This year's main holiday saw myself and Teresa return to cruising following land holidays in Mexico and Costa Rica in 2017 and 2018.
We left Southampton on Sat 31st August on Royal Carribean's 'Explorer Of The Seas' with an itinerary taking in Ponta Delgada in the Azores, Funchal in Madeira, Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Lanzarote, and Lisbon in Portugal before returning to Southampton.
I did a fair amount of sea watching from Deck 4, the promenade deck and the first birds I picked up were Manx Shearwaters and also a Fin Whale as we entered the northern end of the Bay of Biscay.
Other birds seen from the ship were Cory's and Great Shearwaters, Great Skua, Gannets, Fulmer, Common Terns, Sabine's Gull (very distant), 3 unidentified small dark Storm Petrels, various gulls, and best of all 15 Bulwer's Petrels as we left Madeira.
Here are some images either taken from the ship or in the harbours at our stops...….
As well as seabirds I also found what looks like a migrating Reed Warbler hitching a lift on the ship..
After a couple of days I bumped into a couple of other birders in the Promenade Café as myself and Teresa went for a cuppa, they introduced themselves as Jane and Lin, two female middle aged birders from the Birmingham area, a lovely couple.
They had booked a day out birding with a guide on Gran Canaria and invited me along, we met up at the café at 08.30 on Friday 6th September and soon met up with our guide Guillermo at the quayside car park, he was a lovely chap who spoke perfect English and was extremely knowledgeable.
He provided a running commentary on the geology, flora and fauna as we headed into the mountains in search of our target species this being the Gran Canaria Blue Chaffinch which is resident in very small numbers but is doing very well. It is now recognised as a separate species having been split from the Tenerife Blue Chaffinch in March 2016.
Birds seen during our visit were Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Spectacled Warbler, CI Chiffchaff, Plain Swift (a 'lifer' for me), Alpine Swift, female Pied Flycatcher (a migrant), African Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Canary, Raven, and finally after a lot of searching a juvenile CI Blue Chaffinch, it would have been nice if it had been a nice Blue male but it was not to be.
After a stop for some refreshments at a wonderful hotel in the mountains we finished off the day with another 'lifer' for me, Laurel Pigeon which although quite endangered are doing well due to a superb conservation programme...….
As we were visiting Lanzarote I had arranged a day out birding on Sun 8th Sept with Lanzarote Eco Insider, a repeat of a day out I enjoyed with them back in 2015 on a similar cruise, I was eager to catch up with Cream-coloured Courser that I had 'dipped' on previously.
I reluctantly didn't invite Jane and Lin as the off-roading would have been a little too strenuous for them both.
I met their guide Adolfo at the dockside car park in Arrecife at 09.00 and his Land Rover was soon traversing the desert terrain in search of our target species which after a few hours we finally caught up with and ended up seeing nine.
Birds also seen were Houbara Bustard (15), Cattle Egret (13), Great Grey Shrike ssp koenigi (numerous), Lesser short-toed lark (50+ and a 'lifer'), Berthelot's Pipit (numerous), Barbary Partridge (c10), Stone Curlew (c15) and some passage migrants...…..
On our final day as we crossed the northern end of the Bay of Biscay again a party of four jet fighters crossed over the ship twice at close range, what an incredibly loud noise as I managed to get a few shots !!……..
What a fabulous holiday, this is the third time that we have done a Canaries Cruise and enjoyed each one, five 'lifers' can't be bad either !!