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A Report from

Tenerife, Canary Islands 14th - 21st October 2005,

Bob Swann

This report gives details of the birds seen and the sites visited during a week’s holiday in Puerto de la Cruz in the north of Tenerife. We flew from Glasgow, on a package tour with Thomas Cook. We stayed at the Casablanca Apartments. These were very well equipped. They were also located close to the facilities in the resort centre and adjacent to the TF312, which gave quick access to the TF5 motorway. I hired a car from a local dealer located close to the apartments. For the six days it cost 120 Euros, including insurance tax etc.

14th October.

Arrived mid afternoon and after settling in went for a walk round the resort. Immediately started seeing and getting excellent views of canaries, with birds singing round the apartments and small flocks feeding on weed seeds. In the bushes as well as blackbirds were the local canariensis chiffchaffs, with their explosive chup-chup, chip-chup song. On open ground by the shore we had close views of our first Berthelot’s pipits. There were also lots of collared doves. On the ‘beach’ were a group of yellow-legged gulls. Overhead we had a few common kestrels and a young male sparrow hawk that flew down one of the barrancos.

15th October.

First sight of the morning was a grey wagtail on the aerial of the house opposite our balcony. Collected the car and then we headed off west along the TF5. First stop was the golf course just past Buenavista del Norte, forming a large area of green that looked as though it would attract birds. I wandered on to the course just below the club house, where there were a few pools. Yellow-legged gulls were loafing on the greens and a common sandpiper fed round the pool. A group of four waders flew in and landed on the fairway – white-rumped sandpipers, part of a large influx into the Canary Islands this autumn.  They were disturbed and flew down to the coast. We drove down the road on the west side of the golfcourse and parked by the shore and walked back east along a coastal track. This gave us a good view of the rock platform below (and the large swell coming in). On the rocks we had 6 whimbrel, 3 ruddy turnstone and close views of the 4 roosting white-rumped sandpipers. As we walked back we had a few spectacled warblers and a male sardinian warbler in the coastal scrub and more Berthelot’s pipits. By the car park was an area of waste ground with a large flock of 150+ canaries and a few Spanish sparrows.

We drove on to Punta de Teno with its spectacular cliff coastline. I sea watched for an hour or so but saw nothing apart from a few yellow-legged gulls. I then explored the old tomato plantations by the roadside where there were small flocks of canaries and 2 Barbary partridges. A stop at the viewpoint located after the tunnel on the way back, a noted site for falcons, revealed nothing. Finally on the way home we stopped in Garachio for a look round and had 5 Cory’s shearwaters offshore by the large offshore rock.

16th October.

An early start at 7.00am as I headed up to view the laurel forest at Chananjiga, south of Puerto de la Cruz. The roads were very poorly sign posted and I got lost several times before finding the right road. I arrived just after dawn and lots of blackbirds, robins and chiffchaffs were singing. I walked out along the main track stopping at spots with good views over the laurel forest. In two hours I saw 7 Bolle’s pigeons, with some good close flight views. I also had a few of the local teneriffae blue tits, with their very distinctive head markings and good views of a Tenerife goldcrest. I headed back down and stopped on the outskirts of Palo Blanco where I got excellent views of a flock of 30ish plain swifts.

In the afternoon we headed west again, this time to Erjos. We had to leave the car at the radio masts as you are no longer allowed to take vehicles any further, so we walked to the first viewing point. This is about a kilometre to a point where the track turns sharp left but a footpath goes straight on through the bushes to an open area that gives good views over the laurel forest. It was very quiet, a few chiffchaff, robins and a sparrow hawk. Mist started to roll in accompanied by a flock of 20 plain swifts. As the mist thickened two pairs of Bolle’s Pigeons shot by very close to us. It started to rain so we returned to the car. We then drove south a bit till we found the Erjos pools (first turning on the right, off the main road). We saw lots of moorhens, a coot, a green sandpiper and a common buzzard. The weather deteriorated further so we decided to head back to the resort.

17th October.

Got up to find it had been raining all night and that it was still raining, so thought we would head south over the mountains. Followed TF21 through Teide NP (covered in low cloud) and down to Las Lajas. It was cloudy, with showers, when we arrived but we had the place virtually to ourselves. We soon found a group of blue chaffinches feeding by the picnic tables, with a few canaries. There were also 2 great spotted woodpeckers of the local race tenerifae, with a grey cast on their breast and head. They fed on the trunk of some low pines within a few metres of us. In the conifers we had good views of blue tits and Tenerife goldcrests. Whilst on the ground were some very confiding Berthelot’s pipits.

We then headed down to Los Cristianos and along the coast to El Fraile. It was now dry and sunny. We drove through El Fraile and along the main track going out from the southwest end of town. This took us through some scrubland where we found 2 southern grey shrikes and many Berthelot’s pipits. The track took us up to the banana plantation where there is a reservoir surrounded by a large lattice wall. By peering through the many holes in the wall we could get excellent close views of the birds along the shoreline. We had 9 little egret, 2 greenshank, 2 common redshank, 2 ringed plover, 1 common sandpiper, 1 dunlin, 1 curlew sandpiper and 2 white-rumped sandpipers. On the water were 130 coot and a great cormorant, apparently a bit of a rarity in Tenerife! There were also 2 grey wagtails and a yellow wagtail flew over calling. This is quite a nice site giving excellent views, in particular it was nice to compare the juvenile white-rumps with the juvenile dunlin and curlew sand.

We continued further east through Las Galletas and to El Guincho where we cut down south to Amarilla golf course. At the roadside dam we had a common sandpiper and a nice southern grey shrike singing on top of a building. It had now started to rain again! The trees and scrub round the golf course held a lot of collared doves and Spanish sparrows. There were very few birds on the course apart from Berthelot’s pipits and a Hoopoe. We decided it was time to head north.

18th October.

Up at 7.30am and headed west along the T5 to the Mirador de Lagrimona. This is a layby west of Socorra beach, between the 2nd and 3rd tunnel. Eduardo Garcia-del-Rey had told me that this was a good site for one of the islands endemics. In the first hour I saw little bar blue tits, chiffchaffs and blackirds. A common buzzard flew by, a few groups of rock doves and some plain swifts.  Suddenly at 9.30am a movement alerted me to laurel pigeon perched on one of the bushes on the steep hillside. It gave excellent views before it flew into a bush. It reappeared 10 minutes later, perched on another bush giving more superb views.

I headed west and then south back to El Fraile and to the reservoir. Birds were more or less the same as yesterday but a spotted redshank had arrived. I then cut back to Los Cristianos to get my ticket for the ferry crossing to La Gomera. Eduardo had advised me to get the Naviera Armas ferry as this was the slow one, which gave more opportunities for seawatching. The ferry left at 1.45pm and the crossing took one and a half hours. The sea was calm and I was soon getting excellent close views of small pods of short-finned pilot whales, which were resting on the water surface. I also saw a few groups of bottle-nosed dolphins. Seabirds were fairly scarce but I had 30 Cory’s shearwaters off Tenerife and another 33 as we approached La Gomera. I had almost two hours on La Gomera and walked round the bay in San Sebastian. Did not see very much apart from a Little Egret. The return ferry left at 5pm, the sea was now a lot choppier as a strong wind had got up. Once more off La Gomera there were lots of Cory’s shearwaters (about 60) and with them a single little shearwater. It was then fairly birdless till we approached Tenerife when I saw about another 40 Cory’s. It had been an excellent trip. I headed back north, the only sighting of note being a grey heron crossing the road at dusk near Chilo.

19th October.

We decided to head back up the TF21 to the Teide national park. It was a beautiful sunny day. The views of Mt Teide and the surrounding lava flows and caldera were impressive. The reds, browns, oranges and blacks of the different lava flows were stunning. Much of the land is very barren but a walk through some scrubby bits revealed the ubiquitous chiffchaffs and Berthelot’s pipits and a spectacled warbler. The only raptors seen were some common kestrels.

We then went back down to Las Lajas. There appeared to be fewer blue chaffinches and they spent a lot of time up in the trees. With perseverance we got good views. There were also about 15 canaries in a small flock and at least 3 great spotted woodpeckers. I also got excellent views of a male Tenerife goldcrest displaying to a female. We then went back up to Teide and took the TF38 across the lava flows then headed north up the TF82 to Erjos. We went back to the near viewpoint overlooking the laurel forest. In one hour, as we sat in the sun, we had 10 Bolle’s pigeons whiz by, saw a single laurel pigeon and 3 common buzzards. We then headed home.

20th October.

I decided to go back to Mirador de Lagrima. At 9.20am a pair of laurel pigeons arrived and for the next hour I got good views of them perching and taking short flights.

I then headed east along the TF5 and stopped off behind the cargo terminal at the Tenerife north airport. From here I walked out through some large fields. There were lots of canaries, a few linnets and some Spanish sparrows, but little else. I then drove to the village of El Socorro. Just as you enter it from the south a road leads to the Valle Molina reservoir. By scrambling up a ‘path’ to the left of the gate I got good views of most of the reservoir. It was a bit disappointing, with only a little egret, 9 coot and 4 common sandpipers. I then headed further east along the TF13 and TF12 to Pico del Ingles. This gave a marvellous view of the north eastern end of the island. I sat for over an hour overlooking the laurel forest but saw no pigeons. Perhaps midday is not the best time to look. I went back to Ermita Cruz del Carma and followed one of the tracks into the laurel forest. It was difficult to see the birds but eventually I located a few chiffchaff, robin, blackbird, Tenerife goldcrest, blue tit and chaffinch. It was then back towards Puerto de la Cruz, where I tried to locate the reservoir at Los Realejos. I got completely lost and gave up and headed home.

21st October.

Our final day. Packed and got the coach back to the airport. Few birds seen en-route bar lots of common kestrels.

Overall we had an excellent time. The apartments were good. We liked the resort. I only saw 46 different species, but amongst them I had 6 lifers. More than I thought I’d get and we got excellent views of all species. I’m not sure if October is the best time to go to Tenerife as certainly an earlier visit would have given more chance of seeing more seabirds. We did have the benefit of lots of migrating waders, including the white-rumped sandpipers. I’d like to thank my wife Dora for accompanying me on some of the trips and being particularly good at spotting pigeons. Also Eduardo Garcia-del-Rey who gave me advice on ferry crossings and the laurel pigeon site.

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