Destination for our business conference of 2004 was the South of Tenerife. Free time around the business sessions was limited to the first afternoon (9th), and the morning / early afternoon of the departure day (11th). This turned out to be sufficient time to see more or less all of the island specialities that can be seen at the time of year we were there. This is not too much of a stretch, since there are a limited number of species on Tenerife, and the distances required to be covered are not great. In addition to travelling for these sought after species, I also walked around the area of the hotel when time allowed (usually first thing in the morning and late afternoon).
We were based in the Mare Nostrum resort, which is located on a slightly more up market section at the eastern end of Playa de las Americas. The hotel is large and comfortable, but, surprisingly for its size, has very little vegetated ground. However, it is based on the seafront, so passage of shearwaters can be seen from the doorstep, as well as some of the more common and expected birds. I had the use of a car for the two free periods available and this was essential to see the more remote species. Playa de las Americas is in the more barren and unwelcoming (bird wise) part of the island, but the roads are generally very good, with ample provision of petrol stations.
The two main locations I visited were:
Higher altitude Canarian Pine forest. This is unbelievably easy to both find and bird. I spent some hours at the well known Las Lajas picnic site, on the C821 ascending eventually to Mount Teide. It is only about 9km up from Vilaflor, and cannot be missed on the left hand side of the road. The benefits of this site are that the trees are not too densely packed, and the water taps act as a magnet for thirsty birds – plentiful numbers and easy to see. I saw all the birds that I hoped for here in close proximity – Blue Chaffinch, Canary, Great Spotted Woodpecker, and African Blue Tit. There is even a small café for the lean times!
Laurel Forests. There are one or two known locations for staking out birds in the laurel forests, which are only found in the rugged, wetter North of the island. I chose the most well known, which has a rough track leading from the village of Erjos. Again, this track is easily found, being on the left hand side of the road, opposite the first house in the village when approaching from the South. It has to be noted that this track is very rough in places. I took it very carefully first thing in the morning, taking about half an hour to cover 5km. A 4x4 is ideal. Another thing that needs to be known about the forest is that it can be very cold waiting for the pigeons to appear early in the morning. I spent some time at the well known rock (4.6km along the track from Erjos), but had a much better time 0.8km further on, where a small clearing on a bend in the road gave good views of the slopes behind. I had both the endemic pigeons from here, and that was up until leaving late morning.
I also visited the approach to Punta de la Rasca. This track was very good, yielding Barbary Partridge, Southern Grey Shrike, Hoopoe, Spectacled Warbler, and plenty of Berthelot’s Pipits. It is also quite ugly, which is certainly no bar if birds are to be found, but I also have a suspicion that the gates on entry (located next to the main road), are locked at some time, since there is a lot of working activity within the first open area, and the gate did have a lock hanging from it.
For reference, I found the
trusty old Gosney guide to “Finding birds in the Canary Islands” still more
than adequate, supported by one or two of the more recent Internet trip
reports. The new Collins “Guide to the birds of Britain and Europe” (red and
black edition) covers all the species of the Canaries, as well as descriptions
of some of the subspecies. A good map is essential – I used the Rough Guide Map
(1:120,000) which is detailed and durable.