A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Mallorca Birding Trip Report - Day 3 (Tuesday 21st February 2017)

With our final day on Mallorca beckoning and having succeeded in already locating all of our target birds for the trip, we decided to dedicate the morning to a return to the Boquer Valley in an attempt to secure better photos of the charismatic Balearic Warblers
Boquer Valley, Mallorca
Our flight home wasn’t until late in the evening, so this gave us plenty of time to explore the final section of the low coastal scrubland where the Balearic Warblers favoured, on this occasion taking the right hand path as opposed to the left which enabled us to get right down next to the turquoise blue bay. 
Boquer Valley, Mallorca
Boquer Valley, Mallorca
Boquer Valley, Mallorca
The patch of scrub the Balearic Warblers were favouring
The stark contrast in weather between this visit and our first attempt was apparent, and we enjoyed fantastic sunshine along with little to no breeze in what was perfect warbler hunting conditions. Almost immediately we caught a snatch of the distinctive song, echoing through the valley in regular bursts and leading us down the winding paths of the slope into an area of open ground. Providing a good viewpoint over the surrounding patches of scrub, it wasn’t long before we had our target, flitting around the vegetation and leading us on a merry dance across the Maquis.
Balearic Warbler - Boquer Valley, Mallorca
Balearic Warbler playing hide and seek in the palms
Sitting low down and quietly waiting for the bird to come to us proved to be the best tactic, and we were soon enjoying mouth-watering views as this distinctive warbler perched up on the surrounding palms in front of us, proudly singing his heart out and offering several photo opportunities as he flitted from exposed perch to post. 
Balearic Warbler - Boquer Valley, Mallorca
Balearic Warbler - Boquer Valley, Mallorca
On one occasion it took us a while to register that a second male had crept up behind us, loudly belting out bursts of song from the shrub literally a few feet away, and we turned around to be met with point blank views of the charcoal grey songster.
Balearic Warbler - Boquer Valley, Mallorca
Balearic Warbler - Boquer Valley, Mallorca
Balearic Warbler - Boquer Valley, Mallorca
Balearic Warbler - Boquer Valley, Mallorca
After several hours enjoying both the beautiful scenery of the Boquer Valley bay and the company of our Balearic endemics, pleased with our vastly improved photographs we decided to head back to the car, conscious that we needed to get to Palma in good time for our flight back to the UK. 
Balearic Warbler - Boquer Valley, Mallorca
Balearic Warbler - Boquer Valley, Mallorca
Balearic Warbler - Boquer Valley, Mallorca
A quick scan of the sea before we left revealed two Shags fishing amongst the jagged black rocks in the company of the ever-present Yellow-legged Gulls, while a pair of Crag Martins playfully swooped along the base of the cliffs.
Boquer Valley, Mallorca
Friar's Cowl - Boquer Valley, Mallorca
Friar's Cowl was another interesting plant we found whilst in the Boquer Valley
An unfamiliar sound emanating from the imposing valley sides as we walked back to the car eventually revealed the culprits to be 3 Booted Eagles, soaring effortlessly along the tops of the mountains and providing great views as they twisted and turned in the air.
Booted Eagle - Boquer Valley, Mallorca
Booted Eagle - pale morph
With both light and dark morphs present, it was great to see the contrast and differences between the two colour forms. 
Booted Eagle - Boquer Valley, Mallorca
Booted Eagle - Boquer Valley, Mallorca
The taller bushes at the base of the mountain once more held a good handful of Sardinian Warblers, this time more active in the pleasant Mediterranean spring sunshine, while Blue Rock Thrushes, Blackbirds and Song Thrushes all darted out in front of us on the track in regular intervals, as Serins once more serenaded us as we walked with their jovial display flights.
Serin - Mallorca
Serin
With our time exploring the Mallorcan landscape coming to a close, a scan through the conifers at the base of the valley revealed no Firecrests despite a careful search through the pine needles, instead only the usual mix of Robins, tits and finches chattering noisily in the trees. 
Boquer Valley
Goat - Boquer Valley
The Boquer Valley was full of goats!
A quick check of the parched orchard grassland revealed a single Meadow Pipit and 4 Linnets foraging in the dry sandy soil, while a stunning jet black male Black Redstart provided fantastic views back at the car park.
Black Redstart - Boquer Valley - Mallorca
Black Redstart
Black Redstart - Boquer Valley - Mallorca
Black Redstart - Boquer Valley - Mallorca
Boquer Valley - Mallorca
Boquer Valley - Mallorca
With our journey back down to Palma revealing nothing new, only raptors seemed active in the glorious afternoon sunshine, and we clocked up our second Griffon Vulture of the trip along with several Booted Eagles and a solitary Red Kite. Arriving at Palma in good time meant we were able to stop to admire the impressive cathedral and enjoy an early dinner of delicious Spanish Tapas before our flight, catching sight of a final Sardinian Warbler flitting through the waterside trees opposite the cafes along the cobbled street as we ate. 
Palma Cathedral - Mallorca
Palma Cathedral - Mallorca
Palma Cathedral - Mallorca
Palma Cathedral - Mallorca
Palma Cathedral - Mallorca
Palma Cathedral - Mallorca
Palma Cathedral
Having secured all our target species and obtaining excellent views of all individuals concerned, we really couldn’t have asked for more during our trip to the fantastic Balearic islands. With a combination of the breath-taking mountain scenery and impressive wetland habitats, Mallorca had certainly delivered on all fronts; our 3 days of Mediterranean sunshine resulting in 4 new birds, including a fantastic Balearic island endemic to boot!
Balearic Warbler - Mallorca
Balearic Warbler
Red-knobbed Coot - Mallorca
Red-knobbed Coot
Moustached Warbler - Mallorca
Moustached Warbler
Black Vulture - Mallorca
Black Vulture
Mallorca
Mallorca
Mallorca
Mallorca

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Mallorca Birding Trip Report - Day 2 (Monday 20th February 2017)

With the sun shining once again, we were up and out early, keen to start our day at the famous S’Albufera Natural Park, an extensive set of reedbeds and wetlands situated just south of Port d’Alcudia. With our hotel backing on to the reserve, we only had to step through the gate for the birding to begin.
S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
The Audouin’s Gulls from the previous evening were once more in residence on the sandy island, their blood red bills distinctive and shining out, while a pair of Sandwich Terns joined them resting on the wooden posts. Several ducks also congregated in the muddy shallows of the pool with Mallards, Teal and Wigeon all in attendance while Greenshanks and Spotted Redshanks probed knee deep in the still water. The electric blue flash of a Kingfisher zipping under the bridge was also a welcome surprise as we scanned the reedy fringes for any Moustached Warblers.
S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
With time pressing on we drove the short distance to the reserve car park before walking the 1km entrance road to the Visitor Centre. Evidently packed with birdlife and decidedly rich in avian delights, a pair of Firecrests actively feeding in the conifers lining the track were our first birds of note, while the explosive bursts of Cetti’s Warblers in the surrounding reeds betrayed the presence of these secretive birds.
Firecrest - S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Firecrest
Firecrest - S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Our main target here was the equally elusive Moustached Warbler, with S’Albufera Nature Park offering some of the best chances anywhere in Europe to see this skulking species. Our ears alert and eyes peeled, it wasn’t long before we’d caught a snatch of Reed Warbler-like song emanating from the extensive reedbeds to the left hand side of the path. 
S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Far too early to be anything else and listening intently as the sound came closer and closer, this resident reed dwelling specialist eventually made its appearance, offering glimpses of plumage as it hopped mouse-like through the vegetation. After providing tantalising views for several minutes our perseverance finally paid off, with our songster perching out in the open on an exposed reed stem and providing great views of the distinctive broad white supercilium and narrow black moustachial stripe that gives it its name. 
Moustached Warbler - S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Moustached Warbler!
Unsure as to whether we’d be able to locate any on our trip, it was fantastic to get such good views of this skulking warbler, and despite hearing several during the day, only two individuals ever came out in to the open.
Moustached Warbler - S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Moustached Warbler - S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Carrying on up the track adjacent to the long canals, we soon came across another good bird for the site in the form of four Marbled Ducks, preening in the centre of the water and providing much closer views than our only other individuals seen to date (on mainland Spain 3 years ago) which were exceptionally distant. 
Marbled Duck - S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Marbled Duck
With many species at S’Albuera Natural Park deriving from reintroduced stock (including the Purple Swamphens and Red-knobbed Coots) the Marbled Ducks here at least appear to be the real deal.
Marbled Duck - S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Marbled Duck - S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
A large flock of roosting Black-crowned Night Herons sitting peacefully hidden amongst the branches of the overhanging trees lining the canal resulted in an impressive count of 22 birds, while both Little and Great White Egrets in the company of Grey Herons probed amongst the reedy canal fringes.
Black-crowned Night Heron - S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Black-crowned Night Heron
Black-crowned Night Heron - S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Arriving at the Visitor Centre and picking up our free day pass to the reserve, we were told that the favoured areas for Red-knobbed Coots were the canals and bridges directly outside the building. 
S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Sure enough upon approaching the first viewpoint Alex spotted a distinctive looking coot feeding around the opposite bank, two unmistakable red appendages shining out on the top of its head.
Red-knobbed Coot - S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Red-knobbed Coot!
Pleased we had located one so quickly, we weren’t quite prepared for what happened next, with the coot spotting us and promptly swimming over to the viewing point, before emerging out of the water and on to the mud at our feet! 
Red-knobbed Coot - S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Red-knobbed Coot - S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Red-knobbed Coot - S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Red-knobbed Coot - S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Obviously well accustomed to getting fed by the hundreds of visitors that come to the reserve each day, the coot was clearly looking for us to provide a free lunchtime snack, but with nothing to offer it soon retreated back in to the water, busying itself amongst the reeds and affording excellent views.
Red-knobbed Coot - S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Red-knobbed Coot - S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Red-knobbed Coot - S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Before long a second individual approached, this time sporting one of the white PVC neck collars from the reintroduction scheme that took place on the reserve over ten years ago. In total we saw two of these individuals (codes 1NA and 1N7) with information coming back from the project that one of these birds was rung back in December 2010, with only 4 reported sightings of it since.
Red-knobbed Coot - S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Red-knobbed Coot 1NA
With the reintroduction of Red-knobbed Coots to S’Albuerfa Natural Park starting in 2004 when individuals of wild stock were translocated from DoƱana National Park on mainland Spain, the birds have thrived here in the years since, breeding amongst themselves to sustain the population. 
Red-knobbed Coot - S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Red-knobbed Coot - S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Doing some research into the project and whether the population has now passed the ‘3 generations of breeding’ threshold to be officially classed as self-sustaining has drawn a blank however, although we did see evidence of population expansion for ourselves with two of the birds observed mating. Recent photographs also depict youngsters belonging to non-neck collared birds, which would indicate that the population is up to 2nd generation breeding at least. With coots reaching maturity relatively quickly, it is highly probable that in the 13 years since the project began, the population must surely have passed the 3rd generation breeding stage.
Red-knobbed Coot - S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Red-knobbed Coot - S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Regardless of their official status though, these were incredible birds to see and the experience of seeing them up close was most definitely a highlight of the trip!
Red-knobbed Coot - S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Red-knobbed Coot - S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Red-knobbed Coot - S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Friendly Coot!
As well as birds, the reserve was also rich in flora, and we discovered several large stands of what I later identified as Giant Orchids (Himantoglossum robertianum) lining the pathways. 
Giant Orchid - S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Giant Orchid
Reminiscent slightly of our Military Orchids back in the UK, I set to work getting some record shots (having not taken a macro lens with me) and we counted a good handful of these impressive plants across the site.
Giant Orchid - S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Giant Orchid - S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Having enjoyed our fix of the Red-knobbed Coots we set to work exploring the rest of the pools scattered across the reserve. An impressive count of 51 Kentish Plovers roosting on one of the spits was a notable addition along with a pair of Little Ringed Plovers, while good numbers of feeding Black-winged Stilts navigated the shallower areas. Several Marsh Harriers patrolled the extensive reedbeds looking for prey, while a single pale morph Booted Eagle also floated overhead.
S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
A movement in the distant reeds revealed the bright purple and red tones of our first of four Purple Swamphens for the site, while a fine Little Bittern posed uncharacteristically out in the open below one of the small bridges, before slowly retreating back in to cover due to the approach of an overly curious Moorhen.
Little Bittern - S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Little Bittern
Little Bittern - S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Heading back towards the Visitor Centre resulted in a small, excitable party of Serins feeding in the adjacent flower garden, the occasional male performing his cheery display flight while several more Firecrests busily worked their way through the pines. 
Serin - S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Serin
Firecrest - S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Firecrest
The reserve was also alive with Chiffchaffs, and we counted at least 22 individuals feeding up on the pollen loaded trees before their migration north.
S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
With the afternoon to spare and with our targets of Moustached Warbler and Red-knobbed Coot in the bag, we decided to take a look at the beach opposite the reserve to see if we could find anything else of note, Alex picking up a second well camouflaged Little Bittern as we headed back down the entrance road.
Little Bittern - S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Little Bittern
Approaching the sparkling ultramarine waters of the bay, we located several more Giant Orchids nestled proudly amongst the scrubby beach grass, these gone slightly further over in terms of flowering than those in the reserve, while a skulking Sardinian Warbler serenaded us from the depths of a nearby coastal shrub, scarlet eye peering beadily out from between the thorns. 
Playa de Muro Steg, Mallorca
Sardinian Warbler - Playa de Muro Steg, Mallorca
Sardinian Warbler keeping a low profile
Black Redstarts, like everywhere else on the island were in attendance here too, while a pair of scavenging Yellow-legged Gulls loafed around the rocks keeping an eye out for morsels.
Playa de Muro Steg, Mallorca
Playa de Muro Steg, Mallorca
Playa de Muro Steg, Mallorca
Playa de Muro Steg, Mallorca
The views at the beach were stunning!
Scoping out to sea Alex soon picked up a large travelling flock of 58 Balearic Shearwaters heading south, their browner tones visible through the scope but with sadly no Yelkouans amongst them. 9 Razorbills floating on the sea were also an unexpected find here, and correspondence with the local Mallorca e-bird recorder suggests they are not all that commonly recorded in the area. 
Playa de Muro Steg, Mallorca
Playa de Muro Steg, Mallorca
Playa de Muro Steg, Mallorca
Playa de Muro Steg, Mallorca
Little Egret - Playa de Muro Steg, Mallorca
Little Egret
With the afternoon pressing on a final check on the pools opposite our hotel resulted in several more Black-winged Stilts, this time joined by a handful of Avocets and 8 Pintail mingled in with the Gadwall, Shovelers and Shelducks
Black-winged Stilts -S’Albufera Natural Park, Mallorca
Black-winged Stilt gathering
Two showy Sardinian Warblers in the hotel gardens were also a bonus, although their active nature and constant movement like the Balearic Warblers once more made photographing them almost impossible. 
Sardinian Warbler - Mallorca
Sardinian Warbler
Sardinian Warbler - Mallorca
Parc Natural de s'Albufera de Mallorca
Our hotel - and the reserve directly outside the window!
Interestingly what appeared to be a recently fledged youngster was accompanying them, evidence of much earlier breeding of this species in the Mediterranean than we were expecting.
Sardinian Warbler - Mallorca
Sardinian Warbler - Mallorca
Fledgling Sardinian Warbler!
Having visited in the off-peak season for tourists it soon became clear that finding a restaurant for the evening was turning in to a nigh on impossible task (it was now obvious why the hotel buffet offering was so popular the evening before). We eventually lucked in on a steakhouse grill establishment (encountering our only Hoopoe of the trip on the way) and soon settled down to enjoy a tasty offering of Mallorcan lamb chops and seafood pizza, sadly denied a much sought after cheese and Spanish ham toastie however after our waiter refused to serve it without tomatoes!
Mallorca
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