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]

Sunday, 1 July 1979

CANARIES Tenerife & Fuerteventura June/July 1979

In summer 1979 I had a couple of spare weeks while doing an MSc dissertation.  I wanted to go somewhere where I could see some new birds but nobody I knew was free at that time so it had to be somewhere that wouldn't be too expensive to do on my own.  Return flights advertised to Tenerife for £49 caught my eye and a couple of weeks later I was on my way.  I took just hand-baggage, a change of clothes, light sleeping bag and plastic sheet.  I camped out the whole time (it was generally very mild) and spent £50 in two weeks including ferries.

This blog is part one of two and mainly covers a rather laborious visit to Fuerteventura.

On 26 June 1979 I arrived in Tenerife at 02:15 (the disadvantage of a cheap flight) and slept outside the airport until dawn.  I then got a bus to Santa Cruz where I waited an hour in a queue to get a return ferry ticket to Fuerteventura but as it made on progress I became impatient and left!  I caught a bus to Puerto de la Cruz ad walked to the botanical Gardens where I saw canary, Plain Swift and lots of Spanish Sparrows.  I then got a bus back to La Laguna and from there started to walk up the rad into the hills.  After 2km a bus came and I got a lift 6km to La Esperanza where it stopped.  I walked another 4kms and a car came past and offered me a lift.  They were a bit surprised when I said I was going to km 15 and got out in the pine forest in the middle of nowhere.  I waited until they had gone before climbing up above the road and finding somewhere to sleep out, but not before seeing a male Blue Chaffinch and several Canary Island Crests.  I would have slept better if I'd found a more level patch of ground!

Spanish Sparrow, probably an immature male, at Puerto de la Cruz Botanical Gardens
adult male Spanish Sparrow at Puerto de la Cruz Botanical Gardens
Canary at Puerto de la Cruz Botanical Gardens
On 27 June I saw 6 Blue Chaffinches and 7 Canary island Crests around km 15, I then walked down to La Laguna, in pines to km 9 seeing 8 Canary Island Chiffchaffs, 11 more crests, Canary races of Chaffinch and Blue Tit and Sardinian Warbler.  From km 9 down it was more open and dry with Hoopoe, Spectacled Warbler and 400 Spanish Sparrows.  In La Laguna I got a bus the short way to Santa Cruz, arriving at 13:40 to find the shipping office closed.  I waited around until dark seeing a Gull-billed Tern and 60 Yellow-legged Gulls and reading the Field Guide before finding a bench to sleep on.  It was very hard.
looking down on La Laguna from near km 15
looking down on Santa Cruz from above La Espernaza
I finally got a ferry ticket to Fuerteventura at 08:20 on 28 June.  I visited the market, bought some food, water and postcards but could not find a toilet anywhere (and wasn't desperate enough to ask, not at I knew any Spanish).  Never mind, it was only a 3 hour wait on the quay before the ferry sailed.  This time there were 3 Gull-billed Terns in the harbour.  The ferry sailed to Gran Canary being at sea from 12:00-16:30.  From the boat I saw 4 Maderian Petrels, two very well following in its wake.  Also 196 Cory's Shearwaters and 3 distant Bulwers Petrels. The boat was docked for 5 hours at Las Palmas on Gran Canary, setting off at 22:00 to sail through the night for Lanzarote.  I slept on deck.

Dawn broke off Lanzarote at 07:15 on 29 June.  I saw 18 Cory's Shearwaters flying north and a Grey Heron that flew east towards Africa before having second thoughts and returning.  At 08:00 we docked at Arrecife.  I had 6 hours to wait before the ship sailed and spent it around the harbour and salinas seeing 11 Kentish Plovers, 4 Hoopoes, 5 Berthelot's Pipit, 2 Great Grey Shrikes, and 75 Trumpeter Finches.  We departed Arrecife at 14:00 for the four hour crossing to Puerto del Rosario on Fuerteventura.  On this crossing I saw 48 Cory's Shearwaters and 10 Storm Petrels, 10 Dolphins, 2 Flying Fish and 3 Sharks.  Once off the ferry I walked 4 km to the Airport Barranco, a site found by Dave Willis.  Here I had good views of a male and two female Canary Island Stonechats, Hoopoe, 2 Spectacled Warblers, Great Grey Shrike and 55 Trumpeter Finches.  The last hour of daylight I spent on the flat desert plain to the west of the airport seeing at least two Black-bellied Sandgrouse (flying over and on the ground), 400+ Lesser Short-toed Larks and more Hoopoes, Great Grey Shrikes and Trumpeter Finches.  Unfortunately no Cream Coloured Coursers despite covering a fair bit of ground.  I slept on the middle of the  plain under an amazingly clear sky with loads of stars, easily my best night yet.
Berthelots Pipit on Lanzarote
Great Grey Shrike on Lanzarote
looking back to Lanzarote
male Canary Islands Stonechat in Willis's Barranco on Fuerteventura
female Canary Islands Stonechat
female or juvenile Canary Islands Stonechat
my camp on Fuerteventura
30 June was decision day.  I could either catch the morning's ferry back to Tenerife or wait 4 days for the next one.  Cream-coloured Courser was the main bird I could hope to see on Fuerteventura - Houbara might be difficult on foot - but neither were new. There were two pigeons still to see on Tenerife in an area renowned for bad visibility and perhaps some more seabirds from the Gomera ferry.  I decided to get the morning ferry back and have a final dash around the plain and Barranco first.  The Black-bellied Sandgrouse were still present, and 150 Lesser Short-toed Larks but I couldn't refind the stonechats.  I quickly returned to Puerto del Rosario, counting the distance between km markers as 1028.5 paces, one way of not being too distracted!  I managed to hassle my way onto the ferry and buy a ticket.  It was then 4 hours back to Lanzarote seeing 20 Cory's Shearwaters and an unidentified storm petrel on the way, another 5.5 hours wait at Arrecife where the Great Grey Shrike was singing and Kentish Plovers had increased to 19.  We set off for the overnight crossing to Gran Canary but came across floating gin palace that had lost power and had to tow it back to port. Frustrating for me as it cut short my counting a passage of 114 Cory's Shearwaters.  Another night on deck.

1 July.  We docked at Las Palmas on Gran Canary.  Four hours wasn't really long enough to get anywhere and back for the next ferry but I did not want to spend any longer on Gran Canary so hung around the quay again.  This was getting quite boring.  We left Gran Canary at 14:00 and arrived on Tenerife at 17:30 having seen a Little and 50 Cory's Shearwaters, 2 Bulwer's Petrels and 5 flying fish.  I caught a bus to Puerto de la Cruz and seawatched on the beach from 19:00 to dusk when I found somewhere quiet to sleep out.  45 Cory's Shearwaters were milling around offshore.
approaching Gran Canary
approaching Santa Cruz on Tenerife
to be continued ...