Tuesday 3 January 2012

Tenerife & La Gomera: the specialities

We roll on, out of the Fuerteventuran desert and into the steep laurisilva forest on Tenerife and La Gomera. There are relatively few species of birds here, but they are generally of interest – a few endemics, and some distinct races of common European birds.

Perhaps the best known endemics are Bolle’s and Laurel Pigeons. We spent quite a bit of time standing around at various vantage points over the forest looking for these – they tend to be gloriously picturesque places in their own right. It wasn’t too difficult to get reasonable flight views of both species (though La Gomera is clearly better for Laurel – I only saw one on Tenerife), and the distinctive tail patterns make ID pretty straightforward on all but the briefest of views. However, seeing either species perched up for scope views is quite a mission, and though I did manage it in the end, neither were close. Now, excuses made, here are the photos – Bolle’s first, then Laurel:



I think these are known as ‘record shots’!

Never mind – another Canarian endemic species showed rather better. Blue Chaffinch inhabit the pine forest around 1200-1800m above sea level on Tenerife, and are pretty easily encountered around various picnic sites – we also found a couple around a bar/restaurant high up in the Teide National Park! I never quite got the killer shot I wanted, since they were very reluctant to come out of the shade, but this is OK…


The local tintillon race of Chaffinch is also worth mention, since they’re so smart.


Canary Islands Chiffchaff has only recently been split as a species, but after spending a bit of time looking at (and listening to) them, they seem quite different to ‘our’ collybita birds in various regards. As with many island-dwelling species / sub-species, they have a longer, thinner bill, and the face pattern is dominated by a strong supercilium, rather than an eyering. The primary projection is also very short, accentuating the length of the tail. Finally, the song is really distinctive – a very halting, spiky series of notes, recalling Cetti’s Warbler as the Collins says. Here’s a couple of pics:


The Chiffchaffs were absolutely all over the place, feeding low down a lot of the time rather like a Wren would do here. Another very common bird, yet still new to us was the Canary itself. These were smarter than I’d expected, and the sound of groups of birds calling and singing was very easy on the ear.


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