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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Tenerife 28 October - 4 Nov.,
Anybody who knows me is aware that my holiday must consist of family sun, sea and sand plus decent birding for me.
This October we were due to go to the Yucatan Peninsula In Mexico. Lots of lifers for me and sun, sea and Mayan ruins for the rest of the family. Hurricane Wilma put paid to that! Two days before we were due to fly out Wilma hit and our holiday was cancelled. In the greater scheme of things our disappointment was tempered with what the poor locals were going through.
Trying to get a last minute holiday during Half Term is no easy task. It had to be somewhere hot and sunny but I wasn't holding out much joy at finding any descent birding destinations. I've done most Med countries so getting many lifers was looking bleak.
We eventually managed to book a week in Tenerife. Out of a limited choice this seemed the best option for everyone. Six endemics and a few more endemic sub species that are possible future splits so therefore maybe a few lifers in the offing.
No time to do any research but having previously visiting Fuerteventura a few years ago I already had copies of ‘A Birdwatchers Guide to The Canary Islands' by Tony Clarke & David Collins and ' Finding Birds In The Canary Islands' by Dave Gosney. Both proved invaluable in Fuerte and proved also in Tenerife.
PLAN OF ACTION :
To utilize what little time I had available I decided to concentrate solely on the endemic six of Canary Island Chiffchaff, Tenerife Kinglet, Island Canary, Blue Chaffinch and Bolle's and Laurel Pigeons.
I decided before I left that I would have a day spent on La Gomera. Hopefully this would enable me to pick up possible Little Shearwater from the ferry and head for Bar La Carbonera and Monte El Cedro, both sites recommended for specifically both pigeons and all the other endemics bar Blue Chaffinch.
If I could mop up there then only a days car hire back on Tenerife for a morning visit to Las Lajos and Blue Chaffinch would be needed.
To get to Gomera the only ferry to catch is the Naviera Armes. This ferry takes 90 minutes for the trip and provides ample sea watching opportunities. The other ferries are Fred Olsen and the Garajonay Express. These take 40 minutes and no hope of sea watching!
BEST LAID PLANS :
Arrived at the hotel in Tenerife (Playa de las Americas) at 2am on Saturday 29th Oct. Up at 0630, sunrise at 7.30!! No chance of popping out crack of dawn and leaving family in bed then!
We had a cracking sea view so set up my scope and had a ten minute scan once the light was good. Cory's Shearwater were abundant as were Yellow-legged Gull. Also had cracking views of Short- finned Pilot Whales and Bottle-nosed Dolphins. Lovely start to the day.
Once dawn had truly broken Canary Island Chiffchaffs began to call. They, along with Collared Doves, were the most common birds around the Las Americas area. Fist lifer of the trip nice and easy then. A quick bimble to try and discover a ‘local patch' proved fruitless. It was a concrete jungle out there (although a very pleasant concrete jungle!) No point with any early morning bimbles then.
Saturday afternoon I took a taxi to Los Christianos ferry terminal. The Naviera Armos was out of service for the week for maintenance!! So much for La Gomera. OK. Change of plan. Hire the car on Tenerife for two days, one morning Las Lajos and one morning at Erjos for the Pigeons.
Booked the car through Avis for Monday morning. Earliest pick up 9am. Not the early start I would have wanted but no choice in the matter. 9 am Monday morning no car! 9.15 am no car! Next to reception was a young man from Nizacars. OK Avis you've dipped. (in birding parlance) Nice man from Nizacars arranged my two day package (a lot cheaper than Avis as well!). Unfortunately I had to collect the car from their offices in downtown Las Americas.
All my precious time was being eaten up. I had promised my family I'd be back by the pool by 1 pm!!
I was eventually winding my way out of Playa de las America at 10.30am! Once on the main road to Vilaflor I began to relax a little, I could still make it in time.
THE DRIVE :
Driving in Tenerife is a cinch once you've negotiated out of town. The road to Vilaflor reminded me of traveling through the Troodos Mountains in Cyprus from Akrotiri to Platres.
Nearing Vilaflor a LBJ was spotted on top of a bush by the side of the road. A handy lay-by was just down the road . Out of the car and backtracking to tick off a fine male Island Canary in song. Soon to be joined by a female the birds were unwary and allowed me to watch them down to about 4 feet.
Good start, duly satisfied I headed North of Vilaflor to the renowned Blue Chaffinch site of Las Lajas picnic area. Arrived at 11.15am. The place was teeming not with birds but school kids! There must have been at least a hundred of them, all under the age of ten, rampaging around the place. Dozens of tourist buses were also joining into the fun by revving and blowing horns. Birds none, birding no chance. Still, I hadn't come all this way for nothing. I decided to give myself 20 minutes here then if no joy head for the ‘ leaking water pipe' site at Respetemos La Naturaleza mentioned in Tony Clarke's guide.
Away from the madding crowd I managed to actually see some birds! A great Spotted Woodpecker was seen as were a few more Island Canary's. Five minutes later a fly over Blue Chaffinch was clocked. Target bird seen but not very satisfactory. With the pressure off I decided to head for the leaking pipe, hopefully for better views.
The guide made finding the site easy. Look for the sign ‘Respetemos La Naturaleza' and park up off the road. The 'indistinct track' is just that, indistinct! In fact it is so indistinct that I couldn't find it! I decided to just bimble around the area and was soon rewarded by another fly by Blue Chaffinch. Fortunately I managed to see where it landed and cracking scope views were had of a resplendent Blue Chaffinch sat out in full view. No time to look for Kinglet though as time and family wait for no man so headed back to the pool content with two more of the hit list in the bag. I got back at 2pm, not too bad!
Set off at first light (7.30am!!) Omens looked good as there was not a cloud in the sky never mind over the mountains. It was going to be a hot one.
Got to Ergos in approx 50 minutes. Both guides directions spot on. Parked on the track. Although both guides mention driving to the ‘rock' watch point I still needed Kinglet so decided the best bet was to walk the 4.5 Km. The first part of the track passed cultivated land. Very good for Island Canary, Blackbird and Robin (the latter a definite candidate for a future split). As the track entered the Laurel Forest I became increasingly aware that if I stopped for every bird it would take me an age to get to the viewing point and I was concerned that the cloud level might drop and scupper everything. With this in mind I began to hammer up the track ignoring all around, I will check them all out on the return journey. Just before the rock a high pitched 'zu zi zi' stopped me in full march. There, just a couple of feet to my left in the under storey, was not one but two Tenerife Kinglets. I managed to enjoy good and prolonged views of these lovely gems before marching ever onwards and upwards.
THE 'ROCK' VIEW POINT :
Arriving at the rock viewing point my fears of cloud cover were definitely unfounded. Still not a cloud in the sky. I checked my watch. It was 10.30 am. Ok, I'll give myself 4 hours and then leave, no matter what.
2 ½ later and with only two Buzzards and a Sparrowhawk to show I was getting pretty disheartened. Maybe it was too clear for them, it was certainly hot. The Pigeons were there as I could hear them cooing and flapping their wings (reminiscent of Wood Pigeons) deep in cover.
Another ½ hour came and went and a wasted journey looked on the cards ( Although total abjection was held at bay by the Kinglet sightings)
Having just about decide to call it a day 3 Germans cycled by on mountain bikes. Obviously not one with nature they were shouting and laughing as they went. Normally I wouldn't have been too impressed but a Bolle's took objection with the shattering of the silence and flew from it's hiding place, made a short sortie around a few Laurel trees before disappearing back into hiding. Although brief I had excellent views from above noticing the distinct dark banding of the tail.
Knowing full well that Laurel Pigeons are 4 to 5 times scarcer here than the Bolle's at this site I decided that I'd had my fill so came away dipping on Laurel but more than satisfied with both Bolle's and Kinglet.
THE STORY DOESN'T END THERE :
With five of the six endemics in the bag from only two mornings birding I was more than happy. The rest of the time was spent having a cracking holiday with the Aqua Land being particularly fun. However two more birds nearly stole the show, one being a billy bonus lifer.
Tuesday afternoon, after my return from Ergos, the time was spent in the hotel pool. Imagine my utter surprise when a marvelous Barbary Falcon flew right over the pool and up over the hotel! Even my wife and boys were impressed! Not a lifer though as I'd previously seen one on Fuerte.
Wednesday was the usual early morning sea watch from the balcony. This morning however it was blowing an almighty gale in off the sea. This was the only time that this weather occurred but made for cracking sea watching. Cory's hammered through along with a few Sandwich Terns and a Little Egret!
However the star of the show was a super Little Shearwater passing through all on it's own away from the streaming Cory's. What could I say, without the cost and effort of a ferry crossing I managed to get Little Shearwater from the comfort of my hotel balcony!!
THE END :
For a weeks intense tanning and a couple of mornings intense birding Tenerife and it's endemics take some beating. Ok I didn't get the 100+ lifers that I would have from Mexico, but hey, that's now for next year. As for Tenerife, Las Americas, Los Christianos and the mountain towns, they were far better than I expected them to be and would fully recommend a weeks winter sun out there.
For the record I have listed the birds I saw below. Obviously if I'd visited other lowland sites such as golf courses, dams and even the tide line the list would have been greater but I was only interested in the endemics, other birders would come away with much more.
Please feel free to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org for any gen I can help with.
* Sub species confined to the Macronesia
** Sub species confined to the Canary Islands
1. Cory's Shearwater : Very common, seen everyday
2. Little Shearwater : Single seen during exceptionally windy sea watch
3. Little Egret : Seen on same sea watch as above
4. * Sparrowhawk : Single Ergos
5. ** Buzzard : 2 Ergos
6. * Kestrel : Very common everywhere, seen most days
7. Barbary Falcon : Amazingly one over the hotel pool !
8. Lesser Black-backed Gull : Fairly common, seen most days
9. * Yellow-legged Gull : Very common, seen all days.
10. Sandwich Tern : Seen on two occasions
11. Bolle's Pigeon : Single seen after very long watch at Ergos
12. Collared Dove : Everywhere at low levels
13. ** Great Spotted Woodpecker : 3 seen Ergos area
14. ** Grey Wagtail : Seen near Aqua Land
15. White Wagtail : Single seen near hotel
16. ** Robin : Fairly common Ergos
17. * Blackbird : Common at Ergos
18. Canary Island Chiffchaff : Very common across the island
19. Tenerife Kinglet : 2 seen at Ergos, others heard.
20. African Blue Tit : Singles at Las Largos and Ergos
21. Spanish Sparrow : Heard often but surprisingly elusive
22. ** Chaffinch : Single seen at Ergos
23. Blue Chaffinch : single at Las Largos, good views at ‘leaking water pipe'
24. Island Canary : Quite common at higher elevations
25. Goldfinch : Small flock at Vilaflor
26. ** Linnet : Good numbers around Vilaflor