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MALLORCA (Majorca)

25 May - 1 June 2013

By Stephen Burch

This is a brief illustrated report on birding during a one week family holiday to Mallorca in May 2013, based in a villa just outside Puerto Pollensa. Northern Mallorca is somewhere we've been to several times since our first visit in early May 1989, but this present trip was our first since autumn 2007, and our first spring visit for ten years. Mallorca is definitely a more interesting birding destination in spring, when the summer residents are present and the birds are still singing. But the late May UK bank holiday week is really too late for interesting passage migrants.

This was a family holiday with only a bit of birding thrown in when I could get away. I was also hampered by a problem with my back.

The weather was generally pretty mixed, with cool daytime temperatures (no higher than about 21C) and some rain and wind. Only on our last day did it begin to feel more like what we expected (i.e. warm and sunny)!

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Mallorca, including numerous web trip reports and the book by Hearl and King, which is still recommended, but somewhat out of date now.

All the pics shown below were taken with my DSLR equipment - Canon EOS 7D with EF400mm/f5.6 lens, sometimes on a monopod. All pics were taken in RAW format, and I use NeatImage for noise suppression, with PhotoShop Elements 9 for subsequent processing. For further details see the equipment and image processing pages elsewhere on this website.


Previously the Albufereta was something a favourite site for me, but this time I paid only one brief visit to the area just beside the road. This was moderately productive with the usual Audouin's Gulls on the beach. On the inland side of the road was an adult and juv Black-winged Stilt, a noisy and clearly agitated pair of Little Ringed Plover (they must have had a nest or young in the vicinity) and a remarkably confiding Stonechat feeding a juvenile nearby.

Little Rigned Plover


Little Ringed Plover (click to enlarge)


Walking into the Albufera shortly after its 9am opening time, it was nice and peaceful but that soon changed as the morning wore on, when the place began to fill up with noisy school parties etc.

During the walk in along the canal it was notable that the breeding colony of egrets & herons had shifted away from near the entrance to much further in towards the visitor centre. However, all I could see were masses of Cattle Egret and one Night Heron. There was also a Great Reed Warbler cronking away at one point and the usual invisible but noisy Cetti's Warblers.

My first stop was at the CIM hide which had a few waders in the form of Black-winged Stilt (nice & close!), Kentish and Little ringed Plovers. There was also a single Little Stint away to the right - which was not coming anywhere near useful photo range. There were also a few Purple Gallinule and a slightly surprising Stone Curlew at the back. However there was no sign of the hoped for Marbled Duck, but a helpful German birder/photographer suggested the Bishop 1 hide for these - "by the dead tree" he said.

So shortly after receiving this info, I headed over there, as it was my only potential lifer of the trip. It didn't take too long to get to that hide, and I quickly found the dead tree. And there sitting on said tree was a small collection of undoubted Marbled Duck! A nice easy lifer, but unfortunately too distant for anything other than record shots. That was about it for this hide, apart from a passing Little Egret, another Stone Curlew and the usual Black-winged Stilt etc.

The Bishop 2 hide was also pretty quiet but this (or the Bishop 1 hide) produced the customary Osprey and the odd wader - Greenshank and Redshank. With the arrival of the first of the school parties it was time to retreat, but on the way back I stopped for awhile on the main canal bridge which gave good views of the introduced Red-knobbed Coots (one even with a numbered neck collar) and passing herons and egrets, which included one nice Squacco Heron.

Black winged Stilt Kentish Plover

Black Winged Stilt from the CIM hide (click to enlarge).

Kentish Plover from the CIM hide.

Little Egret
Squacco Heron
Little Egret
Squacco Heron from the canal bridge

Albufera - Depuradora (Waterworks)
This site is well described in Hearl and King, and I paid it a couple of visits. The approach road past the bus garage was probably the best, with an obliging Hoopoe photographed from the car (probably the highlight of the trip) and a less exciting Tawny Pipit. There were also Bee Eaters in the area, but these were difficult to close enough to for reasonable photos.

Hoopoe Hoopoe
Hoopoe (click left to enlarge)

The viewing platform itself produce several fly by Cattle Egrets, a couple of Whiskered Terns on the nearby pool and a brief but good view of a passing Eleonora's Falcon. There were also many Marsh Harriers in the area. Unlike previously, the damp patch in the corner of the parking area was now regrettably very overgrown and almost inaccessible, with no birds apart from a Nightingale singing in the same general area.

Cattle Egret Tawny Pipit

Cattle Heron from the viewing platform (click to enlarge)

Tawny Pipit

Cuber Reservoir
The Cuber reservoir is reached along the winding mountain road from Puerto Pollensa, which was slow going due to many cyclists and some coaches. Unlike previously, it seemed a popular destination and the adjacent car park was full which required us to drive back a little way to an overflow one. We walked clockwise round the reservoir in deteriorating weather, with the cloud getting lower and lower with rain as we returned to the car. This site is a notable raptor haunt, and our visit was fairly productive with several vultures seen round the far side over the ridge and then quickly disappearing into the mist as they gained height. The most notable sighting was at least one Griffon Vulture (a recent arrival on the island it seems, and not one I've seen before there) as well as a few of the more expected Black Vultures. Also of note was the odd Booted Eagle, Eleonora's Falcon and a Woodchat Shrike along the edge of the reservoir.

Griffon Vulture
Black Vulture
Griffon Vulture record shot
Black Vulture record shot

In the past, the grounds or gardens of some of our villas in Mallorca (& elsewhere) have sometimes been quite good for birds. This time
although our villa was nicely situated just below the low hills behind Puerto Pollensa, it was a fairly modern building with a limited garden. Birding interest from the villa itself was limited to the widespread Sardinian Warblers, many overflying Fan-tailed Warblers and one Booted Eagle. Along the approach track was Spotted Flycatcher and singing Nightingale in the bushes at the end. At night there was often a Scops Owl calling from nearby trees.

All pictures copyright Stephen Burch

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