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Lanzarote Pelagic 2-night tour 6-8 September 2022 (1 Viewer)

wolfbirder

Well-known member
As part of my pending 60th birthday, I promised myself a real pelagic that 'Lanzarote Pelagics' operate twice every September as long as demand is met for these trips, which means they must have 6-7 participants. each time. At 540 euros its not cheap, but when you realise the effort and preparation involved, it is fully justified.

I flew into Lanzarote using cheap flights with Ryan Air from Birmingham, and drove to Orzola as I booked / stayed at the excellent Roque del Este (via booking.com) overlooking Orzola Harbour, this is in the extreme north-east of the island. This is ideal self-catering accommodation (they have a one-bed and a two-bed apartment). It is ideally situated and there are lovely but relatively quiet sea-front restaurants a minutes walk away, where I could enjoy a meal and a couple of pints. Once I learnt the lay-out of Orzola, I parked on the approach road 100-metres past the only supermarket at the entrance to town, as it always seemed free. Parking closer becomes a real problem due to the number of ferry users day-tripping to La Graciosa, and there are restrictions with signs everywhere advising maximum parking is 3 hours on the actual roads. Having said that, I had no issues leaving my car overnight so I am not sure if they enforce that. Not everyone in Orzola is on a ferry trip, though it is certainly 'not' a busy family resort - a fact that appealed to me a lot. Anyway, from the supermarket, it was a 5-minute walk to my apartment.

Car hire from Cicar was very good (no hidden extras), which I used for the rest of my trip back on land, after the pelagic, though in general birding was tough on Lanzarote mainland, which looked parched and burnt out at this time of year in areas where there had been greenery.

Anyway, having flown in on 5th, I collected my car and drive to Orzola, settled in to my excellent self-contained accommodation, and then took the ferry at 8am on the 6th from Orzola Harbour booked in advance with ‘Biosfera’ (one minute walk from my accommodation), to the small island of La Graciosa, from where our vessel for the pelagic was to depart at 9.15am. Several other of the participants were on the ferry over too, standing out courtesy of the presence of binoculars, so I introduced myself. It was all very straightforward. Juan, the Lanzarote Pelagics tour leader was one of these, though he spoke little English.

After a coffee and stocking up at La Graciosa, we boarded our vessel skippered by the wonderful Maria who was always looking after those of us more used to the calm waters of a canal narrow boat through Wolverhampton, like me. Do make an effort to talk to folk, they are really friendly and will try to help you throughout the trip.

The idea is to motor northwards all day and chum late on, before being in an ideal location the following morning in the 'Banco de la Concepcion', some 60-80 miles north, lying off the Moroccan coast, and spend all day chumming (around 6 blocks every 2-3 hours), and then return back to La Graciosa overnight where you arrive at about 8-9am.

SAILING TIPS

Some tips for land-locked novices like me: -
  • When ever you move whilst on the boat, hold onto something - this is a fundamental rule. Otherwise you will be thrown all over the place. Potential for injury is distinctly possible.
  • Be prepared when the boat changes tack, and this happens periodically and throws everything to the opposite side. It's also noisy on board with various bangs and crashes as sails shift and waves crash against the front of the boat.
  • Make sure you bring a hoody, although not cold, it can be windy. Maybe bring change of under-garments / wet-wipes etc - but it is pretty hardcore so be prepared. Also a baseball cap or hat that protects you from the sun. Sun-tan lotion too.
  • Do bring several small bottles of water/ juice, and enough snacks such as biscuits, chocolate, mints, crackers but nothing heavy as you will not eat that. Marie puts all drinks in a fridge. There is also a kettle if you want a hot drink but perhaps bring teabags.
  • Do take sickness tablets and travel wristbands, one person was violently sick throughout the first and second day. Thankfully not me! I wouldn't have survived what that poor fellow went through. There is no escape!
  • You will not sleep well because of the constant rocking and rolling, it was like being in a washing machine with a drum, on what for us this time were constantly choppy waters (more so than normal apparently). You may find yourself grabbing a few hours here and there, everyone did that, because of the unlikelihood of a full nights sleep. I brought zopiclone tablets to help knock me out but still woke up about 4am. I also brought a sleeping bag but never used it as it was so warm and clammy onboard.
  • There are several choices of where to sleep - 2 berths at the back (one is Maria's and you can't sleep there), 1 noisy one at the front (I say noisy because it is the front that crashes into the water), a pair of bunks in the middle, plus 2 comfy benches adjoining the kitchen table (this is where I slept). Also 2 people slept up on the benches up on deck, but beware that if you roll overboard, that will be your number up! Seriously! But up there at least you can get fresh air. Inevitably a boat is a sealed unit, so in the berths, it may lack good ventilation. There was no mad rush for best beds, it really wasn't like that. There is nowhere obviously better than elsewhere. Paying customers seem to be allowed to have their preference first.
  • There are two toilets which indeed, as I had previously read, almost induce vomiting when you enter them. This is because of the total lack of ventilation in them and also the chemical smell that instantly hits you. To be honest, the toilets remained very clean throughout, I think Marie would regularly double-check them, but with 6 lads on board, you might have expected a lot worse. This might be too much information, but when you go for a wee, the key is not to stand up and pee as the heavy rocking motion of the boat means that your aim is going to miss, sit down on the pan and pee (although this does not come naturally to blokes, you will find it so much easier and critically the toilet remains clean as there is no spillage).
  • Optics - obviously only bring binoculars, ones capable of quick refocus. Bear in mind the high potential that they might take a bit of knocking and bumping. Cameras abound but again you need to look after them very well from the constant instability and potential for damage.

THE BIRDING

Sometimes, the sea is very calm and hence much easier for observation, but on our choppy trip the boat would constantly rock and role to opposite 45 degree angles, making birding very difficult when you stood to watch something. But then you need winds for passage. My knees are already knackered, so being the oldest onboard it was very tough constantly, throughout the trip. Every single moment! By the end of the trip I genuinely felt physically shattered, every muscle in my body ached for a few days, whilst younger and fitter people were fine. The problem with the deck is that the two benches (each holding 3 sat birders) face inward-looking (at each other), so you were always looking over each other's shoulder, though you could turn and/or stand if something was behind you. It sounds a bit chaotic but it still worked, especially as one or two of the younger, more nimble folk climb up onto the body of the boat to watch things, leaving you with more space. But what you see may not tally exactly with what others see, though anything good is shouted out.

Day one, travelling up to the Banco de la Concepcion was long and fairly tedious, with only around 150 Cory's Shearwaters and several Bulwer's Petrels seen. Due to strong head-winds, we were just short of the Banco when it was starting to get dark, so Juan decided to do one chum session at about 7pm, which attracted a Madeiran Petrel but little else. Watching them prepare and open the chum block, and lift the adjoining fish oil whilst balancing off the back makes you realise how perilous it actually is when the weather is windy.

So although it had been a very long day, we at least felt we would soon be in the right area, and we all awoke with an immense sense of anticipation the following morning, awaiting dawn on the 7th.

We were now, on the morning of the 7th, in the 'Banco de la Concepcion', ready for the long day ahead. With good light not until around 9am, the first chumming of the day around that time was not particularly productive, but the second one mid-morning was better, though I have to say no chumming session produced a frenzy of birds on this trip. Several Madeiran Petrels appeared whilst Marie sailed the boat in circuits around the ever-expanding chum slick. This was the normal strategy and pattern, and as usual we spent around half an hour in the location until it was felt the slick had dissipated. The first of 10 Wilson's Petrels during the day appeared (which I struggled separating from longer-winged Madeiran's), but I missed a distant small skua, though a pale-phase 'Pom' was seen a few hundred metres away. A distant Barolo's (Little) Shearwater shot past, pleasing my Austrian friend on-board who had recently spent days on the Tenerife coast but failed to locate any. It certainly helped see him through his sea-sickness! Suddenly, someone shouted "White-faced Petrel!!" This is what I came for, these tiny enigmatic seabirds are surely right up there near the top of the birding Premier League! In fact 2 birds were together, but I still found them tough as they were 20-30 metres away, but in brief moments managed to balance without holding on, to obtain good clear binocular views. They are seen on 80%-90% of their pelagic trips, so I would have been very disappointed not to have connected. More Madeiran Petrels visited briefly, looking long-winged but again, otherwise rather-like Wilson's Petrels, with both species confusingly having pale upper-wing patches and to me, similar shaped white rumps. Also, I could not make out protruding feet of Wilson's, as I expected to be able to do. So I was reliant on the expertise of others to separate most of these 2 species seen. So having obtained my first lifer in the wonderful White-faced Petrel, I could relax more. Disappointingly however, no cetaceans were seen by anyone on the boat at all during the trip, which apparently was very unusual. The next chumming session around mid-day produced more of the same, several more Madeiran Petrels, a couple more Wilson's, and 3 more White-faced Petrels! Again, they only came to within 20-30 metres, but it was a joy to watch them bounce and 'trip' over the large waves like a skimming stone. I saw one more later on, and someone glimpsed a 7th bird. You mentally lose track of exactly what happened where and when, and of how many of a species you have seen, but we also had another cracking adult Pomarine Skua just by the boat, a superb adult Long-tailed Skua without streamers directly overhead, and a pair of Barolo's Shearwaters by the boat, and a Barolo's with a Manx close by, with someone incredibly managing to get a photo of them (Miguel from Lanzarote Pelagics). I managed to get onto them at 30-metres distance and noted a characteristic 'heads-up' moment of the Barolo's. Another Barolo's was seen later on, in fact 6-7 different individuals may have been seen overall by different people, but they all flew past at 'exocet-missile' speed. Around 15 Manxies were seen and I think I saw a single Great Shearwater too, though with increasingly-tired eyes, I am not 100% sure.

So for those waiting to see if we saw a real biggy............................no. No Black-bellied Storm Petrel nor Swinhoe's Petrel. Either of these of course would have been a real bonus, but White-faced Storm Petrel was my personal target.

E-Bird totals from Lanzarote Pelagics Miguel Esteban sent to me afterwards (with additional photos) read as follows: -


White-faced Storm Petrel - 7 birds (I saw 6)
Wilson Petrel - 10 birds (I think I saw all but only felt sure myself of 1!)
Madeiran / Band-rumped Petrel - 44 birds
Bulwer's Petrel - 16 birds
Barolo's Shearwater - 3 birds - at least one pair and one individual flying together with a Manx Shearwater. Perhaps some others, not confirmed by the brevity of the observations (I saw 4).
Manx Shearwater - 15 birds
Cory's Shearwater - 250 approx
Great Shearwater - 1 bird (only seen by me so maybe I was wrong)
Arctic Tern - 2 birds
Long-tailed Skua - 1 bird
Pomarine Skua - 2 birds
Eleonora's Falcon - 1 bird

To be honest, I was very relieved to get back to solid land, I was physically and mentally exhausted but actually pleased that I had coped! I know you don't have to do anything except sit down and watch, but it shattered me and thrilled me in equal measure. I spent the next two days back in my room literally just lying down, eating and drinking, and resting my extremely tired limbs and eyes.

For the remaining 3 days, I undertook sea-watches from my room at Orzola Harbour between 6.30pm-7.30pm as there were strong on-shore winds for 2 of at least 3 days, and I logged over 1,000 Cory's on both those days, plus a handful of Manxies and a Sooty Shearwater. I also did the same from the excellent spot at the beach at km30 of the coastal road by Orzola, again noting the same number of birds plus several Eleonora's Falcons circling around the small outlying island outcrop. At Mirador del Rio I eventually had 2 Barbary Falcons and 2 Eleonora's Falcons whilst eating coffee and cake mid-morning. 2 trips to the extensive plains at El Jable at Teguise failed to produce any Bustards (I have seen these many times in the past) though others were reporting them, but I logged 3 Cream-coloured Coursers, several Desert Grey Shrikes, 2 Hoopoe, 13 Barbary Partridge's, 6 Ravens, and up to 40 Lesser Short-toed Larks. Best of all, after undertaking 3 evening tours around Orzola and the adjacent country lanes in my hire car, I found a superb Slender-billed (Canarian) Barn Owl on my last night, not a full species but they apparently are 10-15% smaller than 'tyto alba' with shorter wings and tail. Information regards the location of these birds is very difficult to find, so I was very pleased. On my way back to the airport yesterday morning, I briefly visited El Jable again, and followed the track near KM5 marker post off LZ402 (La Caletta road), to a point where the bustards had recently been seen according to E-bird. However, there were no bustards but I got stuck in the sand there, and only got out due to frantic hand-paddling of the sand by each wheels, and use of car mats! The hard main tracks are safe but better higher up back by the traffic island, and the closer you get down to the coast at La Caletta, the sandier they get. Be warned!

Overall, it had been a great trip, and I am pleased I have done a pelagic overnight despite the hardships (by my standards) encountered!

OVERALL TRIP BIRD LIST - a meagre 34 species seen

White-faced Petrel - 6
Wilson's Petrel - 10
Madeiran (Band-rumped) Petrel - 40
Bulwer's Petrel - 20
Barolo's Shearwater - 4
Manx Shearwater - 30
Sooty Shearwater - 1
Great Shearwater -1
Cory's Shearwater - 2,500
Long-tailed Skua - 1
Pomarine Skua - 1
Arctic Tern - 2
Slender-billed (Canarian) Barn Owl - 1
Barbary Falcon - 2
Eleonora's Falcon - 10
Kestrel - 15
Raven - 10
Hoopoe - 2
Cream-coloured Courser - 3
Barbary Partridge - 13
Lesser Short-toed Lark - 40
Bertholot's Pipit - 20
Desert Grey Shrike - 6
Little Egret - 12
Grey Heron - 2
Whimbrel - 2
Common Sandpiper - 1
Ruddy Shelduck - 4
Spanish Sparrow - 6
Canary - 3
Sardinian Warbler - 1
Collared Dove - 15
Feral Pigeon - 30
Yellow-legged Gull - 300


I hope this helps anyone thinking of going.

To contact 'Lanzarote Pelagics', send a message on the Facebook page (which I know hasn't been updated since last year): -


* Following photos of seabirds are from MIGUEL RIDRIQUEZ ESTEBAN (Lanzarote Pelagics)
 
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wolfbirder

Well-known member
PHOTOS FROM MIGUEL RODRIGUES ESTEBAN (LANZAROTE PELAGICS)

1. Wilson's Petrel
2. Madeiran (Band-rumped) Petrel
3) White-faced Petrel
4) A Barolo's Shearwater flying with a Manxie
5) Bulwer's Petrel
6) Long-tailed Skua
 

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wolfbirder

Well-known member
Further photos from Lanzarote trip (my own): -

1) Our Lanzarote Pelagics boat - some would sit on the top to view.
2) Juan preparing the chum on the outboard viewing deck and bench.
3) Onboard facilities and front berth.
4) kitchenette table and my sleeping bench!
5) Orzola Harbour from my 'sea-watching' self-catering accommodation 'Roque del este'.
6) View of El Jable, Teguise plain.
 

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pbjosh

missing the neotropics
Switzerland
Nice report! Choppy seas and/or large swell make cetacean spotting very challenging, usually you want lots of wind and waves for birds but flat calm water for mammals... or a bigger boat in either case of course helps, though is typically not possible.

I've pondered going on one of these trips before. Nothing new for me though better views of Barolo SW would be welcome. Mostly, though, I just love pelagics and kind of enjoy the conditions, so it's nice to read a really good account of what it was like.

Cheers!
 

Scridifer

Used Registrar
Supporter
Bulgaria
Great stuff Nick, thanks for taking the time to write it up! So pleased you got your main target, and the Barn Owl is a lovely bonus! Our Son's wedding is in Menorca next September but 2024 I could be tempted......

Happy Birthday Mate!

Chris
 

ovenbird43

Well-known member
Enjoyable report! Glad you got the White-faced Petrel, such great little birds. I also connected with my lifer on an overnight pelagic (out of New York), 100% worth the effort in my opinion.
 

wolfbirder

Well-known member
Thanks folks, much appreciated.

Many thanks Chris, it was certainly a challenge mentally and physically for me, though I know it would be a stroll for many.
 

wolfbirder

Well-known member
I didn't think it sounded like a stroll, and your's is definitely not the first opinion that I've heard regarding how miserable it is trying to sleep on this trip :) Still sounds like fun, perhaps just a bit of type 2 fun!
Thanks Josh, much appreciated.

You know what it’s like, some people just handle such relative hardships with consummate ease.

Not me. I think it’s mainly an age thing, but I was very anxious about it despite having this persistent urge to do the trip.
 

McMadd

You should see the other bloke...
"...and a pair of Barolo's Shearwaters that shot directly over the top of the boat, with someone incredibly managing to get a photo of them (Miguel from Lanzarote Pelagics). I managed to get onto them at 30-metres distance and noted a characteristic 'heads-up' moment..."

Nice report but got to challenge this...I've seen several species of shear do this (got a picture of Buller's doing it somewhere) and I particularly recall a conversation with an ex-BBRC chap during the 2011 WPO where this "auk-like" head-raising of putative Little shears came up and he told me it would get your record rejected in UK waters ;)
 

wolfbirder

Well-known member
"...and a pair of Barolo's Shearwaters that shot directly over the top of the boat, with someone incredibly managing to get a photo of them (Miguel from Lanzarote Pelagics). I managed to get onto them at 30-metres distance and noted a characteristic 'heads-up' moment..."

Nice report but got to challenge this...I've seen several species of shear do this (got a picture of Buller's doing it somewhere) and I particularly recall a conversation with an ex-BBRC chap during the 2011 WPO where this "auk-like" head-raising of putative Little shears came up and he told me it would get your record rejected in UK waters ;)
Fair point McMadd, I wouldn't have called them as Barolo's based on the views I got as I was facing the wrong way when they approached. So they came from behind me as they were called by a birder facing the direction they were coming from. But I did get on to them as they moved away, and briefly, one bird even in fast flight raised its head momentarily.

Maybe its not truly a characteristic behavioural trait, and I am just presuming it is, as I read that it was in various guides like Collins. Personally, for what very little it is worth, I do not recall seeing Manxies do this when seen well. Maybe the white face over-emphasises this impression? Or maybe its just one of those things that is bollox like the association with BRW and the banana posture?

The bird in the photo was seemingly with a Manx, but he confirms in his E-bird list above that another pair of Barolo’s were seen together. I did say it became a bit of a blur and you lose account of what exactly what you saw. I did rely on others at times, admittedly.
 

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wolfbirder

Well-known member
The E-bird list totals for the 15th Sept trip.

1 Arctic Skua
2 Long-tailed Skua
1 Common/Arctic Tern
10 Sandwich Tern
10 Wilson's Storm Petrel
2 White-faced Petrel
1 European Storm petrel
70 Band-rumped (Madeiran) Petrel
150 Bulwer's Petrel
x Cory's Shearwater
5 Great Shearwater
35 Manx Shearwater
1 Eleonora's Falcon

So more birds overall but variety similar though again no biggies and no Barolo's either.
 

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