track on your right, just after the 'last' industrial compound on your left. This track (as with the two mentioned barriered tracks before it) leads to a white house you can see in the distance. You can see a low, stone-walled section about half way to the house (about 300 metres away), this is where you want to drive too, and you can park conveniently immediately before the walled area, just off the track so not as to block access to any vehicles going to the house. On two visits to this section I parked up and found upto 70 Trumpeter Finches, several 'skulking' Lesser Short-Toed Larks, Linnets, a few Bertholot's Pipits and both Pallid and Common Swifts. Sometimes they favoured the walled area and sometimes they were amongst the rockier area opposite but within fifty metres. They can easily be missed in the slightly undulating terrain but with patience were easy. I possibly had Plain Swift here but I could not identify them with confidence and they are rare on Lanzarote.

The Rubicon Plain seems still to be 'the' only reliable site for the 'coursers' on Lanzarote.

Via either the LZ2 or preferably the immediately adjacent & parallel LZ701, these active saltpans can be accessed from Play Blanca within five minutes by car! There are a few pull-over spots on the LZ701 which either look over the large salt pan complex, or lead down to the stoney beach area adjacent to it (at 'Playa' sign from LZ701). Alternatively, you can drive around to the other side towards 'El Golfo' (follow signs at the traffic island though it is obvious) and there is an official viewing area and restaurant and then a small lay by to view from. I had around 20 Trumpeter Finches near the cafe but not easy. The laguna held a long-staying Greater Flamingo, 6 Black-winged Stilts, Greenshank, & a Kentish Plover. Heat haze is unsurprisngly a problem here so choose your spot according to sun angle. I visited twice and on both occasions connected with a key target bird - Barbary Falcon. I watched a pair rake low across the saltpans, using one of the 3-4 old, small windmill-type structures as watchpoints. The 'reddish' nape was obvious, distinguishing it from the far rarer but occurring Peregrine Falcon on the island. On a seperate visit I watched a pair hunt Common and Pallid Swifts at the opposite end. But at times bird activity was very slow here, and wader activity was not as good as at other times of the year. I think a Barbary Falcon pair are quite regular here, but you may have to wait a while if they are perched up on the rockfaces adjacent to the main Playa Blanca road.

This area close to and west of Teguise is as famous as the Rubicon Plain for those sought-after desert species, though very few seem to connect with Coursers here. As recommended I took the LZ30 west out of Teguise then turned right onto the LZ402 signposted to 'La Caleta de Famara' to access these extensive plains. There are then three obvious access tracks on your left along this road that each lead out across the plain, and I found them far less confusing than my map suggested. The first two access tracks are about two hundred metres apart and both situated close to the 1km marker on the LZ402, and the 3rd access track I found was close to the 3km marker further along. An obvious track connects them conveniently, so just potter along slowly. I spent two hours from 8.30am-10.30am on 22nd June, and flushed 2 Houbara Bustards into flight on the 2nd and 3rd tracks respectively. I did not locate any Cream-Coloured Coursers here, but 2 Stone Curlews, 3 Hoopoes, Berthlot's Pipits, Desert Grey Shrikes, Kestrels,and two large flocks of Lesser Short-Toed Larks were found. One bird amongst the latter was either partially leucistic or or North African sub-species origin, as these are much sandier. I also found upto 20 Cattle and Little Egrets following a 'shepherded' goat-flock.

At nearby Castillo Santa Barbara there was just Kestrel (with a very blue rump), and Bertholot's Pipit. They certainly appear at every location.

Situated off the L34 between Tachiche and Costa Teguise, I did not even get to ask for access at the gatehouse entrance. I first went to the first road east of it where new developments are being contructed, and carried on a short distance to an area where you easily look over the golf course. I walked up to the golf course perimeter fence, where a gardener/ care-taker said I could cross a broken section of fence and check the course, as long as I kept to main paths of course. I immediately located one of the semi-resident Laughing Doves in one of the many palm trees, and after ten minutes of searching a flock of at least 12 Barbary Partridges flushed a short distance, offering good views. A pair of Kestrel were also present.

I highly recommend this little oasis of greenery. Don't miss it even if you initially miss the recommended access point and have to go to the top of the hill & turn round. If you are bumper to bumper in traffic it could be easy to miss first time. From Haria, drive west and gently upwards out of the village, on the LZ10 a few kms until you come to a series of steep hairpin bends. Just metres after the 'first' hairpin bend that goes to the left, park either in a single spot on your left directly by a 50km 'speed' sign, or alternatively (and probably preferably) take the rough track on your right a further twenty metres on (directly opposite the 19km marker). Drive down this track (or walk if you have already parked) about 300 metres. Then park up on the left of this track just by a small wooden sign 'Mirador Bosquecilla' (it is only propped up by branches!). The track looks to possibly lead back down to Haria but I think it leads to an isolated farmhouse so this parking point is the best spot, and it is not easy to turn round if you further. From here, you can then choose to walk on the track down hill towards Haria, downhill along the dried stream (where I had plenty of Haria Lizards but little bird life), or preferably walk "uphill" about 200 metres, taking the path past two very small, wire-covered, stone dams in quick succession, onto a small plantation of comparatively dense shrubbery and pine trees. I found this general area superb - by mid-summer Lanzarote standards at least! At least 5 Spectacled Warblers showed wonderfully by the scrub close to the stone dams, as well as Bertholots Pipits, and then around the trees on either side and in the small plantation at least 5 Canary's, 2 Sardinian Warbler's, 2 North African Blue Tits, 2 Turtle Dove's, Spotted Flycatcher, Rock Doves, and then above a Barbary Falcon harrassing a 'croaking' Raven. This was a great little spot, easily missed but easy to access with precise detail, and a lovely spot to sit and watch, and a great place to have a picnic.

These two northerly viewpoints on the Famara cliffs are worth checking, certainly the latter! The Mirador de Guinate produced an immature Egyptian Vulture and a Barbary Falcon zipped by as I approached this exposed viewpoint with low walls and frightening vertical drops. A little further north is the 'Mirador de Rio' - which may cost 3-4 euros to access but it has a sheltered viewpoint and cafe as a creation by the islands most famous son Caesar Manrique! I spent an hour here enjoying spectacular elevated views, including two pairs of Barbary Falcon's displaying and carrying prey. Superb stuff.

Although it can be dangerous to drive and watch birds, it is worth always being observant.

Nearby to Mirador de Rio but on the opposite coast just several km's away, "Jameos De Agua" was great for a tourist visit, but only Spanish Sparrows were present. The coastline scrub looks great with much macquis but I saw no birds except a Desert Grey Shrike, though Cory's Shearwaters were streaming past. A good sea-watching point! Looking at the map I think a few peninsula's along this coast would be great early evening for sea-watching, but I never got to try them out.

Driving back past Haria a group of Barbary Partridge were briefly seen and near Yaiza an Osprey was perched.

Timanfaya (the volcano) was a great visit but no birds were seen in this volcanic crater-like area.

Of final note, the single birder I came across at Haria Mirador informed me that Fuerteventura Chat (previously Canary islands Chat) can be seen on the steep minor road from Yaiza to Femmes. I was not sure exactly where he meant, but at the northerly traffic island at Yaiza I took the obvious rough track that winds past some houses, and out up onto the road you can see to your left, over the hill to Femmes. With care this can be negotiated in good weather though if your car has low undercarriage there are a few dodgy sections, but I found no chats during my visit, and I checked out all the terrain that I thought may hold them in the area. Nevertheless, he seemed to know what he was talking about and had seen them himself over the past two years. Interesting!

The beaches around Playa de Papayago (near Playa Blanca) may appear to hold potential territory for birds but there is a lot of human disturbance and as with the rest of the terrain on Lanzarote I found scrub just to be too degraded to hold passerines, and where any substantial patch existed, a shrike dominated !

Finally, many birders refer to shrikes here as Southern Grey Shrike. This is apparently incorrect. Recent research concluded that grey Shrikes on the Canaries apparently do not differ genetically to the North African (algeriensis) 'larius elegans' Desert Shrike species and they certainly look virtually identical. Whether they get lumped back into Great Grey Shrike (larius excubitor) one day who knows!

So overall not a great total (40) but key species enjoyed. Hope my report helps !

My bird list therefore included (in no specific order):

Houbara Bustard ( x 7 - 9)
Cream-Coloured Courser ( x 8 +)
Black-Bellied Sandgrouse ( x 12)
Barbary Falcon ( x 8)
Osprey ( x 1)
Barbary Partridge ( x 20)
Trumpeter Finch ( x 100)
Bertholot's Pipit 9 ( x 50)
Canary ( x 5)
North African Blue Tit ( x 2)
Spectacled Warbler ( x 6+)
Sardinian Warbler ( x 2)
Stone Curlew ( x 2)
Desert Grey Shrike ( x 50)
Laughing Dove ( x 1)
Spanish Sparrow ( x 200)
Lesser Short-Toed Lark ( x 100)
Barbary Dove ( x 2 +)
Collared Dove ( x 200)
Turtle Dove ( x 2)
Spotted Flycatcher ( x 1)
Pallid Swift ( x 40)
Common Swift ( x 100)
House Martin ( x 30)
Swallow ( x 5)
Linnet ( x 20)
Hoopoe ( x 10)
Cory's Shearwater ( x 200)
Cattle Egret ( x 15)
Little Egret ( x 10)
Rock Dove ( x 20)
Greater Flamingo ( x 1)
Egyptian Vulture ( x 1)
Kestrel ( x 30)
Raven ( x1)
Black-winged Stilt ( x 6)
Greenshank ( x 1)
Kentish Plover ( x 1)
Whimbrel ( x 1)
Lesser Black-backed Gull ( x 2)
Yellow-Legged Gull ( x 300)
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I believe so.

Have a read of this......hoping the link works....


I think it is accepted that the species is now split along 4 lines:-

"NORTHERN GREY SHRIKE (Lanius excubitor) comprises nominate excubitor, hometeri, leucopterus, sibiricus, and a number of marginal isolated recognised forms occurring in central and eastern Asia.

SOUTHERN/IBERIAN GREY SHRIKE (Lanius meridionalis) restricted to southern France and Iberia.

SAXAUL GREY SHRIKE (Lanius pallidirostris) comprising nominate pallidirostris and lahtora, although latter requires more study and may merit individual status or link with Chinese Great Grey Shrike..

DESERT GREY SHRIKE (Lanius elegans) - now includes North African forms algierensis, aucheri and elegans as well as koenigi found on the Canary Islands. It also includes theresae, which breeds in northern Israel."

This is taken from UK400 page, quoting the findings of the DNA research.

Thanks, the link worked.
I`ve only read the abstract so far but it would appear that the DNA results are pretty conclusive
Must add that we missed the Bosquecilla turnoff and decided not to go back, the few passerines can wait for a trip to another island where they are far more numerous, As for the Tahiche Golf Course, we asked at reception and were given permission to walk round as there few golfers so that should be the preferred way of access.

Do not bother with the Punta de Papagayo, birdwise but it does have a selection of nice beaches.

One final word, explore. If you can get the car down a track fairly safely, have a go but make sure you can turn round.
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