I’ve framed myself as a ‘part-time birder’ because I’ve always done my birding on a part-time basis. I know that very few people are full-time birders but more than most I seem to fit my birding around work, family holidays or other travels. On this occasion my wife and I planned to be away for a week without the kids for the first time since 1987, two years before I started birding. I therefore (half joking) told Lotty that this was going to be a birding holiday! However, in reality I used mornings and random opportunities to bird around a couples holiday to see as many sites, and of course birds, as I could.
As this was my first visit to the Canaries, I was keen to see all the endemic species and preferably sub-species that were available on Tenerife. I also had a number of holes in my WP list I thought I could plug like Common Quail, Rock Sparrow, Spectacled Warbler, Red-throated Pipit, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Barbary Partridge, Little Shearwater and Bulwer’s Petrel.
Planned the trip fairly late, just a month before travel and in school holidays so we didn’t get the best flight prices, but it wasn’t too pricey. We used Travel Counsellors and a guy called Steve Finch who was very helpful and keen to learn about organising birding trips! See www.travelcounsellors.co.uk/steve.finch/: he arranged flights and accommodation and gave us an ATOL certificate on the package.
We flew with Easyjet and took one bag in the hold which enabled me to take my ‘scope but I left my tripod. The best thing to be said about Easyjet is, ‘at least they are not Ryanair’!
Our accommodation was at Apartamentos Casablanca in Puerto de la Cruz – I figured this would be a good base for the tougher endemics and it was. I would unreservedly recommend the apartments www.apartamentoscasablanca.com/index_eng.html and the fact that most of those staying were from the Spanish mainland tells you a lot. Comfortable, accommodating and friendly staff – very professional.
I booked my own car with www.rentalcars.com/en/ who are fine and used Gold Cars for the second time who are not. I would not use Gold Cars again as we queued 90 minutes for the car at the airport, the car was okay but I felt ripped off with the ‘full-to-empty’ policy for two reasons: i) diesel was about 1 euro/litre and I was charged 107 euros for a 60 litre tank; ii) there was no car computer that could tell me how many km I had to go to empty the tank. So add 40 Euros at least to any price against a ‘full-to-full’ deal and you will know what you are paying. If I hadn’t driven over 900 km (I had to put in an additional 9 litres but I reckon left 6 or 7 in the tank) I would not have even used all the fuel.
After a bitter experience in the past I also bought a Super CDW insurance policy from www.insurance4carhire.com which fortunately was not called upon.
Field, Travel and Site Guides used:
A Birdwatcher’s Guide to The Canary Islands – Clarke & Collins, 1996: has more sites than Gosney but much older so good to have both.
Birds of the Atlantic Islands – Helm, 2006: comprehensive and useful section on sites at the front and updated sightings at the back.
Butterfly Guide – Collins, 2008: you’ll find a few endemics although I did my i.d. work on my return
Finding Birds in the Canaries – Dave Gosney, 2013: essential and thanks to Dave for answering a couple of questions by email before I travelled.
Surfbirds – various trip reports: in particular Bob Swann, November 2012; Anders Hangard, December 2012; Daniel Bastaja, September 2003; Ian Merrill, March 2008. Thanks to all for uploading: interestingly I couldn’t find reports for an April visit.
Tenerife Bus & Touring Map – Discover Walking Guides, 2012: virtually useless for birding and travel by car. Just download or print Google maps or use free maps available at Tenerife Sur airport.
Tenerife Pocket Guide – Berlitz: okay, but too small to be useful and laughable comments on the birds.
The Real Tenerife – Insider’s Guide, 2013: okay, but not the best. Would have been better with a Lonely Planet I think.
Cloudy on Friday; rain storm on Saturday that dumped a layer of snow on the top of Mt. Teide; clear and cool on Sunday with light rain in La Orotava; Monday-Thursday sunny with light cloud: cloud cover every afternoon at the layer of the laurel forests. I visited the south of the island on Saturday, Wednesday and Thursday and noticed no less cloud or rain than in the north.
Thursday 10th April 2014
Parked at Airparks and flight from LGW was delayed so we landed at Aeropuerto Tenerife Sur at 23.11. Long wait for car with Gold Cars so left airport at 01.00 and arrived at our apartment about 02.15.
Friday 11th April 2014
I was awoken by bird song and this was the first Blackbird: this species is abundant in all suburban and wooded areas. First lifer was seen from the balcony and was the famous but rather dull-looking songster, Atlantic Canary.
Spent morning mooching around Puerto de la Cruz and Feral Pigeons were everywhere of course. My second lifer was Canary Islands Chiffchaff, a bird as dull as the Canary but with a wacky song. A pair of Collared Dove were in the palms in the town, and then the next lifer came along, a small flock of Plain Swift over the hotel blocks. Around the square there were a few nesting House Sparrow; on the promenade there were Yellow-legged Gulls and two Kestrels were also seen.
After chilling out for a while we decided to take an afternoon perusal of the local ‘pigeon’ sites. We started with Mirador la Grimona: essentially this is lay-by on a stretch of the main road just after the autoroute ends 20 minutes to the west of Puerto de la Cruz. We arrived at 16.40 and as I pulled into the lay-by I took a look out of the car window gazing up to the wooded cliffs above. Yea & behold, the first thing I saw with my naked eye about 500 metres above me, was a dark pigeon with a very obvious white tail-band. In fact as I got the bins onto a bare tree I noted 5 Laurel Pigeon showing well on bare branch. By the time the ‘scope was up 4 had flown to more cover but I was able to study all the features of one bird. We stayed there for 35 minutes and the birds continued to be active, disappearing from view and reappearing. Occasionally we noted an interesting display flight with slow circular flappy flight and flared white tail. In addition, we saw Buzzard circling then shortly afterwards a Sparrowhawk doing the same. Other species at this site were Feral Pigeon, Chiffchaff and Canary.
Whilst out and about, we thought to peruse the other local sites in search of a Bolle’s Pigeon. The roads are longer than they look on the map with many winds. Also, as one climbs away from the coast in the afternoon, the cloud soon descends. So by the time we reached the sites noted by Gosney in Barranco de Ruiz (around 17.40), the visibility was poor. However, in addition to more Feral Pigeon, Canary & Chiffchaffs, we did get a great view of a singing Robin and heard the scratchy, jumbling song of Sardinian Warbler. Despite scanning the trees below, they yielded nothing so we drove on back east past Los Realjos. The final site noted in Gosney was at the Mirador el Lance. We arrived at 18.00 and it was still quite misty but we didn’t have to wait long until a fast-flying pigeon raced over the tops of the laurels and into cover. Suspecting a Bolle’s Pigeon, I didn’t have to wait long before I got onto another bird in flight and this time I had plenty of time to be sure, as I noted the dark wings and distinctive tail pattern. Not much birding done on the first day but good results.
Saturday 12th April 2014
If the weather was not special on the Friday it looked a whole lot worse on the Saturday! Wandered around Puerto Cruz again mid-morning and saw all birds spied yesterday but with the additional pleasure of an African Blue Tit feeding in an open garden.
Back at the hotel a really fierce squally storm blew over and with it a flock of around 40 Plain Swift. Following behind was a possible Barbary Falcon (although the views were poor – it could well have been a Kestrel). Rather less mistakable was the Grey Heron that was blown over the hotel.
After the initial storm passed the weather was still a bit dodgy but hearing of the differing climate in the south we thought we would take a drive and have a look. So at about 12.30 we set off and headed over Mt. Teide, hoping the weather might clear and we could try for the specials on the mountain. Sadly, the weather worsened and it was pretty grim by Aguamansa. We persevered and even tried to get out at the info centre at Las Canadas. We enjoyed the scenery but the roads were a bit treacherous with fallen rocks, etc. I got out at Las Lajas picnic site above Vilafor but to no avail – it was still solid rain and birdless.
We drove into Los Cristianos to look into the La Gomera ferry for later in the week. Had a mooch around there and found a couple of Lesser Black-backed Gull among the Yellow-legged Gull flock. We also noted a flock of 20 African Collared Dove (or rather ‘Barbary Dove’, the domesticated version of the species) sheltering in a wooded park in the town. The birds were noticeably smaller and sandier than their European cousins.
The weather hadn’t really improved at all so we thought to park up at Palm-Mar and have a walk towards Punta de la Rasca and look for the pool described by Gosney. At least I thought this would give a chance of Barbary Partridge, Berthelot’s Pipit, etc. Arriving at 16.30 no partridges were seen but Berthelot’s Pipit was ticked as soon as we got out of car behaving like a Rock Pipit on the rocks at Palm-Mar. As we walked towards the Punta, there was a pair of Whimbrel on the rocks, whistling away as they flew off and also 2 or 3 Turnstone. We also noted around 14 Cory’s Shearwater around 1km off-shore and despite my best efforts no other sea-birds were to be seen. Returned to Palm-Mar, leaving at 18.00 in the rain and got back to Puerto de la Cruz around 19.30 where it seems the weather had not been so bad.
Sunday 13th April 2014
Awoke to a cool and bright morning. More heavy rain overnight had happily cleared and Mt. Teide looked very impressive with a fresh crown of snow. This was the first of four days where I took out the mornings alone leaving Lotty to rest and I set off at 08.25, back up the mountain in hope of some of my remaining endemics. I reached El Portillo at 09.10 and spent half an hour in the area. Only ‘chiffs and a Kestrel seen from the restaurant but near the Information Centre I got to see a pair of Blue Chaffinch on the path near the weather station. I got to within 3 metres and enjoyed close views of this inconspicuous bird.
No other birds were around and as it was freezing I drove back down to the conifer belt proper and parked up at 09.50 below the 30km marker and took a short walk on Sendero 25. No Goldcrest were to be heard or seen but I had a very conspicuous pair of Great Spotted Woodpecker entertain me for 10 minutes as well as a couple of Blue Tit. Leaving at 10.05, I thought I would take another look at Mirador la Grimona, popping in from 11.00-11.15. Immediately added Grey Wagtail to my trip list and a good view of two Laurel Pigeon out in the open. Returned to the apartments at 11.35 and enjoyed some sun at last by the pool.
At the back end of the afternoon some cloud returned and we decided to try a couple of Clarke & Collins sites and chose the picnic site at Chanajiga as somewhere to visit. Setting off around 16.30, the off-line Google maps satnav tried to take us up an impossibly steep road in Los Realjos but we got there in the end, arriving at 17.20. By this time we were in cloud and I heard a number of Goldcrest in song, but couldn’t get onto a bird. However, both heard and eventually saw the local attractive version of Common Chaffinch, as well as Robin and Blue Tit and no less than 5 Bolle’s Pigeon flying around us (one whistling passed our ears on an near vertical trajectory). As the cloud was pretty think after about 45 minutes we drove down to enjoy the evening in the delightful La Orotava. There we found a pair of Blackcap in scrub.
Monday, 14th April 2014
Decided to have a bash at the final outstanding endemic, the Goldcrest, first of all. Leaving at 07.20 I reached Barranco de Ruiz at 07.50 and got good views of Chaffinch, Blackcap, Sardinian Warblers and Blue Tits. Finally got onto the calls and saw 3 Tenerife Goldcrest well. Further along the Barranco I had good views of a Laurel Pigeon that flew onto a bare branch below me.
Having sorted out the main target of the day by 08.20 I set off for the West of the island. I used Google Maps to try to find bits of water and first found a dam called La Tabona in the village of El Pinalete on the T342. Arriving at 08.35, this produced a pair of Grey Wagtail, and singletons of Coot and Little Egret. Next stop was at 08.55 en route to Icod de los Vinos and another dam at Buen Paso. This only produced 2 Coot, another pair of Grey Wagtail and a low feeding flock of 20 Plain Swift. On then to Garachico where at 09.10 I got out to look over towards the Roque where apparently Little Shearwater breed. The shearwater flock was quite distant and I only could be sure of 50 Cory’s as well as 3 Short-finned Pilot Whales (but for some reason I had forgotten my ‘scope so knows what might have been?) On the wires out of the town I noted a Turtle Dove as I drove on towards Punta de Teno. Sadly, the road to the Punta was closed 2km west of Buenavista del Norte. I took a walk around the area where the road was closed at about 09.45 but apart from common warblers and Turtle Dove the only bird of interest was a probable calling Barbary Partridge, which sadly never showed. So I drove down to a car park overlooking Rocas del Fraile and sea-watched until 10.25. A huge flock of around 800 Cory’s Shearwater could be seen but frustratingly without a ‘scope I could not see if more interesting seabirds were among them. However, an Osprey flying west was a welcome compensation. I arrived back at the apartment at 11.15.
Tuesday, 15th April 2014
Left Puerto de la Cruz at 07.30 and headed east this time, on a morning of 70% cloud. Using Clarke & Collins I started at the site they describe as Los Rodeos, right next to the airport runway near La Laguna, arriving at 08.00. This site produced a number of singing Corn Bunting. There were also plenty of Quail singing away and although I tramped the damp field for nearly an hour I failed to see one (3rd site where I have heard but not seen this frustrating game bird!) However, more pleasing was to finally catch up with Spectacled Warbler – a species singing and displaying well. Also had Buzzard, Rock Dove, Berthelot’s Pipit and I thought I heard Skylark, but wasn’t sure.
It was about a 20-minute drive to the next site, Bolsa de Vale Molina where I arrived at 09.15. Note that this dam is not shown on Google maps. The dam is only viewed through locked gates but most of the perimeter can be seen. There were 5 Grey Heron and a Little Egret around the dam edge and singing Canary, Chiffchaff, Turtle Dove, Robin and Blackcap around the gate. Unfortunately, the only birds seen on the water were ornamental ducks: 4 Muscovy Duck and 2 all white ducks with red bills that I did not recognise. In this company, one must feel nervous about the presence of a White Stork, although there is no real reason to doubt it’s veracity. On then to Tejina Pools, arriving at 09.50. I only visited the first two and the second pool produced 2 Coot, a breeding Moorhen, a Grey Heron and a roosting Black-crowned Night Heron. Going back to the first pool, I added a handsome Greenshank and 2 Common Sandpiper along with other regular birds and 4 Muscovy Duck.
I then took a drive from 10.25-10.40 to Punta del Hildago. It was hot by this time and I walked around the scrubby headland until 11.15. The walk produced no new birds but good views of Spectacled Warbler, Blackcap and Blue Tit, as well as Berthelot’s Pipit and of course Chiffchaffs. On the sea nothing was to be seen but Yellow-legged Gulls, and then the hour drive back to the apartment.
Wednesday, 16th April 2014
After some debate, decided against the proposed day trip to La Gomera for a few of reasons. First, my wife was enjoying the morning lie-ins followed by afternoons by the pool together and she wasn’t too excited about the idea of La Gomera. Second, I already had the two pigeons so no point in going to the sites on La Gomera for them. Third, it seemed to me that my chances of Bulwer’s Petrel, Little Shearwater were no better than evens based on previous reports and the unknown patterns of these birds in April. I think I would have felt cheesed off if I had taken most of the day just to watch hundreds of Cory’s Shearwater and drink a beer at San Sebastian! Fourth, I hadn’t really ‘done’ the southern sites and then there’s the cost of the crossing, etc., etc. So an earlier start this morning, leaving Puerto de la Cruz at 06.50 and again with Clarke & Collins in hand I headed south on a morning of 50% cloud.
I arrived at Punta de Abona an hour later and watched there for 40 minutes. I counted 60+ Cory’s Shearwater, 2 Lesser Black-backed Gull, around 20 Yellow-legged Gull and 6 Berthelot’s Pipit. Arriving at Medina Pools at 08.50, I found the pools to be pretty dry and completely birdless. Highlights were the Bath Whites that like this rocky area and the odd Monarch fluttering through. Birded Los Abrigos from 09.30-09.55 and there was a Southern Grey Shrike on the wires there. Walked up to the embalsa and noted a nesting Moorhen in the corner. Heart-stopping moment when I thought I had a Ruddy Shelduck in another corner but a closer inspection revealed it to be a dratted Fulvous Whistling Duck! At 10.00 I arrived at Golf de Sur and wandering around the houses I found a number of Spanish Sparrows. I took a furtive stroll around a couple of fairways (finding more FW and Muscovy Ducks in a water feature) and then got onto a Willow Warbler in trees between the golf course and the housing. The final site I visited from 10.30-10.55 was Amarillo GC and in addition to some showy Southern Grey Shrike and Spectacled Warbler, there were a handful of Hoopoe around. Quite disappointed to drive off having missed the main target of the day, Barbary Partridge, I was back at Puerto de la Cruz by 12.15.
Thursday, 17th April 2014
Our final day, we spent the whole of it at the apartments in lovely sunny weather before our late afternoon departure for the airport so zero birding done.
Conclusion and Summary
Overall, a successful trip. With patience and perseverance it is not difficult to ‘mop up’ the endemics although it seems to fit my ‘part-time’ style that I always leave something on a site to be ticked. In this case, the ‘specials’ left behind were Barbary Partridge and Little Shearwater and again failed to tick Quail. I missed Barbary Falcon too but had seen that previously in Israel. I would recommend Tenerife, as I would Mallorca or Algarve, as a suitable location to combine birding and family holidays.
44 Canary Islands ticks
15 Spanish ticks
10 Western Palearctic ticks
Cory’s Shearwater - 14 Punta de Rasca, 12 April 2014 and other sea-watching sites
Black-crowned Night Heron - Tejina Pools, 15 April 2014
Little Egret - La Tabona, 14 April 2014 and other dams
Grey Heron - Puerto Cruz, 12 April 2014 and other dams
White Stork - 1 Bolsa de Vale Molina, 15 April 2014
Eurasian Sparrowhawk - Mirador la Grimona, 11 April 2014
Common Buzzard - Mirador la Grimona, 11 April 2014
Osprey - 1 Punta del Fraile, 14 April 2014
Common Kestrel - Puerto Cruz, 11 April 2014 and daily
Common Moorhen - Tejina Pools, 15 April 2014
Eurasian Coot - La Tabona, 14 April 2014 and other dams
Whimbrel - 2 Punta de Rasca, 12 April 2014
Common Sandpiper - 2 Tejina Pools, 15 April 2014
Common Greenshank - 1 Tejina Pools, 15 April 2014
Ruddy Turnstone - 3 Punta de Rasca, 12 April 2014
Lesser Black-backed Gull - 2 Los Cristianos, 12 April 2014
Yellow-legged Gull - Puerto Cruz, 11 April 2014 and present in all coastal areas
Feral Rock Dove - Puerto Cruz, 11 April 2014 and daily in all towns
Bolle’s Pigeon - 2 Mirador el Lance, 11 April 2014 and later at Chanajiga
Laurel Pigeon - 6 Mirador la Grimona, 11 and 13 April 2014 and later at Barranco Ruiz
African Collared Dove - 20 Los Cristianos, 12 April 2014
Eurasian Collared Dove - Puerto Cruz, 11 April 2014 and daily in all towns
European Turtle Dove - Garachico, 14 April 2014 and other northern sites
Plain Swift - Puerto Cruz, 11 April 2014 and small flocks elsewhere
Hoopoe - 2 or 3 Amarillo GC, 16 April 2014
Great Spotted Woodpecker - pair Las Canadas del Teide, 13 April 2014
Berthelot’s Pipit - Palm-Mar, 12 April 2014 and elsewhere in southern sites
Grey Wagtail - 1 Mirador la Grimona, 13 April 2014 and some dams
European Robin - Barranco de Ruiz, 11 April 2014 and regular in other northern sites
Common Blackbird - Puerto Cruz, 11 April 2014 and daily in all northern sites
Spectacled Warbler - Los Rodeos, 15 April 2014 and later suitable sites
Sardinian Warbler - Barranco de Ruiz, 11 April 2014
Eurasian Blackcap - Chanajiga, 13 April 2014
Canary Islands Chiffchaff - Puerto Cruz, 11 April 2014 and almost ubiquitous
Willow Warbler - 1 Golf de Sur, 16 April 2014
(Tenerife) Goldcrest - 3 Barranco de Ruiz, 14 April and heard only Chanajiga, 13 April 2014
African Blue Tit - 1 Puerto Cruz, 12 April 2014 and other northern sites
Southern Grey Shrike - 1 Los Abrigos, 16 April 2014
House Sparrow - 1 Puerto Cruz, 11 April 2014
Spanish Sparrow - colony at Golf de Sur, 16 April 2014
Common Chaffinch - Chanajiga, 13 April 2014
Blue Chaffinch - 2 El Portillo, 13 April 2014
Atlantic Canary - Puerto Cruz, 11 April 2014 and daily in all northern sites
Corn Bunting - Los Rodeos, 15 April 2014