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Tenerife endemics, 14-21 Nov '03,
I took a last minute holiday to Tenerife in order to see the endemic species and enjoy a well earned rest! I booked a flight and hotel package a few days before departure via Lastminute.com, which included half board accommodation in the very comfortable 4 star Puerto Playa hotel in Puerto de la Cruz in the north of the island. The total cost of this package including flights and single supplement was £330 which was very reasonable, almost cheaper than staying at home for the week! Hire car was organised as usual via Holiday Autos, a total of £115 for the week for an air-conditioned Opel Corsa, which I collected at the airport on arrival from local suppliers Hertz.
The week was generally very successful bird-wise, the only notable dip being a non-endemic species, Barbary Falcon. I also found two island rarities and managed to catch up with all the known vagrants present on the island. The pace of the week was fairly relaxed as the special birds were mostly easy to find, and Tenerife's relatively small size meant that most sites on the island were within an hours drive of Puerto de la Cruz.
The weather during the week was fairly changeable, with several sunny days but also some rainfall, particularly in the north of the island. Day time temperatures in Puerto de la Cruz generally reached 22-23 degrees, with lows around 17 degrees overnight. At altitude it was much colder, with a minimum of 6 degrees at Chanajiga early one morning. It was frequently cloudy and wet at the pigeon sites in the laurel forest belt, with thick mist sometimes making birding impossible, even when it was sunny elsewhere.
I am very grateful to Barry Lancaster for his help during the week with directions to some of the birding sites and up-to-date gen on rarities present. Thanks are also due to Tony Clarke, currently back in the UK, who put me in touch with Barry. I also made much use of Tony Clarke's and David Collins' book "A birdwatchers guide to the Canary Islands" - an invaluable reference with accurate and easy to follow directions for most of the key sites which may otherwise have been very difficult to find.
SITES VISITED :
Chanajiga : 14th, 15th and 20th November. I drove along the rough track here for a km or so beyond the picnic area to an area where I could look back onto a reasonably large area of laurel forest.
Los Realejos reservoir : 15th and 20th November.
Punto de Teno : 15th, 18th and 20th November. I tried seawatching from here on two occasions totalling about two hours but failed to see anything at all, may well be better in late summer.
Erjos ponds : 15th and 19th November.
Erjos forest : 15th, 19th and 20th November.
Valle Molino reservoir : 16th and 17th November. Only about half the reservoir can be viewed from the gates mentioned in the gen.
Guargacho 1 reservoir : 16th, 17th and 18th November.
Amarilla golf course : 16th, 17th,18th,19th and 21st November. The most productive area appeared to be the fairways near the entrance and the rough ground and turf cutting lawns to the east, also the barranco next to the 17th green for the pipits.
El Fraile reservoir : 16th and 18th November.
Guaza : 17th November. Not mentioned in Tony Clarke's book, this hill between Guaza and Los Cristianos holds a regular wintering flock of Trumpeter finches, and Barbary partridge also occur.
Ten-Bel : 17th,18th and 21st November.
Montana Roja, near El Medano : 17th November. I saw nothing on the brackish pool on my visit, but there were some Kentish plovers on the old airfield.
Tejina ponds : 17th November.
Punto de Hidalgo : 17th November. A brief look at the land and the sea here produced nothing at all.
Las Galletas : 18th November.
Los Llajas : 18th November.
Armenime reservoirs : 18th November. Not mentioned in Tony Clarke's book, the 3 small reservoirs at Armenime, El Puertito and Playa Paraiso sometimes hold wildfowl but were very quiet on my visit.
Los Gigantes : 18th November. Barbary falcon has been seen along the cliffs here but I had no such luck on my visit.
SPECIES SEEN :
Little egret : Seen regularly on the various reservoirs, highest count of 6 at the dam at the entrance to Amarilla golf on 18th November.
Grey heron : Seen in small numbers on many of the reservoirs.
Glossy ibis : My second find of the week, this bird at Guargacho 1 reservoir from 16th November onwards gave excellent views and was apparently the first on Tenerife since 1995.
Teal : 2 at Valle Molino reservoir on 16th November and 5 at El Puertito reservoir on 19th November.
Ring-necked duck : My other significant self-found rarity was this adult female at Valle Molino reservoir, found on 16th November and still there the next day.
Greater scaup : With the above bird on 16th November. Although the wing was not seen, in all other aspects it was a straightforward first-winter female Scaup and not the more likely Lesser.
Buzzard : Single birds of the canarian subspecies at Chanajiga on 15th and 20th November. One at Erjos Ponds on 19th November and one from the nearby laurel forest lookout on 20th November.
Sparrowhawk : Birds of the canarian subspecies, noticeably larger and more like Goshawk in shape, at Chanajiga on 15th November (1) and 20th November (3). Also one near Amarilla golf on 17th November.
Kestrel : The local subspecies very common in most parts of Tenerife.
Barbary partridge : A group of 3 in the tomato plantations at Punto de Teno on 18th November was my only sighting of this species.
Moorhen : Seen on several reservoirs, notably Tejina ponds and Armenime reservoir.
Coot : Seen at Los Realejos and Armenime reservoirs and Tejina ponds but highest numbers by far at El Fraile reservoir.
Lapwing : Single over Amarilla golf on 19th November.
Turnstone : Single in Los Gigantes harbour on 19th November.
Ringed plover : One or two at El Fraile reservoir on 16th November, 2 on old airfield near Montana Roja the following day.
Little ringed plover : Seen at Guargacho 1, El Fraile and pools at Las Galletas but highest numbers on Amarilla golf course with up to 14 present.
Kentish plover : 7 on the old airfield at Montana Roja on 17th November.
Little stint : One at El Fraile reservoir on 16th November.
White-rumped sandpiper : One on pools on waste ground opposite the harbour at Las Galletas on 18th November, likely to be one of the two birds originally found at El Fraile reservoir a week previously.
Common sandpiper : Seen in ones and twos at many reservoirs and dams.
Redshank : One at El Fraile reservoir on 16th November.
Greenshank : A common passage wader. 6 at Valle Molino reservoir on 16th November and 7 counted there the following day. Up to 6 at El Fraile and also seen at Guargacho 1 and El Puertito reservoirs.
Whimbrel : Single bird at Amarilla golf on 17th, 19th and 21st November.
Common snipe : 2 at Erjos ponds on 15th November.
Yellow-legged gull : Often the only bird to be seen at the coast, also seen at some inland waters with the largest numbers at El Fraile reservoir but no counts made.
Bolle's Laurel pigeon : By far the easiest of the two endemic pigeons to find. Chanajiga : 20 in 2 hours on 14th November, 1 there during a brief visit the following morning and 12 in 2 hours on the morning of 20th November. The birds often showed well here and perched views were relatively easy to obtain. Erjos : birds here were generally more distant and seen in flight only. Just 2 seen during an hours watch on 15th November before mist engulfed the area, 9 there in another 1 hour watch on 20th November, and 14 seen during a 2 hour watch on 20th November.
White-tailed Laurel pigeon : The most difficult of all the Tenerife endemic species to find, I did not manage to see this bird until the day before my departure. I spent over 4 hours at Chanajiga, supposedly the best site, without seeing this species. At many sites I was thwarted by thick cloud and mist. I eventually got some excellent views at Erjos, without needing to drive 4.9km along the awful track to the rock with the green weather gauge, the site mentioned in most site guides. Instead drive 1.4km along the track, to a point where the track turns sharply left and a footpath continues straight ahead. Park the car here and walk 20m along the footpath to where the trees open up and you can enjoy spectacular views of the laurel forest. This spot is in fact directly opposite the weather gauge rock, which can be seen across the valley from here. I saw 4 White-tailed Laurel pigeons here in 2 hours watching, all the birds were seen at quite close range, generally closer than the 14 Bolle's pigeons I saw during the same period. This might suggest a possible nest site quite close by. A word of warning, distant Bolle's pigeons can sometimes appear to have a white terminal band to the tail, particularly when they fan their tail upon landing. However when you do see a genuine White-tailed, the buff-white tail band is almost half the length of the tail, and coupled with the pale rump and contrasting darker wings as well as the looser and more leisurely flight, gives quite a different impression.
Rock dove : Common in many areas, the birds distinctively grey-rumped. A large flock regularly seen on the fairways of Amarilla golf.
Collared dove : Seen in a few towns such as Ten-Bel.
Long-eared owl : One flew over the road near the Amarilla golf club house at dawn on 18th November.
Plain swift : The best site during the week appeared to be Chanajiga, with at least 200 seen there on the morning of 15th November and 30+ on 20th November. Also a flock of 50+ south of Los Gigantes on 19th November and 8 at Amarilla Golf on 21st November after a rain shower. This bird seemed to be fairly unpredictable and erratic in its appearances.
Hoopoe : Up to 10 birds together on the fairways of Amarilla golf, also seen at Guargacho 1 (2) and Ten-Bel (1).
Monk parakeet : 2 in Ten-Bel on 18th November.
Great spotted woodpecker : The distinctive Tenerife subspecies with duller, greyer underparts and red extending up belly was easy to find in the pine forest belt, and very conspicuous at the Los Llajas picnic site in particular.
Skylark : Flock of 10-12 present on fields 500m west of Amarilla golf, reached via a track from Guargacho, on 17th November. Also a large flock of 40+ at Punto de Teno on 20th November, on flat ground behind the tomato plantations.
Lesser short-toed lark : The Tenerife subspecies, the only birds seen were up to 8 at Amarilla golf, which were present rather erratically and usually only in the early morning until 08.30.
Swallow : Singles at Amarilla golf on 18th and 19th November.
Meadow pipit : At Amarilla golf, singles on 17th and 19th November, and 3 on 21st November.
Red-throated pipit : At Amarilla golf, 2 adults showed well on 17th November, favouring the barranco alongside the 17th green. One seen in the same area on 19th and 21st November.
Berthelot's pipit : Abundant in the south of the island and gave excellent views at Amarilla golf in particular. In the north the only site where I saw this bird was at Punto de Teno.
White wagtail : Up to 9 at Amarilla golf. Single at Armenime reservoir on 19th November.
Grey wagtail : The canarian subspecies, very yellow underneath, was common and easy to see in most places.
Robin : This canarian subspecies frequently seen and heard in the laurel forests in particular.
Blackbird : Mostly in the laurel forests, as above sp.
Sardinian warbler : Heard at Erjos ponds on 15th and 19th November, but the only bird seen was a female at Punto de Teno on the former date.
Spectacled warbler : The common warbler of most open scrubby areas, seen regularly at Punto de Teno and Amarilla golf in particular.
Blackcap : On 21st November, 2 females in Ten Bel and a singing male in the south airport car park.
Canary Islands chiffchaff : Very common in most places, particularly so in the laurel forests. The call and song markedly different, the latter sounding almost like a Cetti's warbler.
Tenerife goldcrest : Often heard in the laurel and pine forests but views were difficult to obtain. I eventually had some excellent views at Los Llajas and Chanajiga.
Red-breasted flycatcher : Adult female in Ten Bel on 21st November, bird had been present for at least a week but only seen intermittently.
Blue tit : A very distinctive subspecies with very dark, almost black, cap. Common in the laurel and pine forests.
Southern grey shrike : 2 at Guaza on 17th November, one showed very well most mornings at Amarilla golf, and one near the western boundary of the south airport on 18th November.
Starling : At Amarilla golf, 2 on 18th November and 1 on 19th. Also one at El Fraile reservoir on the former date.
Spanish sparrow : No detailed records taken although apparently common, a regular flock on the fairways of Amarilla golf seen daily.
Rock sparrow : The wintering flock, presumably comprising the entire Tenerife population, at Punto de Teno was easy to see in the tomato plantations near the lighthouse, at least 150 on 18th November and similar numbers there on 20th November although no counts were made.
Chaffinch : The endemic subspecies was often heard in the laurel forests although good views were quite difficult to obtain.
Blue chaffinch : The only place I looked for this species was at the Los Llajas picnic site, where it was easy to find.
Canary : Common in most places in the north of the island, however most sightings in the forests were of birds in flight. The best views were obtained in the fields and tomato plantations at Punto de Teno
Linnet : Seen mostly around the tomato plantations at Punto de Teno where it was common.
Goldfinch : Singles at Tejina ponds on 17th November and Los Realejos reservoir on 20th November.
Trumpeter finch : The regular wintering flock in the hills at Guaza seen on 17th November, good views of 9 birds including 4 males. The favoured area appeared to be to the south of a farmhouse with a large round tree.
Lapland bunting : First record for the Canaries, this bird was found on about 15th November at Amarilla golf by Barry Lancaster. It tended to arrive in the early morning associating with the lesser short-toed lark flock, often departing the area by 08.30. I saw it briefly on 18th November before enjoying prolonged views the following morning. However I saw neither the lark flock nor the bunting on my final visit on 21st November. A very pale and washed out individual. When watching it in the same scope view as a lesser short-toed lark I wondered whether this was the first time anyone had ever seen these two species in the same place at the same time !
Total species seen : 62