Bird watching is one of the most rewarding wildlife experiences to be had. With more than 10,000 species to tick off a very long list, the opportunity to get out amongst nature and encounter rare and exotic birds in their natural habitat is a true joy and privilege. While every part of the world has its own appeal for avid birders, there are some destinations that stand out – not simply for the abundance of avian life they support, but also for their natural beauty. The Prestige Holidays collection of luxury accommodation around the world includes a number of my very favourite places to go bird watching.
Who can say what the best sites are for bird watching amongst the myriad choices? I wouldn’t dream of presuming, but I do know from personal experience that Tenerife, Bermuda and the Isles of Scilly must certainly be among them. While I wouldn’t classify myself as an expert “twitcher”, I certainly know a beautiful bird when I see one and I take great pleasure in the pastime. It seems many of my clients do as well and I often get requests for tips on the birdlife of a particular destination.
I’m delighted to be able to share my experiences of these three truly wonderful (and very different) places.
The Pine Forests of Tenerife
Where better to bird watch than in a group of islands that are named after a bird? Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands and is arguably the best for birding. My top insider tip is Mount Teide, the island’s volcanic centrepiece – and site of the highest peak in Spain, by the way (3,715m). You might not get to the top, but from sea level to the summit the mountain encompasses a diverse range of habitats and, consequently, a great variety of avian species.
Canary and Friends
Up to as high as 1,500m you can see the islands’ namesake, the Canary – along with the pretty Greenfinch and the Grey Wagtail. There are numerous endemic species, and one that looked quite familiar to me (but not quite the same as our UK one) is the Tenerife Blue Tit, which can be seen from ground level right up to 2,000m on the volcanic slopes of Teide. Other species that can be seen at higher elevations in the pine forests include the Great Spotted Woodpecker and Blue Chaffinch. Higher still in the dry, rocky crown of the volcano, you might see the endemic Berthelot’s Pipit.
My Recommended Hotel
I wholeheartedly recommend the fantastic Tigaiga (at Puerto de la Cruz) for anyone looking to relax and enjoy the nurturing effects of nature while visiting Tenerife. This lovely family-run establishment is nestled into tranquil sub-tropical gardens, with stunning views to Mount Teide in one direction and to the sea in the other. It’s also within easy distance of Taoro Park, where there are some gentle nature walks and beautiful botanical scenery.
The Mangrove Lake of Bermuda
Those who know me well can’t help but be aware of the very special place I hold in my heart for the wildlife of Bermuda. To me it is one of the most idyllic places in the world and its breadth of natural beauty is extraordinary. There are around 250 avian species in the islands, made up of migratory and resident land and sea birds. What and how many species you’ll see depends on the season. Autumn is the busiest but, to be honest, anytime is birding time in Bermuda! Some of the natives and endemics include the Bermuda Petrel, the White-eyed Vireo, the Longtail and the Eastern Bluebird.
Bermudian Birding Sites
There are numerous excellent birding sites, the best of which I’ve found are Seymour’s Pond, Somerset Long Bay, Spittal Pond Nature Reserve and Warwick Pond. However, one of the most fascinating places on the island, and the one you’re most likely to spot my favourite Bermudian, the Green Heron, is Mangrove Lake. This wetland habitat encompasses some 30 acres and is embraced by a tangle of knotted mangroves. It really is quite unique and I urge any of my clients interested in nature to spend some time there.
My Recommended Hotel
I have so many favourite properties in Bermuda, but for nature lovers I highly recommend the superbly located Rosewood Tuckers Point, in Hamilton Parish. The hotel is set within 200 glorious acres of gardens overlooking the harbour. The views are simply outstanding, and I never know whether to look outwards to the sea or inwards to the lush foliage of the gardens. This is getting back to nature in the most luxurious way!
The Isles of Scilly
I think many people don’t realise the absolute abundance of natural beauty and wildlife we have on our very own UK doorstep. To me, the breathtaking Isles of Scilly exemplify this in the most wonderful way and, for my bird-loving clients who don’t want to stray too far from home, it’s one of my top recommendations.
Scilly is outstanding in terms of both resident natives and migratory species that stop off to spend the winter or rest for a few days. I’m told it’s due to the lack of predators, but many of the birds here are very cheeky and not at all afraid of humans – meaning you can get up fairly close to some, like sparrows and Song Thrushes.
Species on Scilly
While you’ll see migrants like Cuckoos, Flycatchers and Wheatears along with some less exotic species like the many gulls and Shags, the most endearing avian character of Scilly is, of course, the Puffin. There are only around 100 pairs left on the island, and seeing them is always a real highlight for me. Scilly is also the only remaining English breeding site for the Manx Shearwater and Storm Petrel.
My Recommended Hotel
The Wheelhouse, in Hugh Town, is a gem of a guesthouse just a few steps from the beach. This gorgeous family-run establishment is my perfect pick for accommodation in the Isles of Scilly. Not only is it close to everything in the town, it makes an ideal base for long, rambling walks to soak up the relaxed ambience of the wild Scilly landscape. It is a real home away from home, with some lovely little touches of luxury.