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BIRDING TRIP REPORT:

MALLORCA (Majorca)

22 - 29 October 2005

By Stephen Burch

Introduction
This is a brief report on the birding highlights from a one week family holiday to Mallorca in October 2005. Opportunities for birding were limited, but I did manage to see a reasonable number of species, and do some digiscoping on a couple of days.

We have been to Mallorca in spring (May) a number of times before, but this was our first visit in autumn. Because of this, my expectations were lower than before, and having already seen most of the Mallorcan specialities, I did not spend much time trying to find all of them again.

For this report, I will skip the customary itinerary and overall species list, and just give some notes on the sites visited, and key species seen.

Weather
Apart from heavy rain on the first afternoon, it was dry and warm/hot (mid 20's C), allowing swimming in both sea and villa pool. I believe we were pretty lucky in this respect, as October in Mallorca can be quite wet. Indeed, it had apparently rained quite extensively a few weeks earlier, and water levels were high, with plenty of green, fresh growth all over the Island.

Sources of Information
There is plenty of information on where to watch birds in Mallorca, including numerous web trip reports and the book by Hearl and King. However, October is not a popular birding month, and specific information on what to expect at this time of year was difficult to find.

Highlights
Unlike our three previous visits (since 1989), this trip produced no lifers, probably due to a combination of the inevitable law of diminishing returns and the season. With most summer visitors gone, and few migrants, this was never going to be as interesting as a first spring visit. Nevertheless, there were still some good birds, with residents such as Audouin's Gull, Sardinian Warbler, Kentish Plover and Blue Rock Thrush well in evidence. A feature was the huge numbers of Robins - they were everywhere all over the island, but quite shy, so most easily detected by their constant "ticking". Other notable winter visitors were Black Redstart and Great White Egret. The most surprising siting was close views of a HAWFINCH (also a winter visitor) in our villa grounds, during an early morning stroll! Migrants were confined to a single Whinchat and a probable juv White-winged Black Tern (though it could possibly have been Whiskered). On the Formentor peninsula we came across at least two (late?) Eleanora's Falcons, but none were seen at the Albufera which can have loads in late spring.

Sites

Albufera
Juvenile Night Heron
This is the prime birding site on Mallorca, but for my visit the water levels were high, meaning wader habitat (and waders) were scarce. Without bird song, and with the summer visitors long gone, I found the place was generally less interesting than previous spring visits.

Nowadays, you can't drive in, but there is a convenient parking area just beyond the entrance (coming from the Alcudia direction) on the right, opposite a hotel. I had previously seen roosting Night Herons in the pines close to the entrance but, this time, there was no sign of them there. They were instead to be found a little further on in much lower bushes on the far side of the canal. Most were well hidden, but this juvenile allowed some pics to be taken. There were also a number of adults, but they were mostly better hidden.

Further on, I was suprised to find a new raised wooden walkway alongside the road (purpose not obvious!), and a number of smart new buildings forming a visitor centre complex, which I ignored! However, the place is pretty (too?) popular with the general public. At the stone bridge which affords good views along the main canal, and over reeds etc, I came across the first of two noisy parties of Spanish school children. However, their teacher/guide, seeing my optical gear, helpfully pointed out an excellent Booted Eagle, soaring high above, which I might have otherwise missed.

I then headed for the Bishop hides, and was dismayed to come across another herd of school children. To avoid them, I made first for the Bishop 2 hide, which was quiet, apart from a distant Osprey perched on a post and a distant Marsh Harrier or two. The Bishop 1 hide was better though, with some Black-winged Stilts, a juvenile Flamingo and a few waders including Greenshank and this Spotted Redshank. I spent some time digiscoping here:

Black winged Stilts

Juvenile Flamingo

Spotted Redshank

After the Bishop hides, all I had time for was a quick visit to the raised viewpoint back near the visitor centre. This gave good if distant views over various lagoons and reeds, but with nothing very spectacular. A few winter duck, Little Egrets, an Osprey and a few more Marsh Harriers was about it. No sign of the hoped for Marbled Teal (which do apparently occur in winter).

Albufereta
This is another marshy site, which, in a shorter visit, was better value than the Albufera. I parked beside the main Alcudia to Puerto Pollensa road, in the turn-off by some houses close to the bridge over a small river. On the beach, were the hoped for Audouin Gulls, and several Kentish Plovers. The gulls were very approachable, and allowed quite close cautious approach for digiscoping. My best results were with the sun out:

Audouin's Gull, Mallorca

Audouin's Gull yawning! Mallorca

Audouin's Gulls, Albufereta(click to enlarge)

Also on the beach were some winter plumage Kentish Plovers:

Walking into the marshy area, I made for a slightly raised area beyond and to the right of a new? house, which gives good but distant views over a number of lagoons. Here there were both Cattle Egrets and a single Great White Egret. Also an unexpected probable juv. White-winged Black Tern (or maybe Whiskered). Closer were Fan-tailed Warblers, still singing occasionally despite the season. In the trees on the way back were elusive Serin, Song Thrush, Greenfinch etc.

Cala San Vicente
This was our party's favourite beach, with reasonable snorkelling and an incredibly tame juv Shag (this pic was obtained without the 'scope, by wading out to within a few metre of the bird!).

There is also a track which leads upwards and along the coast, on the south side of the village. This is described in the walking book by June Parker and elsewhere. To start with, it is wide and easy and proved quite productive birdwise with a few (million) Robins. But more interesting were singing Sardinian Warbler, several Black Redstart in a quarry area, and further on, upto six Blue Rock Thrush (most obvious on our return in the early evening, with the sun low in the sky), and even a late Wheatear. Higher up the good track disappears, and a feint path continues onwards and upwards along the rugged coast line. Not for the feint hearted would be to go all the way up the peak of La Molla, but we didn't have enough time for this. But we were rewarded for our efforts with spectacular coastal views, a migrant Whinchat, more Sardinian Warblers and distant Peregrine and Raven.

Roca Blanca & El Fumat
A circular 2.5hr walk up these two rugged hills on the Formentor peninsular is described in the June Parker walking book. With very little in the way of paths, it was reasonably hard going. Birds were relatively few, but interesting. There were at least two Eleonara's Falcons (the only ones of the holiday), two Red-legged Partridge flushed from the upper slopes of El Fumat and plenty of Sardinian Warblers.

Villa grounds
Previously in Mallorca, the grounds of the villas we have stayed in have been pretty good for birding. This time our villa was close to Pollensa, and again proved interesting. The most surprising (even stunning!) siting was a single
Hawfinch, seen well for a few moments and heard singing quietly early one morning! Also of interest were masses of Robins, unseen Blackcap and lastly, but by no means least, a superb Black Vulture seen soaring over a nearby ridge from the master bedroom's balcony, on our last day!

Dragonflies
With the warm weather there were still plenty of dragonflies around, but they all appeared to be familiar late-season UK species - Migrant Hawker and Common Darter. For some pics of a very obliging Migrant Hawker, see the
dragonflies section of my website


All pictures copyright Stephen Burch

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