Saturday, December 14, 2019

From The Archive

There’s no local news today. I’m not getting out birding and unlikely to do so whilst this foul weather hangs around. Instead I robbed the archives from a winter holiday that Sue and I took to sunny Lanzarote, the Canary Islands almost five years ago. 

Lanzarote is well known as a fairly windy island. Part of the reason the climate is so good is because of the Atlantic wind which blows there on most days; without it temperatures would be much higher and the island would effectively become a desert, like the nearby Sahara, 125 kms away. Maybe it was the Sahara dust, the fluctuations in the daily temperatures caused by the winds or some other factor, we don’t know. But we always came home with the Lanzarote Sniffles or a full blown cold.

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.


Camel Ride at Timanfaya



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
We always planned at least a couple of visits to the salt pans and tidal lagoons at Janubio in the south west of the island where we hoped 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

We always stayed at Hotel Costa Calero where along the nearby beach and rocky shore were found Common Sandpiper, Turnstone, Sanderling, Whimbrel, and a steady stream of Sandwich Terns fishing the clear waters. 

Hotel Costa Calero

Common Sandpiper


Near Calero

Near the hotel were residential streets with large gardens and decent amounts of shrubbery with common birds like Collared Dove, Chiffchaff, House Sparrow and Desert Grey Shrike. 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

Desert Grey Shrike

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

Lesser Short-toed Lark

Trumpeter Finch

Sunny wind free days were spent 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

Houbara Bustard

Near El Jable

The Alfa didn't drive nearly as good as it looked. A sluggish, noisy and polluting diesel engine.

Alfa Romeo

It's looking like Tuesday before the weather here improves enough for birding or ringing.

Meanwhile, over at Gulf Lane a Linnet flock has numbered anywhere between 120-200 birds. Andy and I cut a square of vegetation down to soil in readiness for a session with a whoosh net. All we need now is for a half decent morning to have a crack.


Lowcarb team member said...

I enjoyed this look back …
Nice to read your post and see not only the birds but the camels too!
I just couldn't imagine me on a camel!!! But I'm sure many enjoy the ride.

We've had yet more rain today and yesterday was dreadful … oh, for a nice dry cold (and sunny) frosty morning … perhaps next week.

Enjoy your weekend - I think I may try and wrap a few more Christmas presents.

All the best Jan

Elkes Lebensglück said...

A wonderful posting from Lanzarote and its beautiful bird life !!!!
Thanks for this review!!
Greetings elke

eileeninmd said...


I hope your weather is better soon, it is rainy foggy here. I enjoyed the Lanzarote scenery, the camels are cool. The birds are all beautiful too. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend.

sandyland said...

you had me at plover and sandpiper add to that pipit and courser - I love your posts meanwhie whistler ducks, turkeys and cranes are fighting for supremacy in back acre here in spring lake ,fl

Linda aka Crafty Gardener said...

Miserable weather days are perfect for browsing the photo archives. You have some fantastic photos.

italiafinlandia said...

I enjoyed seeing these different bird.
Hope you can resume your activity soon!

David M. Gascoigne, said...

A friend of mine vacationed there earlier this year, and confirms what you concluded, Phil, that it is not a good birding destination, if that is your goal. He seems to have had a good time (he and his wife) but I get the impression it was not one of his favourite destinations.

Rhodesia said...

Now if I had not been to Lanzarote your photos would have me catching the next plane out. I have though been there about 18 years ago and we said never again, we were sandblasted from the time we arrived to the time we left. Maybe an unlucky week with high winds but!!! During that trip, I had not progressed to a decent camera and I am now happy I didn't have one. It would have been full of sand!

As for the weather at present, it is diabolical, constant rain, cool, and very high winds. Photography is not easy, thankfully I have the photos from my RSA trip to go through

Hope you have a good Sunday. Cheers Diane

Anni said...

I will never own (or rent) a diesel engine car. As you say, noisy & no speed. Lovely trip Phil. Beautiful country & exciting, new, birds for me.

Sorry for being tardy visiting today. Internet connection issues. Thanks for joining us at I'd Rather B Birdin

A Bit of the Blarney said...

You have some really beautiful photos! Have a wonderful week!

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

Your holiday was to a remarkable island, I must say some of the photos remind me of the US southwest.

NCSue said...

That "camel ride" looked like a "camel train" or a "camel chain"!
Thanks for sharing at

Shiju Sugunan said...

Beautiful photos! Great recap.

Linda said...

Great images! I'm a little disappointed in the Alfa Romeo. ;-)

Angie said...

Phil - this is a delightful virtual tour of Lanzarote. I enjoyed how you mixed general information with your always fabulous bird photos. I have never heard of the vineyard technique you mention - fascinating. Another fine example of man's innovation overcoming an "environmental barrier". Hope the weather gets better for you!

Wally Jones said...

It's no wonder you like returning to Lanzarote! How beautiful!

I like how you say don't expect to see any new birds here then display a dozen species I've never seen.

We're hoping your weather cooperates for successful ringing! Lately we have 3-4 days of pleasant sunny days and a couple of wet, cool days to remind us to be thankful for the good ones.

Looking forward to a landslide of Linnets in the near future for you.

Related Posts with Thumbnails