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Canary Islands Conundrums - Fuerteventura and Tenerife 25-31 March 2022 (1 Viewer)

wolfbirder

Well-known member
Supporter
I have just returned from an enjoyable trip to the Canaries, flying out from Birmingham with Ryan Air for £14.99 (ok it came to £49 after hold baggage etc) at 0635 on 25th to Fuerteventura, and then returned at 10.55am from Tenerife South on 31st, again courtesy of Ryan Air and again £14.99 (£49 including hold baggage). Flights were fine except one drunken woman who had to be thrown off the return flight, delaying take off for over an hour.

I pre-booked accommodation via www.booking.com, and car hire in advance. All in all, my 6 day break came to about £700 including all costs including petrol and food, and ferry too (£85).

On arrival on 25th around mid-day at FUERTEVENTURA, I quickly picked up my car from Avis. I was only staying one night on Fuerteventura but felt this was enough as I had prior knowledge of the island having visited in April 2018. My only real target bird was Red-Billed Tropicbird, which increasingly can be seen around the island. I saw 4 last time (including a group of 3 distantly), but would love to see more. Not easy of course! At all. I headed straight out to the village of Tindaya, and then along 'C Virgen de Calidad' which runs through the village out past a goat farm, and out to 'La Huesilla'. The road network around this village is complex so if you go study it in advance, also road-name signs are very rare. There are numerous tracks that lead out onto the stony desert but this road is the only asphalt / tarmac road that leads down to the coast to 'La Huesilla' - which are two houses on the coast, one abandoned, one habited. The road is in a state of disrepair with areas of broken tarmac, improving then deteriorating but still drivable in a normal hire car with care. But use your own discretion (as a disclaimer). The last 300 metres to La Huesilla is just a sandy track, so again, you could park where you feel comfortable. I drove on between the two houses and parked up at the coast. I wouldn't leave any valuables on view as it is isolated. I then took the coastal footpath for half a mile to the right, in the direction of El Cotillo as far as Esquinzo Beach. There was little bird-wise to see, 4 Ravens were patrolling and a Barbary Falcon was chasing Rock Doves. A few Yellow-legged Gulls and 2 Lesser Black-backs drifted past, but almost immediately upon my arrival at my destination I noted 2 white birds about 300 metres out, and I was thrilled to 'scope' 2 adult Red-billed Tropicbirds circling around, looking supreme over a deep blue sea with extremely long tail-streamers. I watched them for around a minute before they drifted out to sea and were lost to view, not returning for the next hour. For some reason the best time to see them off this coast is mid-to-late afternoon. I saw mine at about 2.30pm. I also spent a couple of hours driving around the tracks back up close to the village and saw a cracking Cream-Coloured Courser and 2 Houbara Bustards, but it was very hard work and I might have come away from Tindaya having seen nothing, without fortune smiling upon me. I only just saw my 2nd bustard as something moving caught my eye, so I stopped the car, but then nothing moved for five minutes. Then I noticed it sat there, just twenty metres away.

Having enjoyed a productive few hours at Tindaya, I drove back towards the airport, and the pretty resort of Caleta de Fuste, where according to E-bird reports, another adult Red-Billed Tropicbird had been seen with some regularity around a small pond at the rear of the Atlantic Shopping Centre (Commercial Centro Atlantic), and I pulled up at 5pm, where two Spanish birders proceeded to show me footage of the bird that had departed just three minutes before I got there. Gutted! I waited until 7pm but it failed to return from the sea, so I retired to my hotel nearby and enjoyed a lovely steak meal washed down by beer, but feeling like I had enjoyed a great first-half of football but then watch us (whoever your team may be) concede a last-minute winner! Anyway, at present this bird is best seen here mid-afternoon seemingly.

I had to be at my 'Naviera Armos' ferry at 10am the following morning at nearby Puerto Del Rosario, but before handing my car back in at Fuerteventura Airport, I re-checked the Atlantic Shopping Centre pool at 7am, and was lucky to see the Red-Billed Tropicbird circling. I even managed some hand-held footage of it but I am struggling to attach it here. So that is 3 birds I had now seen. 100 Sandwich Terns were on the beach nearby, along with Whimbrel, Greenshank, and several Ringed Plovers. The resort is truly beautiful. I returned my car to the nearby airport and caught a taxi to the ferry five miles away, and took a place on the deck of the slow, six-hour ferry to Grand Canaria (Las Palmas) which departed at 11am. Actually I had bought a ticket to Tenerife, but I failed to realise I had to change ferry at Las Palmas (Grand Canaria), and that there was a three-hour wait between connections. The ferry to Las Palmas drifted slowly about two miles out along the coast of Fuerteventura before heading further out to sea, across to Grand Canaria. The ferry was perfect for sea-watching, slow and comfortable with little tidal drift, and a bar where you could get food and drinks. Although it was ornithologically not great, there was just enough to keep me interested........steady Cory's Shearwaters and up to 40 Gannets, an Arctic Skua chasing a tern, and an adult Long-tailed Skua overhead. No petrels unfortunately, or maybe I just could not pick them up. E-bird reports are few for White-faced Storm Petrel for instance, but they have been seen on both stretches of sea that I travelled across today. At Las Palmas ferry dock, I watched another Barbary Falcon creating havoc amongst the local pigeons, but the quick ferry to Tenerife was undertaken in the dark disappointingly, and I arrived at Santa Cruz de Tenerife at 9.15pm, where I dragged my heavy bright yellow suitcase and sorry ass through busy Saturday night streets with teenagers drinking and smoking weed, and checked in for my one night in this busy town. It looked great, if I had been 40 years younger! Unfortunately the only car hire firm in the ferry port closed at 8pm on 26th, hence my reason for having to overnight here before picking the car up in the morning at 9.30am when the small office was open. Also, being a Sunday when I awoke, I could not get a morning coffee anywhere, as all cafes were closed and the coffee machine was broken in the hotel lobby. And after picking up my Fiat 500X from the otherwise excellent 'Cicar' (no hidden extras or deposits), I struggled for an hour to get out of the town due to a bike race meaning certain main roads were closed.

But on 27th March, my TENERIFE expedition was very much on! I eventually managed to negotiate my way out of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, and headed to Playas de Americas which was the last place on earth I wanted to be really (even though it is nice resort if you like that sort of thing). I was vaguely hoping to find the American Semipalmated Plover that had been seen with Ringed Plovers a few times along the coast in recent months. Over a couple of hours, I failed miserably, though a few Turnstones walked happily among the many people strolling along the busy coastal path, as well as a Little Egret. As I returned to the car, I did at least see a couple of Nanday Parakeets on chimney pots of hotels, a Category C lifer but hardly riveting. And I was pleased to head out of there, and onward to the northern coast via cloud-ridden, blustery Erjos, where I had hoped to stop for a quick search for Bolle's Pigeons. At 3pm, I arrived at my lovely accommodation for the next four nights at Casa de Isora at a sunny Garachico, situated on the northern coast, which again I booked via www.booking.com. It has a sun-deck where you can see Laurel Pigeons up on the adjacent steep hillside, along with Canarys, Chiffchaffs, and African Blue Tits in the scrub below. I then quickly drove to arguably the best sea-watching viewpoint on the northern coast at Charco del Viento, which I was to visit around 4-5pm every day as it was just fifteen miles along the coast from my accommodation. This is close to the village of San Juan de la Ramblas, off the TF5 main highway coast road. At this point, let me highlight that driving in Tenerife is extremely busy, and that was indeed the case along TF5, which is a good A-road but in Tenerife you cannot cross over unless you are at a roundabout (which are rare), or at a turn-off junction. Some junctions only have an exit point, so do keep an eye out for small, blue arrow signs telling you that you can cross over onto the opposite side at any specific junction, just before you get to them. A very helpful road-sign that is easy to miss. A useful little thing to know because if there isn't one you cannot cross over at the junction, its just an exit. So from the Garachico direction, I had to drive past the single sign for Charco del Viento (on the opposite side of the road), and head back under the road at the San Juan de la Ramblas turn-off, and back to the turn off. You get used to doing this, but again, take great care as traffic is very busy. The turn-off for Charco del Viento is quite sharp, and then it drops down and along a narrow, winding country lane for about one and half miles to a good car park. The lane itself is quite daunting with blind corners and only occasional passing places, but with care, it is certainly doable, just go slowly. The purpose of visiting here, was hopefully to see Little Shearwater (aka Barolo or Macronesian Shearwater), a near-mythical seabird species for British birders. E-bird reports highlight that for several years, these can be seen nearly year round, with difficulty but mainly heading east along the coast late afternoon and into the evening. Having arrived at the car park, it was quickly evident that there was a heavy on-shore wind from the west. I sea-watched from 4-6pm, and indeed conditions were ideal, with around 1000 Cory's Shearwaters passing, heading westward against the strong wind, with some offering great views at only 100 metres distance, and others further out around 500 metres out, and then some further out still. I also saw a single Manx Shearwater, and then a smaller shearwater that flapped a bit like a Peregrine with rapid beats, and arched high onto it's side both ways as it flew, but keeping low, around 400 metres away. I was positive this was a Little Shearwater, and I watched it for around a minute. Interestingly, E-bird reports show that as many Little Shearwaters as Manx Shearwaters are reported here, and I also read that the Canary Islands sub-species of Manx Shearwater are the smallest of all (A new subspecies of Manx Shearwater from the Canary Islands), so in reality there wouldn't be much size-difference at all between the two, Collins Guide reports nominate-Manx as having a wingspan of 71-83cm, and Little 58-67cm, whilst Manx has body-length of 30-35cm, and Little 25-30cm. So bearing in mind that the Canary Islands sub-species of Manx are the smallest, you can see that there is perhaps only a 5-10% difference in size. Nevertheless, they are slightly different in profile and flight whatever the conditions are, and I spent much time before travelling watching 'youtube' clips of both species to study their flight. According to E-bird, some people have reported up to 8 Little Shearwaters on a single evening here, so the prospect was enticing. I returned to my room for an early night, convinced I had at least connected with 1 Little Shearwater, on my first attempt.

I was up at 7am on 28 March, watching Laurel Doves, African Blue Tits, Canary Islands Chiffchaffs, Blackbirds, Collared Doves, and Canarys as I ate breakfast on the rooftop. I decided to go up to the area around Mount Teide, the fabulous snow-covered peak that dominates the island, and en-route I took TF21 off the main TF5 road near to Puerto de la Cruz, which lead up into the mountains, simply following road-signs for 'El Teide'. There are other places that are recommended such as Chanajiga, but there is a lack of signage for many places and interconnecting road systems are very complex. So I stick to the main roads. En-route on TF21, I stopped near Aguamansa, at the sign-posted La Caldera Recreation area, which by the car park only produced Tenerife Chiffchaffs. I was heading for Las Lajos, home of the Blue Chaffinches, but it quickly became evident that as I ascended into the hills the weather was closing in, and when I arrived two hours later at Las Lajos, it was blowing a gale and raining heavily and no birds were seen at all. In fact, it was quite perilous, and as I descended back to the coast, a number of large rocks the size of footballs had fallen into the road, so although I wasted a whole morning, I was pleased to to get back to the northern coast in one piece with no damage to car or me. I headed for the section along TF5 close to Puerto de la Cruz, where pigeons can be scanned, either from Mirador de la Grimonas, or from the nearby Barranco de Ruiz, or even the Ceftas petrol station, which are within a mile or two of each other and all look up the hillside that the pigeons favour. The former is probably the best of the three. Between 12-4pm today however, I sat in the lovely, peaceful shade by the bridge at Barranco de Ruiz, and from 3pm onward Laurel Pigeon sightings became easy, with around 20 sightings enjoyed as they whizzed around the gorge and mountain top, involving several different birds I should think. No Bolle's were seen. Amongst the genuine Rock Pigeons, I also scoped 2 Buzzards, Barbary Falcon, and 2 Kestrels, whilst a few African Blue Tits, Blackbirds, Canarys, Chiffchaffs were easily seen. Best of all, I watched and sound-recorded a singing Canary Islands-sub-species 'superbus' Robin. This bird was fascinating to me, sounding entirely different to our nominate-version, and looking different too with its white belly. Surely a prospective split in the future? I ended up at 5pm back at Charco del Viento once again, but the conditions were more settled, resulting in half as many Cory's passing west, and just a single Manx Shearwater over an hour. I didn't stay too late, finishing at 6pm, with tired eyes, and issue I am increasingly becoming aware of as I get older. Just natural, inevitable deterioration.

On 29th March, I was back at Mirador de Grimonas by 8am, alongside the TF5, and it is important to note that it is only accessed from the Puerto de la Cruz direction after two short tunnels. Again, you cannot cross the road, it is as if there is an invisible central reservation but there is just a solid white road-line. You just can't stop and indicate that you want to cross, so you have to come back by turning off at the next junction with a small cross-over sign, and travel back. The sun angle is certainly better in the morning here, whereas Barranco de Ruiz is largely in the shade to mid-morning and hence less productive until the afternoon. Over an hour and a half at Grimonas, I enjoyed good views of at least 10 Laurel Pigeons, including perched birds, and in flight they were easy to see, looking blackish with obvious white fanned tails. Around 35 Rock Doves were present, and flying around their underwings looked 'whitish-silver', so again they stood out. I briefly had views of 2 Bolle's Pigeons in flight, and they had neither a white tail nor silver white underwings, so they stood out as being different, and with the 2nd bird I noted the distinctly barred under-tail, but I could not find any perched individuals, and I found them decidedly-tricky compared to Laurel Pigeons, at least in my opinion. These were the only Bolle's Pigeons I saw on the trip, but another lifer at least as I did not see any when I was last here on Tenerife for a two-day break. I did briefly call in at Barranco de Ruiz where 2 Barbary Partridges showed superbly. I then headed back up into the mountains again, again off TF5 onto TF21 signposted for 'El Teide', but only going as far as KM24 marker-post, where Ramon Caminero Recreation area is beside the road (signposted). I took bread, and wandered into the picnic bench area, and scattered some bread crumbs onto an open patch. It worked a treat, I sat back twenty metres away, and within a few minutes up 10 Blue Chaffinches appeared, showing superbly. Without the bread they may not have showed at all. A Great Spotted Woodpecker also showed well, drumming away, and 2 Tenerife Goldcrests were seen well. So you need not go all the way to Las Lajas or Chio to see Blue Chaffinches if you are on the northern coast, this location is only half an hour from Puerto de la Cruz. On the way back down, I again visited the La Caldera Recreation area (signposted) near Aguamansa. I drove up to the recreation area and by the car park, I walked down to an obvious, open bowl area down to the left, and by the wc block I found 2 more Tenerife Goldcrests but little else, until I scattered some more bread crumbs. Within a minute or two, 5 local-race Chaffinches appeared, including 2 stunning males, which like 'superbus' Robin, look totally different to the nominate-form, with their bluish-grey mantle and washed-bluish flanks. Really attractive birds. Back at Casa de Isora, Garachico, I enjoyed tea on the sun-deck, again seeing several Laurel Pigeons, as well as 6 Common Swifts, and 3 madly-deviating Plain Swifts. Last time I came to Tenerife, in July several years ago, I saw thousands of the latter, but this time they were elusive.

On 30th March, my last full day, I visited Erjos again, but failed to find anything of note, but I did not walk far. A female Sardinian Warbler was new to the list. I then spent an hour back at the same locations at Mirador de Grimonas and Barranco de Ruiz, again seeing Laurel Pigeons with ease, but no more Bolle's. I was fast running out of new target species, to be honest. I returned to the hotel at 2pm to rest my eyes, ready for a final assault on Charco del Viento, where I arrived at 5.30pm, this time leaving it a little later than previously. I settled a little beneath the car park, in the shade on the descending path, and this time tried a new tactic, only using my 10 x 42 Swarovski binoculars, which have great depth of field, and hence I could watch birds only a few hundred metres out as well as those further out at the same time. It worked a treat, as with the scope I would have to concentrate on either distant or close birds, but not both. E-bird reports fairly-consistently stated that Little Shearwaters headed eastward even if Cory's were heading westward, so I scanned a little to the left (west), hoping to catch any birds before they had passed. Furthermore, most Little Shearwater sightings were reported by others between 5.30pm - 6.30pm, but I found that things really 'livened up' in relation to those 'close-in', eastward-heading small shearwaters between 6.45pm-7.45pm. All in all, 400 Cory's and a Gannet were seen during this sea-watching session, but critically 10 eastward-heading, small-shearwaters, as follows: -

Bird 1 - a small bird seen with rapid wingbeats and stubby wings and circling around, arching over either way, before moving east. Not seen too well but almost certainly a Little Shearwater.
Bird 2 - a more distant but easily seen Manx heading low and purposely on gliding wings, barley flapping but overtaking Cory's.
Bird 3 - a definite Manx seen around 200 metres out, passing steadily across the sea.
Bird 4 - a bird I also considered a clear Manx about 200 metres out.
Bird 5 - another probable Manx, same as above 200-300 metres out.
Bird 6 - another Manx passing 200 metres out.
Bird 7 - just after bird number 6, but looking stubbier, smaller, and with shorter, faster-flapping wings, this bird also passed along the same path of sea 200 metres out from left to right (like all others), and I am absolutely convinced this was a Little Shearwater.
Bird 8 - another small, short, stubby bird that passed the same pathway as above, from left to right. I watched this bird for five minutes, it kept checking back and moving in tight circles, and eventually 300 metres away to the right (having passed me), it landed on the sea, then quickly undertook short flights of just ten metres before splashing into the water. It did this repeatedly and then was then joined by 1 possibly 2 others (Birds 9 and 10) doing the same. At this point, away to the right, the sun angle was perfect and the open-looking, white-faced appearance was obvious. These were Little Shearwaters!

I left at 7.45pm, having seen 5 Little Shearwaters (as well as 1 on a previous day), and 5 Manx Shearwaters. Very happy with that!! If I had scoped further out, I might well have easily missed the smaller shearwaters heading eastward closer in. Be warned, as they all passed around 200 metres away, maybe 300 metres at most.

So that was that. I headed back to my room with worn-out eyeballs, having seen all the species I wanted to see except the potential Semipalmated Plover - 6 Little Shearwaters, 3 Red-Billed Tropicbirds, 2 Bolle's Pigeons, 20-plus Laurel Pigeons, 2 Nanday Parakeets, 2 Houbara Bustards, 1 Cream-Coloured Courser, 10 Blue Chaffinches, as well as interesting sub-species like a 'superbus' Robin, African Blue Tits, Barbary Dove, and local-race Chaffinches and Goldcrests. The total trip-list only came to 47 bird species.

There is of course a limit on what you see on the Canary Islands as the variety is notoriously low, but as you can see there are some real crackers!!

A few photos only to set the scene: -

1) The Tindaya coastline on Fuerteventura
2) Ugly mug on the ferry Fuerteventura to Tenerife (via Grand Canaria)
3) View up mountainside from my Tenerife hotel at Garachico
4) Similar view at Mirador de Grimonas, just west of Puerto de la Cruz
5) Charco Del Viento seawatching viewpoint near San Juan de la Ramblas
6) Roque de Garachico, a once Little Shearwater breeding site.
 

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KenM

Well-known member
Thank you for your kind comments folks, as always I do really appreciate such feedback.

A tremendous and detailed report Nick,
well done on the birds seen particularly the RBT!😩. Further to that, the “Chaffinches” sound fantastic, I must get out there again…can’t come soon enough!
FWIW I’ve seen just a single Little Shearwater, many years ago during a big October NWesterly blow off Strumble head (Pembs.).

Had been watching Terns, Skuas, Grey Phals, Leach’s petrels, Manx Shearwaters etc when a lone LS came into view poss 150m out and appeared to be having trouble getting out of the bay below (force of the wind).
Small size, fluttering flight and to my eye more importantly “paddled” wing tips, quite unlike any other seabird that had hitherto passed.

Ken👍
 

wolfbirder

Well-known member
Supporter
A tremendous and detailed report Nick,
well done on the birds seen particularly the RBT!😩. Further to that, the “Chaffinches” sound fantastic, I must get out there again…can’t come soon enough!
FWIW I’ve seen just a single Little Shearwater, many years ago during a big October NWesterly blow off Strumble head (Pembs.).

Had been watching Terns, Skuas, Grey Phals, Leach’s petrels, Manx Shearwaters etc when a lone LS came into view poss 150m out and appeared to be having trouble getting out of the bay below (force of the wind).
Small size, fluttering flight and to my eye more importantly “paddled” wing tips, quite unlike any other seabird that had hitherto passed.

Ken👍
Thanks Ken. You've done very well to get LS on your British list, I haven't got a hope in hell of that, ever!
 
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Scridifer

Used Registrar
Supporter
Bulgaria
A cracking read on the Tenerife leg Nick, gets me itching to go back for those Shearwaters! Congrats on your LS sightings and well done on doing your homework first!

Chris
 

wolfbirder

Well-known member
Supporter
A cracking read on the Tenerife leg Nick, gets me itching to go back for those Shearwaters! Congrats on your LS sightings and well done on doing your homework first!

Chris
Many thanks as always Chris.

They (the LS) could so easily slip past without detection. E-bird is a great resource if you check the sightings map.
 

wolfbirder

Well-known member
Supporter
Does anyone know how to attach a short, 13-seconds-long bit of mobile phone footage? It is showing as too large a file. I have compressed it from a movie to a zip file but this only reduced it from 24464kb to 24435kb, which it says is still too large to attach here.
 

cheshirebirder

Well-known member
Does anyone know how to attach a short, 13-seconds-long bit of mobile phone footage? It is showing as too large a file. I have compressed it from a movie to a zip file but this only reduced it from 24464kb to 24435kb, which it says is still too large to attach here.
No idea how to do that, Nick , but thanks for your detailed report. Thinking of going back to Fuerteventura next winter as really enjoyed the last visit . Had both the dwarf bittern and tristram’s warbler that year , staying at Calete del fuste . No tropic bird round that pool , though I walked past it regularly ! Think there were other wintering rares further down the coast at Costa Calma that year too.
By the way, we were on Lanzarote last month and were unable to hire a car - there’s a shortage. So ,if anyone’s thinking of going out to the Canaries I’d recommend pre-booking any car hire.
 
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wolfbirder

Well-known member
Supporter
No idea how to do that, Nick , but thanks for your detailed report. Thinking of going back to Fuerteventura next winter as really enjoyed the last visit . Had both the dwarf bittern and tristram’s warbler that year , staying at Calete del fuste . No tropic bird round that pool , though I walked past it regularly ! Think there were other wintering rares further down the coast at Costa Calma that year too.
Thank you very much.

You can get some great rares on the Canaries, have never seen Tristram's. And I only managed a glimpse of the Dwarf Bittern in 4 long attempts in 2018, not sure I can really even claim it :)-.

Flights can be so reasonably priced out of main season, I shall certainly consider returning for them. Do check E-bird before you go though, holds great information.
 
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dantheman

Bah humbug
Does anyone know how to attach a short, 13-seconds-long bit of mobile phone footage? It is showing as too large a file. I have compressed it from a movie to a zip file but this only reduced it from 24464kb to 24435kb, which it says is still too large to attach here.
Post it on youtube or somewhere like that and post a link up on here perhaps???


Nice report and (y) on the Little Shears.
 

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