Friday, 1 June 2012

Lanzarote Pelagics

24-29 May
Lanzarote, Canary Islands
We flew out to Lanzarote on Thursday morning, arriving early afternoon after a short fog delay at Stansted. We were allocated a Fiat grande Punto as a hire car and set off for the short drive to our lovely hide away retreat, Finca Malvasia, about 15 minutes to the south west in the centre of the island away from the main beach resorts. Owned and managed by Tarnya and Richard Norse-Evans these stunning boutique self catering cottages are set around a Cesar Manrique styled pool and nestled between three volcano cones. They are surrounded by traditional Lanzarotian vineyards with each vine hidden at the base of a dug out funnel and protected from the wind by a low round wall.  

The view from our cottage across the pool at Finca Malvasia
The vines coccooned in their ash nests

Following a very warm welcome from our hosts we set off for a late lunch at a local restaurant and picked up some provisions. A comfortable first night with Stone Curlews calling at dusk and dawn.

Friday we drove to the north of the island primarily to check out Orzola harbour, to ensure I knew where to go in the dark at 05:00 the next morning. We started with a visit to Jameos del Agua, a Cesar Manrique designed garden built around the caves and collapsed section of a volcanic flume. Spanish Sparrows were nesting in the giant hanging baskets and giving close views around the cafe tables. In the cave lake myriad tiny white crabs could be seen feeding on the black volcanic rocks.


The tropical pool at Manrique's Jameos del Agua
Created in the collapsed volcanic flume
One of the tiny white cave crabs
Spanish Sparrow
Atlantic Lizard suns itself beside the volcanic cave

We next drove to Orzola and having located the harbour and free parking areas we ate lunch in a harbour restaurant. Berthelots Pipits were feeding in the road like Pied Wagtails do at home.  After  lunch we found a small beach with a tidal lagoon where we enjoyed the sunshine. A couple of Raven flew overhead calling - but sounding like Brown-necked rather than Northern?  In the afternoon we drove into the hills  to the mirador del rio enjoying the expansive views of The island of Graciosa below.

Berthelot's Pipit

Graciosa Island
The cliffs at the Mirador del Rio
Looking east toward Orzola
The view north from the top of the island

Driving back I decided to check one of the many pistes running across the plains. After only ten minutes two stunning Houbara Bustards walked away into the close habitat and slowly skulked over the brow of the hill. As we drove away a third was flushed from beside the track. A few hundred metres further along two more were seen more distantly atop a ridge and three more appeared just to the right. The two groups walked into a field gradually approaching our position. All the time a Southern Grey Shrike fed around the car and a Kestrel hunted on the ground. After an hour enjoying good looks at the bustards we  drove back to the cottage.


A Houbara Bustard walks across a field
Eventually it comes closer, feeding off the low scrubby bushes
Before moving back to the field
And joining its mate


Southern Grey Shrike

The original plan was to go out to sea for two days, sleeping aboard the boat if the weather permitted. In the event the wind was too strong and waves too lumpy so we instead had two days out and back to the small harbour at Orzola. While I was away Mandy planned to take it real easy, enjoying the surrounds of the Finca!





26 May 2012

Banco de la Concepcion


I awoke just before the alarm at 04:30 and was quietly on my way to Orzola to meet Dani and about 35 other mainly Spanish birders. I was second to arrive and chatted to David a local birder who was joining the trip. By 05:45 everyone had arrived and we watched as our boat, one of the glass bottomed Graciosa ferries, arrived at the harbour. We were soon aboard and heading east out toward the Banco de la Concepcion.

The pelagic was organised by Lanzarote Pelagics, setup by Dani Lopez Velasco and his friends. Last year they proved the potential of this area of sea above the Banco de la Concepcion, culminating in an awesome trip in September when they found an amazing four South Polar Skuas and a Black-bellied Storm Petrel! This year they are further trialling the feasibility of making the trips commercial and have invited many of their friends from Spain and Europe to test the waters. I was very lucky to be invited to join them and jumped at the chance. They are a great bunch of guys, very enthusiastic and Dani is a super guy and an absolute mega star birder in the making - certainly one of the sharpest observers I have ever met!
It was still dark but occasional Cory's Shearwaters flew into the ships lights. As daylight approached birding proper began.

The ship was a fibre glass catamaran and in the heavy swell and short seas it proved challenging for some of the less seaworthy. However once sat in position it was best to stay put for the five hour journey out to the edge of the deep water canyon. En route thousands of Corys Shearwater and about 40 Bulwers Petrel were seen with the occasional White-faced Petrel bouncing out of the ships path.  Throughout the day  frozen chum blocks were thrown in along with copious quantities of fish oil at various places on the canyon shelf or in much deeper water. 


Oddities included a superb Black Tern that fed on the chum for about ten minutes and a brief Great Skua that flirted with the ship and vanished over the ocean just allowing a couple of brief photos, and a stunning Pomarine Skua that flew across the bow as we returned to port.

Day totals recorded were:
  • Cory's Shearwater - 1,000's
  • Bulwer's Petrel - 40
  • Manx Shearwater - 1
  • White-faced Petrel - 25
  • European Storm Petrel - 3
  • Wilson's Petrel - 2
  • Madeiran Petrel - 20
  • Great Skua - 1
  • Pomarine Skua - 1
  • Black Tern - 1
  • Yellow-legged Gull - 10
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull - 1
Cetaceans and other marine wildlife
  • Risso's Dolphin - 3 (including a stunning all white animal with a black fin bow riding)
  • Cuvier's Beaked Whale - 1
  • Loggerhead Turtle - 5
Black Tern
Black Tern
Bulwer's Petrel
Bulwer's Petrel
Cory's Shearwater

Cory's Shearwater






European Storm Petrel
Madeiran Petrel
Madeiran Petrel
Madeiran Petrel
Madeiran Petrel and Yellow-legged Gull
Madeiran Petrel
Madeiran Petrel
Madeiran Petrel
Madeiran Petrel
Madeiran Petrel
Madeiran Petrel
Madeiran Petrel
Madeiran Petrel
Madeiran Petrel
Wilson's Petrel
Wilson's Petrel
Wilson's Petrel
Wilson's Petrel
Wilson's Petrel
Wilson's Petrel
White-faced Petrel
White-faced Petrel
White-faced Petrel
White-faced Petrel
White-faced Petrel
White-faced Petrel
White-faced Petrel
White-faced Petrel
White-faced Petrel
White-faced Petrel
White-faced Petrel
White-faced Petrel
White-faced Petrel
White-faced Petrel
White-faced Petrel
White-faced Petrel
White-faced Petrel
White-faced Petrel
White-faced Petrel
White-faced Petrel
White-faced Petrel
White-faced Petrel
White-faced Petrel
White-faced Petrel
Great Skua
Great Skua
Pomarine Skua
Pomarine Skua
Pomarine Skua
Loggerhead Turtle


27 May 2012

Banco de la Concepcion

Day two again began early with a 45 minute drive up the island to Orzola. A different mono-hulled ferry transported us today in slightly rougher seas. Another five hour journey out to even deeper water, more chumming and a long cruise back. Birds were with us throughout, with plentiful Cory's Shearwater, reasonable numbers of Bulwers, many White-faced Petrel, a few Madeiran Petrel, European Storm Petrel and a Wilson's Petrel. Two Northern Gannets followed us briefly and Loggerhead Turtles were frequently encountered floating on the surface.


Day totals recorded were:
  • Cory's Shearwater - 1,000's
  • Scopoli's Shearwater - 1
  • Bulwer's Petrel - 50
  • Manx Shearwater - 2
  • White-faced Petrel - 35
  • European Storm Petrel - 4
  • Wilson's Petrel - 1
  • Madeiran Petrel - 5
  • Northern Gannet - 2
  • Yellow-legged Gull - 30
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull - 3
Cetaceans and other marine wildlife
  • Spotted Dolphin - 2 stunning animals bow riding on our return trip
  • Loggerhead Turtle - 30 (seemed to encounter loads of these orange floating disks, with some even coming to the chum)
European Storm Petrel
These tiny bat-like petrels were encountered occasionally, usually over the chum. The distinctive white bar on the underwing serving to confirm the jizz based ID.



Bulwer's Petrel
Unlike in Madeira these stunning petrels never came onto the chum or gave particularly close views (see May 2011). Their long wings and narrow tail give a most distinctive jizz.


White-faced Petrel
These brilliant petrels literally bounce along the water's surface like a ping pong ball or small Kangaroo. Very distinctive and always exciting they would quickly locate the chum slick and spend many minutes working their way upto the chum and then back to the extreme end searching out floating pieces of fish.












Madeiran Petrels
The first three images demonstrate the short-legged nature of Madeiran Petrel and the feeding action they adopt, almost flopping their bellies onto the water to pick clumsily any items from the surface. In flight they transform into dynamic, graceful and fast seabirds.



Winter population showing post-breeding primary moult




Winter population showing post-breeding primary moult

Winter population showing post-breeding primary moult

Winter population showing post-breeding primary moult

Cory's Shearwater







Scopoli's Shearwater (second record for Canaries)


Northern Gannet



Lesser Black-backed Gull
Yellow-legged Gull

A giant alligator head resting on the surface of the sea!


28 May 2012

Back on dry land



Mandy wanted a long walk so we headed over to Famara Beach. Along the way just before Soo we took a piste into the desert and within 100m came across three superb Houbara Bustards, which gave reasonable views.




A little further along the track a flock of eight Stone Curlew gave great views beside the car.



And eventually we discovered a couple of smart Cream-coloured Courser, blending in brilliantly with the sandy soil. Several flocks of about 100 each Lesser Short-toed Larks were the only ones seen on the trip.

Cream-coloured Courser
In Famara 2 Trumpeter Finch gave good brief views beside the restaurant where we enjoyed a lovely lunch. Back at the Finca a Gecko decided to check out my shorts - thankfully while I wasn't wearing them.



Famara Beach

1 comment:

  1. Hi Mike,

    Some great photos from the pelagic, good to meet you on the boat.

    Cheers
    Gareth

    ReplyDelete