30th December 2013 - Portland

We decided to go for a proper twitch on the 30th, down to Portland to see the Brünnich's Guillemot.  The drive was quite nice as it was a lovely day and we got there relatively quickly.  The first bird that was of excitement (to me) were a couple of Red-breasted Merganser - a lifer for me!  This was quickly followed by another lifer but this time for both of us, a Black Guillemot.  

A lone lady Eider was fast asleep and a couple of Pied Wagtail were hopping around.  We decided to head up to where the majority of the twitchers were and as we got there the Brünnich's Guillemot appeared - and swiftly headed to where we had just come from.  However, we got some great sights over about 10 minutes, lovely little bird.  

Brunnich's Guillemot
One day I'll find that pot of gold

Whilst we were waiting for it to reappear I got yet another lifer - a Great Northern Diver.  It unfortunately didn't reappear for a while and it was getting late so we moved on to Radipole where there was a Glossy Ibis happily standing in a field with kids riding their bikes nearby and a small menagerie of photographers merely metres away.  Amazing.  

Glossy Ibis

We made a last ditch attempt to get the Poole Harbour for the Surf Scoter that had been seen there.  It was nearly sunset when we arrived and we met the last people leaving.  Luckily the last gentleman gave us fantastic directions to see the bird (thank you!) and we got to see it, albeit from a far distance.  Another lifer!  This took me from 194 to 199 birds for the year...noooo!  The 31st would produce just one more for me...right?!

Trip list: 13
Year list: 199
Lifers of year list: 33

28th December 2013 - Peak District

After Christmas, we headed up to Manchester to see my family.  Obviously we kept an eye on the alerts and this lead to us heading out across the Peak District to Broomhead Reservoir near Sheffield to see some Two-barred Crossbill.  As with attempts before, we just missed them but did get to hear them call this time which was quite exciting.  We weren't too disappointed though as we saw loads of Red Grouse on the way, something we weren't expecting at all!

Red Grouse

A few Mistle Thrush were around with Redwing and Fieldfare and I spotted a Raven as we headed back to Manchester.


Trip list: 14
Year list: 194
Lifers of year list: 28

15th December 2013 - Lower Halstow and Isle of Sheppey

Down to Kent in the blustery weather to hopefully hunt down a Black Brant.  It was really awful weather to be birding, that horrible stinging sheets of rain that makes it impossible to see anything and the freezing cold to go with it.  Whilst driving around trying to find the field that contained the flock of Brent Geese that the Black Brant was hanging out with, we had an unexpected and rather odd encounter with a Sparrowhawk which ran down the lane in front of the car for a good while.  Very odd.

We eventually found the flock due a very helpful lovely gentleman on Twitter and set about scanning it to find the odd one out.  With the weather this was clearly going to take some time so the three of us decided to take shifts with the scope, warming up in the car when it wasn't our turn.  Stuart eventually found the elusive bird and there was great delight all round - it was a good bird to see and we could finally all get back in the car!  I was hoping to see the Whimbrel that had been seen near there recently but unfortunately with the weather and not being entirely sure of the right location, we had to give that a miss.  No 2013 Whimbrel for me!

The plan was to then go on to the Isle of Sheppey to see what we could find there but the weather was abysmal at that stage so we settled down in the Ferry House Inn for some lovely grub.

Trip list: 25
Year list: 193
Lifers of year list: 28

5th to 12th December 2013 - Tenerife

We headed to Tenerife for a holiday, hoping to see all the endemic birds and anything else that popped up.  It was an interesting holiday as the island experienced the worst storms it had had in a long time.  There was a code red alert issued and we weren't able to leave the hotel on the 2nd last day, which was rather annoying as we still hadn't found any Bolle's Pigeon! The hotel also flooded on the 2nd day we were there and we had to eat in the dark, which amused us greatly but I'm not so sure the other residents found it as funny!

We didn't go out birding on the first day we arrived, just for a short walk from our hotel in Las Caletillas.  We did however see five birds on our walk - many Collared Dove (still to be identified as African or European), Blackbird, Yellow-legged Gull, Monk Parakeet and our first endemic - Canarian Chiffchaff!  The Canarian Chiffchaff is incredibly loud, it was the first thing we would hear when waking up each morning, which is certainly a lovely wake up call.

The next day we headed off up an incredibly steep road to join the TF-24 along through the Teide National Park, where the volcano is.  Teide is the highest point in Spain and we were hoping to go on the cable car to visit the top but unfortunately the queue was too long - we had birds to find!  It was on to Las Lajas to see the Blue Chaffinch, which we expected to be easy - in every guidebook and trip report it stated that you could hear them before opening the car door and they'd be easy to spot hopping around the water taps.  Were they hell.  We spent a good couple of hours wandering the site and staking out various taps and we didn't hear nor see a single Blue Chaffinch.  We did however see many African Blue Tit and Canary and a scramble down a slope produced a single Tenerife Goldcrest.  Upon returning to Las Lajas later in the evening to give the Blue Chaffinch another try, we saw lovely Raven and the Tenerife subspecies of Great Spotted Woodpecker.  A quick stop in Vilaflor for food at El Rincon de Roberto proved an excellent plan, with a lovely piece of rabbit for Stuart and pork with apples for me.  There were Plain Swift circling overhead, another lifer!

Monk Parakeet

Mount Teide
The next day we took a trip to the northern side of the island, in search of Bolle's and Laurel Pigeon.  We had read that Laurel were hard to find so weren't expecting any on this day.  However, at the first stop, at Mirador de la Grimona on the TF-5 we were pleasantly surprised to see 2!  There were no Bolle's Pigeon however, a theme which reoccurred throughout the holiday...The Mirador de la Grimona was probably my favourite place to bird watch.  In a layby on the edge of a busy road, looking up at a sheer rock face.  Ahhhh.  We saw also saw Blue Tit, Canary, Sardinian Warbler, Canarian Chiffchaff, Kestrel, Little Egret, Yellow-legged Gull and a possible Rock Dove from there that day.  Lunch that day was provided by Los Pinos in Garachio, with huge portions of delightful octopus, calamari, avocado and shrimp frittata and my favourite Canarian dish, papas arrugadas with green mojo.  Yum.



We popped down to the area by the airport on the Sunday as we wanted to do a whale watching trip.  We took a short wander in El Medano, where we spotted some Bertholet's Pipit and 3 lovely little Kentish Plover.  Both were lifers!  On round to the boat from Los Cristianos, where we were lucky to see lovely Short-finned Pilot Whale as well as Spanish Sparrow, an unidentified Shearwater and a Little Egret.  We were also mobbed by Yellow-legged Gull.

Yellow-legged Gull

Spanish Sparrow
Monday is was back yet again to Las Lajas for a stake out of the drinking pool.  We weren't leaving without seeing a Blue Chaffinch!  A false alarm which led us to stalk around a large bush for a while was actually quite fun and broke up the monotony of sitting in the car.  Two hours later and Stuart was being utterly rubbish at watching out for the bird and was playing Duolingo instead.  I should probably mention at this point that I had already had two fleeting glimpses but Stuart had missed both so he really should have been more alert than I was!  A blue bird flew into a tree directly opposite - cue 'STUART GET YOUR BINOCULARS UP NOW GOD HELP ME IF YOU MISS IT THIS TIME'.  It was very obliging and sat there for a while posing for the cameras.  Thank you Blue Chaffinch!  We stopped off in Adeje for an excellent fried chicken lunch at Otelo - truly delicious.  On the way back to the hotel we had a quick stop off at a pool by the Amarilla Golf club where we came across 8 Little Egret, 4 Spoonbill, 2 Little Ringed Plover and plenty of Spanish Sparrow.  Lovely.

Blue Chaffinch

We were now hunting the Bolle's Pigeon (and a Chaffinch if we could find one).  It was back to my favourite spot, Mirador de la Grimona for a brief scan, which gave us Tenerife Robin, another Laurel Pigeon and many Canary.  It was starting to get rather stormy so we sat down for a gorgeous fish lunch at Restaurante Escondida then headed back to the hotel.  The next day we weren't allowed out of the hotel - it looked like Bolle's Pigeon was not going to be seen this trip.

Great Spotted Woodpecker
The 12th was our last day and we decided to head up the TF-12 to El Bailadero in a last ditch attempt to get the pigeon.  An unexpceted bird was seen on this road - a Barbary Partridge!  It sat in the road for ages being adorable and didn't seem bothered by us being there at all.  Very exciting!  It was still very windy so being high up on the edge of a steep drop looking for birds was quite scary.  We scanned the valley below for a while, with only one possible sighting of a bird that could have been a pigeon.  We headed back to the car to go to the airport.  I thought I'd have one last scan of the valley and came across a bird perched on a branch.  Then I spotted the one next to it...and the five next to that one...a flock of Bolle's Pigeon!  Wooooooooooooooooooo!  A delightful meal was had to celebrate in the small fishing town of San Andres at La Posada del Pez, where we were introduced to the freshly caught fish and could choose one of our liking.  I went for red snapper which was cooked with lentils and Stuart went for some gorgeous scallops.

Bolle's Pigeon

I had a great time in Tenerife and was very happy we managed all the endemics in the end!  The food was delightful and I am now obsesed with mojo.  I wasn't so taken with the wine but it was cheap and easy drinking so I suppose that's always a good thing!

Barbary Partridge

Books used:

Field Guide to the Birds of Macaronesia: Azores, Madeira, Canary Islands, Cape Verde - Eduardo Garcia-del-Rey

An excellent identification guide, used many times until Stuart managed to lose it halfway through the holiday.  Doh!

Finding Birds in the Canary Islands - Dave Gosney

We were lucky to receive the updated version, released just before we ordered.  This was a heavily used site guide with great recommendations.

A Birdwatchers' Guide to the Canary Islands - David Collins, Tony Clark

This book was quite old so used as a supplement.  We did find however it was still quite relevant and had sites that the others didn't.

Donde ver Aves en Tenerife - Eduardo Garcia-del-Rey

This was highly recommended on various blogs I read before leaving but unfortunately I couldn't get a hold of the English copy.  Luckily Stuart is quite good at Spanish and we used this also to supplement Dave Gosney's book.

Tenerife Bus & Touring map

Whilst not great, definitely useful if you've hired a car.  This was battered by the end of the holiday!

The Real Tenerife: The Insiders' Guide - Andrea & Jack Montgomery

Loved this book, an interesting guide to sights, attractions and most importantly, food.