Sunday 23 June 2024

Dainty Damselflies in Kent

It's that time of year when there is not much bird activity and a naturalist's thoughts naturally turn to plants and insects. There had been a couple of orchid targets that I'd thought about going for: Greater Tongue and Slipper Orchids were a couple that I still needed but somehow the thought of slogging all that way just for a single Orchid target wasn't that appealing and I let the time window for seeing them slip by without making an attempt. However, for the main subject of this blog post there was no such chance of letting things slide. All the way back in March fellow county enthusiast PL had suggested  that we might go together on an organised walk in June to see the Dainty Damselflies in Kent and we had duly booked tickets, thereby committing ourselves to go. This species was the last remaining UK Damselfly that was needed for both of us and the dedicated tour, run by the Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory, seemed like the obvious option. 

Just the previous week the weather forecast for the day of our tour had been for torrential rain and we had been wondering how successful we might be. However, miraculously over the weekend it all changed to a settled high pressure system and the forecast couldn't have been better for our odonata hunt. We had booked on the afternoon walk, starting at 2:30 p.m. but we decided to head down early to explore the area a bit. PL had done some research and said that there were good number of Lizard Orchids and also Marsh Frogs, a local speciality, to be seen in the area. And so it was that we rendezvoused in our usual layby just off the M40 at 9:30 a.m. ready for the long slog down to Kent. After fighting our way around the horror that is the M25 we made good progress on the emptier Kent motorways and so arrived just after midday at the observatory car park with plenty of time in hand before our official tour. We made some enquiries at the Observatory about our various targets and were told that everything was pretty close by. So after a quick bite to eat we headed off across some fields towards the dunes and the sea to look for some Lizard Orchids.

Before we even got to the dunes, the first field we crossed turned up a clump of Southern Marsh Orchids and a single Common Spotted. Once into the dune system there were loads of flowers everywhere. Particularly striking were the Viper's Bugloss, whose stunning purple flowers lit up the scene in profusion. It wasn't long before we came across our first clump of half a dozen or so Lizards, all looking tall and healthy. However, as we progressed further it became clear that there weren't just a few of them about: they were everywhere! We counted over a 100 just in the short stretch that we walked and PL in particular was most pleased after some somewhat underwhelming visits in previous weeks to supposed Lizard hotspots.

Southern Marsh Orchid

Viper's Bugloss

One of the hundred's of Lizard Orchids

A Pyramidal Orchid

After taking all the shots that we needed we decided to retrace our steps to look for our second target, namely the Marsh Frogs. We'd been told that they frequently the ponds and ditches in the area and so headed a couple of hundred yards along the road to a small nature reserve area just off the road. Here we met a couple of odonata enthusiasts lingering by a pool. They turned out to be stragglers from the morning walk and we realised that we were actually at the Dainty Damselfly site itself. 

The Dainty Damselfly Pond

It only took us a moment to spot our Odonata quarry as there were a dozen or so tandem pairs frantically ovipositing in one area right by the bank. It was as easy as that! We chatted with the two stragglers who, in passing, pointed out a Marsh Frog in the same pond a yard or so from where we were standing. That was all three of our targets already acquired and we hadn't even started the walk! Our two companions left and we enjoyed some quality time alone with our star species.

Our first glimpse of Dainty Damselflies

Above and below, male Dainty Damselfly

Dainty Damselfly is superficially like many other blue Damselflies so ID does involve knowing what appears where along the thorax. The main dignostic feature is the extended area of black towards the end: there are two and a half segments which are entirely black apart from a smidgeon of blue at the segment joints. The S2 markings are similar to Azure and Variable in being a goblet shape though Dainty has a stem (like Variable) but the goblet is sloping rather than square shaped. In addition S9 has only a thin area of black along the bottom, again which distinguishes them from Variable and Azure.

Here is a male Variable Damselfly at the same pond for comparison.
Note the reduced black area (less than two segments) and the larger black area on S9

Our first Marsh Frog

Marsh Frogs are found throughout continental Europe though not naturally in the UK. They were introduced in the 1930's to a location in Kent from which they have now spread throughout the South East. They are about 50% larger than our Common Frog and more tied to water than the latter species, tending to stay in or around it at all times. Their mating call is a distinctive loud croaking sound which can be heard from some distance.

After a while I went back to the observatory for a cup of tea whereas PL lingered longer in order to try to take some better photos before joining me. Gradually fellow walk participants started to arrive and shortly before 2:30 our guide Steffan came out to talk to us. On our walk back down to the pond he told us how they'd been found by a keen group of visitors staying at the Observatory. They'd hopefully included Dainty Damselfly on their target wish list and Steffan had tried gently to point out that there was no chance of seeing them as there were none in the area. Undaunted they spent several days looking for various targets and before they left they submitted a list of everything they'd found. This had included Dainty Damselfly. "I thought we'd talked about this" was how Steffan phrased his initial response but they then produced photographic evidence proving their find. And so it was that the first colonisers were found. In the first year there were just a dozen or so but this has since grown to a few hundred with three new ponds now being dug to accomodate the increased numbers. 

Once we'd arrived it didn't take Steffan long to pick out some Dainties in the long grass on the short path leading up to the pond. There were plenty around the pond and still ovipositing in the same area as before. Having already got our fill PL and I were fairly chilled about it all but still took some photos when they were sufficiently good enough. The Marsh Frogs were still showing occasionally and it was pleasant to chat to the various walk attenders (about a dozen or so all told).

I tried to get a bit more impressionistic with this on

This very green Marsh Frog was very close to the bank

Steffan mentioned that at the nearby Restharrow Scrape Red-veined Darter and Lesser Emperor both bred though because of the rather unusual Odonata season that we are having, neither species had actually been confirmed yet this year. Still, this was tempting enough for PL and I to have a wander over to take a look. The scape was a very nice site, full of nesting Black-headed Gulls and some diving ducks. Over by the second hide I did manage to spot some distant Odonata flying low over the water but at that distance they were impossible to ID. 

There were loads of Southern Marsh Orchids in front of the first hide at the Restharrow Scrape

Eventually we decided to head back to the car; it was getting late and we still had a fair way to travel. We headed off on the long slog back home which went smoothly apart from the usual stop-start around certain areas of the M25. I arrived back at Casa Gnome for my usual celebratory cup of tea at around 8pm, basking in the warm glow of another successful outing and the last UK Damselfy safely under my belt.

Thursday 9 May 2024

Pitstone Alpine Accentor

It was just after lunch on Sunday afternoon when the news broke. My VLW had gone off to play tennis and I was wondering what to do that afternoon. Suddenly my phone pinged.

"Alpine Accentor in Pitstone Quarry, Bucks" 

What??!! Now Alpine Accentor is not unheard of in this country. With 10 records since the turn of the century it does turn up from time to time. But, in Bucks??!! Usually they were on the coast (Aldeburgh in Suffolk and Blakeney Point in Norfolk being the two previous locations) so inland records were amost unheard of. And to be only an hour from home - that was enough for me to drop everything and go. 

Well I say that, but it then turned out that it had been found quite a few hours earlier, by a botanist hunting for rare mosses in Pitstone Quarry. Whilst not a birder, he knew enough to know it was something rare so he messaged his friend on Twitter who, although out of country on holiday, identified it and put the news out. When birders started to arrive, initial reports were not promising so I held off departing for about half an hour. However, after a while it was relocated and the twich was back on. I sped off in the Gnome mobile with the Sat Nav coordinates set for Pitstone Hill car park, about one hour away. I've only ever done one national rarity twitch in Bucks before. That was for my one and only Kentish Plover sighting that spent the morning on the mud flats of a quarry in Bucks. As I neared my destination I realised that it had in fact been Pitstone Quarry gravel pit, located right next to the quarry that I was headed for. What a coincidence!

By the time I approached the car park I could see the line of cars all down the road so I added mine to the end and tooled up. I wasn't sure whether it was a scope or a camera job so I ended taking everything. I hurried into the car park and through the gate, looking for someone to follow to the twitch site. I soon found a fairly local birder though he was unencumbered by all the stuff I was carrying and it was a struggle to keep up with him. We ended going up the hill and down the other side, before cutting down into the scrub as we descended further. From reports I'd already read on Whatsapp, there was a certain amount of negotiating difficult obstacles in order actually to gain access to the quarry and that indeed turned out to be the case. In fact it was quite a scramble one way or another. By the time I arrived at the twitch line I was huffing and puffing and drenched in sweat from wearing my heavy coat (the forecast has originally said rain in the afternoon). 

Anyway, I was there at last and someone immediately pointed out the bird which was creeping about at the top off a steep escarpment of the quarry side, about some 20 or 30 yards from where we were all standing. Throughout the time I was there the bird was constantly on show, working its way systematically along the cliff face, constantly picking various invertebrates off the surface. It seemed to be finding plenty of food as every thirty seconds or so it would peck at something new.

The Alpine Accentor in all its subtle glory

To start with I feverishly took shot after shot with my superzoom as well as some video but after a while I decided that I wasn't going to get anything better and so tried to get it in my scope instead for a better look. This was actually quite difficult because the bird was so close and because there were no outstanding features that could be used to located it on the rather nondescript rock face. Eventually I managed it and was then able to follow it with scope-filling views as it worked its way along the quarry side. 

It was a very smart bird, with a lot of subtle features that made it much more interesting than our rather subtle Dunnocks that we get here. One subtle feature was the circle of white dots centred around the eye. There was also the yellow patch at the bill base and the pale, mottle throat patch and the rusty flanks. It was altogether a very smart bird.

Some video, with the camera propped up on my scope to stabilise it

The obligatory twitch shot, showing how steep the quarry sides were

All told I spent about an hour admiring the bird and chatting with fellow Oxon twitchers NT and EU. Then it was time to struggle my way out of the quarry and back up the hill to the car before heading back to Casa Gnome. I arrived back just in time for dinner so everything worked out perfectly.

Sunday 28 April 2024

Tenerife in late April

K, my eldest daughter, was going to La Palma in the Canary Islands for work. She's an astronomer and visits regularly to take measurments at the observatory there where the air quality and light pollution are both very good for astronomy work. She suggested that maybe after her visit was finished, she and I could explore Tenerife a bit as she'd never really seen it much. I was keen to do this as it would involve both exploring a new and interesting area and a chance to get in some international birding. I've not done much birding abroad and don't consider myself much of an international lister at all. But this would be a good chance to rectify that as well as to explore a completely new area for me. This was not just going to be a pure birding trip but also a chance to enjoy the interesting and varied island scenery as well. Hopefully the balance between birds and holidaying could be struck so that we could both enjoy the trip.

Target Species

I did some background research on Tenerife and found a number of good trip reports - in particular this one which I relied on heavily. From this I found that there are a number of "must see" endemic species that any serious lister targets. For me, I was just more interested in seeing new species and I drew up the following target list

Endemic to the Canary Islands
Canary Island Chiffchaff
Bolle's Pigeon
Laurel Pigeon
Blue Chaffinch
Canary Island Chaffinch
African Blue Tit

Endemic to the Macronesian Region
Atlantic Canary
Berthelot's Pipit
Plain Swift

Others Regional Species
African Collard Dove
Barbary Partridge

In addition to these birds there are a number of subspecies, some of which are rather distinctive and I drew up a short-list of these as well

Goldcrest - (R. r. teneriffae)
Great Spotted Woodpecker – (D. m. canariensis)
Northern Raven - (C. c. canariensis)
Common Kestrel – (F. t. canariensis)
Common Buzzard – (B. b. insularum)
European Robin – (E. r. superbus)
Blackbird - (T. m. cabrerae)
Yellow-legged Gull - (L. m. atlantis)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk – (A. n. granti)
Sardinian Warbler – (C. m. leucogastra)
Common Linnet – (L. c. meadewaldoi)
Great Grey Shrike - (L. e. koenigi)
Long-eared Owl – (A. o. canariensis) 

So that was my target list but how would I get on?

Getting There

K was already at La Palma and was flying back to Tenerife on Sunday morning. I flew out from Gatwich on Sunday, arriving just before 8pm at Tenerife South Airport. It was interesting flying in and seeing the island for the first time. It looked so bleak and barren that I wondered what it was going to be like trying to bird it. I later learnt that it is just this southern side, where all the resorts are, that looks like this. The northern half is covered in lush Laurel rainforest and is very different from the harshness that greeted me on landing. I picked up the hire car (hearing a Canary Island Chiffchaff and a Blackcap in the carpark) and drove north for what should have been a three quarter of an hour trip to La Laguna where K was staying at a hotel for the evening. Unfortunately I made a cock-up with the Sat Nav as I'd linked it to the car bluetooth but had not turned the volume on so I couldn't hear any instructions. This resulted in me completely missing my turn-off. What with that and driving a strange car on the wrong side of the road I got really lost until I eventually found a side street I could parK in and could sort out the Sat Nav. After that I made my way back to La Laguna only to discover that there was no where to park outside the hotel so I ended up doing a complete tour of the town centre before stopping illegally in one spot (the streets are very narrow) long enough to check in and get instructions on how to access the hotel parking. Finally, I'd arrived and could relax! I met my daughter in the bar for a catch-up and a much needed beer before turning in for the night.

Day One

K had stayed at La Laguna several times as it is right next to Tenerife North Airport which is used to hop over from Tenerife to La Palma where the observatory is. However, she'd never had a chance to explore the town itself so after the hotel breakfast we went for a wander about. Once out and about the first birds to greet me were the Atlantic Canaries. They were everywhere, trilling away in the trees. Another ubiquitous bird was the Canary Island Chiffchaff - they too were everywhere. In the town there were also one or two Serins about though they were far fewer in number than the Canaries. African Blue Tit was soon picked up in one of the open elaborate courtyards of the grand houses that you can just walk into to have a look around. We wandered up a hill to a local viewpoint (a "mirador") where we found some Plain Swifts flying around. A Sardinian Warbler was also spotted in the scrub as we walked up the hill. Back in town, we bought some food for lunch for the day, headed back to the car and off to our first destination, that of the Anaga rainforest area in the north eastern tip of the island. 

An Atlantic Canary in the town

The Laurel rainforest is quite something: dense Laurel trees covering the rather steep hillside. We parked up in a side road and did a short walk up to a viewpoint. The first area was rather popular which was a shame but we soon picked up Canaray Island Chaffinch as well as the Robin subspecies on our walk. 
The path through the Laurel Rainforest


A Canary Island Chaffinch - now split into full species. They are rather striking birds

A rather blurry photo of the Robin subspecies (E. r. superbus). You can make out the rather smart blue-grey area that it has bordering the red breast

Back at the car we had our packed lunch and drove on to Mirador Pico del Inglés. By this time the cloud had descended and we were shrouded in mist. This is a common occurrence on the island and makes the whole rainforest experience entirely magical! This was a fantastic viewpoint and we spent some time here just admiring the scenery and looking down the very steep ravine over the rainforest. There were several Plain Swifts flying about and looking down over the canopy I spotted a very distant Bolle's Pigeon briefly as well as a distant Buzzard. 
The view from Mirador Pico del Inglés. This is classic endemic Pigeon habitat

Next we drove the short distance to the Túnel de las Hadas. This was a path cut into the mountainside, which in the mist was specatularly atmospheric. No new birds here but it was a magical experience which we both very much enjoyed. 

Túnel de las Hadas

More of the misty rainforest vibe

After that we headed back to the car and just followed our noses driving further northwards, stopping at any mirador that we fancied and admiring the view. The clouds soon lifted and we were back in bright sunshine. Plain Swifts were seen regularly, as well as Barn Swallow on one occasion and another large Pigeon species that I didn't see well enough to be sure which one it was. We stopped at a picnic spot for some refreshments and to tempt down some Chaffinches for a photo opp using a crushed Pringle.

Another Canary Island Chaffinch at the picnic spot

As time was marching on, we decided that it was time to head off to the AirBnB that we were staying in for the next three nights. Our AirBnB was situated along the north coast south of the town of La Orotava about an hour and a half away. It turned out to be up a very steep hillside that was a bit of a struggle for the rather low powered hire car that we had. On the way up the track we flushed a Barbary Partridge which was nice to get en passant. The AirBnB turned out to be a wonderfully characterful place located on the edge of a little rainforest ravine and overlooking La Orotava and the sea beyond it. After settling in we went for a walk along one of the many paths that criss-crossed the area. Canaries, Chiffchaffs, Blackbirds and Chaffinches were singing away everywhere and we flushed another Partridge. The whole area was very green and lush and full of wild flowers. The path soon lead us into some more Laurel rainforest and we kept hearing large pigeons crashing their way out of the canopy as we walked though we could never see them to identify them. This turned out to be a common problem when chasing the two endemic pigeon species. They are often so tantalisingly close yet impossible to see. Back at the cottage we had something to eat and then settled in for the night.

One of the myriad of Atlantic Canaries around the cottage

Day Two

The next morning, first thing it was bright and sunny. Just wandering around the cottage environs there were Chiffchaffs, Canaries, and Blackbirds everywhere, along with a single singing Robin, and a Turtle Dove was purring away in the copse at the end of the garden. Overhead were Plain Swifts and an occasional Sparrowhawk. It was all very pretty and full of bird song. Looking across the small ravine at the end of the back garden I soon spotted lots of Bolle's Pigeons flying about though no Laurel Pigeon. It's interesting that on Tenerife there are no Corvids (apart from the occasional Raven) and no Wood Pigeons so any large bird flying out of a woodland canopy is likely to be one of the two Pigeons.

Our plan for today was first to go up to El Teide National Park, where the large volcano cone that dominates the centre of the island is situated. K had already been up it once as the Tenerife Observatory is there but she was keen to go again and I was looking forward to exploring a new landscape. The ascent initially goes through some pine forests. It turns out that the pine there is a special one that is resistant to insects and fungus so is ideal for building and all the old town doors and balconies are made of this dark wood. It is also remarkably resiliant to fire and despite terrible forest fires last year it was already growing back nicely.

After a while the road suddenly broke out of the trees and into the desert proper. This was a stunningly beautiful landscape - very barren and other worldly. At one of the parking areas we got out for a wander about. A couple of Plain Swifts were zipping about overhead and I heard and then saw my first Berthelot's Pipit sitting on a rock. 

The desert landscape of El Teide National Park

Berthelot's Pipit in the El Teide desert

As we drove along, stopping occasionally, there was not much to see in terms of wildlife apart from the occasional Plain Swift - I was surprised that were were no Ravens here. Towards the far end of the El Teide Park at the Mirador de La Ruleta (which was a bit of a scrum in terms of people and parking) we chanced upon a flock of four Berthelot's Pipits, wandering around at very close quarters.

One of the four Berthelot's Pipit feeding in amongst the crowds of people

By now it was lunch time and we decided, naturally enough, to head to the famous La Lajas picnic area. I say "famous" as it is well known to be the spot for the endemic Blue Chaffinch. We arrived to find the place almost deserted with just one large party of asian tourists having a large and very noisy barbeque so we headed to a quiet table at the other end of the picnic area. At first glance the whole area seemed remarkably birdless and I was starting to worry though K said she thought she saw a blue coloured bird fly past us which I hadn't seen. So we settled down for lunch to see what would happen. I crushed a Pringle onto a wall near our table and we started to eat. After a few minutes I spotted the distinctive shape of a large finch-like bird on a distant table and sure enough there was the Blue Chaffinch. A few minutes later suddenly he was on our wall eating the Pringle and we were treated to good views as we ate our lunch. They were much larger than I was expecting, definitely larger that the usual Chaffinch size.

The iconic Blue Chaffinch

Apart from the Chaffinch there were a couple of Ravens (the first of the trip) and I heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker calling. There were also a few Canaries, an African Blue Tit and some Chiffchaffs (of course). Over behind the toilet block I'd read that there was a water hole where all the birds like to congregate but on inspection this turned out to be completely dry. I guess it was too late in the year for that.

One of the two Ravens (C. c. canariensis)

A Kestrel (F. t. canariensis) feeding on a lizard

Having finished our lunch we decided to head into the north west corner of the island and then to work our way back home along the north coast. We were initially thinking of going to La Masca which is a very attractive tourist spot though according to Google it would be heaving with visitors at this time of day so instead we opted for the town of Erjos where there was a track into the rainforest. Apparently, this was also a really good spot for Bolle's Pigeon, and my go-to reference trip report even gave details of the exact tree that they like to perch in! As we drew near the clouds came down again, so it was in increasing mist that we set off on the short walk up to to one of the many paths that criss-cross the island. We initially passed through some nice green scrub area where I finally saw my first Canary Island Goldcrest of the trip. At the top of a small ascent, we knew we'd got to the tree as, with a large clattering of wings, several Bolle's Pigeons took flight all at once. My source of info had said that this would happen and to go into the forest for a little way in order to give them time to return. We needed no second invitation to enjoy the magic of the rainforest and we once enjoyed the spectacle of the trees shrouded in mist.

Yet more misty Laurels!

On our way back I was more careful in my approach and managed to find five Bolle's Pigeons all perched on the same bare tree. However the mist was so bad that they are little more than silhouettes. Still it does make for an atmospheric representation of Tenerife birding!

Three of the five Bolle's Pigeons, shrouded in the mist

Back at the car, we next decided to do some filthy twitching in the form of a stop at Mirador de la Grimona. This is a rather unappealing small Mirador on the busy main road along the north of the island with lots of traffic whizzing by constantly. What is more you have to be on the right side of the road even to be able to stop so we had to go past it and turn around at the next turn off in order safely to stop there. K was somewhat bemused at all this but within a minute of getting out of the car we'd seen our first Laurel Pigeon and basically every minute or two one would fly out from the trees. Whilst the Mirador is for viewing the sea, the Pigeons are actually on the other side of the road on the cliff face towering over us. Also seen were a Buzzard, a Yellow-legged Gull (l.m. atlantis) and a few Plain Swifts.

Laurel Pigeon - about as record shotty as they come!

The view up the cliff where the Laurel Pigeons were

To cleanse ourselves after such a filthy twitch we headed a short distance to Charco De La Laja to look at a natural bathing pool and to stare at the sea a little. There were some interesting Red Rock Crabs lurking around the edge of the pool and it was nice just to sit, nibbling a snack and listening to the sound of the waves.
The natural pool at Charco De La Laja

Red Rock Crab (Grapsus adscensionis)

Finally it was back to the AirBnB. There we had an attempt to cook some pizzas that we'd bought before we discovered that there was no oven in the cottage! We tried to cook it on the gas powered barbeque though this didn't really work and we had to abandon our pizzas and eat left-overs from yesterday. Then it was time to veg out from our long day, so we watched some Netflix whilst sipping on some rather nice Rioja before hitting our beds for the night.

Day Three

We decided to have a more chill day today. I'd basically seen all the major species that I had on my target list apart from African Collard Dove. I had spotted a pale Collard Dove species in passing from the car which had probably been one but I wasn't sure. Still, I was fairly easy going about it so we planned something more relaxed. We started with a little walk from the cottage in a loop around some of the local paths. It was a nice walk though with little of note to report. 

Our walk from the cottage. I thought I'd better redress the excess of misty photos with a shot of the lovely wildflowers that are everywhere on the north part of the island

After a lunch made up largely of left-overs we headed down the hill in the car to La Orotava to explore some of the old quarters of the city. We visited La Casa del Balconies (the aptly named House of Balconies) which did indeed have lots of wooden balconies on it. There were also Spanish Sparrows nesting in the eaves which were nice to see.

Spanish Sparrow

The inner courtyard of La Casa de los Balcones

Wandering around the town afterwards I soon came across a definite African Collard Dove. There were also some Ring-necked Parakeets in a little park area. 

African Collard Dove

Next it was on to the nearby Botanic Garden which had an amazing variety of plants and trees. I came across a young Turtle Dove shuffling around in the undergrowth and on the small pond there were a couple of Moorhen. I realised that this was the only patch of freshwater we had seen on the whole trip.

Juvenile Turtle Dove

I think this is Gallot's Lizard (Gallotia galloti)

One of the two Moorhen on the tiny pond

Scarlet Darter by the pond

The amazing Ficus macrophylla. This is all one tree which drops support trunks so that it can spread out further

By now it was after 4pm and we were thinking that there would be fewer crowds at La Masca so we headed off on the hour long journey there. I had been feeling a bit ambivalent about it but it turned out to absolutely stunning. The clouds had lifted and it was perfect weather to admire the amazing scenery of mountains and ravines along the switchback road leading down into the valley. 

The amazing switchback road that descends to La Masca in stunning scenery

The La Masca view at the end of the road

On the bird front there was another Berthelot's Pipit and quite a few Plain Swifts to be seen. Down at the end of the road there was a small village of houses and restaurants. Amazingly I came across several Barbary Partridges just wandering along the path there and completely unphased by our presence.

A very tame Barbary Partridge

We had intended to eat at one of the restaurants there but they had already stopped serving food so we headed back to the main town and enjoyed a very nice meal of local specialities before heading back on the long drive back home to the cottage. As it was a clear night we tried a bit of star gazing and managed to see several shooting starts just in a short period of time.

Going Home

There's not much to report here. We left the house fairly early, filled up with petrol as the hire car required a full tank on return and then drove the hour or so back to the airport to drop off the car. K's flight wasn't until the evening so she went on via bus to go on a whale watching boat trip while I went to catch my flight. In the end my flight was delayed by a couple of hours as they'd had to swap out the plane that morning on the flight over here due to a technical issue. Fortunately there was a coach back to Oxford just about to leave as I got there so I made back a little time and I got back to Oxford at about 9:30 pm tired but very pleased with what had been an excellent trip. 

It had been a very nice combination of birding and sightseeing and both K and I felt that we'd "done" Tenerife quite well now. I had managed to see all my target species and all but three of the target subspecies. I felt that on the bird front, Tenerife had been successfully completed. This trip had also whetted my appetite for more international birding. With my national UK list becoming very much subject to the law of diminishing returns, international birding opened up a whole vista of fresh opportunities.



I thought I would summarise some of the trip details for people contemplating a trip to Tenerife of their own. Starting with "where to find the individual species".

Canary Island Chiffchaff: this is everywhere. You can't help but see this.

Canary Island Chaffinch: this is everywhere

African Blue Tit: this is everywhere.

Bolle's Pigeon: the best spot for this is Erjos on the bare tree at 28.3294,-16.8102. As I wrote above, be careful how you approach it or you will flush them. If you do, then walk on into the forest and then back again in a while to pick them up on the rebound. Alternatively, apparently Barranco de Ruiz is a reliable spot.

Laurel Pigeon: the Mirador de la Grimona is a reliable spot though less than salubrious.  Alternatively again Barranco de Ruiz is a reliable spot.

Blue Chaffinch
: La Lajas picnic spot

Atlantic Canary
: these are everywhere

Berthelot's Pipit: these were harder than I had been lead to believe from other reports. Mirador de La Ruleta had a tame flock of four though I have no idea if they are always there. I also saw them at La Masca and elsewhere in the El Teide National Park.

Plain Swift: Pretty easy to see.

African Collard Dove
: easy enough in the towns and gardens

Barbary Partridge: I managed to come across them without trying. The end of the road at La Masca had them wandering around at my feet. Apparently Barranco de Ruiz is also a good spot.

In terms of subspecies I managed almost all of them without really trying with only the last three on the list above not seen.

As a general note, there are not many different species of bird on Tenerife which tends to make identification rather easy as there is not much to choose from! My entire trip list came out at about only 30 species which is a very small number for three days of birding. I didn't try for any of the sea birds and didn't visit any freshwater so was very light on water fowl. Still, I got all my target species which was what I was after.

I have updated this post after learning that the Canary Island Chaffinch and African Blue Tit have both been promoted to full species rather than subspecies.