Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Out Of Touch

There’s no local news today because Sue and I are grabbing some winter sunshine on the island of Lanzarote and hoping to see a few birds along the way.

Lanzarote is a Spanish island in the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, about 125 kilometres from the coast of Africa and 1,000 kilometres from the Iberian Peninsula. In 1993, the island of Lanzarote was declared a Biosphere Reserve as it conserves one of the most exceptional ecosystems and volcanic landscapes in the archipelago. Lanzarote was born through fiery eruptions; the solidified lava streams and extravagant rock formations bear witness to that.

The island along with others in the Canary Islands emerged about 15 million years ago after the breakup of the African and the American continental plates. The greatest recorded eruptions occurred between 1730 and 1736 in the area now designated Timanfaya National Park. This is an area where most tourists head to in order to see the spectacular displays of cold water poured onto the ground turning immediately to a spout of steam. As we drive along stopping here and there to explore it is impossible to pause without taking pictures of the dramatic and often deserted landscapes.




The number of bird species is quite low in Lanzarote, even more so during the winter, so anyone arriving here expecting to add a few dozen new species to their list might be sorely disappointed.

The tiny Berthelot’s Pipit is endemic to the Canary Islands and is very common on Lanzarote, almost impossible to miss until its grey-toned plumage melts into the rocky backdrops.

Berthelot's Pipit

The common gull around here is the magnificent Yellow-legged Gull, looking all the more stunning against the volcanic shorelines.

Yellow-legged Gull

The vineyards of La Gería with their traditional methods of cultivation, are a protected area. Single vines are planted in pits 4–5 m wide and 2–3 m deep, with small stone walls around each pit. This agricultural technique is designed to harvest rainfall and overnight dew and to protect the plants from the winds. The vineyards are part of the World Heritage Site as well as other sites on the island.

 La Geria, Lanzarote - Photo credit / CC BY-SA
We plan at least a couple of visits to the saltpans and tidal lagoons at Janubio in the south west of the island where we hope for a good variety of very common waders. Almost guaranteed here are scarce UK birds like Black-winged Stilt and Kentish Plover mixed in with the everyday Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Redshank, Greenshank and Grey Plover of home.

Saltpans - Janubio, Lanzarote

Kentish Plover

Black-winged Stilt

Along the beach and rocky shore near our hotel are Common Sandpiper, Turnstone, Sanderling, Whimbrel, and a steady stream of Sandwich Terns fishing the clear waters. Near our hotel in Puerto Calero there are residential streets with large gardens and decent amounts of shrubbery where the common birds are Collared Dove, Chiffchaff, House Sparrow and Desert Grey Shrikes. The shrike, part of the "Grey" shrike complex and formerly known as Southern Grey Shrike, is now considered to one of the several sub-species of  Lanius elegans, the North African Desert Grey Shrike.

Desert Grey Shrike

Where the avenues peter out into the typical dusty, dry Lanzarote landscape the Linnets and Berthelot’s Pipits appear, and with luck a few Trumpeter Finches or Lesser Short-toed Larks. I am told that the related Short-toed Lark (the one with the unstreaked breast) is but a rare visitor to Lanzarote.

Lesser Short-toed Lark

Trumpeter Finch

We’ll choose a sunny wind free day to go looking on the plains in the area of El Jable and Teguise for Houbara Bustard and Cream-coloured Courser, never easy to find but two of the real speciality birds of Lanzarote.

Cream-coloured Courser - Photo credit: Tarique Sani / / CC BY-NC-SA

Wish us luck - back soon. In the meantime I’ll try to keep in contact with Blogger friends through my netbook and the hotel WiFi.


eileeninmd said...

Looks like an awesome place for a warm vacation. The scenery and birds are lovely! Enjoy your time away!

Stuart Price said...

Wow, even more exotic than Knott End!

Nora at Island Rambles said...

Oh I love that stilt picture...we had some visit us also. Lovely photos, so nice and warm and great blog visit.cheers.

Carole M. said...

lovely to get away to recharge the batteries some times; glad the sun is shining for you both. Loving the Berthelot's Piipit!! Well they're all lovely as I scan down the post and I doubt I've ever seen a Courser before; well done Phil!

Wally Jones said...

What an exciting place to explore!

Hope you have great success in locating some of the specialty birds. I know you're not there JUST for the birds, but wouldn't it be nice.......

Take care, Romeo, and be careful what you drink!

Russell Jenkins said...

Looks like a great place to visit and you have some awesome pictures. You say there isn't a big bird list but you've managed some exceptional shots of the local birds not to mention those wonderful landscapes. Have a great time!

Gordon said...

Nice one Phil, you are in the best place, its a bit of a contrast to me freezing my nuts off at the top of Hartside the other day. Don't worry I'm sure we can save some grim weather for when you get back. Love the Courser by the way.
Make the most, all the best Gordon.

Mary Howell Cromer said...

Well since our temp shall reach a low of -0 this evening, I am jealous of the warm sun that you, Sue and others are experiencing. Now that I have gotten that said, wow, what a wonderful place. I think they way they plant their vineyards is quite splendid, and it seems like it would work great. The Berthelot's Pipit lead in image stole my heart for this post, just gorgeous. Have fun...send me the sunshine, please and thank you~

Lou Mary said...

Looks a lovely place to escape from our drab rainy weather for a few weeks! Great bird images - that kentish plover is the cutest little thing! I hope you found some Houbara Bustards and Cream coloured coursers! What awfully exciting names they have!!

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