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An almost circular island of about 1,530km2, Gran Canaria is very popular with tourists but less so with birding visitors.
Although the rare Gran Canaria Blue Chaffinch is present, neither of the pigeons now occurs and the formerly extensive laurisilva forest has virtually disappeared.
However, there are still some areas of Canarian Pine forest, the most important being the Pajonales y La Data, now a National Park, and related areas in the west of the island. Gran Canaria Blue Chaffinch survives here and this is by far the most reliable site for this bird on the island although even here it is rare and elusive. It is best looked for where mature Canarian Pine grows with an understorey of the white-flowered Escobon shrub, Chamaecytisus proliferus.
These reserves can be explored from village of El Juncal on the 17-2, take the road opposite the church which leads to the bottom of the valley.
The Gran Canaria Blue Chaffinch has declined sharply in recent decades and plans are underway to reintroduce the species to other pinewoods where it formerly bred such as Tauro and Tirajana in the south of the island. In the north-west the Pinar de Tamadaba is a similar, although more humid, woodland with the same birds but a much more varied plant community. Gran Canaria Blue Chaffinch is very rare here but the other woodland species are easier to find.
The area is reached via Artenara following signs for Tamadaba. Most of these birds except Gran Canaria Blue Chaffinch can also be seen at Los Tilos, the islands last area of laurisilva forest reached from Moya on the GC150 towards Guia, turning left to the forest after about 2km.
On the south-east coast between Arinaga and Castillo del Romeral the sandy beaches, mudflats and rock stacks attract a variety of waders including Sanderling, Little Stint, Whimbrel, Greenshank and Turnstone as well as Little Egret and Grey Heron. Breeding birds include Kentish Plover and Mediterranean Short-toed Lark.
The Maspalomas area in the far south also attracts waders to the remnant of a once more extensive coastal lagoon and Tree Sparrow and Common Starling breed in this area, both rare species in the Canaries.
The scrub around the lighthouse to the south of Maspalomas holds Great Grey Shrike, Mediterranean Short-toed Lark and Canarian Pipit. A variety of free-flying parrots can be seen to the north of Maspalomas around the Los Palmitos Bird Park and some have begun to breed ferally. Also found here is the introduced Barbary Dove and Common Waxbill but natives include Kestrel, European Turtle Dove and Plain Swift also breed.
Birds you can see here include:
Cory's Shearwater, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Common Buzzard, Osprey, Common Kestrel, Barbary Falcon, Red-legged Partridge, Common Quail, Common Moorhen, Eurasian Coot, Stone-curlew, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Whimbrel, Common Redshank, Common Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Rock Dove, Barbary Dove, Eurasian Collared Dove, European Turtle Dove, Monk Parakeet, Ring-necked Parakeet, Barn Owl, Long-eared Owl, Plain Swift, Pallid Swift, Eurasian Hoopoe, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Mediterranean Short-toed Lark, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, Canarian Pipit, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Eurasian Robin, Whinchat, Eurasian Blackbird, Song Thrush, Spectacled Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Canary Islands Chiffchaff, African Blue Tit, Great Grey Shrike, Northern Raven, Common Starling, Spanish Sparrow, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Common Waxbill, Chaffinch, Gran Canaria Blue Chaffinch, European Serin, Island Canary, European Greenfinch, European Goldfinch, Eurasian Linnet, Trumpeter Finch, Corn Bunting
The Haria Lizard Gallotia atlantica is confined to a small area of the east coast but the endemic Gran Canaria Giant Lizard G. stehlini is common. The Skink Chalcides sexlineatus is another island endemic and Boettger's Gecko Tarentola boettgeri is also present.
Although not one of the best islands for birds Gran Canaria has great botanical interest with a large number of endemics. Among the the rarest are Dendriopoterium mendezii, a member of the Rose family that looks like a palm and Centaurea arbutifolia, a knapweed that grows into a tree. Sventenia bupleuroides is an extremely rare member of the Daisy family that grows high on cliff-faces and Orchis canariensis occurs on Gran Canaria, one of the very few orchid species to be found in the archipelago. The great diversity of Gran Canaria's plantlife stems from its location between the moister, oceanic islands to the west and the desert-like islands to the east.
History and Use
Areas of Interest
Inland from Puerto de San Nicolas (La Aldea) on Gran Canaria's west coast is a gorge extending into the mountains. In addition to beautiful scenery the valley has Sardinian Warbler, Canarian Chiffchaff and Blackcap, Rock Sparrow, Island Canary and Trumpeter Finch.
Access and Facilities
Las Palmas, the capital of the island, has an international airport and a wide range of accommodation to suit all tastes. Hotels and pensions are numerous in other towns on the island, cars or mopeds can be hired and there is a good bus service. There are several inter-island jet-foils.
Content and images originally posted by Steve