Mallorca- The Re-discovery of a Gem- Part Two

After a family day out on the 11th, the two Nash birders continued on in the final three days of their Mallorcan adventure…

Mallorca Day 5- 12th July- Does this Really Count?

After a certain teenager slept in, his dad went out alone to Albufereta, which yielded him only a Night Heron, a flash of a Balearic Woodchat Shrike & not a lot else.

The afternoon was spent at Albufera. There were two primary reasons why we spent so much time here: firstly, a Western Reef Egret was known to be frequenting the area & had done so for several months(we never managed to see it), and secondly, we remembered from 2015 that there was a densely populated heronry, the members of which would periodically offer great views. Though the herons did fly through, they were nowhere near as abundant as we remembered & the light conditions meant they flew between us & the Sun, thus making photography difficult. Despite wasting an hour walking the 1km track up to the very northern scrape (well, I say wasting, we did manage to see two Marbled Ducks & a Little Tern, apparently both very scarce birds on Mallorca, but the latter particularly so), which meant that we were standing near the heronry just as the Sun was starting to set, alas the herons stopped coming, so we gave up & headed back to the villa for some high-brow evening entertainment.

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Red-crested Pochard at Albufera, one of the remnants of the reintroduction scheme here.

Mallorca Day 6- Mountains, Mortitx & Moltoni’s Warblers

We spent the morning in the famed Serra de Tramuntana, and, after negotiating the twisty mountain roads, troupes of cyclists & more dodgy Spanish driving, we arrived at our first destination.

The Embalse de Cuber, or the Cuber Reservoir to foreign birders, is nestled in the mountains above the port town of Soller, right underneath Puig Major, Mallorca’s highest mountain, and the radar base on top of it, aptly named the ‘golf ball’. Once the only breeding site on Mallorca for Spectacled Warbler & the occasional Rock Thrush, these species have deserted it for higher climes. However, a new bird is about town now.

Moltoni’s Subalpine Warblers breed only on Corsica, Sardinia, Mallorca & bits of Western Italy. When we came here in 2015, we saw SIX of these birds in the low scrub on the edge of the reservoir (a pair & four juveniles). However, when we pulled up today, we managed to only find two, both of them adults which were seen at opposite ends of the reservoir. We were slightly disappointed, but this was slightly quenched by the appearance of a Black Vulture & Griffon Vulture over the ridge to the west. In 2008, 60 Griffons were blown over from Spain & have since maintained a strong yet very localised population on the island comprising of 15 breeding pairs and roughly 40 non-breeding individuals, according to the recently published Annual Report for Mallorcan Avifauna.

We moved on after that, and we journeyed to the Mortitx Vineyards (we enjoyed mass hilarity at the SatNav’s expense due to it being unstuck by the dodgy ‘tx’ suffix which you sometimes find in Mallorcan place names: though it is supposedly pronounced like ‘tch’, the SatNav’s programming meant it had to say it as read). Once you pass the on-site peach-coloured wine factory (unfortunately closed when we visited), you get to a more open area, where you may find one of Mallorca’s most ambitious reintroduction projects in history.

Before that, though, we had an explore of the Ses Basses valley beneath the vineyards, finding little of note. Soon, though, attention turned skyward: our rough totals after about 45 minutes came out at five Griffon Vultures, four Black Vultures, two Kestrels and three Eleonora’s Falcons. Soon, though, we picked up a juvenile eagle far away to the north-west (right next to where we had been standing not more than ten minutes ago…), and, rather than being the much-commoner Booted Eagle, it was in fact a juvenile Bonelli’s Eagle, the offspring from one of the adults which were released as part of a reintroduction scheme managed by the European Union. These are still very rare indeed on the island, so we were extremely lucky to find one.

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One of several Griffon Vultures, some of which showed well as they drifted over the valley
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Though the Black Vultures didn’t show quite as well, this one still thankfully flew over us in the valley, showing off its pale feet, one of the most reliable ways of telling it from Griffon Vulture at a distance

The afternoon was spent exploring a new site called Son Real, near the tacky tourist town of C’an Picafort, another good site for Balearic Warbler. Our first bird after stepping out of the car though was a stunning adult pale morph Booted Eagle, the last common raptor we needed.

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Booted Eagle soaring above us as we entered Son Real

Son Real is mostly a series of trails through the woods, but at the end there is an area of coastal scrub around a viewpoint which is where both Balearic Warbler & Dartford Warbler, a rarer bird on the island than Balearic Warbler, can be found. The woods were both birdless & absolutely full to the brim with buzzing cicadas: absolutely deafening!!! The scrub, too, was just as desolate, save for a nice adult Balearic Woodchat Shrike.

We then headed back to the villa, where a dinner of the highest order awaited us.

Mallorca Day 7- 14th July- Last Crack at the Whip

We were up bright & early and out to Albufera before you could say ‘swamphen’, and were glad to find an almost full heronry.

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Let’s play a game of ‘Spot the Glossy Ibis‘…

We walked around to the bridge over the Gran Canal, and were treated to a stunning repertoire of herons & egrets flying over our heads through a very stormy background.

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Amongst the Little Egrets, several Cattle Egrets came through too.
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A couple of Night Herons were flying in & out of the heronry, mostly immatures but a couple of adults too.
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The Squacco Herons often came hidden amongst the egrets, batting through back to the heronry
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Though technically not a heron, there are several Glossy Ibises which live inside the heronry, the result of an influx in the spring.

We then moved further down the track, uncovering a Purple Swamphen cowering in the reeds, two Little Bitterns, several Bee-eaters & a Purple Heron which flew past. The heron movement had slowed down significantly by this point, and, as such, after a bit of a wait, we decided to up sticks & move on from Albufera for the last time.

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The Purple Heron which flew past us

The family joined us for the last ‘birding’ trip up the Formentor Peninsula, and it was soon clear that the Eleonora’s weren’t going to play ball: last time, they had been hanging in the breeze before moving off to hunt. This time, there was no breeze, and as a result, only two falcons. We moved back down again before dining away our last night on the island with a gold-star-standard meal delivered as always from Los Faroles. Because our flight was early the next morning, no birding was done the next day.

The general consensus from the family was that Mallorca hits the magic combination of being a great family holiday destination whilst also being very good for birding. So, if you want some exciting foreign birding but are tied down by family commitments, then look no further than Mallorca.

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