Friday, 25 May 2018

Majorca - 25th to 29th May

This was a short family break to an island that I had long wanted to visit for its scenic beauty and to see Balearic Warbler. It was Tobias’s half-term break and so we had decided to head to the island for a four night stay. We booked the the entire holiday through British Airways for £3,000 which included return flights, Avis car hire and B&B accommodation at the Grand Soller Hotel. Soller was a beautiful village to stay in, located at the foot of the Serra de Tramuntana mountains, with easy access to the water front at Port de Soller via a tram and with a vibrant village life. We spent most evenings relaxing in the square in Soller watching the world go by, eating olives and drinking beer. From Soller we also went to Port de Soller on the tram for the day. Our car was mainly used to get to some of the birding sites and to some of the more out of the way (relatively speaking) destinations.

  • 25th May (Day 1) – 09:35 BA flight from London Heathrow to Palma. We landed at 13:00 (Palma being one hour ahead of BST) and collected our car (which took a ridiculous amount of time) before driving one hour north-west to Soller arriving at15:30. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in Soller.
  • 26th May (Day 2) – We were up early and drove north-east following the Ma-10 to Pollenca. Birded Valle de Boquer until 08:30 and then drove along the Cap de Formentor. After a brief stop to gather supplies for lunch we headed to the Parc Natural des'Albufera and birded here until 16:00 before heading back west along the Ma-13 back to Soller for the evening.
  • 27th May – We had a lie in today and spent the day relaxing. The afternoon and early evening were spent at Port de Soller.
  • 28th May – After a leisurely breakfast we headed north-east along the Ma-10 and birded the reservoir at Panta de Gorg Blau from 10:30 until 12:30 before heading to Port de Sa Calobra where we had a relaxed afternoon on the beach. We headed back at around 15:30 and relaxed in Soller for the  early evening.
  • 29th May – Today was our final day and after checking out of our hotel at 12:00 we headed south-west along the Ma-10 to Deia for a bit of sightseeing. It was raining heavily and so we headed to Valldemossa before dropping south to Palma and an early arrival at the airport. Our 20:00 flight was delayed until 21:00 and we eventually landed at 22:30 and were home by 00:30.

25th May
We were up early and heading to Heathrow at 05:30 for our 09:35 British Airways flight to Palma, Majorca. The flight left on time and we landed at 13:00, one hour ahead of UK time. Our bags arrived quickly but as usual the process of hiring a car through Avis took a disproportiatant amount of time, why this is always so escapes me – if you have booked and paid for a car why cant you just walk to the counter get the keys and drive off. We spent 1.5 hours faffing around trying to get the car which we had prebooked and prepaid. Anyway, by 14:30 we were off and heading north from Palma towards our hotel in Soller. The drive went very smoothly and we were soon booking into the Grand Hotel Soller where ten minutes of scanning produced many Common Swift with small numbers of Pallid Swift, Booted Eagle, Cinereous Vulture and Serin. We unpacked our bags and headed to the Plaça Constitució where we soon found a café serving beer, olives, salads and ice-cream keeping us all happy and relaxed as we watched the old wooden trams, people and town life passing us by.

26th May
So today I was going to head out for my only potential tick of the trip. I was planning on heading out alone but Tobias and Sarah were keen to join me and so we headed out together at 05:30. Soller is not best located for the main site for Balearic Warbler at Valle de Boquer north of Porta de Pollenca and our sat nav said we would be there in around an hour. Following the sat nav we found ourselves winding along the beautiful mountain road of the Ma-10 through high altitude Evergreen Oak and Pine forests. I felt slightly tense as I wanted to simply get to site while Tobias felt very car sick as I wound the car around hair pin bends, Sarah tried her best to placate both Tobias and I. An impromptu toilets stop produced Cinereous Vulture, many Nightingale, Blue Tit, Blackcap and Firecrest. Pressing on, we eventually arrived at the entrance to the Valle de Boquer at around 08:00 and began our walk to the main area for Balearic Warbler. The first, spectacular section of the valley flanked by tall cliffs produced Sardinian Warbler, Stonechat, Booted Eagle, Raven, Zitting Cisticola and Spotted Flycatcher. Stopping at virtually every one of the abundant Sardinian Warbler I soon decided that I needed to hurry my steps and get further to the coast. Soon the habitat changed to a low coastal scrub known as garrigue and I felt I had at least reached the correct habitat. I quick play of my recording of Balearic Warbler and a Sylvia warbler briefly sang and then performed a display flight – Balearic Warbler! And Tobias and Sarah were quick to get onto this bird. The bird showed reasonably well and moved around us before vanishing back into the lower dense scrub of the garrigue. Sarah and Tobias decided it was time for breakfast (which consisted of left overs from yesterdays snacks) and so headed back to the car while I stayed out to get better views and photos of the warbler. After a bit of wandering around at the spectacular moth of the Valle de Boquer I came across two Balearic Warbler which showed exceptionally well down to around five metres and after getting my fill I headed back to the car to meet Sarah and Tobias. By now I was very hungry having been up for around four hours with no food intake. Breakfast was a banana and a slice of bread and then I suggested we head out onto the nearby Cap de Formentor.

Balearic Warbler, this recent split from Marmora's Warbler only breeds on the Balearic Islands and is subtly different from Marmora's having a whiter throat, buffy wash to the belly and flanks and a slightly different sing - Valle de Boquer, Porta de Pollenca

Balearic Warbler - Valle de Boquer, Porta de Pollenca

Balearic Warbler - Valle de Boquer, Porta de Pollenca

Balearic Warbler - Valle de Boquer, Porta de Pollenca

Balearic Warbler, male in song - Valle de Boquer, Porta de Pollenca

Mouth of Valle de Boquer, Porta de Pollenca showing short garrigue habitat 
favoured by Balearic Warbler

Sardinian Warbler - Valle de Boquer, Porta de Pollenca

Sardinian Warbler - Valle de Boquer, Porta de Pollenca

Sardinian Warbler, male in song - Valle de Boquer, Porta de Pollenca

Spotted Flycatcher of subspecies balearica.  This subspecies, along with tyrrenhica of Corsica and Sardinian, are paler, with less streaking on breast and shorter wings than other subspecies. They differ genetically, leading to suggestion that they might warrant species status, limited available evidence reveals no obvious differences in voice, and further study is required before any splits occur.

Driving the long winding road that extends east to the lighthouse at the tip of Cap de Formentor it was evident that the numbers of cars, cycles and tourists were increasing and our stops at scenic lay-bys became increasingly disturbed. Still, during these brief stops I recorded Blue Rock-thrush, Scopoli's Shearwater, Balearic Shearwater, Eleanora's Falcon and Sardinian Warbler which was sufficient to detract from the human traffic, but only just. At the headland, Tobias wanted an ice-cream so I spent a few minutes birding the headland area seeing much the same as previously. Still, it was a beautiful, if busy, spot. I suggested we beat a retreat and Sarah was keen to get some food having been largely deprived of breakfast and I suggested that it made sense to spend some time at Parc Natural des'Albufera rather than having to drive back at a later stage - the deal was done on the condition that we were allowed to visit a shop for food!

Scopoli's Shearwater -  Cap de Formentor

Yellow-legged Gull - Cap de Formentor

 Yellow-legged Gull - Cap de Formentor

Cap de Formentor

Driving the short distance south to Parc Natural des'Albufera, Tobias had fallen a sleep and I had my lunch of water and a banana. Sarah suggested that I go bird while she waited in the car with Tobias. While I wanted to bird the site, I really had only one main target species here, Moustached Warbler which I had not seen for maybe 30 odd years and so I was keen to catch-up with it again. Following the gen on eBird and the map of the site I soon found myself at a wooden viewing platform and obtaining glimpses of Moustached Warbler but I was not satisfied and so pushed on a little longer. I had great, overhead, views of Eleanora's Falcon as they caught dragonflies and also recorded Great Reed-warbler, Purple Gallinule, Cattle Egret, Sardinian Warbler, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Red-crested Pochard as well as common wetland bird species. I decided to return to the first platform where eventually I had good views of a singing Moustached Warbler perched high on a reed stem. Wandering back, I bumped into Sarah and Tobias who had now surfaced and we spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the same route as I had earlier, Tobias keen to collect various bugs and Sarah enjoying the birds and the sunshine. We added Osprey, Common Tern and Common Reed-warbler to the list before deciding to head back to the hotel.

The return journey was along the Ma-13, a much faster and more direct route than the mornings journey and by 18:00 we were relaxing in the square in Soller with a beer and with me content with my birding day.

Parc Natural des'Albufera

Moustached Warbler - Parc Natural des'Albufera

Moustached Warbler - Parc Natural des'Albufera

Zitting Cisticola - Parc Natural des'Albufera

Moustached Warbler - Parc Natural des'Albufera

Cattle Egret - Parc Natural des'Albufera

Eleanora's Falcon- Parc Natural des'Albufera

Eleanora's Falcon- Parc Natural des'Albufera

Eleanora's Falcon- Parc Natural des'Albufera

Eleanora's Falcon- Parc Natural des'Albufera

Eleanora's Falcon (dark phase) - Parc Natural des'Albufera


27th May
Today we just relaxed and it was great. Sarah had a treatment in the spa in the hotel while I swam in the pool with Tobias and then at lunchtime we caught the tram to the Porta de Soller and had lunch along the beautiful seafront, played on the beach and drank wine. I saw little but added Audouin's Gull, a superb adult flying around the marina, to the trip list. We were back at Soller by 21:00 and enjoyed a moonlit dinner and more wine.

Porta de Soller

28th May
I decided to push my luck and suggested that we head to the reservoir at Panta de Gorg Blau for a couple of hours birding in the beautiful mountain scenery before doing whatever Sarah wanted. After breakfast, we headed to the reservoir and began by walking the west shore for a short way, Nightingale were abundant in the Holm Oak and we recorded Griffon Vulture, Black Vulture, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Common Kestrel and Spotted Flycatcher. But my main target was not here and seeing suitable habitat on the east side of the reservoir we diverted and concentrated our attention here. We recorded Common Crossbill and then I heard a soft 'tacking' call and there was my target, A superb male Moltoni's Warbler a species I had seen on Corsica and Sicily previously but not particularly well. I eventually saw three Moltoni's Warbler but none exceptionally well but I was satisfied. On the walk back to the car I added Tawny Pipit to the list and then we headed north to Sa Calobra along a winding mountain road thronged with tourist vehicles and coaches. Parking up we wandered to the heaving bay but enjoyed some time on the beach relaxing and playing in the waves before heading back to Soller for 16:30.

Griffon Vulture - Panta de Gorg Blau 

Cinereous Vulture - Panta de Gorg Blau 

Common Stonechat - Panta de Gorg Blau 

Spotted Flycatcher - Panta de Gorg Blau 

Moltoni's Warbler - Panta de Gorg Blau 

Moltoni's Warbler - Panta de Gorg Blau 

Moltoni's Warbler - Panta de Gorg Blau 

Panta de Gorg Blau

Sa Calobra

29th May
Today was our final day and after a swim and then checking out of our hotel at 12:00 we headed south-west along the Ma-10 to Deia for a bit of sightseeing. At Deia I recorded Cirl Bunting, a new species for the trip, and then it really started to rain so we beat a retreat to a small taverna for a sandwich and a red wine. Between rain we made a run for the car and decided to head to the airport early, we headed through Valldemossa before dropping south to Palma and arrived at the airport at 17:00. Our 20:00 flight was delayed until 21:00 and we eventually landed at 22:30, it seemed like the rain had followed us, we were home by 00:30.


Deia

Deia


Trip List

Total of 181 species with 21 ticks (shown in bold).

Red-legged Partridge
Canada Goose
Common Shelduck
Red-crested Pochard
Gadwall
Mallard
Rock Dove
Common Woodpigeon
Eurasian Collared-dove
Pallid Swift
Common Swift
Western Water Rail
Purple Swamphen
Common Moorhen
Common Coot
Scopoli's Shearwater
Balearic Shearwater
Black-crowned Night-heron
Cattle Egret
Little Egret
Audouin's Gull
Yellow-legged Gull
Common Tern
Osprey
Griffon Vulture
Cinereous Vulture
Booted Eagle
Red Kite
Common Hoopoe
Common Kestrel
Eleonora's Falcon
Red-backed Shrike
Common Raven
Eurasian Blue Tit
Great Tit
Zitting Cisticola
Moustached Warbler
Common Reed-warbler
Great Reed-warbler
Northern House Martin
Barn Swallow
Eurasian Crag Martin
Cetti's Warbler
Long-tailed Tit
Eurasian Blackcap
Sardinian Warbler
Moltoni's Warbler
Balearic Warbler
Northern Wren
Spotless Starling
Eurasian Blackbird
Spotted Flycatcher
Common Nightingale
Common Stonechat
Common Firecrest
House Sparrow
Tawny Pipit
Western Yellow Wagtail
Common Chaffinch
European Greenfinch
Common Linnet
Red Crossbill
European Goldfinch
European Serin