Mallorca 2011

Mallorca - October 2011
Wednesday 12th - Friday 21st October 2011
La Gola nature reserve, Port De Pollença
Here are the nature highlights of my holiday with Linda. We were based in Port de Pollença at the Puerto Azul hotel, which was just a few minutes' walk to Boquer Valley, and got around when we needed to on the very good local bus routes. The weather was very warm and sunny most of the time (24-29oC), with the only rain occurring overnight on 19th, with a fresher feel then (21-22oC) for the last two days.

Wednesday 12th
We had an early flight from Bristol, arriving at our hotel just after 11.00am. First birds ... House Sparrows, at the airport, then a Buzzard and two groups of Cattle Egrets of around 25 each between the airport and Alcudia; c40 Shags were off the beach road to Port de Pollença (the Shags are of the Mediterranean desmarestii race, the young birds being very pale).

Taking in our surroundings at the hotel, I saw two Ravens over the impressive craggy ridges above Boquer Valley, towards which our balcony faced.. A Blackbird, c15 House Sparrows, c10 Wood Pigeons, and a White Wagtail over were also noted.

A walk along the promenade past the harbour after lunch took us to the nature reserve of La Gola. This reserve was created at the mouth (La Gola = the throat) of a tidal creek, less enchantingly marked as 'Smelly Stream' in the birding guides. A male Stonechat, a Little Egret, a Sardinian Warbler, a Zitting Cisticola (I prefer this name to Fan-tailed Warbler, don't know why, I just like saying it), a singing male Cetti's Warbler, c6 Goldfinches, c12 Mallard, a Muscovy Duck (not tickable!), and House Sparrows. House Sparrows are just about everywhere on Mallorca, so I won't mention them much more. An impressive Praying Mantis, Mantis religiosa, was on the path, and we disturbed several large Grasshoppers Eyprepocnemis plorans (the plorans subspecies) from their afternoon bask as we walked the paths. Butterflies included three Clouded Yellows, including a very pale female helice type. Walking back along the beach area produced three Yellow-legged Gulls, a Cormorant and c6 Collared Doves.
Praying Mantis, Mantis religiosa
Clouded Yellow
Clouded Yellow, 'helice' type female

Thursday 13th
Sunrise during the holiday was quite late compared to the UK, with the clocks being two hours ahead of our BST, so it didn't start to get light until around 7.45am (this also meant of course a later sunset; it didn't really get dark until around 7.45pm). Before breakfast was therefore an ideal time to check out local sites, and a walk along the seafront produced my first lifer of the holiday, an Audouin's Gull, plus a Yellow-legged Gull. YLG were always present on the beach in fact, and usually Audouin's too. At La Gola as the sun rose, another Audouin's Gull was present, and two Night Herons circled in flight over the trees before going to roost. Other birds noted were two Chiffchaffs, two Grey Wagtails, a Sardinian Warbler, a Coot, two Moorhens, and a Grey Heron.
The 'big rocks', Boquer Valley
Later, we walked up into Boquer Valley. The start of the walk to Boquer, the Pine and Tamarisk-lined Bocchoris Avenue, was conveniently next to the hotel. From here you just cross a roundabout and the path continues up to the finca (finca = estate). The walk through the finca produced a male Redstart and six Cattle Egrets in the fields below. Along the trail from the 'big rocks' to the sea, my next lifer was Blue Rock Thrush, two were seen and a third heard in song (reminiscent of Skylark). Three Booted Eagles were another lifer as were an Eleonora's Falcon, and a Crag Martin at the cove, Cala Boquer; more Crag Martins were seen on the return walk. An Audouin's Gull was also at the cove. I also noted on the walk at least one Cirl Bunting,  two Wheatears, a Stonechat, a Chiffchaff and a Raven, and several Sardinian Warblers, Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Song Thrushes, Robins, and Blackbirds. Insects of note were 3+ Clouded Yellows, a Red Admiral, and grasshoppers Eyprepocnemis plorans and Calliptamus barbarus.
A singing male Blue Rock Thrush, atop of one of the 'big rocks'
Boquer Valley scenery
Booted Eagle
Calliptamus barbarus
Back near the hotel was a Chaffinch, and relaxing by the pool I noticed a Grey Wagtail at the water's edge. Later, a walk along the seafront 'Pine Walk', north of the main bustle, a Common Sandpiper was on the beach near one of the many small stone jetties. 

Friday 14th
At La Gola early morning the highlights were 2-3 Eleonora's Falcons, one almost overhead, a Cetti's Warbler singing again, a Grey Heron, a Little Egret, Sardinian Warblers, and several Robins and Blackbirds. Wintering Robins were increasingly numerous as my stay progressed, and became virtually ubiquitous, even more so than House Sparrow, and numbers of wintering Blackbirds (and other thrushes) increased steadily too. On the beach I got quite close to an adult Audouin's Gull, and a first-winter desmarestii Shag was along the Pine Walk.
Audouin's Gull
After breakfast, we explored the small wood Bosquet de Boquer, which is known as 'Postage Stamp Wood' in the birding guides, and is no more than five minutes walk from the hotel. Several Firecrests were heard near the middle of the wood (near the pile of broken bottles - shame!), and around the paths several butterflies comprising four Wall Browns, 3+ 'Southern' Speckled Woods (Pararge aegeria aegeria) and a Geranium Bronze.

Later we got the bus to Alcudia and explored the old town, and then walked most of the was back to Port de Pollença, taking in S' Albufereta nature reserve on the way (it seemed a long way in hot sun!). More Clouded Yellows were seen just out of Alcudia, and a single Cattle Egret was in a roadside field. At S' Albufereta we only had time to check out the area nearest the coast, and water levels in the scrapes we could were quite dry with just two Little Ringed Plovers being the only waders present. Around 10 Swallows were hawking insects over one of the fields and a male Kestrel, several Sardinian Warblers, Goldfinches and Greenfinches the only other birds noted. Back along the coastal road we spotted several interesting plants including Small Pheasant's Eye, Sea Holly, Sweet Alyssum, Sea Pincushion Flower, and the Autumn-flowering 'crocus' Colchicum filifolium.
Colchicum filifolium
Small Pheasant's Eye

Saturday 15th
Before breakfast I noted a Zitting Cisticola, a Stonechat, and several Serins, Sardinian Warblers, Goldfinches and Greenfinches on weedy ground near the hotel; two Firecrests and a Blackcap were at Postage Stamp Wood. 
S' Albufera nature reserve
We headed for the bus station after breakfast to catch the bus to one of the sites I was particularly looking forward to, the S'Albufera reserve, which is situated to the south of Alcudia. This really is a fantastic reserve with a wealth of interest. I think the visitor information centre must have improved from an earlier report I read, as I found it very good, and the reserve leaflet has an excellent map for finding your way around the trails and hides. Checking the main areas I recorded five Little Grebes, c10 Cormorants, 25 Little Egrets, a Grey Heron, three Marsh Harriers, a Booted Eagle, three Purple Swamphens (lifer), Moorhens, c10 Red-knobbed Coots (lifer), six Coot, c40 Teal, c60 Tufted Ducks, two Wigeon, c6 Gadwall, c30 Shoveler, Mallard, c30 Kentish Plover (lifer), 1+ Little Ringed Plover, c30 Black-winged Stilts, a Green Sandpiper, two Lapwings, c10 Dunlin, a Sanderling, a Little Stint, c15 Greenshanks, a Curlew, two Snipe, c10 Black-headed Gulls, a Yellow-legged Gull, two Meadow Pipits, White Wagtail, a Wheatear, a Whinchat, Robins, Blackbirds, a Moustached Warbler singing (heard only but a lifer), 6+ Cettis Warblers, Sardinian Warblers, a Chiffchaff, a Great Tit, a flock of c200 Starling, House Sparrows, Serins, Greenfinches, Goldfinches and 2+ Linnets.
Purple Swamphen
Red-knobbed Coot
Kentish Plover
Black-winged Stilt
There was lots of insect interest too, with Lepidoptera comprising two Clouded Yellows, three Southern Speckled Woods, a Small White, a Red Admiral, three Common Blues, two Lang's Short-tailed Blues, Odonata: a beautiful Violet Dropwing, several Red-veined Darters, a Lesser Emporer, and Orthoptera: several grasshoppers Eyprepocnemis plorans. Good times.
Southern Speckled Wood
Lang's Short-tailed Blue
Violet Dropwing
Grasshopper Eypropocnemis plorans
Back at the hotel I was tickled to scope from the balcony a distant Blue Rock Thrush on the crags.

Sunday 16th
Before breakfast, a Hoopoe was at Bocchoris Avenue near the hotel, also two Chiffchaffs and a Chaffinch. The Redstart was still below Boquer finca, and walking beyond a Stonechat, and lots of Song Thrushes and a few Redwings all moving through south. At the big rocks, a Blue Rock Thrush was singing, and on the return walk two Zitting Cisticolas were near the hotel. At La Gola after breakfast a Hummigbird Hawk-moth was around flowers near the road, and I saw these at various sites throughout the rest of the holiday.

We got the bus to nearby Pollença, where I saw my star bird of the trip. From the centre of the town, a long flight of steps take you up a hill between rows of Cypresses to a chapel at the top. This is Calvary Hill, and from here there is a superb views of the surrounding area with Port de Pollença to the north and the Tramuntana Mountains to the west (and also a nice café). After admiring a view, I was delighted to spot a Black Vulture, which soared towards us and then flew directly overhead, before climbing and circling and then heading off towards the mountains. The view was amazing, and another lifer. A futher five were circling together on a thermal over the distant peaks. A Lang's Short-tailed Blue was seen on the way down the steps.
Black Vulture
Lang's Short-tailed Blue
Back from the Hotel balcony, two Booted Eagles were over the crags and the Blue Rock Thrush was seen again.

Monday 17th
The early constitutional walk to Boquer's big rocks produced the Redstart again, a Black Redstart, c5 Song Thrushes, a Blue Rock Thrush, a singing male Cirl Bunting, a Stonechat, two Booted Eagles, an Eleonora's Falcon, a Chiffchaff, and a male Wren singing by the rocks, plus Sardinian Warblers, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Robins, and Blackbirds.

We took a boat trip later around Cap Formentor to Cala Sant Vicenç. This produced great views of a total of c30 Eleonora's falcons at various points on the journey. Other birds noted were 2-3 Peregrines at the cape, two Ravens, 3+ Balearic Shearwaters and 1+ Cory's Shearwaters, two Booted Eagles, c6 Shags, a Cormorant, and several Yellow-legged Gulls.
Boquer Valley seen from from the sea
The boat stopped at Formentor Beach on the return leg, where we were able to leave and spend some time here, before getting a later boat back. A male Crossbill was in the pines behind the beach singing and feeding (the resident Crossbills are the endemic subspecies balearica). A Humming-bird Hawkmoth and several Thread-waisted Wasps were around the beach.
Eleonora's Falcon
Yellow-legged Gull
At La Gola later I saw a Common Sandpiper, a White Wagtail and a Clouded Yellow; two Firecrests were at Postage Stamp Wood. 

Tuesday 18th
The Redstart, two Black Redstarts, three Cirl Buntings, two Stonechats, and the singing male Wren were at Boquer again first thing.
Cirl Bunting
Sardinian Warbler
Another bus ride took us further afield to the attractive town of Artà. From the main street a long flight of steps leads up to a church and castle (Saint Salvador Sanctuary), and along the climb I noted 1+ Serins in pines and 4+ Lang's Short-tailed Blues. 2+ Large Whites were around the castle and also a carpet of flowering Common Sternbergia, oh and there's a nice café here too that does a nice line in Apple Cake. 
Common Sternbergia
A modest walk south-east from the town centre leads to Ses Païsses, the fascinanting remains of a Bronze Age Talayotic settlement. Among the Holm Oaks here were 3+ Serins, three Firecrests, two Blackcaps, Geenfinches, Sardinian Warblers, Robins, Blackbirds, Goldfinches, a Clouded Yellow, four Red Admirals, a Willow Emerald Damselfy, and a Red-veined Darter.
Willow Emerald Damselfly
Holm Oak
Almond - this tree was on the walk between the town and Païsses

Wednesday 19th
Around Port de Pollença early morning in the playground/Police Station pines just south of La Gola were at least 4 Serins including two singing males; on the beach an Audouin's Gull and a Yellow-legged Gull; and at La Gola were c30 Starlings feeding on Mastic Tree berries, a Grey Wagtail, two Grey Herons and a Little Egret; from the hotel balcony I spotted 1-2 Booted Eagles and 3+ Crag Martins over the crags; at Bocchoris Avenue at least one Serin in the pines; and at Postage Stamp Wood two Fiercrests, two Wall Brown, a Geranium Bronze, and a Red-veined Darter.

Later we walked to Cala Sant Vicenç, and highlights on the way were three Stonechats, six Crag Martins, and numerous Sardinians Warblers. At Cala Sant Vicenç I saw six Crossbills, five Firecrests (one quite close as we rested at the ancient burial caves of Alzinaret), two Booted Eagles, an Eleonora's Falcon, 4+ Serins, Goldfinches, Greenfinches, a Humming-bird Hawkmoth, a Red-veined Darter, a Southern Wall Brown, a Rose Chafer,  and a Common Field Grasshopper.
Crag Martin
Sardinian Warbler
Female Red-veined Darter
Male Red-veined Darter
Wall Brown
Common Field Grasshopper
Rose Chafer
From the hotel balcony late afternoon I noted a Booted Eagle, an Eleonora's Falcon and six Crag Martins.

Thursday 20th
We took the bus back to Alcudia to see the ruins of the roman town of Pollentia. This is an impressive site, especially the amphitheatre carved out of the bedrock. Around 8 Cattle Egrets were between Port de Pollença and Alcudia, in a field near the road, and two Audouin's Gulls were on the beach; also several Yellow-legged Gulls.
Juvenile Yellow-legged Gull
Adult Yellow-legged Gull
In the afternoon I returned to Boquer Valley (while Linda checked out the local Port de Pollença market). This was the only time the scope left the hotel, and I used it to good effect to find an impressive 200+ Balearic Sheawaters and a few Cory's Shearwaters off the bay; also three Yellow-legged Gulls. Other birds noted were the usual species: a Booted Eagle, two Eleonora's Falcons, a Raven, c8 Crag Martins, , two Blue Rock Thrushes, c10 Sardinian Warblers, House Sparrows, Blackbirds, Robins, Goldfinches, Greenfinches, a Black Redstart, two Song Thrushes, a Wren and 40+ Wood Pigeons, and I heard what was almost certainly calls and song of a Balearic (Mamora's) Warbler; the bird however eluded confirmation. 

Friday 21st
On our last day we spent the day around Port de Pollença, and we visited some of the local spots which had become familiar to me. An Audouin's Gull and seven Little Egrets were on the beach near the harbour; at La Gola a Common Sandpiper was present again, plus a Grey Heron plus around six Serins; along the Pine Walk an approachable first-winter desmarestii Shag was on one of the jetties, and a Firecrest and a Geranium Bronze were around the pines. Finally at Postage Stamp Wood two Firecrests were showing well next to the road, one of my favorite birds and a nice highlight to round off a great 10 days.
Young desmarestii Shag
Geranium Bronze
Books: For information on sites I found "A Birdwatching Guide to Mallorca" by Graham Hearl (thanks for the loan Mike), and "Finding Birds in Mallorca" by Dave Gosney very useful.

Thanks also to Mark, Mike, Duncan and Ian for their invaluable tips on sites, and also to Ian for help with identifying plants.

For more of my Mallorca photos, see my Picasa web album.

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