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BIRDING TRIP REPORT:

MALLORCA (Majorca)

21 - 28 October 2006

By Stephen Burch

Introduction
This is a brief illustrated report on birding during a one week family holiday to Mallorca in October 2006, which follows on from a visit at the same time last year, to the same villa!

This year I was however hampered by a knee problem which only allowed birding from the close vicinity to a car. Because of this, I was only able to visit a few sites, but hopefully these notes might be useful for others with similar mobility problems.

This holiday was also another opportunity to further try out my new DSLR, which I used for all the bird pics shown below. This was not without some limitations, and I reckon I could have obtained better pics of the Wood Sandpiper and Bluethroat (see below) with digiscoping - with the DSLR you have to get incredibly close to small birds for good results.

Weather
As last year, the weather was good. It was probably even better this year, with no rain and warm/hot sun on all days (up to mid/high 20's C).

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Mallorca, including numerous web trip reports and the book by Hearl and King, which is still recommended, but somewhat out of date now.

Sites

Albufera - Depuradora (Waterworks)
The main entrance to the Albufera involved too much walking for me, but reading some recent web trip reports I found mention of the Depuradora (waterworks) area, to which you can drive. I made two visits to this area, one starting mid/late morning. The second was better, arriving 'early' morning before 09:00 (sunrise is late in Mallorca at this time of year).

This site is well described in Hearl and King, but this was the first time in several visits to Mallorca that I have visited it. I was pleasantly surprised, and my visits here were certainly the highlight of the holiday, as far as I was concerned

The approach road to this site was nice and quiet (apart from the odd water lorry), and allowed some reasonable birding and photography from the car. There were plenty of Cattle Egret in the area, feeding in fields by the road. The first visit also produced 4-5 Stone Curlew in flight, while on the second I saw at least 3 Hoopoe.

Cattle Egrets (click on left image to enlarge)

I also found this briefly obliging Zitting Cisticola (Fan Tailed Warbler) which I surprised round the corner of a building. It stayed put just long enough for me to get this hand held shot with the Canon 400 mm lens

Zitting Cisticola (Fan Tailed Warbler)

 

Before the end of the approach road (which ends in a small farm), the narrow track off to the viewing point for the waterworks is on the left, before the waterworks buildings/fence, and appears to have a battered no entry for cars sign, which I ignored!

This track goes down the side of the waterworks. At the end is a large car parking area with two notable features. Immediately obvious is an impressive new high wooden viewing platform, which gave good views over the waterworks and the main Albufera reed beds beyond, and to the left.

Also of interest is a damp area, enclosed by a fence, behind the car park. On my second (early morning) visit, this area was particularly productive, with plenty of early morning activity (which soon tails off). Pride of place went to at least 2 and maybe as many as 4 Bluethroats, which were too distant for good DSLR pics. I wish I had brought the digiscoping gear as well, as they were nicely sitting up on the far fence on the left hand side for short periods. Also in this damp area was an extremely skulking Moustached Warbler, several Cetti's Warblers (giving surprisingly good views early morning) and some Chiffchaffs.

Distant Bluethroat in the early morning light

The viewing platform would have been better with a 'scope. Despite the high water levels in the waterworks pools, there were a few waders round the edges of the pools, including Black-winged Stilt, Green and Wood Sandpipers, and a probable Temminck's Stint (identified by another British birder I met). Also, there were plenty of Marsh Harriers over the marshes, and most surprising a Crowned Crane! I have no idea where that came from. An escape from the local zoo, perhaps, but it did seem quite wary. Also, I took some flight shots of this bird, and there was no sign of any rings, although the pics were of poor quality, so it was difficult to be sure.

I have since been in correspondence with a German birder who had good views, and confirmed there were no rings on this bird. Nevertheless, the general view seems to be that it was probably an escape, maybe from the Palma de Mallorca zoo. I wonder if someone could ask them if they have lost a Crane?!

Back along the track, it was actually possible to sneak into the waterworks, which was useful for getting close enough to some of the birds for photography. There were also 2+ Hoopoe in this area.

Black-winged Stilt (click to enlarge)

Wood Sandpiper

Distant Crowned Crane (proof I wasn't dreaming!)

Albufereta
The normal access is to park beside the main Alcudia to Puerto Pollensa road, in the turn-off by some houses close to the bridge over a small river. From here, the beach with its usual Audouin Gulls was nearby, and by a cautious approach I was able to get close enough for some reasonable DSLR shots. As last year, one of my visits here also produced Kentish Plovers.

Audouin's Gulls, Albufereta

I didn't go far into the marshes from this point, but did find plenty of Serin, Stonechat and Zitting Cisticola etc in the fields just beyond the nearby houses.

This year I also found another access point for the Albufereta - the track on the east (Alcudia) side of the Pollentia Club hotel complex, which goes past tennis courts etc. You can drive down to a spot which gives a good view over the marshes. There was not much to see mid/late afternoon, and a wide flooded ditch prevents further access into the marshes. However some nearby pools had Chiffchaffs, and there were Cetti's Warblers around. I suspect there could be Bluethroat here as well, but I didn't visit in the early morning, which would have probably increased my chances of seeing them. Also plenty of dragonflies here (see below).

Cala San Vicente
The pine trees to the south of this village (at the start of the path up to the ridge), to the left of the main approach road before the beach, had some Crossbill.

Villa grounds
No Hawfinch was seen this year, but there were plenty of Robins, Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, and three Black Vulture were seen one day soaring over the ridge from the road nearby.

Sardinian Warbler in villa grounds

Dragonflies
With the warm weather there were still plenty of dragonflies around, even more so than last year. In addition to numerous Migrant Hawkers, there were at least 2 species of Darters.

The bottom left pic below is a good match to Vagrant Darter as shown in the "Field Guide to Dragonflies of Britain and Europe", by Dijkstra & Lewington, but is not shown as occurring in Mallorca in that book. However, I am reliably informed this is a difficult species to identify without views from other angles as well, so it could just be a Common Darter (which does occur in Mallorca).

Red-veined Darter (Albufereta)

Probable Vagrant Darter or Common Darter (Depuradora, Albufera) - see text for discussion on ID

Probable 'old' female Common Darter
(Villa garden, Pollensa)


All pictures copyright Stephen Burch

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