We spent 8 days on La Gomera, flying with Ryan Air from Edinburgh to Tenerife and returning with EasyJet. We took a taxi to the ferry port at Los Christanos (25 Euros each way) and booked a hire car through Cicar to pick up at San Sebastian on La Gomera when we arrived (ca 120 Euros for 8 days). We used the fast Fred Olsen hydrofoil ferry for the crossings as time-wise it was more convenient although it still afforded good sea-watching opportunities. We spent 4 nights in the north of the island at Casas Del Chorro just south of Agulo and then 4 nights at the Jardin de Tecina resort at Playa Santiago on the south coast. We also took a whale-watching trip with the boat “Tina” out of Playa Santiago for about 40 Euros each for a half day.
We took it slowly and aimed to get good views all the specialities. The weather in the north was distinctly cooler than in the south although still very pleasant at about 21 degrees during the day and cooler at night. We saw 39 species and had great views of all the target species: Laurel Pigeon, Bolle’s Pigeon, Barbary Partridge, Plain Swift, Tenerife Kinglet, Canary, Canary Islands Chiffchaff, Berthelot’s Pipit, Chaffinch (race tintillon) and African Blue Tit, plus a good range of seabirds including Macaronesian Shearwater and a brief Madeiran Petrel. Apparently resident species not seen included Woodcock, Raven, Linnet and Goldfinch.
• 4 Feb: Flew Edinburgh to Tenerife, ferry to La Gomera, drive to Agulo
• 5 Feb: Birded valley south-west from Casas del Chorro to Las Rositas
• 6 Feb: Birded Monte El Cedro and Garajonay
• 7 Feb: Birded areas around Las Rositas
• 8 Feb: Birded Monte El Cedro and El Cedro valley, travel to Playa Santiago
• 9 Feb: Birded around Playa Santiago
• 10 Feb: Half day whale-watching trip out of Playa Santiago
• 11 Feb: Birded Barranco de Chinguarime east of Playa Santiago
• 12 Feb: Early am ferry back to Tenerife for midday flight to Edinburgh
The main sites we visited are listed below, where these are listed in the Clarke and Collins Guide we have given the site code C&C.
1) Casas del Chorro area (just south of Agulo):
This excellent rural accommodation was perfectly located for pleasant walks south-west up the valley with a mix of small farmed terraces, patches of Tree Heath, Laurel trees and conifers whilst the veranda overlooked a small reservoir and well vegetated valley.
a) The well-vegetated valley immediately around Casas del Chorro held large numbers of Canary Islands Chiffchaff, Canary, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Blackbird, African Blue Tit and occasional Chaffinch (race tintillon) and Robin, plus regular Kestrel and Buzzard overhead. The reservoir below held up to half a dozen each of Coot and Moorhen plus a lone Grey Heron. Barbary Partridges were heard and seen daily from the veranda of our room, whilst a short walk north to the precipitous cliffs overlooking Agulo produced 2 Berthelot’s Pipit. A large group of Rock Doves frequented the small goat sheds opposite but more unexpectedly a Laurel Pigeon called frequently from a patch of Tree Heath directly across the valley and showed well in flight a few times.
b) SW to La Rositas – easy walks south-west up the valley produced more of the same, plus several often elusive Tenerife Kinglets in the Tree Heath patches (listen for the calls), large flocks of Canaries in the cultivations, 2 Grey Wagtails on the stream and half a dozen Laurel Pigeons daily including pairs flying high in display flights over the ridge west of La Rositas. The National Park visitor centre at Juego de Bolas is well worth a visit in its own right, but the gardens were excellent for close-up views of Chaffinch and Canary Islands Chiffchaff. Barbary Partridges were seen and heard in cultivation and open scrubby areas at Las Rositas.
c) Las Rosas – the larger reservoir here had 30 Coot, 8 Moorhen, a Grey Heron, Grey Wagtail, a Common Sandpiper and a lone Teal.
d) Agulo – the area around the village has the usual birds plus Collared Dove and Grey Wagtail.
e) Hermigua - The roadside cultivations held singing Corn Buntings as well as the usual Canaries and Canary Islands Chiffchaff (last species seen/heard at pretty much all locations visited on the island), plus a lone Plain Swift higher up the valley as we headed towards Monte el Cedro.
2) Monte el Cedro (C&C 4 and 6):
a) We visited this area twice, both times with full sun and no clouds. With many Laurel Pigeons already seen south of Agulo, we focussed attention on obtaining good views of Bolle’s Pigeon. There was a chain across the parking area of the defunct Bar La Carbonera (C&C 3), so instead we checked out the viewpoints along the Monte El Cedro road. The first main overlook on the right produced 1 flying Laurel Pigeon on our first visit and a close flying Bolle’s Pigeon on our second visit. The trail down the ridge at El Bailadero produced a Sparrowhawk plus several Tenerife Kinglets and African Blue Tits but no pigeons. There were also Buzzards, Kestrels and Canaries here and Sardinian Warblers calling further down. The views are great however and this was a good spot for butterflies and lizards.
b) El Cedro valley – we tried to find the culvert path through the mountain but this proved to be full of water, so was impassable! We then parked in an obvious car park on the right just before reaching the open valley and walked the last section of road. This proved the best site for pigeons with close flight views of at least 2 Bolle’s Pigeons and 2 Laurel Pigeons. There were Grey Wagtails on the stream in the valley itself plus Moorhens calling, several Chaffinches, Canary Islands Chiffchaff, Blackbird, Blackcap etc.
c) Roque de la Zarcita overlook – this site is just 100m of so down the San Sebastian road from Monte El Cedro. It is possible to look down into good Laurel Forest canopy here and we saw some 5 Bolle’s Pigeons including perched birds. There were also dozens of Rock Doves and the odd Kestrel around the Rocks themselves, plus several Robins singing and some Tenerife Kinglets giving good views for once.
d) Garajonay – we took a circuitous walking route through the National Park from the car park at Pajarlto to the summit of the island itself at 1487m. Sadly, much of this area was burnt in a large fire a few years ago, although the vegetation is slowly coming back. Best birds were a covey of Barbary Partridges calling from rocky slopes south of the peak. There were also lots of Canaries, Tenerife Kinglets in the unburnt Tree Heath and a few very showy Robins. The area around the restaurant at Laguna Grande has some very bold Chaffinches. We took the small road south from Laguna Grande back to Casas del Chorro. This passes through a vast stretch of unbroken Laurel Forest. Stops at overlooks produced the sound of dozens of singing Blackbirds echoing through the canopy, plus another Sparrowhawk.
3) South of the island
a) We drove south from El Cedro to Playa Santiago. A stop at an overlook at Jerdune produced great views of the drier Agave-clad southern slopes, plus several Berthelot’s Pipits, Kestrels, Buzzards and calling Barbary Partridges (we found the latter to be much more widespread on the island than other trip reports suggest).
b) Playa Santiago – we stayed at the rather plush Jardin de Tecina hotel. Garden birds included the expected Canary, Canary Islands Chiffchaff, African Blue Tit, Collared Dove, Rock Dove, Spanish Sparrow, Blackbird, many singing Blackcaps and a few Sardinian Warblers. Adjacent cliffs and scrub held Berthelot’s Pipit, Kestrel and the odd Hoopoe around the nearby golf course. Yellow-legged Gulls were ever present along the cliffs and offshore (counts of up to 200 on some days), whilst sea-watching here in the late afternoon / evening produced regular sightings of singles and odd rafts of up to 60 Cory’s Shearwaters, plus at least 2 Macaronesian Shearwaters feeding with Cory’s in association with dolphins. Cetaceans were regularly seen and included many Short-finned Pilot Whales one day and many Bottle-nosed Dolphins, although closer views revealed that these also included some Rough-toothed Dolphins.
c) Playa Santiago town – a lone Turnstone along the town sea-front and a couple of motley Barbary Doves were the only additions to the local bird-list here.
d) Barrancos east of town. We explored the Barranco de Chinguarime by driving east from Playa Santiago and then walking the trails northwards. The drier but very green Aloe scrub held fewer birds - mostly Berthelot’s Pipits, Canary, African Blue Tit and Canary Islands Chiffchaff, but also our only Spectacled Warblers of the trip, still outnumbered here by both Sardinian Warbler and Blackcap, plus 2 very vocal Rock Sparrows that associated with a large rock outcrop near a ruin half-way up the valley. We also heard and saw more Barbary Partridges here plus bonus Spurge Hawk-moth, Humming-bird Hawk-moths, Bath White and Lesser Emperor dragonfly.
e) Whale-watching trip – a half-day boat trip with the boat company “Tina” was good value (43 Euros including an excellent lunch). We had great views of 30+ Cory’s Shearwaters plus close up views of a pod of 100+ Atlantic Spotted Dolphins, 6 Rough-toothed Dolphins, 4 Bottle-nosed Dolphins and a Loggerhead Turtle. A lunch stop somewhere near Punta Falcones produced our only Barbary Falcon of the trip plus more Kestrels and many territorial Yellow-legged Gulls on the cliffs.
f) San Sebastian – passing through the town we saw 2 Plain Swift and a White Wagtail, plus the usual Canary, Blackbird etc.
4) Ferry between Tenerife (Los Christianos) and La Gomera (Santiago)
a) We used the Fred Olsen “Benchigua Express” both ways as it was more convenient time-wise. This is a fast jet-foil type ferry but still afforded opportunities for sea-watching from the open back-deck. Waiting in Los Christianos allowed us good views of Yellow-legged Gulls around the harbour plus one adult Lesser Black-backed Gull, several Collared Doves and Buzzards soaring over the hills. Bottle-nosed Dolphins could be seen close to the breakwater with Short-finned Pilot Whales further out. The 2pm crossing from Tenerife was good for close views of Pilot Whales, 6 Basking Sharks and half a dozen Cory’s Shearwaters. The return 0730 crossing from La Gomera was much more productive however with some 60+ Cory’s Shearwaters logged, 20 Yellow-legged Gulls, 2-3 Macaronesian Shearwaters plus 1 briefly seen Madeiran Petrel. There were also lots of cetaceans including 1 very large Bryde’s Whale, 2 presumed Blainville’s Beaked Whales and more Short-finned Pilot Whales and Bottle-nosed Dolphins
We saw 39 bird species, 6 cetaceans, 3 reptiles, 2 frogs, 2 dragonflies and 10 butterflies.
Cory’s Shearwater Calonectris diomedea borealis Up to 60 seen in the evenings off Jardin de Tecina plus 30 on a whale-watching trip off Playa Santiago and 60+ on the early morning ferry between La Gomera and Tenerife.
Macaronesian Shearwater Puffinus baroli 2 with Cory’s Shearwaters off Playa Santiago and 2-3 on the early morning ferry between La Gomera and Tenerife.
Madeiran Petrel Oceanodroma castro 1 on the early morning ferry between La Gomera and Tenerife.
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea Singles on reservoirs at Cassas del Chorro and Las Rosas.
Teal Anas crecca 1 at Las Rosas.
Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus granti 1 at El Bailedero and 1 north of Las Rositas. Buzzard Buteo buteo insularum Pairs regularly seen at most sites around island.
Kestrel Falco tinnunculus canariensis Widespread and common – seen daily in suitable habitat.
Barbary Falcon Falco pelegrinoides One circling over sea-cliffs near Punta Falcones.
Barbary Partridge Alectoris barbara Widespread. Seen/heard daily at Casas del Chorro, several birds calling around Las Rositas, a covey seen on the southern flank of Garajonay, birds heard calling from Barrancos at Jerdune and east of Playa Santiago.
Moorhen Gallinula chloropus Half a dozen on the reservoir at Casas del Chorro, 8 at Las Rosas and birds calling in the El Cedro valley. Coot Fulica atra Half a dozen on the reservoir at Casas del Chorro, 30 at Las Rosas.
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 1 at Las Rosas. Turnstone Arenaria interpres 1 at Playa Santiago.
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1 adult bird at Los Christianos.
Yellow-legged Gull Larus (michahellis) atlantis Widespread and common along all coasts, on ferry crossings and on whale-watching trip. Many adults already back on nest-sites on cliffs, including large colony just east of Los Christianos.
Bolle’s Pigeon Columba bollii Only seen around tall mountain Laurel Forest at Monte El Cedro, Roque de la Zarcita and in the El Cedro valley.
Laurel Pigeon Columba junoniae Half a dozen seen daily around Tree Heath in the valley SW of Casas del Chorro and around Las Rositas. Also seen in small numbers at Monte el Cedro and in the El Cedro valley.
Rock Dove Columba livia (canariensis ?) Feral birds common in and around towns/villages, wilder-looking birds on sea-cliffs and other more remote areas but true status unclear. Common on the Roques around El Cedro and in the El Cedro valley.
Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto Common in towns/villages, scarce away from settlements.
Barbary Dove Streptopelia turtur Two around the houses at Playa Santiago.
Plain Swift Apus unicolor Scarce. 2 at San Sebastian, 1 high in the valley above Hermigua before the El Cedro turn-off.
Hoopoe Upupa epops Scarce – 2 birds around the golf course at Playa Santiago.
Berthelot’s Pipit Anthus berthelotii Common and widespread in drier southern half of island. Locally in north around more open rocky slopes etc.
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea canariensis Local. One pair on stream at Las Rositas, one in cultivations at Agulo, two on stream at El Cedro.
White Wagtail Motacilla alba alba 1 at San Sebastian and 1 by the pool at Jardin de Tecina.
Robin Erithacus rubecula rubecula Commonly heard singing from most denser habitats in north of island including overgrown cultivations at Casas del Chorro and Las Rositas and particularly from Laurel Forest at Monte El Cedro. Quite hard to see well, except for some confiding birds at Garajonay.
Blackbird Turdus merula cabrerae Very common and widespread in all wooded habitats but especially numerous in intact Laurel Forest.
Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata orbitalis Only seen in Agave clad Barrancos east of Playa Santiago.
Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala Widespread and heard/seen daily at most sites visited.
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla heineken Widespread and heard/seen daily at most sites visited. Many singing together in isolated large trees at Jardin de Tecina.
Canary Islands Chiffchaff Phylloscopus canariensis This distinctive form was abundant at all sites visited.
Tenerife Kinglet Phylloscopus canariensis Heard daily and seen well on occasion in Tree Heath on the valley sides at Las Rositas, Monte El Cedro, El Cedro Valley and Garajonay.
African Blue Tit Cyanistes teneriffae This striking form was common and seen daily at all sites visited with trees / shrubs – even in the Aloe clad barrancos east of Playa Santiago.
Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis Commonly seen in larger villages and towns but absent from the valley at Las Penitas and not seen in the National Park.
Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia madeirensis 2 very vocal birds around a rock-face and ruin in Barranco de Chinguarime east of Playa Santiago.
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs tintillon This distinctive race was common in all wooded areas in the north of the island with particularly showy birds at Juego de Bolas and Laguna Grande.
Canary Serinus canaria Numerous in all habitats from the top of Garajonay to the coast.
Corn Bunting Miliaria calandra Only heard and seen in roadside cultivations at Hermigua.
Bryde’s Whale Balaenoptera physalus A large roqual whale between La Gomera and Tenerife (12th) appeared to be this species.
Blainville’s Beaked Whale Mesoplodon densirostris 2 between La Gomera and Tenerife (12th).
Short-finned Pilot Whale Globicephala macrorhynchus several seen on both ferry crossings between Tenerife and La Gomera, dozens seen a on a calm day off Playa Santiago but none seen the following day on a whale-watching trip in the same area.
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus Commonly seen in small numbers from both ferry crossings, off Los Christianos harbour, off Jardin de Tecina and from a whale-watching trip.
Rough-toothed Dolphin Steno bedanensis 6 seen on whale-watching trip off Playa Santiago, at least 2 photographed from Jardin de Tecina.
Atlantic Spotted Dolphin Stenella frontalis Group of 100+ seen on a whale-watching trip off Playa Santiago.
C) Reptiles and Amphibians
Canary Lizard Galiotia galloti gomerae Widespread and numerous – seen at most sites.
Canary Skink Chalcides viridanus caerulopunctatus Singles photographed SW of Casas del Chorro and at El Bailadero – easily overlooked.
Gomera Gecko Tarentola gomerensis Single attracted to moths at an outside light at Casas del Chorro.
Loggerhead Turtle Caretta carettaOne at sea from the “Tina” whale-watching trip. Marsh Frog Rana perezi Heard in several wet places – especially in stream-side vegetation near Casas del Chorro.
Stripeless Tree Frog Hyla meridonalis Several seen and photographed on a concrete water tank at Las Rositas.
Large White Pieriis brassicae cheiranthi Common and widespread in more open areas.
Small White Artogeia rapae Common and widespread in more open areas.
Bath White Pontia daplidice Odd singles only in Barrancos east of Playa Santiago.
Cleopatra (Canary Island Brimstone) Gonopteryx cleopatra cleobule Small numbers seen near Casas del Chorro and at El Bailedero.
Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas phlaeas Regular at El Bailedero, Garajonay and in Barrancos east of Playa Santiago.
African Grass Blue Zizeria knysna Scarce – only seen around Playa Santiago.
Indian Red Admiral Vanessa indica vulcania Several seen near Las Rositas and at El Bailedero.
Painted Lady Cynthia cardui Widespread and common in more open areas.
Canary Speckled Wood Parage xiphioides Common in valleys around Las Rositas and at El Bailedero.
Monarch Danaus plexippus Odd ones noted at Hermigua and east of Playa Santiago.
Lesser Emperor Dragonfly Anax parthenope Several seen patrolling over dry beats at Casas del Chorro, Hermigua and east of Playa Santiago. All large dragonflies seen well were this species.
Red-veined Darter Sympetrum fonscolombei Widespread in dry habitats as well as at wetter sites.