Menorca 2012

Menorca - October 2012
Wednesday 10th - Wednesday 17th October 2012
Cala Mitjana
For our holiday in Menorca we stayed in Cala Galdana, a picturesque resort on the south coast of the island, at the Sol Gavilanes Hotel. The weather was sunny most of the time with daytime maximum temperatures reaching around 21-24oC typically, but up to 26oC for the first two days, and down to 18.5oC on 14th, with two periods of daytime rain occurring on the late afternoon of 12th and on the morning of 13th.

Wednesday 10th
We had an early flight from Luton to Mahon, arriving at our hotel around midday.  The first birds seen were almost inevitably House Sparrows at the airport, with birds noted from the transfer coach comprising two Red Kites, a Booted Eagle and two Ravens.
Cala Galdana, from our room with a view
A walk around the town explore our surroundings produced a range of common species: House Sparrow, numerous anywhere near human habitation, Robin, Blackbird, Goldfinch, Wood Pigeon and Collared Dove; also two White Wagtails, a Grey Heron, 2+ Yellow-legged Gulls, several Rock Doves; plus Geranium Bronze and Lang's Short-tailed Blue butterflies. The hotel gardens were planted with lots of  Lantana camara attracting at least eight Humming-bird Hawkmoths; and also in the gardens a Meadow Brown, a Speckled Wood (these are the Southern aegeria ssp.), and a Wall.
Lang's Short-tailed Blue
On an evening stroll along the edge of the beach  after dinner Linda spotted a Field Cricket on a waste bin which quickly hopped on to the beach. It was a female - I couldn't visually locate any males I heard throughout the week - and I didn't have a camera on me to photograph this one.

Thursday 11th
On a pre-breakfast stroll I found a promising area of scrub around a car park for a nearby cove called Cala Mitjana. This didn't yield much, just a few House Sparrows, a Blackcap, several Great Tits and Robins, and heading south, two Swallows. Robins were also very numerous throughout the week, local numbers boosted several fold by wintering birds.
Algendar Gorge
One of the reasons for choosing to stay in Cala Galdana was the proximity of the Algendar Gorge, known as a great birding site on the island, and which can be easily accessed within a five minutes walk from the hotel by following the Algendar River upstream. So, after breakfast, this was were we headed. Where the residential road ends at a turning circle, a track continues into the gorge, with the river never far away. After noting a Grey Heron, a Squacco Heron rose up from the reeds and flew a short distance before landing and disappearing once again into the vegetation. Cetti's Warblers were frequently encountered, mostly heard bursting into song - I counted eight in total. The first raptor seen in the gorge was an Eleanora's Falcon, followed a short time later by a Marsh Harrier, and then by the first of several Booted Eagles. Shortly after, and still quite near the start of the walk, the gorge's star species showed with the first Egyptian Vulture sailing over. The footpath ends after a couple of miles into the gorge at an Orange grove, which is the best spot for watching the vultures; I counted eight in the air at the same time here, making a total of nine seen. The views were excellent as they soared overhead between the steep sides of the limestone gorge.  Other birds of note were two Sardinian Warblers, three Moorhens, a Grey Wagtail, two Little Egrets, two Kestrels, several Rock Doves, and a Zitting Cisicola was heard.
Egyptian Vulture
There was plenty of insect interest too. Butterfly species noted were Bath White, Clouded Yellow, Common Blue, Lang's Short-tailed Blue, Long-tailed Blue, Large White, Small White, Green-veined White, Painted Lady and Speckled Wood, and also to a few Humming-bird Hawkmoths. The Ragwort flowers were particularly attractive to the butterflies and moths.
Bath White
Southern  Speckled Wood
Humming-bird Hawkmoth
There were numerous dragonflies too, and I noted Scarlet Darter, Red-veined Darter, Emperor, Keeled Skimmer, Southern Hawker and Banded Demoiselle. As for other insects, numerous Red-winged Grassopper and Eypropocnemis plorans grasshoppers, and a Scarabaeus sp. Dung Beetle . Most of the insect life was around the first part of the walk, an open area where the gorge widens, and there is a small lake here too. The variety of insects was almost overwhelming!
Red-winged Grasshopper
The Grasshopper Eypropocnemis plorans
Dung Beetle
Friday 12th
At first light I walked along the beachfront to the east of the hotel and ascended the stepped footpath to the top of the cliffs. Around 30 Rock Doves are based on the cliff face and these were seen regularly. Two Ravens flew overhead towards the town and among the gardens and scrubby areas behind the cliffs I noted a Starling, two Sardinian Warblers, and Chaffinch.
Cala Macarella
After breakfast we took the footpath west to Cala Macarella, a beautiful cove. The footpath was a well-worn route through the Aleppo Pine and Wild Olive woodland. Two Goldcrests were heard and I counted five Sardinian Warblers and a Cetti's Warbler. Butterflies included five Swallowtails and three Clouded Yellows, both species at times nectaring on Autumn Crocus Colchicum filifolium; plus two Red Admirals and a Bath White.
A particularly pristine Swallowtail
A Clouded Yellow, on Colchicum filifolium
Also Scarlet Darters at Cala Macarella, and several Red-veined Darters between here and Cala Galdana.
Scarlet Darter
Red-veined Darter
Just as we got back to Cala Galdana it had started to rain; I scoped the cliffs from the hotel balcony noticing two Kestrels sheltering beneath small rocky overhangs. By the time we had eaten dinner the rain had cleared, and a stroll along the Algendar River took us to the start of the gorge walk. From here, at around 8.30pm, we watched a Barn Owl hunting a marshy/scrubby area on the far side of the river, and two Scops Owls could be heard calling from the darkness of the gorge out of range of the street lamps.

Saturday 13th
At 7.00am the next morning, before dawn had really got going, I could hear another Scops Owl from our hotel room, calling somewhere to the east of the bay. This spurred me to set off for the Algendar Gorge before breakfast hoping for more owl action, but unfortunately there was no sign of any owls. At least one Firecrest was foraging in the roadside pines opposite the last houses before the gorge walk; further along the river five Mallard looked truly wild unlike the town population. It was too early for raptors and a range of previously seen passerines plus a Little Egret were present.

Most of the morning it was rather overcast, rather cool, and rainy. We had booked on a boat trip for 11.30am, and happily the weather started to clear just as we were thinking the trip would be called off. The two hour trip took us first along the coast east, and then double-backed to take us west, giving good views of the intersting limestone coastline with many caves and arches. Beyond Cala Macarella I saw the only Audoin's Gull of the holiday, and a Meditarranean desmarestii Shag was at the entrance to the small bay next to Cala Macaretta; two Egyptian Vultures were patrolling the cliffs before perching high above us on a ledge. Returning to Cala Galdana, a Common Sandpiper was on rocks at the mouth of the river.
Audouin's Gull
First-winter Meditirranean desmarestii Shag
Egyptian Vultures
By early afternoon, the weather had become warm and sunny so we walked to another pretty beach at Cala Mitjana. The walk produced a Cetti's Warbler and Siskin of note, and three Bath Whites and a Holly Blue.
Bath White
Holly Blue
After picking up a hire car for the next three days, back at the hotel later, scoping the cliffs and headlands revealed c8 Crag Martins, and several Swallows; while five White Wagtails were flying around in the vicinity of the hotel.

Sunday 14th
In noted three Swallows still around the bay in the morning. After breakfast we drove to Es Mercadal and up, El Toro, an isolated hill hill near the town. El Toro is the highest point on Menorca at 358 m (1,175 ft), where the Sanctuary of the Virgin of El Toro commands extensive views over the island. Two Black Redstarts and two Sardinian Warblers were below the sanctuary walls here, and a Booted Eagle was patrolling over fields near the town.
El Toro, from Fornells
After a visit to the fishing town of Fornells to the north, we visited Torellafuda, an ancient Talayotic site, near Ciutadella to the west. Two Linnets and a Booted Eagle were noted here, and a Red Kite was seen from the nearby Es Tudons car park. 

After returning to the hotel late afternoon, I took the walk back towards Cala Mitjana, where a Hoopoe was feeding along the footpath. Five Firecrests were feeding around pines near a viewpoint over the cove, and a Peregrine flew by so close and fast I could hear it 'woosh' through the air chasing smaller prey; I saw it again a bit later soaring overhead.
Hoopoe, near Cala Mitjana
Monday 15th
A walk before breakfast through nearby pine woods produced two Blackcaps, two Cetti's Warblers, three Sardinian Warblers and a House Martin; and a Common Sandpiper was seen crossing the cover off the beach.
S'Albufera d'Es Grau
On the way to visiting the island capital Mahon, I saw c100 Linnets and c60 Starlings in a field a couple of miles out, not far from the airport. In Mahon, around 30 Yellow-legged Gulls were loafing along the harbour-side. After taking in the sights of the capital, and lunch, we headed for the nature reserve S'Albufera d'Es Grau to the north. We called into the small visitor centre and collected a leaflet, and took one of the marked walks. The path afforded several views of the main body of the large lagoon, which was teeming with birds. I noted at least six Ferruginous Ducks, three Great White Egrets, a Cattle Egret, 6+ Little Egrets, c20 Cororants, an Osprey, two Red Kites, a Black-winged Stilt, two Kentish Plovers, a Redshank, two Greenshanks, four Snipe, four Yellow-legged Gulls; plus Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, PochardMallard, Shoveler, Wigeon, Gadwall, Teal, Coot, Moorhen and Grey Heron. A single Sand Martin and two Swallows were feeding over the water. Away from the water, more birds, including a Hoopoe, 4+ Serins, a singing Linnet, a Chiffchaff, three Sardinian Warblers, two Cetti's Warblers a Kestrel, and Chaffinches and Greenfinches.

Ferruginous Ducks
Cattle Egret
Lots of dragonflies too including Scarlet Darter, Red-veined Darter, Keeled Skimmer, and Blue-tailed Damselfly; also, a Praying Mantis, which Linda spotted near a considerably smaller Damselfly I was focussed on!
Scarlet Darter
Praying Mantis
Tuesday 16th
My early morning walk produced a Meadow Pipit and eight Starlings on nearby farmland. Ciutadella, the island's former capital, was our main destination of the day, a town full of history and extremely photogenic.
A few butterflies around the town included thee Geranium Bronzes in the gardens of the monastery.
Geranium Bronze
The landscape at Punta Nati
After Ciutadella we drove to the north-western point of Puna Nati. The highlight here was a flock of c30 Stone Curlews, extremely difficult to spot on the stony undulating ground, but made for an amazing sight when they took to the air, calling. Several passerine migrants were in the area, with at least six Black Redstarts, a Stonechat and two Wheatears seen. I was unable to connect satisfactorily with Thekla Lark during the week, though I heard Thekla calling somewhat distantly at this site. Also around the point was a Skylark, Linnets, a Shag, a Red Kite, a Booted Eagle, a Peregrine, two Kestrels, two Swallows, c15 Starlings, two Rock Doves and a White Wagtail. A nice selection of butterflies, included Clouded Yellow, Bath White, Red Admiral, and Wall.

We left our hotel for the airport soon after an early breakfast on Wednesday 17th, after a great week on this beautiful island.

The only island-specific bird guide I could find was "The Birds of Menorca" by Eric Ramos - published in 1996 so a bit dated, and although it lists sites it doesn't go into any detail, unlike the species list which is very comprehensive, so it is still a useful guide.

The "Walk! Menorca" book and "Menorca Tour & Trail 1:40,000 Scale Map" by David and Ros Brown are excellent for finding your way around and making the most of the scenery; GPX files for the walks can be downloaded from the website and used on smartphone map apps.

Thanks also to Duncan and Ian for their valuable site information.


Anonymous said…
Hi Paul - great site and good to read about your trip - I have just returned from Minorca - stayed in coastal villa at Cala Blanca and have found your site while trying to identify large bird of prey seen on several mornings quartering the sky and wheeling and at least one stoop over the sea just off the ironshore at Clala Blanca - I can only assume it was an Osprey - in June I was in Mull and saw Eagles over several days so I have my eye in - cant think what else the Menorca sighting can have been - also saw two marsh harriers at Punta Nati cheers
Paul said…
Hi - Osprey sounds possible from what you describe. Regards, Paul.
Anonymous said…
Hi Paul
Nice report and nice pics. Might your 'Ragwort' flowers be those of Dittrichia viscosa (L.) Greuter, which we refer to (in Mallorca) as 'Sticky Dickie'?
Best wishes

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