Posts Tagged ‘Tenerife


Thinking back

All the media and Facebook storm about the Long finned Pilot Whales in Essex last month made me think of our trip to Tenerife a year last spring. We were lucky enough to spend some time on the water with their Short finned cousins. Beautiful blackfish.

2013 02 28 Short finned Pilot Whale Off Cristianos Tenerife_Z5A1106

Sadly one of the Long Finned Pilot Whales, a female, stranded and died in Essex but the remaining pod looks as though they then went back out to sea.


A shear delight

The other month a Cory’s Shearwater was reported off Sheringham in Norfolk. Great birds Shearwaters; they are birds of the open oceans only coming to land to breed. We visited some breeding caves within lava flows on Pico in the Azores a few years ago but we also got our fill of them in February this year during our visit to the Canaries. As we travelled from Tenerife to La Gomera on the inter-island ferry they were flying with the ship, sometimes coming quite close.

Corys Shearwater


The Coldest of Springs

The cold spring had my mind wandering back to last month on the Canaries. OK we had bad weather but it wasn’t trying to snow. We do seem to have had an eighteen month winter here in the UK.

Around Erjos, where we stayed in the mountains of Tenerife, the hedgerows were full of Wild Pea and every post had a singing Canary. I so wish it would warm up here. Sigh!

Wild Pea



What’s in a list

Deep within the Forests of Canary Pine that reached high up the slopes of the dormant volcano Mount Teide I found something I didn’t expect.

Last month we paid a visit to Tenerife and had travelled high up into the mountains. The road was not much more than cobbled and the rental car was groaning at it pulled us up above the cloud line and into sunshine. The day was suddenly full of blue sky. We were searching for the birds of the high slopes, within the very last of the trees before the open lava fields. We were miles from anywhere… and I found … a chicken! Yep, a chicken; not a residence or farm in sight but here was what was obviously an escapee that had become feral and was living in the forest. This got me thinking.

I know of several areas in Norfolk and neighbouring Suffolk where chickens run wild as they do in Asia. They live and breed as wild birds. They have constructed themselves into self-sustaining populations. Should they therefore be on the British list? Pheasants are. What’s the difference? What a conundrum.


A Chicken scratting a living under the Canary Pines on Tenerife – A wild bird?


Island Races

When a species is isolated and population numbers reduced evolution takes a hand. It sculptures the appearance and sound of a species and gradually changes it to be different form the original.

Here in the Canaries our familiar birds all take on a different guise. They are familiar, but different.

The Chaffinch has altered colours, the Chiffchaff has a song more like a Cetti’s and the Blue Tit has lost wingbars but gained a blueness about it that would make any self-respecting brit tit green with envy. The Goldcrest has a thinner less strident song and an unfamiliar face pattern. The Robin is less of a redbreast and more of a red-throat and has gained grey flanks and it has to be said a more melodic song. Even the Great spotted Woodpeckers pale underparts have been sullied into a greyer plumage. All sub species; species in the making.

Blue Tit (teneriffae).

Blue Tit race teneriffae

Chaffinch (tintillon).

Chaffinch race tintillon

Chiffchaff (canariensis).

Chiffchaff race canariensis

Great Spotted Woodpecker (canariensis).

Great spotted Woodpecker race canariensis

Robin (superbus).

Robin race superbus

Tenerife Goldcrest

Tenerife Goldcrest or is it a race of Firecrest … authorities disagree as to its status.


Cetacean City

Off Tenerife the upwelling of deep currents create the ideal habitat for cetaceans. We went to sea on a couple of occasions during our stay last month. A fantastic find of three Cuvier’s Beaked Whales was perhaps the best but most fleeting sighting. The Bottlenose Dolphins and Common Dolphins were all doing what dolphins do and performing well. Perhaps the most special occasion we had however was the time we shared with a pod of eight inquisitive short finned Pilot Whales. They were endearing creatures that were trying hard to step into our world. Something that will be hard to forget.

Short finned Pilot Whales




There’s a rather robust finch that lives on the Canaries. The Blue Chaffinch occurs nowhere else in the world and is restricted to the Canary Pine forests that cloak the steep slopes of the dormant volcanoe of Mount Tadie.Every now and then as we stood among the pines a large cone would crash to the ground with an alarming thud. Adapted to it’s habitat we saw how the Chaffinch used it’s stout bills to remove the seed from the fallen cones as elequently as a Spanish waiter uncorking a bottle.

Blue Chaffinch


Primeval Landscape

I drew back the curtains and my gasp of disappointment was tangible.
Arriving at the mountain village of Erjos in Northern Tenerife the previous evening in the dark it wasn’t possible to take in the landscape. Now, in the warm light of a bright morning I could see the devastating effects of the forest fires last August.
Millennia ago much of the world was covered in Laurel forests. Gradually as climates have changed and man has taken a hand they are now a rare commodity. The wildlife that has grown to depend on the Laurel for shelter and food has contracted with the forests. Here in the Canary Islands there remains the last stronghold of two very rare birds that go hand in hand with the Laurel. The Laurel Pigeon and Bolle’s Laurel Pigeon eat Laurel buds, leaves and flowers. They are totally dependent on this rare ancient habitat and can survive on little else.

Walking in the clear mountain air out of the Erjos valley I needn’t have worried regarding the effects of the fires; much of the Laurel still remains and it is a truly magical prehistoric landscape. We searched diligently for both the Pigeons. They are shy creatures that do not give themselves away easily. Sure, you can hear them calling and flapping but the dense foliage makes them almost impossible to detect. I talked to some locals who have lived among the mountains all their lives for whom the Pigeons remain but an enigma; they have never seen one.

It took many hours of waiting and watching before we eventually saw our quarry. A Laurel Pigeon was first to put in an appearance as it burst through the canopy drifted for a few seconds and then returned from where it came. Never have I given so much for so little return but as is often the case with these things they were like buses. No sooner did we see our first then five Bolle’s Pigeon took flight, chased across the valley and like missiles duly disappeared behind a fold in the hills.

Getting any sort of photograph was going to be difficult.

Luck plays an important part in these things. Some say you make your own luck. Although still quite distant one laurel Pigeon did a fly past and duly landed in sight affording us our best views yet; a real dinosaur in a Jurassic Landscape.

The Burnt Hillsides of Erjos

The Burnt Hillsides of Erjos

The Laurel Forests of Monte del Agua

Laurel Forests in a nearby valley

Laurel Pigeon

Laurel Pigeon perched

Laurel Pigeon 2

… and in flight

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Mar 2023


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