Trip Report: Tenerife & La Gomera (Canary Islands), August 22 - September 3, 1999

John Coveney, Ireland;


Thanks to Andrea Kelly for providing the 1995 trip report, Tony Clarke for advice on visiting the Canaries and Peter Doyle for assistance in identifying the dragonflies.

Sources of Information


Birding was done as part of a package sun holiday based in the Las Adelfas complex in the Golf Del Sur. A car was hired for 5 days from 26 to 30 August, inclusive. Car hire was cheap (c. £20/day) and easily available. La Gomera was visited on 1 September taking the 9 am (Fred Olsen) ferry and returning on the 6 pm ferry. A car was hired for the day at the ferry port. The La Gomera trip had been planned for a week earlier but a heavy (and unexpected!) cold prevented this. Most birding in the car was done in the evenings to avoid unusually high day time temperatures - up to 38°C.

22 & 25 Aug: Around Golf del Sur.

26 Aug: Erjos pools and track to Masca (spectacular!) and Los Giganates.

27 Aug: Anaga peninsula - El Pijaral.

28 Aug: Villaflor, "Respetemos La Naturaleza" aka "leaking pipe", Las Lajas and Les Canadas and Mount Teide - the last two spectacular but birdless

29 Aug: Aguamansa and Chanajiga via Mount Teide cable car.

30 Aug: Afternoon coastal cruise from Los Gigantes to Masca instead of advertised whale watching trip - beware! Evening seawatch from near Punta de la Rasca

1 Sep: Ferry to La Gomera and drove aroundthe island.

2-3 Sep: Around Golf del Sur.

Sea watching was done on the evenings of 25 & 31 August and 2 & 3 September from a small headland just west of the Golf de Tenerife Hotel at the southern end of the Golf del Sur. Sea watching was also done on 30 August from the end of a driveable track to the sea some 1 km east of Punta de la Rasca. Numbers of and distance to the Cory's Shearwater were comparable at both sites.


The weather was generally sunny and warm or hot around Golf del Sur. It became very hot - up to 38°C - for about a week from 26 August. Winds were light to moderate, generally from the east, especially when it was hot. There was thick mist in the north around Erjos on 26 August - contrasting with clear sunny weather in the south. Some mist and rain was also encountered in higher areas of La Gomera.

Birding & Wildlife Analysis

Perhaps the most noticeable feature was the low numbers of birds, both in terms of individuals and species. This was especially so in the dry scrub habitat around the resort. However, the quality of the endemics made up for this. All the endemic species that could be expected on Tenerife and La Gomera were seen as well as several of the well marked subspecies. The most notable exception was the local and distinctive race of Chaffinch. At sea, the two target species were Little Shearwater and Bulwer's Petrel. The former was seen but not the latter. Perhaps early September is a bit late in the year.

Overall, this is an easy trip that can easily be combined with a standard holiday but still allows a high proportion of the target list to be ticked off. Apart from birds, these island are the Galapagos of Europe in the numbers of endemic species, mainly plants. There is a brilliant network of National Parks on most of the islands which hold most of these species and are great places to visit once all the obligatory bird ticks have been disposed of!

Bird Checklist

Species22/8Golf26/8 27/828/829/830/831/81/9 2/93/9
1. Cory's Shearwater X     XX XX 
2. Great Shearwater          1  
3. Little Shearwater          5  
4. Cattle Egret            2
5. Little Egret       3   1 
6. Sparrowhawk XX   1      
7. Buzzard  X       2+  
8. Kestrel*XXXXX XX 1X 
9. Barbary Falcon2          1 
10. Moorhen  2         1
11. Little Ringed Plover   6       48
12. Grey Plover       2   11
13. Dunlin           12
14. Whimbrel 5     11  12
15. Comm. Sand.  1         1
16. Yellow-legged Gull*XXX    XX XXX
17. Rock Dove*XXXX20+ X XXXX
18. Bolle's Pigeon    h? 6-7   3-4  
19. Laurel Pigeon          5-6  
- Collared Dove? 1?           
20. Turtle Dove2-3    2-3       
- parakeet sp.             
21. Plain SwiftXXX lots10-15X XX XX
22. Alpine Swift    1        
23. Hoopoe4-5Xc.10        c.2c.10
24. Great Spotted Woodpecker*     10-123-4      
25. Swallow 4 2         
26. Berthelot's Pipitc. 5  2-3  2    2-33-4
27. Grey Wagtail  1         2
28. Robin    h        
29. Blackbird  X lots h   1 1
30. Sardinian Warbler   1         
31. Chiffchaff*    XlotsXlots  X  
32. Tenerife Goldcrest     h h  1+h  
33. Blue Tit*    17-88-10   4-5  
34. Raven     2    2  
35. Spanish Sparrow10+X15+  6-7  1  4-515
36. Blue Chaffinch     10+3-4      
37. Canary   10-12 10+8-10   7-8  
- Munia sp. ??1           1

New species in bold. * new subspecies - only indicated where characteristics were seen.

Notes on Checklist

Cory's Shearwater: Very common on sea watches and from La Gomera ferry - most numerous 1-2 km offshore. Apart from gulls and the occasional wader, virtually the only species seen from land based seawatches.

Great Shearwater: Approaching La Gomera on the morning ferry but still a good way out.

Little Shearwater: Five seen at intervals on the evening ferry from La Gomera. One flew parallel to the ferry allowing prolonged but distant telescope views. Another flew very close under the bow.

Cattle Egret: The birds were at the small reservoir at the north end of Golf del Sur.

Little Egret: The three birds were seen on the evening sea watch from near Punta de la Rasca.

Barbary Falcon: Adult and juvenile over and around Golf del Sur. Juvenile again on 2 Sep near Golf del Sur. A real bonus bird got on foot from the resort!

Moorhen: At the small reservoir at the north end of Golf del Sur.

Little Ringed Plover: All around the small reservoir at the north end of Golf del Sur and the dry adjoining areas.

Grey Plover: Seen on rocky shores during sea watches.

Dunlin: At the small reservoir at the north end of Golf del Sur.

Whimbrel: On rocky shores during sea watches, seen flying overhead or heard at night.

Common Sandpiper: At water tank on Punta de la Rascatrack and at the small reservoir at the north end of Golf del Sur.

Yellow-legged (Canarian) Gull. Ubiquitous - flocks roosted on the golf course.

Bolle's Pigeon: Probably heard at Anaga, impossible to see in the mist at Erjos but fair flight views at Chanajiga (Tenerife) and Monte el Cedro (La Gomera) road. Also one poor perched view at Chanajiga.

Laurel Pigeon: Fair flight views at Monte el Cedro (LaGomera) road.

Collared/Barbary Dove??: 1 near the Golf de Tenerife Hotel in the Golf del Sur. I did not pay any attention to the bird at the time but now I think it may have been the latter introduced species as it did appear to be small and pale.

Parakeet sp.: Small flocks in flight around the small reservoir at the north end of Golf del Sur.

Plain Swift: 100+ around the hills at Anaga.

Alpine Swift: One over the Anaga hills at length on its own and briefly with the Plain Swift flock.

Hoopoe: Most regular around the small reservoir at the north end of Golf del Sur.

Great Spotted Woodpecker: Excellent views at Las Lajas.

Grey Wagtail: At the small reservoir at the north end of Golf del Sur.

Chiffchaff: Very common - distinctive call frequently heard.

Tenerife Goldcrest: Lots heard but impossible to get good views on Tenerife. Fortunately, excellent views were had at the Monte el Cedro road on La Gomera.

Raven: Distant views only.

Spanish Sparrow: In my experience to date, the easiest place in Spain for this species - e.g. around restaurant tables!

Blue Chaffinch: Las Lajas lived up to its reputation as the best place in the world for the species.

Munia sp.??: A large finch with a big conical (pale?) bill, black surround and chestnut head and or body (notes not taken at the time) was I think, some kind of munia but I do not have an appropriate reference. Presumably an escape.

Wildlife Checklist: Tenerife and La Gomera Aug/Sep 1999

Species22/8Golf26/8 27/828/829/830/8 31/81/92/93/9
Darter sp.1            
Emperor Dragonfly5+X   XXX  XXX
Scarlet Darter1            
Darter sp. #11            
Darter sp. #21            
Large White 1           
Small White11           
Bath WhiteXX           
Cleopatra          4-5  
Red Admiral      1      
Lizard sp.lots   XXXX   XX
Cetacea et al.
Bottle-nosed Dolphin          c.6  
Pilot Whale          c.6  
Dolphin sp.          1  
Flying Fish          1  

Notes on Checklist

What I presume were Emperor Dragonflies were very common around the gardens and hedges of Golf Del Sur. However, it was hard to get a good look at them as they did not seem to perch.

The first Darter sp. may have been Red-veined. The second Darter had a multi-coloured head with yellow and blue patches which is not in the Dragonflies of Europe by Askew.

Presumably the lizard was the endemic Canary Lizard but this was not checked.

All the cetacea et al. were seen from the La Gomera ferry. The Bottle-nosed Dolphins were seen outside the harbour at La Gomera while the Pilot Whales were seen off Los Cristianos.

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This page served with permission of the author by Urs Geiser;; March 1, 2000