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2 Aug 2008

The 5 S's - Sun, sea, sand, sangria & cerveza

Lets go to Tenerife on holiday said Mrs W back in April. Quickly agreeing the next few months had me feverishly scouring the available literature for sites to see the various Canary Island endemics and sub-species before we left. Using the ‘Birdwatchers Guide to the Canary Islands’ by Clarke & Collins as well as information provided by Rich Bonser on his website. I planned my trips around the three days on which I’d hired a jeep. It wasn’t really a birding holiday but I can’t lie and burn on a beach all day so I usually get out by myself for a few trips.
Tenerife was scorching hot – like the landscape the temperature was almost igneous! As well as the birds(!) there were plenty of reptiles around. Lizards abounded – many of them positively ancient and wrinkled in their Speedo’s. What is it with elderly continental gentlemen and their Speedo’s.
Since the early part of the year a Tri-coloured Heron had been present around the Playa de las Americas and Los Christianos area but despite intensive searching over three days in blistering heat it couldn’t be found. This bird was a first for the Western Palearctic and was remarkably tame throughout its stay. With the increased number of tourists during the summer holidays its probably moved on or to another Island.
Around the hotel complex Spannish Sparrows abounded although photographing them was no easy matter. One has to be very careful where one sticks ones telephoto lens!!!!! Sitting on the seafront at night with a cold beer allowed good views of Cory’s Shearwaters – they appeared to be attracted by the bright lights. Bertholets Pipits could be found almost everywhere there was a bit of derelict land. Theres a lot of this around Tenerife......

Everywhere we went the local Canaries race of Chiffchaff perfomed their unmistakable but slightly odd sounding song – a bit like Jonathan Ross they couldn’t’ sing their ‘C’s’ so they sounded more like ‘whiff, whiff, whaff, whaff……

A trip into the mountains to visit Mount Teide (3718m) allowed me to plan a visit to the Las Lajas picnic site. This is one of the easiest sites for Blue Chaffinch and sitting quietly enjoying our picnic in the shade of a pine we enjoyed superb views of this stunning bird as several individuals came to drink at the water taps laid on for human visitors. Here I also saw the local races of Goldcrest, Blue Tit and Great-spotted Woodpecker whilst the trip up through Vilaflor saw us screeching to a halt for Rock Sparrows on the wires!
Mount Teide is impressive but again the heat was oppressive. We’d intended to get the cable car to the top but the queue was about 2hrs. Sod that – we went to a bar instead. Still we did manage to drive up to an impressive altitude of 2,200 m.
One of my other hobbies is diving. I don’t get many opportunities but a fortuitous encounter in a local Supermarket saw us piling into the jeep and heading towards El Puertito where I had booked a dive whilst the others snorkled. This proved to be one of the outstanding experiences I’ve ever had. The bay is frequented by up to six Loggerhead Turtles who interact with the divers in an amazing way. They’ve learnt to gulp in the air expelled when you breath to save them having to surface to breath and actively seek out divers! The first I knew one was around was when something bumped into my air tank. Next minute I’m eyeball to eyeball with a 1m long turtle that gulped air from my spare regulator and allowed me to stroke it. Awesome. There are very strict rules for divers at this site. You do not harass the turtles – they will come to you. Once it had filled its lungs it sped off.

Leaving this site we headed towards a quiet beach and encountered the first Southern Grey Shrike of the trip perched on wires. Movement in a nearby sun-parched field turned out to be a small party of three Trumpeter Finches. Further scanning revealed a small covey of Barbary Partrides.

An early start was needed the next day as I wanted to visit the Monte del Agua laurel forests to try and see the two endemic species of pigeon. The track was being dug up to lay drains but I managed to drive down and blag my way past the surprised local workforce. 3 hours later I’d got at least three Bolles Pigeons and a single Laurel Pigeon. These birds are extremely hard to see well and most of the views were flight views above the forest canopy only.
The nearby Erjos Ponds were completely dry but proved to be a good spot for Plain Swift and numerous finches & warblers. Several tintillon Chaffinches were amongst good numbers of Canarys, Linnets & Goldfinches. The scrub also held Sardinian & Spectacled Warblers. Eventually heading back to our hotel I stopped at Santiago del Teide where yet more Rock Sparrows could be seen.

Our final full day saw me catching the bus into Los Christianos and walking back to our hotel near Adeje along the seafront in a final search for the heron. No success but good views of Whimbrel & Turntstone. Several times I’d seen small flocks of Black-capped Parakeets flying over but not seen them perched but managed to locate a feeding flock in Los Christianos. I’m not sure of the status of these birds as ‘tickable’ species but they were pretty spectacular anyway.
A brilliant holiday and an ideal way to combine some good birding with a bit of R & R. As the title says – the five ‘S’s’ – cerveza sounds like it begins with an S.


I saw a total of 42 species in my week on the Island including single Barbary Falcon, numerous Kestrel,s Common Buzzard, Yellow-legged Gull & Blackcap! Besides the turtles & lizards other animals seen included Algerian Hedgehog & Rabbit.

1 comment :

behindthebins said...

Looks like you had a good trip. Canary Islands is on my list of places to visit, but not that high. I think all of those birds would be life birds for me.