Information about the Isle

Those who are not interested in the touristic details should click here.

 Time difference: one hour behind the time in France.

Details: Tenerife is a mountainous island whose Teyde Peak culminates at a height of 3718 m.  There is little rain in the south, the north and the west being much more humid.  Unfortunately this is where you will find the most beautiful landscapes and the endemic birds. As we stayed there from 16 to 27 February 2013, at a time when temperatures may still be rather low, especially in the mountains, we had opted for a stay in the south, at the Paradise Park Hotel in Los Cristianos.  This proved a good choice as far as the weather was concerned but because of that we drove over 1800 km on an island which, after all, is only 90 km from north to south and 50 from east to west!  

Traffic:  Except in the west, there is a very busy highway along the coast and a beautiful ridge road winds through a gorgeous landscape in its centre.  Elsewhere, roads may be very narrow and winding and sometimes even dangerous in certain places.  Some of them are closed in case of rain because of the high risk of falling rocks.   The local people do not drive especially fast but they will park on your back bumper if you drive slowly to find your way.  We rented a car with Hertz, which I collected with a tank filled to a quarter and had to return with the same amount of fuel.  Obviously, this is impossible and I felt I had been fleeced, like all tourists. I also had to queue up at the airport desk for quite a long time, both when I collected and returned the car.

Birdwatching spots:

There are two major sites; the Erjos Reserve in the west of the isle, north of Santiago del Teide, and las Lajas, in the centre, north-west of Vilaflor.  You can try to find the endemic pigeons in the north, near the Las Mercedes mountains or near Erjos but parking your car on the roadside will be difficult and some laurel forests have been burnt down, which makes them of little interest.

Erjos Reserve

Erjos Reserve (Photo Danielle Joannès)

 Our trip

16 February 2013. After collecting our car, my GPS brought me directly to the hotel which we found was pleasant on the whole, the staff being very helpful.  The tap water is supposed to be fit to drink but you are warned it may cause bowel trouble so we immediately bought a huge bottle of mineral water in a near-by supermarket for the next day. 

17 February 2013. As soon as I got up I heard a Canary Island Chiffchaff whose hammered song is different from that of the Common Chiffchaff.  We drove westwards along the southern coast, from Playa de las Américas to the cliffs of Los Gigantes.  They tower several hundred metres above the sea and are very impressive but it is difficult to approach them, just like every other site on this coast and this part of the island was too built-up to my taste. The road leading to Santiago del Teide winding amid the pricklypears is much more pleasant but again parking on the side is very difficult.  We had lunch under a bunch of eucalyptus trees and I saw an African Blue Tit displaying its dark blue cap and a few Island Canaries.  We finally reached the Parque Rural de Teno - Charca de Erjos and from the top of the road I spotted a few unused gravel-pits partly filled with water and surrounded with bushes.  To get there, park your car near a road-side café in the direction of Erjos when you come from the south.  Walk to the bend a bit further down and you will find a path to go down there.  I must admit I was a bit disappointed by the small number of birds I found there.  We then took a very winding and sometimes steep road to Garachico. There were a few Yellow-legged Gulls nesting on a huge rocky island in front of this nice little town. There is a charming village square surrounded with balconies made of finely crafted wood and you can have a good look at the marvelous white tower of the church of  Santa Ana.  We spent some time watching the convent and the Franciscan church of Nuestra Señora de Los Angeles and then went to a shaded little park where we saw Canary Island Chiffchaffs and other more common birds.

Santa Ana Church

The church of Santa Ana in Garachico (Photo Danielle Joannès)

We went back to the hotel, driving along a small road in the area of  Masca and regretted we were not able to stop very often because the road was so steep and narrow. The ragged mountains were very beautiful and we were lucky to have a good look at at a Common Raven which had landed close to a small hotel.  We drove on in the middle of agaves and pricklypears growing in the lava fields which reminded us of what we had seen on the Big Island in Hawaii.


Near Masca (Photo Danielle Joannès)

Common Raven

Common Raven

18 February 2013.

The sky was overcast but we nevertheless decided to visit the mountains in the centre of the island.  We first stopped at the Canino Hotel, which is a hotel ... for dogs.  You will find it on the main road, just after Arona.  This is an interesting spot, probably because there is a dam close by.  I came across a Barbary Partridge and a Grey Heron.  Once in Vilaflor, the wind was blowing and it was rather chilly but it was worth stopping there to have a look at the two beautiful churches of the village:  Santo Hermano de San Jose Betancur and San Pedro. 


The Church of San Pedro in Vilaflor (Photo Danielle Joannès)

We then drove up in the direction of El Teide and finally reached the picnic site of Las Lajas.  This is probably the place where I saw the greatest number of birds.  I found Common Raven, Island Canary, Great-Spotted Woodpecker (Canarian subspecies) and above all Teyde Finch and African Blue Tit.  The latter two species can be seen very easily if you take a little walk in the pine forest.  It is a very pleasant place, especially at a time when there are not yet too many tourists.

Teyde Fich

Island Canary and Teyde Finch

We then turned back and drove to the southern coast.  Near San Miguel, I saw about twenty migrating Plain Swifts, about ten Island Canaries and two Berthelot's Pipits.  We had a drink at the Mirador de la Centinela and spent some time watching the plain below and reached the seaside at Las Galletas where we enjoyed the warm weather (25°C) and drove on to the Montaña Roja.  I had hoped to see a few waders at the seaside but I only spotted nudists and I hardly dared to use my binoculars.  The Berthelot's Pipit is very easy to find in the bare vegetation growing before the beach.

Montana roja

The Montaña Roja (Photo Danielle Joannès)

19 February 2013.  Instead of taking the motorway, we decided to take road TF 28 going in the same direction along the hillside.  As a matter of fact it was a poor idea because the landscape is the same and we lost a lot of time along that winding road.  We saw very few birds and when we arrived at Güímar to have a look at some pyramids built in the 19th century, we thought the fee was much too high, except if you decide to spent the whole day there.  In the information centre you will learn how the Norwegian Heyerdahl tried to prove that dauntless navigators may have set sail from the Canary Islands to cross the Atlantic Ocean even before Christopher Columbus did so.  He also had his own theory about the construction of those pyramids.  We then chose to take the summit road  going through Arafo and the site of the Mirador de la Montaña Colorada which is a good spot to observe migrating Plain Swifts.  Unfortunately, it was a bit early in the year for that and the road to the west was closed because of the bad weather.  Our thermometer indicated 5°C, it was foggy and the wet road was covered with branches, pine needles and shreds of eucalyptus bark. We headed south in order to find some sun in the village of Candelaria.  It is a pleasant seaside resort and there is a nice square in front of a beautiful basilica.  The statues of nine Guanche chiefs stand in line along the seaside promenade and inside the church there is a picture of the Black Virgin, nice wall paintings and the blue and gold altar is a pure work of art. 


The Guanches in Candelaria (Photo Danielle Joannès)

Candelaria Basilica

The basilica in Candelaria (Photo Danielle Joannès)

We stopped over in Puertito de Güímar where I saw a few Spanish Sparrows in the palm trees by the sea, 2 Ruddy Turnstones and 4 Whimbrels

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

20 February 2013. The weather being overcast in the mountains we decided not to try our luck again as we had done the day before and we stayed along the coast to visit Los Cristianos and we found exactly what he had expected to see in a seaside resort.  Sand beaches, a few shops but also a very pleasant park.  I saw several Spanish Sparrows and Canary Island Chiffchaffs, 2 Grey Wagtails and 2 Rose-ringed Parakeets.  From the beach we noted that the isle of Gomera was covered with clouds.  In the afternoon we returned to the Montaña Roja going through El Médano.  We came across a few, apparently wild Rock Pigeons in the cliffs, a Whimbrel trying to hide away but we were rather disappointed by the small number of birds there.  In the steppe around the red mountain there were a few Berthelot's Pipits, as usual.

21 February 2013. We took the road leading to the Teide Peak because the weather was fine at last and we were longing to see this picturesque road.  After a short pause at the Mirador de Chirche and its nice garden full of pricklypears, we went on to Boca de Tauce.  This road was built between 1941 and 1943 by Republican prisoners but nothing reminds anybody of how much they suffered there.  The countryside looked gloomy when we reached the firs a'a lava fields and we climbed up the slopes of a small volcano called Sámara before we reached Las Narices del Teide from which we had a beautiful view of the Pico Viejo. 

Pico Viejo

  Pico Viejo (Photo Danielle Joannès)

The blue sky was cloudless, the earth black and reddish and we soon saw the Teide Peak towering on the left over the plain of Llano de Ucanca. 

Teide Peak

  Teide Peak (Photo Danielle Joannès)

You can see the peak from almost anywhere in the island and even if we were high up in the mountains its cone still looked impressive.  The whole natural park is deservedly classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO and there is a cable-car a few kms after Los Roques for those who want to go right up to the summit.  We stopped at a place called Los Azulejos to admire the greyish-blue rocks along the road. 


Los Azulejos (Photo Danielle Joannès)

A little farther up many tourists usually stop to have a look at huge rocks called Los Roques de García and are also attracted by the tourist shops close by.

Roques Garcia

Los Roques de García (Photo Danielle Joannès)

We saw Berthelot's Pipits when we stopped here and there and not far from a restaurant in the area of Arenas Negras, in a Canary Island Pine forest, I saw a few North-African Blue Tits.  If you stop there, you will have a nice view of the Teide cone from the terrace on your left but if you are looking for Island Canaries, it is better to sit on the front terrace, on your right.  We then drove on and turned right shortly after the Visitors Centre and followed the summit road as far as the astronomical observatories.  There were yet a few snow patches along the road sides and were were at an elevation of  2386 m, above the clouds which, as usual, covered the north-west of the isle.  Soon after, we drove down to the coast and near Siete Lomas, I saw 2 Barbary Partridges crossing the road in front of the car.  In spite of that, I once more thought that there were few birds on that isle. 

Sie Lomas
The area near Siete Lomas (Photo Danielle Joannès)

22 February 2013. We decided to visit the northern coast of Tenerife and to do so chose to take the motor way to Santa Cruz, the capital city.  It was longer in terms of distance but much quicker to go to Puerto de la Cruz, which we wanted to visit.  Of course, this meant we would have to drive in congested areas, which we found unpleasant after the gorgeous countryside we had seen the day before.  Just before the city we saw impressive cliffs where I spotted a few apparently wild Rock Pigeons and a bit farther along the road a Rose-ringed Parakeet.  We liked to watch the big waves crashing into the harbour but soon went into the historic part of this pleasant town  and spent some time looking at the beautiful woodwork of many balconies.  There are also two charming churches which are worth a visit, especially Nuestra Señora de la Peña de Francia (end of the 17th century).  In the gardens of Taoro, I spotted a few Island Canaries and, not too far away, several Spanish Sparrows.  We then drove on westwards and stopped at the Cepsa petrol station in the area of San Juan de la Rambla, near the Barranco de Ruiz, just after Longuera.  I had noted that from the parking area, I could have a nice view to the cliffs of the mountains above the road, covered with a nice laurel forest.  I was looking for Laurel Pigeon and did actually see one parading in flight.  It was very dark and easy to identify because of  its tail bordered with white.   We only stopped at Garachico for a very short time because we didn't want to drive on the small mountain roads at night and I also wanted to make a second visit to the Erjos reserve.  Once again I didn't see many birds there. Only a few Canary Island Chiffchaffs but I was pleased to come across a Teyde Finch which is usually found at much higher elevations.  When we reached the hotel we had almost driven all around the isle. 

Island Canary Chiffchaff

Canary Island Chiffchaff

23 February 2013. As the weather was beautiful, we took the ridge road and stopped the car under the pine trees at Las Lajas.  We saw North African Blue Tits and Teyde Finches but in small numbers.  It was a pleasure to cross the Ucanca plain again and we spent some time in the Visitors Centre of El Portillo.  It is rather small but interesting and they play a nice film which explains the history of the isle.  Once in the north, we drove down to La Orotava but were unable to see anything while crossing the laurel forests because of the thick fog.   The small town nevertheless was very pleasant to visit, especially the church of San Agustin built in the 18th century and that of Nuestra Señora de la Concepción. 

La Orotava

The Church of San Agustin at La Orotova (Photo Danielle Joannès)

After we had bought a few things at the Casa de los Balcones, a tourist shop filling two 17th century houses adorned with magnificent wooden balconies overlooking a pleasant patio, we ordered nice warm chocolate drinks but had some trouble finishing off a few stodgy churros.


The Casa de los Balcones at La Orotava (Photo Danielle Joannès)

The weather was threatening so we chose to return to our hotel but before arriving there we parked the car near the cliffs of Punta de Abona where we saw a derelict church and the ruins of a village built in 1943 which used to host lepers.  From the lighthouse, I saw a few Berthelot's Pipits and a Cory's Shearwater off the cliffs.

24 February 2013. As it was Sunday we decided to go and visit the capital city, Santa Cruz.  Of course most shops would be closed but there would also be far less traffic in this city counting as many as 400, 000 inhabitants if you include the neighbouring city of  La Laguna.  One of the most famous sites there is the beautiful auditorium created by Calatrava.  This modern building is shaped like the sail of a ship and you can't but marvel at this masterpiece of architecture. 

Santa Cruz Auditorium

The auditorium in Santa Cruz (Photo Danielle Joannès)

The seaside rocks close by are covered with the portraits of musicians and singers painted by art students.  The churches of Santa Cruz, just like anywhere else on the island, are particularly interesting especially Nuestra Señora de la Concepción and that of San Francisco de Asís which is a masterpiece of baroque art.  We then took a stroll in the Parque García Sanabria, which is what most people do there on a Sunday.  The atmosphere was very pleasant, and you will find nice trees and statues there.  You're bound to find the Rose-ringed Parakeet in the palm trees. 

Rose-ringed Parakeet

Rose-ringed Parakeet

We went for a walk in the city but avoided the market which was far too crowed for us and then drove to the beach of Las Teresitas near San Andrés which was made of sand brought from the Sahara and which was full of tourists enjoying the sun and the sea.  We drove on as far as Igueste but were somewhat disappointed, all the more so as we couldn't find a place to park.  The road from San Andrés to El Bailadero in the north is gorgeous and winds through a laurel forest where I looked for endemic pigeons but as usual, it was impossible to park on the road side.  We should probably have spent more time there but we didn't.  We followed the ridge road instead and stopped here and there at various miradors,  then took the motorway heading for Los Cristianos.    Before arriving at the hotel we stopped at  Abades where I spotted 3 Cory's Shearwaters and many Berthelot's Pipits.


Anaga, near El Bailadero (Photo Danielle Joannès)

25 February 2013. Once again we left Los Cristianos and crossed the island on the ridge road leading to the Teide Peak.  We stopped near the Hotel Canino just after Arona and I came across 2 Barbary Partridges which seemed to be frequent guests there.  I saw another individual at the edge of a pine forest, near Vilaflor, at some distance to the north.  Of course, we also stopped at Las Lajas where I saw about ten Teyde Finches, 4 North African Blue Tits, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Island Canaries.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Great Spotted Woodpecker

We crossed the Ucanca plain hardly stopping anywhere and quickly reached La Orotava without the slightest trace of fog that time and I observed a few Plain Swifts at Valle de Guerra.  We were on the north coast then and went as far as Punta del Hidalgo.  At the seaside, I saw a Little Egret, a Ruddy Turnstone, a Common Sandpiper and many Yellow-legged Gulls but nothing else so we came back to Punta de Abona, on the south-east coast.  If you want to go to the lighthouse, you will have to drive in the direction of El Poris and turn on your right before the village.  There were several Berthelot's Pipits in this yet unbuilt part of the coast and I counted up to 24 Cory's Shearwaters flying above the waves.

Punta Abona

Punta Abona (Photo Danielle Joannès)

We followed the coast to go back to the hotel and noted how ugly it had become because of the banana plantations.  They grow in greenhouses covered with something like gunny and it looks terrible.

26 February 2013.  We wanted to go to the north coast again and thus went through the Erjos reserve where I found a few Common Coots, Canary Island Chiffchaffs, Island Canaries, one North African Blue Tit and two Song Thrushes.  I also heard a few Stripeless Tree Frogs while a Common Kestrel and a Common Buzzard were circling above the village. We drove on to Garachico where several Yellow-legged Gulls and 2 Great Cormorants were perched on the big rocky island facing the promenade.  We visited the convent of San Francisco, did some shopping, then went west towards Buena Vista del Norte.  We would have liked to take the road to Punta del Teno but the numerous signs warning us of the heavy risks of falling rocks acted as so many dampers on us, all the more so as we had omitted to pay for the damage waiver when we rented the car at the airport.  We decided to play it safe and watched the cliffs from the the road.  We saw a Common Raven, a few Blackcaps and returned to the Erjos reserve to have a cup of coffee at the roadside restaurant.  We then moved on towards  San Jose de los Llanos and took a dust road to La Montañeta.  There, we took a very pleasant walk in a forest of laurel  and Canarian Pine trees.  For once, there were several places to park on the sides.  We had found that road by chance and regretted we no longer had enough time to go on driving a little farther. 

27 February 2013. It rained on the last day and I saw a Little Egret and 3 Plain Swifts from the window of my hotel room.  When I arrived at the airport I was furious because the employees of the Hertz car rental company could not find the document proving I had paid a €500 deposit when I collected the car.  We argued for quite a long time and I was finally given my contract and a ticket testifying I had indeed paid the required sum.  The problem was solved later on, once I was back in France, but I could have done without that extra complication.  When we arrived in France, just after midnight, the temperature was only  2°C.

List of birds:

Barbary Partridge Alectoris barbara Seen in various rocky places, usually inside the island.
02Cory's ShearwaterCalonectris borealisA few off Punta de Abona.
Great Cormorant Phalacrocoarx carbo
Two at Garachico and six at Las Galletas.
04Little EgretEgretta garzettaFew.
05Grey HeronArdea cinereaOne near a small dam at Arona.
06Common BuzzardButeo buteoSeen various times in the centre of the island.
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus
On individual at El Tanque.
08Common KestrelFalco tinnunculusRather common indeed.
09Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
In the reserve of Erjos. 
10Common CootFulica atraIn the reserve of Erjos. 
11Ruddy TurnstoneArenaria interpresFew.
12Common SandpiperActitis hypoleucosOne bird at Punta del Hidalgo.
13WhimbrelNumenius phaeopusSome at the seaside.
14Yellow-legged GullLarus michahellis Common.  
15Rock PigeonColumba liviaSeen in towns and cliffs.
Laurel Pigeon Columba junionae
One displaying in a cliff near San Juan de la Rambla.
17Collared DoveStreptopelia decaoctoVery common.
18Plain SwiftApus unicolorAbout twenty at San Miguel.  Some birds don't migrate.
Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major canariensis
Two at Las Lajas.  Canarian race.  One bird with rosy orange undertail coverts and a little red on the belly.
20Berthelot's PipitAnthus berthelotiiEverywhere in the steppes at the seaside or in the mountains.
21 Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea canariensis
One couple at Garachico and another at Los Cristianos, in the middle of the town.
European Robin Erithacus rubecula  (superbus)
Only one individual observed in a barranco at the Mirador de Chivisaya.
Song Thrush Turdus philomelos
Two in the reserve of Erjos. 
Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula Common.
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla Common.
Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
I heard a few singing along with Canary Island Chiffchaffs.
Canary Island Chiffchaff Phylloscopus canariensis Common.
North African Blue Tit Cyanistes teneriffae
Common Raven Corvus corax canariensis
Some in the mountains.
Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis Common, especially in towns.
Teyde Finch Fringilla teydea
About 10 of them quite easy to see at Las Lajas.  One in the reserve of Erjos.
European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris
One in the reserve of Erjos.
Island Canary Serinus canaria Rather common.

Berthelot's Pipit

Berthelot's Pipit.

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