Monday, 9 July 1979

CANARIES Tenerife, July 1979

2 July.  I got a bus from Puerto de la Cruz along the coast to Icod and then another up to Erjos although thanks to my very poor pronunciation no one in Icod knew where ErJos was.  I eventually caught the bus to ErHos.  From there I walked into the hills to the south-west searching for a lookout over the laurel forest.  This was greatly hampered by low cloud and inadequate, for me, directions.  I finally found the right place but visibility was very poor and I only saw one unidentified pigeon.  I made camp and crashed out early having seen a heady 20 species including 4 Turtle Doves, 2 Canary Islands Crest, 2 Ravens and 50 Canaries.  Despite sleeping on leaves it was a hard (and damp) night.
Drago milennia at Icod. 1000 year old tree, supposedly
3 July.    It was still cloudy at dawn but fortunately it soon cleared giving me an excellent view over the laurel forest.  I started scanning and eventually had a good view of a Laurel Pigeon.  I also convinced myself I could pick out a Cory's Shearwater on the sea, about 6 km away!  I had no success with the tail-banded Bolle's Pigeon and with the clouds closing in again early afternoon decided to leave the site and head for Los Cristianos in the far south of the island where there were ferries to Gomera. In the laurel forest I also saw 10 Canary Island Chiffchaffs, Canary Islands Crest, 6 local Blue Tits and 25 local Chaffinches.    I'm not really sure why I left with the pigeon unseen as, realistically, it was the last new bird for me on the islands.  Impatience probably!  I'm also not sure why I decided to take a clockwise route round the island which was three times as long, perhaps as it was served by buses and the shorter route wasn't (I wasn't a great hitcher).  In the event I had to walk 15 miles to Icod, arriving too late for the last bus to Puerto de la Cruz.  I found somewhere quiet to sleep in the town centre but had another bad night on hard concrete.  Although long, the walk to Icod was quite productive, passing by cultivated hillsides where I saw 8 Turtle Doves, Hoopoe, 11 Canary Island Chiffchaffs, 200 Spanish Sparrows and 44 Canaries.

view west from Erjos
La Gomera from Erjos
view south to Santiago from Erjos
4 July.   A day circumnavigating Tenerife by bus - Icod east to Puerto de la Cruz, northeast to Santa Cruz then the long journey south to Los Cristianos where I arrived at 14:00.  I saw a Kentish Plover, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits and 4 Whimbrel on some saltpans on the edge of town.  I found a headland and spent from 19:00-21:00 watchinng/counting passing Cory's Shearwaters: 241W & 15E in 15 minutes from 19:00; 106W & 20E in 5 minutes at 19:45; 207 in one scan at 10:10; 288 in 135 degree scan at 20:40 (when gettinng closer in) with numbers thinning out by 21:00.  Also 2 Little Shearwaters flew west.  Very impressive.  I slept on the edge of the saltpans, my best night so far.
Yellow-legged Gulls at Los Cristianos
Bar-tailed Godwits on the saltpans
5 July.  A morning at Los Cristianos where Kentish Plovers had increased to 3 and by chance I met Mick Alibone crossing the beach.  He'd flown to Fuerteventura, been successful with both pigeons on the first attempt (at least I confirmed that I'd been looking in the right place) and had effectively cleaned up on the land birds in four days.  We caught the 14:00 ferry to La Gomera arriving at 15:45, spent just over two hours in San Sebastian seeing a Raven and 2 Spanish Sparrows and caught the 18:00 ferry back getting in at 19:45.  Going to La Gomera we saw 235 Cory's, one and a probable Bulwer's Petrels and an unidentified Storm Petrel.  The return was better with 150 Cory's and 4 Little Shearwaters, 5 Bulwer's and 3 unidentified Storm Petrels.  A distant Little Shearwater and perhaps 400+ Cory's were noted in the evening off Los Cristianos.  Another good night on the edge of the saltpans.
Berthelot's Pipit, common in all arid habitats visited
didn't seem to mind litter either
6 July.  A repeat of yesterday. A morning at Los Cristianos, ferry to La Gomera where again one Raven was seen, return ferry, evening seawatch from Los Cristianos where slept on edge of saltpans.  The ferry crossing out was poor - 50 Cory's and a distant petrel considered most likely Madeiran.  The return was better with 100 Cory's and 8 Little Shearwaters and 3 Bulwer's Petrels.  The evening seawatch produced 250 Cory's and 5 Little Shearwaters.
Pico de Teide above the clouds from La Gomera
Pico de Teide above the clouds from the ferry
7 July.  Mick left at dawn to return to the airport and get a flight home a week early.  The Canaries had little attraction when the birds had been seen.  After a quick look on the saltpans, 2 Kentish Plovers again, I caught a bus 25km north to San Juan.  What appeared to be a sandy looking collared dove type seen from the bus was a bit of a surprise.  There was no bus past San Juan so I hitched the 9km to Guia.  I bought a few supplies and from there caught a bus to Erjos, walking back into the laurel forest and the viewpoint.  The weather was very much better and I had a very successful afternoon watch seeing 7 Bolle's and at least 2 Laurel Pigeons, an adult Egyptian Vulture and excellent views of a female Goshawk (thought to be new for the Canaries).  One of the Bolle's Pigeons, my last new bird on the Canaries, even perched for me. I camped out on the hill again.
view from the laurel forest and to the sea

Laurel forest from the viewpoint, the track back starts bottom right and ends top left
me at camp, day 12.  Hard ground, pillow wasn't that comfortable either
8 July.  The day started off a bit damp with low cloud so I headed back to Erjos.  I wasn't sure when the next bus was so started walking down to Icod hoping I could catch it when it came past.  I ended up walking the whole way, enlivened by 150 Plain Swifts, a Hoopoe, three Sardinian Warblers and 75 Canaries.  At Icod I caught a bus to Puerto de la Cruz where I saw a Little and 50 Cory's Shearwaters during an evening seawatch.
view from laurel forest to the sea
lizard sharing breakfast
Canary race of Chaffinch
juvenile Canary
I'd seen one like this on Tresco in October 1977
9 July.  My last day produced 8 Little and 307 Cory's Shearwaters and a lot of hanging around before catching an evening flight back home.  It had been a successful trip as I saw all 10 new birds I'd hoped to, at a cost of £100 all in.  However I'd only seen 54 species during two weeks and seemed to have spent a lot of time hanging around and retracing my steps.  Not that time was something I was short of but with better planning I could have seen as much in a week. 

[blogged October 2013]

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