11 Jul 2010

Part 1. Singing the praises of the Canaries.

Part 1 - Tuesday 6th July.

Members of the Wirral Sea Watching Association, led by Mr A. Albatross, had planned an assault on the Canaries to search for the elusive White-faced Storm Petrel! Messrs  Conlin, Dummigan, Mullins, Williams & Woollen set off on a meticulously planned trip incorporating 4 islands and 4 ferry crossings from Liverpool airport courtesy of Ryan Air.

Flying early morning meant getting up in darkness and meeting up at my place before heading for Liverpool and our flight to Lanzarote. Despite the early morning start none of us managed to sleep, due to the uncomfortable seats, but we survived and arrived at the airport and got a transfer to our hotel in nearby Arrecife. The weather was overcast and quite cool so we quickly decided to head out straight away whilst the light was reasonably good.

With the room allocations sorted we set about sorting out a hire car for a trip into the arid central region to search for some of the islands specialities before the main seawatching event planned the next day.

We set off in our hired Mercedes towards San Bartolome before heading towards Teguise and turning off opposite the factory mentioned by Clarke & Collins in 'A Birdwatchers Guide to the Canary Islands'.  Stopping at good vantage points we scanned the surrounding areas and sson picked up Southern Grey Shrike, Stone Curlew and Bertholets Pipit but there was no sign of the so called ubiquitous Lark or our two main target birds.

A nearby rubbish tip provided us with our Larid fix and amongst the many Yelllow-legged Gulls Kenny D picked out two Lesser Blackbacks.

By now the sun had broken through and we realised like complete d*ck heads we'd not brought any water or sun cream with us. Spotting a more arid region ahead we drove along the dusty rutted tracks before deciding to park up and walk the various tracks around us.  A very good move. Within minutes Allan had found one of our target birds - Houbara Bustard. Although the heat haze was getting a bit bad we all had good views of the birds on the ground and in flight.

A brilliant start and it got better. Despite recent reports that Cream-coloured Coursers were getting scarce and hard to find I spotted a single distant bird and called the others over only for Eddie & Kenny to spot two more birds lurking nearby. We now had three together in the scope. Meanwhile Al had found a small group of Trumpeter finches - one of several we were to see at various places.

Driving around the area we spotted more Houbara's but no ubiquitous larks. Suddenly we realised that the flashing light on the dashboard meant we had no fuel. Shit. The car hire company had neglected to tell us they hadn't fueled the car. Not a good place to run out of diesel and the ligh t had bee nflashing since we picked the car up. With twitchy bums we headed out of the desert towards San Bartolome to find a garage. Here began the first of many extraordinary coincidences that led us to seeing birds we may not have otherwise seen.

Luckily for us there was a Tapas bar next to the garage as we were now hungry having eaten nothing since breakfast at the airport. A celebratory beer and tapas ordered by Spannish speaking Eddie went down a treat and we decided to head towards the northern most point of the Island at Mirador Del Rio in the hope of seeing Barbary Falcoln. Unfortunatley the whole area was shrouded in low cloud so we sacked it and headed
back towards Teguise and down towards the golf course at Tachiche stopping at suitable looking habitat on the way as we were still searching for the ubiquitous lark of the arid areas.

Finding a likely spot we walked the tracks towards some agricultural fields finding nothing but a couple of Spectacled Warblers. Suddenly we came across them - the ubiquitous larks. All together in one big flock with a couple of Trumpeter Finches and a handful of Bertholets Pipits were at least 120 Lesser Short-toed Larks. Success.

Arriving at the golf course around 18.00 I asked at the desk for permission to wander the fairways which was granted providing we didn't walk on the greens. The irrigated golf course is one of the best places on the islands to find Barbary Partridge and it didn't disappoint with approximately 50 being found in small groups along with numerous Bertholets and 7 Hoopoes.

Over a well earned beer we discussed the plumage differences between the various Bertholets we'd seen concluding the greyer birds were worn adults whilst the browner birds were juveniles.

Heading back to Arricefe we parked the car on the seafront and checked out the breeding Cattle Egrets inland of the beach and a very showy Kentish Plover just below the seawall.

Next day was our big seawatching day on the ferry between Lanzarote and Tenerife (via Gran Canaria althoug hwe didn't know this  at the time...............) so a meal, a couple of beers and an early night were planned. The best laid plans..................Sod it. We'd had such a good day we deserved a few more beers.

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