This Trip report details a visit to Tenerife from 4 - 17 February 2006.
It’s February so it must be Tenerife. The draw of Blue Chaffinch, Canary, Berthelot’s Pipit, African Blue Tit and Plain Swift, together with warm weather was too much for us. Anne and I made our third February visit to Tenerife and it was interesting to note some changes in birdlife. Canaries were abundant but Monk Parakeet scarce (no bad thing you might say). We hired a car for three days to visit birding sites old and new. For the remainder of the time we spent the mornings walking in the Puerto de la Cruz area and relaxed in the afternoons. At all times (during the day) we had our binoculars with us.
We travelled on a package deal through Airtours staying at the Hotel San Felipe in Puerto de la Cruz. We sourced car hire at the resort and managed a good deal through Orcar. We had a Seat Ibiza for three days costing 67 Euros all in (with no excess) and 20 Euros for fuel (not bad for nearly 500 kilometers!)
For research we used ‘A Birdwatcher’s Guide to The Canary Islands’ by Tony Clarke and David Collins. We also carried Collins Bird Guide by Mullarney, Svensson et al, and Historia Natural de las Islas Canarias by David and Zoe Bramwell. This last book is written in Spanish and the bird illustrations are somewhat dodgy, however the distribution information for butterflies, dragonflies, mammals and reptiles was extremely useful.
We stayed at The Hotel San Felipe, which is located at one end of the resort at Playa Martianez. Besides having a quiet seafront location and extensive gardens, it had additional benefits because of a large escarpment with plant cover and caves to one side and Barranco Martianez at the other. The Barranco was a regular checking spot as it held Canaries, Spanish Sparrows, African Blue Tits, Canary Islands Chiffchaff, Blackbirds and Blackcaps.
Much of Puerto de la Cruz is pedestrianised with a large seafront lido and gardens. Walks looking along the shore routinely turned up Atlantic Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Turnstone and Little Egret. Also we often saw Grey Wagtail around the harbour and Berthelot’s Pipit on scrubland at the La Paz area.
The most numerous birds around the Squares in Puerto were Collared Doves. There were also good numbers of Spanish Sparrows and Blackbirds. On previous visits the tall palm trees around Plaza del Charco where a haven for the very noisy Monk Parakeets (for the purist - introduced), however on this visit we only came across them twice and then in flight. Despite extensive searching we were unable to locate any more.
The rocky escarpment behind our hotel was still home to many pigeons. Some were clearly Rock Doves but the majority were the good old Feral Pigeon. The escarpment was also home to a pair of Kestrel.
For the three days with the car we visited a number of areas covered in the Clarke and Collins Guide. The references below relate to sections in the book.
‘The North’ site 3 – Aguamansa – We visited the recreation area at La Caldera just after breakfast so before there was too much disturbance. We parked at the designated parking area then did the tarmaced circular walk around the picnic area, a distance of perhaps a kilometre. We had excellent views of Tenerife Goldcrest, African Blue Tit and Chaffinch.
‘The Northwest’ site 3 – Erjos Ponds – Again a productive area but as the weather was misty and there had been rain on the high ground, some of the paths were more like streams. We saw Coot and Moorhen on the ponds and added Serin in the bushes.
‘The Northwest’ site 7 – Punta de Teno – Barbary Falcon had eluded us on previous visits to Tenerife so we decided to take the road from Buenavista to the lighthouse. On leaving Buenavista we had a Grey Heron in flight. As we approached point B on the Clarke and Collins map there were a number of large signs on the roadside, each in a different language. They advised that the road was closed except to ‘authorised’ vehicles due to the risk of falling rocks. There was also a caveat that any ‘authorised’ vehicles passing did so at the driver’s own risk. We were about 1/2K from the arch so we viewed from there and did eventually spot Barbary Falcon in flight. Taking the view that to pass might invalidate the car insurance and it would be our luck for a rock to land on the roof, we turned around. At Buenavista we took the road towards Masca and after a couple of kilometres came to the small village of El Palmar. With open views to ridges around the village we were treated to a spectacle of Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel and another Barbary Falcon
‘The Northeast’ site 7 – Los Rodeos – As on our last visit we took the small road not mentioned in Clarke and Collins which skirted the opposite side of the airport running from the main terminal roundabout around the perimeter fence. This proved productive with sightings including Corn Bunting, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Canary and Grey Wagtail.
‘Central’ site 5 – El Portillo – In the 2004 trip report I recommended passing El Portillo and going on another kilometre to Restaurante Bambi. This we did to find the restaurant boarded up. We retraced our steps to El Portillo and had Blue Chaffinch in the garden before retreating inside for a warm coffee as the mist had come down and the temperature dropped by 10 degrees.
‘The South’ site 1 – El Medano – With lots of new buildings, El Medano is now a sizeable village and a big attraction for windsurfers with the sandy beach and strong on-shore breezes. We did connect with Whimbrel, Berthelot’s Pipit, more Kestrels and plenty of Atlantic Yellow-legged Gulls.
‘The South’ site 3 – Golf del Sur – The map in Clarke and Collins shows a clockwise one-way route. In recent times there has been a tremendous amount of building in the area and the one-way system is now anti-clockwise from the Club House. We first stopped near the small dam and viewed the course itself. We added Teal and Mallard then came across a party of 12 White-faced Whistling Ducks. These are shown in Clarke and Collins as ‘Accidental’, but on the official Spanish List (A list of the birds of Spain on the Rarities Committee page of the SEO/Birdlife website) as Cat. D (would be in Cat A or B but doubts exist as to their origin). On the golf course we also found a Canada Goose and a Bar-headed Goose (both shown on the SEO website as Cat C (introduced), but only recorded on Peninsular Spain, not the Canary Islands). We parked in the Club House car park and went for a short walk seeing more Berthelot’s Pipits and a fly-over Lapwing.
‘The South’ site 5 – Guargacho 1,2&3 – At Dam 1 there was a pair of Little Ringed Plovers and a Common Sandpiper. There is currently building work going on down the side of the reservoir that looks like road straightening.
‘The South’ site 7 – Las Galletas – A pretty coastal village where we stopped for lunch and a walk around. On the rocks around the harbour we had 12 Turnstone, 2 Whimbrel, good numbers of Atlantic Yellow-legged Gulls, 4 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and overhead Plain Swift.
Leaving Las Galletas and heading back towards the motorway at junction 26 we passed through some interesting areas of scrub. About 500 metres before the village of Gauza there is a new tarmac road on our right leading into areas of banana plantation. As it was a Sunday and all quiet we took the driveway to it’s end (about a kilometre) and added a splendid Barbary Partridge, which sat motionless for five minutes showing well, and we heard Hoopoe
If you want lots of birds then Tenerife isn’t the place to go. We had to work hard to find birds even though the general habitat looks lush. The bonus is the endemics and sub-species.
Following contact with SEO Spain who have spoken to the management of Golf Del Sur, it appears the Geese and Ducks (except the Teal) were purchased as captive birds and have been wing-clipped.