8–15 September 2014
This group of islands holds several endemic bird species as well as good numbers of seabirds plus desert-loving species that also occur in North Africa. They differ substantially in vegetation, from semi-deserts to lush laurel forests. As the islands are isolated, the number of species we see will be low (about 60) but the quality will definitely be high!
Day 1 Flight from London Gatwick to Tenerife and transfer to the hotel in the north of the island which will be our base throughout the tour. Depending on time, we will then bird the local area, probably picking up two of the most widespread special species: Plain Swift and Berthelot's Pipit
Day 2 We will first drive up to the pine forests flanking Mount Teide, a dormant volcano, and, at over 12,000 feet, the highest point not just on the Canary Islands but in the whole of Spain! In these forests we will see two endemic species: the absolutely delightful Blue Chaffinch and, of course, Island Canary. There will also be a few other birds about, a number of which, including Great Spotted Woodpecker and Common Chaffinch, have evolved into distinctive subspecies. In the afternoon we will descend into the Laurel forests to look for two more endemics: Bolle's Pigeon and Laurel Pigeon. This is not always easy, however, as low clouds frequently roll in, making viewing difficult. We will also see Canary Islands Chiffchaff and African Blue Tit. Canary Islands Kinglet is also found here. Around the villages higher in the mountains we may find Rock Petronia as well as Sardinian Warbler and Common Kestrel.
Day 3 Today we will head towards Punta de la Rasca, an area with great seawatching. There are also some interesting species en route to the point: we may see Trumpeter Finch, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Southern Grey Shrike koenigi, very confiding Berthelot's Pipits and Eurasian Hoopoe. Out at sea we should see good numbers of Cory's Shearwaters and may spot a Little Shearwater or two. Our final site of the day will be a nearby reservoir that attracts ducks, waders and herons and we may see Cattle Egret or Little Egret. Numerous rarities have been recorded here so anything may turn up! Passage waders are often recorded and we may see Kentish and Little Ringed Plovers, Ruddy Turnstone, Common Redshank, Common Greenshank, Black-winged Stilt, Dunlin, Common Sandpiper, Eurasian Whimbrel or even a vagrant American wader. Spectacled Warblers can also be seen in this area and Plain Swifts often fly low overhead.
Day 4 This morning we will drive to Tenerife north airport and take a short flight to Fuerteventura. On arrival we will head west into this starkly different landscape of volcanic rock and semi-deserts. Our first destination will be one of the sites that hold the endemic Fuerteventura Chat, which we should find easily. We will then set about exploring the semi-desert areas where Trumpeter Finches and Lesser Short-toed Larks are common. Spectacled Warblers are more often heard than seen but our real quarries are Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Cream-coloured Courser, Barbary Partridge and Houbara Bustard. None is easy but, with patience and perseverance, we will stand a good chance of success. We may also visit the reservoir at Los Molinos to look for waterbirds, perhaps including Marbled Duck, which has bred here in the past. Other birds in the area include Common Raven, Common Buzzard and Egyptian Vulture whilst Spanish Sparrows are common around the villages. We will then return to the airport for our flight back to Tenerife.
Day 5 After a full day yesterday, today will be somewhat more leisurely. We will start by looking for Laurel Pigeon in the north of the island. Next we will head to Punto de Teno, passing some spectacular scenery en route. Wind permitting, we will try some seawatching. If the wind is too strong, we may head to the hills to look for Rock Petronia and Island Canary. En route we will search the sea-cliffs for Barbary Falcon.
Day 6 This morning we will return to Punta de la Rasca to see if we can find anything new. On a previous tour this turned out to be a fruitful birding strategy with Barbary Partridge, Eurasian Hoopoe, a hunting Barbary Falcon and Curlew Sandpiper all putting in appearances. This afternoon will probably be the highlight of the trip for many. We will board a small boat and take a pelagic trip to get closer to the seabirds. Cory's Shearwaters will be virtually within touching distance and we might also see Little Shearwater. The star bird, however, would be Bulwer's Petrel and we have had very good views of this tough-to-see species. As well as the seabirds, marine creatures will be in evidence and we may see Short-finned Pilot Whale, Bottle-nosed Dolphin and Loggerhead Turtle.
Day 7 We will head to the north-western part of the island to another excellent site for the pigeons, especially Laurel Pigeon. On the way we will probably see a few open-country birds including Eurasian Hoopoe. This is also a good area for Barbary Falcon. In the afternoon we will visit a local park, where we may get close-up views of Spanish Sparrows.
Day 8 A leisurely morning, followed by an early-afternoon flight back to London.
General Information The climate is generally warm and sunny, but it can be cloudy with drizzle in the mountains. A sun hat is therefore important together with some warm clothing for mountains and the boat trip. There are no special health requirements but please check with your doctor.
Group Size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 6; maximum group size: 7 with 1 leader or 14 with 2 leaders.