Sunday 30 July 2023

Gran Canaria, Days Five to Seven

After the Gran Canaria Blue Chaffinch twitch on Thursday, I took Jacob out on his first 'pelagic'- a dolphin watching tourist boat out from Puerto Rico, with a company called Spirit of the Sea. Not a bad haul with Bottlenose Dolphins, Loggerhead Turtle, Flying fish, Cory's Shearwaters and a single Bulwer's Petrel. Unfortunately Jacob got sea sick and was trying to watch the dolphins while throwing up over the side of the boat. He is not too keen on going out to sea again and fingers crossed the experience hasn't put him off in the future- he is only six still so maybe a bit too much too soon. 

Friday was spent at Maspalomas, walking along the sand dunes and doing some touristy stuff (i.e. awful stuff) and our last day Saturday was spent at the Crocodile Park. Nothing else much to report from the last couple of family days- a couple of Hoopoes from the car was a sought after little lifer for Jacob and we also had a Monarch at the Crocodile park. 

So back home now after a great little family holiday with a World tick thrown in (also African Collared Dove Cat C tick ) and a few new leps and a lizard  lifer too. Would highly recommend Gran Canaria for any family enslaved birder as just the Chaffinch endemic to sneak out to bag. 

Cory's Shearwater (above) and Bulwer's Petrel (below) 

The best shot I could get of the Bottlenose Dolphins while trying to nurse Jacob at the same time
Sea sick Jacob
Monk Parakeet- these were common at our resort and in the surrounding areas
The Crocodile Park and Palmitos Park are the two big animal attractions for kids on Gran Canaria. Palmitos Park is the best landscaped 'zoo' I've been too (and I've been to a lot). 
Our holiday digs- Canary Island Chiffs, Common Waxbills, Canaries, Spanish Sparrows, Collared Doves, Blackbirds, Bertholot's Pipit, Plain Swifts and Monk Parakeets were present on the grounds
Maspalomas Sand Dunes- had a couple of juvenile Audouin's Gulls flying along the Beach
A few holiday snaps- Holly with Tapas (above), Jacob, me and his school friend who he bumped into out there (below) and Jacob and I below after he saw his first Hoopoe

Thursday 27 July 2023

Gran Canaria Blue Chaffinch

Successful mission this morning. I didn't have much time around family commitments (had to get back for a Foam Party) so made for Llanos de la Pez which is the main Ebird hotspot for this island endemic. The wildfire was still raging and the main road to the site was closed so I had to detour to the north and drop back down which took a bit longer but I was lucky there was still one route open to the summit. 

Site location and checklist HERE. Locations of all recent sightings on Gran Canaria HERE.  The birds I saw were by the road near the picnic area car park. By the looks of Ebird this is where most sightings are. My 3163rd species on my world bird list and 719th for the Western Palearctic . My Life targets are 5000 (half the world's bird species and all families) before the grave in the World and 800 by 80 in the WP.   

Gran Canaria Blue Chaffinch is arguably Europe's rarest breeding bird with only 130+ breeding pairs in the world.  Formerly conspecific with Tenerife Blue Chaffinch, Gran Canaria Blue Chaffinch was recently split due to plumage, morphometric and vocal distinctions.   

Male Gran Canaria Blue Chaffinch (above). Differs from Tenerife Blue Chaffinch by the more extensive black at the base of the bill,  white covert bar and more distinctively by the paler blue upperparts and whiter underparts. 
Female Gran Canaria Blue Chaffinch (above) 
African Blue Tit 
'Gran Canaria Great Spotted Woodpecker', Dendrocopos major thanneri - an endemic subspecies on Gran Canaria. Great Spot is also present on Tenerife of the subspecies canariensis. The Great Spots on the Canary islands are darker on the underparts than the nominate, with canariensis being darker than thanneri. 
Gran Canaria Blue Chaffinch habitat- Montane Canary Pine forest
A couple of inverts to identify (above and below) . The butterfly below could be the endemic Gran Canaria Grayling 

Wednesday 26 July 2023

Gran Canaria, Days Three and Four

I'm planning on doing a morning's proper birding tomorrow and in the meantime just been keeping my eyes open on various family trips. Yesterday we visited Maspalomas sand dunes and nature reserve for a beach day and today we visited Palmitos Park. We spend the afternoons at the Hotel pool and Beach. 

There's a wildfire in the Pine forests in the centre of the island but I'm keeping my fingers crossed I can get up there tomorrow to try and twitch the Gran Canaria Blue Chaffinch (arguably Europe's rarest breeding bird species with only 130+ pairs). The helicopters are going back and forth over the hotel trying to control it so hopefully it will be under control. Seems like a European summer holiday isn't complete nowadays without wildfires and evacuations (they've been evacuating some mountain villages about 12 miles from here).    

Canary Island Chiffchaff
Spoonbill at the Sand Dunes nature reserve. Quite a good selection of waterbirds there seen from the footpath while walking past. Ebird list HERE

Gran Canaria Giant Lizard (three photos above). Also had this Lizard (below) which was well marked- not sure if just a young Giant Lizard or something else

A couple of Dragonflies to identify. Found this link here- could be The Epaulet Skimmer (above) and Red-veined Dropwing (below). 

Maybe a Scarlet Darter. Also had a male Emperor. 
Charca de Maspalomas sand dunes and lagoon nature reserve  (above and below) 

The Orchid garden at Palmitos Park was one of the highlights
A couple of photos from Palmitos Park- one of the most impressive zoos I've been too, set at the top of a canyon and constructed on a terraced cliff face with an excellent collection of animals and birds and some fantastic sub-tropical and desert planting too (above and below)

The family walking along Charca de Maspalomas- a nice little sneaky birding spot on the tourist track

Monday 24 July 2023

Gran Canaria, Days One and Two

On a family holiday at the moment on Gran Canaria. It's mainly inflatable crocodiles, water parks, sun bathing and restaurants but I've smuggled a moth trap out here and got a couple of birding targets I'm hoping to sneak in. First bit of stealth birding didn't go well today and had to abandon a Gran Canaria Blue Chaffinch twitch for Tapas. I'm hoping will get some more chances to escape the Matrix later in the week. So far had a few interesting bits (mainly around the hotel grounds) including Canary Island Chiffchaffs, Island Canaries, presumed Plain Swifts, African Blue Tit and had the Canary island forms of Common Buzzard and Common Kestrel, Ravens, Berthelot's Pipit, Pallid Swifts and Sardinian Warbler on our mountain road tour today. Plenty of Monk Parakeets around the hotel and some dodgy looking Collared Doves which might have something to do with the Cat C African Collared Doves round here. 

Berthelot's Pipit
Had a flock of Swift over the mountains- I thought they were Plain Swifts originally but after a bit of editing shows rather vermiculated underparts like Pallid . However I checked Ebird/ Macaulay and looks like the mottled underparts is typical of Plain Swift. The thinner wings and longer deeply forked tail are also features of Plain Swift. 

The uniform upperparts also indicates Plain Swift. Again showing the long deep forked tail. Pallid is more contrasting on the upperparts. 
Gran Canaria Giant Lizard (an endemic species to the island) 
Had the moth trap out on the hotel balcony so wasn't expecting much but a few bits (above and below). Will try and identify them when a get a breather. 
A Dark Mottled Willow (I think) 

Looks like a Small Mottled Willow
I recognise this I think but can't remember the name. There was an influx of them in the UK last autumn. 091023- update it was Uresiphita gilvata that I was thinking of

Mountain views 
A Naturalist deep undercover on a TUI resort. Seem to pass as a Normie for as long as nobody speaks to me (some guy started talking to me about silent discos which almost blew my cover). No questions about the moth trap either so all good so far and the kids are loving it and fit in well.