Tenerife 23 - 28 February 2002
We had decided to take a week’s winter break and our criteria was a warm climate and the prospect of new (to us) endemic birds.
We chose Tenerife for the land-based specialities and took a package tour through Unijet flying from Leeds-Bradford Airport. Flight scheduling discounted birding on the travelling days as we arrived after dark on 22nd February and departed before dawn on 1st March. Due to strong winds on 22nd Leeds-Bradford airport was closed and we were bussed to Manchester for our outbound flight.
For research we used ‘A Birdwatcher’s Guide to The Canary Islands’ by Tony Clarke and David Collins. Three areas appeared necessary to connect with the specialities; the North, the Northwest and Central. With that in mind we chose to stay at Puerto de la Cruz and to hire a car for three days which we did locally at our hotel (75 Euros including insurance).
The Hotel San Felipe is located at one end of the resort at Playa Martianez. We chose this hotel from the brochures due to it’s seafront location and extensive gardens and pools. It was a good choice as the area was very quiet and there was a large escarpment with plant cover and caves to one side. The first two species were easy to connect with. Canary and Canary Islands Chiffchaff were regulars in the hotel grounds. Chiffchaff regularly fed and called from bushes six feet from our loungers (we did say one criterion was for the sun!) and Canaries called as they flew between the trees in the grounds.
Much of Puerto de la Cruz is pedestrianised with a large seafront lido and gardens. Walks looking along the shore routinely turned up Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern and Grey Wagtail. We also had a flypast Curlew, a Little Egret in rock pools, and on two occasions a Gull-billed Tern close in over the sea. At the opposite end to our hotel (Playa Jardin) we found a Ring-billed Gull with the Yellow-legged Gulls.
The most numerous bird in Puerto was Collared Dove. Spanish Sparrows were mainly in the Squares (Plaza del Charco and off Calle de Quintana). There were tall palm trees around Plaza del Charco where we found the very noisy Monk Parakeets (for the purist - introduced) and on two occasions in the Square off Calle de Quintana we found Barbary Dove (smaller and paler than the CD’s with a whiter chest. Also very timid - and introduced).
The rocky escarpment behind our hotel was 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 first of our days out we headed to the Northwest. Be aware of major roadworks in Erjos, and the bus stop which is the marker to turn towards Erjos Ponds (pages 24 & 25, site 3) is now located on the right. The ponds were almost dry and the only water bird seen was a Moorhen.
We then headed for Monte del Agua (pages 25 & 26, site 4) for the speciality pigeons. The description of the track as ‘rough’ is no exaggeration. The weather was beautiful for our visit but we would have second thoughts of trying to drive it in bad weather or after rainfall. We found the vantage point with ease and after an hours patience were rewarded with flight views of both Bolle’s Pigeon and Laurel Pigeon.
We chose to continue to take the scenic route back via Masca. As a word of warning, after another 3 kilometres the track splits and the signpost appeared to indicate the right fork. We took this route and very quickly realised our mistake. Luckily on one precipitous incline a scout ahead on foot showed that this track was not for a hire car so we turned around (not without difficulty).
The drive back via Masca was stunning although hard work with all the hairpins, however at a vantage point we were rewarded with excellent close views of Berthelot’s Pipit whilst a pair of Raven circled overhead.
For our second car day we headed upwards towards Mount Teide. We stopped at the last viewpoint before leaving the forest and were rewarded with not only Blue Chaffinch ten feet away, but in a bush across the road at eye-level we had stunning views of Tenerife Goldcrest. We carried on to the restaurant at El Portillo for refreshment. In the courtyard the proprietors have some caged finches and put seed out on a corner table. As we sipped our coffee we had Canaries and Blue Chaffinches coming down from the trees to feed at the next table!
It was interesting to see local races of our common birds. A good bird was Blue Tit of the race ‘teneriffae’. Distinctly different in looks to our Blue Tit with dark back and plain darker blue wings without wing-bars. The local race of Chaffinch, ‘tintillon’ is also visibly different from our Chaffinch with it’s blue crown, mantle and back.
Having cleaned up our target species with a day of car hire to spare we decided to spend the third day doing some research. We visited Loro Parque (Parrot Park) which houses 300 pairs of parrots (the largest collection in the world) They are kept as part of a captive breading programme for endangered parrots. Loro Parque is the public face to raise finds for research. Whilst not cheap (19 Euros each admission) it was a good day out. Other recent exhibits include an arctic environment for penguins with a couple of Kelp Gulls thrown in for good measure!
Whilst we were surprised at the general lack of bird life on Tenerife, however we were delighted to have had 100% success for our target species, and to have had a relaxing week into the bargain.