20th – 24th March 2013
Taking advantage of winter sunshine package holidays Jack Kellett and I decided to get out of England just as another arctic blast arrived so we jetted off to Tenerife for warm weather with the promise of some Canary Islands specialities.
Our flight arrived in Tenerife after midday and we swiftly picked up a hire car and made the short journey towards Golf de Sur, en route we had already noted our first new bird of the trip when a flock of Plain Swifts circled over the road. Once at a small reservoir just north of Golf De Sur we soon totted up six Spoonbills, four Little Egrets, Greenshank and Grey Wagtails. The Scrub held Berthelots Pipit, Spectacled Warblers as well as Bath White and many Tenerife Lizards. On a brief look down at the golf course we encountered our first Canary Islands Chiffchaff which proved to be very numerous throughout the holiday, a pool held a Grey Heron, Moorhens as well as a dodgy Bar-headed Goose and Fulvous Whistling Ducks.
Moving north up the coast we arrived in La Arena, our base for the holiday. Walking around just outside the hotel most numerous birds included Plain Swift, Blackbird, Collared Dove, Spanish and House Sparrow with the odd Blackcap and Sardinian Warbler.
Canary Islands Chiffchaff
To end our first afternoon we made our way down to the shore at Alcala and enjoyed the magnificent sight of Cory’s Shearwaters passing in their thousands with a few Yellow-legged Gulls. A Common Sandpiper also followed the rocky coast whilst five Pilot Whales loafed about in the distance.
Wandering over to the hotel window at dawn a quick scan of the sea revealed many Cory’s Shearwaters still moving past. Minutes later we were off winding our way up the hill making our way towards the volcano Teide which towers over the island. First stop was at Chio Zona picnic site which on a cool bright morning seemed very quiet, wondering around the pine trees we eventually tracked down an African Blue Tit which lead us to our main goal of Blue Chaffinch where 3 birds were feeding quietly on the forest floor. Later on two Great Spotted Woodpeckers made an appearance at the dripping taps.
Further up the hill we past an area where recent fires had wiped out the forest but luckily Las Lajas picnic area was untouched and alive with birds as flock of Atlantic Canary, Blue Chaffinch and African Blue Tit foraged around the picnic tables and dripping water taps. A little further afield we managed to locate a single Goldcrest.
Atlantic Canary & Blue Chaffinch
Following the road around the volcano we enjoyed some magnificent views before dropping down the northern slopes where the vegetation was obviously lusher with butterflies being more evident including Green-striped White and Canary Red Admiral. It wasn’t long though before the clouds rolled in covering us in dense fog as we arrived at Chanajiga, walking the track through the laurel forest viewing was very frustrating as pigeons could be heard crashing around in trees. Hummingbird Hawkmoth was the highlight of the visit.
Canary Red Admiral
Deciding we needed to get out the cloud we dropped down to sea level and stopped at the well known layby at La Grimoras where the sun was beating down. Before our tripods were even set we had already spotted a dark pigeon flying across the hillside and with its white tail end we had netted a Laurel Pigeon for which the site is famous for. Over the next hour we enjoyed a minimum of 15 sightings with a highest count of four birds, distant perched views were achieved. Other sightings included a Common Buzzard and many Canary Large Whites.
Heading west we spent the evening at Erjos Pools where another fire had wiped out any forest in sight. The pools held many Coot, Moorhen and a single Common Snipe. Whilst from the surrounding scrub a Turtle Dove was in full song. Insects included Emperor Dragonfly, Red-veined Darter, Painted Lady and a bee that left a sting in my neck!
A relaxing morning was spent exploring rough ground near the hotel where Plain Swifts gave amazing views. Scarlet Darter and Red-veined Dropwing enjoyed the morning sunshine whilst Tenerife Geckos were hiding under refuga.
Making our way to the harbour in Los Gigantes for what we hope would be our pre-booked whale watching trip but we were concerned at what mother nature was sending our way, even though the sea was calm with no wind a massive swell had developed breaking in across the harbour mouth and at times over the wall. Confirmation soon came that no boats were moving today so a change of plan had to be instigated.
We travelled north on a very narrow winding road through the spectacular scenery of Masca with Ravens overhead. Singing Sardinian Warbler and Barbary Partridge on the slopes. A little further up the road just before Las Portelas we passed through a wooded valley that we thought was worth a look. Atlantic Canaries were in full song along with the ever present Canary Islands Chiffchaff, African Blue Tit and Blackbird. A Grey Wagtail frequented the shore of a small reservoir whilst a Turtle Dove could be heard in the distance while a Tenerife Brimstone danced up and down the hillside.
After an hour had passed our patience was rewarded when a pair of Bolle’s Pigeon flew out from underneath our position, circling around before dropping into trees on the opposite side of the valley.
Tenerife Brimstone Bolle’s Pigeon
Braving the numerous Road Closed, Danger signs we headed to the north west tip of the island at Teno where if felt like most island tourists had descended on. A stomp around in the cacti found few birds but you can always rely on Berthelots Pipits. The area was littered with Tenerife Lizards including a few very bold individuals and a single Canary Islands’ Blue butterfly was found.
Back at the impressive Teno Cliffs we had frustrating views of a large falcon bombing around at great height along with Common Buzzard and Common Kestrel.
Making the short hope down the coast to Alcala we started the day with a bit of seawatching where smaller numbers of Cory’s Shearwaters were floating over the waves. Our attentions switched to the rocky shoreline where a gathering of waders were made up of 3 Grey Plover, 2 Whimbrel, 1 Ringed Plover and c20 Turnstone. Coastal scrub held a few Spectacled and Sardinian Warblers.
The frustration continued from yesterday with respect to our boat trip as the swell had dissipated somewhat but an increase in wind speed had brought out the white horses. So we once again decided to head north making a brief roadside stop near Ruigomerz where we picked up several Chaffinch and Canary Islands’ Speckled Woods.
Canary Islands’ Speckled Wood Chaffinch
A return visit to La Grimoras again yielded several flight views of Laurel Pigeons including four flight views from the relative comfort of the nearby garage restaurant over lunch. Moving west once again we visited a reservoir at Los Silos and had the pleasant surprise of three ducks swimming around (the only wild wildfowl of the trip), the flock was made up of a female Teal, male Wigeon and a female Ring-necked Duck. Nine Little Egrets flew around along with a Grey Heron, further down the road a Peregrine Falcon circled overhead.
Wigeon & Ring-necked Duck
We found ourselves straining our necks once again at Teno Cliffs and didn’t have long to wait as a falcon flew in and landed high up the cliffs. Views weren’t easy but we settled on Barbary Falcon.
Heading back south we made a brief stop at Erjos Pools but nothing new noted. Finished the day near where we started but on the south side of Alcala and the increased wind was producing the goods with thousands of Cory’s Shearwaters heading north, Jacks attention was soon drawn to a Yellow-legged Gull that was resting on some floating debris, further investigation lead to the re-identification of the debris and when it lifted its head we were amazed to see that we were watching a Green Turtle. Concentrating back on the constant stream of Cory’s and after an hour efforts were rewarded when a Little/Macaronesian Shearwater was picked up halfway out moving north at 19:00hrs. Continued seawatching until dusk.
At first light we headed back to Alcala but calmer conditions meant shearwater numbers had fallen off, however three terns were spotted down the coast and after a while they worked their selves close enough to identify as Common Terns. Checking out of the Hotel as 200+ Plain Swifts fed overhead before we headed back to the harbour for our final try at getting on the water. A quick bit to eat was soon interrupted as an Osprey was looking for fish just out of the harbour. It wasn’t long before our boat trip was looking more promising as we boarded and sailed out of the harbour, heading out into deeper waters but the wind had other ideas and we were forced to find more sheltered shallower waters so I guess we were never meant to see the pilots close up. Small numbers of Cory’s Shearwaters were noted drifting by but there was still a bit of excitement to look forward to when news of some Bottlenose Dolphins filtered through from another boat. We made a bee line for them and soon enjoyed close views but Jack and I soon found ourselves looking in the opposite direction to everyone else as the feeding dolphins had attracted the attention of a few Cory’s Shearwaters that gave amazingly close views.
Bottlenose Dolphin & Cory’s Shearwater
Back on dry land with just three hours before we had to be in the airport we travelled south and headed out to the south east corner at El Fraile where we tried to get views over the reservoir, viewing was distant but we did add Lesser Black-backed Gull to the trip list soon followed by Southern Grey Shrike that eventually popped up out of the scrub.
Southern Grey Shrike
With time quickly running out we decided to have a look at Ten-Bel in Las Galletas and promptly bumped into a Monarch Butterfly before locating 14+ Ring-necked and 9+ Monk Parakeets. Time was now up on a very enjoyable holiday and despite a slight delay we made a good journey back home to a very cold snowy England.
All Images taken by Mark Breaks, Copyright - © Breaks Bird Photography