|Caldera de Taburiente National Park|
"La Palma Birds" is primarily a birding blog giving details of my own sightings on the island, and information of interest to birders. But the island of La Palma has much more to offer than "just" its resident and migrant avifauna. For a brief overview, read on...
La Palma is the most north-westerly of the seven Canary Islands. Despite its relatively small surface area (c. 270 sq miles), the island harbours a huge variety of stunning landscapes. Among the various habitat types are five distinct vegetation zones, plus areas of rugged volcanic terrain in the south. One of Spain’s National Parks, the Caldera de Taburiente, is to be found here, and the entire island became a Unesco World Biosphere Reserve in 2002.
La Palma’s well-preserved laurel forests are home to two endemic pigeon species: the Laurel Pigeon (Columba junoniae) and Bolle’s Pigeon (Columba bollii). Other noteworthy island endemics include the palmae subspecies of Chaffinch and the palmensis race of African Blue Tit. The large local population of Red-billed Chough is unique among the Macaronesian islands.
Detailed information on both resident and non-resident birds can be found in the recent “Field Guide to the Birds of Macaronesia” by Eduardo García-del-Rey (Lynx, 2011), or in the earlier “Birds of the Atlantic Islands” by Tony Clarke (Helm, 2006).
In spring and autumn, regular passage
migrants can be expected at certain locations (see my blog post on “Observing
sites”), including the occasional Nearctic and Palearctic vagrants. The latest study on rare migratory birds on the Canaries, covering the period 1980 to the end of 2011, is the highly-recommendable “Rare Birds of the Canary Islands” by Eduardo
García-del-Rey and Francisco Javier García Vargas (Lynx, 2013). This book also contains a useful list of species classified as "rarities" on the Canaries, but not in the rest of Spain.
Flora and Fauna
With its highest point at Roque de los Muchachos, almost 8,000ft above sea level, and its isolated oceanic location in the path of the NE Trade Winds, La Palma is a biodiversity hotspot. The current catalogue of vascular plants gives a total of 904 taxa, of which 177 are endemic (almost 20%). The iconic La Palma Violet, the Mocán, Juniper and Dragon trees, as well as several dazzling varieties of Echium (bugloss) all form part of the island’s abundant plant life, with various succulents and spurges adding an “African” touch to the landscape at lower altitudes. The lushness of the laurel forests stands in striking contrast to these drier areas.
|Coastal vegetation in the south|
Butterflies such as the Canary Islands Large White, Canary Speckled Wood and the Canary Red Admiral can be observed throughout the year, along with the more sporadic Monarch, Cleopatra and various Blues. Other notable insects include the endemic Robber-fly Promachus palmensis and the critically-endangered La Palma Stick Grasshopper (Acrostira euphorbiae), which is restricted to coastal scrublands in the west. Colonies of the endemic Canary Big-eared Bat (Plecotus teneriffae) breed and roost in a number of secluded caves.
La Palma has witnessed seven Stromboli-type eruptions in recorded history, and will fascinate volcano enthusiasts of all levels: aa and pahoehoe lavas, volcanic tubes, cones, craters, bombs and lapilli all provide evidence of this relatively recent activity. In the north of the island, pillow lavas and magma dykes provide clues into La Palma’s distant geological past.
The little-known prehistory of the Canary Islands concerns the autochthonous peoples who first colonised the Archipelago. Archaeological evidence of the Awaras (or Benahoaritas) - the Berber tribe inhabiting La Palma prior to its conquest by the Spanish in 1492/3 - ranges from formerly-inhabited caves and un-deciphered rock carvings, to astronomically-significant alignments of stones and ancient burial sites. Most of the serious literature on this fascinating subject is only available in Spanish.
As a permanently-resident, English-speaking guide with more than 15 years experience in the field, I offer private full- or half-day tours of La Palma tailored to suit individual demands and specific interests. Whether it be birding, plant and butterfly identification, or just general natural history, for further details on guiding services and rates please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org