Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Clayheads on Tour 2012 - Tenerife (Part 1 - August 5th 2012)

For this years summer holiday, we headed to Tenerife, an island I'd visited in 1990, but not for birding purposes.Having already visited Madeira and Fuerteventura, we'd already seen some of the Macaronesian endemics, but there were still plenty of ticks for us to see. Our hotel, the excellent Barcelo Santiago in Puerto Santiago was on the north west coast, handily placed for all the sites we wanted to visit.

We set ourselves an ambition target to see all the Tenerife endemic in one day. We chose August 5th, which just happened to be my birthday as well. My main concerns were with the pigeons. I had directions for the LAUREL PIGEON site at Mirador de la Grimona, and had one site for BOLLE'S, but if we failed at any site, I had no back up plan, and no other days planned for birding. The pressure was on.

We woke up when it was still dark and went for our special early breakfast - consisting of bread, a bit of German cheese and ham. Spoilt for choice, I managed to find a small tub of honey instead, and managed to spread it on one half of a slice of bread. A nice breakfast for my birthday! (Actually this breakfast lasted me all day and I didn't eat again till 7 o'clock at night!)

First stop was at Mirador de la Grimona on the north coast. We arrived at 07-45hrs, not quite first light, and soon parked up on the hard shoulder in between the 1st and 2nd tunnels (heading west). Within a matter of moments, a Laurel Pigeon flew out from the cliffs, landed and perched on the cliff face. It then flew back across, and again fed in the open. Not a bad start to the day at all. We soon had our second tick of the day, the very abundant Canary Islands Chiffchaff. We saw the Laurel Pigeon four times in flight as we sat there. There were many Plains Swifts overhead, plus three insularum Buzzard. As we drove off, we passed the layby between the 2nd and 3rd tunnels. We had parked in the wrong place!

Laurel Pigeon at Mirador de la Grimona

Mirador de la Grimona (or just before in between the wrong tunnels)

Next stop was for the BOLLE'S PIGEON and we chose Chanajiga, also on the north side of the Teide NP. It was quite a drive up, but we stopped several times and saw Berthelot's Pipits, Canary, teneriffae Blue Tit and the first of many canariensis Kestrel. We eventually arrived at Chanajiga at 10-20hrs - far later than I had hoped for. We parked up and started walking along the track. The notes I had read suggested walking along for at least a kilometre and more, stopping at the various viewpoints. As we reach the end of the carpark, there was a huge forested slope in front of us.

First available viewpoint of the slope at Chanajiga

We stood and waited. Again, within moments of us stopping a pigeon flew across the path. It was a Bolle's Pigeon. We stayed for about an hour, seeing birds in flight on five occasions, and the last time we had two birds fly across. Again, every bush seemed to have a Canary Island Chiffchaff in it. There were teneriffae Blue Tit, superbus Robin and our first canariensis/tintillon Chaffinch.

So, three ticks in the bag, including the two tricky Pigeon sp, and the best tick yet to come. We started to climb up the slopes of Mount Teide, and we past a picnic site. I thought the name sounded familiar so we called in. It was La Caldera, and I remembered the name as it was one of the few sites that both Chaffinch sp were present. Our first stop produced a few Tenerife Goldcrests, and then by the picnic tables, we watched a superb male Blue Chaffinch. Our task was almost complete.

Original artwork by Phil Jones - Blue Chaffinch

We only had one more bird to catch up with - the canariensis Great Spotted Woodpecker. We drove past the very impressive Mount Teide with its incredible scenery and headed for La Lajas picnic site. On the way, we saw vast areas that had been burnt in the recent fires.

We arrived at La Lajas mid afternoon, and there were still a few picnic tables in use. We saw about 15 Blue Chaffinches in total, but only two were decent male birds. Getting close views was difficult. Canaries and Blue Tits were also present, and then the canariensis Great Spotted Woodpecker flew into view. Job done - all the endemics seen on one day.

La Lajas


Blue Chaffinch

Canary Great Spotted Woodpecker