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Day 1 (Tuesday, 9th March)

Hotel

Blackbird

Hotel and seafront

Blackbird

First job of the day was to finalise all the details for the hire car, which was quite straight forward, since the conference agency had already organised the paperwork (Niza Cars was used – they seem to be a popular hire company on the island, and have an office on the opposite side of the road to the Mare Nostrum Resort). This left about 15 minutes before we met for the first work session of the morning, resulting in a quick walk around the beach-front boundary of the hotel. The first birds seen were actually as I was parking the car, with a male Blackbird on top of one of the palm trees, and a couple of Spanish Sparrows being eyed up by a subsequently chastised cat.

The hotel is predictably based right on the seafront, which is populated by teems of happy morning joggers. Even within this short morning walk, it was nice to see one or two Canarian specialities. Amongst the numerous Collared Doves was a female Blackcap, and singing Canary Islands Chiffchaff. The latter species is very easy to pick up, having the basics of nominate Chiffchaff song, but much more melodic, and not restricted to the repeated double syllable. There was also a male Blackbird here, supposedly a distinct subspecies, but it looks very similar to those seen elsewhere in Northern Europe. I was a little surprised to see up to 10 Cory’s Shearwaters over the calm sea, flying from West to East, and quite close to the shore.

Picnic site

Picnic site

The morning business session ended a little earlier than expected, so there was even more time to head out for an afternoon birding slot. I left the hotel at around 1 o’clock, and it took about 50 minutes to ascend the winding roads towards Mount Teide, and to find the Las Lajas picnic site. This left hand turn was in the region of 9km up from the town of Vilaflor, and proved impossible to miss, sporting a large wooden sign on the main road, and small restaurant visible from the road. The pine trees here are abundant, but not too densely packed, leaving plenty of light and space to see the birds.

Dripping tap

One of the dripping taps

I parked the car in shade just beyond the restaurant, and as soon as I opened the car door, heard calling Great Spotted Woodpeckers and singing Canary. Not much work needs to be put in to see the birds here, and although there is only a limited variation in types of birds, these are either local species or subspecies in most cases. They are all also in good numbers, and in time relatively easy to see. Great Spotted Woodpeckers are the most noticeable, drumming and calling from all directions. Blue Chaffinch is one of the best known Canaries endemics, and this site lives up to its reputation as one of the best places in the world to see them. Some of the males are very vocal, as well as being very approachable – they are very difficult to miss. One of the drinking taps provided on the picnic site was found very quickly. One fascinating fact about these continental countries is that their taps are always dripping – no complaints, since they do attract the birds. Not only did Blue Chaffinches and African Blue Tits visit this, but the Great Spotted Woodpeckers were also less shy than expected, and invited themselves down for a drink. Canaries were heard regularly early on, but were quite difficult to see, but some individuals eventually displayed themselves at close quarters, with the tinkling call giving away their location. This elevation above the sea is also a lot more comfortable, with cooling winds keeping the temperatures down, despite the unbroken blue sky above. There were also only a few people around the picnic area (1-2 dozen), but they were somewhat swallowed up by the size of the site, and didn’t interfere with the birds.

Sitting a short distance from the drinking taps is a good plan, since many of the species are happy to visit despite human presence. As time passed here, the most common bird at the dripping tap turned out to be Canaries. About 20-30m from the tap, a pair of calling Turtle Doves eventually landed on the ground.

Great-spotted Woodpecker

African Blue Tit

Great Spotted Woodpecker

African Blue Tit

Island Canary

Turtle Dove

Island Canary

Turtle Dove

Blue Chaffinch male

Blue Chaffinch female

Male Blue Chaffinch

Female Blue Chaffinch

Punta de la Rasca

The track to this headland is situated in what is actually a bit of a desolate shambles. When I first turned on to it from the main road, there were lorries plying to and fro on a working site, alongside some covered banana plantations – it didn’t look inviting at all! I drove to where there was supposed to be locked gate and a barrier, which both seemed to be absent, reaching some buildings, where a curious rotund Spanish chap wasn’t too happy for me to be around. I doubled back towards the entrance, and parked about 100m away from these buildings. A pair of Barbary Partridges appeared from the scrub in front of me before I even had a chance to open the car door, but took flight soon after.

Despite the unappealing look to the place, one or two more local specialities were present, including the Partridges. In fact, there is a much more picturesque area just to the West of the main track. The whole area is good for Berthelot’s Pipit, which were not as numerous as I had expected, but very easy to see nonetheless, calling almost constantly. Kestrels are equally as obvious, with ~6 birds flying to and from some small cliffs. Southern Grey Shrikes, at least 2 birds, were using lookout posts for their hunting forays, with one having a go at a pair of Berthelot’s Pipits. After a little walking and searching, Spectacled Warblers started to show themselves. They were generally quite elusive in the undergrowth, but occasionally found more exposed perches.

As if to emphasise that good birds can be found in the less luxuriant sites, a Hoopoe flew across me on return to the car, and landed in the open, this being just after I had been able to get within a few metres of a Southern Grey Shrike.

Hoopoe

Southern Grey Shrike

Hoopoe

Southern Grey Shrike

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