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Canary Islands, Plan B in the Era of Omicron (1 Viewer)

Jos Stratford

Eastern Exile
Europe
Perils of Omicron, a flight ban scuppered a planned trip to South Africa on the 11 Dec, so I hastily arranged a Plan B departing a week later for a cultural day in Rome, then a hop to over to the Canaries for three weeks of island hopping with the goals of encountering Gran Canaria Blue Chaffinch and, ever the optimist, maybe Slender-billed Barn Owl, as well as reacquainting with other island specialists and hopefully a few of the endemic butterflies. Travel in the era of Covid however is subject to its own rules, the journey out was eventful to say the least!


16 December. Trip to Nowhere.

European Covid Passes at the ready, digital passenger locators for Italy done and downloaded, checked in online, looked on the Italian government website for the latest Covid travel restrictions, all okay.

Boarding set for 9.30 pm, late evening flight to Rome. And that's where it all went wrong … a few hours earlier, the Italian government had changed entry requirements! With immediate effect, the European vaccination certificate alone was no longer enough, you now also needed a negative Covid test! And many thanks to the Italian government, although they had informed the airlines, they had not updated their own travel advisory website!!!

Along with other passengers, we were not allowed on the plane.

Getting back from the airport just before midnight, I had the idea to salvage the trip by booking new tickets for the following day … that was not very easy, no direct flights available and no logical connecting routes apparent, neither to Rome nor the Canaries. However, after a half hour or so of playing with European flight schedules/flight restrictions/entry requirements, a new route was worked out. One hour then completing all assorted online health forms, passenger locators, etc, then bed for three hours.
 

Jos Stratford

Eastern Exile
Europe
17 December. Juggling in Europe.

5.00 am, a bit blurry eyed, it was time to head to the Covid testing center for antigen tests. Back at the airport an hour later and, after a slightly nervous moment or two of wondering if I had really completed all the required Covid documents, we were onboard and airborne, our new destination the Netherlands!

The idea of a cultural day in Rome was now gone, but with no direct flights available to the Canaries that would arrive in time for our arranged car hire etc, we needed to get to Rome to connect with our original onward tickets. So there we were, a few hours in the Netherlands, then attempt number two on Italy!

More nerves at the appointed boarding time, more unhappy fellow travellers who still hadn't heard about the changed regulations, but as for us, we sailed through boarding control. Got to Rome just after sunset, didn't go sightseeing, stayed in a hotel near the airport.
 

Jos Stratford

Eastern Exile
Europe
18 December. Arrival in Tenerife.

News coming out of Europe made for heavy reading, Covid cases in Britain, Germany and France breaking records, a new lockdown in the Netherlands, tightening of restrictions across the continent. Our trip however was back on schedule - departed Italy at 6.20 am, arrived in Tenerife four hours and a half later.

In Lithuania it had been minus 12 C, here it was sunny and a pleasant 21 C, I was already smiling. Picked up a rental car in no time at all, Canary Island Chiffchaffs in the rental parking lot, then began a gentle meander up the flanks of Mount Teide, umpteen Atlantic Canaries, one koenigi Great Grey Shrike in a scrubby field, several Common Kestrels. Entered the rather ominously named Corona Forestal, then reached the Las Layas picnic area - set in open pines, this is the best known locality for the island's most characteristic endemic, the Tenerife Blue Chaffinch. And indeed, the very first bird on arrival was exactly that - sitting in a pine aside a small building, one male Tenerife Blue Chaffinch. Well that was easy! Wandered around for a half hour, soon adding several African Blue Tits, Canary race of Great Spotted Woodpecker and more Atlantic Canaries. At the far end of the picnic area, I stumbled across a drinking pool...and splendid this was, not only numerous Atlantic Canaries dropping in, but near a dozen Tenerife Blue Chaffinches too. Very nice.


Thereafter, meandered onward, crossing over the top of the Teide and down the western flank. Not a lot of birds in all and, a bit zonked from two very short nights, decided to call it a day. Upon the balcony of our apartment in Puerto de Santiago, finished the day gazing out to sea - not a highly productive activity in winter, Yellow-legged Gulls the only birds seen.
 

dandsblair

David and Sarah
Looking forward to any trip reports in these weird times.
We had similar problems with testing/forms on a trip through Eastern Europe where, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia and Hungary all had different rules and in total we had 4 tests for a two week trip.
 

James Lowther

Well-known member
18 December. Arrival in Tenerife.

News coming out of Europe made for heavy reading, Covid cases in Britain, Germany and France breaking records, a new lockdown in the Netherlands, tightening of restrictions across the continent. Our trip however was back on schedule - departed Italy at 6.20 am, arrived in Tenerife four hours and a half later.

In Lithuania it had been minus 12 C, here it was sunny and a pleasant 21 C, I was already smiling. Picked up a rental car in no time at all, Canary Island Chiffchaffs in the rental parking lot, then began a gentle meander up the flanks of Mount Teide, umpteen Atlantic Canaries, one koenigi Great Grey Shrike in a scrubby field, several Common Kestrels. Entered the rather ominously named Corona Forestal, then reached the Las Layas picnic area - set in open pines, this is the best known locality for the island's most characteristic endemic, the Tenerife Blue Chaffinch. And indeed, the very first bird on arrival was exactly that - sitting in a pine aside a small building, one male Tenerife Blue Chaffinch. Well that was easy! Wandered around for a half hour, soon adding several African Blue Tits, Canary race of Great Spotted Woodpecker and more Atlantic Canaries. At the far end of the picnic area, I stumbled across a drinking pool...and splendid this was, not only numerous Atlantic Canaries dropping in, but near a dozen Tenerife Blue Chaffinches too. Very nice.


Thereafter, meandered onward, crossing over the top of the Teide and down the western flank. Not a lot of birds in all and, a bit zonked from two very short nights, decided to call it a day. Upon the balcony of our apartment in Puerto de Santiago, finished the day gazing out to sea - not a highly productive activity in winter, Yellow-legged Gulls the only birds seen.
Hi Jos,
I was in fuerteventura earlier this month - let me know if you need any info. I tried and failed twice for barn owl so not sure how much help I would be!!!
James
 

Jos Stratford

Eastern Exile
Europe
19 December. Tenerife Endemics.

With a full week awaiting on Tenerife, I'm not quite sure where my logic had gone, but I decided to spend this first full day mopping up all the island's endemics. Puerto de Santiago to Mirador de Grimona pre-dawn, fluking one Long-eared Owl on route, then awaited sun up aside the road at this famous site for Laurel Pigeon. Dawn chorus of a sort, Tenerife Robins singing, much activity by Atlantic Canaries, one Barbary Partridge grating out its sing song atop a rock outcrop, scratchy calls of Sardinian Warblers also in the mix. As for the main target, after many a swirling flock of Rock Doves, in flew a single Laurel Pigeon after about 20 minutes to settle among mid-slope laurels, shortly after followed by two more. After ten or fifteen minutes more, they vanished into vegetation at the base of the cliff and onward I decided to go.


Next stop, more laurel forests at Chanajiga. In contrast to the busy Grimona roadside, this was a quiet picnic site set in densely forested hills, most picturesque. Already warm, I sat on a picnic table and watched the adjacent slopes. Many Tenerife Robins, Blackbirds and Canary Island Chiffchaffs galore, two Common Buzzards circling overhead and several more Kestrels. Flight views only, but close range, it wasn't long before a pair of Bolle's Pigeons appeared, keen on an area of forest just below the picnic area. Several fly-bys of this pair, but never did I see them settle, always they plunged into the canopy to land. Strolled along the trail for a couple of kilometres, Tenerife Goldcrest and African Blue Tit in good numbers, plus endless Canary Island Chiffchaffs. A little later, back at the picnic site, I added my first butterflies of the trip - a single Red Admiral (not Canary Red Admiral) and the endemic Canary Speckled Wood. Canary Brimstone followed shortly after, three on lower slopes.

Time to leave the laurel forests and head to the top of the mountain and into the volcanic crater of Teide, a stark land of beauty, angular black lava flows and debris. Pretty rubbish for birds however, a hour or so exploring merely adding two Berthelot's Pipits and a Common Raven. A stop at Las Layas was short - being a pre-Christmas Sunday afternoon, it was heaving with folk out for a picnic. Tick and run on Tenerife Blue Chaffinch, then downward to the southern coast of Tenerife, a relatively short stop at Amarilla Golf and the adjacent coast - one Great Grey Shrike, a motley collection of feral Muscovy Ducks with one Ruddy Shelduck in company, an assortment of other common birds.


And that was that, all of Tenerife's endemic species in a single day, celebrated at McDonald's, headed back to Puerto de Santiago.
 

Jos Stratford

Eastern Exile
Europe
20-21 December. Los Gigantes/Playa de las Americas.

Not technically on holiday as yet, Puerto de Santiago did serve as a very pleasant location for a couple of days of work. Hardly torture with a balcony overlooking the sea providing ample distraction, two pods of Short-finned Pilot Whales and one pod of Bottlenosed Dolphins the main highlight. Being winter, seabirds decidedly scarce, one Cory's Shearwater and one Bulwer's Petrel the sum of it, thought the latter was supposed to be in sub-tropical waters at this time.


Did find some time on both days to add a little exotica to the trip - the palm-lined boulevards of Los Gigantes producing three Blue-crowned Parakeets, while the abundance of greenery in Playa de las Americas adding, after considerable search, a flock of 12 Nanday Parakeets, smart birds indeed. Rose-ringed Parakeets, Hoopoe and Spanish Sparrows also in Playa de las Americas, plus Atlantic Canaries and Canary Island Chiffchaffs. Had hoped to find butterflies here, but rare cloud decided to mark this day.
 
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Jos Stratford

Eastern Exile
Europe
22 December. Punta de Teno & Monte de Agua (Erjos)

Dawn assault on the north-western tip of Tenerife - the stark wilds of Punta de Teno, towering cliffs dropping to a low volcanic plateau, the latter a favoured site for wintering passerines. The sun just rising, the first sight of the day was impressive - a kilometre from the headland, a mass flock of 250 Atlantic Canaries and 60 Rock Sparrows feeding around an abandoned farming complex. Quite a sight as they periodically rose into the sky, circled and resettled. Onward, I wandered across the cactus-studded lava field towards the headland, several Berthelot's Pipits on route, plus Spectacled Warblers rattling out scratchy calls and sunning atop spindly bushes. Raven and Common Kestrel overhead, that more or less summed up the species tally for the peninsula. Stunningly beautiful around the lighthouse, but near zero birds, so then decided to depart. One very nice Barbary Falcon sitting on a rock pinnacle aside the precipitous entrance road (worth noting that access is no longer permitted to private cars after 10.00).

Next stop, the relatively lush greenery of the Erjos area. The small wetland was totally dry and devoid of birds, so explored instead a nearby trail into the laurel forests of Monte de Agua. Very pleasant - standard fare of Tenerife Robins, Tenerife Goldcrests, African Blue Tits et al, plus my first canariensis Chaffinches of the trip and, exceptionally hard to see in the dense laurel forest, a loose flock of at least 15 Bolle's Pigeons. In more open country, Common Buzzard, Sardinian Warblers and Blackcaps, plus three species of butterflies - one Red Admiral, two Canary Brimstones and three Long-tailed Blues.

Thereafter returned to Los Gigantes, seawatching produced zilch.
 

Jos Stratford

Eastern Exile
Europe
23 December. Las Layas & Playa de las Americas.

Frost and zero degrees at altitude on Teide, black volcanic rocks laced with delicate growths of ice crystals. Thus a chilly start at Las Layas, my idea to get early dawn photographs of Tenerife Blue Chaffinch, but the reality more seeking out the early patches of sunshine while shivering in my tee shirt. About ten Tenerife Blue Chaffinches this morning, plus African Blue Tits et al, but all too soon I decided the warmth of the lower slopes beckoned.

Via mid-level slopes for the Tenerife race of Linnet, I then dedicated the rest of the day to butterflies in the greenery of urban Playa de las Americas. Basking in sunshine and temperatures up to 26 C, this turned out to be most successful - not only a dozen Nanday Parakeets again and four Monk Parakeets, but a nice selection of the desired butterflies too: the highlights one African Migrant attracted to ornamental flowers, a whole bunch of fantastic Monarchs drifting up and down an overgrown gully and at least 12 African Grass Blues on the manicured lawns of a town park. Also Red Admiral, Lang's Short-tailed Blue and Small White.
 
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Jos Stratford

Eastern Exile
Europe
24 December. Mirador de Grimona & Chanajiga.

A moderately quiet day, returning to the north side of the island with the intention of seeking out butterflies. However, a stubborn mid-altitude bank of cloud did its best to hinder that, the results are being just a few Canary Speckled Woods, a single Bath White and several Red Admirals and Small Whites. Still, not bad overall - excellent views of Laurel Pigeons at Mirador de Grimona, no less than seven present and prolonged views of several perched in the trees, then equal luck at Chanajiga with eight Bolle's Pigeons seen during a hike of a few kilometres at this exquisite location. Also plenty of Tenerife Robins and Tenerife Goldcrests, my first Song Thrushes of the trip and, top sighting of the day, the sudden appearance of a flock of about 40 Plain Swifts. As a bank of cloud rolled in, these birds simply materialised out of nowhere and then spent 20 minutes or so spiralling overhead and through the adjacent gorge. Very nice indeed, never an easy bird to catch up with in winter.
 

Muso

Well-known member
Scotland
Jos, this is great! Thanks for recording all this. Although I've been to Fuerteventura several times, my first trip to Tenerife was in December 2021. We'd cancelled / postponed all our overseas trips since Covid began, and the Tenerife holiday was sort of still sitting there, and we were unsure what to do right up until we decided to go. I'd done a bit of research online as to where to see what etc, although not really a birding trip from my wife's POV - more a holiday in the sun (snowing in Glasgow today). Although it's always a birding trip for me...

Had to book PCR tests to arrive by post when we returned, and had to prove we'd done that to board the plane, as well as all the other paperwork, proof of vaccination, Spanish locator forms etc. We arrived on Fri 3rd Dec, and on the following Sunday, the rules changed, now requiring an antigen test within 2 days of flying home. Had to find a medical centre to arrange this, spent a lot of time booking that (endless forms), then received an email the next day saying "sorry but due to high demand we now can't do it"...! Had to quickly find alternative, then had problems uploading proof to the Scottish Locator form...we were there for a week, and this consumed about three days. Didn't have a hire car, couldn't book trips due to the worry of not getting test and therefore not being allowed on the plane. Apologies for length, but writing this put me back into the situation...!

Anyway, your "where-to-see-what" list is a lot more comprehensive than anything I found online, and it will accompany me next time I go. Well done on an amazing list of birds and butterflies! Enjoy the rest of it.

Thanks, Ian (not jealous about Blue Chaffinch at all...) :)
 

James Lowther

Well-known member
24 December. Mirador de Grimona & Chanajiga.

A moderately quiet day, returning to the north side of the island with the intention of seeking out butterflies. However, a stubborn mid-altitude bank of cloud did its best to hinder that, the results are being just a few Canary Speckled Woods, a single Bath White and several Red Admirals and Small Whites. Still, not bad overall - excellent views of Laurel Pigeons at Mirador de Grimona, no less than seven present and prolonged views of several perched in the trees, then equal luck at Chanajiga with eight Bolle's Pigeons seen during a hike of a few kilometres at this exquisite location. Also plenty of Tenerife Robins and Tenerife Goldcrests, my first Song Thrushes of the trip and, top sighting of the day, the sudden appearance of a flock of about 40 Plain Swifts. As a bank of cloud rolled in, these birds simply materialised out of nowhere and then spent 20 minutes or so spiralling overhead and through the adjacent gorge. Very nice indeed, never an easy bird to catch up with in winter.
I also saw quite a few plain swift at chanajiga in November 2017. Possibly a good site for winter stragglers?
James
 

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