MALLORCA - BALEARIC SPRING BIRDING
Friday 12th - Monday 15th April 2019
Friday 12th April 2019
We met at London Gatwick for our flight down to Mallorca which was delayed due to late arrival of the inbound flight from Palma but once off, the pilot made good time and we touched down in a slightly overcast Mallorca just twenty minutes behind schedule.
After walking what seemed an eternity through the airport, our luggage quickly came and after sorting out the vehicle, we were soon on our way north.
Several RED KITES and YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS were seen plus a LITTLE EGRET and as we headed through the central plains, a flock of WESTERN CATTLE EGRETS fed alongside the road.
We headed straight to the hotel and along the seafront, spotted our first AUDOUIN’S GULLS of the tour and very smart they looked in what was now beautiful sunshine. After checking in we headed to the nearby Bocquer Valley where we would spend the rest of the afternoon.
SARDINIAN WARBLERS were very common as we made our way up through the carpark and a nice pale morph BOOTED EAGLE circled over the town. A short while later a dark morph bird flew over us at close range!
EUROPEAN SERINS jingled from the scrub and we spotted up to four BLUE ROCK THRUSH including several stunning males. We were keen to reach the seaward slope and eventually got there, to be greeted by amazing views of the sea and surrounding area.
It wasn’t long before we heard the distinctive song of a male BALEARIC WARBLER coming from the hillside, but despite a thorough search we failed to locate this skulking songster. Several glimpses by the group of a grey warbler could have well been the bird, but the wind increased and temperature dropped several degrees not helping our cause, so we agreed to try again later in the tour.
The walk back was quite brisk with a small party of BARN SWALLOWS moving north plus MEADOW PIPITS, EUROPEAN STONECHATS and LINNETS being noted.
After a stop for water at the supermarket, we got back to the hotel slightly later than planned and had some time for a shower before meeting for a pre-dinner drink.
Our evening meal was superb with plenty of choice so we certainly didn’t go hungry. Later the bird-list was completed and plans discussed for the following days before we retired for the evening after what had been a long day.
Saturday 13th April 2019
Most of the group met at 0700hrs for a pre-breakfast walk for which we headed up to the small reserve at La Gola. There were good numbers of AUDOUIN’S GULLS on the beach as the sun came up and although a little chilly, there were quite a few birds about.
Up to three COMMON SANDPIPERS flitted around the pools and we had good views of several EUROPEAN SERINS plus EUROPEAN STONECHAT, SARDINIAN WARBLER and COMMON CHIFFCHAFFS in the scrub. COMMON NIGHTINGALE and WILLOW WARBLER sang from the woodland as we made our way round and once in the sun, it was much warmer indeed! It was then time to head back to base for breakfast which was excellent.
Afterwards we loaded the van and whilst doing so, overhead were quite a few PALLID SWIFTS showing really well. As we left the hotel and drove along the esplanade a EUROPEAN SHAG of the Mediterranean race desmarestii was seen perched on one of the offshore breakwaters.
Our main site of the day was the excellent S’ Albufera Marshes which is always a delight to visit. After parking we could hear two EURASIAN STONE-CURLEWS in a field close-by and one was seen briefly in flight whilst on the main canal were GADWALL, MALLARD and several RED-CRESTED POCHARDS.
As we walked down the track we noted several roosting BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERONS in the trees plus WESTERN CATTLE EGRETS which gave some lovely views. The warm weather encouraged plenty of WESTERN MARSH HARRIERS to soar over the vast reed-beds whilst along the tree line we found EURASIAN BLACKCAP plus a cracking male SUBALPINE WARBLER.
We spent time at one of the many watch-points where a distant CINEREOUS VULTURE drifted over the hills. Other species of note included WESTERN SWAMPHEN, PURPLE HERON, BLACK-WINGED STILTS, COMMON TERNS and many CETTI’S WARBLERS which showed wonderfully for us all.
After getting our permits, we headed to the hides overlooking pools to the south and here we had good views of two MARBLED DUCKS roosting with GADWALL, MALLARD and RED-CRESTED POCHARDS. There were also good numbers of KENTISH and LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS on the open mud with a EURASIAN SPOONBILL feeding in the shallows.
WESTERN YELLOW WAGTAILS of the races Iberiae and Cinereocapilla were flitting around the sedge beds and often being hassled by the common BLACK-WINGED STILTS.
The next hide held a superb COLLARED PRATINCOLE which showed well both in flight and on the deck, but what was more frustrating was a BAILLON’S CRAKE seen briefly just by two of the group.
We gave it a good while before heading back out for lunch but first stopped to see a singing GREAT REED WARBLER and then stopped again when we found up to four RED-KNOBBED COOTS showing very well indeed in the afternoon sunshine.
We strolled back to the van, picked up our lunch bags which were laden with food and took them to the beach, where offshore we were treated to the sight of hundreds of SCOPOLI’S SHEARWATERS plus smaller numbers of BALEARIC SHEARWATERS out in the bay.
A small party of SANDWICH TERNS flew through and a distant GREAT SKUA flew east into the bay before vanishing from view.
Lunch went down a treat and it was certainly going to keep us going until our evening meal! A few leftovers were enjoyed by the local AUDOUIN’S GULLS.
It was then back onto the reserve for the afternoon session which yielded a fishing WESTERN OSPREY before we visited the north-facing hides which held good numbers of PIED AVOCET, KENTISH PLOVERS and with diligent scanning we located SPOTTED and COMMON REDSHANKS, COMMON RINGED PLOVER, DUNLIN and COMMON GREENSHANK.
The WESTERN OSPREY was sat on a distant post and more WESTERN MARSH HARRIERS were soaring in the now slightly breezy conditions.
We popped back in the ‘crake’ hide where the COLLARED PRATINCOLE was still present plus the light had improved and the GLOSSY IBIS actually looked glossy! Despite a thorough search, sadly there was no further sign of the crake.
With time getting on we wandered towards the centre and on the way had good but brief views of a COMMON NIGHTINGALE perched in a bush before it flitted off and overhead was a single SAND MARTIN plus small numbers of BARN SWALLOWS.
It was good to be back at the van after the walk and we concluded the day at the southern end of the reserve. We took the wrong road which proved fortuitous when we found a small group of EURASIAN STONE-CURLEW in a sandy field before being disturbed by two locals and their dogs. A single THEKLA LARK was also noted in nearby fields.
Once on the right road we parked to spend time scanning the pools from the tower and found WHITE WAGTAIL, GREEN SANDPIPER, more EURASIAN STONE-CURLEW and a WOODCHAT SHRIKE of the Balearic race.
On our way back a smallholding held two more ‘BALEARIC’ WOODCHAT SHRIKES which looked great in the sun.
It was back to base for a hot shower and another scrumptious evening meal which was delicious. We completed the bird-list in the bar before heading to bed for a well-deserved rest.
Sunday 14th April 2019
We opted for an earlier breakfast as we wanted to head up into the hills before the large numbers of cyclists descended on the area.
We were soon away, noting the usual EUROPEAN SHAGS on the breakwater before making the journey up to the Tramuntana Mountains. Lots of COMMON CHAFFINCHES were seen as we made our way up and around 50 minutes later, we arrived at the Embalse de Cuber.
After parking we took a stroll along the southern edge of the reservoir and hadn’t got far when we heard the unmistakeable calls of a EURASIAN WRYNECK. A few seconds later we spotted it perched in a bush where we all had good scopes views and at least two more birds were seen making it a great start to the day.
A TAWNY PIPIT flew up from open ground and perched nicely in the morning sunshine before dropping down to feed.
It was starting to get busy with walkers so we slowly wandered along the path listening intently and picked up the calls of RED CROSSBILLS. Luckily two birds flew into a tree and with a bit of repositioning, we had reasonable views.
More birds were seen flying over as we carried on towards the dam and we stopped in our tracks when the churr of a MOLTONI’S WARBLER was heard and then we caught sight of a pale warbler in flight. Moving closer, there was movement in the grass and a male SARDINIAN WARBLER flew out but there was no further sign of the Moltoni’s.
By now raptors were up over the ridges and we watched GRIFFON & CINEREOUS VULTURES, BOOTED EAGLE, RED KITE, COMMON KESTREL and had a brief view of a dark-morph ELEONORA’S FALCON which dropped behind the ridge never to be seen again!
By the dam were a pair of EURASIAN CRAG MARTINS whilst ROCK SPARROWS called from the hillside and another EURASIAN WRYNECK was also heard.
Bushes were alive with passerines and with some scanning, we found WILLOW WARBLER, COMMON CHIFFCHAFF and a female-type EUROPEAN PIED FLYCATCHER.
It was then time to retrace our steps but there was still no further sign of the Moltoni’s although we did have great views of several COMMON FIRECREST, one being chased by a EURASIAN WREN, looking huge alongside the Firecrest.
Back at the van we tucked into the first part of lunch whilst watching huge numbers of motorcyclists zooming down the mountain roads, which was pretty noisy to say the least!
We then made a start down to Porto Pollenca which took a while due to kamikaze motorcyclists, road cyclists and other cars on the windy roads.
It was with great relief to be finally down on sea level and we stopped off at the hotel for facilities and to continue our lunch break before heading up to the Boquer Valley once more.
After parking we headed up towards the Finca where we had excellent views of a male CIRL BUNTING perched only 20 feet away, whilst in the small agricultural fields was another EUROPEAN PIED FLYCATCHER plus a cracking male COMMON REDSTART and EURASIAN HOOPOE.
It appeared that finally there had been a change in the wind direction and migrants were starting to appear on the island.
Our walk through the valley produced another COMMON REDSTART, a female NORTHERN WHEATEAR of the Greenland race, a trickle of BARN SWALLOWS and a PEREGRINE FALCON.
Our primary mission was to track down Balearic Warbler after coming so close on our first day on the island so we explored and typically, the wind got quite gusty which made listening and looking quite tricky.
Eventually we tracked down a singing male BALEARIC WARBLER and with a little patience, we had some brief but reasonable views as he sang from a patch of scrub before flitting back around us.
Other species here included more COMMON REDSTARTS plus a cracking male BLACK-EARED WHEATEAR which was very obliging before making our return to the van.
It was then just a short drive back to base where a hot shower was very welcome and we met for dinner which once again was excellent. Afterwards, we reconvened in the lounge to complete the bird-list after what had been a great day in the field.
Monday 15th April 2019
For our last day on the island, we met at 0715 hrs for a walk to La Gola before breakfast which was much warmer than our previous visit on the second day.
The usual suspects were seen plus two GREEN SANDPIPERS and a lovely flock of EUROPEAN SERINS that fed on the path in front of us.
We hoped to find a few migrants but it was rather quiet so we began our walk back to the hotel which produced quite a few AUDOUIN’S GULLS plus GREAT CORMORANT and EUROPEAN SHAG on the breakwaters offshore.
Breakfast was once again very good and afterwards we packed our bags and left them ready for our collection later in the afternoon.
Our main goal was to see Moustached Warbler which eluded us previously on the tour but with much calmer conditions, surely we would be in luck…….
The carpark was full so we moved further down the road and walked along the canal which yielded WESTERN CATTLE EGRETS nesting in the trees and a few RED-CRESTED POCHARDS on the water.
We took up positions in one of our favourite spots and began scanning the reeds. It didn’t take long before in the scope was a superb MOUSTACHED WARBLER! Over the next twenty minutes we were treated to several singing birds and although not close, the light was perfect on these little songsters.
Other goodies included EURASIAN HOOPOE, PURPLE HERON, GLOSSY IBIS, ZITTING CISTICOLA, BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERON and lots of WESTERN MARSH HARRIERS plus a large flock of GREEN SANDPIPERS flying overhead.
Moving on to a hide that overlooked the vast reed-beds, we found RED-EARED SLIDER, EGYPTIAN GRASSHOPPER but very few birds except for COMMON BUZZARD and a COMMON REED BUNTING which were new birds for the tour.
Along a nearby ditch we carefully scanned for Little Bitterns, there was no sign but a EUROPEAN TURTLE DOVE flew north at speed and a HORNET MOTH was a new species for many of the group.
RED-KNOBBED COOTS fed on the main canal and at the far end were a male and female LITTLE BITTERN in flight, unfortunately they were only seen by Steve and they didn’t reappear, how frustrating!
Time was slipping away so we visited a hide overlooking the northern pools. Apart from waders seen on our previous visit, we had superb sightings of a PIED AVOCET trying to move a LITTLE EGRET from its territory using brute force, plus a flyby summer-plumaged WATER PIPIT.
A male GREAT REED WARBLER showed well on a small pool as we strolled to the group of southern hides, these were overlooking the marsh and alive with birds.
Amongst the many KENTISH PLOVERS was a moulting adult LITTLE STINT and it was great to see the COLLARED PRATICOLE still present as it made feeding forays over the wetland.
A male BLUE-HEADED WAGTAIL fed amongst the wildflowers and we had lovely views of a WESTERN SWAMPHEN on one of the islands.
It was then time to stroll back to the van for a late lunch and afterwards some of the group partook in a refreshing ice cream.
Back at the hotel we did some final packing before loading up the van to make our way to Palma. We refuelled, dropped the van back and checked in quickly and smoothly, then had time to relax before our flight back to London Gatwick.
The flight was good and landed twenty minutes early, but getting off the plane was even better as it only took 25 minutes!
We said our goodbyes after what had been a great tour with fabulous weather, amazing wildlife, great food, accommodation and lovely company.