Friday 5th May 2017
MALLORCA – BALEARIC SPRING BIRDING
Friday 5th – Monday 8th May 2017
We met at Gatwick for our flight down to Mallorca which took off late due to the late arrival of the plane at Gatwick. We took off around 30 minutes late and the route took us down past Paris past Bordeaux and over the Pyrenees towards Barcelona before heading out across the Mediterranean to Palma.
Arriving to cloudy conditions wasn't something we’d banked on but we got our vehicle and headed out on the ring road noting RED KITE and COLLARED DOVE and WOOD PIGEON on roadside wires.
The journey was pretty uneventful with WESTERN CATTLE EGRET and EUROPEAN BEE-EATER the pick of the birds. As we reached Puerto Pollensa we noted our first YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS and on the sandy beaches a few AUDOUIN’S GULLS were loafing around.
It was good to arrive at our hotel and check in before heading out for an introduction to Balearic birding. Two SHAGS of the Mediterranean race desmarestii were seen on the breakwater offshore and a WESTERN OSPREY flew past and started hovering over the bay. As we headed through town we spotted a few COMMON SWIFTS feeding high over the buildings.
Parking up, we strolled quietly up through the track towards the entrance to the Boquer Valley where the song of SARDINIAN WARBLERS echoed through the valley. A fine female type PIED FLYCATCHER perched out in the open whilst a male SARDINIAN WARBLER tended its nest below us.
As we walked past the Finca, a superb MEDITERRANEAN FLYCATCHER perched on the sheltered side of a bush allowing close approach before flitting off. Above a pale phase BOOTED EAGLE drifted over and a dark phase ELEONORA’S FALCON was seen over the nearby ridge but promptly disappeared. More obliging was the Balearic race of WOODCHAT SHRIKE that perched up on wires as it surveyed the area for prey.
EUROPEAN SERINS sang from the pines and on the craggy tops we had brief views of a male BLUE ROCK THRUSH. HOUSE MARTINS swirled around in the now increasing breeze and further along the track we had close sightings of a CORN BUNTING which landed next to us before flying off.
At the seaward end of the valley we searched for our main target and eventually had brief views of a male BALEARIC WARBLER as it flitted about below us. With time getting on and the wind increasing, we headed back noting more BLUE ROCK THRUSH and a couple of MEDITERRANEAN FLYCATCHERS.
After a quick stop to get some water we headed the short distance to the hotel where CETTI’S WARBLERS sang from behind the hotel in scrub.
It was great to have a hot shower and unpack before meeting for a pre-dinner drink and to complete the bird list before settling down for a superb evening meal and then retiring for the night after what had been a long but very good day.
Saturday 6th May 2017
Some of the group met at 6.45am for a pre-breakfast walk along the seafront towards the small nature reserve at La Gola. A smashing singing male EUROPEAN SERIN perched up in the pines whilst on the beach around sun loungers and umbrellas we had good views of a SPOTTED FLYCATCHER of the nominate race.
It was breezy with a brisk westerly wind blowing which kept the smaller birds down but we still managed to see several SARDINIAN WARBLERS flitting around whilst our first EURASIAN HOOPOE flew past.
On the beach were both YELLOW-LEGGED and AUDOUIN'S GULLS and sadly we found a dead SCOPOLI'S SHEARWATER that had been caught by a discarded fishing hook.
We then wandered back along the promenade to the hotel where we tucked into a hearty breakfast with so much to choose from that we didn't go hungry!
Soon we were heading off to the famous Parc Natural de s'Albufera de Mallorca and parked in the shade as it looked like a hot day. On entering the national park we were immediately greeted by both EUROPEAN NIGHTINGALE and CETTI'S WARBLER of which we had excellent views.
Raptors were well represented with two flyover BLACK KITES, WESTERN MARSH HARRIERS, a superb female MONTAGU'S HARRIER and a brilliant WESTERN OSPREY right over our heads.
We spent time watching the large egret colony with WESTERN CATTLE, LITTLE, BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERON and GLOSSY IBIS all showing well. GREAT REED WARBLERS uttered their mechanical song from the reeds and both EURASIAN BITTERN and PURPLE HERON were seen in flight.
After getting permits from the centre we spent time watching a RED-KNOBBED COOT, which was part of a successful reintroduction programme started in 2004. A male LITTLE BITTERN was seen briefly in flight but soon disappeared from view.
We headed north towards Es Colombars and soon had good views of a dark morph ELEONORA'S FALCON as it circled the reed-bed and then an adult GOLDEN EAGLE flew over followed by a female PEREGRINE FALCON. The Golden Eagle had previously escaped captivity many years ago and is known to the locals as bicinta.
A male MOUSTACHED WARBLER was heard singing in the reeds but the wind was just too strong and it was keeping low. Insects however found the sheltered areas to their likening with CLEOPATRA and CLOUDED YELLOW butterflies and RED-VEINED DARTER, LESSER EMPEROR and GREEN-EYED HAWKER dragonflies being seen.
After a long walk we reached the hide and enjoyed the great selection of birdlife present. Both KENTISH and LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS were seen along with BLACK-WINGED STILTS. Six MARBLED DUCK were out on the open water with MALLARD, COMMON POCHARD & RED-CRESTED POCHARDS.
WESTERN MARSH HARRIERS cruised the reed-beds and in the distance a WESTERN SWAMPHEN fed on the water’s edge. One of the highlights was a breeding plumaged SQUACCO HERON which flew around before wandering along the vegetated banks and vanishing from view.
Suitably rested, we began the walk back and headed to the hides at El Cibollar. By now the park was getting busy but we all managed to get in the hide and were treated to superb views of about 30 KENTISH PLOVERS with breeding plumaged DUNLIN, LITTLE STINTS, CURLEW SANDPIPERS and a SPOTTED REDSHANK thrown in for good measure. The next hide was more of a squeeze and the main birds were AVOCETS and BLACK-WINGED STILTS that kept a close eye on their young. We then struck gold by finding a cracking summer plumaged RED-THROATED PIPIT at the back of the pool. A male YELLOW WAGTAIL of the race iberiae also known as Spanish Wagtail sang from the back of the marsh before it was time to head back for a well-deserved late lunch.
Our picnic was a huge spread and there was plenty of food to keep us going for a week or two!
Afterwards we drove round to the southern end of the marsh, a great place to see terns and gulls and along the track were a few EUROPEAN BEE-EATERS and two EUROPEAN TURTLE DOVES.
We again picked out the GOLDEN EAGLE being mobbed by a WESTERN MARSH HARRIER which looked tiny in comparison.
From the viewing platform we located three WHISKERED TERNS, four COMMON TERNS and a cracking adult GULL-BILLED TERN all of which came close. Wind kept the insects low and we had superb views of SAND & HOUSE MARTINS, COMMON SWIFT and the occasional PALLID SWIFT.
Our last port of call were fields close to our base and after picking up several 'Balearic' WOODCHAT SHRIKES we eventually found at least two EUROPEAN ROLLERS perched on wires. Great views were had of these colourful birds before it was time to head back to the hotel for a cool shower and beer overlooking the sea.
Dinner once again went down well with so much choice and it was then off for a rest after a superb day!
Sunday 7th May 2017
Some of us met for a pre-breakfast stroll to La Gola where a single BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERON was seen along with SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS, EUROPEAN SERIN and a very showy SARDINIAN WARBLER. AUDOUIN’S & YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS frequented the beach as we wandered back.
After a hearty breakfast we headed to the Sierra de Tramuntana in an attempt to reach our birding spot before hordes of Sunday morning cyclists. The journey up was quiet bird-wise except for a couple of EUROPEAN TURTLE DOVES, our first COMMON CHAFFINCHES of the tour and EURASIAN HOOPOE.
Luckily we bagged the last parking place and prepared for a walk along Cuber Reservoir. A male BLACKCAP sang in the morning sunshine and a scan of the ridges provided us with distant views of two EUROPEAN HONEY BUZZARDS flying north. EURASIAN GRIFFON VULTURES circled and a small group of RED KITES were spotted flying with BLACK KITE, BOOTED EAGLE and a NORTHERN RAVEN.
It didn't take long before we tracked down our main target, a singing male MOLTONI’S WARBLER that never posed long enough for photographs but did a lovely song flight right past us. A male CIRL BUNTING sat in one of the pine trees whilst a EURASIAN WRYNECK sang from a group of willows.
Close to the dam was a much closer EUROPEAN HONEY BUZZARD circling over us whilst a massive CINEREOUS VULTURE drifted over the cliff face. More singing MOLTONI’S WARBLERS sang in low scrub and eventually we watched a pair feeding in a small pine next to the track.
The walk back yielded HUMMINGBIRD HAWK-MOTH, two more CINEREOUS VULTURES plus lots of CHAFFINCHES and SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS.
We decided to pop back via the hotel for facilities and then to have lunch overlooking Albufereta Marsh where two GREY HERONS, two PURPLE HERONS and WESTERN MARSH HARRIER were amongst the species noted whilst we sat in the shade.
Our last site of the day was the extensive pine wood reserve at Son Real which produced a nominate race WOODCHAT SHRIKE singing from a pile of brushwood close to the carpark. In the sheep field a fine TAWNY PIPIT scuttle about as it followed the sheep around, feeding on the many insects.
Our walk took us into a small hide overlooking a drinking pool which yielded EUROPEAN SERIN, EUROPEAN GREENFINCH and EURASIAN GOLDFINCH all drinking together. A CORN BUNTING took advantage of a cool bath on the water’s edge but the main highlight was a female HERMANN’S TORTOISE that wandered across the clearing and headed to the water for a drink. This individual was thought to be over 70 years old and we took plenty of photographs as it wandered by!
The remainder of the walk was rather quiet due to the afternoon heat but at the coast, the onshore breeze cooled things down. A pair of THEKLA LARK were seen briefly and the beach held WHIMBREL and EUROPEAN SHAG whilst AUDOUIN’S and a YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS put on some superb flybys.
We then walked back to the van and on reaching our hotel concluded our day with the usual shower and pre-dinner drink before heading for our excellent evening meal.
Monday 8th May 2017
As this evening we had a flight back to the UK we opted to give the early morning walk a miss.
Breakfast was once again a lavish affair with so much choice it certainly filled us up! Today we headed towards the Albufera reserve again as we had all enjoyed it so much before. Another chance to see more of the fantastic wildlife on offer, especially as conditions were less windy than on our previous visit.
Walking into the reserve produced the usual COMMON NIGHTINGALES and CETTI'S WARBLERS and as we reached the egret nesting colony, we had brief views of a WESTERN REEF EGRET x LITTLE EGRET hybrid that flew over the top of the trees and disappeared.
Visiting a different area of the reserve it didn't take long to track down some singing MOUSTACHED WARBLERS and we enjoyed good scope views as they sat up in the morning sun.
The weather was perfect for raptors and we soon found the GOLDEN EAGLE being mobbed by MARSH HARRIERS. Then a cracking dark morph ELEONORA’S FALCON drifted close overhead and within a few minutes there were at least five including both pale morph and intermediate plumaged birds. We had an amazing, memorable ten minutes of watching so many raptors close overhead which took our breath away!
At the centre a RED KITE drifted over and on the canal, the usual RED-KNOBBED COOT was present. A quick look in the northern facing hides produced a GREAT EGRET plus LITTLE STINTS, DUNLIN, SPOTTED REDSHANK, KENTISH & COMMON RINGED PLOVERS, COMMON SANDPIPER and a COMMON GREENSHANK.
Our walk then took us along the edge of a small reed-fringed ditch, alive with singing GREAT REED WARBLERS of which several posed as they sat right at the top of the reeds. A female LITTLE BITTERN sat quietly on horizontal reeds before walking in and minutes later it flew over our heads and away.
Lunch was very welcome in the shade of a hide but bird-wise it was rather quiet. From the bridge some of the group watched 15 ELEONORA'S FALCONS right above our heads!
MARBLED DUCK was seen from the last couple of hides, plus GLOSSY IBIS, RED-CRESTED POCHARDS and superb WESTERN SWAMPHEN that walked right in front of us giving brilliant views. On our way towards the centre we saw a pair of STONE CURLEWS sheltering from the blazing sun.
After a rest in the shade by the visitor centre we slowly strolled back noting two roosting BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERONS along the way plus more COMMON NIGHTINGALES.
It was good to reach the van before enjoying a delicious ice cream which went down a treat. It was then time to head to the hotel and pick up our bags for some final packing before making the forty minute drive down to Palma airport.
Check in was really quiet and we spent some time relaxing in the departure lounge before our flight to the UK which took off 25 minutes late but arrived on time on a chilly evening at Gatwick.
We got through passport control and picked up our bags in record time which was great. Then said our goodbyes after a superb tour on a beautiful island with cracking birds, good food and a lovely group to spend time with!