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The resort of Puerto de la Cruz's squares are Canary Islands oases for nature
Photos from a square in Puerto de la Cruz
Life on the Square in Puerto de la Cruz
The Canary Islands holiday resort of Puerto de la Cruz has been a favourite location of mine ever since I first came to Tenerife, and part of its charm lies in its squares. Many people like to spend time in these traditional plazas, taking photos, relaxing and having a sit down with maybe a bite to eat at the café bars around them, but I like to see what animals and plants I can find.
Town and city squares can provide an oasis for wildlife in the bustle of the streets because they almost always have trees, flowerbeds and a fountain to keep the area cool. Birds can roost in the trees, find food in the flowerbeds and eat scraps people provide and insects such as butterflies and bees feed from the flowers.
In the main square, known as Plaza de Charco, in Puerto there are always green Monk parakeets, pigeons and doves on the lookout for food people throw down or accidentally drop. This raised plaza stands where once shallow seawater was fished for prawns and shrimps but the only ones you'll perhaps find there now are on pizzas or in omelettes on sale at the cafes all around it.
When the Monk parakeets are not on the ground you can usually hear them squawking loudly from up above in the palm trees. If you're lucky you may spot a blackbird as well, looking just like the British variety, and like them, hunting for worms and insects in the flower borders and patches of lawn.
Some people complain about pigeons and parakeets, saying they make a terrible mess and an awful noise, but I take the opposite opinion - I think they add to the attraction of a square and help to bring it alive. Many people enjoy feeding our feathered friends and watching them flock down to gobble up the titbits offered.
The trouble with birds I find is they are usually difficult to get good photos of because they tend to be wary of people and fly off just as you get in range. Not so the cheeky pigeons though and I think this is why they have done so remarkably well all around the world. They go where we go and make use of our buildings as substitute cliff homes.
The ones in Puerto also love to take a bath in the fountains. In my favourite square, the Plaza de la Iglesia, there is a splendid fountain in the shape of a swan and the pigeons often can be seen washing in it and preening their feathers. They also perch high above on the church and fly in and out of the bell tower.
It is the Church of Our Lady of the Rock of France, or Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Peña de Francia, by the way, and is the main church in Puerto.
There are some wonderful trees in the square outside, including Dragon trees, a Frangipani, a Gorgeous Senna with golden-yellow pinnacles of flowers and the Flambo or Fire Acacia, which as its name suggests has bright red blossoms and looks flamboyant. The Frangipani is of particular interest to me because it is the name of a type of incense as well, and when I look at its beautiful flowers I think that it seems just right that a heavenly and exotic perfume is named after it.
In a border at the side is an excellent example of the Bird of Paradise Tree, which has the same shaped flowers as its smaller relative but grows much taller with huge leaves like those of the banana.
The squares are good to visit all year round because the borders always have a good display and the trees are almost certain to have at least a few species in bloom. The Dragon trees and palms look great anyway, even when not in flower.
Butterflies are attracted by the colourful bedding plants and one type that I always see in the Plaza de la Iglesia and the Plaza de Charco is the little African Grass Blue, which when not stopping for a meal of sweet nectar can be seen flitting around in the sun.
Once when I was up on Mount Teide I had the interesting experience of having several Canarian Blue butterflies land on me to suck up my sweat but I have never seen the African Grass Blue do this. This little insect prefers to stick to the nectar from the flowers and I can't say I blame it!
Footnote: First published in the Tenerife Sun
© 2008 Steve Andrews