Mallorca 22nd to 26th April 2007
Never having been to Mallorca before, when our friends Pat & Judy Hayes asked us in November 2006 if we wished to join them for a few days at a villa they were going to stay in for 2 weeks the following spring, we naturally jumped at the chance. They have been to Mallorca on many previous occasions, leaving us with no research to do and providing as much or as little guiding as required.
FLIGHTS & CAR HIRE
Easyjet from Liverpool to Palma on Sunday 22nd April departing 07.55hrs and arriving 11.25hrs and returning on Thursday 26th April departing 12.10hrs and arriving 13.55hrs cost £98.96 for two (booked at the end of November 2006). Plus an extra £10 courtesy of Gordon Brown and his wonderful tax regime. Flights both ways were on time and we were even 20 minutes early arriving back in Liverpool. No problems with Easyjet or their service; you get what you pay for and as we were lucky enough to get seats by the emergency exits on both flights we had an extra 3/4 inches of legroom, greatly improving in-flight comfort. The flights were only ¾ full and we therefore had 3 seats between the two of us.
Economy 4 door car with aircon via Holiday Autos 4 days hire costing £98.00 (including £10 damage excess waiver). Despite the implication this price gave fully comprehensive cover, we had to pay a further £12 for accidental damage cover to tyres, windows etc or leave a substantial Credit Card deposit. Car Hire pick-up overall was not a happy experience. Signage at Palma airport was unclear and we ended up on the wrong side of the barriers as we exited, leaving us a small window to deal with the car hire people rather than the full desk on the other side of the barriers. HA's hire partner was Record Go Spain. There were two staff dealing with a queue of six people before us. A further two staff arrived during our wait for a luncheon change-over. It took a little over 1 hour 20 minutes to get served, by which time we were well and truly frustrated. Never again!! Thankfully, drop-off was much simpler – we literally pulled up, were asked if we had any problems and were on our way into the airport.WEATHER
We arrived to cloudless skies and a temperature of 27°C. Although there was a cooling breeze from time to time, the skies remained clear with temperatures peaking at 28/29°C. The evenings were cooler but sweaters were not required. We were very lucky with the weather as there had been quite a bit of rain in the week before we arrived and it clouded over as we left and became changeable again. As a result everywhere was green and the spring flowers were out in profusion.TARGET BIRDS & ESSENTIAL READING
Although a bit dated, A Birdwatching Guide to Mallorca by Graham Hearl ISBN 0952201976 & Finding Birds in Mallorca (A Gostours guide) by Dave Gosney ISBN 1898110093 still remain the best guides to the island. For identification in this area I wouldn't be without Collins Bird Guide by Killian Mullarney et al. ISBN 0002197286.DIARY, SITES & IMPRESSIONS
Sunday 22nd April
Having steadfastly refused the delights of Easyjet's cuisine we arrived at the Villa les Oliveras near Pollença around 14.30hrs to a delightful welcome from Pat and Judy in the shape of a mouth-watering buffet lunch. The villa was a very comfortable 4 bed, 2 storey affair in 4 acres of grounds. After 4 days the garden list included 3 Stone Curlew, Serin, 40+ European Bee-eater, Golden Oriole, Nightingale, several Woodchat Shrike and a fly-by Eleonora's Falcon. A calling Wryneck remained elusive however. Just before we arrived at the villa I saw a Southern Grey Shrike perched on the telephone wires. Thinking we would see many more and already delayed 90 minutes I just carried on driving, to be told by Pat on arrival they were not very common on the island and indeed, that was the only one we saw.
Suitably refreshed we headed off to the nearby Son Marc Valley for an afternoon stroll. What a nice gentle introduction to birding on Mallorca with Nightingale song all around, the fields were alive with Wheatear, Whinchat, Redstart, Cirl Bunting and both Pied and Spotted Flycatcher. We saw Booted Eagle soaring overhead and completely taking us by surprise, a Glossy Starling on the road ahead of us as we strolled up the valley. Pat and I just watched the bird, speechless and unable to attract Amanda and Judy's attention before it was disturbed by walkers coming down the valley and vanished into the undergrowth at the side of the road. Thinking it was just a Blackbird I nearly didn't raise my bins for a better look.
Later we dined at the C'an Cuarassa Restaurant on Pollença Bay, half way between Port de Pollença and Alcudia. The food here was excellent and being creatures of habit, we dined here for the next three nights.
Monday 23rd April
After the previous day's early start, we had a leisurely breakfast and set off for S'Albufera de Mallorca Natural Park at around 09.30hrs. Having managed to get a space in the small car park by the entrance, we walked alongside the Gran Canal to the Information Centre. With the song of Cetti's Warblers erupting all around we saw several Black-crowned Night Heron, including juveniles, along the Canal near the egret roost. We also saw the first of c40 Red Crested Pochard here and several Red-knobbed Coot. Although we had several warblers in the pine trees around the Centre, the best we could do was Willow Warbler. There was another warbler constantly flitting in and out of view in the canopy but sadly we weren't able to pin it down.
We moved on to the CIM Hide but with hordes of visiting parties shoe-horned into the hide we quickly moved on to view the pools from the adjacent path on the way round to the Observation point. The bulk of the Red-crested Pochard flock was here along with other water birds and Common Sandpiper. As we walked round to the observation decking we paused at a favoured spot for Moustached Warbler where the path turns over 90° and there is a small ditch with a stretch of open water. After 20 minutes and no sign of life other than Coot, the numerous midges got the better of us and we moved on. As we left the Observation point an obliging Great Reed Warbler burst into song nearby, giving good close-up views. Crossing over the Gran Canal we headed for Bishop 1 Hide which was again crowded with a guided school party of non-birding Spaniards and several long lens toting photographers (numbers seem to have mushroomed over the last few years, with equipment everywhere and manners nowhere. The digital revolution has a lot to answer for). After a short wait we were able to squeeze in (just about!). Black-winged Stilt, Curlew Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank and both Kentish and Little Ringed Plover provided a good diversion along with a distant Great Egret and three male Garganey, plus a female, almost too close to photograph. Pat spotted a Red-throated Pipit as it flew in to an island in the middle of the lagoon, but as he was at the other end of the hide and obscured by lenses, I only managed to get on the bird as it flew off, never to be seen again. Although there was plenty of activity on the lagoon we didn't linger too long. Whilst walking around S'Albufera we also saw Marsh Harrier and Purple Heron flying over. We returned via the Information Centre to the entrance and our cars for a welcome picnic lunch.
With the temperature nearing 30° and time being at a premium in view of our short stay on the island (and to say nothing of the crowds of tourists and other birders) we decided to give the other three hides and Observation Tower a miss and moved on briefly to S'Illot. Viewing the lagoons from the cars we picked up our first Blue-headed Wagtail along with more Kentish Plover and Black-winged Stilt. The area was quite quiet, but it was a hot afternoon and birds often have more sense than birders. Not to be deterred we moved on to Depuradora where a new observation platform gives good views over all the concrete sided lagoons. We saw our only Pochard, 8 Shelduck, Ruff, c6 Wood Sandpiper and 3 Marbled Duck of the trip here, making it a very worthwhile diversion. On the way back to the villa we stopped briefly at Orange Bridge, where we had Audouin's Gull and Greenshank and Pollença Bay, where we had a mating pair of Audouin's Gull and a few Shag on the breakwaters.
We chilled out at the villa from 16.00hrs onwards with a very welcome beer, before heading out to C'an Cuarassa for our evening meal.
Tuesday 24th April
Another hot, sunny day. After breakfast we headed out at 08.15hrs for the Boquer Valley hoping for Balearic Warbler. Development continues apace at the entrance to the valley along the new road heading towards Formentor. The sparse woodland by the track up the valley held numerous warblers and flycatchers plus Woodchat Shrike, Hoopoe and Serin. Rounding the finca at the top of the path we turned into the valley and almost immediately saw Peregrine chasing 2 Rock Dove. As we watched, the Peregrine gave up the chase and landed on a prominent rock across the valley from us, where it stayed for some time. After the initial rush of species, the valley was quiet for a period apart from the occasional Wren and Redstart. The track through the valley winds slowly upwards until one final crest sees the vista open out to the sea. We were aware Balearic Warbler had been seen here the previous day and accordingly we sat down on some prominent rocks and waited. After a few minutes we heard then saw our first bird as it posed on the top of a small bush – long enough to get it in the scope but as soon as the camera came out of its case the bird took flight a short way across the valley. We waited patiently and were rewarded with good views of an obvious pair of birds on their nesting territory. High up on the rock face above our heads a pair of Raven were being harassed by a Yellow-legged Gull, which they eventually saw off with a concerted two pronged attack. Returning back down the valley we had a distant male Blue Rock Thrush and a confiding Cirl Bunting.
We returned to the cars and headed to Cala Sant Vicenç to check out a potential restaurant for our evening meal, but unfortunately it had shut down. We then had coffee and a leisurely lunch on the terrace of a small restaurant overlooking the beach and bay. Returning to the villa to chill out for a few hours we were greeted by the resident Stone Curlew along the driveway.
At 16.30hrs we set off again to visit S'Albufereta. The small marsh was relatively quiet but we did see Purple Heron, 2 Great Egret and our only Linnet and Corn Bunting of the trip. The midges were out in force as we found out the next day when numerous itchy lumps appeared.
As we returned from our evening meal, just before dusk, we saw a Scops Owl on a fence post at the side of the road. Unfortunately the road was narrow and there were a few vehicles on our tail and therefore we could not stop to admire. At the risk of disturbing the bird we decided not to turn back when the road was clear.
Wednesday 25th April
After a quick breakfast we set out at 07.45hrs for Cuber Reservoir aiming to get on the road before the tourist coaches headed out towards the Lluc Monastery. We were hoping for our second lifer - Rock Thrush; a bird that seems to elude me. Nothing new here then…about 4kms before the reservoir the road was closed after a small landslide. Some things are just not meant to be.
Returning towards Pollença we stopped at the sign for the Mortitx Gorge and took a short stroll downhill past the farm and Peach Factory. As the land levels out to vineyards we spent some time viewing the nearby peaks hoping for Black Vulture – another surprising omission from the Trip List. We did however have excellent views of 2 light phase and 1 dark phase Eleonora's Falcon and stunning close-ups of a Booted Eagle overhead. Crag Martin were also present amongst the hirundines along with another distant male Blue Rock Thrush. As we returned to the car a Firecrest called overhead and a male Blackcap skulked in the undergrowth.
On the way down to Pollença we stopped for another quick visit to the Son Marc Valley. The birds were much the same as our previous visit with Spotted Flycatcher and Nightingale everywhere in addition to a pair of Firecrest flitting about in the trees just above our heads – almost close enough to touch.
Back in town we diverted to the Postage Stamp Wood. This small nature reserve is now very isolated and surrounded by developments. It was unbelievably quiet and all we saw was a flock of c6 Greenfinch and a female Sardinian Warbler. Disappointed, we headed back to the villa for lunch. By now Pat was having problems with his back and we decided to chill out at the villa for the afternoon. As we relaxed on the veranda we saw a newly arrived flock of c40 European Bee-eater and a male Golden Oriole briefly landed in one of the larger trees in the garden.
As this would be our last chance, at 17.30hrs we went back to the foot of the Boquer Valley via Pollença Bay for an hours birding. Our friend Frances Gatens had seen a Bonelli's Warbler there the previous day but we were unlucky in this respect. We did however get stunning prolonged views of a male Golden Oriole in the woodland below the finca and had 10 European Bee-eater fly overhead. In the bay we saw our only three Sandwich Tern of the trip on the breakwaters along with the usual gulls, Shag and Cormorant.
Thursday 26th April
As we were having breakfast the next morning, prior to departing for the airport at 09.00hrs we had final views of a singing Nightingale out in the open on nearby telephone wires. An amazing finale to a brief 4 nights away in Mallorca, we were sorry to leave Pat and Judy who were there for two weeks.SUMMARY
Excellent villa, beautiful weather, amazing birds and good friends; what more could one ask for – a Rock Thrush perhaps, but that would have been greedy. We saw 88 species (plus a Glossy Starling), one of which was a lifer and heard two others. Although we didn't see all the birds we targeted, most of them were there, we just didn't have the time (or the inclination at times), it was only a short break after all. Unfortunately photo opportunities were at a premium, however a few shots proved worthwhile.
David and Amanda Mason
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