Tenerife, Canary Islands 9.-25.1. 2004

To Tenerife

9th of January we had had a pretty bad night on the cold floor of the airport of Lissabon. Even we found pretty quiet corner near the airlines offices, there was little too noisy for sleeping. 5 a.m. (Hanna) and 6.30 a.m. (Janne) we woke up to spend some time while waiting for our flight to Madrid.

We had to fly to Madrid because when we bought our tickets there were no flights (or ferries) from Cape Verde to Canary, and it was much cheaper to fly to Canary via Madrid than straight from Lisbon. So even we lost some time, we saved some money.

11.35 a.m. (local time) our Air Luxor plane left towards Madrid, and 1.55 p.m. (local time) we landed to Madrid airport.

At the airport we went directly to tax-free side for shopping. We had again plenty of time before our 7.15 p.m flight to Tenerife. We didn’t find anything to buy. (We are thinking if airport of Helsinki is the only airport where is really cheaper than in normal shops?)

The only birds that we saw in Madrid were Spotless Starlings, which were sitting on the light poles outside the airport. Otherwise we were already pretty bored until… Janne was going (once again) to check when our check-in was going to begin, when he almost collided with a well and dark suited man. Both, Janne and this man, tried to pass each others – of course from the same side, so they both had to stop. Both had been looking down to their feet. When these men saw each others, they both began to smile. Anyway only Janne knew who the another man was – he was Ronaldo! And next to Ronaldo was Raul, soon came Roberto Carlos, Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo and whole Real Madrid football team! Maybe the best spontain observation of the whole trip. (Only David Beckham wasn’t there, because he had injured in last match. Real Madrid was going to play against Real Sociedad, and they lost 0-1.)

Finally our plane left to Tenerife one and half hour late! When the plane was waiting its turn to go, it was funny to see how big traffic jam there was: we saw seven planes lights when they were coming in line to the airfield!

Lifers right away

10.35 p.m.(again local time) we landed to Northern airfield of Tenerife. We found our baggage very fast, and rushed to wait for a bus to Puerto de La Cruz. The buss came even too early 10.55. We sat in bus (number 102) until its last stop which was Puerto de La Cruz bus station. Then we took a taxi to our place which we didn’t know where it was, we just had an address. So it wasn’t a surprise that the taxi drove several kilometres backwards. When we reached our house we found out that the gate (which shouldn’t have been locked) was locked. So Janne had to climb over 2.5 meters high wall to find the key somewhere. When Janne found the houses key (almost from the place where it should have been) he luckily managed to find the key of the gate pretty soon. (It was the 20th key which he found.) So also our baggage and Hanna managed to get inside, which was much better place to stay the night. The house which we had rented from Janne’s parents friends was really big. There were two floors and even six rooms, kitchen and sauna. So there was plenty of space for us two! (We also had there a car which was in the garage. In garden there was Teide-cat waiting for us. She was a homeless cat which was the best cat we had ever met!) We still put the refrigerator on and water to worm, and after midnight we managed to go to sleep.

We woke up to loud birds singing. Canarian Chiffchaff was singing his simply song very loud. We climbed to the roof of our house, where we realized we were in really good place! We had great views to Teide-vulcano, but there were also a lot of birds. Canarian Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps (heineken), flocks of Canarys with Coldfinches and Linnets (maedewaldoi). Blackbirds (cabrerae) were jumping under the bushes and soon we saw first African Blue Tits (teneriffae) too. So we got straight away several lifers and new subspecies. In half an hour we saw also Feral Pigeons, Grey Heron, Kestrels (canariensis) and Sparrowhawk (granti).

Soon we realized we were too hungry to continue and we left to search a shop. We found shops easily after two kilometres walk down to the city. On the way we saw the first Berthelot’s Pipit, normal Chiffchaff, Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Collared Doves. After shopping (finally there was something in shops) we climbed back to our house.

Searching for Pigeons

11th of January we woke up 6 a.m. and soon we were ready to go to our first birding trip in Tenerife. But we lost one hour because we couldn’t get the gate for car opened. We couldn’t find the key again anywhere. When Janne finally used some violence against the gate, it suddenly opened. It hadn’t been locked at all, just stuck. So we could begin our trip towards the laurel forests of Erjos.

We had Clarke & Collins Birdwatching guide to the Canary Islands, which was little old, because all road numbers had been changed. There was also many other changes with traffic systems.

We managed to find a cross to Erjos anyway. There left a small road to the laurel forest. The road was in pretty bad condition, but we managed to drive it with our Honda Civic. We had already seen some Canarian Kingslets (now again just a subspecies of Goldcrest – canariensis), but in forest there was much more of them. After three kilometres driving we found the first Pigeon, which flight over us but it landed to a branch above the road. The Pigeon wasn’t easy. It somehow was really dark without any marks or colours. We identified it as a Bolle’s Pigeon. Possibly it was a young bird, because it was so strange looking.

Soon we heard several Pigeons voices from the top of the high and dense trees. The voice was really low. There was at least four of these Bolle’s Pigeons shouting. They were just almost impossible to see. When we tried to walk closer, we heard just lapping of the wings and saw a shape of a Pigeon flying away. Later we had many this kind of observations more. We also heard voices of Barbary Partridges!

We parked our car and continued walking and saw Robins (superbus) and Chaffinches (tintillon). We also saw plenty of Pigeons escaping us from the tops of the trees but all we saw more than a shape were Bolle’s Pigeons. We continued to the big rock where it was a good view down to the valley where is a lot of laurel trees.

In one hour watching we saw only one Bolle’s Pigeon flying down in the valley. We saw many Robins, six Buzzards (canariensis) soaring on the sky and we heard Ravens. Anyway we were little worried because we hadn`t seen any Laurel’s Pigeons. We decided to walk again, because we had seen much more Pigeons while walking. There was also pretty much traffic on the road (even it was in bad shape). So we walked back to our car and found a smaller road which went to the forest. We thought there could be Pigeons because there wasn`t any traffic in that small road. (On the cross there was a sign ”sin salida” = no exit.) We had walked only 100 metres when a Pigeon escaped once again from the top of the tree. But this time we saw it well, and it even landed visible to one branch. There it was, a Laurel’s Pigeon. Later we saw many glimpses of flying Pigeons along this pretty short road.

Amazing roads!

We were happy when we drove back to the main road, again carefully, and continued just some hundreds of meters to Erjos ponds. We heard right away Moorhens and later we found three of them. There was also a couple of some kind of blue-billed Ducks. We also found one Sardianian Warbler, couple of Buzzards and of course plenty of Canarys.

Next we continued to Mascas mountainous road. The road was something really amazing! If it had been awful to be in an aluguer on the roads of Santa Antao in Cap Verde, it was almost as awful to drive by yourself in Masca road. Even the road was really good and the cliffs were less than half as high as in Santa Antao, the road was so narrow and curvy that it was really difficult to drive. There was also a lot of traffic.

To Ponto del Teno we had to drive even worse road. More than five last kilometres we were driving over and under amazingly sharp edges. Actually the road should have been closed (there were signs in four language) but because locals were driving to Ponto del Teno, we were also. The road is really dangerous in rain and in hard wind, because of the landslides.

We managed to reach Ponto del Teno alive, even it was really hard wind. In half deserted areas there was almost no birds because of the wind. We heard again a Barbary Partridge, but then we continued to the lighthouse to try to do some seawatching.

We watched the sea little bit more than an hour, and Janne managed to see one Little Sheawater (boydi), which unfortunately Hanna couldn’t find flying between the big waves. Other birds which we saw were one Sandwiched Tern and some Lesser Black-backed Gulls (graelssii) and some Yellow-legged Gulls (atlanticus).

To Teide

Next day was a tourist day in the city. Bird observations were good anyway: a Barbary Falcon was soaring over the city and in Central Park there was a lot of Monk Parakeets, Spanish Sparrows and of course Collared Doves. One of the Parakeets thought that Janne’s finger was eatable, and it tasted it when Janne was offering it for the bird. At restaurant there was a Blackbird doing something in a palm tree above our table. We had to eat quickly because the bird was dropping a lot of small pieces of the palm to our plates. On the way back to our house we saw again that Barbary Falcon, now much better and also plenty of Grey Wagtails (canariensis).

13th of January we begun our trip to Teide mountain really early. We drove along the curvy roads and begun to make stops after one kilometre high, where the pine forests begun. We found a lot of Canarys, and Canarian Kingslets. When we were driving in the forest we saw a Finch flying above the road. We stopped and managed to see two Blue Chaffinches flying to the forest.

Next time we stopped in an information centre of Teide national park, which was about two kilometre high. On the yard there were a lot of Canarys but also several Berthelot’s Pipits. In a park there were many mountain plants and one Southern Grey Shrike (koenigi), which was easy to photograph. A couple of workers came to disturb us while we were photographing. First they said it’s not aloud to photograph, but later we understood it`s not aloud to publish the photos we were taking. They maybe thought we were professionals, because of our equipments. We just wondered how would we have known, it is not aloud to photograph there in Teide?

After some short stops we reached a place where was a transportation top to the mountain. Of course we went up there, even it was expensive (21€). So we managed to get very high, just under the highest top, to 3600 metres high. After all it was not possible to reach the top, because a permit is needed for climbing to the top. And how should somebody know that the permit is needed and where to get it? (We heard it should have been applied from some office in Santa Cruz.)

So we just walked the two tracks, which were going up and down under the top. The views were really great. Luckily there were no clouds at all, so we could see even the some of the other islands. For some reason that we didn’t understood, people told to be up for only one hour. It took more than one hour, even from us, to walk both of the tracks, because the air was really thin, and it was really hard to climb. So how on Earth older people could survive there in one hour? Anyway we spent up there at least two hours.

Las Lajas

When we were back in our car, we continued to Las Lajas forest reserve. At Las Lajas we searched a good place and begun to eat something we had with us. We had hardly begun, when first couple of Blue Chaffinches flew over us. When we tried to find them we found several Berthelot’s Pipits, some Great Spotted Woodpeckers (canariensis), African Blue Tits, Canarian Kingslets and ofcourse Canarys. Also a Sparrowhawk (granti) and Kestlers (canariensis) were flying on the sky. After pretty long searchings we found a place where was a pool with water. There birds came to drink. It was close to one small house left side of the main track pretty close from the tables. Even Janne had already managed photograph male Blue Chaffinch there they were much easier.

Next we continued towards the city of Vilaflor. On the way we saw a film group, which were filming a “driving” Mercedes Benz. We laughed that soon there is our small blue car in some local movie.

At Vilaflor we checked all wires hoping to find Rock Sparrows, but we managed to find “just” a couple of Hoopoes and a flock of 200 Plain Swifts.

When we were driving the same road back, we saw this filmgroup again almost in same place than earlier. Now Janne said to Hanna that: “Look who is driving. It might be some star like Richard Gere ;-).” The surprise was really big when we saw the driver was Kimi Räikkönen. Mercedes Benz was filming their new advertisement in curvy pine forest roads of Teide. Pretty good observation again!

There was amazing long downhill from Teide back to Puerto de La Cruz, on the way we saw a flock of 100 Plain Swits.

Northern side of island

14th of January was a “must” day in Loro-park. So we walked in zoo and watched for penguins, gorillas, dolphins… and of course parrots. We saw also some “wild” animals like Blackbirds, Grey Wagtails, Canarian Chiffchaffs, Monk Parakeets, one oily Common Sandpiper and some mysterious Love Bird or something. It was greenish-grey long- and yellow-billed bird which was about size of a Staling.

15th of January we were too tired to wake up when our phone alarmed. But already eight o’clock we were on our way towards bird places at Northern part of island. First we tried to find the bird places near Northern airport, but both bird places and birds were difficult to find. We did find some Corn Buntings and Spectacled Warblers singing.

Our next target was Valle Molinas reservoir. When we reached it, we followed directions, which were in our Collins and Clarke book, and watched the reservoir through a big gate. It was impossible to see the whole reservoir, but we directly found something interesting! The first three ducks were a pair of Tufted Ducks and a female Ring-necked Duck! There were pretty much other birds too: Grey Herons, Little Egrets, Greenshanks, Common Sandpipers, a couple of Pintails and Yellow-legged Gulls. We heard also a Quail shouting somewhere on the fields behind us.

It was little frustrating to watch the reservoir without seeing it well enough. For example we did hear Coots shouting, but we couldn’t see any. We were thinking what else we can’t see? Then there drove a woman outside from the gate, stopped and showed us to go inside if we just close the gate when we are leaving. What luck!
There were birds which we hadn’t seen yet. Of course those Coots but also 2 Moorhens, 2 Green Sandpipers, 4 Wigeons and 6 Snipes were found. The best thing was of course that now we managed to get closer and photograph the Ring-necked Duck.

At Tejina we checked two biggest pool, which were really ridiculous small. There would have been two more pools, but we decided to pass them because we can see enough of Coots and Moorhens in summer in Siikalahti.

Our last target was Punta del Hidalgo, where we found only one Sardinian Warbler, but the views were beautiful. The place was also really good looking for birds. In migration it must be good place for birding.

And Southern parts

Next couple of days was relaxed. Sometimes it’s good to relax, or what? At Puerto we saw a flock of Plain Swifts. We spent our time in the city and, pretty surprisingly, met some friends and relatives. Another morning we tried to find Los Realejos ponds, but we couldn’t find a way there. Many roads were closed in Los Realejos, and in book there was now instructions how to act, if the situation was something not normal.

18th of January at six a.m. we began our way towards the Southern bird places of the island. We drove as fast as our Civic was moving (not even 100 km/h). When the sun was rising, we arrived at El Medanos beaches. There we found some common waders like: Sanderlings, Whimrels, Turnstones, Grey Plovers, Greenshanks, Kentish Plovers and Ringed Plovers. We also saw one totally grey parrot flying towards the biggest houses.

Amarillo golf resort was a big disappointment. We thought it is a good birding place, which it may be, but we didn’t like to do birdwatching while disturbing people playing golf, which really is expensive. We walked around the resort and in half deserted areas nearby, but we couldn’t find anything else than some Hoopoes and Bethelot’s Pipits. Only new bird for our trip was a Pied Wagtail, yippee!

Guargachos poor little pool offered us pretty many waders, but they almost all were similar: there were more than ten Little Ringed Plovers and one Common Sandpiper.

We were little frustrated to the quality of the Southern birding places when we arrived at Roguido del Fraile, which we had waited a lot. There had been several American species before in winters and in half deserted areas there was a possibility for several interesting species. After one kilometre walking we had found nothing! Luckily Hanna realized where the reservoir, which we were searching for, was. It was behind a high wall more than 200 metres from the track. We had to watch to the reservoir from small holes to see the birds. And there really were birds! It was pretty hard to watch the birds with telescope through small holes, but it was much harder to realize that all 90 swimming birds were just Coots! We saw also some Ringed Plovers, Little Ringed Plovers, Green shanks, Redshank, 5 Dunlins and Little Stint. Grey Herons and Little Egrets were standing on the betony beach. A flock of Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls came also to visit the reservoir, but that was it.

We were little disappointed when we drove towards the North along mountain roads via Teide. At Arona we saw a Black Kite soaring on the sky. It was maybe our best bird observation of the day.

At night we called a local (actually British) birder, Barry Lancaster, which we hoped to tell us about some rarities or some birding places which we didn’t know. We had already visited all the birding places, which were in our book, which might have something new for us. But no, in autumn there had been some rarities in island (which weren’t good species for us but for the island, except Yellow-browed Bunting), but now only rare bird Barry could tell us was a Ring-necked Duck which we had already found by ourselves. Anyway Barry told he had visited Ponto del Teno in same day and he had seen a flock of Rock Sparrows, which we had already once tried to find there.

Still one lifer

So we knew what to do next day. 200 Plain Swits were gliding over our house when we begun our way to Ponto del Teno again. The “closed” road was still as scary to drive as it had been in first time.

Now we had only one target, a Rock Sparrow. It was easier to begin to walk in big half deserted rocky and desert plants area, when we knew there had been Rock Sparrows just one day before. Last time we visited this place we knew just that there has been Rock Sparrows in winters in 90`s.

We had walked for some kilometres without seeing anything else than some Canarys and Berthelot’s Pipits. Then finally we saw a flock jumping to fly, and we managed to identify the birds as Rock Sparrows. The birds flight pretty far but after five minutes walking we found them feeding in a low vegetation between the rocks. So we could get better views from the birds when they were running between the rocks really fast.

Later we found some more flocks of Rock Sparrows, so totally we saw about 60 birds. Behind a former tomato plantation we found the same flock of Skylaks, which also Barry had seen day before. There were more than 50 birds, just Skylarks.

We were happy when we drove back to our house. We took the afternoon easy and this relaxing lasted after all couple of days more. We visited the botanical garden, saw again Janne’s relatives, wondered in the city and relaxed. Of course we took some sun also, and burned our skin.

Chanajiga

Om the 22th of January we decided to have another look for the Pigeons in a laurel forest. This time we drove to the Chanajiga forest reserve, which we knew can be difficult to find. And it was! Once we took the wrong cross and that was enough. Somehow Hanna managed to localize us to the map, and we were on a road which wasn’t in our map at all. After driving as sharp up- and down hills we didn’t even knew to exist, we managed to find pretty soon to Chanajiga. On the way we managed to see (far from above) those two pools that we hadn’t find earlier from Realejos.

In the forests there were a lot of birds again. We found easily many Canary Kingslets, Robins and first Bolle’s Pigeon which flight over us. We walked for two hours in the forest road and found some more Bolle’s Pigeons and one Laurel’s Pigeon. Surprisingly we found one pair of Blue Chaffinches which were calling very strangely. In their neighbour there were a couple of normal Chaffinches (or not so normal tintillon). We also saw one amazingly small (Canarian) Chiffchaff, which we first thought it was a Kingslet or Wren!

At afternoon we decided that we had been driving enough. It’s not so funny to drive with loaned car which hasn’t any insurances, atleast not in a Spanish traffic and Canarian roads! We drove the car to the garage and had a little fight against the garage door, which we managed to close in 40 minutes.

Holidaying and continuing our journey

On the 23th of January we were just shopping. We even managed to find something to buy. We heard there had been snowstorms in Greece, so we really had to buy some more warm clothes. It was pretty windy and cold, so we needed first time little more clothes in Tenerife too.

Our last day in Tenerife was a packing and cleaning day. Of course we had to clean the house that well that we are maybe welcome there sometimes in future too. At morning Hanna had a crazy idea to try to see an endemic Pigeon from our roof. It was little more than 10 kilometres to the edges of Chanajiga, but with telescope she managed to see two of those Pigeons flying shortly and land to the forest. Of course it was impossible to identify those Pigeons, which of those two species they were, but in future someone should really try to see those birds in this way from somewhere little closer! It could really be the easiest way to see those endemics!
The day was really warm, so we took again some sun. In Greece we should soon keep much more clothes. At afternoon we had some shopping because we would have again some 24 hours travelling.

On the 25th of January our travelling began with calling a taxi 5 a.m. We drove to Puerto de La Cruz bus station and took a bus number 102 again. It drove us to Northern airport to wait our plane to Madrid, which left 7.35 a.m. We were again on our way to new trips and stories.

To be continued…

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