A short report of our recent holiday in Playa Blanca, Lanzarote from 26/2/16 to 4/3/16. It was not specifically a birdwatching holiday - more of an excuse to get away for a week for some sunshine and relaxation.
We booked a week at the Marconfort Atlantic Gardens Hotel through Jet2.com. It proved to be a good deal at £477 each, including all inclusive flights and transfer. One advantage is their baggage allowance. Hold luggage was 22kg and hold luggage,10 kg. So you can take your scope and tripod without fear of overloading.
The Atlantic Gardens is a well established apartment style hotel in lovely mature grounds. The food bordered on the exceptional and the drinks package was the best we have experienced at an AI hotel. Self service Amstell all day and a coffee machine which used roasted beans - as well as decent tea and a good selection of soft drinks. The clincher? NO CHILDREN! Adult only hotels - the best invention since sliced bread. You could hear a pin drop around the pool - it was so peaceful all day, every day.
Never having been to Lanzarote I soon realised birdwatching might be hard work. Bare mountain slopes, little or no vegetation and, on the face of it, a dearth of birds. Stuck in the middle of the Atlantic, it was a wonder there were any birds at all!
The hotel is equidistant between the lighthouse and the harbour. There are some wooden shelters and benches near the hotel entrance on the promenade. I spent some time most days parked here with my scope or walking towards the lighthouse. The most prominent bird was Cory's Shearwater. I never did any serious counting but on the last day 24 passed by in a 20 minute spell. This was probably par for the course. Looking towards the lighthouse a Great Skua was seen on 27/2/16. Northern Gannet were few and far between but seen in small numbers every day.
Yellow-legged Gull were common and recorded in good numbers. It was frustrating to see distant medium sized terns but I could never pin down which species they might have been. The rocks below the shelters were a birding hotspot in Lanzarote terms. Ruddy Turnstone were seen on two days including 5 on 3/3/16. On the same day a Whimbrel and a Ringed Plover turned up with a few Yellow-legged Gull. Two Common Sandpiper were recorded the day before. Whilst sitting there on 29/2/16 a Barn Swallow arrived from the direction of Fuertaventura - the only arrival all week. Hirundines arrive early in Lanzarote it seems! Two parties of House Martin came in, with 10 on 26/2/16 and 4 on 27/2/16. There were often 2 Linnet feeding next to the shelters as well as the common Spanish Sparrow and Collared Dove. Both species are numerous on Lanzarote. A Common Kestrel was seen most days on the wasteland next to the hotel. The Lighthouse was a great place to get closer views Cory Shearwater, Gannets and Yellow-legged Gulls. The nearest Berthelot's Pipit were to be found around the edges of Montana Roja, the local volcano. Very common and seen most days. A Trumpeter Finch was spotted near the start of the main track up Montana Roja.
If you carry on over the northern shoulder of Montana Roja you will be rewarded with magnificent views of the totally unspoilt western coast which is part of the Timanfaya National Park. Walk towards the right hand side of the peculiar crumbling half built abandoned yellow hotel. In doing so you pass through potential habitats for Coursers and Bustards. Best of luck if you see any. All I saw on two visits were the inevitable Berthelot's Pipit. Mind you the scenery is wonderful and once you reach the coast, there are great views of Cory's Shearwater, Yellow-legged Gull and a few Northern Gannet. I saw a falcon which could have been a Peregrine or Barbary. The view was fleeting so I can't be sure which it was.
Salinas De Janubio
This is a top class bird watching location! Since we didn't hire a car I was pleased to find a regular, hourly bus service which stops right next to it. Catch the Linea 60 from the bus stop nearest the harbour on the hour all day. Ask for Rotunda La Hoya - the first stop. It costs 1.40 euro.The bus returns around a quarter to the hour. The workmen didn't seem bothered when I turned up. I turned left at the entrance and found 14 Trumpeter Finch and several Berthelot's Pipit including one gathering nesting material. A Great Grey Shrike was spotted a little further on. Most of the birds were on the huge lagoon or on the edges. I viewed them from either the left hand side or by taking the main track south of the main entrance. The was an impressive 28 Black-winged Stilt,9 Common Redshank, 1 Greenshank,3 Common Sandpiper, and 4 Kentish Plover [one with two blue bands]. The banded Kentish Plover was being very aggressive towards a Common Sandpiper and wouldn't give up till the Sandpiper flew away. I could see two Ruddy Shelduck on the eastern edge-apparently they are long-stayers and have bred here. There were also 2 Teal. The star birds were the 11 Black-necked Grebe which is the most I have ever seen together. Other birds recorded: Spanish Sparrow, Yellow-legged Gull, Collared Dove and Rock Dove. Cory's Shearwater were seen from the beach on the road to Golfo.
Timfanya National Park
It was well worth taking the 7 hour tour with Low Cost Tours[£21]. You might not see many birds but the volcanic scenery is stunning. Incidentally it is actually better to take the bus tour,rather than the car. Buses are given precedence entering the main visitor viewing car park. Also only accredited buses are allowed to drive round the amazing lunar route.
Berthelot's Pipit were seen at the main visitor centre as well as the area near the camel riding centre. There were 6 Trumpeter Finch here as well. There were some Berthelot's Pipit here which were so used to the visitors they were almost tame! On the way back to the airport there were several Cattle Egret in the fields.