Tenerife 2010

Tenerife - November 2010
Monday 1st November - Sunday 7th November 2010
Los Gigantes
My holiday in Tenerife last month with Linda was superb, lots of sun, warmth (typically 26-30o during the day and 23o at night), sand (black and sparkly), and good birds too. This wasn't a birding holiday, but I managed to get some birding in and made a particular effort to see the special endemic birds on the island. We were based in Los Gigantes on the west coast, and hired a car for some of the time to get about the island.

Monday 1st
After arriving the evening before, the first day was spent in and around Los Gigantes, a very pleasant town deriving its name from the impressive cliffs to the north. The first avian sound as I awoke at daybreak was a familiar one, and looked out from our apartment balcony to see two Collared Doves. The balcony was a great place to see birds from and I soon clocked up teneriffae African Blue Tit, canariensis Blackbird, Canary Islands Chiffchaff, canarensis Grey Wagtail, Spanish Sparrow and a female Blackcap, plus distant parakeet-like calls - more on them later.
Canary Islands Chiffchaff, Los Gigantes
A walk down to the harbour later produced Yellow-legged Gulls, these are of the atlantis race, and two Sandwich Terns were fishing just off the harbour entrance. We later decided to walk to the nearest beach as the local one was not accessible, and found a Monarch on the south side of the town, the first of many we saw throughout the week. The pleasant walk to the adjoining town of Puerto Santiago passed some cliffs, home to a number of what I suspect were Feral Pigeons but all looked good for Rock Dove. A falcon at Puerto Santiago was revealed as a canariensis Kestrel on closer inspection. More butterflies in the town were and Long-tailed Blue and Small White.
Long-tailed Blue, Puerto Santiago
On the return walk, a Sparrowhawk of the race granti was at the pigeon cliffs, and nearby, my first Tenerife Lizards, these really are impressive reptiles. Returning to Los Gigantes, in a wilder area I noticed a small group of finches feeding on seed-heads, my first Canaries. Back at the apartments, a beautiful dragonfly, the Red-veined Dropwing was by the pool.
Canary, Los Gigantes
Tuesday 2nd
As I said, the balcony was good for birding, and I was delighted to see a pair of Sardinian Warblers foraging in the shrubs nearby. A morning stroll around the town revealed Canaries to be everywhere. There are many boats offering guaranteed cetacean sightings operating from the harbour, and with that promise on offer we booked ourselves on the Nashira Uno. We headed first out to sea two or three miles, and the promise was soon fulfilled as we duly encountered a pod of maybe 20 or more Short-finned Pilot Whales. I couldn't get Linda to share my almost equal level of excitement at seeing my first Cory's Shearwaters though, at least 20, sharing the fish with the whales. We were then taken back towards the coast and to the fish farm beneath the cliffs, and here had good views of Bottle-nosed Dolphins. Two Little Egrets were also on the circular pontoons along with c15 Yellow-legged Gulls and c12 Sandwich Terns. Snorkeling off the boat in Masca Bay was brilliant, with many types of fish see including types of Sea Bream, Wrasse and a Pipe-fish - next time I'll get an underwater camera.
Short-finned Pilot Whale, Los Gigantes
Cory's Shearwater, Los Gigantes
Back in Los Gigantes, another butterfly seen was an African Grass Blue; and then I heard those parakeets again, and then saw them, five of them. I was puzzled by the ID, they weren't Monk or Ring-necked but consulting books since has revealed them to be Blue-crowned Parakeets. I saw these same five birds in various parts of the town all week, and if I didn't see them I could usually hear them. A walk back down to the sea in the evening produced a Turnstone and also two interesting crabs; attempts at closer inspection of the crabs resulting in a grazed knee - ouch!
African Grass Blue, Los Gigantes
Wednesday 3rd
Los Roques, foreground, and Mount Teiede
We hired a car from Wednesday to Saturday, a nifty Seat Ibiza, and our first trip in it was to the Teide National Park. Our first port of call was Las Lajas picnic site, for one of the islands must-see birds. I soon saw several of them, Blue Chaffinches, around the area, along with several Canaries and three canariensis Great Spotted Woodpeckers, all of these birds coming to the drinking taps to drink on the pooled water below. A Canary Islands Kinglet was singing high in the pines, but I just couldn't get a view of it. Canary Island Chiffchaffs were easy here, but were easy in most habitats, seeming to exist in a surprisingly high density even in the towns. Teneriffae African Blue Tits also gave accommodating views here, coming to the picnic tables with the Blue Chaffinches in search of tit-bits.
Blue Chaffinch, Las Lajas
Teneriffae African Blue Tit, Las Lajas
Canariensis Great Spotted Woodpecker, Las Lajas
Canaries, Las Lajas
Next stop was at Los Roques, the strange, and photogenic, volcanic rock formations near Mount Teide. We parked at the Cañadas visitor centre, where a few Berthelot's Pipits provided yet another lifer. Several more, and lots of Tenerife Lizards, plus a canariensis Kestrel, were our only companions on an exhausting walk through the semi-desert from here to the cable car; the cable car station had looked much nearer! An hour and a half later, hot and parched, a bottle of water was very welcome. The view from below the summit after the eight-minute cable car ride, was quite something, and the drop in temperature accompanying the increased altitude was, refreshing. 
Berthelot's Pipit, Cañadas visitor centre
The return journey was unduly ponderous, thanks to the sat nav - I learned I had to take some of its normally reasonably accurate advice with a pinch of salt. Two Little Egret and several dragonflies were seen on the journey back, which also took us past Banana plantations and Tomato crops.

Thursday 4th
An early walk up to the roadside viewpoint which overlooks the town was rewarded with two Plain Swifts, and a
canariensis Kestrel was on the rocky slopes above. Later, we headed north to Masca via the narrow winding road from Santiago del Teide. The views along this road are amazing, and with no spare parking in the village, we stopped at the cafe situated about a mile beyond, with stunning views over the village. The Tenerife Lizards here are accustomed to humans and were happy to take cake crumbs from my hand. The slopes below yielded two Barbary Partridge, which I was lucky to see, and like the Swifts were the only ones of the week, while two Ravens were on the cliffs overlooking our position. 
Tenerife Lizard, Masca
Garachico was our next stop, a beautiful town on the north coast, and the old convent here is well worth a look. More Canary Island Chiffchaffs and Canaries were near the church, and a Canary Speckled Wood and three Monarchs were in the Puerto de Tierra gardens. A White Wagtail was also seen in the town before we headed back to Los Gigantes.
Canary Speckled Wood, Garachico
Friday 5th
Laurel Forest, Erjos
Another must-do for me was Erjos, and it was for here that we headed where I hoped to see more endemics. The first of three Buzzards in the general area was seen as we approached Erjos. Near the start of the main track into the Laurel Forests, just off the road, two male Sardinian Warblers were in the scrub. It was late morning by the time we reached the Laurel and we continued to walk for some time hoping to see pigeons; but things seemed very quiet in the heat, apart from the occasional teasing pigeon-calls, from birds unseen deep within the foliage. I soon saw the first of four Canary Island Kinglets which was reward for the extended walk, and before long the first of two superbus Robins. We eventually retraced our steps as I looked for a decent vantage point over the trees. Near the masts I had passed earlier, a side path took us to a good lookout. Walking along this path I inadvertently flushed one then another pigeon from the trees; the sound of the wing-beats tantalising as I strained in vain to catch sight of the birds through the dense laurel growth. We eventually sat down and waited. After some time, patience was eventually rewarded with Bolle's Pigeon, first four in flight, then another two nearer and then another perched distantly. After a further wait, and continually scanning the trees below I spotted another pigeon heading into the trees, spreading its tail as it landed, and at that point I was sure this one was the scarcer White-tailed Pigeon; I was very happy. The forest visit also produced planty of the ubiquitous Canary Island Chiffchaffs and Canaries, and Teneriffae African Blue Tit and canariensis Blackbird.
Sardinian Warbler, Erjos
Canary Island Kinglet, Erjos
We then headed for Icod de Los Vinos and visited the fantastic Dragon Tree botanical gardens. Monarchs were particularly numerous here and in the town around the church, while the gardens hosted a Sardinian Warbler, plus more Canary Island Chiffchaffs and Canaries and a particularly dense Tenerife Lizard population. 
Monarch, Icod de Los Vinos
The evening Linda spotted a large dragonfly in our porch which was a beautiful female Common Green Darner.
Common Green Darner, Los Gigantes
Saturday 6th
From the balcony, three Little Egrets were seen in flight over the town. A walk around the town produced a surprise Blue Chaffinch which took me some time to see clearly as it foraged high in the roadside pines, apparently fly-catching insects.. A small party of Spanish Sparrows were on a wild area nearby and a Sardinian warbler was heard calling.
Blue Chaffinch - more photos here
We headed in a more southerly direction for our daily excursion, noting granti Sparrowhawk, canariensis Kestrel and Buzzard along the way, and stopping at Guia de Isora to look at the church. Near the church I got good views of a female canarensis Grey Wagtail on the ground after several flight views previously.
Female Canariensis Grey Wagtail, Guia de Isora
We stopped at San Juan for lunch where a couple of Collared Doves I noticed while tucking into the delicious Caesar salad next to the beach struck me as looking pale, and then the distinctive calling confirmed they were African Collared Doves. Several Yellow-legged Gulls were on the rocks off the esplanade and a single Dunlin was a rare wader for the trip. On the road back to los Gigantes, a Swallow was at Alcalá. Another obliging Monarch was near the apartment, allowing study of the beautiful under-wing; I couldn't get enough of these butterflies.
Monarch, Los Gigantes
Sunday 7th
On our final day, I made a concerted effort for one more bird I hadn't managed to see yet, and reckoned there was some good looking habitat above the town. My hunch was right and I soon got good views of a male Spectacled Warbler, superb, followed by another male and a female.
Spectacled Warbler, Los Gigantes
Back in the town, more Monarchs also a Painted Lady and the Blue Chaffinch again, was near where I had seen it the previous day. Back near the apartment, I got better views of a male Red-veined Dropwing perched on a car aerial, allowing close study, what a stunner!
Red-veined Dropwing, Los Gigantes
Not a huge species list, this was about the quality - many superb endemics and island races; all in all, a great holiday.

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