Wednesday 10th - Wednesday 17th October 2012
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|
|Lang's Short-tailed Blue|
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.
|Southern Speckled Wood|
|The Grasshopper Eypropocnemis plorans|
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.
|A particularly pristine Swallowtail|
|A Clouded Yellow, on Colchicum filifolium|
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.
|First-winter Meditirranean desmarestii Shag|
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 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|
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|
A few butterflies around the town included thee Geranium Bronzes in the gardens of the monastery.
|The landscape at Punta Nati|
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.