Mallorca Trip Report

*Note: Please visit my Flickr page to see all pics. I’ll try to pluck up the courage to upload pictures to this post at some point but  I tend to forget these things!*

Puerto Pollença, Mallorca Report 2015

Puerto Pollença, Mallorca 2nd August 2015

I’d been anticipating this trip for almost a year, and eventually the day came when I would be travelling to a foreign country in which I could do some birding abroad for the first time.

I’d done research on various websites as to where I might be able to go, and perhaps the most useful was the Mallorca 2015 thread on BirdForum which has regular updates to sightings on the island. Unfortunately after doing all this research I only managed to visit 2 of the place I’d wanted to go, but these still gave me 34 lifers! I’d say it would be far more ideal if you have a car for birding Mallorca or have a good knowledge of the buses. Puerto Pollença was a great base for my stay, considering my birding intentions weren’t considered at all by my mum who organised the holiday.

Anyway, on to the first day…

I had my alarm set for 3:45 but ended up waking up at 3:30. Breakfast, bags downstairs, into taxi, off to airport, eat, board plane. Already I started birding, seeing a couple of Pied Wagtails and Lesser Black-backed Gulls around the terminals. Both birds which would be replaced in Mallorca as Pied became White (I know it’s still the same species), and Lesser Black-backed became Yellow-legged. We took off from Edinburgh Airport at 8:15 and I snoozed a bit then did a wee White Wagtail sketch by my notes and contended in a Bee-eater drawing competition with my little sister, snoozed a bit more, and we arrived 2 and a half hours later in Palma.

Any guesses for the first bird I saw in Mallorca? Yellow-legged Gull? Pallid Swift? Thekla Lark? Nope, nope and nope. Feral Pigeon started off my list in Mallorca. Thankfully closely followed by a couple off sun-bleached House Martins which had me thinking Red-rumped Swallow.

Into the taxi, and the ticking began… About halfway to Puerto Pollença I spotted a bird of prey circling low-ish over some farmland. Having been to the Highland Show bird of prey display a month or so ago, I knew that this was a Black Kite. What a brilliant way to start. Black Kites aren’t that common in Mallorca so it was even better. Other birds seen on the way to our villa included a Kestrel, 3 Woodpigeons and what I’d thought at the time was a Common Buzzard it appears they are quite rare in Mallorca so it was probably a Booted Eagle.

We were greeted to our villa by the sound of a Cicada on a post, 2 Ravens above the hills behind the town, and a falcon sp. joining them. After everyone had sort of settled in, the WiFi was working and I’d dumped my clothes on the ground after digging about in my bag for my camera and binoculars, I headed into the garden where I suspected one of my easiest lifers may lurk…

A rattle emanated from one of the cypresses behind the house, a small sleep bird with a long-ish tail flitted up into one of the Aleppo Pine’s and there hid my first Sardinian Warbler. A fairly drab juvenile, but a nice wee bird nonetheless. 1/7 possible Sylvia warblers that I could see on the island. Nice. This is one of the birds that I saw almost everywhere I went along with Collared Dove, Woodpigeon, Greenfinch, and House Sparrow, all of which I saw in my short session in the garden of the villa. A Raven showed again over the hills behind the house.

Since we had no food in the house, we went to a local store called Store Formentor for dinner as it also had a nice little restaurant running there. But before getting there, I had another easy tick to get. We took a walk down to the beach and walked along there past the Illa d’Or hotel. On one of the piers stood a perfect adult Yellow-legged Gull with some food which it quickly picked up and flew away with. I do love easy lifers. We stopped at the Illa d’Or for drinks and 9 juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls flew over. Then, whilst having dinner at Store Formentor, House Sparrows fed amongst the tables and chairs (we were outside), and the first of many, many Balearic Spotted Flycatchers appeared on a telegraph pole.

The walk back to the villa gave some early bats, hirundines and Swifts over Puerto Pollença and once back a dark morph Eleonora’s Falcon went right over the villa!!! Awesome! A real Mediterranean speciality, and one of the birds I most wanted to see. After that I was inspired to go out and find more birds but after getting just round the block and trying to photograph a Spotted Flycatcher and seeing the picture turned out black, I realised it was perhaps a bit late. Cats slinked away into gardens as I walked home and a goat bleated from down the street; both of these are found almost everywhere in and around Puerto Pollença.

Puerto Pollença, Mallorca 3rd August 2015

A morning search around the garden gave me more juvenile Sardinian Warblers plus a female, Greenfinches in the pines, Collared Doves cooing from chimneys and a couple of cicadas which soon became the default sound. I was amazed to see 3 Eleonora’s Falcons over the hills where the Ravens had been the day before, almost dancing about in the sky. Also had a brief view of a large bird of prey over the same hills. I’ve written in my notes “suspect Buzzard of Booted Eagle”, the latter of which I suspect is correct.

Eleonora’s Falcons continued to delight me as I watched them through my scope and more and more of them appeared over distant ridges. A Kestrel also joined in for a bit.

This day I decided that I would go to the Boquer Valley, a brilliant place to go for some of Mallorca’s best birds, including Eleonora’s Falcon, Balearic Warbler, Alpine Swift, Hoopoe and many more that would all be lifers for me.

Fortunately the valley was just round the block and 20minutes down the main road from where we were staying. My walk there provided me with my first Hoopoe, but it was a heard only; couldn’t locate the tropical-looking, Mohican-wearing creature. Once I’d luckily stumbled across a sign that pointed me in the right direction, I had a scan through some passerines on the farmland in front of the finca (a large country estate) that sits at the entrance of the Boquer Valley. This proved fruitful as I picked up 3 Corn Buntings with the House Sparrows and few Greenfinches that made up the majority of the flock.

If you are visiting the Boquer Valley, you’ll see that there’s a gate that appears to stop you from entering. However, on the left hand side there is a small handle that opens part of the gate to let people through, and once you’ve passed that and the finca, you’ll come across another gate that definitely looks locked and chained up. Again, the left of the gate opens and lets you in.

I got about 100m into the valley before actually seeing anything more than a Blackbird or a Sardinian Warbler. It was a kite sp. high above the NW ridge, which was almost certainly a Red Kite, but the sun which was directly above me didn’t help with seeing any plumage features. A top tip, don’t go out on a hot day in Mallorca between about 11:00 and 15:30, it gets very, very hot. Or at least very hot for someone who’s lived his whole life in Scotland.

Despite the heat, I wandered onward, deeper into the valley to pretty much the other end where I found an old well which had been filled in and gave me some much needed shade. I was thrown off a couple times by distant goats but eventually spotted a definite Booted Eagle above the NW ridge whilst a couple of Stonechats flitted about outside my shelter. Another two Booted Eagles joined this individual and they floated about for a bit before drifting off, and I started hearing some slightly-off-swift calls. I ventured out into the sunlight and soon spotted a small, dull Sylvia in the low scrub on the valley floor. I quickly brought my bins up to my face and started taking note of its features. Quite small, not a particularly boldly coloured throat but it was a bit white, overall a grey bird but a bit brown on it’s back. Immediately after the wee bird had disappeared into some thick scrub I returned to my shelter to get my (new) Collins Bird Guide out my bag to look at the Balearic Warbler… it fitted very nicely, however I didn’t really want to tick it based on the terrible views I’d had of the little bird as it hid behind leaves, sometimes disappearing for a minute then reappearing somewhere else. So I decided to hope that I got better views later in my stay. Had I not got better views, I would probably have ticked that bird (Question my morals all you like, it’s how I birdwatch).

A couple more Eleonora’s Falcons went over my head and drew my attention to the source of the slightly-off-swift calls. As they scythed through the air I picked out an obviously larger swift amongst the rest of the birds. The white belly of the larger swift told me that this was my first Alpine Swift, and the other swifts showed themselves to be Pallid Swifts as they were a tad lighter, perhaps browner than the Common Swifts that showed nicely over Puerto Pollença the night before. But they moved on quickly, or should that be swiftly, over the SE ridge and out of sight. But if that hadn’t been enough, I had views of more Pallid Swifts, about 6 of them, on my walk back through the valley, plus some more Eleonora’s Falcons just for good measure.

I got to a point which I referred to as the “big rocks”, for obvious reasons (and if you visit/have visited the valley then you’ll know where these big rocks are), and had the privilege of seeing the rear end of a Blue Rock Thrush flying off up the side of the valley, and then another one which followed close behind. Very nice bird, but not very nice views of them. However, that was not the case with the Crag Martins which flew about the rock faces above the “big rocks” as I cooled down in the shade; great views of them slicing through the air getting very close to the cliffs, almost brushing them with their wings.

A Raven kronked overhead, some finches flew by, and I started to hear a falcon calling quite frantically. It turned out to be a Kestrel mobbing a dark morph Booted Eagle just in front of the finca. The walk back home didn’t give much other than some more Balearic Spotted Flycatchers, of which I didn’t even bother mentioning seeing in the valley as they are literally everywhere, and a pair of Collared Doves.

There’s nothing else written in my notes for that day, mainly because I spent the rest of the day in the pool soothing my burns and applying after sun.

Puerto Pollença, Mallorca 4th August 2015

I didn’t do any birding on this day until 18:03 when a Raven flew low over the villa, and then 7 minutes later 2 Ravens passed over heading back to the hills. I suspect they came down to drink and then went back up to their rocky homes.

I decided that since I’d wasted the rest of the day in the pool, I’d do a roof watch from the top of the villa. Between 18:30 and 19:34 I wrote in my notes:

  • Sardinian Warbler juveniles everywhere
  • Woodpigeons flying around, Spotted Flycatchers too
  • Finches in pines: Balearic Crossbills, Greenfinches, Goldfinches
  • Good candidate for Italian Sparrow. Minimal grey on head, white cheek, like Tree Sparrow without black cheek patch
  • House Sparrows feeding young a few feet away from me
  • Collared Doves on power lines
  • Martins over ridges behind house and crags in distance
  • Peregrine over hills + 3 Crossbills in pines by house
  • Told off for being antisocial, BBQ now

From that little session, I drew a couple conclusions about some of the birds in Mallorca. The Woodpigeons definitely look smaller, perhaps because in our colder climate they have to puff up their feathers for warmth? And that Italian Sparrow candidate; after checking my guide, I realise that 1) you don’t get Italian Sparrow on Mallorca, and 2) Italian Sparrow doesn’t have any grey on it’s head. So I did a wee drawing to help myself in the future.

During the BBQ I was distracted, as per usual, by a Raven calling at 20:25 and a Kestrel over the house at 20:30.

And that was all for that day…

Puerto Pollença, Mallorca 5th August 2015-08-14

I decided to go for another roof watch in the morning and here’s what I wrote:

  • 1 light and 1 dark morph Eleonora’s Falcon
  • 1 Kestrel
  • Saw Eleonora’s Falcon go into dive, good digiscoped shots
  • Couple more Eleonora’s showing well above house
  • Male Sardinian Warbler showed but disappeared quickly
  • Chaffinch calling, Great Tit too

And that was that.

Later in the day whilst I was in the pool a decent sized gecko scrambled down the fence by the BBQ, gave me a quick look, then continued on it’s way. And even later on while we had drinks outside the Illa d’Or I spotted an Osprey above the rescue plane house (I guess it’s a hangar?) and a Yellow-legged Gull flew over our villa once we were home. Another fairly birdless day. I sketched an Eleonora’s Falcon and a Kestrel before going to bed.

Puerto Pollença, Mallorca 6th August 2015

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed due to that fact I’d slept in. Set my alarm for 9:30, but woke up at 12:00, so didn’t have the time to do what I’d wanted to do that day, which was go back to the valley. At this time it was too hot for the valley, so I decided to go to the Bosque de Boquer (Bosque Park) which I’d noticed on google maps when I was looking for the Boquer Valley.

After lunch and a bit of pool time, I headed on my way at 16:50 to see what might be in this park. I did actually try heading out towards Formentor which is further along the coast but there was no way along the beach as the Rescue Plane hangar bit was blocking you and there was no path by the road, so there was no way out that end of Puerto Pollença without a car, which I feel is a bit odd.

Anyway, Spotted Flycatchers all the way along the main road, I got to the park which I’d actually passed when I’d walked to the valley. After a bit of faffing around trying to find a path amongst the dense scrub and trees, I came across a nice male Blackbird who was making a lot of noise in the dry leaf litter. And then that noise was split by the high pitched “züü zü-zi-zi” of 3 Firecrests systematically checking the undersides of every leaf for insects just below the canopy. They gave great views just a few metres from me but my camera wasn’t liking the light conditions so my pictures are about as good as any picture I’ve got of a Goldcrest. Anyway, a nice little lifer there.

rattle… rattle-rattle-rattle-cheep”, the call of an unidentified Sylvia warbler was heard somewhere in the Bosque de Boquer, and I stumbled along a dusty path to where ever that path was taking me. Loads of Spotted Flycatchers and Sardinian Warblers were about, and I suspect both were the creators of that strange call that I’d heard. Eventually I came out into a small clearing under the trees where some long grass stood, hoping the trees would allow it enough sunlight to go on living it’s life.

I spotted a small silhouette on the ground and brought my bins up to my face to be distracted by something behind the silhouette (which turned out to be a leaf standing on end); this something came strutting out of the long grass to reveal itself as a rather splendid looking Hoopoe, my first, and one of the birds I had most been wanting to see on this holiday. Despite looking like some sort of cocky businessman as he strolled out of the grass, once he saw me he froze, let me take 2 pictures, then flapped off through the trees. Those stripy wings are unmistakeable. I carefully walked in the direction he’d flown, and saw him disappear behind a tree in the distance.

I left the park after that and headed to the entrance of the Boquer Valley, passing a large villa which was for sail. Despite the high fencing around the property which was clearly meant to keep goats out, there were loads of goats standing around the pool, drinking the water and lazing in the shade of one of the Date Palms. I referred to this villa as “goat villa” for the rest of the trip.

I only managed to see a Stonechat in some olive trees before hearing someone shout, then hear a clatter and turn around to see a man on the road, a boy getting to his feet and their two bikes stuck together. I ran over to see if I could be of any help, others stopped too. It soon became apparent that it was a father and son, and the young boy didn’t quite understand what lane he was supposed to be going into so cycled into his dad, knocking him to the ground. The man wasn’t too badly hurt, bit of blood. Me and another guy prized their bikes apart, and I translated for the man who’d fallen off his bike (he was from England), letting him know that someone was offering him a ride to the hospital, which he declined. He was alright really, just winded and bleeding a bit. After offering him some water, I wandered towards the coast, walking down Pine Trees Walk. 2 fledged Spotted Flycatchers being tended to by their parents, House Sparrows everywhere, a small flock of Feral Pigeons flew over.

I met the rest of the family at the Illa d’Or for drinks, a nice cold lager.

Only other notes are of a Yellow-legged Gull, Eleonora’s Falcon and Common Swifts over the villa and a large dragonfly over the pool.

Puerto Pollença, Mallorca 7th August 2015

This day was a whole lot more enjoyable.

I started off my day with a trip to the Boquer Valley. On my walk there I had the usual suspects appearing along the way: Spotted Flycatchers, Greenfinches and Stonechats in front of goat villa.

I passed the olive trees at the bottom of the track up to the finca before the Valley. Through the trees I spotted a large shape looming over the fields the spread out on the ground below the finca. So large in fact, that it was casting a shadow on the hillside to its north.

This was a big bird of prey for sure. I got my bins up to my face and squinted through the leaves of a large Rubber Fig. My notes read: Large BOP in front of finca: white chest/belly, trailing edge of wings dark; square-ended, long fingered wings; almost rectangular shaped wings.

 

As I was setting my scope up once I’d gotten to the bit in front of the finca where I had clear views across the farmland, the bird suddenly stopped circling and glided fairly swiftly into the hills, towards Cala Sant Vicenç, on the other side of the hills. My digiscoping set up was too much of a faff to set up in time and I had soon missed my window of opportunity to get any photos.

After a browse through the eagles and finding nothing to fit, except maybe a Booted Eagle on steroids, I went to the vultures with my hopes high. The only two vultures that live on Mallorca are the Black and Egyptian Vultures. I knew it wasn’t a Black Vulture as they don’t have any pale bits on them, as the name suggests. So even before turning over on to the next page I was confident that I’d seen an Egyptian Vulture! Sure enough, subadult Egyptian Vulture fitted perfectly. What a brilliant bird to start my morning off with. I wasn’t expecting any vultures in the Valley, although I know they are seen there. The only place I’d expected to see vultures was Cúber Reservoir, although even that would be a gamble as everything is with Birdwatching!

After that encounter I was happy if I didn’t see anything else particularly worthwhile. Fortunately it didn’t turn out that way. Sardinian Warblers, House Sparrows, and Woodpigeons were seen in the farmland below where I’d just seen my first lifer of the day. A bit further along and I spotted a juvenile Whinchat and plenty more Spotted Flycatchers also on the sandy ground.

I got quite far into the valley before I saw very much. A couple Linnets popped up from the ground near a small stand of pines. Again I walked quite far before an Eleonora’s Falcon soared over the NW ridge and an unexpected sighting was what looked like a Feral Pigeon coming round the end of the mountains on the NW side of the valley, flying along the rock face a bit before landing high up, a mere dot through my scope. After asking on BirdForum about the status of Rock Dove in Mallorca, I was told that the ones seen far from human settlement and flat areas. They breed around the coastal cliffs so mine was very probably a pure Rock Dove; a nice unexpected tick which I’ll no longer need to head to the west coast of Scotland for, although there’s plenty other things I’d like to see there…

I reached the end of the valley, Sylvia’s everywhere, a few Blackbirds, a Stonechat, Spotted Flycatchers, and 2 Booted Eagles (1 pale dark morph, and one dark morph) over the SE ridge. I stood there for a bit just taking it in, and whilst doing so I heard what sounded like a Dunnock singing. I’m still not sure what this could have been.

Headed to the edge of the rocks so I could look into the bay at the end of the Boquer Valley, hoping for a race tick. Sure enough, there sat a nice pale desmarestii Shag on the rocks below. Nice. A Kestrel alerted me to the presence of a Booted Eagle mid-way down the valley and they both drifted off towards the finca.

I decided to have a good look at the Sylvia warblers that were rattling from the scrub all around me. Female Sardinian… juvenile Sardinian… juvenile Sardinian… ju- oh wait a second… This warbler was not a Sardinian, it looked far more like a Whitethroat with it’s orangey wings and slightly white throat. I haven’t had much experience of any Sylvia warblers other than Common and Lesser Whitethroat, so excuse me for not realising straight away that I was looking at a Spectacled Warbler. After finding that out in my book, from the shelter that I’d been in a few days ago, I was overjoyed to have my third tick of the day!

After a quick walk to where I’d seen the Shag, I decided to be highly optimistic (some may say unrealistic) and hope that I could do a bit of seawatching, maybe a Scopoli’s or Balearic Shearwater would fly past. Well, my seawatch produced 2 small yachts, 2 little rowing boats, 1 big yacht and a Yellow-legged Gull.

I headed back through the valley, not much seen that I hadn’t already seen that day, other than Crag Martins. I reached the finca and had a look out over the farmland, hoping ‘my’ vulture would reappear. Instead I spotted a bright yellow bird in a tree below me. A lovely Serin! About time too, from what I’d found on the internet they were easy. Hmph! A nice little bird anyway, and my fourth lifer of the day.

As I was snapping pictures a family came out the valley behind me and asked what I was looking at. I told them I was Birdwatching, and explained how brilliant Mallorca is for it. I then let them have a look through the scope, which they all enjoyed, despite not being able to spot their hotel, and one of them let me have a look at his bridge camera which I wish I’d had when that Egyptian Vulture was about. They went on their way and I was joined by another family, this one was more vocal and actually made a lot of noise without even talking to me. The younger 2 showed off their hovering skills whilst asking mum or dad to go and catch them a mouse before the House Martins saw them off. They were of course Kestrels and not people.

As I was coming along the road to our villa 2 more Kestrels and a Peregrine flew over the hills in the background.

Later on in the day as I was cooling off in the pool 5+ Eleonora’s Falcons and a Kestrel played about over the hills and I managed to guide my gran on to one of them. Even later on in the day, as we were walking to dinner, loads of Common and Pallid Swifts scythed through the air above Puerto Pollença and plenty juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls flew north over the boats in the bay.

Puerto Pollença, Mallorca 8th August 2015

Just to demonstrate how much I enjoyed this day I’ll tell you the first thing I wrote in my notes from that day: Pretty cr*p day of birding.

It was so bad that I’ll just sum it up as briefly as I can.

A Firecrest started my walk off well, but I found that there was no path out towards Formentor from Puerto Pollença so there is no way out of the town in that direction without a vehicle. I headed the other way. 2 of both Eleonora’s Falcon and Raven were over the hills, 2 Great Tits were in some woods by the main road and c30 Feral Pigeons flew past the entrance to the Boquer Valley. I continued past the valley further along the main road, hoping I’d be able to get into the farmland further outside the town to perhaps see Stone Curlew, Red-legged Partridge, Buntings, anything I hadn’t seen already.

Loads of House Sparrows and Greenfinches were on some thistles by a field with some Goldfinches. Stonechats were also ever present along my walk to the other end of Puerto Pollença where there’s a roundabout with a red airplane on it. From here, once again, there was nowhere to walk along the side of the road so I turned around, perhaps in a bit of a huff.

The Kestrel being mobbed by a couple of House Martins didn’t lighten my mood but I’ll tell you what did.

I decided to just go up to the finca at the Boquer Valley to see if any nicer birds were about, anything I couldn’t see in Scotland. As I walked past the Olive trees a bird fluttered up from the low wall by the path and uttered a couple of “zitt”’s at me as I realised I was looking at a stunning male Cirl Bunting, even yellower than the Serin I’d seen the day before. I set up my scope and my camera and he sat there, being very patient as I fiddled about with the focus and eventually got a couple of semi-decent shots. Then he flew off, and I went home before something put me in a huff again.

It rained in the afternoon which wasn’t actually so bad as it had been very hot for the whole time we’d been there.

Puerto Pollença, Mallorca 9th August 2015

The only birding I did in the morning was from the roof of the villa. Nice views of 3+ Eleonora’s Falcons, 1 Raven and a male Sardinian Warbler.

After my adventure outside the Boquer Valley the day before, I was scared of the prospect of not seeing anything good, so…

On my walk to the Boquer Valley at 14:04, I had 3 Kestrels over the hills behind goat villa. It appeared to be 1 parent feeding two youngsters, probably the ones I’d seen on the 7th.

As I passed the Olives I thought I’d heard Firecrests in the leaves so I decided not to bother looking for them. Turned out they weren’t Firecrests but I only found that out when I was heading home.

Thinking my day might end up going the same way as yesterday since I’d had Firecrest as my first bird again, I was quickly proven wrong as I spotted a shape on an aerial on the finca. That finca had provided me with quite a few good birds already, but this one was up there as one of the best. After looking at it through my bins I immediately started to set up my scope so I could get some pics of this beautiful, exciting bird.

Finally I had my scope pointing at it, but I needed to focus it as the bird was currently just a black and white splodge with a bit of red. As I turned the focus knob, that black/white/red splodge became a smashing badius Woodchat Shrike. An awesome bird, and I had probably been walking past it every time I’d come into the valley. Another brilliant start! The Boquer Valley just keeps giving and giving.

After taking a lot of photos I made my way through the gates. 2 Crag Martins flew over the rocks behind the finca, a Blue Rock Thrush went SE over the valley, looking characteristically featureless, and I made my way off the beaten track towards the pine forest on the valley floor.

Once amongst the trees, 2 thrushes flew off through the pines, probably Blue Rock Thrush but couldn’t be sure. Then just outside the valley, probably occupying the same bit of airspace as the Egyptian Vulture I’d seen, was another bird of prey, this one with a large object in it’s talons. I’m still not sure what species it was. Some of my views of it made it look kite-like, and some looked eagle-like. So I’ll leave it as a UFO with a UO in its talons.

A definite Booted Eagle slowly cruised over the SW ridge above me and below me, on the rocky valley floor, I noticed there were bones absolutely everywhere. A sure sign that vultures were present every now and then. Amongst them I was a cool looking snail.

An Eleonora’s Falcon drifted over the pines whilst Sardinian Warblers, Spotted Flycatchers, Great Tits, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Crossbills, Blackbirds and goats all showed nicely under the canopy. I flushed a ‘proper’ Red-legged Partridge from some long grass and a small mammal squeaked from the scrub beside me. The only reason I call it a ‘proper’ RLP is because it was nice seeing one in its homeland, although I’d still be happy to see them in the UK.

As I considered leaving the pines before I trod on a snake or something, a juvenile Blue Rock Thrush flew up on to one of the larger pines, clinging on to the bark line a Nuthatch, and then flew off back where it had came from. Finally I’d had a clear view of a BRT without it being in flight. Good stuff.

The next thing I wrote in my notes was a call. I’ve transcribed it trying to keep to the method they use in Collins Bird Guide. Still not sure what it was: tr’r’r’r’r’r’r’r’r’r’r’r’r’ee’r’r’r’r’r’r’r’r’r’r’r’ee’r’r’r’r’ee’r’r’r’r’r’r’r’r’r’r’r’ee’r’r

Yeah, I have no idea either, I can’t remember what it actually sounded like which doesn’t help so I’ll just leave it.

The next call I heard was easy to recognise, a Kestrel over the forest. A Blue Rock Thrush flew out of the woods and landed on a large rock across the valley, giving me a nice opportunity to get some pics! As I was digiscoping I heard a harsh “kaahhhhhll” from the woods, which turned out to be a Hoopoe who flew off as soon as I moved to set my scope up.

A Spectacled Warbler showed fairly close to me as I started to make my way back up to the main path and 2 Ravens and an Eleonora’s Falcon flew over the valley.

I decided to head to the end of the valley again, hoping for better views of Balearic Warblers so I could happily tick them off. On my walk there I had a Balearic Blue Tit, Great Tits, some Swifts, Crag Martins and a small falcon which showed twice. I was pretty certain it was a Merlin but having looked at Merlin’s distribution, I’m not very sure. It was definitely very small, I almost thought it was an Alpine Swift when I first saw it.

I was quite far into the valley, and I hadn’t seen any Booted Eagles. Just as I noticed this, a very nice light morph Booted Eagle flew along the NE ridge and disappeared into a cave which was probably at least 100m up the cliff face.

At my sheltered bit near the end of the valley, I heard a Sylvia warbler rattling away in the scrub beside me. I spotted it deep in the foliage, took a few pictures, and then it disappeared and reappeared at the top of another bush just in front of me, giving amazing views. I got plenty pictures and it was undoubtedly a Balearic Warbler, my main target on this holiday. Awesome.

2 juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls flew past the bay and a Kestrel flew over the big rocks in the valley as I headed home. A Collared Dove flew up from by the finca, making me think I may have just seen a Turtle Dove, but it wasn’t to be.

As I was walking down the dirt track away from the finca I spotted a Woodchat Shrike on top of a Date Palm which had had it’s top taken off. Again, great views and I got to see it fly away this time, hopefully meaning I’ll recognise a Shrike when I find one back in Scotland!

And those Firecrests that I’d seen at the start of the day turned out to be Cirl Buntings, quite a high pitched call I thought but after listening to Firecrest and Cirl Bunting on Xeno Canto I realised they were completely different. A Yellow-legged Gull flew over the goat villa on my walk back home.

A Raven flew low over the house during dinner, kronking as it headed towards the coast, and Martins and Swifts flew over too. During dinner I brought up the idea of me going to s’Albufera, a nature reserve on Mallorca, the largest wetland area in the Balearic Islands. We planned to book my taxi in the morning…

Puerto Pollença, Mallorca 10th August 2015

Today was the day. The day that I ticked off more lifers than I’d added to my life list in the past few months. Knowing that I was going to s’Albufera in the afternoon, I didn’t feel I had to do any birding in the morning, and therefore my birding day started at 14:00, when the taxi driver pulled up outside the villa.

After working out how I would get home afterwards (my phone didn’t get any reception in Mallorca), I was on my way out of Puerto Pollença. The taxi driver was very helpful and friendly. He noticed my attempt to speak Spanish and said, “You speak some Spanish?”

“Un poco,” (which I thought meant “a little”)

“Un pocito,” he replied. Slightly embarrassing that I’d got that wrong but never mind. My first lifer of the day was close.

Before you reach s’Albufera, you pass another smaller nature reserve called (confusingly) s’Albufereta, which is pretty much the same but smaller and therefore there’s perhaps a little less to see. But when we went over El Torrent de s’Albufereta, I spotted a very leggy wader. My first Black-winged Stilt! Quite an easy tick, but seen very briefly. I hoped I might get better views of them at s’Albufera.

Once in the car park by the reserve the taxi driver pointed out the hotel that I should go into to use their phone to call for a taxi when I was done on the reserve. He drove off, and I was left to explore s’Albufera.

Once I got on to the track that leads to the Administration Centre, I realised it was a bit of a walk before I got to the hides. Spotted Flycatchers adorned the fence as I walked along and the sound of an egret colony (egretery?) on the banks of the Gran Canal. I made my way to the edge of the canal, coming across some ants using a stick as a bridge across the narrow path, and found a mixed group of Little and Cattle Egrets; a year tick and lifer. Awesome! But the noise they made almost sounded mechanical, not what I was expecting. A heard only record which I’ve just realised I haven’t got on my life list was a Bittern heard booming whilst I was walking along the path. That brings my total life list up to a magical 200 species!

Eventually I got to the administration office, picked up my free pass and I was free to wander. Having read the Mallorca 2015 thread on BirdForum I recognised the name of the Sa Roca area so I went there first, also due to the fact it was the closest.

I was not quite prepared for the number of new birds I was going to see once I got into that hide. Before even getting into the hide I heard the unmistakeable call of a Cetti’s Warbler, recognised it as I remember reading in Collins Guide that it sounds like it says “Listen!.. What’s my name?.. Cetti-Cetti-Cetti – That’s it!”

My notes at this point became very messy, scrawling down various heron species and waders, it almost looks like I’ve written Marsh Plover and Kentish Heron! Anyway, my full list of lifers were: 1 Marsh Harrier ♂ over the reeds; Purple Swamphens everywhere, about 8 of them; Kentish Plovers in amongst their littler, ringed cousins; 3 Stone Curlew which flew straight over the hide and landed not far away; a Squacco Heron which flew up from the reeds and dropped back in again; 2 Gull-billed Terns which landed briefly; 1 adult Audouin’s Gull sitting in the sun; and a Purple Heron which flew straight over the reeds and I got a pretty decent in-flight digiscoped shot of. The supporting cast to all these lifers was awesome too. Black-winged Stilts everywhere, Little Ringed Plovers also everywhere, Little Egrets, Cattle Egrets, a Grey Heron, 2 Dunlin, a Little Stint, Mallards (again) everywhere, and one wader which I thought at the time was a Wood Sandpiper but later I found out a Marsh Sandpiper had been seen there, so I left that one off the trip list. I waited in the hide for a while in case something else turned up, or perhaps I was paralysed by the shear joy that I was experiencing. Either way, I got up and mover to the next hide around the side of the scrapes at Sa Roca.

From this hide I had wonderful close-up views of juvenile Black-winged Stilts feeding in the shallow water and added Yellow Wagtail to the trip list, I’m assuming it was a flava as I forgot to check!

Not much else showed from that hide so I moved on to the next hide which I relatively new as well as the bridge that forms part of the path to the hide. I checked all the waterways down the sides of the reeds in the hope of seeing one of the rarer ducks that can be found at s’Albufera. Once in the hide I settled down and started to have a look at the body of water in front of me. Plenty ducks, but not much else. Gadwalls, Mallards, snoozing Pochards, and the non-ducks were Coots, a few Little Egrets, and then a bird which I knew had caused a bit of a stir as it was a rare bird for Mallorca. A juvenile Great Crested Grebe swan out of the reeds quite fast then proceeded to dive beneath the water. After a good scan of the reeds on the far side I managed to pick out a juvenile Purple Heron standing bolt upright and completely still, statuesque as it waited for an unsuspecting fish to swim past.

At this point I was joined in the hide by 2 photographers, 1 of them carrying a huge lens. It was as if he’d gone and got a keg of beer and attached it to his DSLR! One of them then started to play some bird call very loudly with his phone. I was somewhat bemused at this point, as they noisily discussed something and peered out the hide, bird call still playing on full volume! I had to think for a bit about what species it was that this guy was playing on his phone, and then it struck me. Great Crested Grebe. I knew that the juvenile I’d seen earlier was just in front of the hide and was currently hidden by the vegetation. I got their attention eventually by waving my arms about as they could barely hear me over the bird call he was playing (a slight exaggeration). I pointed at the picture of the grebe that was on the information board on the back wall of the hide and attempted to say, “This?” in Spanish. They said ”Sí,” so I pointed in front of the hide, they said something to do with gracias, took a few shots of the bird, and left. That was quite an experience!

After that I stumbled about a few paths, coming across a pair of Zitting Cisticolas as I did so, and then headed towards Es Cibollar.

On the way to Es Cibollar I passed over el Canal Gran and spotted another lifer; Red-knobbed Coot. There were a few of them merrily bobbing about in the weeds by the edge of the canal, joined by Mallards, Purple Swamphens, Little Grebes, Little Egrets, and a few more distant ducks which I couldn’t make out even through my scope, due to the haze created by the heat. But Red-knobbed Coot was one of my targets that I really wanted to see for some reason. I also noted that there were some very large fish about.

Over the canal and then turn right, I was on the path to the Es Cibollar hides. Greenfinches and House Sparrows fed on the ground, Mallards got up from snoozing by Sa Siurana (a sort of canal which was overgrown with vegetation), and then 2 small brown jobs fluttered into the branches above the path. I brought my bins up to my face and confirmed them as my first Nightingales, very nice birds, but they didn’t appreciate that my flash had turned itself on on my camera and flew off after I’d got a pretty rubbish picture.

I cross the bridge to Es Cibollar hide I and as I did so, something rushed off into the reeds on my right. Definitely a crake or rail. Hm…

Once in the hide, the birds were as follows: plenty Black-headed Gulls; a few Gull-billed Terns and Little Egrets; a couple of Kentish Plovers, one of which was a little chick acting very precocial as it fed in the taller vegetation; Black-winged Stilts; and another adult Audouin’s Gull, stunning birds. Another birder was in there with me, I suspect from Germany, and he was actually the only other person I saw that looked like a proper birder. Everybody else just appeared to be having a nice walk about, or cycle about.

I decided to move on to Es Cibollar hide II, and as I was approaching the door a suspected Hoopoe flew out a tree to the right of me. Once in the hide I saw that there wasn’t much to be seen there but some very feisty Black-winged Stilts provided some entertainment as the flew about, chasing each other with their legs out behind them.

When I left the hide I decided to creep back over the bridge to Es Cibollar hide I to see if that crake/rail was there or not. A showy male Sardinian Warbler greeted me as I approached the bridge. Being very careful not to stand on any creaky planks, I made my way across, and there it was. A beautiful Water Rail, my first, and a bird I’ve been wanting to see for quite a while. I definitely had the chance to take a photo but I decided this was a bird I was just going to enjoy looking at as it nervously crept away deep into the reeds.

I was going to go to the Es Columbars hides but after walking some of the way along the path I realised I didn’t have time, so I walked back and popped into Sa Roca again. On the way there a Cetti’s Warbler showed quite nicely in the shrubs by the path and some Rabbits made the first mammals of my trip! Not much had changed at Sa Roca but I remembered that I hadn’t taken note of the huge Great White Egrets that were with the other egrets (another lifer), and I watched a Little Ringed Plover have a bath right in front of the hide. It was time to go.

S’Albufera had treated me well, and the hotel that I went into to ask to use their phones also treated me well as they called the taxi for me, and I was on my way back to Puerto Pollença in no time at all.

Only other birds of note that day were a Crossbill in the pines by the house and a Booted Eagle over the hills behind the house.

What a day: 17 lifers! Not sure I’ll equal that for a while.

Puerto Pollença, Mallorca 11th August 2015

This was the last full day that I was going to be in Mallorca so I decided to go to the trusty Boquer Valley.

It gave me a great last day of birding. 2 Eleonora’s Falcons showed over the hills behind the house as I left, and a Stonechat was on the brownfield site in front of goat villa. A juvenile Whinchat and 2 Pallid Swifts were seen at the finca and a Serin and a couple of Great Tits were at the “big rocks”.

I went into the pine woods again where I heard a Spectacled Warbler being very noisy and attracting 2 Great Tits, a Goldfinch and a Sardinian Warbler. A noise that I suspected was a goat coughing turned out to be just that and a call that I suspected was a Kestrel calling and flying along the SW ridge turned out to be just that as well!

I got some nice views of a splendid adult Blue Rock Thrush on one of the big rocks, and then I headed to the open ground where I was desperately hoping I’d see a Thekla Lark.

Another Blue Rock Thrush and a Blackbird appeared in a lone fig tree but no larks materialised so I made my way slowly to the exit by the finca. A mixed flock of finches and sparrows fed on thistles by one of the fields and a dog scared away all the goats. I noted that as I knew I’d seen a sign saying “No dogs” at the gate by the finca.

I soon found that the dog was being used to catch one of the goats. A man in one of the doorways of the finca shouted at me and beckoned for me to come out of the fields; I did think perhaps I wasn’t meant to be off the path. Once I got up to the finca it appeared that he just wanted me out of the field. I went out the gate which had a goat tied to it, and headed home. 2 Booted Eagles, a Yellow-legged Gull, and Pallid and Common Swifts flew high over Puerto Pollença plus an unidentified bird of prey flew over the hills. My notes read: “BOP: Buzzard sized; dark; pale bits at wrists; broad wings; pale, shortish tail.” I’ve had a look in the book and can’t really find anything that definitely fits, but I’m pretty certain it wasn’t a Booted Eagle.

Over dinner I was treated to the usual birds around the garden: Crossbills, Sardinian Warblers, Greenfinches and those good old Spotted Flycatchers.

That night I sat on the roof looking at the stars and watching bats fly over my head along with a nice big Elephant Hawkmoth.

To top off an amazing holiday, 2 Moorish Geckos were on the tiles which had been heated up throughout the day.

Puerto Pollença, Mallorca 12th August 2015

Unfortunately this whole day was spent travelling. I did try my best to spot Thekla Larks out the window in the fields we passed but never saw any. As we were taxiing to the runway, I spotted some White Wagtails and Yellow-legged Gulls out the window of the plane.

Two and a half hours later we landed at Edinburgh Airport, greeted by Pied Wagtails and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. It felt good to be home.

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Mallorca Trip Report

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