|Riga - last Friday night - where did I park the car?|
I had been to Mallorca for the first time in 2007 with David Browne and Bob Strickland. Bob being a veteran of at least 6 trips to Mallorca meant we needed no guidebook. In that one week we saw over 100 species, 36 of which were lifers for me at that time. Mallorca was were I saw my first ever Firecrest, along with male Blackburnian Warbler, now my all time favourite bird.
I could recall the whereabouts of most places we went to in 2007 but rather than take any chances I got hold of this great book on amazon.
A birding tourists guide to Majorca
It's a very fine guidebook, written by 5 local birders, good quality photographs and best of all GPS coordinates for each location. Just punch the details into your satnav and off you go.
We had booked the flights Cork-Palma in January so we got a good deal. The next thing was accommodation, rather than a hotel we checked ownersdirect.co.uk and found this smashing villa near Alcudia in the heart of the best birding sites on Mallorca.
5 minutes from Alcudia and 10 minutes from Pollenca it was perfect, well done P for digging it out. We went in mid April so it was well priced but prices do increase as the season opens up.
Once it was all booked we spent the rest of the winter looking forward to our trip. On 9th April we took the late evening flight to Palma and we were finally on our way. We picked up a rental car at Palma airport (a nice little diesel Seat...of course), entered in the coordinates and 40 minutes later we had pulled up to the gates of the villa....easy!
Because we were arriving late I asked the owner if they would mind leaving something in the fridge for breakfast. Well as it turned out there was enough food in there to last a couple of days....very generous and a very nice welcome! It was heading for midnight so we dropped our bags and sat out on the porch enjoying a cool bottle each of Cruz Campo beer, eating some tasty snacks and listening to the Nightingales singing and the Stone Curlews calling. I remember saying to P that I'd expect to hear a Scops Owl sometime when just a couple of minutes later out came that distinctive single note call from several fields away. Probably not the right thing to do but we played Scops Owl song on the ipod briefly and the bird came into the garden, sat high up in a tree and studied us both. After that we left it well alone and every other night we enjoyed its simple song as we sat out on the porch drinking our Spanish beer. Shortly after that a Barn Owl flew past, it gave a single shriek before disappearing into the night.
The next morning after breakfast it was time to take a wander around the gardens. The villa was set on about an acre of land, in front there was a nice lawn and pool and to the side a very attractive looking orchard with about 50 fruit trees of various types (lemon, orange and olives mainly).The first bird to catch my eye was a nice male Sardinian warbler, I chased this little chap around all week but never got a decent shot of him. I'd spend an hour sitting in the car with skrim netting covering the window so I could get a nice shot but never succeeded. Just as I would finally give up it would show well. Sardinian Warbler = 1: Graham = Nil
|heavily cropped and a little blurred - Sardinian Warbler|
|Sardinian Warbler - Mallorca April 2011|
|Zitting Cisticola / Fan-tailed Warbler|
|The barbeque - P became quite the expert on this!|
|Dinosaurish!! - Purple Swamphen|
|Red-crested Pochard - good numbers on the canals and waterways around the reserve|
|Black-winged Stilt -always posing for photos.|
|Male Kentish Plover|
|Little Ringed Plover|
|Wood Sandpiper - S'Albufera, Mallorca.|
The following evening we took a drive into the town of Pollenca. There is a small stream that runs under the road and I remembered Bob telling me in 2007 that it is a good spot for Yellow Wagtail. Since my last visit they have created a nice little path around the stream with plenty of signs for visitors about the birds they are likely to see. We spent about an hour here and enjoyed good views of Yellow Wagtail (subspp. iberiae) as well as several Auduoins Gulls on the rooftops.
|Yellow Wagtail gathers nest material - an excellent shot by Polina|
|Yellow Wagtail (iberiae) - Pollenca, Mallorca|
|Cuber Dam, Tramuntana Mountains, Mallorca|
|Wood Warbler en route - Cuber Dam, Mallorca|
|Cuber reservoir from the north-eastern side|
There are more trees here and this is where I had seen Firecrest in 2007 so I broke off the path and starting listening and looking. The area was full of sheep resting in the shade of the trees, the sound of their 'sheep' bells clanging adds to the overall feel of the place, its the sound of Cuber.
|The local sheep - with bells on!|
In several spots the cliff face rose upwards from the woodland and there were groups of Crag Martins here with the occasional House Martin also. After 20 minutes of searching I picked out the high pitched call of a 'crest' and got onto a single Firecrest feeding alongside another Wood Warbler in the small trees. A little bit wary of me but I did manage a shot for the record.
|Firecrest - Cuber Dam, Mallorca|
|Tawny Pipit - Cuber Dam, Mallorca|
It was evening time by now so the crowds had thinned down a little. We took our time coming back down from the mountains and stopped at several other spots just to take in the views.
|Lake beside Tunel del Puig Major|
|Me and our mobile photography hide|
|Looking for Crag Martins|
|Woodchat Shrike - Mallorca|
Corn Buntings and Red-legged Partridge were ever present but again like many birds in Mallorca, quite wary of people. I guess shooting and trapping of small birds may have something to do with that. Raptors were on the move too, a single Red Kite passed over and I'm pretty sure I had a Bonelli's Eagle during the middle of the week but couldn't get enough on it to be certain. On the second last day of our trip the Bee-eaters turned up. I heard them first, the chorus of their purring calls, a few seconds later and the flock goes past, wonderful birds.
I mentioned earlier that the old town of Alcudia has a very nice open air market. Old Alcudia is well worth a visit itself. The old town is walled and within the walls are lots of nice charming little cafes, shops and restaurants. Narrow little streets which you can wander around for hours.
|Graham wanders off!|
Just to show it wasn't all birding on our last day, for a "bit o' culture" we visited Els Calderers. A beautifully restored old Manor House / Country Estate. A glimpse of Mallorca in days gone by, privately owned and well maintained. I'm sorry now we didn't take some more shots of the house and grounds itself. Here are a couple of the chapel within the estate and one of the many bedrooms within the manor house itself (which if you look at the photo closely you can just about make my reflection out in the mirror.....creepy looking!)
|Els Calderers Chapel|
|Bedroom - me in the mirror!|
After that we headed back to the airport, dropped off our little Seat and headed for home. Any of you familiar with Mallorca will notice that there were plenty of great spots we didn't visit, Boquer Valley, Albufereta, Cases Velles and Cape Formentor to name just a few. That's for the next time!