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Welcome to my blog. If you live in Surrey and birding is your obsession (to get out of bed at some ridiculously early time of the morning, no matter what the weather, to go and look at birds isn't normal behaviour, believe me) and you're still a bit of a novice (like me) then, hopefully, this blog is for you.



Tuesday, 11 June 2019

MALLORCAN PATCH BIRDING

Well, it's back to the grindstone after another great holiday in Mallorca three years after our last visit there.

It's amazing how quickly the time goes – somehow the timelords seem to put their foot firmly on the accelerator, and before you know you are hitting old age smack in the face.

That's how it seems to me, at any rate as I alarmingly approach my 60th birthday. 60! Such a big number in my book – and I don't like it.

So Annie and I headed off to the Balearic isle for an end-of-spring break. We prefer to go down the self-catering villa-in-the-countryside-with-a-pool route and we headed for the same area we stayed at last time.

The villa was in the Marc valley, to the west of Pollença,
before the foothills of the Tramuntana mountain range
Three years ago we were in a luxury villa (jumped on an amazing deal at the time) just on the edge of the Serra de Tramuntana mountain range in the Marc valley, just west of Pollença. It was a mega spot and this time we stayed a just a mile down the road.

Evening sun hits the top of the mountains
It was in a lovely setting – the villa wasn't as upmarket as the last one but the pool was great and the surrounding countryside suited my birding our requirements.

For the first couple of days it was sunny with a cool breeze, but it got progressively warmer. We then had a couple of days of rain before the sun returned into the second week.

For any birder Mallorca is one of the must-go-to islands of the Mediterranean, with plenty of great sites around the whole island. The north is the most popular area to visit, with the Albufera Nature reserve one of the highlights, along with the other famous sites like the Boquer Valley.

This time around I tended to focus on the area surrounding the villa rather than racing around ticking off birding spots, as we will return to the island over the coming the years – probably again this autumn. We really enjoy the relaxed atmosphere, the fact nowhere is too far to travel to on any given day and the general lack of pretension. Life is simple and straightforward here.

One of many secretive but tuneful Nightingale along the valley
The birds, of course, are top quality!

Like our previous visit, I found I didn't need to travel far to see the majority of the species I wanted to tick. The area of the Marc valley is exceptionally good birding country, but not an area noted on the guides.

The road outside the villa is on a hiker's route between Pollença and the mountains. Annie and I walked from the villa along the valley most mornings and it was extremely satisfying discovering different species every day.

What was also satisfying was how much Annie enjoyed seeing, listening to and recognising different bird species.

I basically created a birding patch from the villa that stretched along the lane west for a mile. Surrounding us was farmland with different habitats and mountains. So a mix is assured.

Every day was different.

But the song we woke to every morning until the sun went down was that of the Nightingale. They are everywhere, and was a pure joy to hear as a backing track.

The other sound, more often at night was the less tuneful call of the Stone Curlew. One made me jump one evening as it flew over the villa loudly calling as it went. Stone Curlew fly-overs would be a common occurrence during our stay.

By the end of the holiday I had 53 species on the list, with 39 seen on the villa patch.

Audouin's Gull at Puerto Pollenca
We went out for lunch a lot – often in Port de Pollença – where I added Audioun's Gull to my Mallorca list. These gulls are easy to spot, along with Yellow-legged Gull, particularly hanging around the beach hoping for a few titbits.

Spotted Flycatcher at the villa
The fields behind the villa were full of birds. The most common 'uncommon' bird was Spotted Flycatcher. Always fun to watch, they darted around the villa most days and along the fence line on our daily walk.

One of many Spotted Flycatchers along our walk
Serin at the villa
Corn Bunting in the field at the back of the villa
Cirl Bunting
Dark-phase Booted Eagle
Red Kite
Serin were seen often too, as were Corn Bunting and Cirl Bunting. Up in the sky Griffon Vulture regularly circled. For those looking for birds of prey, Booted Eagle were a common sighting, as was a lone Kestrel and Red Kite.

Eleonora's Falcon
Griffon Vulture
Pale-phase Booted Eagle
Black Vulture
But it really stepped up on the third morning on our walk, as we enjoyed watching four Eleonora's Falcon feeding on insects along the path, swooping fast and low really close by. On the following morning, we saw another couple of Eleonora's Falcon, together with a pale-phase Booted Eagle, Griffon Vulture and a Black Vulture, all in the space of ten minutes.

In fact, all four species flew very close by the villa itself on different days.

Stone Curlew
One of the other highlights was seeing a Stone Curlew in one of the adjacent fields – a lucky discovery, having seen something move on the ground some distance away.

Zitting Cisticola
Early one morning I headed further afield and out to a reserve, the S'Albufereta, the smaller of the reserves close to Alcudia. I took me a while to get my bearings to be honest, as signposting wasn't that great, but while travelling around the area I saw my first Woodchat Shrike of the holiday, and a Zitting Cisticola singing hysterically in a field.

Kentish Plover and Black-winged Stilt at S'Albufereta
Yellow Wagtail
At the reserve I saw a Purple Heron, a number of Kentish Plover and Black-winged Stilt, as well as a Marsh Harrier and plenty of Iberian species Yellow Wagtail (flava iberiae).

A flushed Hoopoe in the Boquer Valley - about the best I could come up with of one of these all holiday!
I even had time to walk the Boquer Valley later that morning in hope of a Blue Rock Thrush – but to no avail. I flushed a Hoopoe while walking along the well-trodden Boquer path, while Sardinian Warbler was the most common species spotted along the route.

Balearic Warbler at Boquer Valley
I did luck into a Balearic Warbler at the end of the valley as the path drops down to the sea. The warbler flew low right in front of me and settled down to feed among the gorse close by – my best-ever views of this endemic Mallorcan species.

Apart from that though, the Boquer Valley was quiet, with no raptors of any kind. Curiously, I find this popular site can be a bit of a disappointment at times.

Woodchat Shrike at the villa
Woodchat Shrike targets a meal
Woodchat Shrike along the lane from the villa
Woodchat Shrike sightings were non-existent around my new patch until three days before the end of the holiday when one appeared on a wire behind the villa. We then saw another, probably the same one close up a day later along the lane. The same day I heard and then saw another Zitting Cisticola circling in a field.

A local Hoopoe was a regular, if fleeting sight, on our walk until the penultimate evening when I heard it calling in a field behind the villa. It immediately flew into a tree where the Woodchat Shrike was perched. In a tree closer to the villa I had my first patch sighting of a Yellow Wagtail.

Another surprise on a few evenings was hearing a Nightjar churring not that far away.

I didn't see any firsts for my life list but searching for the real rarities like Bonelli's Eagle and Moltoni's Warbler requires a bit of research and a good map. Despite that you don't always need to go far in Mallorca and make too much effort to find some decent birds. That was more than enough for me.

2019 Mallorca notable bird list (53 in total, incl. 39 villa patch):
Red-legged Partridge (S'Albufereta)
Cattle Egret (over motorway heading to villa)
Purple Heron (S'Albufereta)
Griffon Vulture
Black Vulture
Booted Eagle
Red Kite
Marsh Harrier (S'Albufereta)
Kestrel
Eleonora's Falcon
Black-winged Stilt (S'Albufereta)
Stone Curlew
Little-ringed Plover (S'Albufereta)
Kentish Plover (S'Albufereta)
Audouin's Gull (Port de Pollença)
Yellow-legged Gull
Common Tern (S'Albufereta)
Scops Owl (heard only)
Nightjar (heard only)
Hoopoe
Woodchat Shrike
Raven
Red-rumped Swallow (Palma airport)
Balearic Warbler (Boquer Valley)
Sardinian Warbler
Zitting Cisticola
Spotted Flycatcher
Nightingale
Stonechat (Boquer Valley)
Yellow Wagtail
Serin
Cirl Bunting
Corn Bunting

4 comments:

  1. Looks amazing - aim to go there in a few years (so I don't necessarily have to drag my family with me birding...)

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  2. Hi, The 2nd Yellow wag pic looks like a nice male 'Ashy Headed' wag (cinereocapilla)

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  3. Hi Neil,

    Enjoyable read. You mention Spotted Flycatcher in your list and so you may have had a lifer. Spotted Flycatchers breeding on the Balearic Islands, Corsica and Sardinia have been split out as a separate species by the IOU, with the English name of Mediterranean or Tyrrhenian Flycatcher. They are very similar but rather paler and more sparsely streaked below than M Striata Spotted Flycatchers. So unless you've seen Med Flycatcher elsewhere it's more than likely a lifer. Check your photos!

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  4. This post has brought back many happy memories of my time spent in the area. A warm bath of nostalgia!

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