Monday, 2 March 2015

La Palma, Canary Islands - 21st - 28th February (Days 3 - 4)

Day 3 (23rd Feb) - The usual suspects were again present in the scrub around our hotel, with Blackbird, Canary Islands Chiffchaff, Sardinian Warbler and Collared Dove recorded, whilst Yellow-legged Gulls were patrolling the cliffs. We decided to head to the south of the island today, and to the salt pans at Punta Fuencaliente. It was quite cloudy with occasional rain at our hotel but as we headed south the weather improved. En-route we saw several Kestrels, and occasional Red-billed Choughs but otherwise just Feral Pigeons, Collared Doves and a few unidentified little brown jobs that we passed at 50kph!

Red-billed Chough - Los Canarios

We had headed south on the LP-2 and as we exited it to join the LP-207 at Los Canarios, a flock or at least 50 Red-billed Choughs were wheeling around overhead. I quickly pulled over to grab some shots. According to my Bird Watchers’ Guide to The Canary Islands (Tony Clarke and Dave Collins), La Palma is the only one of the Canary Islands that supports Red-billed Chough, so a visit here is a must if you want to add it to your Canary Island list. A Cleopatra, of the endemic form Gonopteryx cleopatra palmae, was the only new butterfly species of the trip. 

Red-billed Chough - Los Canarios
Red-billed Chough - Los Canarios

The salt pans at Punta Fuencaliente are open to the public and it is possible to do a circular walk taking in all of the pans. The majority of the pools were completely devoid of birds, well life in general actually, but eventually we came across two that had some waders present. The list included Ringed Plover (3), Turnstone (12) and Sanderling (1). There were also a handful of Yellow-legged Gulls roosting and several others flying over…but that was it. This site was also meant to be a good seawatching and location and so I scanned it for a few minutes, but only saw Yellow-legged Gulls.

Ringed Plover - Salt Pnas at Punta Fuencaliente
Ringed Plover - Salt Pnas at Punta Fuencaliente

We decided to make a circular route of the headland and continued on the LP-207, through Las Indias and onto the LP-209 and back to Los Canarios, where we re-joined the LP-2. Before passing through Los Canarios we stopped at the San Antonio Volcano. It was very windy here but we did see a few Canaries, two Serins and a couple of KestrelsBack at our hotel, another scan of the sea produced 50 Cory’s Shearwaters and two Manx Shearwaters and once again the usual species in the scrub.

Day 4 (24th Feb) - The first bird of the day was Cory’s Shearwater, a couple of birds were foraging distantly offshore. The Canary’s were showing very well this morning, as were the Chiffchaffs, but the Sardinian views were limited to tantalising glimpses. It was a dull and overcast start to the day, and the hillside was shrouded in cloud, possibly not a good day for heading up there in search of pigeons, but we decided to give it a go.

After breakfast we headed north to Los Tilos, the best known site on the Island for the two endemic pigeons, Bolle’s and Laurel, plus the other endemics, Blue Tit and Chaffinch. We arrived to a hillside shrouded in cloud, but that did not stop the Chaffinch from putting in an appearance, nor the Blue Tit. The Chaffinch was, as expected, remarkably tame, with at least 20 birds present around the cafe and information centre looking for a tasty snack. The Blue Tit, was not enticed down for food, but still showed very well in the surrounding woodland.

La Palma Chaffinch (male) - Fringilla coelebs palmae
La Palma Chaffinch (male) - Fringilla coelebs palmae
La Palma Chaffinch (female) - Fringilla coelebs palmae
La Palma Blue Tit - Cyanisties teneriffae palmensis

I was expecting a long trek in search of the pigeons, but as it turned out there was no need to walk anywhere as both species showed very well from the road behind the information centre. The Laurel Pigeon was seen regularly high overhead displaying above the canopy, and the Bolle’s Pigeon showed well lower down, with several birds perched and flying around mid-way to the canopy. Within a fairly short space of time I had seen both species well both perched and in flight, albeit with the aid of my scope. Other new species for the trip included Raven and Buzzard, of the subspecies B.b. insularum.

Laurel Pigeon Columba junoniae - Los Tilos
Laurel Pigeon Columba junoniae - Los Tilos

After our visit to Los Tilos we headed north to the Lagauna de Barlovento, which apparently is one of the best known birding sites on La Palma. It was wet and windy when we arrived and the water level on the Laguna was low. Despite this there were a few gulls roosting and bathing on the lagoon; the majority were Yellow-legged Gulls but there were also five Lesser Black-backed present. A stroll around the surrounding habitat was fairly fruitless, with the only notable species being a flock of 50+ Canary’s. The journey home produced a couple of Red-billed Chough and several Kestrels.

Canary - Serinus canaria

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