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Canary Islands

24–31 July 2024

Our new three-centre tour will look for the critically-endangered endemic Gran Canaria Blue Chaffinch before flying on to Tenerife for the endemic Bolle’s and Laurel Pigeons, Canary Islands Chiffchaff, Tenerife Blue Chaffinch and the near-endemics Plain Swift, Berthelot’s Pipit and Island Canary and finally on to Fuerteventura for Houbara Bustard, Cream-coloured Courser and the endemic Canary Islands Stonechat.

Day 1 Flight from London (there may be regional airport departure options) to Gran Canaria where we will spend the next two nights. Our target bird here is the recently-split and critically endangered Gran Canaria Blue Chaffinch high up in the pine forests of the mountains. Depending on our arrival time and after checking into our hotel, we should have time on this first afternoon to search for the bird.

Day 2 We will have all day to continue searching the pine forests for Gran Canaria Blue Chaffinch which has a population of only just over 100 pairs. During our time in the pine forests there is also a good chance of seeing Canary Islands Chiffchaff and Island Canary. In the afternoon we will look for the introduced Monk Parakeet in a local park before returning to our hotel for dinner and to prepare to move on to our second island tomorrow.

Day 3 We will take an early morning flight to Tenerife North airport where we will transfer to our hotel which will be our base for the next three nights. After lunch, we will first drive up to the pine forests flanking Mount Teide, a dormant volcano, and, at 3718 metres, 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 Tenerife Blue Chaffinch and, of course, Island Canary. There will also be a few other birds about, a number of which, including Great Spotted Woodpecker (canariensis), European Robin (superbus) and Common Chaffinch (canariensis), have evolved into distinctive subspecies. In the afternoon we will descend into the Laurel forests to look for two more endemics: Bolle's and Laurel Pigeons. This is not always easy, however, as low clouds frequently roll in, making viewing difficult. We should see Canary Islands Chiffchaff and African Blue Tit too whilst the insularum sub-species of Common Buzzard is frequently seen. The teneriffae race of Goldcrest is also found here but may be less easy to locate. Around the villages higher in the mountains we may find Rock Sparrow as well as Sardinian Warbler and Common Kestrel whilst Plain Swift and Berthelot's Pipit are common and widespread.

Day 4 This morning we will visit a second site high up in the mountains where both Bolle’s and Laurel Pigeons can be found. We will then head towards Punta de Teno, an area that can produce good seawatching. We may see some interesting species during our walk out to the point: Trumpeter Finch and Mediterranean Short-toed Lark are very scarce in the area now but we ought to connect with Great Grey Shrike (koenigi), very confiding Berthelot's Pipits and Eurasian Hoopoe. Out at sea we should see good numbers of Yellow-legged Gulls (atlantis), and Cory's and Barolo Shearwaters are possible though they will probably depend upon wind strength and direction. 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 can 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 may also be seen in this area and Plain Swifts often fly low overhead.

Day 5 Today will be a ‘catch up’ day where we can revisit any sites to look for birds we may have missed and to have another opportunity for a seawatch. Seawatching is always a hit and miss affair as it is highly dependent on wind direction and strength and no two days are alike. If we have already seen all the endemic and speciality birds of the island we may make a return ferry trip to La Gomera which will give us an alternative seawatching opportunity.

Days 6–7 After some last birding around Tenerife, we will drive back to Tenerife North airport and take a short flight to Fuerteventura. Our first destination today will be one of the starkly different volcanic rock and semi-desert sites that hold the endemic Canary Islands Stonechat, which we should find fairly easily. We will then set about exploring other semi-desert areas where Mediterranean Short-toed Larks, Spectacled Warblers and Trumpeter Finches can be found but our real quarries here 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 stay overnight on Fuerteventura.

Day 8 A few hours’ birding will give us a second chance to look for any species not located yesterday. This will be followed by an early-afternoon flight back to London or regional airports.

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 for the ferry crossings. 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 2 leaders or 14 with 3 leaders.

Tenerife Blue Chaffinch

Tenerife Blue Chaffinch

Recommended books available from NHBS