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BIRDING TRIP REPORT:

TENERIFE - WINTER 2002

(8 - 15 February 2002)

Stephen Burch

INTRODUCTION

This is a brief report on the birding highlights from a one week family (half term) holiday to Tenerife in February 2002. Despite this, I did manage enough birding to find most (but not all) of the islands specialities.

I am sure there are plenty of other web trip reports around for Tenerife. This one probably doesn't add a great deal to the general pool of knowledge about the island, but we did find an apparently new site for Bolle's Pigeon, and visited some of the less well known sites which proved quite productive.

For this report, I will skip the customary itinerary and overall species list, and just give some notes on the sites visited, and key species seen.

WEATHER

Very much warmer than England in February! - probably low 20s most of time, but quite windy a lot of the time. Usually just about warm enough to lie by the hotel pool and swim. Little rain.

SOURCES OF INFORMATION

The "Birdwatchers' Guide to the Canary Islands" by Tony Clarke and David Collins is good for the major sites.

"Where to Watch Birds in Tenerife" by Eduardo Garcia del Rey is also useful. This describes a wider range of sites, some of which were well worth visiting.

Being interested in walking as well as birding, we also had the Sunflower Landscapes guide to Tenerife, which was useful for providing details of the walk which provided a (new?) site for Bolle's Pigeon.

SITES

Erjos Pools
This well known site is described in all the bird guides, and by the cafe on arrival we had Canary and Sardinian Warbler. There were also many Canaries and Chiffchaffs (Canary Islands sub-species) round the pools, which are a short walk down from the road.

However, starting at the same site, an interesting and rewarding longer walk is "no 18" in the Sunflower Guide. This starts at the pools, and then climbs the hillside behind, giving good views of the distant, snow capped El Teide. Once the ridge is reached, the path goes through an extensive area of Laurel forest, which was good for Tenerife Goldcrest, the local races of Blue Tit and Chaffinch (both of which look significantly different from the normal European birds). More notably, just beyond the path which goes off to the left up to the peak of Mua Jala, there is a short track down to the right which provides a good viewpoint over the forest. In half an hour, we had several pigeons, most of which were Bolle's but there was one possible Laurel Pigeon as well. The walk then took in pine forest and more open areas before returning to the pools - definitely recommended for those who like to combine some leg stretching with birding.

Summit of El Teide
The cable car to the summit of El Teide can get very busy, so it is advisable to get there as early as possible. We only managed to make it by 11:45, and had to wait a little while. Also be warned that often the cable car doesn't run (in winter at least) due to high winds. We phoned before setting out to check that the calm conditions at sea level were reproduced higher up, allowing the cable car to run (they spoke English on the 'phone!).

The summit is reached in a few minutes and was notable for lack of oxygen (you really notice this at 4000+ m), snow and ice (which blocked the path to the north/right), an icy wind, remarkably low temperatures generally (bring woolly hats and gloves!) and superb views of the island and the volcanic formations. Note that when we visited at least, there is no access to the actual crater for casual tourists. The best viewpoint was reached by going along the path which goes to the south of the peak, past a sulphurous area - the start was not obvious from the cable car building, but is there if you look!

Birdwise, this site provided my first siting of Bertholet's Pipit, but later I saw several more obliging individuals of this species much lower down by the road, around the area's visitor centre.

Las Laja Picnic Area
This is a very well known and easy site for Blue Chaffinch, and sure enough within 1-2 mins of arrival we had found several hopping around the picnic tables and leaking water taps. Makes a convenient stop on the way back from the plateau around El Teide. Also here were Canary, more Bertholet's Pipits and one Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Hell's Gorge at Adeje
A rewarding track leads up this gorge to a waterfall, reached in around 1.3 hours. On the return, a brief pause by the viewpoint furthest from the start was notable for brief flight views of three Barbary Partridge.

Ten Bel
This was one of the more unusual birding sites for a lifer - in the middle of a small town on the south coast of Tenerife. Late in the afternoon in winter, this is a site for Plain Swift. Sure enough after eventually locating the main street, I had one over the main road, and then more low over a private wooded area which adjoins the road. Difficult to get good views, and the birds were not generally going over the road.

Loro Parque
This busy tourist attraction is is in Puerto de la Cruz on the north coast of the Island, and is unlikely to feature in many other birders trip reports! However, this was a good family day out, and did have plenty of birds in the impressive "Penquinarium" and many parrots & macaws! Also some apparently wild (free flying) Monk Parakeets.

Hotel Gran Tinerfe
This was where we stayed in Playa de las Americas. A somewhat characterless but comfortable high rise large hotel, right on the coast. No notable sea birds, perhaps due to lack of a 'scope, but even this place had a few notable birds - Chiffchaffs in the grounds, and a number of fly-by Ring-necked Parakeets. Also a group of unidentified Parakeets, with black heads, flew over once.

[Note added on 4 Jan 2010 - some recent web searches for information on the black headed Parakeets has shown they were almost certainly Black Hooded Parakeets - which breed in this exactly area of Tenerife. See for example this link.]


All pictures copyright Stephen Burch

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