Actually the intention to bird was there from the very start... with all the information weighing down the hand luggage, I had plenty to sort through and read on the 4 hour flight over. The first couple of days within getting to the resort in Playa Paraiso (located SSW on the island) started slow... slow in the sense that getting your 'bins' out to view the birds around the resort may look a little suspicious to say the very least. Anyway, a good number of Spanish Sparrows populated the area sometimes coming down to drink along the poolside. Canary Island Chiffchaffs were also very common and made themselves known with their familiar ‘hweet’ occasionally exploding into their version of the more familiar ‘chiff chaff’ song.
|Canary Islands Chiffchaff|
Taking a walk around the area of Playa Paraiso, Yellow Legged Gull were a familiar sight as were Collard Doves and Kestrels. I wasn’t long before I tripped over another species: (endemic to the Canary Islands) Berthelot’s Pipit. This was a typical grey, pale pipit. They are very common across the Canary Islands favouring pretty much everywhere; mountain slopes, beaches and areas with low vegetation. Venturing further, I entered a more ‘scrubby’ habitat in the hope for warblers. After about an hour in blazing hot sunshine, I‘d managed 3 Red Legged Partridge and a Blackbird on the list. Not my overall idea of fun! I decided to turn back and almost immediately, a harsh ‘tiak tiak’ echoed from behind. It was the koenigi sub-species of Southern Grey Shrike. The bird showed exceptionally well for a few minutes before disappearing down into the scrub.
|Yellow Legged Gull|
The following day, we’d booked an excursion up to Mount Teide. When we first got up, the weather looked to have taken a turn for the worse; (or atleast by Tenerife summer standards) Low cloud choked the island with visibility down to a few metres. This was a good start. Mount Teide is an excellent place to see the endemics, Blue Chaffinch, Bolle’s and Laurel Pigeons… Not in these conditions. Sadly, the cloud did not lift all day so that blew all possibilities of seeing anything exciting. It was hard to remain positive after this although I did get a glimpse of a blue chaffinch sized bird with white wingbars flying away from the moving coach. Not completely tickable. Reaching the top of Teide, we had risen above the clouds and the weather was lovely. The sun shined, but there was something missing... the birds! This barren landscape reminded me of a desert. Actually I’m positive; there would be more birds in the Sahara. Something that was remarkable ‘showy’ were the blue butterflies that greeted us not far from the summit. Endemic to the Canary Islands and in one of the best places to see them, the Canary Blue butterflies couldn’t help but land literally on you. If only the birds were this good!
|Canary Blue Butterfly|
|View from Mount Teide|
Travelling back down Mount Teide, we stopped off at a Café about half way down the volcano. Sod the coffee; this was my last chance to get anything reasonable. The visibility had marginally improved by this point and was able to pick out African Blue Tits (Teneriffae), which revealed themselves with a more harsher call of our more familiar European Blue Tit. Canary Island Chiffchaffs called away along with a couple of Blackcaps. A Turtle Dove showed very well for a few moments perched on a nearby telegraph pole and the sub-species tintillon of Chaffinch gave a brief view. This bird lacked the brown-red mantle which was replaced with the grey-blue colour and looked more of a basic version of our European Chaffinch.
Returning back to the hotel, a massive flock of Swifts had formed over the hotel itself. Luckily we were on the 15th floor so I got a great view of them identifying them as another new bird for the list: Plain Swift. These birds seemed to be very numerous around the island. Plain Swifts are a lot narrower winged birds and also appear to have a deeper forked tail and a paler brown-grey in colour than the more familiar Common Swifts.
A couple of days after we had booked ourselves on a ferry trip as far as La Gomera (the neighbouring Canary Island). This gave a great opportunity for seawatching. Massive numbers of Cory’s Shearwaters drifted passed the ferry on the way there but very little else. It wasn’t until the evening that we were on our way back from La Gomera that the birds started showing themselves. Again, Cory’s shearwaters showed in great numbers, approximately 10 Bulwer’s Petrels (with one very close bird) soared passed the ferry and a European Storm Petrel was a nice surprise giving a House Martin-like impression as it fought with the stiff winds. 2 Common Terns were another addition to the list as they flew past.
|There's a Cory's in there somewhere...|
Throughout my stay at the hotel, I considered myself exceptionally lucky to catch a few sightings of a truly magnificent butterfly and even luckier to acquire a record shot of a Monarch Butterfly. These butterflies to my astonishment breed on the Canary Islands and were brilliant to watch.
|Superb Monarch Butterfly|
This more or less marked an end to the holiday. Although I wasn’t as successful as I first thought I might be, Tenerife is an amazing little volcanic island which one day in the future I will hope to return to nail a sighting of the Blue Chaffinch if nothing else.