So the time came when only a car would unlock my remaining Canary Island targets. Any old junk on wheels would do and that’s what I got – a Tata. So long as it went up hills I didn’t care and the first hill on the itinerary was Mount Teide itself. Not right to the top. Only the cable car does that but a climb of 7,000 feet up one flank was necessary for Las Lajas picnic site.
This is renowned for the endemic blue chaffinch (Fringilla teydea) and that was the first bird to show, right by the toilets – one of those habitats that birders get to know well. Larger than our common chaffinch, the male is naturally a pale blue all over; the female is a uniform grey and harder to distinguish from Fringilla coelebs. My bird was an easy male for lifer number 1,080.
Rather more puzzling was a yellowish finch that perched and sang openly and caused me to wonder if it were siskin or serin. It was rather plain and didn’t answer for either finch. This is where birders, who know of so many species, can be too smart for their own good.
Ask a layman what they might expect in the Canaries and they’d say… what would they say? Come on, the clue’s in the name – Canary Islands. Geddit?
Well, I didn’t get it until I consulted Collins and then– goddammit, was the bird streaky or not? By then it had disappeared and a good half hour passed before another individual perched, sang with gay abandon and confirmed that it was indeed a canary. Endemic to the Atlantic islands, the species also occurs on Madeira but still counts as a Tenerife speciality; I have no plans to go to Madeira.
In the meantime my third lifer of the day had been more obvious. A very dark-capped blue tit lived up to its description for African blue tit. The name tells us that this is not endemic but the Canaries have their own subspecies (with no wing bar) so one day…
I was running at six lifers in five days and had basically hit every species I’d aimed for (plus one). That sequence surely couldn’t continue: the next two – pigeons that only inhabit the northern slopes and only show early in the day – would be more of a challenge. ⇐ ⇒