7 - 15 February 2017 FULLY BOOKED!
Tour Leaders: Cristian Jensen & Shena Maskell
The Galapagos of the Atlantic Ocean!
Why did Darwin travel so far?
The Canary Islands have a lot more to offer the birding visitor than you might guess from their reputation as a winter-sun destination. The isolation of this archipelago has given rise to an avifauna that is not found in any other part of the world. Dramatic scenery and unique species!
The islands boast over 650 endemic plant species, a handful of unique reptiles, 6 endemic birds, 3 near endemics and a dozen or more endemic subspecies. However, it is not only the species count that makes the islands special, but their huge variety of habitats, ranging from coastal sand dunes to alpine scrub.
There is a natural division from west to east, the western islands being more humid than the eastern ones. From the subtropical laurel forests, or the studded pine forests of Tenerife, to the arid semi desert of Fuerteventura. We will visit both ends of the islands giving us a good range of habitats; because each island has its own character and unique set of creatures. Add to this daytime temperatures ranging between 18 to 26 degrees Celsius, it will be the perfect winter break to bag some birding endemics! The tasty local cuisine will offer additional enjoyment.
The Canary Islands have a good number of endemic and near-endemic species, including Fuerteventura Stonechat, Canary Island Chiffchaff, Blue Chaffinch, Atlantic Canary, Berthelot’s Pipit, Plain Swift, Bolle’s and Laurel Pigeons. Additionally, there is the chance to spot some interesting seabirds and cetaceans.
Day 1 Arrival in Tenerife
Flight from London Gatwick to Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands with the widest range of habitats.
As we approach by plane the volcanic cone of Mount Teide at over 10,000 feet, will be sure to catch our eye. There should be an opportunity for some afternoon birding. We will try to see some of the more common birds endemic to the Macaronesian islands like the Canary Island Chiffchaff, Plain Swift and the symbolic Atlantic Canary, very well known for its rich song. We will check-in to our rural hotel on Tenerife where we stay for the first five nights.
Due to the Pico de Teide, the north of the island is often cloudy and the hills have moist laurel forests. The central area consists of open pines and a high plateau, whilst the south is in the rain shadow therefore is drier and more sunny. Overnight La Orotava
Days 2, 3, 4 and 5 Tenerife
These days we will search for bird species unique to the islands such as the two endemic pigeons, Bolle's Pigeon and the Laurel Pigeon. Searching for these two in the Laurisilva forest can be a challenge!
One of the real woodland stars is the beautiful Blue Chaffinch also the Tenerife Kinglet is common in these forests. A day trip to the Las Lajas picnic site is probably the best place to see the Blue Chaffinch as well as the distinctive local race of the Great Spotted Woodpecker. We will hope to have excellent views of these species as well as the local race of African Blue Tit. Weather permitting; we will go higher and admire the volcanic rock formations in the centre of the island.
Some other taxons endemic to the Canary Islands are Southern Grey Shrike (ssp. koenigi), Grey Wagtail (ssp. canariensis), Chaffinch (ssp. canariensis) and Lesser Short-toed Lark (ssp. polatzeki).
Along the dramatic north coast, we will check the gulls for the Yellow-legged Gull (atlantis)
Other highlights here are the Barbary Falcon and in the softer hinterland we can anticipate Sardinian Warbler and a Robin that requires our close attention!
To the south of the island, the Euphorbia vegetation is quite unique, most of the species being cactus-like in appearance, only found here and on the Atlantic coast of Morocco. In this habitat we will search for Berthelot’s Pipit, Rock Sparrow and endemic taxon of Spectacled Warbler (ssp. orbitalis)
Day 6 Sunday Flight to Fuerteventura
Local birding before taking our flight to Fuerteventura. Check-in to our small, rural, family-run hotel in the north of the island and enjoy birding in quite a different environment.
Day 7 and 8 Fuerteventura
This island is very much like North Africa, desert -like it hosts very little vegetation but with spectacular scenery of sand dunes, impressive cliffs and beautiful ”barrancos”. The most important bird in this island is the endemic Fuerteventura Stonechat. Locally not an uncommon species we will search for it in various frequented locations. Trumpeter Finches, Spanish Sparrows, Stone Curlew, Spectacled Warbler, Lesser Short-toed Lark and Barbary Partridge are other highlights, while we should check the skies for Common Raven and Egyptian Vultures.
A healthy population of Houbara Bustard is present in the island and we hope to enjoy the spectacle of this species giving its ‘foam-bath’ display. Cream-coloured Courser and Black-bellied Sandgrouse should also be present in this habitat.
We will visit a lake and a reservoir where we may see some Ruddy Shelduck, Black-winged Stilt, Marbled Teal and perhaps some extra ‘surprises’!
Day 9 Departure Fuerteventura to Gatwick
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