BIRDING AROUND THE WORLD

Subtitle

 

I took a week’s break with Syndy on a Ryan Air flight from Manchester airport to Lanzarote, staying in a comfortable apartment on the NE coast at Arrieta. The main reason for going was for me to join a pelagic birding trip being run by two very experienced Spanish birders, Juan Sagardia and Marcel Gil Velasco. In September 2011, Juan and and Dani Lopez Velasco organized the first ever dedicated pelagic trip off Lanzarote. It was an historic trip with both Black-bellied Storm-Petrel (2nd for the WP) and South Polar Skuas (some of the first documented records in the WP) were seen. Ever since then, they have been running 3-4 trips a year so now have a better understanding of the many seabirds that use Lanzarote offshore waters. Sightings regularly include the biggest numbers of storm-petrels on any pelagic in the WP, along with many close-up White-faced Petrels and hundreds of Band-rumped Storm-Petrels of 2-3 different populations in late summer and autumn, plus all the regular pelagic species - Long-tailed Skuas, Wilson’s Petrels, Sabine Gulls, Great Shearwaters.... and many rarities, including Black-bellied Storm-Petrels, Swinhoe´s and Fea´s Petrels, Red-billed Tropicbirds and Barolo´s Shearwaters, along with good numbers of cetaceans. They will probably stop running the trips next year, so as those in Sept and Oct this year may be the last, I decided to join one in Sept, as did my old friend Ashley Banwell. It was a new experience for me, with two nights “sleep” on the Atlantic Ocean. I’m pleased I went but would not wish to repeat the experience, with a heavily  rolling sea and traveling the first night and day against a northerly wind.

The weather was quite good throughout, being a mixture of cloudy and sunny with very little rain. The bird of the trip for me was Houbara Bustard, which I had missed on Fuerteventura. I enjoyed the hill walking and exploration of the island, and must thank Juan and Marcel for all the effort they both put into the trip.

 

DIARY

 

Sept 5: Arrived from Manchester at Arrecife airport at 11ish, met by Marcel, waited a little for Ashley Banwell who arrived from Stanstead. Took hire-car (20Euros a day) to the harbour to look for two Audouin’s Gulls that had been there recently, gone; lunched at a café. Drove north to the Goat Farm, saw one Houbara Bustard and a few other birds, then drove into the hills opposite Arrieta, through the village of Tabayesco, to look for Eleonora’s and Barbary Falcons. 4 or 5 of the former gave good views as they flew around a drinking pool. We also saw African Blue Tit, Spectacled Warbler and a couple of Monarch butterflies before driving to Arrieta to check in at our apartment there. Then we drove south to a good coastal area for waders where we found Kentish Plover and Little Stint. Juan joined us for food and drink, and when it was dark we moved to the extensive rocky area where many Cory’s Shearwaters were breeding. The hope was that Marcel and Juan would be able to re-find the nest of a Cape Verde Shearwater that they had seen twice during the previous weeks as this would be our only chance of seeing this species, a tick for Ash and me. Many Corys were active and Marcel and Juan checked c.100 nests but no Cape Verde bird could be found. Ash drove the car back to Arrieta and dossed in our apartment, M and J staying in Arrecife.

 

Sept 6: We met Marcel near Arrecife and drove south to Playa Blanca resort. We spent some time driving around the desert area near the resort looking for Cream-coloured Coursers, without success. After checking another area, near the volcanic Timanfaya NP, unsuccessfully, we drove to the airport to pick-up Marcel’s British friend who would be joining us on the pelagic.  First stop was a golf course where we had good views of a party of Barbary Partridge, followed by an unexpected migrant Melodious Warbler. Then we returned to Arrieta to pick up Syndy and drove back through Tabayesco to the Falcon hills, seeing little, before having lunch in Arrieta. Back at the Goat Farm we failed to find the Courser again but did see and photo 5 separate Bustards and a Barbary Partridge drinking in company with a Stone-Curlew. We headed north to Orzola to catch the ferry across to Isla Graciosa. Here we found the boat (a sailing vessel) our home for the next three nights, and left our possessions on it. We bought food from the supermarket and, with two more Spanish birders and the boat’s captain, had dinner all together in a nice tapas bar, our last cooked meal for 3 days.

 

Sept 7: We slept on the moored boat and left the harbour at 4-5AM, then started to experience the rolling ocean. This condition continued all day and as the wind was against us, it took hours longer to reach the Banco de la Concepción at about 5PM. Here we started to use chum and see good numbers of Storm-petrels, mainly Band-rumped, along with numerous Cory’s Shearwaters and much fewer other seabirds such as White-faced and Wilson’s Storm-petrels, Bulwer’s Petrels, Great Shearwaters, the odd Pomarine Skua and  Sabine’s Gull, and even an Eleonora’s Falcon. Night-time was unpleasant for me as I eventually had a bout of sea-sickness that I could not stop until it was light enough to stay on deck.

 

Sept 8: Today was better as we no longer had to sail against the wind and were able to use chum most of the day. On two occasions we had to remove the chum from the sea because it was attacked by one or more sharks. There were no great rarities but there was a period when the number of birds was huge, well over 1000, accompanied by 100 or more dolphins and a couple of whales. Most of the birds were Corys and Band-rumped but there were a few Scopoli’s Shearwaters and White-faced Storm-petrels were not uncommon. We started heading back in mid-afternoon and night-time was much better, possibly helped for me by taking some anti-seasick fluid.

 

Sept 9: We arrived at Graciosa at about 07.00 and caught the ferry back to Orzola at 08.15. We drove south in the hire-car, I was dropped off in Arrieta and the others continued to the airport (seeing a Barbary Falcon on the way). Syndy and I took the bus to Costa Teguise via Arrecife and walked along the seaside but it was rather disappointing – too many people, hotels and houses. We returned to Arrieta and spent the rest of the day around there.

 

Sept 10: We attempted to catch the first bus to Haria but misunderstood where it stopped so missed it. We soon hitched a lift and were in Haria, before the Saturday market had opened. The lady in charge of our apartment had given us a guide-book to 3 walks from Haria so we did one of these, very pleasant, taking 2+ hours. Then I did another of the walks - good but difficult to follow the first part of the instructions. Afternoon buses seemed to be non-existent so we tried hitching again and were soon back in Arrieta, where Syndy had a swim in the sea at last.

 

Sept 11: At 07.30 I walked through Tabayesco into the hills west of Arrieta to the falcon drinking area. A pleasant walk except that there were 7 or 8 men with guns, dogs and vehicles on the hillsides. I suspect they were trying to shoot Barbary Partridge as I flushed two singles. Birds were scarce – no Eleonora’s or Barbary Falcons, just 2 Hoopoes and Grey Shrikes, and a few passerines including 2 Serin. I walked back to the apartment in time for us to catch the 11.20 bus to Teguise. This ancient town, the former capital of Lanzarote, was heaving with tourists – the Sunday market here is said to be the biggest market on the island. We moved on to Pto del Carmen by bus, a nicer part of the east coast than Arrecife and Costa Teguise. We even had a cheap Sunday dinner of turkey (or beef) with Yorkshire pudding!

 

Sept 12: We caught the 07.20 bus to Arrecife, then the no. 22 airport bus via the Pto del Carmen bus, arriving with plenty of time to spare for our Ryan Air flight to Manchester. I was able to wander over a fenced-off stoney wilderness nearby and take some good photos of Southern Grey Shrikes. It was a full flight but there were no delays.

 

BIRD LIST              P = photo’d

We missed Barbary Falcon and Cream-coloured Courser, but didn’t try very hard to see them.  

 

Little Egret   Egretta garzetta

2 singles near Playa Blanca.

Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis                                         P

3 on grass at the airport

Eleonora’s Falcon  Falco eleonorae                          P

4 or 5 flying around the hills above Tabayesco.

Kestrel   Falco tinnunculus dacotiae                           P

Widespread and fairly common.

Houbara Bustard   Chlamydotis undulata fuerteventurae      P

5 singles on the plains near the Goat Farm 

Barbary Partridge  Alectoris barbara koenigi              P

5 at the golf club, 1 drinking at the Goat Farm and 2 flushed from the hills above Tabayesco.

Stone-Curlew/ Eurasian Thick-knee   Burhinus oedicnemus insularum    P

One drinking at the Goat Farm.

Ringed Plover   Charadrius hiaticula                          P

A few on the shore.

Kentish Plover   Charadrius alexandrius                    P

A few on the shore

Grey Plover   Pluvialis squatarola

1 or 2 on the shore

Black-winged Stilt   Himantopus himantopus

A few on the shore

Sanderling   Calidris alba                                          P

Several on the shore

Little Stint  Calidris minuta

2 on the shore

Dunlin   Calidris alpine                                               P

Several on the shore

Common Sandpiper  Actitis hypoluecos

Whimbrel   Numenius phaepos                                  P

2 or 3 on the shore

Redshank  Tringa tetanus                                         P

1 or 2 on the shore.

Ruddy Turnstone   Arenaria interpres                       P

Several on the shore

Yellow-legged Gull   Larus michahellis                      

Common.

Lesser Black-backed Gull   Larus       fuscus                    P

Several on the coast ?

Collared Dove   Streptopelia decaocto                       P

Very common

Rose-ringed Parakeet    

2 at Puerto del Carmen

Hoopoe   Upupa epops                                             P

Pairs at the Goat Farm, Playa Blanca and above Tabayesco.

Plain Swift  Apus unicolor

A few singles and one group of c.10.

Lesser Short-toed Lark   Calandrella rufescens polatzeki     P

Locally common.

Berthelot’s Pipit   Anthus berthelotii berthelotii           P

Common

Spectacled Warbler   Sylvia conspicillata orbitalis       P

A few above Tabayesco, on walks around Haria and near the airport

Sardinian Warbler   Sylvia melanocephala leucogastra

At least one near Haria.

Melodious Warbler   Hippolais polyglotta                   P

One in trees at the golf-course.

Common Chiffchaff    Phylloscopus collybita             P

A few in the hills around Haria.

Southern Grey Shrike   Lanius meridionalis koenigi    P

Widespread and fairly common in singles.

Raven   Corvus corax canariensis                              P

Widespread in small numbers in the hills.

African Blue Tit  Parus teneriffae                              P

A few in above Tabayesco, on the walks around Haria and in trees at the airport.

Spanish Sparrow   Passer hispaniolensis                  P

Locally common in parties.

Linnet   Carduelis cannabina harteri                           P

A few scattered sightings.

Serin   Serinus serinus

2 in woodland at Tabayesco.

Trumpeter Finch   Bucanetes githagineus amantum   P

Small numbers at a few sites, notably the Goat Farm.

 

SEA-BIRDS ON THE PELAGIC, mostly at the Banco de la Concepción

Bulwer’s Petrel:   fairly common in small numbers
Cory’s Shearwater:
very common, with c.2000  for 30 min. on one occasion
Great Shearwater: 
several with Corys
Scopoli's Shearwater Calonectris diomedea: a few with the huge flock of Cory’s.

Manx Shearwater:  uncommon
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel: 
not uncommon
White-faced Storm-Petrel:
fairly common
European Storm-Petrel:
a few
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel:
common

“Grant’s” Storm-Petrel: a few
Pomarine Skua:
one
Long-tailed Skua:
one
Sabine’s Gull:
5
Yellow-legged Gull:
common
Lesser Black-backed Gull: 
common
Common Tern:
not uncommon
Arctic Tern:
several.

Mammals

Atlantic Spotted Dolphin   Stenella frontalis:   a few seen throughout, large numbers were active when the shearwaters were numerous.

Short-beaked Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis: 50+ with thousands of shearwaters.

Bryde’s Whale   Balaenoptera edeni:   2 in with the multitude of dolphins and shearwaters.